If you are following my blog, I have written about the misuse of the word Islam and it`s derivatives. I find this to be a very important topic because the truth of a concept is lost if new meanings are assigned to it. This has been done very conveniently to the word ‘Islam’. Today, Islam is perceived as a religion, a terrorist movement, a source of backwardness and brutality, a political movement among others. But, what is the real meaning of this word? Are all of these true?
As in any other concept, and especially a contreversial one, the source of the concept is one of the best indicators of its pure meaning. Going to the source, would help us focus on the intended meaning, help us get rid of the baggage that has been assigned to it.
The source of the world ‘Islam’ as we know it first appeared in the Quran. According to tradition and the Quran, The Quran was verbally revealed by God to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel over a period of 22-23 years starting in 610, and concluding in 632. This is explained in the Quran; Here is an example:
17:106: “We have divided the Quran into many segments so that you would read them to the people in gradual steps as We reveal them to you from time to time.”
The word “Islam” as we know it as a religion most definitively goes back to the Quran. However, note that Islam actually means submission in short, and in this context submitting oneself to the law and ideals of God. It is both a noun and a verb at the same time. In other words, the religion is an act of submission to God. Please notice that this makes it very difficult to find this word in the Quran to mean the religion of Islam (vs. Judaism for example) as we know it today. That is because the Quran does not bother with classifying a new religion for muslims, but it tries to get people to submit to the laws of the Eternal Creator, as other monotheistic religions do. Therefore, Quran does not truly bring a seperate religion, it rather clarifies or emphasizes the same religion that is God’s religion that was brought by the prophets (Jesus, Moses etc.).
Let`s examine this verse:
3:85: “If anyone desires a religion other than submission to God/Islam, never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost.”
Here, “a religion other than submission to God” could mean submitting to wealth, reputation, bad deeds, or man made and mystisized idols etc. instead of the Eternal Creator. Basically, this command is the command of all monotheistic religions including Chritianity and Judaism. Except, this act of submission to God is referred to as “Islam” in the Quran.
There is a place in the Quran that refers to the religion as literally “The Islam” (Al-Islam in Arabic), as though it was referring to the Islam religion as we know it today:
3:19: “The religion before God is Islam (submission to His Will): Nor did the People of the Book dissent therefrom except through envy of each other, after knowledge had come to them. But if any deny the signs of God, God is swift in calling to account.”
Notice, however, that the translator felt the need to put in parenthesis the verbal meaning of Islam: submission to His (God’s) Will. That is because even the word “Islam” here coming close to the meaning of the religion of Islam (noun) as we know it today, it is impossible to refer to it without also meaning the verb – submission. If you look at this verse again, submission to the religion of the Eternal Creator would be the claim of all monotheistic religions. The rest of the verse is interestingly referring to the People of the Book, who are the people that received written message from God (Christians, Jews etc.). The verse goes on to say they dissented due to envy of each other, even though they knew right from wrong. So, the verse calls on them and all humanity to submit to the laws of the Eternal Creator. This is NOT saying Jews and Christians need to convert to Islam (noun usage only).
In conclusion, Quran considers itself a unifier, a clarifier, and a reminder or approver of the true path that was sent to humanity beforehand. That path here is called submission to the rules and laws of the Eternal Creator (God). The word “Islam” -a verb and a noun- exactly means that. It does not really refer to a different religion that is segragated or in competition with other monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism etc.). One should consider the real meaning of Islam when they are making it to mean a terrorist movement, a source of backwardness and brutality, or a political movement etc.