Islam vs. Muslims: Unveiling the True Relationship

In my previous post about misconceptions regarding Islam, I mentioned that many people judge Islam based on the behavior of some Muslims. I argued,this  is a flawed approach. This brings us to a crucial question: Are Islam and Muslims the same, or are they different entities? If they are different, what are the distinctions?

Many people have asked this question, and it is important to address it clearly. This post will aim to clarify these points. Please note that today’s topic is sensitive and requires careful attention to avoid misunderstandings. I urge you to read this post attentively and try to understand it well. Let’s begin in the name of Allah Almighty.

As always, I seek refuge in Allah Almighty from all kinds of harm and pray that He makes my work easy. I also pray that He considers this effort a means of salvation for us in this world and the hereafter. Whatever is good in my writing is entirely a blessing from Allah Almighty, and any faults are due to Satan (the Devil) and my own lack of knowledge. JazakAllah (Thank you).

 

Understanding Islam

Introduction of Islam

Lexical Meaning: The word “Islam” is derived from the Arabic root (س-ل-م) “S-L-M,” which means peace, purity, submission, surrender, and obedience.

Terminological Meaning: Islam means submission to the will of Allah Almighty (God).

Definition of Islam:

“Islam is the only acceptable way of life ordained by Almighty Allah, where an individual’s will is surrendered to the will of Allah. It is not merely a religion but a complete code of life that encompasses every aspect of human existence, guiding believers in their spiritual, social, and moral conduct.”

Please note: that this is my own definition. You may accept or reject it based on your preference or if you find a better one. However, this definition resonates with me and makes it easier for me to understand, so I often use my own definitions in my posts.

If you examine my definition, you will see that I mentioned Islam as the only acceptable way of life to Allah Almighty. This is not my invention; it is a declaration by Allah Himself. Allah says in the Quran:

 

  • “إِنَّ الدِّينَ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ الْإِسْلَامُ”  “Truly, the (recognized) religion in the sight of Allah is Islām” (Quran 3:19).

This verse is very clear and should not pose any difficulty in understanding.

If you examine my definition again, you will notice that I mentioned Islam means submitting our will to Allah. Now, how do we know what Allah’s will is and what our will is? This is where the concept of Islam as a complete code of life comes into play. “Islam as a religion provides guidelines and a constitution from Allah Almighty for human beings to maintain a meaningful and successful life in this world and the hereafter.”

This is also my own definition, which I discussed in the post “Why Do We Need Islam as a Religion?” To truly understand Islam, you must recognize its role in our lives as a comprehensive system. For a deeper understanding, you can read my post “Why Do We Need Islam as a Religion.”

 

Fundamental Beliefs of Islam

Understanding Islam requires knowing its fundamental beliefs. These beliefs form the core principles that guide a Muslim’s faith and practice. 

 

1. Tawhid: Belief in the Oneness of God

Tawhid is the cornerstone of Islam, distinguishing it from other faiths. Muslims passionately declare that there is no true god but Allah. This profound belief means recognizing Allah as the sole source of power and the only one worthy of worship. Tawhid also means that no one and nothing else should be worshiped besides Allah, for He is the ultimate source of all strength and authority. In essence, Tawhid is about acknowledging Allah as the foundation of all power and devotion.

 

2. Belief in Angels

In Islam, belief in angels is fundamental. These celestial beings, created by Allah, are always obedient to His commands. Unlike humans, angels have no free will and faithfully execute their assigned duties. They are tireless in fulfilling Allah’s orders and serve as a bridge between the divine and the earthly realms. Believing in angels involves accepting their constant presence and unwavering obedience to Allah’s will.

 

3. Belief in Divine Books

Throughout history, Allah has revealed numerous books to guide humanity. Muslims believe in all these divine scriptures, with the Quran being the final and most complete revelation. This belief highlights that from the beginning of human creation, Allah has provided guidance through His books. Believing in these sacred texts, and recognizing the Quran as the ultimate and last revelation, is a key tenet of the Islamic faith.

 

4. Belief in Prophets

Just as Allah sent divine books, He also sent prophets to guide humanity through different eras. Muslims honor and believe in all the prophets, with Muhammad (peace be upon him) being the final messenger. These prophets carried Allah’s messages, warning of the consequences of obedience and disobedience, and teaching the proper ways to worship. The belief that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the last prophet seals the continuity and finality of prophetic guidance in Islam.

 

5. Belief in Predestination (Taqdir)

Predestination is a profound and sometimes intricate belief. It involves accepting that everything unfolds according to Allah’s grand plan. Allah’s knowledge encompasses all things—past, present, and future. He has complete control over everything that happens. Believing in Taqdir means trusting in Allah’s wisdom and plan, knowing that He orchestrates all events with perfect knowledge and authority.

 

6. Belief in the Hereafter

Belief in the Hereafter is a core aspect of Islamic faith. Muslims hold that after this worldly life, there is an eternal life where Allah will judge each individual based on their deeds. This includes the belief in paradise and hell, the life in the grave, and the ultimate meeting with Allah. Embracing this belief means understanding that our actions in this life have profound consequences in the eternal hereafter. It also inspires Muslims to live righteously, hoping for the ultimate reward of paradise.

These core beliefs not only define the Islamic faith but also shape the lives of Muslims around the world, guiding their actions, intentions, and understanding of their purpose in life. If I wanted I could write all the core beliefs in more detail but due to my post leangth I’m not expanding this anymore. 

 

The Five Pillars of Islam

To truly understand Islam, you must know its five pillars, which form the foundation of a Muslim’s faith and practices. As the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: “Islam is based on (the following) five (principles):”

  1. To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ).
  2. To offer the (compulsory congregational) prayers dutifully and perfectly.
  3. To pay Zakat (i.e. obligatory charity).
  4. To perform Hajj (i.e. Pilgrimage to Mecca).
  5. To observe fast during the month of Ramadan. [Sahih al-Bukhari, 8]

Let’s explore these five fundamental principles of Islam in brief:

 

1. Shahada (Testimony of Faith):

The Shahada is the Islamic creed, stating, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is the Messenger of Allah.” This affirmation is the entry point into Islam, emphasizing monotheism and Muhammad’s role as the final prophet. The Shahada is recited with conviction to become a Muslim and is frequently repeated in daily prayers and life.

 

2. Salat (Daily Prayers):

Muslims are required to pray five times a day at prescribed times: Fajr (pre-dawn), Dhuhr (midday), Asr (afternoon), Maghrib (sunset), and Isha (night). Each prayer involves a series of movements and recitations, including standing, bowing, prostrating, and sitting. It is a direct link between the worshipper and Allah. Salat serves as a constant reminder of faith, providing spiritual discipline, and fostering a sense of community when performed in congregation.

 

3. Zakat (Charity):

Muslims are required to give a portion of their wealth, typically 2.5% of their savings, to those in need. Zakat purifies wealth by recognizing that all possessions are a trust from Allah. It helps reduce poverty and inequality, fostering social harmony and justice. Recipients include the poor, orphans, widows, and others in need.

 

4. Sawm (Fasting during Ramadan):

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food, drink, smoking, and marital relations. Fasting develops self-discipline, empathy for the less fortunate, and closeness to Allah. It’s a time for increased prayer, reading the Quran, and performing good deeds. The fast is broken daily with a meal called Iftar, and the end of Ramadan is marked by the festival of Eid al-Fitr.

 

5. Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca):

Every Muslim who is physically and financially able must perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime. It takes place during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah. Hajj includes several rites, such as the Tawaf (circumambulation of the Kaaba), Sa’i (walking between the hills of Safa and Marwah), and standing at Arafat in prayer. Hajj represents the unity and equality of all Muslims, as pilgrims wear simple white garments. It is a time for seeking forgiveness, spiritual renewal, and demonstrating submission to Allah.

These pillars provide a framework for a Muslim’s faith and practice, shaping their relationship with Allah and their responsibilities towards others.

Yeah! That was a brief overview of Islam. Now let’s move on to the next section.

 

Understanding Muslim

Introduction of Muslims

Lexical Meaning: The word “Muslim” originates from the same Arabic root as Islam, (س-ل-م) “S-L-M,” which carries the meaning of “surrender.”

Terminological meaning: A Muslim is someone who surrenders their will to Allah Almighty. This act of surrender actually signifies a commitment to living in accordance with the divine guidance provided by Islam.

Definition of Muslim:

“A Muslim is an individual who consciously and willingly submits to the will of Allah. This submission involves adhering to the teachings of Islam, following the Five Pillars, and striving to lead a life that aligns with the principles and values outlined in the Quran and the Sunnah (traditions of Prophet Muhammad). Thus, a Muslim is not merely defined by their belief, but by their active and continuous effort to live in harmony with the will of Allah.”

In simple terms, anyone who sincerely believes in all the teachings of Islam and practices them as instructed by Islam is called a Muslim. This is a very straightforward definition, without any complexity. I hope you understand the point by now.

After all this discussion, if I were to ask you, “Are Islam and Muslim the same thing?” What would your answer be?

I don’t know what your answer would be, but mine would be: “If a Muslim truly believes in all the teachings of Islam and lives their life according to the ways prescribed by Islam, then there is no difference between Islam and a Muslim.”

In other words, there is no difference between true Islam and a true Muslim. They complement each other. To put it another way, Islam is the theoretical aspect, while a Muslim is the practical application of Islam.

Yes, I agree that sometimes there is a difference between Islam and Muslims, particularly when someone is a Muslim in name only and does not actually practice the teachings of Islam. In such cases, you might say that Islam and Muslims are different. But apart from this scenario, there is no way to separate the two. This is why I often say, you should never judge Islam by an individual; instead, judge the individual by Islam. If you remember this, you won’t have any problems understanding Islam, Insha’Allah.

If you want to learn more about Islam in detail, I would recommend reading my three posts below.

  1. “Why Do We Need Islam As  Religion”

  2. “Understanding Islam Beyond Misconceptions”

  3. Islam vs. Muslims: Unveiling the True Relationship

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