Islam is nothing new
Islam is nothing new. It is a reaffirmation of the one truth that has always been and will never cease to be—there is no deity but God—la ilaha illa llah. This is the axis for not only the religion, but for the whole of existence. To know and live this reality is the birthright of every human being. It brings peace, contentment, and nobility. Passionate predilections, conceits, and ignorance can, however, blind us to the truth, such that we become forgetful and heedless, putting vanity and falsity in its place. Despite the transgressions of human beings, reminders of this truth were periodically sent to humankind through the infinite mercy of God. These reminders were sent in the form of messengers or prophets who brought the revelations through which we are again reminded that truth is one, that all is created through this truth, and that our joy, contentment, and salvation lie in living in accord with this truth. This truth is encapsulated inthe first half of the testimony of faith spoken by Muslims: “I testify that there is no deity but God” (ash-hadu an la ilaha illa llah).
In many English-speaking societies, this truth is often misunderstood and mistaken for a type of paganism, largely due to a simple linguistic barrier. Muslims most often refer to God using the Arabic name Allah, which is a proper noun that designates the incomparable creator of the heavens and earth. Many non-Arabic speaking people mistakenly assume that Allah is the name of a deity who is distinct from the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism and Christianity, simply because they hear the word “Allah” used * The second, third, and fourth paragraphs of this section have been added to the author’s original text by the editors. Instead of the word “God.” This false assumption is refuted by the fact thatboth Arab Jews and Arab Christians also refer to God as Allah. The nameAllah is the Arabic equivalent for God, and both terms can be interchanged synonymously. Because this book was prepared for readers versed in the English language, the word “God” will be used throughout except whereArabic terminology is specifically required.
The word Islam can be translated into English as “submission.” Contraryto the negative connotations of the word in common English usage, the meaning of submission as it pertains to Islam is “the act of recognizing the oneness of God” (tawhid). This submission is most often thought of as an act of bearing witness that there is no deity but God, although this is only its most elementary manifestation. To bear witness with one’s tongue and mind to God’s oneness is but the first step toward inner unification, wherein the dispersed elements of the soul are unified in the drive to realize the immutable truth and live in accord with it.
People who practice the religion of Islam are known as Muslims. The word Muslim can be translated into English as “one who submits.”
Muslims believe that the last of God’s revelations to humanity is the Qur’an, which was revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel e to the Prophet Muhammad s, over a twenty-three year period (610–632 ce). Belief in the Prophet Muhammad’s status as a prophet (and by extension, the soundnessof the revelation of the Qur’an) is affirmed in the second half of the testimonyof faith: “and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God” (waash-hadu anna Muhammadan rasulullah). For Muslims, the text of the Qur’an is the eternal and immutable word of God that has been preserved in its original formand language for over fourteen hundred years.
One Message, Many Messengers
The Qur’an was sent by God to remind humanity of the unifying truth of God’s oneness, and Muslims believe that this same truth was conveyed to every prophet that came before the Prophet Muhammad s. God tells us in the Qur’an,
And We never sent a messenger before you, save that We revealed to him, saying,
“There is no deity but I, so worship Me.” (21:25)
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