The word “Islam” means “submission” (to the will of God), and “Muslim” literally means “submitter.” The concept of submission is at the core of Islamic beliefs. Islam is a way of life, rather than a religion consisting of a set of beliefs and rituals. According to this doctrine, one belongs to God and everything one does is for the purpose of pleasing, serving, and getting near to God, so much so that at the height of this state, God’s will becomes your will. In a more global sense, anyone who submits to One true God is a “Muslim”- a submitter, though not in the traditional sense where a Muslim is one who testifies to the Oneness of God and the Prophethood of Muhammad, peace be upon him. In fact the concept of submission is not limited to Islam, as we will discuss below.
Nay, whoever submits His whole self to Allah and is a doer of good, He will get his reward with his Lord; on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. The Qur’an 2:112
We shall surely test your steadfastness with fear and famine, with loss of property, life, and produce. Give good news to those who endure with patience; who, when afflicted with calamity, say: ‘We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return.’ The Qur’an 2:155–156
Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him. The Qur’an 4:36
“When Isa [Jesus] found out that they had no faith, he asked: ‘Who will help me in the cause of Allah?’ The Disciples replied: ‘We will help you in the cause of Allah. We believe in Allah. Be our witness that we are Muslims.’” The Qur’an 3:52
Farooq-i-Azam Malik and Yousuf Ali have translated the Arabic word Muslimoon at the end of the verse as “Muslims.” Other translators have used the word submitters, the literal meaning of the word “Muslim,” instead of Muslim or Muslimoon (plural). For example, Asad translates the same verse as follows:
And when Jesus became aware of their refusal to acknowledge the truth, he asked: ‘Who will be my helpers in God’s cause?’ The white-garbed ones replied: ‘We shall be (thy) helpers (in the cause) of God! We believe in God: and bear thou witness that we have surrendered (submitted) ourselves unto Him!’
Remember God Often
The Quran not only commands followers to submit to His will but emphasizes that God must be remembered often, and His remembrance must be part of our daily lives.
For sure, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day there are signs for men of understanding. Those who remember Allah while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and meditate on the creation of the heavens and the earth, then cry out: ‘Our Rabb [Lord]! You have not created this in vain. Glory to You.’ The Qur’an 3:190–191
Another verse is often cited about the remembrance of God:
Therefore, remember Me, and, I will remember you, be grateful to Me and never deny Me. The Qur’an 2:152
The Arabic word for remembrance of God is Dhikr. This can be in the form of repeating His name, keeping His name in the heart and mind, remembering His commands (doing good deeds and avoiding bad ones), as well as elevating and glorifying His name. Many consider this verse a bargain and sign of God’s mercy. This verse seeks to elevate the spirituality and love for God by remembering Him and urges us to be grateful to Him in good times and bad times.
Submission to God in the Torah
As noted above, the concept of submission is not unique to Muslims. It is similar to the concept of d’veykut, meaning “clinging” in Jewish tradition. D’veykut means one is clinging to God with such faith and devotion that his will and God’s will merge into one will. The following is a passage from the Torah (Moses is addressing his people):
Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and to keep the LORD’S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good. Deuteronomy 10:12–13
And in the oldest prayer in Judaism, Shema:
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4–9
The similarity of Quran verses 3:190–191, quoted above, and Deuteronomy 6:4–9 is striking: Both command the followers to remember God in all phases: sitting, standing, and lying. In addition to submitting to Him, the constant remembrance throughout the day is meant to encourage one to do good deeds and eschew bad deeds as ordained by God.
Submission in the New Testament
Friendship with the world is discouraged, as friendship with the world makes one an enemy of God (James 4:4); therefore, one must submit to Him and seek nearness to Him. Even though the passage quoted below is being addressed to adulterers, it can be easily applied to everyone, adulterers or not.
Submit therefore to God.Resist the devil and he will flee from you.Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:7–8
The post is adapted from a segment in my book, The Quran: With or Against the Bible?
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