The words Islam, Muslim and salaam (peace) all come from the Arabic root word “Sa - la – ma”. It denotes peace, security, and safety. When a person submits to the will of God he or she experiences an innate sense of security and peacefulness. Salaam is a descriptive word that entails more than tranquillity and calmness; it also encompasses the concepts of safety, security and submission. In fact, Islam in the complete sense means submission to the One God who grants us safety, security, peace and harmony. This is real peace. Muslims greet each other with the words ‘Assalam Alaikum’. These Arabic words mean ‘May God grant you protection and security (real and lasting peace)’. These brief Arabic words let Muslims know that they are among friends, not strangers. This greeting encourages believers to be a worldwide community unencumbered by tribal or nationalistic loyalties and bound together by peace and unity. Islam itself is inherently associated with inner peace and tranquillity.
“And those who believed (in the Oneness of God and His Messengers and whatever they brought) and did righteous deeds, will be made to enter Gardens under which rivers flow, - to dwell therein for ever (i.e. in Paradise), with the Permission of their Lord. Their greeting therein will be, salaam!” (Quran 14:23)
The first principle and focal point of Islam is belief in one God, and the whole of the Quran is dedicated to this. It speaks directly about God and His Essence, Names, Attributes and Actions. Prayer connects us to God, however truly knowing and understanding the Names and Attributes of God is an important and unique opportunity, one that is only available in Islam. Those who do not make the effort to really know God may find the nature of their existence puzzling or even distressing. A Muslim is encouraged to remember God and be grateful to Him and a person can do this by contemplating and understanding God’s beautiful Names and Attributes. It is through this that we are able to know our Creator.
“God! (None has the right to be worshipped but He)! To Him belong the Best Names.” (Quran 20:8)
“And (all) the Most Beautiful Names belong to God, so call on Him by them, and leave the company of those who belie or deny (or utter impious speech against) His Names…” (Quran 7:180)
Islam recognises that human beings are the custodians of the earth and all that is on it, including vegetation, animals, oceans, rivers, deserts, and fertile land. God provides us with the things we need to survive successfully and flourish, but we are obligated to care for them and preserve them for future generations.
In 1986 Prince Phillip the then president of the World Wildlife Fund invited the leaders of the world’s five major religions to meet in the Italian city of Assisi. They met to discuss how faith could help save the natural world, the environment. What follows is from the Muslim statement in the Assisi Declarations on Nature:
Muslims say that Islam is the middle path and we will be answerable for how we have walked this path, how we have maintained balance and harmony in the whole of creation around us.
It is these values which led Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, to say: ‘Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded.’
For all these reasons Muslims see themselves as having a responsibility towards the world and the environment, all of which are the creations of Allah.
Unlike many other religions, Muslims do not have any specific festivals in which they give thanks for the harvest or the world. Instead they give thanks to Allah regularly for his creation.
Another beautiful aspect of Islam is respect for humanity and the universe in which we live. Islam states clearly that it is the responsibility of each member of the human race to treat creation with respect, honour and dignity. The most deserving of respect is the Creator Himself and of course respect begins with loving and obeying His commandments. Total respect for God allows all the manners and high standards of morality that are inherent in Islam to flow into our lives and the lives of those around us. Because Islam binds respect to peace, love and compassion this involves respecting the honour, reputation and privacy of others. Respect involves staying completely away from the major sins of backbiting, lying, slander, and gossip. It means avoiding sins that will sow discord among the people or lead to destruction.
Respect also includes loving for our brothers and sisters what we love for ourselves. It involves treating others the way we expect to be treated and the way we hope God will treat us – with compassion, love and mercy. Major sins put a barrier between humanity and God’s Mercy and cause all the torment, misery and evil in this world and the hereafter. God commands us to stay away from sin and to strive against our own destructive character flaws. We live in an age where we often demand respect from others but may not respect those around us. One beauty of Islam is that it allows us to regain lost respect by submitting wholeheartedly to the will of God. However if we do not understand how and why we surrender to God’s will we cannot gain respect we want and need. Islam teaches us and God reminds us in the Quran that our sole purpose in life is to worship Him.
“And I (God) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone).” (Quran 51:56)
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