What is Islam?

“Islam” is an Arabic word which means “submission, surrender and obedience to God.” The religion of Islam is so named because it is based on obedience to God. A true believer in Islam is one who subordinates his thinking to God, who follows God’s dictates in all aspects of his life. In religious terms, this means that the individual who embraces Islam as his religion must put the Almighty first and foremost in his life, bowing to His wishes in all matters great and small.

Islam is the religion of the entire universe. Everything in the universe—the sun, the moon, the stars— have all completely subjugated themselves to His will; they cannot make the slightest deviation from the path He has ordained for them. Similarly, all other elements in nature function in obedience to the laws of nature laid down for them by their Maker. The universe, therefore, literally follows the religion of Islam in that it has surrendered to God, the Lord of the Universe.

But there is a difference between the status of man and that of the physical world. The physical world has been given no option but to submit to God, whereas man has been given free will, so that he may opt for either good or bad ways. To this end he has been given a thinking faculty, and a conscience with which to make moral judgements for himself. He has the ability to accept and reject in order to follow certain principles in life. He is not bound by fixed laws like all other created beings. He has been given freedom of thought, option and action.

The same behaviour as is followed by the rest of the world under compulsion is also desired of man. Man should also lead his life as God’s obedient servant just as the rest of the universe is fully subservient to God. The only difference is that the universe has submitted to God compulsorily, while man is required to submit to the will of God by his own choice.

It is through this liberty of choice that man is being tested. But after being given a thinking faculty, a conscience and an ability to judge between good and bad ways, he was not just left to his own resources. God did not just leave man in a world where there was no way to find the truth. Divine provision for him went much further than that. To see how God gave His guidelines to mankind, we have to go right back to the beginning of creation. He took Adam, the first man— whom He had made not just an ordinary mortal but also a prophet— and taught him everything that He wanted from man, so that human beings would not be left without proper direction or guidance. From time to time thereafter, He sent large numbers of prophets to the world— the last of these being the Prophet Muhammad— so that human beings, who tended to stray, could be recalled to the path of virtue. It is said that about one lakh twenty thousand prophets came to the world during this period.

Now the question arises as to why there was the need for such great numbers of prophets. It was because after each prophet left the world, people gradually began forgetting his teachings, till a time came when a major part of the teachings of the prophets was lost. Now in the age of the press, these teachings have been extensively published in the form of books, so that there is no fear of their being lost to succeeding generations.

God- Oriented Living and Islam

When man adopts Islam, first of all it is his thinking, which comes under Islam, then his desires, his feelings, his interests, his relations, his loves and his hatred all get coloured by his obedience to God’s will. When man, in his daily life comes under God’s command, his behaviour with people, his dealings all are moulded by the demands of Islam. From inside to outside he becomes a person devoted to God.

Islam teaches man to lead an obedient life and surrender himself completely to the will of God. It is people who do so who will share God’s blessings in the next world. The Islamic way of life, in a word, is a God-oriented life. The greatest concern of a Muslim is God Almighty. The focus of his whole life is Akhirah, that is, the ideal world of God in the hereafter. He always obeys divine injunctions in every aspect of life. His life becomes a practical expression of the Qur’anic verse:

“Take on God’s own dye. And who has a better dye than God’s? And we are His worshippers.” (2:138)

‘Taking on God’s dye,’ means being of a ‘godly character’ in all the personal, social and economic affairs of one’s life. The following pages are devoted to portraying various aspects of this ‘godly’ character as personified in a Muslim individual whose words and deeds in family matters, or with respect to earning one’s livelihood and whose dealings with other members of society, always seem to be distinguishably ‘dyed in the divine hue.