What is Al-Islam?

This day have those who reject faith given up all hope of your religion, yet fear them not, but fear Me.  This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Al-Islam as your religion.” (Qur’an 5:3)

Al-Islam is the definitive form of the Arabic word Islam that is derived from the root word aslama meaning “to submit peacefully.”  Central to the core of Islam are the concepts of “peace” and “submission.”  The submission is only to God, the Creator, Fashioner, and Sustainer of all that exists, seen and unseen.

By submitting to God, His will, His commands, and His plan, we inevitably establish peace.  Peace surrounds us in our daily lives, in our families, in our communities, in our cities, in our nations, and in our world.  When humanity mutually works toward the goal of submitting to God and toward the effect of establishing peace, the world will enjoy justice, equality, and freedom.

Al-Islam, The submission to the will of God, is not a new phenomenon but rather the culmination and perfection of truth that was revealed from God to humanity over the course of humanity’s short existence.  The path of human development began with the first human being, Adam, and was perfected in the model for all humanity and final Prophet of God, Muhammed (upon both of them be peace).

The truth which we speak of is the first principle of Al-Islam and the key to understanding our existence.  This principle, called Tawheed in Arabic, is the oneness, uniqueness, and independence of the one God, called Allah in Arabic.  Allah is the One who created all.  All are dependent upon Him, and yet He is independent of all.  Nothing in creation is similar to Him.

Say: He, Allah is One.  Allah, The Eternal, The Absolute.  He begets not, nor is He begotten.  And there is nothing like Him.”  (Qur’an 112:1-4)

To Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth.  All submit to Him, willingly or unwillingly.  He created all creatures to be subservient to Him.  It is their nature, or fitr in Arabic, to follow His commands and to serve Him obediently.

Humanity, however, was given a special prize possession, which is both its aide and its enemy.  The intellect of the human being is unlike other creatures.  Unlike animals, plants, or even inanimate objects, human beings have wills, desires, passions, rational thought processes, and emotions.  To this degree, humanity has the potential to be disobedient, though its nature is to serve its Creator.

Thus, in order for humanity to not lose its footing in the treacherous and unforgiving wilderness that is our earth, Allah sent prophets and messengers, one after another, to guide people to the truth that is Islam.  Every prophet that was sent reminded his people of the One God, warned them of the impending punishment for disobeying their God, and gave them glad tidings of an eternal, blissful afterlife if they submitted and worshipped only the One God.

Inevitably, these prophets, who were only themselves human beings, died, and their people turned away from their Lord and Sustainer returning to their ignorant, godless ways.  Many fashioned for themselves false gods and primitive myths.  This proved to be their destruction.

Each prophet was sent to a particular nation or community of people, speaking the language of the people, and being from their kindred.  Finally, when humanity was most in need, Allah sent a final prophet who would be the seal of prophethood and the bringer of the final Message to all people in all nations.

His name was Muhammed ibn Abdullah (upon whom be peace).  He was born in 570 C.E. and died in 632 C.E.  Through the angel Jibril (Gabriel), Allah revealed the Qur’an to Muhammed over the course of 23 years.  During this time, as with all the prophets before him, he taught the people to serve the one and only God, Who had no partners, intermediaries, sons or daughters.  One God.

To what extent faith coincides with actions is evident by pillars of Islam, of which there are 5:

  1. Believing and testifying that there is only One God and that Muhammed is His servant and messenger. (Shahadatain)
  2. Praying 5 times daily facing the ka’ba, the first sacred house of worship built by Abraham, in Makkah. (Salat)
  3. Fasting from food, drink, and marital relations during the daylight hours of the lunar month of Ramadan. (Sawm)
  4. Giving a percentage of one’s wealth to the poor every year. (Zakat)
  5. Performing pilgrimage to the sacred house in Makkah at least once in one’s life. (Hajj)

While these 5 pillars are the core of Al-Islam and represent the key practices of a Muslim (one who practices Islam), their depth cannot be fully appreciated by merely enumerating them.  The degree of a Muslim’s faith is measured by his will to serve God in these practices and also in every aspect of his life.

Because of this, Muslims have been given ample source material to guide their living.  The Qur’an, in a sense, is a guidebook for human development, and the example, or sunnah, of Muhammed is the personification of the edicts laid out in the Qur’an.  Because of this, Al-Islam is rich with principles of Justice (?Adl), Piety (taqwa), Faith (Iman), Purity (Tahaarah), Charity (Sadaqah), Truth (Haqq), struggle (Jihad), Peace (Salaam), Judgment (Ahkaam), and many other well-defined principles.  Al-Islam is actually a plethora of divine morals formulated into a simple, “user-friendly” format.

For the believer, every thought, every action, and every word is for the pleasure and worship of Allah.  Al-Islam attempts and succeeds in making remembrance of Allah (Thikr) realistic even in a modern social setting.  It is as practical as taking a bite of food and recounting the name of the One who allowed you to receive that food, and is as intricate as reciting numerous verses from the Qur’an in the morning prayer to glorify the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

So diverse is Al-Islam that it spread from the desert valley city of Makkah as far east as China and as far west as Spain in less than 50 years.  So complete is this way of life that people in the mountains of India and in the busy streets of Chicago can practice it and believe in it without finding any discrepancies therein.

So vast is the wisdom poured forth from the Qur’an that countless scientific, philosophical, and intellectual discoveries flowered from it and continue to do so even upon this day.  So pure and complete was the life of Muhammed that even those who do not believe in his prophethood have declared him the greatest man to ever live.

This is the way of life chosen for humanity by God.  This is the way of life that can remove the shackles of false worship and materialism from the people of the world.  This is the way of life that can lift up humanity and bestow upon it greatness in this life and salvation in the life after.  This is our way of life.  This is Al-Islam.

It is not righteousness that you turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which you have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing.” (Qur’an 2:177)