Muhammad & the Origins of Islam

we need to understand what islam is before we speak about its origin. the word "islam" means "submission". it is derived from the same root as "salam " meaning "peace". as the name of the religion, "islam" signifies the peace we attain by wholeheartedly leading a life of submission to the one true god of the universe.

the religion of all the prophets of god, including noah, abraham, moses, and jesus (peace be upon them all), was islam. muhammad (peace be upon him) was only the last of the prophets of god. he was not the founder of the religion of islam. he only completed and perfected the religion of islam, guided by the revelations from god, which were collected in the final scripture called the quran.

the "originator" of islam is god himself; as he had been sending his prophets for that purpose from the very inception of humanity on earth. and muslims believe that all the prophets — including jesus and muhammad (peace be upon them) — were human.

the evolving history of the universe, as well as the destiny of humans, is in the hands of god the creator and the sustainer. and the origin of religion is only a part of the whole scheme of the almighty. humans — whether prophets, priests, or emperors — can only play the roles assigned to them by god.

as indicated above, muslims believe that the mission of prophet muhammad as the final messenger of allah was to coordinate, confirm, and complete the earlier messages. so muhammad is not just one messenger among many. rather, he represents all the messengers of allah before him; and he fulfills and revalidates all the earlier messages through his mission; and thus he stands for the completion of allah's guidance for mankind.

the role of the prophet was not merely to teach us, but to practically demonstrate to us how we can live by allah's guidance. islam underscores the importance of the quran (the precept) and the sunnah (the example) together. it is not enough for us just to "worship" god as an ascetic devotee would ; but also to live here as members of human society, making use of the blessings god has given us, and observing the limits set by god.

for this purpose, we need a practical model who would not only convey god's message to us, but also live that message in this life, as god wants us to live. and muslims believe that prophet muhammad is that model.

you may know the gospel verse attributed to jesus:

"he that has seen me has seen the father" (john 14:9 king james version).

jesus said this in answer to philip's demand to see god. as it has been made clear by other verses, we humans cannot see god; we can only see god's human messenger, whose duty is not only to convey to us the word of god revealed to him, but also to demonstrate to people how one can lead a life of unconditional submission to god's will: seen in the spirit of jesus's well-known words of complete surrender to god's will: "not as i will, but as you will!" (matthew 26:39)

the two parts of the islamic shahadah — (1) that there is no god but allah; and (2) that muhammad is the messenger of allah — are like the two sides of the same coin. one part states one's acceptance of the one true god, which relates to one's faith and conviction, which is inward.

the other part states one's acceptance of god's messenger on earth, which defines one's commitment to live in obedience to god's commandments expressed in one's outward life as lived daily.

that is why allah in the noble quran commands:

*{ ye who believe! obey allah and his messenger…}* (al-anfal 8:20)

*{say: "if you do love allah, follow me: allah will love you and forgive you your sins...}* ( aal `imran3:31)

as these verses make it clear, any person who questions the prophet, questions allah and his quran: hence the affirmation of the prophethood of muhammad is the natural corollary of the declaration of faith in allah the almighty.

to a muslim, the first and the foremost article of faith is the belief in the one and only god, and this belief is usually called "tawheed" (monotheism). though the word literally means just unity or oneness, it implies a variety of ideas from the islamic point of view:

it means that the whole universe was created by allah and he is the lord and master of everything in it. so the universe is one; and since the owner and ruler of it is just one, it cannot be therefore, governed by two or more sets of laws.,.

secondly, tawheed means that allah is the creator of all the humans; and so they are all equal before allah, irrespective of skin color, race, tribe, or clan. this, in other words, is the brotherhood of humanity .

thirdly, tawheed implies that the religion of god is one; since allah has been sending his prophets from the beginning of mankind to guide them along the right path. so, all the prophets preached the same religion of god: one that teaches humans to lead a life of complete obedience to his commandments.

muslims believe that we are god's trustees on earth; and so we have to utilize all the blessings allah has bestowed on us with responsibility. our duty is to strive for the peace and welfare of all human beings, not only in this life, but also in the life to come.

tawheed underscores the benevolence and compassion of the all-merciful god, as allah's mercy is open to all his servants, irrespective of all man-made barriers of racism, caste-ism, and tribalism:

* {o mankind! we created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). verily the most honored of you in the sight of allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. and allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).}* ( al-hujurat 49: 13)

the noble quran makes it clear to us that the basic nature of man in his purity must acknowledge him as the one and only creator and sustainer. studies of cultural anthropology and social history also bear out man's yearning for a spiritual unity.

what is more, the latest findings in ecological studies stress the essential unity and uniformity in nature and the universe, which implies a single ruler of the universe.

and all religions teach belief in one god .

judaism, christianity, and islam are in fact semitic religions sharing the same background, and essentially speaking of one god.

but consider hinduism, that speaks of many gods. you find that even hinduism in its highest form speaks only of one god. there is the sanskrit verse in the rig veda: ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti , which translates to mean, "the truth is one; but scholars call it by many names."

the noble quran teaches that:

*{it is he who is allah in heaven and allah on earth, he is full of wisdom and knowledge. to him belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all between them. with him is the knowledge of the hour of judgment, and to him you shall all be brought back}* (az-zukhruf 43:84-85)

*{allah is he than whom there is no other god, the sovereign, the holy one, the source of peace and perfection, the guardian of faith, the preserver of safety, the exalted, the mighty, the irresistible, the supreme, above all partners}* ( al-hashr 59:23)

*{he is allah the creator, the evolver, the bestower of forms. to him belong the most beautiful names.}* ( al-hashr 59:24)

*{he is allah the one and only, allah the eternal, absolute. he begets not, nor is he begotten, and there is none like him.}* (al-ikhlas 112:1-4)

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