The concept of ‘Islam’ in the Bible
Do we find the word of “Islam” in the Bible?
We do not find it as a term, for which there are three reasons:
- It is an Arabic word, and the Bible in our hand is an English translation of Ancient Greek and Hebrew.
- Islam” is a translatable word. Since it bears some meaning, it lends itself to translation.
- Many religions of today, being identified by means of names ending with “ism” and “ity”, did not exist during Biblical times. There was either the religion of obeying the One and Only God, or there was idolatry. People were either believers in the One God, or they were pagans or heathens.
Obviously, when we want to look for the word “Islam” in the Bible, we have to look for its meaning only.
(a) “Submission to the will of the One True God”
What does ‘submission’ mean here? It means total obedience, loving and willing. In the Biblical terminology, it means ‘keeping the commandments’, or ‘doing the will of god’. We find these phrases in many places in the Bible, both in the Old Testament and New Testament. The following are few examples:
- In the Old Testament, we read about what God requires of 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, 13 and to keep the LORD’S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)
These verses clearly state that God requires the following:
1. to fear Him
2. to walk in all His ways
3. to love Him
4. to serve Him with heart and soul
5. to keep His commandments
One phrase encompassing all the above points is: “Total, loving, and willing submission to Him.” The Arabic term, ‘Islam’, has just this meaning.
If God is fair and just, He will not require something from Israelites and something else from the Arabs or the Americans or the Indians or the Japanese. He is God for all people in the world; He is the Creator of all. It is evident, therefore, that God wants man to be nothing but “Muslim” to Him.
- Not only this, God wants man to be ‘Muslim’ to the core, to be Muslim every moment of time, and to be Muslim wherever he is, as we read ‘the Great Commandment’:
“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 same message was proclaimed by the other prophet of God.
3. David, charged his son Solomon, saying:
“I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. “Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, (1 Kings 2:2-3)
- Solomon, addressing the congregation of Israel:
…… so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no one else. “Let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the LORD our God, to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments, as at this day.” (1 Kings 8:60,61)
- Samuel, addressing the people:
“If you will fear the LORD and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the LORD, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God. “If you will not listen to the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the command of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, ……. “Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. (1 Samuel 12:14,15 & 24)
- Joshua, in his farewell address:
Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the LORD, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23 “Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24 The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and we will obey His voice.” (Joshua 24:22-24)
In the New Testament, we find Jesus teaching the same – to keep the commandments, and to do the will of God, i.e., to submit to the will of God. Examples:
- Eternal life through submission to God’s commands:
And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:16-17)
- The Kingdom of heaven through submission to the will of God:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. (Matthew 7:21)
- Even the word ‘submit’ is used:
Submit therefore to God. … (James 4:7)
- How beautifully Jesus declared his ‘Islamic’ mission!
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. (John 4:34)
- How humbly Jesus showed his submission to God!
“I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 5:30)
- Jesus recognized Muslim as his brothers and sisters:
“For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)
Peace is used in a comprehensive sense – peace with the creator, peace of mind, peace at heart, peace in society, etc. This element of meaning of ‘Islam’ does not seem to occur so frequently as does the first one. Following are some of the verses which are suggestive of this translation.
1. And the work of righteousness will be peace,
And the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever. (Isaiah 32:17)
Righteousness is the result of keeping the commandments (Deuteronomy 6:25). And peace is the result of righteousness. ‘Peace’ is the meaning of ‘Islam’ in the sense of ‘eternal quietness, confidence, trust and assurance’ i.e., salvation.
2. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27)
Jesus was talking about the ‘Peace’:
- the Peace, that was his Peace
- the Peace, that he was passing over the others
- the Peace, that was not worldly peace
- the Peace, that was to comfort the heart
- the Peace, that was to remove the fear.
The ‘Peace’ to which Jesus referred here, was not a worldly peace; it was the one which he called his food and mission, as we have read in John 4:34. He possessed it and wanted to pass it on the others. It was to remove the fear of damnation, and was to comfort the heart for life eternal.
This peace is ‘ISLAM’.
- “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew5:9)
Here Jesus seems to be referring to those who submit themselves to God (‘Muslimun’ in Arabic) as ‘peacemakers’, who as a result are called ‘children of God’, meaning the people of God, or people loved by God. God certainly loves the people who keep His commandments and submit themselves to His will, as stated in the Ten Commandments:
but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exodus 20:6)
The above expression in Matthew 5:9 is comparable to that in the Psalms:
How blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
Who greatly delights in His commandments. (Psalms 112:1 )
How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
Who walks in His ways. (Psalms 128:1 )
The fact is that:
- Islam is not a new religion, which was founded or started by Prophet Mohammad.
- The term ‘MUSLIM’ goes back much further than Mohammad.
- Prophet Mohammad’s role was simply fulfillment of the original religion, and presentation of the final, pure and permanent guidance to mankind, as revealed to him from God:
Say (O Muslims), "We believe in God and that which has been sent down to us and that which has been sent down to Ibrâhim (Abraham), Ismâ'il (Ishmael), Ishâq (Isaac), Ya'qûb (Jacob), and to Al-Asbât [the offspring twelve sons of Ya'qûb (Jacob)], and that which has been given to Mûsa (Moses) and Isâ (Jesus), and that which has been given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have submitted (Muslimun)."
The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah--that which We have sent by inspiration to thee--and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: namely, that ye should remain steadfast in Religion, and make no divisions therein: …