Everything has a name which is supposed to tell us in brief what that
thing is. If that is the purpose of a name, then the name Islam
fulfils that purpose perfectly. It tells us the basic principle of this
religion, what is required of its followers, and what goal they are
meant to achieve by following this religion.
The Arabic word islam means 'to submit' or 'to surrender',
and 'to enter into peace'. As the name of this religion, it means submitting
and surrendering oneself to God and thereby entering into peace. But
what is meant by submitting and surrendering to God ? Is it to blindly
obey the instructions of a religious teacher, or the commandments given
in a scripture, without the use of any thinking, sense or intelligence
on our part? And is this submission and surrender forced on us by anyone?
The answer to both is: No.
You submit yourself to God after having pondered and thought and realised
that acting on His guidance will benefit you. And you surrender to Him
willingly and cheerfully, not out of fear of a religious leader or a
human authority, nor trying to please someone. You give up your desires
and submit yourself to what God wants you to do. You should feel in
your heart that what you are doing is right.
Islam teaches that the whole of the universe around us, the earth,
the stars, the sun, the trees, everything is in a state of submission
to God. The Holy Quran says:
"To Him submits whatever is in the heavens and the earth"
(ch. 3, v. 83).
This means to say that everything in nature is working according to fixed
laws and cannot deviate from those laws. Your own body, and all its parts
and organs, are working subject to the laws of nature, and have no choice
but to work as they are intended to. But God has given the human soul
freedom whether to submit to Him or violate His laws. And then through
His Prophets, God revealed what that guidance is, to which man must submit.
So, according to Islam, God sent His Prophets to various nations of
the world. Each one of these Prophets taught man how to submit to God.
They all taught the worship of the one and only God Who created everything
and is above all creation. Nothing which is a part of creation can be
God. No heavenly body in the sky, no huge mountain or river on earth,
no human being however great and powerful, no man however holy and revered,
can be God. On the contrary, all these things are subject to the laws
of God. God has no material or human needs. He needs no son and had
no father. Anything which is dependent on something cannot be God. Nothing
can be likened to God.
So the Prophets who appeared in various nations, before the time of
the Holy Prophet Muhammad, taught their people the Oneness of God and
how to submit to Him. All Prophets were themselves mortal human beings,
like us, but of a great moral and spiritual stature.
After a long passage of time, each nation, such as the Israelites,
the people of India, etc. came to believe that only they had been chosen
by God to receive His guidance. Each nation only knew about and believed
in its ways and Prophets. Each nation thought of God as just their God
who cared for them only. Moreover, they did not remain true to the original
concept of the One God, but raised other things and human beings to
the status of gods alongside the One God.
Then God sent the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and the blessings
of God be upon him) as the Prophet for not just his land and people
of Arabia but for the whole world. He brought from God the message which
restored the belief in One God in its fullest purity. The Quran says:
"God is one, He is the one on whom all depend, He depends
on none, He begets not, nor is He begotten, and nothing is like Him"
The Quran also says: "Allah --- there is no God but He. His are
the most beautiful names" (ch. 20, v. 8).
Allah is the Arabic word for the One True God. It is a unique
name of God because it has always been applied only to His Being. Words
such as God and Lord, or any other word in any language
for God, do not have this distinction, nor do any of them have the same
depth of meaning as the word Allah.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad taught that the same One God Who had sent
him had also sent the previous Prophets, to each and every country.
He had sent Abraham and Moses and Jesus, and also the Prophets to other
nations. All had come for their respective peoples with the message
of the Oneness of God and submission to Him. They were all true and
righteous. Now God sent the Prophet Muhammad with the same message,
but in the broadest, the most complete and the most perfect form so
that it could meet the needs of all humanity for all time. For example,
it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, for the first time ever in
human history, that Allah is Lord of all the worlds . This statement
is placed at the beginning of the Holy Quran. Allah treats all nations,
peoples and races equally, cares for their physical and spiritual welfare
equally, and does not favour or disfavour any nations unjustly.
All nations have the same Lord, so why fight with one another, and
why consider some nations as created superior and others as created
inferior? Allah says in the Quran: "We have created the human being
in the best make" (ch. 95, v. 4). All human beings have the highest
potential. It is their use or neglect of that potential which makes
them superior or inferior.
So Allah, being the Lord of all nations, first sent Prophets to each
and every people, not neglecting anyone, for their guidance, and then
to bring all nations together He sent the Prophet Muhammad for all the
world with an all-comprehensive message. And He named it Islam to show
that its teachings are not named after, nor attributable to, any individual
or to any nation or to any geographic land. But rather this name tells
us the principle of the religion. The Quran also teaches us that true
religion does not consist of doctrines artificially forced on man, but
rather it is in harmony with the inner nature of man. The Quran says:
"So set up your face for religion, in an upright way.
The nature made by God in which He has created human beings --- there
is no altering God's creation. That is the right religion." (ch.
30, v. 30)
The right religion is ingrained in human nature, and your inner self will
testify to the truth when it sees it.
To enter the fold of Islam, a declaration is made, known as the Kalima
Shahada. This consists of two parts as follows:
Ash-hadu an-la ilaha ill-Allah,
wa ash-hadu anna Muhammad-ar
"I bear witness that there is none
to be worshipped except Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the
messenger of Allah."
In other words, Allah is the one and only God, and Muhammad is the
mortal, human messenger who brought Allah's message and who set the
highest example in acting on it, the example which we must follow.
As Islam taught us all the ways of our spiritual development, and
as the Holy Prophet Muhammad possessed and displayed the whole range
of moral qualities required in any sphere of human life, it follows
that the Holy Quran is the last scripture for mankind and the Prophet
Muhammad is the last and final Prophet of God.
See also teachings
of Islam especially stressed by Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement.