Islam is not a proper name; it simply means submission and peace. There are many aspects of being a muslim or submitter to God. There are at least three spheres of divine law. Submitting oneself to those laws is the only way of attaining peace and eternal happiness. These laws are:
1. Natural Realm: Physical Laws
The universe is God’s 3-d book written in the language of natural law. All heavenly bodies, including our bodies and their constituent sub atomic particles follow the physical law imposed by their Creator. Any person who studies God’s law (ayaat) in the physical universe and follows the rules within is rewarded by God with technology to enjoy the worldly life. A person who prefers ignorance or defies God’s law in nature is automatically punished in accordance to that law.
For instance, building a house without considering the law of gravity and natural events such as earthquakes and floods may result in severe punishment. In other words, a muslim has to learn and obey God’s law in nature. Those who do NOT CONTRADICT or DEFY God’s ayaat in the universe are rewarded according to God’s law.
2. Social Realm: Imperatives of Community Life
Another aspect of being muslim is in the realm of society. Humans, as self-interested rational utility-maximizers, SIRUM, have to follow certain rules and impose on him/her certain limits. For instance, if this rational human being thinks that living with other humans would increase the utility, or would make his life more comfortable and secure he will chose to live in a town instead of on top of a mountain. When a human decides to co-operate or compromise with others, he intellectually and empirically knows that he should respect the lives, property and the rights of others. Otherwise, he will be IN CONTRADICTION with the mandate of his choice, that is being a member of a community. Thus, he will be punished either by civil war, or by aggression of others, by chaos or by law enforcement officers paid by those whose ancestors have sufficiently suffered the consequences of CONTRADICTING the laws of ecology and community life.
A person who is civilized and respects the rights of others is muslim in this regard and he/she will be rewarded by prestige, position, etc. The verses in the Scriptures regarding not to kill, not to steal, not to covet the neighbor, not to lie, etc. are not something new or unknown to us. In fact, a SIRUM does not need those commandments. Obviously, at least the seven of those commandments (from 4 to 10) are discoverable by any SIRUM who lives in a community. The commandments were just a reminder for the rational humans and perhaps a guide or warning for those with irrational tendencies.
People who adhere to secular or atheistic belief system are muslims in this respect; they usually follow the last seven commandments and they are rewarded by having a society with a working legal, political, economic and social system. Those who chose to establish hegemony, those who chose to oppress others for their ethnic and religious differences are punished by chaos, insecurity, corruption and continuous wars.
The social divine law is logically inherent in the fabric of a community of individuals. In other words, individuals or subgroups have to respect some obvious rational rules in order to increase utility in the community.
With the increase in the world population, the advancement of mass communication and transportation, national borders have lost their function and interdependence of nations has increased. International trade, therefore, will inevitably change the political landscape of the world dramatically. Therefore, the 21st century will most likely continue to unite many national interests with those of the entire human population. A nation can no longer tolerate human rights violation or environmental pollution in another corner of the globe, since their own economic interest will most probably be at stake.
3. Intellectual and Spiritual Realm: Knowledge of God and Eternal Happiness
Why do we need a message from God? What is the relevancy of revelations? Here comes the third realm where being muslim is imperative. Being a muslim, that is surrendering to God and conforming to His law, cannot be completed without being muslim in heart or in mind. Real happiness and reward is attained only if we complete our submission to natural and social laws with our submission to God through our mind and ACCEPT God as the only Lord and Master of the Day of Judgment.
This last aspect of submission is what really brings the ultimate freedom and happiness, and together with the other spheres of submission removes all worries and solves all problems. A person who has intellectually and spiritually surrendering to God cannot be shaken by any natural disaster, loss of the loved one, sickness, death or any tragedy, since they know that this world is a testing room for a very brief time compared to infinity. These people are extreme optimists and they know that they will ultimately return to their Lord, who is Just, Caring and Wise.
In summary, we can only attain happiness both in this world and in the hereafter, if we submit our person to God while submitting our actions to His laws embedded in the fabric of nature and social interaction.
Islam in the Quran
As we stated above, islam is not a proper name, nor it is the religion founded by Muhammad as it is falsely claimed. Islam is the paradigm of all those who submit themselves to God alone. The Quran teaches us that all believers were named by God with the word submitters (muslims) (22:78). Islam is a descriptive name meaning submission and peace, or within the context of the Quran, peacefully surrendering self to God alone. Islam is a paradigm and a way of life that emphasizes personal freedom from all powers by accepting God alone as the only absolute authority. Thus, the only way of life acceptable by God is islam (3:19-85). Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus and their followers were all described with the same word, submitters or surrenderers (muslims) (10:72; 2:128; 10:84; 27:31; 5:111; 72:14). Since all messengers delivered the message in the language of their people, they described their submission to God, not in Arabic word, “islam” or “muslim,” but in their own languages (14:4). In fact, according to the Quran, with the exception of the mind of disbelievers and mushriks, the entire universe, including the material bodies of disbelievers, is muslim, since every particle, atom, molecule, planet, star, light, galaxy in the universe submits perfectly to God’s law (41:11). The shadows submit to God’s law, even of the disbeliever’s body (13:15). Everything in the universe has submitted to the God’s system; submission to God (islam) is the law of the universe (3:83).
According to the Quran, all messengers, together with their supporters, were muslims; they were peacemakers who submitted themselves to the will of God alone. Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus and their followers were all described with the same word, submitters (muslims) (10:72; 2:128; 10:84; 27:31; 5:111; 72:14). Since all messengers delivered the message in the language of their people, they described their submission to God , not in Arabic word, “Islam” or “muslim,” but in their own language (14:4). All heavenly bodies are submitters to God (41:11). The shadows submit to God’s law, even of the disbeliever’s body (13:15). Everything in the universe has submitted to the God’s law/system; submission to God (islam) is the universal system (3:83).
- Islam is submission to God alone (2:112,131; 4:125; 6:71; 22:34; 40:66).
- Requires objective evidence besides personal experience (3:86; 2:111; 21:24; 74:30).
- Demands faith based not on wishful thinking or feelings, but based on reason and evidence. (Quran 17:36) (17:36).
- Stands for liberty, accountability, and defiance of false authorities. (6:164).
- Unifies by promoting gender and race equality. (49:13).
- Offers peace among nations (2:62; 2:135-136, 208).
- Promises justice to everyone, regardless of their creed or ethnicity (4:58; 5:8).
- Promotes peace while considering reality (60:8,9).
- Rejects clergymen and intermediaries between God and people (2:48; 9:31-34).
- Encourages the distribution of wealth, economic freedom and social welfare (2:215, 59:7).
- Encourages competition in righteousness and morality. (16:90)
- Condemns non-productive economy (2:275; 5:90; 3:130).
- In public affairs, requires consultation and representation (42:38).
- Promotes utmost respect to individuals (5:32).
- Stands for peace, honesty, kindness, and deterring from wrongdoing. (3:110)
- Expects high moral standards (25:63-76; 31:12-20; 23:1-11).
- Values women (3:195; 4:124; 16:97).
- Asks us to be in harmony with nature and environment (30:41).
- Stands for freedom of belief and freedom of expression. (2:256; 18:29; 10:99; 88:21-22)
It is no wonder that the only system/law approved by God is Islam (3:19, 85).