The word ‘Islam’ is an Arabic word which linguistically means submission, and the root word from which it is derived have meanings of peace, security and certainty. As a term in its common usage however, ‘Islam’ refers to the message which was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) by God. In turn, a Muslim is the one who adopts Islam as their way of life.
The linguistic and conventional meanings go hand in hand, in so far as the basic concept is that by submitting to the Will of God – in the way shown by His Prophet (pbuh) – the human being achieves peace, contentment and salvation.
Islam is founded on a comprehensive concept - that this world and all of its components are created by one Creator. This Creator is not passive. Rather He has an active role in the lives of the people and in the world at large. He, in His infinite knowledge and mercy, sent guidance in the form of rules, principles and ethics for humanity to follow and achieve the potential for which they were created.
However, He does not force the people to follow these rules. He allows them to choose. But He holds them accountable for their choices. He will reward those who choose to follow his decreed way of life and will punish the ones who reject the message..
More than a 'religion'
Islam is not like Christianity or Buddhism with only theological and moral precepts. More than just a religion, it is a unique ideology with its own creed and worldview with a system of rules, principles, and law. This system is comprehensive in that it covers all aspects of human life, including the individual and societal, spiritual and political. It provides guidance on the most intimate of spiritual matters such as the state with one’s heart and achieving proximity with the Divine, as well as on the most public such as the state of human societies in their economic and political framework.
Islam provides a clear agenda for humanity to solve its problems and organise itself in a manner that would bring tranquility and progress without leading to perversions or conflicts.
One of the fundamental points that sets Islam apart from secular liberal ideology, as applied in the West, is the latter’s position that the Creator or God should not have any role in the process of conducting the affairs of the people.
Man made systems are ultimately flawed as those that create them hold limited knowledge, are easily influenced by the environment and are liable to disparity and contradictions.
The question remains; Who better understands the condition of a people and a system that would best serve society, than the One who created us?
The Islamic creed encompasses ideas or thoughts which are unique to Islam. The conviction in such ideas is a prerequisite to becoming a Muslim. The Islamic creed is absolute as the reality itself is absolute. Thus, there is no room for indecisiveness or uncertainty in its ideas or thoughts. Certainty of understanding is required when adopting this Islamic creed. It should not be adopted on the basis of blind imitation, emotions or as a reactionary belief.
The Islamic creed can be proven by human reason and it is on this basis that it must be adopted. This creed is based on three fundamental convictions, namely that,
1. The universe, life and human beings are created by one Creator, who has all the attributes of perfection. He does not resemble His creation and is not comparable with anyone or anything;
2. Prophethood is a necessity for humanity. God sent messengers and prophets and the last and the final messenger is Muhammad (pbuh); and
3. The Quran is a book revealed by Allah consisting of only the words of the Creator Himself..
Relation with other religions
It is a common misunderstanding that Islam began in the 7th Century with the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and that it is the ‘youngest of the major religions’. In fact, Islam began with the first human, Adam, who was also the first prophet. Key to this understanding is the fact that all prophets – Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, Jesus and others – came with the same fundamental message; that God is one, that He alone deserves to be worshipped, and that the success of humanity lies in the realisation of true knowledge about God and in living God-centered lives. Thus, Islam affirms the prophethood and great stature of all these prophets.
However, throughout time the original message was corrupted and innovations in religion began. Therefore, prophets were sent one after the other to call people back to the original message. The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the last in this chain. His message is final and is preserved to the Day of Judgement. It abrogates all previous religions.