What is Islam? Islam is the submission to Allah, that is to submit one’s soul, destiny, all matters to Him. A man may feel that no one on earth or the heavens above has authority over him, and that he has the freedom to do whatever he desires without seeking permission from anyone. This attitude may be acceptable in determining the relationship between a man and another fellow human being. When it comes to establishing a relationship with one’s creator, such haughtiness and rebellious mien is completely unacceptable. This relationship between man and Allah is based on total obedience.
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It is imperative that a human obediently follow Allah’s commands and wills, as stated in Surat Luqman, verse 22: (وَمَنْ يُسْلِمْ وَجْهَهُ إِلَى الله وَهُوَ مُحْسِنٌ فَقَدِ اِسْتَمْسَكَ بِالعُرْوَةِ الُوْثْقَى وَإِلَى اللهِ عَاقِبَةُ الأُمُوْرِ) “And whoever submits his face to Allah while he is a doer of good, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold. And to Allah will be the outcome of all matters.” Created by Allah and destined to live on earth for six or seven decades, possibly less and possibly more, a human being is ultimately fated to die and return to his creator. Hence, what sort of relationship can there be between the creator and the created – to be ignorant or knowledgeable about Him, submissive or rebellious?
It is natural that a human being knows God the Almighty, his Creator, submissively abides by His orders and avoid his prohibitions, and leads a life according to what He has prescribed for him. This is the true meaning of Islam and the meaning that the messengers of Allah agreed upon, as stated in Surat Ali ‘imran, verse 19: (إِنَّ الدِّيْنَ عِنْدَ اللهِ الإِسْلامُ) “Indeed, the religion in the sight of Allah is Islam.” By submitting to Allah and declaring total obedience to Him, the human being is in total harmony with the entire universe, as stated in Surat Ali ‘imran, verse 83: (أَفَغَيْرَ دِيْنَ اللهِ يَبْغُونَ وَلَهُ أَسْلَمَ مَنْ فِي السَّمَوات والأَرْض طَوْعًا وَكَرْهًا وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ) “So it is other than the religion of Allah they desire, while to Him have submitted all those within the heavens and earth, willingly or by compulsion, and to Him they will be returned?”
Whoever thinks that Islam solely embodies the religion that Mohammed (PBUH) was sent to propagate is mistaken. Quite the contrary, it represents all previous religions. While the truth of Islam fully blossomed and took its final shape through the message of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), Islam, as a name of religion, is used in the Quran to refer to all religions that previous Prophets and Messengers of Allah (PBUT) propagated.
Take Israel, which is an honorary title for Prophet Jacob. He was a prophet sent to propagate Islam, adhered to it, died a Muslim, and advised his children to abide by it. This is clearly state in the Holy Quran, in Surat al-Bagarah, verse 133: (أَمْ كُنْتُم شُهَدَاءَ إِذْ حَضَرَ يَعْقُوبَ المَوْتُ إِذْ قَالَ لِبَنِيْهِ مَا تَعْبِدُونَ مِنْ بَعْدِي قَالُوا نَعْبِدُ إِلَهَ آبَائِكَ إِبْرَاهِيْمَ ِوَإِسْمَاعِيْلَ وَإِسْحَاقَ إِلَهًا وَاحِدًا وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ) “Or were you witnesses when death approached Jacob, when he said to his sons, ‘What will you worship after me?’ They said, ‘We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac – one God. And we are Muslims, i.e. in submission, to Him.’”
Similarly, Prophet Jesus (PBUH) educated his followers how to be obedient to God, and how to truly worship Him. This is clearly stated in the Holy Quran, in Surat al-Ma’idah, verse 111: (وَإِذْ أَوْحَيْتُ إِلَى الحَوَارِيِيْنَ أَنْ آمِنُوا بِي وَبِرَسُولِي قَالُوا آمَنَّا وَاَشْهَدْ بَأَنَّنَا مُسْلِمُون) “And remember when I inspired to the disciples, ‘Believe in Me and in My messenger Jesus.’ They said, ‘We have believed, so bear witness that indeed we are Muslims.’” The description of Islam comprises all prophets who executed the commands of God starting from Torah until this very day, as stated in Surat al-Ma’idah, verse 44: (إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَا التَّوْرَاةَ فِيهَا هُدًى وَنُورٌ يَحْكُمُ بِهَا النَّبِيُّونَ الَّذِينَ أَسْلَمُوا لِلَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالرَّبَّانِيُّونَ وَالْأَحْبَارُ بِمَا اسْتُحْفِظُوا مِنْ كِتَابِ اللَّهِ وَكَانُوا عَلَيْهِ شُهَدَاءَ …َ) “Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was guidance and light. The prophets who submitted to Allah judged by it for the Jews, as did the rabbis and scholars by that with which they were entrusted of the Scripture of Allah, and they were witnesses thereto.”
So, what does true Islam entail? It entails the realization of two important matters: fine knowledge of Allah and total submission and obedience to Him.
Divine power is a sole attribute of Allah, and whoever believes otherwise is not a Muslim. It is mandatory that a Muslim have a true knowledge of Allah. In reading the Holy Quran, divine evidences for everything and absolute dominance are abundantly clear, as stated in Surat al-Kahf, verse 26: (لَهُ غَيْبُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ أَبْصِرْ بِهِ وَأَسْمِعْ مَا لَهُمْ مِنْ دُونِهِ مِنْ وَلِيٍّ وَلَا يُشْرِكُ فِي حُكْمِهِ أَحَدًا) “He has knowledge of the unseen aspects of the heavens and the earth. How Seeing is He and how Hearing! They have not besides Him any protector, and He shares not His legislation with anyone.”
Similarly, whoever is doubtful about the grandeur of Allah or thinks that Allah has a son is not a Muslim. This is clearly stated in Surat Yunus, verses 68 and 69: (قَالُوا اتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ وَلَدًا سُبْحَانَهُ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ إِنْ عِنْدَكُمْ مِنْ سُلْطَانٍ بِهَذَا أَتَقُولُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ. قُلْ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ لَا يُفْلِحُونَ) “They have said, ‘Allah has taken a son.’ Exalted is He; He is the one Free of need. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. You have no authority for this claim. Do you say about Allah that which you do not know? Say, ‘Indeed, those who invent falsehood about Allah will not succeed.’”
What does it mean by submission and total obedience? Is a Muslim to be infallible? No. To err is human, and only Prophets (PBUT) are infallible. For various reasons and circumstances, a Muslim may commit a sin. This, however, does not mean that is no longer a Muslim, as stated in Surat al-A‘raf, verse 201: (إِنَّ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا إِذَا مَسَّهُمْ طَائِفٌ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ تَذَكَّرُوا فَإِذَا هُمْ مُبْصِرُونَ) “Indeed, those who fear Allah – when an impulse touches them from Satan, they remember Allah and at once they have insight.” Also, Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) refused to curse alcohol drinker as he is considered sick, and it is advisable he be prayed for so that he heals and return to Islam.
Submission of a human being to Allah, the Creator, is, thus, the absolute truth. Total obedience to Him and abiding by His commands is exceedingly honorable demeanor. Indeed, this is the true meaning of Islam.