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Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original

dimension. —Oliver Wendell Holmes



As Margaret Nydell states in Understanding Arabs, “The God Muslims worship is the same God Jews and Christians worship (Allah is simply the Arabic word for God; Arab Christians pray to Allah).”


The word Islam is the infinitive of the Arabic verb aslama, and is translated, “to  submit totally to God.”

Furthermore, “The participle of this verb is muslim (i.e., the one who submits completely to God) by which the followers of Islam are called.”

The word? Islam also connotes peace (being from the same root as the Arabic word salaam), with the understanding that peace comes through submission to God. Unlike the terms Judaism and Christianity, both of which aren’t mentioned in their own bibles, Islam and Muslims are mentioned numerous times throughout the Holy Qur’an.

Hence, those who consider the Holy Qur’an the revealed word of God find divine authority for the terms Islam and Muslim within their own scripture.



The above is the literal definition of Muslim—a person who submits to the will of God. What, then, is the definition in accordance with Islamic ideology? The Islamic understanding is that true believers, since the creation of mankind, have always accepted belief in God as one God and in the teachings of the messenger of their time.



For example, Muslims during the time of Moses would have testified that there is no God but Allah, and Moses is the messenger of Allah. Muslims during the time of Jesus would have testified that there is no God but Allah, and Jesus is the prophet of Allah.


For the last 1,400 years, Muslims have acknowledged Muhammad ibn (son of) Abdullah to be the last and final messenger of God. To this day, a person enters Islam and becomes Muslim by stating, “I testify that there is no god but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

Islam acknowledges the testimony of faith to be valid only if made by sincere and willing adults who understand the full meaning and implications of what they are saying.



Despite the erroneous assumption that Islam was spread by the sword, the religion forbids coercion, as per the commandment, “Let there be no compulsion in religion …” (TMQ

2:256). Furthermore, an entire chapter or the Holy Qur’an (TMQ, Chapter 109) teaches the following:


In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,



Say: O you that reject faith!


I worship not that which you worship,






Nor will you worship that which I worship.


And I will not worship that which you have been wont to worship,


Nor will you worship that which I worship.


To you be your way, and to me mine.


The seventeenth­century English philosopher John Locke, though ranked in history as a Unitarian Christian, provided a most beautiful argument, which might serve the purpose of all (Muslims included) who seek to explain the futility of forced conversion:


No way whatsoever that I shall walk in against the dictates of my conscience, will ever bring me to the mansions of the blessed. I may grow rich by art that I take not delight in; I may be cured of some disease by remedies that I have not faith in; but I cannot be saved by a religion that I distrust, and by a worship that I abhor…

Faith only, and inward sincerity, are the things that procure acceptance with God…. In vain therefore do

princes compel their subjects to come into their church­communion, under

pretence of saving their souls. If they believe, they will come of their own

accord; if they believe not, their



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