If we are interested in gaining a better and more accurate understanding of Islam, its concepts, doctrine, and ideas, we must accept that there needs to be more robust scrutiny of the definitions that shape our discourse on Islam. Before going much further, let’s get one thing clear. Islam does not mean “Peace.” But the word Islam does come from the same root word as the Arabic word for peace (Salaam).
As mentioned earlier, Islam comes from the same root word as the word peace Salaam. Notice how both words in English contain the root letters “S” “L” “M”. If you’re not familiar with the Arabic language, you might not get it. But it’s very easy to understand.
Virtually most Arabic words have a three letter origin. So, based on the sounds, vowels, and additional letters added to this “three letter origin,” you can make a whole bunch of different words. In this case, the word “Islam” means “submission.” It means to completely give up and cease resistance against a stronger power.
A good example of this is in the Qur'an when Allah speaks about the Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) and how obvious it is for us to accept his way of life.
وَمَن يَرْغَبُ عَن مِّلَّةِ إِبْرَٰهِۦمَ إِلَّا مَن سَفِهَ نَفْسَهُۥ ۚ وَلَقَدِ ٱصْطَفَيْنَٰهُ فِى ٱلدُّنْيَا ۖ وَإِنَّهُۥ فِى ٱلْءَاخِرَةِ لَمِنَ ٱلصَّٰلِحِينَ * إِذْ قَالَ لَهُۥ رَبُّهُۥٓ أَسْلِمْ ۖ قَالَ أَسْلَمْتُ لِرَبِّ ٱلْعَٰلَمِينَ
And who would be averse to the religion of Abraham except one who makes a fool of himself. And We had chosen him in this world, and indeed he, in the Hereafter, will be among the righteous.* When his Lord said to him, “Submit”, he said “I have submitted to the Lord of the worlds.” Chapter 2, Verses 131 and 132.
In this verse, Allah orders Abraham to “submit” or “give himself up” to his Creator, Allah. And Abraham responds by confirming that he has definitely given up and submitted.
Now that you know the linguistic breaks down, let’s talk about reality. In the religious sense, Islam means submission to the will of Allah and obedience to His law. Islam is to surrender to Allah, submit to him, worship him, and serve him. 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 Allah alone. Allah says:
قُولُوٓا۟ ءَامَنَّا بِٱللَّهِ وَمَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَمَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَىٰٓ إِبْرَٰهِۦمَ وَإِسْمَٰعِيلَ وَإِسْحَٰقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَٱلْأَسْبَاطِ وَمَآ أُوتِىَ مُوسَىٰ وَعِيسَىٰ وَمَآ أُوتِىَ ٱلنَّبِيُّونَ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لَهُۥ مُسْلِمُونَ
" 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"] Q2: 136.
أَفَغَيْرَ دِينِ ٱللَّهِ يَبْغُونَ وَلَهُۥٓ أَسْلَمَ مَن فِى ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ طَوْعًا وَكَرْهًا وَإِلَيْهِ يُرْجَعُونَ
" 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." Q3 : 83.
Islam is actually the knowledge that we must practice the following five acts:
•Shahada – Testify that there is no god worthy of except Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger.
•Salaah – Pray five times a day in their proper times.
•Zakaah – Give 2.5% of saved yearly income to charity.
•Sawm – Fast during the month of Ramadan.
•Hajj – Make pilgrimage to the Ka'bah at least once in a lifetime.
One might probably recognize that as the Five Pillars of Islam, well, from an Islamic standpoint, that is what Islam actually means. Anyone who practices these things is considered a Muslim.