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Linguistics of Universality

While studying in college, I became particularly interested in word origins. It was quite obvious to me that words in the media (television, radio, and movies) are often used, not to spark reflection and thought, but rather to arouse emotions. Upon becoming fonder of reading over other media, I came to pay attention to the words themselves. Were we all to do so regarding Islam, we would all a see a more beautiful picture.


Islam: Literally "submission". As I examined the world’s religions, this word spoke to me above all of the rest. Unlike the other religions of the world, Islam is not named after a person, a people, or a place. The word Islam is a quality...submission. When I first stumbled across this word, Islam, in an etymological dictionary, I was struck by this beautiful concept...submission to the One Who created us. Can there be any other name for the path to God?

Muslim: Literally "one who submits". Again, can there be any other name for a true follower of God’s teachings and commands? The word Muslim is timeless. In other words, there was no such thing as a Christian before Christ (peace be upon him). Likewise, there was no such thing as a Buddhist prior to the existence of Gotama Buddha, and no Bahai prior to Bahaullah, nor a Zoroastrian before Zoroaster. However, by definition, there were Muslims prior to the advent of Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Keeping in mind that the definition of a Muslim is "one who submits to the Will of God", then there is not a Christian on earth that would deny that Jesus (peace be upon him) submitted to God’s Will. Jesus then, was a Muslim. Likewise, no Jew would ever dispute the fact that Moses (peace be upon him) submitted to God. He too, fits this definition and was, therefore, a Muslim. Many people, recorded in history or not, passed away prior to Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) first steps on earth and may be regarded as Muslims, simply because they adhered to God’s commands and guidelines.

Allah: The name given to the One True God, the Lord of the worlds, the Creator, the only One worthy of worship. While the English word "God" can be god, gods, goddess, or goddesses, this is not the case with Allah. This name for God is unique in the Arabic language in that it has no gender and no plural of number. To learn more about the concept of God in Islam please visit The Oneness of God.

Masih 'Isa: Literally "Messiah Jesus" (peace be upon him). Most often referred to in the Qur’an as ‘Isa ibn Maryam or "Jesus, the son of Mary", Jesus (peace be upon him) is quite clearly accepted by Muslims to be the Messiah, as is indicated by the "Masih" preceeding his name.

The fact that Jesus (peace be upon him) is often referred to as the son of Mary is very significant. First of all, it indicates his lineage and reminds us that he was without a father. In Arabic one is often named with a first name which is then followed by "the son of so and so" or the "daughter of so and so". However, the so and so is always the father. This is not the case with Jesus (peace be upon him), as he had no father. He is thus called Jesus the son of Mary (may Allah be pleased with her). To learn more about the Islamic teachings regarding Jesus and Mary (peace be upon both of them) go to The Status of Jesus in Islam and Ahadith Regarding Mary.

Masih ad-Dajjal: Literally "Imposter Messiah", known in many circles as the AntiChrist. In this case, both the Arabic "Masih ad-Dajjal" and the Greek "anti Christos" are very telling. As far as the Arabic is concerned, it is quite clear that the Qur’an upholds Jesus (peace be upon him) as the Messiah. Also, the word, Dajjal comes from dajjala, which is derived from a pitch used to cover an animal’s diseased skin, thereby making it more likely to be sold. Similarly, the Islamic concept of the AntiChrist is of a man who appears to be the true Messiah, however he is in fact the worst human being history has known. It is known through the prophecies of Muhammad that Jesus (peace be upon both of them) will return to earth to slay the AntiChrist and rule the kingdom of believers.

As far as the Greek is concerned, anti refers to "in place of" and "against", again painting the Islamic picture of one who many will regard as Christ (peace be upon him), however, he will only lead them to the Hellfire. For more on Masih ad-Dajjal in Islamic traditions go to Signs Before the Day of Judgement.

Qur’an: Literally "Recitation". The name, itself, is a reference to how the Book was revealed. Namely, as a recitation...that the Angel Gabriel spoke directly to Muhammad and told him exaclty what to recite (peace be upon both of them). The Qur'an, then, is the word of God spoken through His angel to Muhammad. He then recited these words, which were later written down and consolidated as the Qur'an. The Qur'an was revealed piece-meal over a period of 23 years. Its final copy was then reviewed and approved of by both Muhammad and Gabriel (peace be upon them). For a more in-depth look at the Qur’an and its many miracles go to The Qur’an.

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