Introduction to Islam
by Dr. Zahid Aziz
“Surely the religion with Allah is Islam.” (The Holy Quran, 3:19)
What is the name of our religion?
The name of our religion is ISLAM. This word is pronounced as:
IS — as in the word th-is (NOT the sound of z like in the word is).
LAM — LA as in the word la-rge.
A follower of Islam is known as a MUSLIM, pronounced as:
MUS — u as in pull, and a soft s.
What do these words mean?
The word Islam means ‘entering into peace’ and also ‘submission to God’. Muslim, therefore, means one who has made peace, with God as well as with man, through submission to God.
Who gave these names to this religion?
These names are to be found in the Holy Quran, the sacred Book of the Muslims. For instance, God says:
“I have chosen for you (O mankind) Islam as a religion.” (The Holy Quran, chapter 5, verse 3, or 5:3 for short.)
“He (God) has named you as Muslims.” (The Holy Quran, 22:78)
What is the basic teaching of Islam?
It is to make peace with God, which means to submit to and obey God completely. And also to make peace with man, which means to do good to people around us. This basic teaching is summed up in the Holy Quran as follows:
“Whoever submits himself completely to Allah, and does good to others, he shall have his reward from his Lord.” (The Holy Quran, 2:112)
(Note that the word “he” in such places in the Quran does not mean a man only, but any human being, male or female).
How did Islam come into the world?
The religion of Islam in its present form came to us through the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, who lived and preached in Arabia some 1400 years ago (born 571 C.E., died 632 C.E.). However, the Holy Prophet taught that he was not bringing a completely new religion into the world, because the basic principles of Islam had also been preached by all the great founders of the various religions before him. Islam, therefore, did not begin with the Holy Prophet Muhammad, but was also the religion of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, and every other prophet of God.
Why is this religion not named after Muhammad, the Holy Prophet?
Because, properly speaking, the Holy Prophet Muhammad was not the Founder of Islam, but was himself a Muslim — a follower of Islam. Prophets before him too are called Muslims in the Holy Quran. Our religion was not named after the Holy Prophet Muhammad in order to stress that it teaches the same basic principles that were originally taught by all the prophets who appeared before him in various parts of the world.
Are there any special reasons why our religion is called Islam?
Yes. Because it teaches that, just as the universe around us obeys the laws God has established for it, man too should submit to the guidance the Almighty has revealed through His Prophet. It teaches that Islam or ‘submission to God’ is a hall-mark of the physical world and of human nature. Every human child at birth is a ‘Muslim’ in the sense that he (or she) behaves according to true human nature.
If previous prophets had also taught the same basic ‘Islam’, what was new about the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad?
The original teachings given to the different nations of the world by the prophets who appeared in them, had gradually become lost, altered and obscured. God then sent the Holy Prophet Muhammad to:
- re-establish those original principles,
- preach other truths which had not been preached before, but were necessary now because mankind had advanced,
- to collect together the best of every religion into one faith.
So the Holy Prophet Muhammad appeared as the Last Prophet to give to the whole world one, perfect and ever-lasting, religion — Islam.
What does one have to do in order to become a Muslim?
A person becomes a Muslim by declaring in public an oath known as the Kalima Shahada. This runs:
Ash-hadu an la ilaha ill-Allah
(I bear witness that there is no god except Allah)
Wa ash-hadu anna Muhammad-an rasul-Ullah
(and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah).
The Kalima contains the two basic points a Muslim has to believe: that there is only one God — Allah, and that the Holy Prophet Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger to mankind.