The Meaning of Islam

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Arabic Islam.gif

The noun إسلام "Islam" is the masdar (literally "source", but in Arabic grammar "verbal noun") of the verb أسلم "aslama" meaning "to give up, to submit, to surrender, to give into, or to hand over." "Islam" in its literal sense thus means "submission", "surrender" or "giving up" though of course it is also the name of the religion to which this Wiki is devoted. "Aslama" is the verbal form IV, in Arabic grammar وزن أفعل "wazn afa'ala", from the root s-l-m س-ل-م. The root س-ل-م s-l-m is also the root of the word سلام "salaam" meaning "peace." As with all Arabic words and roots, it should be remembered that the root doesn't have a particular meaning but rather a swarm of semantic relations often produced by history and analogy, and thus words derived from the same root came have very different meanings despite a common linguistic heritage.


The word Islam derives from the Arabic triconsonantal root sīn-lām-mīm (SLM [ س ل م ]). As with other Semetic roots in language such as Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic, many different words are created from this root word by inserting different vowels or constants between and in front of the three root consonants. As mentioned above, these semetic roots do not have meanings per se but rather clouds of semantic relationships often connected only by history and analogy but not actual meaning. For instance, all of these words are derived from the root S-L-M:

Word Arabic Meaning
Islam اسلام Submission
Salam سلام Well-being/Peace
(Derivation of) Salama سلما The stinging of a snake or the tanning of the leather
Sullam سلّم a ladder or flight of stairs
Saleem سليم Safe from harm, undamaged
Aslam اسلم To submit
Istaslama استسلام To surrender
Salamlik سلاملك Reception room, greeting room, parlor
Tasleem تسليم To receive a salutation or becoming submitted
A common translation proposed for Islam in English and other languages is "peace." The root of this idea is that' 'Islam, meaning 'submission', shares a root word with Salaam, meaning 'peace', however the existence of these two words with the same root in no way necessarily implies a semantic relationship between the two. By way of example with the same root, there is no a relationship between the meanings of the derivations of the verb سلم Salama, meaning to be safe and sound, and سلّم sullam, meaning a ladder. There may be an analogy from which one was formed from another or an opaque historical connection that links these two words, but there is not obvious semantic connection.

The Compendium of Muslim Texts, compiled by the USC-MSA, the Muslim Students Association at the University of Southern California,[1] confirms this understanding:

Misconception 1

Islam is `the religion of peace' because:

the Arabic word Islam is derived from the Arabic word "Al-Salaam" which means peace.

It might seem strange to think of this as a misconception, but in fact it is. The root word of Islam is "al-silm" which means "submission" or "surrender." It is understood to mean "submission to Allah." In spite of whatever noble intention has caused many a Muslim to claim that Islam is derived primarily from peace, this is not true. Allah says in the Qur'an (translated):

[2:136] Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed to us and that which was revealed to Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have surrendered. [Arabic "Muslimoon"]
In addition to the above mentioned linguistic reasoning, Allah in the Qur'an makes it clear this his religion and that of his prophet is one of submission. Peace only comes through submission to Allah and his prophet.[2]



Islam is a Deen (Religion)

Today, I have perfected your religion (dīn) for you; I have completed My blessing upon you; I have approved Islam for your religion

Islam is Submission to Allah

The Religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His Will): Nor did the People of the Book dissent therefrom except through envy of each other, after knowledge had come to them. But if any deny the Signs of Allah, Allah is swift in calling to account.

Islam is the Religion of Allah

Do they seek for other than the Religion of Allah?-while all creatures in the heavens and on earth have, willing or unwilling, bowed to His Will (Accepted Islam), and to Him shall they all be brought back.


…Then he further asked, "What is Islam?" Allah's Apostle replied, "To worship Allah Alone and none else, to offer prayers perfectly to pay the compulsory charity (Zakat) and to observe fasts during the month of Ramadan."
This letter is from Muhammad, the slave of Allah, and His Apostle, to Heraculius, the Ruler of the Byzantine. Peace be upon the followers of guidance. Now then, I invite you to Islam ( surrender to Allah), embrace Islam and you will be safe
While we were in the mosque, Allah's Apostle came out and said, "Let us proceed to the Jews." So we went out with him till we came to Bait-al-Midras. The Prophet stood up there and called them, saying, "O assembly of Jews! Surrender to Allah (embrace Islam) and you will be safe!" "Know that the earth is for Allah and I want to exile you from this land, so whoever among you has property he should sell it, otherwise, know that the land is for Allah and His Apostle."
By Allah! I consider him a believer." The Prophet said, "Or merely a Muslim (Who surrender to Allah)."


Ibn Taymiyyah

Islam is to surrender to God, submit to him, worship him, and serve him.....

The difference arises from the fact that Islam is a Din Submission. Din is the iffinitve of ddna, yadinu, which means to submit or to surrender.

The religion of Islam which god has ordained and promulgated through his prophets is to submit to him alone. It is nothing but submission, worship and service to God and him alone.[3]

Ramadan Buti

The theory that our religion is a peaceful and loving religion is a wrong theory[4][5]
The Holy war as it is known in Islam is basically an offensive war, and it is the duty of all Muslims of every age, when the needed military power is available, because our prophet Muhammad said that he is ordered by Allah to fight all people until they say ‘No God but Allah,’ and he is his messenger[6]
It is meaningless to talk about the holy war as only defensive, otherwise, what did the prophet mean when he said, "from now on even if they don’t invade you, you must invade them."[7]

External Links


  1. Religious Texts - Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, accessed September 29, 2011
  2. Ten Misconceptions About Islam - USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts, Internet Archive Wayback Machine capture dated February 6, 2006
  3. Muhammad Abdul Haq Ansari, 'Ibn Taymiyah Expounds Islam', pg. 316, Islamic University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America, Washington, U.S.A., 2000.
  4. Dr. M. Sa’id Ramadan Al-Buti - "Jurisprudence of Muhammad’s Biography", Pg. 135, seventh Arabic edition, published by Azhar University of Egypt
  5. Dr. M. Sa’id Ramadan Al-Buti - "Jurisprudence of Muhammad’s Biography", Pg. 73, English edition, published by Azhar University of Egypt (1988)
  6. Dr. M. Sa’id Ramadan Al-Buti - "Jurisprudence of Muhammad’s Biography", Pg. 134, seventh Arabic edition, published by Azhar University of Egypt
  7. Dr. M. Sa’id Ramadan Al-Buti - "Jurisprudence of Muhammad’s Biography", Pg. 242, seventh Arabic edition, published by Azhar University of Egypt