Islam is the complete submission and obedience to Allah (God). The name Allah (God) in Islam never refers to Muhammad (peace be upon him), as many Christians may think; Allah is the personal name of God.
The word ISLAM has a two-fold meaning: peace, and submission to God. This submission requires a fully conscious and willing effort to submit to the one Almighty God. One must consciously and conscientiously give oneself to the service of Allah. This means to act on what Allah enjoins all of us to do (in the Qur’an) and what His beloved Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him) encouraged us to do in his Sunnah (his lifestyle and sayings personifying the Qur’an).
Once we humble ourselves, rid ourselves of our egoism and submit totally to Allah, and to Him exclusively, in faith and in action, we will surely feel peace in our hearts. Establishing peace in our hearts will bring about peace in our external conduct as well.
Islam is careful to remind us that it not a religion to be paid mere lip service; rather it is an all-encompassing way of life that must be practiced continuously for it to be Islam. The Muslim must practice the five pillars of the religion: the declaration of faith in the oneness of Allah and the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him), prayer, fasting the month of Ramadan, alms-tax, and the pilgrimage to Makkah; and believe in the six articles of faith: belief in God, the Holy Books, the prophets, the angels, the Day of Judgment and God’s decree, whether for good or ill.
There are other injunctions and commandments which concern virtually all facets of one’s personal, family and civic life. These include such matters as diet, clothing, personal hygeine, interpersonal relations, business ethics, responsibilities towards parents, spouse and children, marriage, divorce and inheritance, civil and criminal law, fighting in defense of Islam, relations with non-Muslims, and so much more.
“Peace” is the most common word on a Muslim’s tongue. Whenever two people meet, they exchange greetings, wishing each other peace: “Peace be upon you.” But peace cannot prevail except through justice. Since the concept of justice may differ from one man to another, or from one society to another, Muslims believe that real justice is that which is specified by Allah (God).
Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of the religion, or by those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. At the same time, Islam requires one to treat one’s enemy mercifully. It lays down strict rules of combat which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees, and livestock. Islam also requires that if an enemy declares his desire to end hostilities and seek peace, the Muslims must do the same.
The concept of Jihad (struggling in the cause of Allah) is stated in the Qur’an. Allah said: “Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors.” [2:19] Jihad is never to be waged to force anybody to choose a particular religion. On the contrary, it is to waged to protect his right to choose freely. Therefore, if there is a force in the world that tries to prevent a person from practicing this right, Jihad may lead to fighting the force that is trying to prevent him from exercising free will.
Since Islam is the last religion revealed by Allah, it possesses some elements that make it unique. One of these is its relevance for human beings regardless of place and time.
This means that Islam – submission to God – is a comprehensive institution which includes all the guidelines necessary for all aspects of life. Therefore, the best way to understand Islam is to look at it as more than a religion – as a complete way of life. In other words, it is a system which regulates every aspect of life, dealing with all issues – social, economic, educational, judicial, health, and even military. Thus, it is suitable for all human beings and for all times, since it is the final religion. Islamic law aims to achieve five goals for human beings in life: protecting the religion, protecting one’s self, protecting one’s possessions, protecting one’s mind, and protecting one’s offspring.
Therefore, God (Allah) decided on two main domains of law:
1. If the domain always requires change and progress, Allah legislated comprehensive yet flexible rules and gave people the chance to create and develop the necessary laws to satisfy the specific needs of a certain period of time. For example, in the rule of consultation (Shura), Allah decided that it should be the general rule for any government; however, its form and style are left open for people to choose and decide according to their needs.
2. If the domain does not require or lend itself to change or progress, Allah legislated fixed and detailed laws that govern all issues related to a specific area. Thus, there is no way for man to change or develop those laws, which were made for the welfare of all mankind. For example, the area of worshipping God contains fixed details which cannot be changed at all. These regard prayer, fasting, making pilgrimage, etc. Another example is in family matters, such as the laws of marriage, divorce, and inheritance.
To show how Islam cares for the environment, one can cite the many laws that protect the environment. About fourteen hundred years ago. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“The world is green and beautiful, and Allah has appointed you as His stewards over it. He sees how you acquit yourselves.”
Muhammad showed how important plants and trees are by saying:
“Whoever plants a tree and looks after it with care until it matures and becomes productive will be rewarded in the Hereafter.”
Even in the territory of an enemy, Islam’s care for plants, animals, and trees is profound. Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, or successor, to Muhammad (peace be upon him), instructed his troops that he was sending into battle not to cut down any trees or kill any animals except for food.
These are but a few examples of how Islam remains relevant in the modern world.
The ultimate manifestation of God’s grace for man, the ultimate wisdom, and the ultimate beauty of expression: in short, the word of God.² This is how the German scholar, Muhammad Asad, once described the Qur’an. If one were to ask any Muslim to depict it, most likely they would offer similar words. The Qur’an, to the Muslim, is the irrefutable, inimitable Word of God. It was revealed by God Almighty, through the instrument of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself had no role in authoring the Qur’an, he was merely a human secretary, repeating the dictates of the Divine Creator:
“He (Muhammad) does not speak of his own desire. It is no less than an Inspiration sent down to him.” [53:3-4] The Qur’an was revealed in Arabic, to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), over a period of twenty-three years. It is composed in a style so unique, that it cannot be deemed either poetry or prose, but somehow a mixture of both. The Qur’an is imimitable; it cannot be simulated or copied, and God Almighty challenges mankind to pursue such an endeavor if he thinks he can:
“Or do they say he forged it? Say: Bring then a chapter like unto it, and call (to your aid) anyone you can, beside God, if it be you speak the truth.” [10:38].
The Qur’an’s language is indeed sublime, its recitation moving, as one non-Muslim scholar noted, it was like ³the cadence of my heartbeat². Due to its unique style of language, the Qur’an is not only highly readable, but also relatively easy to remember. This latter aspect has played an important role not only in the Qur’an’s preservation,