Islaam is an Arabic word. People residing in Western countries may not know the exact meaning and exact denotation of the word “Islaam”. So I would like to talk about: “What is Islaam?”
The beautiful world, which we see around us, carries in its bosom the testimony that it is the creation of a Great Creator. The existence of order and design in the universe, which modern science teaches us, leads to the belief in the existence of a Supreme Power; a Supreme Intelligence that is responsible for this complex but orderly design. The Supreme One brought this universe into existence and provided it with all that it needed for life and growth.
The universe, as it is described in science, is an organic whole; of which all of its parts are beautifully and harmoniously interrelated. It is further a domain in which every particle exists and moves following a prescribed and immutable law. Neither the huge planets that swim in space nor the tiny particles of sand that lie scattered on the seashores can deviate even slightly from that course. Their life is a complete life of submission to the laws of nature in the language of science, and to the laws of God in the language of religion. So, really speaking, their life is the life of Islaam, which means submission and obedience to divine commands. Submission is acceptance of God’s commands. Obedience means putting God’s commands into practice. These both bring peace. That is why Islaam also means peace. The holy ’Qura~n mentions this truth in the following words:
“While all creatures in the heavens and on earth have, willing or unwilling, bowed to His Will (accepted Islaam), and to Him shall they all be brought back.” (The Holy ’Qura~n, chapter of A~l ‘Imraan, verse 83)
The sole exception to the general rule is man. He is unique in the whole domain of creation in as much as he possesses not only the faculty of reasoning but also his free will. This makes his course of action and the pattern of his behaviour unpredictable. You can predict the action of the sun because it functions under an immutable law and possess no freedom to deviate from it, but you cannot do this same thing in the case of man. The activity of all things in the universe is mechanical; not so of man.
Man can choose his ends and he can prescribe the means. For this purpose he relies on his reason, and because of that also, he commits mistakes. By reasoning, he will achieve great things, but ultimately reason could take him to confusion. The same faculty, which is his asset, can become the instrument of his undoing if he puts it to wrong use. The human intellect has its limits. It can serve efficiently to some extent in the domain of the physical reality but when it enters the realm of fundamental truth where the first requirement is the possession of a comprehensive knowledge of the past, the present and the future, it can give him only conjectures and inference.
In its very nature, man’s intellect is incapable of discovering ultimate truths of life. The human soul is, however, dead earnest to learn those ultimate truths because without them the real meaning of life remains unexplained and the true code of human endeavour remains unfixed.
Science cannot supply us with that, because it deals only with the immediate physical reality; philosophy cannot give it either because it works on postulates and inference.
It is the stage where the human soul cries for guidance from the Great beyond the unknown. Humanity needs sure and comprehensive guidance and the same loving Creator who created us and sustains the universe in the matter of physical needs has also taken it upon Himself to supply this vital need of learning the truth.
Human history bears witness to the fact that religion has existed since the beginning of life of humanity in this earth. This shows that the Beneficent God provided mankind with guidance immediately upon their creation, so that they would not have to grope in the dark and that they would conform with the law.
Those who are appointed by God to deliver that message and guidance are known in the religious terminology as prophets, messengers and apostles. They (peace be upon all of them) received that guidance in the form of divine revelation and when they presented it to the people in a written form it was known as the scriptures or revealed books. The contents of those scriptures have always been laws, which the Creator and Sustainer of the universe had appointed for the right life of man.
The aim of guidance had always been to teach man to submit to the divine law; an attitude expressed in Arabic by the term “Islaam”. God wants man to act and behave in accordance with the law in his true nature as a free being, when the rest of creation conforms to the laws of nature in a mechanical way. In simple words we can say that divine guidance wants us to be Muslims. Allaah (God) says in the Holy ’Qura~n:
“Allaah’s handiwork according to the pattern on which He has made mankind: no change (let there be) in the work (wrought) by Allah: that is the standard Religion: but most among mankind understand not.” (The Holy ’Qura~n, chapter of Arroom, verse 30)
This guidance from Allaah was not meant only for one group or community but was sent to all nations and races of the world. The blessing of Allaah was bestowed universally, as the Holy ’Qura~n says:
“…and there never was a people, without a warner having lived among them (in the past).” (The Holy ’Qura~n, chapter of Faa’tir, 24)
History has preserved the names of some of the waners while the names and works of many others have been forgotten. Among those whose names are still remembered are Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them). And the last of them was Mu’hammad, peace be upon him.
The great prophet, Mu’hammad, (peace be upon him) received the revelation in the seventh century of the Christian era, called humanity back to the path of the former prophets and presented to the world the ’Qura~n which contains the law taught by the former prophets in its perfect and most comprehensive form. People had named the teachings of the previous teachers as Judaism and Christianity. The last prophet, Mu’hammad, (peace be upon him) reminded them of the real and original and meaningful name: Islaam. He declared in the words of Allaah in the Holy ’Qura~n:
“The religion before Allah is Islam.” (The Holy ’Qura~n, chapter of A~l ‘Imraan, verse 19)
That is the surrender to His will and guidance. Then again Almighty Allaah says:
“…it is the faith of your father Abraham. It is He Who has named you Muslims.” (The Holy ’Qura~n, chapter of Al’haj, verse 78)
Again Allaah more emphatically says:
“Abraham was not a Jew nor yet a Christian; but he was true in Faith, and bowed his will to Allah’s (which is Islam), and he joined not gods with Allah.” (The Holy ’Qura~n, chapter of A~l ‘Imraan, verse 67)
The final prophet of Allaah raised religion from the level of sectarianism and taught that the divine religion wherever found and whoever preached it had always been Islaam which, as has already emphasized in this article, means submission to and conformity with the laws appointed by Allaah.
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