The word "Islam"
The name of this religion is Islam, which is the root of "Silm" and "Salam" which means peace.
Salam may also mean greeting one another with peace. One of the beautiful names of Allah is that He is the "Peace". It means more than that: submission to the One Allah, and to live in peace with the Creator, within one's self, with other people and with the environment. Thus, Islam is a total system of living.
A Muslim is supposed to live in peace and harmony with all these segments; hence, a Muslim is any person anywhere in the world whose obedience, allegiance, and loyalty are to Allah, the Lord of the Universe.
TAWHID: The Bedrock of Islam
Tawhid is a revolutionary concept and constitutes the essence of the teachings of Islam. It means that there is only One Supreme Lord of the universe. He is all Powerful, all Knowing and the Sustainer of the world and of mankind.
How can one observe the inexhaustible creativity of nature, its purposefulness, its preservation of that which is morally useful and destruction of that which is socially injurious, and yet fail to draw the conclusion that behind nature there is an All-Pervading Mind of whose incessant creative activity the processes of nature are but an outward manifestation?
The stars scattered through the almost infinite space, the vast panorama of nature with its charm and beauty, the planned waxing and waning of the moon, the astonishing harmony of the seasons - all point towards one fact: there is God, the Creator, the Supreme Ruler. We witness a superb, flawless plan in the universe - can it be without a Planner? We see great enchanting beauty and harmony in its working can they be without a Creator? We observe wonderful design in nature can it be without a Designer? We feel a lofty purpose in physical and human existence - can it be without a Will working behind it? We find that the universe is like a superbly written fascinating novel - can it be without an Author? Truly, God said: O, Mankind: worship your Lord, Who created you and those before you, so that you may ward off evil. Who has appointed the earth a resting place for you, the sky a canopy; and who causes water to pour down from the heavens, thereby producing fruit as food for you. So, do not set up rivals to God, when you know better.' (The Holy Qur'an 2:21-22).
This is the basic tenet to which Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked humanity to adhere. It is an important metaphysical reality and answers the riddles of the universe. It points to the supremacy of the law in the cosmos, the all pervading unity behind the manifest diversity. It presents a unified view of the world and offers the vision of an integrated universe. It is a mighty contrast to the piecemeal views of scientists and the philosophers and unveils the truth before the human eye. After centuries of groping in the dark, man is now coming to realize the truth of this concept and modern scientific thought is moving in this direction. But it is not merely a metaphysical concept. It is a dynamic belief and a revolutionary doctrine. It means that all human beings are the creatures of One God - they are all equal.
Discrimination based on color, class, race or territory is unfounded and illusory; it is a remnant of the days of ignorance which chained men down to servitude. Humanity is one single family from Adam. Men are one - and not bourgeois or proletarian, white or black, Aryan or non-Aryan, Westerner or Easterner. Islam gives a revolutionary concept of the unity of mankind. The Prophet came to unite humanity on the world of God and to give it a new life. God says: ‘Hold tight to the rope of God, altogether and do not separate. Remember God's gifts and blessings unto you all, when you were enemies; remember how He forged your hearts together in love, and by His grace, you became brethren.’ (The Holy Qur'an 3:103).
This also defines the true position of man in the universe. It says that God is the Creator, the Sovereign; and that man is His vicegerent on the earth. It exalts man to the noble and dignified position of being God's deputy on earth and endows his life with a lofty purpose, to fulfil the Will of God on earth. This solves all the perplexing problems of human society and establishes a new order wherein equity and justice and peace and prosperity will reign supreme. The starting point of Islam is this belief in the Unity of God (Tawhid).
Islam : Basic Concepts
ISLAM is the religion of truth. It is the embodiment of the code of life which God, the Creator and the Lord of the universe, has revealed for the guidance of mankind. For the proper development of human life man needs two kinds of thing, viz.: (a) resources to maintain life and fulfil the material needs of the individual and society, and (b) knowledge of the principles of individual and social behavior to enable man to have self-fulfilment and to maintain justice and tranquility in human life. The Lord of the universe has provided for both of these in full measure.
To cater for the material needs of man He has provided nature with all kinds of resources, which lie at the disposal of man.
To provide for his spiritual, social and cultural needs He raised His Prophets from among men and revealed to them the code of life which can guide man's steps to the Right Path. This code of life is known as Islam, the religion preached by all the Prophets of God.
NUBUWAH: THE PROPHETHOOD
The second part of the Shahadah, on the other hand, signifies that God has not left man without any guidance for the conduct of his life. He has revealed His Guidance through His Messengers, and Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the last Messenger. And to believe in a Messenger means to believe in his message, to accept the Law which he gave and to follow the Code of Conduct which he taught.
Thus the second basic postulate of Islam is to believe in the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him), to accept the teachings which he presented and to follow his commands. Every Prophet of God, according to the Qur'an, strove to build man's relationship with God on the principle of God's sovereignty and the acknowledgement of the authority of the Prophet as the source of divine guidance. Every one of them said: ‘I am to you God's Messenger, worthy of all trust. So be committed to God, fear Him, and obey me.’ The Guidance is revealed through the Prophets.
It is a part of their mission to translate that into practice, in their own lives and in the society they try to reform. All the Prophets are representatives of God, but they are human beings and their lives are models for mankind. Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the last Prophet and Messenger and as such the final model for mankind. To believe in him means to accept his authority as representative of the Supreme Ruler and to follow his example in thought and behavior.
The code of behavior, the law which is to decide what is permissible and what is forbidden (halal and haram), is given by God through the Prophet and is known as the Shari'ah. Belief in the Prophet involves acceptance of the Shari'ah. the Path, he has conveyed and to implement that in all walks of life. This is how the Will of God is fulfilled on the earth. The Qur'an says: ‘Every Messenger who was sent by us was sent for the purpose that he should be obeyed under the sanction of God.’ (The Holy Qur'an 4:64).
The Meaning Of Islam
Islam is an Arabic word and denotes acceptance of God as the Supreme and the Ultimate Reality. It means submission, surrender and obedience. As a religion, Islam stands for complete submission and obedience to God- that is why it is called Islam.
The other literal meaning of the word Islam is peace and this signifies that one can achieve real peace of body and of mind only through submission and obedience to God. Such a life of obedience brings peace of heart and establishes real peace in society at large. Unlike many other faiths, the name Islam is neither related with its founder (as in Buddhism or Christianity) nor tribe or race (like in Judaism) nor with land and soil (as in Hinduism).
Anyone who submits to God as the Creator of the universe and follows His Commandments is a Muslim. Islam is the name given to this faith by God, in His revealed scripture, the Qur'an. According to the Qur'an this message was preached by all the Prophets of God, who guided man to the right path. But man not only veered away from the right path again and again, but also lost or distorted the code of guidance which the Prophets had bequeathed.
That was why other Prophets were sent to restate the original message and guide man to the right path. The last of these Prophets was Muhammad (peace be upon him), who presented God's guidance in its final form and arranged to preserve it for all time. It is this guidance which is now known as Al-Islam and is enshrined in the Qur'an and the life- example of the Prophet-Sunnah.
The basic Islamic concept is that the entire universe was created by God, whom Islam calls Allah and who is the Lord and the Sovereign of the Universe. He is the Lord of the universe which He alone sustains. He created man and appointed for each human being a fixed period of life which he is to spend upon the earth. God has prescribed a certain code of life as the correct one for him, but has at the same time conferred on man freedom of choice as to whether or not he adopts this code as the actual basis of his life.
One who chooses to follow the code revealed by God becomes a Muslim (believer) and one who refuses to follow it becomes a Kafir (non-believer). A man joins the fold of Islam by honestly believing in and professing faith in the unity of God and the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him). Both these beliefs are epitomized in the Shahadah (declaration of faith): La ilaha illallahu Muhammad rasulullah. (‘There is no god except God; Muhammad is His Prophet’.) The first part of this Shahadah presents the concept of Tawhid (unity of God) and its second part affirms the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him).
THE PROPHET OF ISLAM - MUHAMMAD
Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is one the greatest benefactors of mankind. The Prophet of Islam undoubtedly proved a great blessing to humanity. It was he who preached for the first time complete equality of mankind. He gave a high sense of self-respect to an uncouth desert people among whom he was born. He removed all distinctions of caste, creed or colour, and introduced among his followers the principle of universal brotherhood. All these ideas were refreshing to those who were suffering under so many inequities and acts of injustice.
The Prophet of Islam, in fact, revolutionized human thought by his preaching. He not only preached, but also acted upon every word he spoke for the guidance of humanity. Thus his life became a source of true inspiration to his followers. Even minute acts and deeds of him have been recorded by his Companions and contemporaries for the benefit of mankind. His life was practical demonstration of how high precept and noble example can be blended harmoniously in the life of man.
The torch lit by the Prophet of Islam about 1427 years ago should always be peoples' guiding light to keep their steps away from the path of sin and error. The many phases of Muhammad's unique personality must be studied carefully in order to draw up a system of conduct for ourselves. Islam itself is a perfect code of life and hence, in every age and clime, it can easily fulfil the moral and spiritual as well as material needs and requirements of humanity.
Humanity needs a standard by which it may judge itself in all problems in every walk of life, social, economic, political, religious, commercial and cultural. Such a model is found in the life of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He was born amongst a people who had touched the lowest ebb of degeneration and degradation. His clarion call not only aroused them from the slumber of ages and pulled them out from the shadows of darkness and oblivion, but also converted a backward and primitive tribal community into harbingers of one of the greatest civilisations on earth. From a life of ignorance, misery, evil social customs, and blood feuds, they were transformed into champions of knowledge, science, literature, medicine, astronomy and philosophy. They literally fixed a pattern of high moral standards, socio-economic justice, and equality for all mankind. Never has the world witnessed such a great transformation in such a short span of life.
Muhammad, Prophet of Islam, is the last of Prophets ; one who brought the Divine Message in its final and complete form. Muslims are asked to look upon all other Prophets with equal reverence.
Islam seeks to bring about mutual understanding and reconciliation between the followers of different faiths and to enjoin upon them to respect and honour one another. The Quran says
"Surely those who believe and those who are Jews and the Sabeans and the Christians whoever believes in Allah and the last Day and does good - they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve 1 " and " O, People of the Book, come to an equitable word between us and you, that we shall serve non but Allah and that we shall not associate aught with Him, and that some of us shall not take others for lords besides Allah." 2
The life of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him ) is unique among the founders of faiths. He was a ruler, an administrative, a soldier and a states man. As a husband and a father he sets an example which if carefully followed would eradicate many evils and prevent destruction of family life. Gentleness and humility, courtesy and hospitality, patience and tolerance, courage and fortitude, the warmity of his affection for friends and his large-hearted magnanimity to his enemies were some of his qualities. Above all, he was the man chosen by Allah to convey the Message of all good and happiness to humanity.
Prophet Muhammad's life (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) can be described as a struggle between truth and falsehood, justice and inquity, good and evil and happiness and misery.
Before Muhammad's mission (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the world, as described by Allah in the Quran, was as follows"Indeed, there has come to you from Allah a Light and a clear Book whereby Allah guides such as follow His pleasure into the ways of peace, and brings them out of darkness into light by His will, and guides them to the right path".