WHAT DOES ‘ISLAM’ MEAN? – Absolute ‘Submission’ To The ‘Will of God’
Al-Azhar Magazin – September 1972
The very word ‘Islam’ means to ‘submit’, ‘surrender’, and ‘yield’. The significance of the Religion of Islam is characterized in Absolute submission to the ‘Will of God’. A true believer must ever strive to learn and understand ‘God’s’ will, because he knows that God alone is the Lord and Master of all things and He is the owner of Life and death. He is the sovereign and sole Ruler of the Universe. The Quran says:
قُلِ ٱللَّهُمَّ مَـٰلِكَ ٱلۡمُلۡكِ تُؤۡتِى ٱلۡمُلۡكَ مَن تَشَآءُ وَتَنزِعُ ٱلۡمُلۡكَ مِمَّن تَشَآءُ وَتُعِزُّ مَن تَشَآءُ وَتُذِلُّ مَن تَشَآءُۖبِيَدِكَ ٱلۡخَيۡرُۖإِنَّكَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىۡءٍ قَدِيرٌ۬
(Say: O Allah! Owner of Sovereignty! Thou givest sovereignty unto whom Thou wilt, and Thou withdrawest sovereignty from whom Thou wilt. Thou exaltest whom Thou wilt, and Thou abasest whom Thou wilt. In Thy hand is the good. Lo! Thou art Able to do all things.) (3: 26)
Thus, the Government of the whole creation and its maintenance and sustenance is in the Hands of God. “Who rules all affairs from the heavens to the earth?”
يُدَبِّرُ ٱلۡأَمۡرَ مِنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ إِلَى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ ثُمَّ يَعۡرُجُ إِلَيۡهِ فِى يَوۡمٍ كَانَ مِقۡدَارُهُ ۥۤ أَلۡفَ سَنَةٍ۬ مِّمَّا تَعُدُّونَ
(He directeth the ordinance from the heaven unto the earth; then it ascendeth unto Him in a Day, whereof the measure is a thousand years of that ye reckon.) (32: 5)
When a man has gained the immediate insight into the ‘Truth’ he would willingly submit to God’s will and His order. After the acquisition of this knowledge he should strive his best to put into practice:
فَبَدَّلَ ٱلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ مِنۡہُمۡ قَوۡلاً غَيۡرَ ٱلَّذِى قِيلَ لَهُمۡ فَأَرۡسَلۡنَا عَلَيۡهِمۡ رِجۡزً۬ا مِّنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ بِمَا ڪَانُواْ يَظۡلِمُونَ (١٦٢)وَسۡـَٔلۡهُمۡ عَنِ ٱلۡقَرۡيَةِ ٱلَّتِى ڪَانَتۡ حَاضِرَةَ ٱلۡبَحۡرِ إِذۡ يَعۡدُونَ فِى ٱلسَّبۡتِ إِذۡ تَأۡتِيهِمۡ حِيتَانُهُمۡ يَوۡمَ سَبۡتِهِمۡ شُرَّعً۬ا وَيَوۡمَ لَا يَسۡبِتُونَۙ لَا تَأۡتِيهِمۡۚ ڪَذَٲلِكَ نَبۡلُوهُم بِمَا كَانُواْ يَفۡسُقُونَ (١٦٣)
(But those of them who did wrong changed the word which had been told them for another saying, and we sent down upon them wrath from heaven for their wrongdoing. (162) Ask them (O Muhammad) of the township that was by the sea, how they did break the Sabbath, how their big fish came unto them visibly upon their Sabbath day and on a day when they did not keep Sabbath came they not unto them. Thus did We try them for that they were evil-livers.)
The efforts of those who strive with all due striving are ultimately crowned with success, as the Quran has promised:
وَمَنۡ أَرَادَ ٱلۡأَخِرَةَ وَسَعَىٰ لَهَا سَعۡيَهَا وَهُوَ مُؤۡمِنٌ۬ فَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ ڪَانَ سَعۡيُهُم مَّشۡكُورً۬ا
(And whoso desireth the Hereafter and striveth for it with the effort necessary, being a believer; for such, their effort findeth favour (with their Lord).) (17; 19)
The Holy Quran contains principles of the religion of Islam. It is a concrete and complete system dealing with all walks of human life. It interprets the true nature of man and establishes peace between him and his nature and regulates his course of life according to the nature in which God has created man ; that is ‘Will of God’ that is ‘Islam’. The Holy Quran says:
فَأَقِمۡ وَجۡهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفً۬اۚ فِطۡرَتَ ٱللَّهِ ٱلَّتِى فَطَرَ ٱلنَّاسَ عَلَيۡہَاۚ لَاتَبۡدِيلَ لِخَلۡقِ ٱللَّهِۚ ذَٲلِكَ ٱلدِّينُ ٱلۡقَيِّمُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَڪۡثَرَ ٱلنَّاسِ لَايَعۡلَمُونَ
(So set thy purpose (O Muhammad) for religion as a man by nature upright – the nature (framed) of Allah, in which He hath created man. There is no altering (the laws of) Allah’s creation. That is the right religion, but most men know not.) (30:30)
Holy Quran is the first source of Islam. It contains the fundamentals of the law of Nature which governs man. The Quran and Nature are in perfect harmony, because ‘Deen’ or religion is defined in the clear verses of Quran as the ‘Fitrat’ or Nature.
If any conflict between Quran and nature appears; it is not because of the conflict is real but because human study of nature and of the Holy Quran is not perfect some people try to interpret the Quran to adjust it with the human interpretation of Nature. They claim that the Knowledge of man is final and unfailing. This attitude definitely indicates the weakness of faith in the revelation of God. The Holy Quran is directly revealed from the Creator of Fitrat, and the Will of God made manifest in his creation. So the Quran would lead to discoveries of the Secrets of Nature, and a careful study of Nature will help the proper interpretation and understanding of the Quran. Whenever any contradiction between human knowledge and the Holy Quran arises, the human interpretation of Nature must be rejected as mistaken. As human knowledge increases the Quran unfolds itself gradually like a flower leaf.
The principal basis on which the Islamic system is founded are mentioned in the second chapter of the Quran;
الٓمٓ (١) ذَٲلِكَ ٱلۡڪِتَـٰبُ لَا رَيۡبَۛ فِيهِۛ هُدً۬ى لِّلۡمُتَّقِينَ (٢) ٱلَّذِينَ يُؤۡمِنُونَ بِٱلۡغَيۡبِ وَيُقِيمُونَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقۡنَـٰهُمۡ يُنفِقُونَ (٣) وَٱلَّذِينَ يُؤۡمِنُونَ بِمَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيۡكَ وَمَآ أُنزِلَ مِن قَبۡلِكَ وَبِٱلۡأَخِرَةِ هُمۡ يُوقِنُونَ (٤) أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ عَلَىٰ هُدً۬ى مِّن رَّبِّهِمۡۖ وَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡمُفۡلِحُونَ (٥)
(Alif. Lam. Mim. (1) This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, guidance unto those who ward off (evil). (2) Who believe in the Unseen, and establish worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them; (3) And who believe in that which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee, and are certain of the Hereafter. (4) These depend on guidance from their Lord. These are the successful. (5)) (2: 1- 5)
We can summarize the essential points of these verses as follows:
- There is no doubt that the Quran is revealed from the Creator; Sustainer and lord of all the worlds as guidance to the mankind.
- This Quran is not such as can be produced by other than God; and the Prophet is but a plain warner and he teaches that which is revealed to him by inspiration.
- The belief in the Oneness of the God His immateriality, His mercy and His Supreme power. Charity and brotherhood among mankind.
- The Holy Quran directs the people to believe in all revelations and the prophets of God since the birth of mankind.
- The necessity of belief in the accountability for human actions in another Existence. The Quranic code of life guides man in the right path and it leads him to the channel of progress.
It is the distinctive characteristic of Islam; that it is not merely a system of positive moral rules, based on a true conception of human progress, but it is also the establishment of certain principles, the enforcement of certain dispositions, the cultivation of certain temper of mind, which the conscience is to apply to the ever varying exigencies of time and place. The wonderful adaptability of Islamic rules to all ages; places, nations, and circumstances; their entire agreement with the light of reason and the absence of all mysterious ideas, prove that Islam represents the latest developments of the religious faculties of human being. It combines within itself the prominent features in all ethnic and general compatible with the reason and moral intuition of man,
Islam tries to attain the object of perfection by grasping the principle that man will be judged by his work alone. This belief leads the Muslim to the practice of self-denial and universal charity, and the belief in the Oneness of God, in His mercy, love and His Sustainment leads him to self humiliation, patience and firmness in the trials of life.
The universal character of Islam is clear from the concluding verses of the second chapter of the Quran:
لِّلَّهِ مَا فِى ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِ وَمَا فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِۗ وَإِن تُبۡدُواْ مَا فِىٓ أَنفُسِڪُمۡ أَوۡ تُخۡفُوهُ يُحَاسِبۡكُم بِهِ ٱللَّهُۖ فَيَغۡفِرُ لِمَن يَشَآءُ وَيُعَذِّبُ مَن يَشَآءُۗ وَٱللَّهُ عَلَىٰ ڪُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ قَدِيرٌ (٢٨٤) ءَامَنَ ٱلرَّسُولُ بِمَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيۡهِ مِن رَّبِّهِۦ وَٱلۡمُؤۡمِنُونَۚ كُلٌّ ءَامَنَ بِٱللَّهِ وَمَلَـٰٓٮِٕكَتِهِۦ وَكُتُبِهِۦ وَرُسُلِهِۦ لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيۡنَ أَحَدٍ۬ مِّن رُّسُلِهِۦۚ وَقَالُواْ سَمِعۡنَا وَأَطَعۡنَاۖ غُفۡرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيۡكَ ٱلۡمَصِيرُ (٢٨٥) لَا يُكَلِّفُ ٱللَّهُ نَفۡسًا إِلَّا وُسۡعَهَاۚ لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتۡ وَعَلَيۡہَا مَا ٱكۡتَسَبَتۡۗ رَبَّنَا لَا تُؤَاخِذۡنَآ إِن نَّسِينَآ أَوۡ أَخۡطَأۡنَاۚ رَبَّنَا وَلَا تَحۡمِلۡ عَلَيۡنَآ إِصۡرً۬ا كَمَا حَمَلۡتَهُ ۥ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبۡلِنَاۚ رَبَّنَا وَلَا تُحَمِّلۡنَا مَا لَا طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِۦۖ وَٱعۡفُ عَنَّا وَٱغۡفِرۡ لَنَا وَٱرۡحَمۡنَآۚ أَنتَ مَوۡلَٮٰنَا فَٱنصُرۡنَا عَلَى ٱلۡقَوۡمِ ٱلۡڪَـٰفِرِينَ (٢٨٦)
(Unto Allah (belongeth) whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth; and whether ye make known what is in your minds or hide it, Allah will bring you to account for it. He will forgive whom He will and He will punish whom He will. Allah is Able to do all things. (284) the messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) believers. Each one believeth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers – We make no distinction between any of His messengers – and they say: We hear, and we obey. (Grant us) Thy forgiveness, our Lord. Unto Thee is the journeying. (285) Allah tasketh not a soul beyond its scope. For it (is only) that which it hath earned, and against it (only) that which it hath deserved. Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget, or miss the mark! Our Lord! Lay not on us such a burden as thou didst lay on those before us! Our Lord! Impose not on us that which we have not the strength to bear! Pardon us, absolve us and have mercy on us, Thou, our Protector, and give us victory over the disbelieving folk. (286)) (2: 284- 286)
These verses of the Quran expressed the power and sovereignty of God and the universality of His religion.