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Chapter 3

Psych2021 Chapter 3: Readings#2.docx

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Riley Hinson

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READINGS #2 01/28/2015
The Word Islam
The Arabic word Islam means "to turn oneself over to, to resign oneself, to submit." In religious
terminology, it means submission or surrender to God, or to God's will. The Koran uses the term
and its derivatives in about seventy verses. In only a few of these verses can we claim that the
word refers exclusively to "Islam," meaning thereby the religion established by the Koran and
the Prophet Muhammad.
We have already seen that the Koran and the Hadith use the word din ("religion") in a range of
meanings. This is typical for many important terms employed in the Koran and the Islamic
tradition. Incomprehension often occurs because people think they are talking about the same
thing, whereas in fact they are merely using the same words. For example, when non-Muslims
speak about Islam, they usually have in view the specific religion established by Muhammad.
Muslims mean that religion too, but they frequently have one or more of the other meanings of
the term in mind as well, and this tends to make mutual understanding difficult.
In the broadest sense, islam means "submission to God" as an undeniable fact of existence. If
God is understood as the only reality truly worthy of the name--or Reality with an uppercase R --
then nothing else is truly real. In other words, everything else is dependent upon God for its
reality. Or, to use less philosophical and more theological language, all things in the universe,
and the universe itself, are creations of God. Since God made them the way they are, they depend
totally upon God. Hence they are "submitted" to God.
In the first verse quoted below, a verse that we have already cited, this broadest sense of the term
islam is used to prove that true religion is established by God alone. The other verses illustrate
the Koranic view that everything in the natural world praises and glorifies God. Simply by
existing, all creatures demonstrate their Creator's glory and perform acts that acknowledge God's
mastery over them:
What, do they desire another religion than God's, while to Him has submitted whoso is in the
heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly? (3:83)
Have you not seen how whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth glorifies God, and the birds
spreading their wings? (24:41)
Have you not seen how to God bow all who are in the heavens and all who are in the earth, the
sun and the moon, the stars and the mountains, the trees and the beasts, and many of mankind?

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Notice that "many of mankind" bow to God. This means, conversely, that many do not. Although
from one point of view human beings are included in "the heavens" and "the earth" and hence are
creatures of God and submitted to him, from another point of view they are free not to submit to
him. This is the great mystery. It is here that human problems begin. People are not like
mountains and trees, which simply submit to God's will and give no thought to it. People are
always faced with the fact of their freedom, the fact that they can choose to obey or disobey
when someone tells them to do something, whether that someone be God, their parents, the
government, or whoever. If there were no choices to be made, everything would be fine, because
no one would be able to conceive of any other situation.
The Koran says in the verse just cited that "many of mankind" bow to God. It frequently refers to
these many as muslims, that is, "those who have submitted to God." Although "Muslim"
normally means a follower of the religion established by the Koran, in the Koranic context it
frequently means those who follow any of God's prophets. In translating the word in this sense
we will employ the term muslim, rather than Muslim.
When [Abraham’s] Lord said to him, "Submit," he said, "I have submitted to the Lord of the
worlds." (2:131)
Jacob said to his sons, "What will you worship after me?" They said, "We will worship your God
and the God of your fathers, Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac, one God, and we will be muslims
toward Him." (2:133)
And when I revealed to the Apostles [of Jesus], "Have faith in Me and in My messenger," they
said, "We have faith, and we bear witness that we are muslims." (5:111)
All prophets submitted themselves to God's will and hence were muslims. In the same way, all
those who follow the religions brought by the prophets are muslims. But clearly this does not
mean that they follow the religion established by the Koran, which appeared in Arabia in the
seventh century. Hence, in a still more specific sense, the word islam refers to the historical
phenomenon that is the subject of this book, the religion that goes by the name "Islam."
Surprisingly, none of the eight Koranic verses that mention the word islam itself refers
exclusively to this religion, since the wider Koranic context of the term is always in the
background. It is probably true that most Muslims read these verses as referring to Islam rather
than islam in a wider sense, but as soon as one understands the broad Koranic context, one can
easily see that the verses have more than one meaning.
Religion in God's view is the submission. (3:19)
If someone desires other than the submission as a religion, it will not be accepted of him. (3:85)

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In these two verses, both the word religion and al-islam ("the submission") can be understood in
broader or narrower senses. Most Muslims read them to mean that the right way of doing things
is that set down by the Koran and the Hadith. Others understand the verses to mean that every
revealed religion is one of the forms of islam, just as the message of all the prophets is tawhid. If
someone rejects God's religion -- that is, "the submission" revealed to all the prophets -and
follows instead a human concoction, God will not accept that from him. Having one's religion
rejected by God is the same as being sent to hell.
Some of the verses that speak of islam might well be read as referring exclusively to the religion
brought by Muhammad, because he is mentioned in the context:
They count it as a favor to you that they haw submitted Say: "Do not count your islam as a favor
to me. No, rather God confers a favor upon you, in that He has guided you to faith. "(49:17)
Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I haw completed My blessing upon you, and I
have approved islam for your religion. (5:3)
Several other Koranic verses that refer to islam or muslims can be read as referring to the
historical religion of Islam. But at least one verse refers to islam in a still narrower sense.
Apparently a group of bedouins -- that is, tribespeople who lived a nomadic existence in the
desert -- had seen that the new religion was the rising power in their region and that they could
gain advantages by joining up with it. Hence they came before the Prophet and swore allegiance
to him, in the time-honored manner of the Arabs. But of course, Islam came with a set of
conditions that were completely unfamiliar to the bedouins; that is, the five practices of the
religion that are mentioned in the hadith of Gabriel. Part of swearing allegiance to the Prophet
was agreeing to observe these practices. At some point, after having sworn allegiance, the
bedouins told the Prophet that they had faith in Islam. Now God enters the discussion by
revealing the following verses to Muhammad:
The bedouins say, "We haw faith." Say. "You do not have faith, rather say, 'We have submitted,'
for faith has not yet entered your hearts. If you obey God and His messenger, He will not
diminish you anything of your works." (49:14)
In this verse, it is clear that submission is not the same as faith (iman), since submission means
obeying God and the Prophet, whereas faith is something deeper, having to do -- as we will see
later -- with knowledge and commitment. Obeying God and the Prophet pertains to the domain
of activity, to the realm of commands and prohibitions. The Prophet has come with specific
instructions from God for the people. If they obey, the Prophet, they obey God's instructions.
"Whosoever obeys the Messenger, thereby obeys God" (4:80). God, in turn, will pay them their
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