Let’s Try To Define The Word Islam
Ever since September 11, 2001, people have been trying to put a label on Islam. These labels can go from one extreme to another. But the truth is that the meaning of the word Islam is not that complicated.
Before going much further, let’s get one thing clear. Islam does not mean “Peace.”
It doesn’t. I’m sorry Muslim apologetics. I’ve gotta speak the truth.
And we should also respect that there actually two different meanings of the word Islam. One meaning is linguistic, and the other is colloquial.
The Linguistic Meaning Of The Word Islam
As mentioned earlier, Islam comes from the same root word as the word peace.
Notice how both words in English contain the letters “S” “L” “M.” If you’re not familiar with the Arabic language, you might not get it just yet. But it’s very easy to understand.
Virtually all Arabic words have a three letter origin. So, based on the sounds, vowels, and additional letters added to this “three letter origin,” you can make a whole bunch of different words.
In this case, the word “Islam” means “submission.” It means to completely give up and cease resistance against a stronger power.
A good example of this is in the Quran when Allah speaks about the Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) and how obvious it is for us to accept his way of life.
And who would be averse to the religion of Abraham except one who makes a fool of himself. And We had chosen him in this world, and indeed he, in the Hereafter, will be among the righteous.
When his Lord said to him, “Submit”, he said “I have submitted to the Lord of the worlds.”
Chapter 2, Verses 131 and 132.
If you could just replace the words “submit” and “submitted” with “give up” and “given up” you can get a clear understanding.
In that verse, Allah orders Abraham to “submit” or “give himself up” to his Creator, Allah. And Abraham responds by confirming that he has definitely given up and submitted.
The Real Meaning Of The Word Islam
Okay, now that you know how the linguistics break down, let’s talk about reality.
In normal, everyday, colloquial speech, Islam means “That thing Muslims do.”
Islam, as we know it today, is the religion and faith revealed by Allah to His Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), through His angel Jibreel (Gabriel), and practiced by Muslims.
And if you really, really wanna get technical, Islam is actually the knowledge that we must practice the following five acts:
- Shahada – Testify that there is no god except Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger.
- Salaah – Pray five times a day in their proper times.
- Zakaah – Give 2.5% of saved yearly income to charity.
- Sawm – Fast during the month of Ramadan.
- Hajj – Make pilgrimage to the Kaaba at least once in a lifetime.
You probably recognize that as the Five Pillars of Islam. Well, from an Islamic standpoint, that is what Islam actually means. Anyone who practices these things (or at least knows they are supposed to practice them) is considered a Muslim.
Let’s Define Muslim While We’re At It
And now you also know what a Muslim is. At least linguistically you do.
A Muslim is a person who has accepted Islam. The first step to converting to Islam is to say the Shahadah, and from that point on it’s just practicing the rest of the pillars.
I made a neat little whiteboard video explaining the Five Pillars of Islam here if you’d like this information delivered in a more entertaining fashion.
There you have it. Now you know what Islam means and you also know what Muslim means.
Pretty cool, huh?