A common misconception about “Islam” is that it is the religion that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad only. Islam, the Qur’an tells us, is rather the name of the one religion that Allah, the One and only God, revealed to every Prophet that He sent to people since the time of the first man and Prophet, Adam. For instance, all the following Prophets were Muslims who taught Islam to people: Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Zachariah, John, and Jesus. The following verse describes Israelite Prophets as “Muslims”:
Surely We revealed the Torah in which there was guidance and light; with it, the Prophets who aslamu [became Muslims] guided the Jews (from 5.44).
The name “Muslim” was in fact coined by Allah who used it long before the time of Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an, as revealed in the following verse:
And jahidu (do jihad) [O you who believe!] in the way of Allah jihadihi (the kind of jihad that is due to Him). He has chosen you and has not laid upon you a hardship in religion; it is the faith of your father Abraham. He [Allah] has named you al-Muslimin (the Muslims) earlier and in this [the Qur’an], so that the Messenger be a witness over you, and you be witnesses over the people. Therefore keep up prayer, pay the obligatory alms, and hold fast to Allah; He is your Master; so how excellent a Master and how excellent a Supporter! (22.78).
The verse clearly states that Allah has named the followers of His religion “Muslims” not only in the Qur’an but also in Books that He had revealed to previous Prophets, such as the Torah of Moses and the Injil of Jesus. Note also the following verse which states that Prophet Noah, who lived long before Prophet Abraham, told his people that Allah ordered him to be “one of the Muslims”:
But if you [O people!] turn away [from my call], I have not asked you for any reward; my reward is only with Allah, and I have been commanded to be one of al-Muslimin (the Muslims) (10.72).
In other words, previous divine Books and Prophets would have used terms equivalent to “Islam” and “Muslim” in their respective languages. The Arabic verb “yuslim” means “surrenders” or “submits.” It is used in a special way in the Qur’an as in “surrenders one’s self to Allah,” “surrenders to Allah,” or such variations. The derived Qur’anic noun “Islam,” therefore, means “submission to Allah.” To be a Muslim is to believe in Allah as the One Lord, submit to His will, and carry out His commandments. So, Islam is in fact a universal term that describes the one religion that Allah instructed, through His various Messengers, all people to embrace. Let’s read some of the relevant Qur’anic verses, starting with these about Prophets Abraham and his sons and grandsons:
And who has a better religion than he who aslama [has become a Muslim] (has surrendered himself) to Allah, is a doer of good, and has followed the faith of Abraham, worshipping one God. And Allah took Abraham as a close friend (4.125).
And who turns away from the religion of Abraham but he who makes himself a fool; and surely We chose him [Abraham] in this world, and in the hereafter he is surely among the righteous (2.130). When his Lord said to him; “Aslim (Be a Muslim; submit),” he said: “Aslamtu (I have become a Muslim; I have submitted) to the Lord of the people” (2.131). And Abraham enjoined the same on his sons, and so did Jacob [Abraham’s grandson]: “O my sons! Surely Allah has chosen for you the [true] religion, therefore die not except as Muslimun (Muslims)” (2.132). Or were you [O People of the Book!] witnesses when death visited Jacob, when he said to his sons: “What will you worship after me?” They said: “We shall worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac, one God, and to Him we are Muslimun (Muslims)” (2.133).
The following verses which refer to the Jews and Christians, or the “People of the Book,” emphasize and instruct the Prophet to stress that “Islam” or “submission to Allah” is the true religion of the Lord:
And they [the Jews and Christians] say: “None shall enter paradise except he who is a Jew or a Christian.” These are [nothing more than] their desires. Say [O Muhammad!]: “Bring your proof if you are truthful” (2.111). Verily, whoever aslama (becomes a Muslim; surrenders himself) to Allah and is a doer of good, his reward is with his Lord, and there is no fear for them nor shall they grieve (2.112).
Surely the [true] religion in the sight of Allah is al-Islam (Islam), and those to whom the Book had been given differed only after knowledge had come to them, out of transgression among themselves. And whoever denies the verses of Allah, then surely Allah is quick in reckoning (3.19). But if they argue with you [O Muhammad!], say: “Aslamtu (I have become a Muslim; I have surrendered myself) to Allah and so everyone who follows me.” And say to those who have been given the Book and to the unlearned people: “A’aslamtum (Would you become Muslims; would you submit)?” So if Aslamu (they become Muslims; they submit) then they have found the right way, but if they turn away, then your responsibility is only the deliverance of the Message; and Allah sees the servants (3.20).
This verse is about Prophet Solomon and the Queen of Sheba who came to visit him in his palace:
It was said to her [Queen of Sheba]: “Enter the hall.” But when she saw it she deemed it to be a lake of water and bared her legs. He [Solomon] said: “It is a hall made smooth with glass.” She said [praying to Allah]: “My Lord! Surely I have wronged myself, and aslamtu (I have become a Muslim; I submit) with Solomon to Allah, the Lord of the people” (27.44).
Prophet Muhammad is the last Prophet of Islam, and the Qur’an is the last Book from Allah:
[O people!] Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last of the Prophets; and Allah is aware of everything (33.40).
The Qur’an stresses that, contrary to the claims of the disbelieving Arabs, making a human being a Messenger, as happened to Prophet Muhammad, was not an unprecedented event. In fact, this is exactly how Allah communicated with people: through Messengers that carried His Message to people:
Say [O Muhammad!]: “I am not the first of the Messengers, and I do not know what will be done with me or with you. I only follow that which is revealed to me, and I am but a manifest warner” (46.9).
In addition to the belief in the oneness of Allah, the hereafter, and the angels, the Qur’an requires the Muslim to believe in all previous Messengers and the Books and Messages that Allah revealed to them. This is consistent with the Qur’an’s affirmation that all Messengers delivered the same religion and were sent by the same God. The Muslim is commanded to hold all Prophets in equally high esteem and reverence. The failure to believe in any Prophet is a failure to believe in all Prophets, and a failure to be a Muslim:
Say [O you who believe!]: “We believe in Allah, in that which has been revealed to us; in that which was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Descendents (Jacob’s sons); in that which was given to Moses and Jesus; and in that which was given to the Prophets from their Lord; we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him we are Muslimun (Muslims)” (2.136).
The Messenger [Muhammad] believes in that which has been revealed to him from his Lord, and so do the believers; they all believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, and His Messengers; [they say] we make no distinction between any of His Messengers; and they say: “We hear and obey [Allah’s commandments]; grant us Your forgiveness, our Lord. And to You is the eventual course” (2.285).
Copyright © 2004 Louay Fatoohi
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