What is Islam?

Islam[1] means “submitting or surrendering one’s will to the will of God (Allah).”[2]

The human beings’ innate disposition naturally submits to the reverence of God; this natural feeling was infused with him or her on the day of creation. In reality, the entire universe, through its ordered workings all submit to the will of God. Modern science calls these phenomena “the laws of nature,” but these laws of nature, from an Islamic perspective, are not just any set of laws, rather, they are the laws of God for nature. Human beings depend on, and are in need of God’s sustenance and guidance throughout their entire lives; thus, the human being must yield his self-will and desires to the will of the Creator.

Submission to God does not entail self-humiliation or a denial of human intellect; rather, it means trusting the knowledge, wisdom, and fairness of the Creator. In some form of an act or instance, people involuntary trust and depend on the safety of their lives to others. Hence, the decision to trust a person with more knowledge is logical; therefore, trusting the wisdom of God does not constitute abandoning one’s intellect, but rather, it constitutes following one’s natural inclination.

The word Islam has other meanings, one of which is “to have peace.” God says in the Quran,[3]

“He is Allah, there is no god but Him -the King, the Holy One, and the Peace.” (59:23)

Moreover, the Quran states,

“And Allah invites to the abode of peace.” (10:25)

By its connotations of peace and safety, the word Islam indicates that the religion is free from any deficiencies or defects. As a religion, Islam is considered perfect because it was ordained by God and not invented or marked by mankind:

“This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (5:3)

Commanded by God, Prophet Abraham was the first person to use the words Islam and Muslim,[4]

“It [the teachings of monotheism of Islam] is the religion of your father Abraham. He [God] has named you Muslims both before and in this [Quran].” (22:78) In another passage of the Quran we read, “Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a true Muslim [submissive to God] and was not one of the polytheists.” (3:67)

Not only did Prophet Abraham call his religion Islam, but the prophets after Abraham also called their religion Islam. Prophet Joseph,[5] in the chapter entitled “Joseph” in the Quran states,

“My Lord! You have given me authority and taught me the interpretation of things. O Creator of the heavens and earth! You are my guardian in this world and in the Hereafter. Cause me to die as a Muslim, submitting to Your will, and join me with the righteous.” (12:101)

Thus, God declares in the Quran,

“Truly the religion before Allah is Islam.” (3:19)


[1] From the Arabic verb aslama, meaning ‘to surrender.’
[2] The Arabic word for the One God.
[3] Quran: Islam’s Divine Book.
[4] The word Muslim refers to a follower of the religion of Islam and it means “one who surrenders to the will of God.”
[5] The son of Prophet Jacob from whom the ‘Tribes of Israel’ come from.


Discovering Islam by Sayed Moustafa Al-Qazwini