Islam the root of the word is silm, meaning peace, compromise, or avoidance of conflict. A few other words of the same origin appear in the Holy quran and although they differ in forms and pronunciations, they bear, more or less, the same meaning, such as the proposal of peace for cessation of war (8t61), Islami regulations, (2t208), proposal of avoiding a war (4t90, 91), and peace (10t25) or Islami greetings with expression of the wish for peace (51t25). The word Muslim, also of the same origin, means a person who embraces Islam and the plural for the word is Muslimun or Muslimeen. Islam as a faith means (a) submission to Allah who is one and has no second or parallel (2t112); and (b) establishment of peace ie, avoidance of conflicts. Islam is a deen (3t19) or religion and a complete code of life.
The two sources of Islam are the Holy Quran and the hadith. The Holy Quran is the first, principal and original source and gives the fundamental principles of Islam. Hadith is the second and secondary source, from which ways of Islam have been formulated. Unlike other religions, Islam is not a religion characterised by some spiritual ideas and worldly philosophy and a few rites and rituals. It is rather a complete code of life and it regulates all aspects of life.
Islam is the eternal religion of mankind (3t19). Its principles are the faith in (a) oneness and uniqueness of Allah, (b) angels, (c) books of revelations, (d) Prophets, (e) akhirat ie, the eternal life after death, (e) taqdir (predestination) ie, the total control of Allah, (f) resurrection of all men on the Day of Judgement and eternal life after the Final Judgement; and (g) amal salih or devotion to virtuous acts.
Islam is based on five pillars (Rukn) or principles: 1. To testify that there is no god but Allah, and hazrat muhammad (Sm) is Allah’s Prophet; 2. To offer the prayers (Salat) dutifully and perfectly; 3. To pay Zakat (ie, obligatory charity); 4. To perform Hajj (ie, pilgrimage to Makka); and 5. To fast (Saum) during the month of Ramadan. [Bukhari: Kitab’ul ‘Imam]
The system of regulations relating to amal salih is depicted in the Holy Quran as Shir’ah and Minhaj (5t48), or Shariah ie, rules or practical conduct (45t18). Shir’ah and Shariah are words that have a common root and the same meaning. Shariah imparted by the Prophets had some differences in meanings at different times and places. An account of the rebellion of Hazrat Nuh (A) and his qaum (community) is presented first in various surahs of the Quran (7t59; 10t 71) that depict in brief the work and the struggle of the Prophets in preaching Islam.
The content of the Shariah relate to identification and regulation of the (a) relationship between mankind and Allah and of a man/woman with another and between mankind and all living beings, and (b) on the basis of that, the principles of utilisation and distribution of all resources and benefits provided by Allah for the welfare and happiness of His creations. The Prophets revealed Shariahs that were appropriate for their times. It was therefore, natural that there had been some differences in Shariahs revealed by the Prophets of different periods but the three fundamental areas-tawhid, akhirat and amal salih had remained unchanged. Shariah is a part of deen. Deen is eternal but Shariah is subject to circumstantial changes.
Use of the terms ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ The Holy Quran introduced the terms Islam and Muslim in a special sense. Hazrat Ibrahim (A), a famous descendant of Hazrat Nuh (A), is said to have revealed Shariah of a relatively higher standard. Two sons of Ibrahim (A), Ismail (A) and Ishaq (A), were both Prophets. More Prophets were born in the families of both of them. Muhammad (Sm) was a descendant of Ismail (A) while Prophets of the Bani Israil (Yakub) family were descendants of Ishaq (A). Hazrat Musa (A) and ‘Isa (A) belonged to the last group. Thus Ibrahim (A) was the forefather of all these Prophets who inherited Islam. The Holy Quran says: “Islam is the deen or millat (religion) of your forefather Ibrahim, who gave you the identity of Muslims (22t78). Later, others (Yahudi or Jews, Christians) named themselves after the name of their Prophets, although both these groups claim that Ibrahim (A) followed the religion that each of them now hold”. The Holy Quran puts the question: “Or do ye say that Ibrahim, Isma’il, Ishaq, Yakub and the tribes were Jews or Christians? Say: Do ye know better than Allah?” (2t140). The Holy Quran clearly says “Ibrahim was not a Jew nor yet a Christian; But he was true in Faith; and bowed his will to Allah’s (which is Islam) and he joined not gods with Allah.” (3t67)
Islami Shariah got its completeness in the Holy Quran revealed through nubu’at (prophethood) of the last Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Sm) (5t3). Regulations of Shariah propagated by the previous Prophets that were included in the Quran with appreciation or criticism such as jihad (3 t146) and quisas (5t45) are recognised as part of Islami Shariah. Some activities of the earlier followers of Islam were condemned by the Holy Quran and are treated as un-Islamic. These include sex in abnormal methods (7t81) and illegally appropriated money, interest and bribe (5t63, 2t275). Islam, therefore, is not a new or unprecedented religion. Rather it evolved as an integrated code of life that accommodates logic and reason.
The four sources of the regulations of Islam are (a) the Holy Quran, which is the last, the best and the most universal Book of Revelations, revealed during 23 years of nubu’at (Prophethood); (b) the Hadith, which contains the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (Sm), the description of his precepts, and the practices of his companions; (c) Ijma ie, the unanimous decisions of the competent and honest alims regarding rules of the Shariah in the light of the Holy Quran and Hadith; and (d) Quias ie, the logically acceptable decisions on issues about which the Holy Quran and Hadith do not give clear indications. With the assumption of regulative and legislative role by Ijma and Quias Islam attained a dynamic character. Islam is a complete code of life based on logic and reason. Blind faith has no room in this religion.
Islam is recognised as the greatest revolution in the history of mankind even by the non-Muslims. Rev. Bosworth-Smith said in unequivocal terms, “Islam is the most complete, the most sudden and the most extraordinary revolution that has ever come over any nation on earth.” [ANM Abdul Mannan Khan]
Bibliography Al-Quran; Sahih Al-Bukhari; Syed Ameer Ali, The Spirit of Islam; Maulana Muhammad Ali, The Religion of Islam; Islamic Foundation Bangladesh, Islami Biswakosh; Rev. Bosworth-smith, Mohammed and Mohammedanism, London, 1874.