When you consult the dictionaries, you will find that the word Islam means submission, obedience, surrender and compliance with the command and prohibition of the commander without objections. Allah has named the true religion, ‘Islam’ for it is an obedience to him, submission to His Commands without any resistance, purifying acts of worship for Him, believing in His words and having faith in Him. Islam then became a proper name for the religion brought by Muhammad.
Definition of Islam
Why was this religion named Islam? Adherents of various religions all over the world have named their religions, either with the name of a man or a particular race like Christianity, which was named after Jesus Christ; and Buddhism named after its founder Buddha; and Zaradashtism named after its founder and flag banner, Zaradasht. Judaism also emerged among the tribe of Judah and so on. It is only Islam that is not attributed to any particular man or nation.
Its name indicates a special characteristic that the meaning of Islam denotes. It is evident in this name that no man has any role in bringing this religion into existence and that it is not peculiar with any nation to the exclusion of others. Its only goal is to make all people of the earth have characteristics of Islam. So, whoever is characterised with the qualities of Islam among ancient people and contemporary people is a Muslim, just as he shall be called a Muslim, anyone who possesses its qualities among the coming generations.
The reality of Islam
It is known that everything in this world subjects to a particular rule and established norm. The sun, the moon, the stars and the earth are all subjected to a general rule which they cannot march against or deviate from even for a hair’s breadth. Even man, when you ponder over him very well, it will be clear to you that he absolutely submits to the Laws of Allah. He cannot breath or feel a need for water, food, nourishment, light and heat except according to the Divine Decree that regulates his life; and all parts of his body submit to this Decree. The functions that these parts perform cannot be carried out except according to what Allah has prescribed for him.
This comprehensive Divine Ordainment which man surrenders to and from which none in this universe – right from the planet in the heaven to the smallest seed in the sand of the earth – can escape from obeying is the Divine Ordainment of the Magnificent, the Sovereign and the All-Powerful Lord. If all that is in the heavens and the earth and all that is in between both surrenders to this Divine Ordainment, that means the whole world submits to and obeys that All-Powerful Sovereign Who created it. In this aspect, it is then clear that Islam is the religion of the whole universe.
For Islam means, submission and obedience to the command of the Commander and His Prohibitions without objection as it has been previously asserted. The sun, the moon and the earth all surrender to Him. Air, water, light, darkness and heat, all surrender to Him; the tree, the stone and the animals all surrender. Even the man who does not know his Lord and denies His existence and signs or worships others besides Him, or associates others with Him in worship surrenders by nature to Him.
If you have known all that, let us now have a look at man, you will find that two factors are struggling to win his attention:
One: His natural inclination; like submission to Allah, loving to worship Him, seeking nearness to Him, loving what He loves of truth, good and honesty; hating what He hates of falsehood, evil, injustice and wrong; and other natural factors like: love for money, family and children and desire for food, drink and sex and necessary physical functions that follow that.
Two: Man’s free will and choice. Allah has sent Messengers to him and revealed Books so that he might distinguish between truth and falsehood; guidance and error; good and evil. He gave him mental power and understanding so that he can make his choice with sure knowledge. If he so wills, he takes to the good path that leads him to truth and guidance; and if he so wills, he takes to the evil path that leads him to evil and perdition.
If you therefore, look at man in the perspective of the first factor, you will find that he is created to submit to Allah, conditioned to adhere to that submission without making any deviation whatsoever, just like any other creature.
But if you look at him in the perspective of the second factor, you will find him as a free creature, who chooses what he wants. He may choose to become a Muslim or to become an infidel… “Whether he be grateful or ungrateful.”
Hence, you find people divided into two categories:
A man who knows his Creator, and believes in Him as his Lord and God whom he worships alone and follows his Law in his life voluntarily. He is also conditioned to submit to his Lord, from Who he cannot deviate and Whose ordainments he follows such a man is the complete Muslim whose Islam is perfect and whose knowledge is sound; for he knows Allah, his Creator and Fashioner, Who sent Messengers to him and endowed him with the power of knowledge and learning.
Such has had sound reason and correct opinion; for he has made use of his thought and then decided not to worship but Allah Who blessed him with understanding and sound opinions in matters. His tongue speaks only the truth; for now, he only believes in One Lord Who is Allah, the Exalted, Who gave him power to speak. It now becomes as if nothing remains in his life but the truth; for he follows and surrenders to the Law of Allah in that which he has free will; and there exists between him and other creatures in the universe bond of familiarity and friendliness, for, he worships none but Allah, the All-Wise, All-Knowledgeable, Whom all creatures worship, and unto Whose Commandments and Ordainments all surrender and submit. And Allah has subjected all these creatures to you, O man!
On the contrary is another man, who was born in submission to Allah and lived all his life in submission to Allah but never felt this submission or had any idea of it. He knew not his Lord, nor believed in His Law or followed His Messengers. He did not use the knowledge and intellect that Allah gave him to recognize his Creator Who carved for him his ears and eyes. He rather denied His existence, he disdained His worship and refused to submit to His Laws in matters of his life in which he is given the right of disposition and choice. Or he associated others with Him in worship and refused to believe in His signs that indicate His Oneness.
Such a man is a Kaafir. For the meaning of ‘Kufr’ in the language, is ‘to cover and conceal’. So this man is called a ‘Kaafir’ for he conceals his nature and covers it with ignorance and insolence; and the nature of the world and that of his own self are hidden from him. You therefore, see him using his intellectual and logical power only in that which contradicts his nature. He would not see anything but that which could corrupt his nature. It is now left to you to estimate the extent of deep error and clear transgression to which the disbeliever has degenerated.
This Islam which you are required to practice is not a difficult matter, but very easy for whomsoever Allah makes it easy for. Islam is the religion which all this universe follow.
“And to Him submitted all creatures in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly”
Allah says, “Truly, the religion with Allah is Islam”
It is submission of one’s whole self to Allah as He, Great is His praise asserts,
“If they dispute with you (O Muhammad) say: I have submitted to Allah in Islam and have those who follow me.”
The Messenger of Allah also explained the meaning of Islam when he said, “It is to submit your heart to Allah, to direct your face to Allah (in worship) and to give the obligatory Zakaah.”
A man asked the Messenger of Allah: ‘What is Islam?’
The Messenger of Allah answered: ‘It is to surrender your heart to Allah; and that Muslims should be safe from the harm of your tongue and hand.’
The man said: ‘Which Islam is best?’ He answered: ‘The Faith (Eman)
He asked: ‘What is Faith?’
He answered: ‘To believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers and to believe in Resurrection after death.’
The Messenger of Allah also said, “Islam is to testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; to observe the prayers, to give the Zakaah, to fast in the month of Ramadaan and to perform pilgrimage to the House if you are able to.”
He also said, “The Muslim is the one from the evil of whose hand and tongue all Muslims are safe.”
This religion – the religion of Islam – is the one besides which Allah accepts no other religion, not from former generations or later generations. For all Prophets were Muslims. Allah says about Prophet Noah,
“And recite to them the news of Noah. When he said to his people: ‘O my people, if my stay (with you) and my reminding you of the signs of Allah is hard on you, then I put my trust in Allah.'” Till He says, “…and I have been commanded to be of the Muslims.”
The Almighty also says about Abraham, “When his Lord said to him; ‘Submit (i.e., be a Muslim)! He said: I have submitted myself (as a Muslim) to the Lord of all the worlds.'”
He says about Moses, “And Moses said, ‘O my people! If you have believed in Allah, then put your trust in Him if you are Muslims.'”
He has the following to say about Jesus Christ, “And when I (Allah) revealed to the disciples (of Jesus) to believe in Me and my Messenger, they said: ‘We believe. And bear witness that we are Muslims.'”