Meaning and History of the Word Islam

Read on to discover the history behind the name of world’s second largest faith.

What does the word ‘Islam’ Mean? As explained by most dictionaries Islam is an Arabic word which stands for complete submission, surrender and obedience and is a derivative of a word which means ‘peace’. It is the name of a monotheistic religion founded on the affirmation that peace and tranquillity is achieved after complete submission, obedience and surrender to the will of God.

The name of ‘Islam’ was introduced through Chapter 5:3 of the Holy Quran which is as follows “..........This day I have perfected your religion for you and completed My favour unto you, and have chosen for you as religion AL-ISLAM............”

Where are the roots of the word ‘Islam’ found? In Arabic language which is the language of the Muslims’ Holy book ‘Islam’ finds its closest root in the word ‘Salema’ which means peace, submission and obedience. Thus the word Islam stands to denote a religion that advocates complete submission and obedience to the creator and sustainer of the universe and there by the attainment of inner peace and tranquillity.

The Islamic form of greeting ‘Salaam’ has also been derived from the same roots and means ‘peace’. The complete greeting ‘Assalamu Alilkum Wa Rahmatulah Wa Barakatuh’ translates into ‘May Peace, Mercy and Blessing of Allah be Upon You’. It is used by followers of Islam to greet each other.

Since the Arabic language and the original language of Torah (Hebrew) are closely related the word ‘Salaam’ is ‘Shalom’ in Hebrew and has the same meaning of ‘peace’. ‘ Shalom Aleichem’ is the common form of greeting among the Jews, which translates to ‘Peace be Upon You’ (partially the Islamic form of greeting). Its response is ‘Aleichem Shalom’ which means ‘Upon You be Peace.

According to Syed Abul A’la Maududi an imminent scholar of Islam “Every religion of the world has been named either after its founder or after the community or nation in which it was born. For instance, Christanity takes its name from Jesus Christ, Buddhism from its founder Gautama Buddha, Zoroastrianism from its founder Zoroaster, and Judaism, the religion of the Jews, from the name of tribe Judah (from the country of Judea) where it originated.

It is true for all religions except Islam, which enjoys the unique distinction of having no such association with any particular person or people or country. Islam, in fact, is an attributive title. Anyone who possesses this attribute whatever race, community, country, or group he belongs to is a Muslim”

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Jeffrey Tymczak
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Posted on Sep 24, 2010