Explaining Islam

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So hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of God.
(Quran 3:103)

No compulsion in religion! Truth stands clear from error, and he who rejects false deities and believes in God has grasped a firm handhold which will never break.
(Quran 2:256)

The task should become easier with the passage of time. It becomes more difficult. Explaining Islam in all its dimensions to westerners, whether Christian, semi-Christian or agnostic, involves crossing a minefield. Misunderstandings, together with ancient fears and prejudices, lie just beneath the surface, ready to explode on contact, and I have learned over the years to watch where I place my feet. The task becomes more difficult for two reasons: firstly because of an increasing realization that my Faith, like any major religion, has something in common with the breadth of the human world itself with all its ambiguities and subtleties; secondly because contemporary western culture is immensely complex both in its origins and in its character. Every generalization that one tries to make is soon blown apart.

Brought up as an agnostic, I have been Muslim for some fifty years, long enough to feel at home in the religion, but this does not alter the fact that I am a westerner and cannot entirely escape my early conditioning. Asked once by a young Muslim in America if I did not find this dual identity painful, I told him that I regarded it as a privilege comparable, perhaps, to being bilingual. Only those who have, in some measure, escaped from their European or American identity can know how suffocating this culture is. The term “political correctness” is of recent invention, but in fact the western mentality has always been subject to comparable restraints in one form or another. The orthodoxies of one generation may be turned upside down by the next, but the pressures to accept what all “right-thinking” people believe at a particular moment in history remain the same. When someone who has little interest in religion asks me why they should take an interest in Islam, my answer is: “To sample a different perspective and enjoy a breath of fresh air.”

Whether in confrontation or in cautious dialogue, Muslims and Christians have faced each other and been obliged to deal with each other for the past thirteen centuries, and the very existence of Islam has had a profound influence on the changing patterns of western civilization. This civilization is commonly described as Judaeo-Christian in origin, but there is a third strand in the monotheistic “rope of God”, the rope grasped by those who desire a good life and a good exit from this life: Islam. The three religions lay claim to a common ancestor, the prophet and patriarch Abraham, the first “monotheist” in the strict sense of the term. They are three facets of this adherence to an undiluted awareness of the divine unity and singularity. What they have in common outweighs their differences, but the intertwining of the three strands is fascinating and often illuminating. Jews, when they are able to put aside the politics of confrontation, usually feel closer to Muslims than to Christians and understand them better. Christians, since the Bible includes the Jewish scriptures, cannot escape from the Judaic tradition however savagely they may have condemned the Jews for rejecting Jesus. Muslims, in their turn, regard their Faith as the culmination of this triple revelation, while the Quran suggests a preference for the Christians.

In the chapter of the Quran called Ya Sin there is a parable usually taken to refer to Moses, Jesus and Muhammad: “The people of the city when those sent (by God) came to them when We sent to them two, and they rejected them, so We reinforced them with a third, who said: ‘See! We have been sent to you.’ They (the people of the city) said: ‘You are only mortals like ourselves. The Most Merciful one has revealed nothing. You are liars!'” This theme of rejection recurs constantly in the Quran because it has been a constant factor in human history and in human nature, which is drawn simultaneously in two different directions-towards two magnetic poles-the Light and the dark.

The term “Muslim” (with a capital letter) is properly applied only to those who follow the message of the Quran, but, when it takes the lower case, it has a far more universal meaning. In the first place, everyone and everything is muslim in the sense that all, knowingly or unknowingly, are subject to the Divine Will and cannot escape from it. The rock that falls by the force of gravity is muslim; so are the birds and the beasts of the field, so too is humankind as a whole. All submit to the will of their creator. Secondly, those who choose to obey guidance from above are Muslim in a higher sense. When, in the Quran, the followers of Jesus confess, “We are muslims”, they cannot have meant that they followed a messenger as yet unborn. There is, then, Islam as a recognizable religion, there is Islam as the faith and practice of all who believe in God and, finally, there is the islam of creation as such. Nothing that enjoys the light of existence is self-sufficient. Everything depends upon the source from which it came and to which it will return when creation is wrapped up and submits to its own end.


Excerpted from the book "Remembering God" by Charles Le Gai Eaton.

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Remembering God
By Charles Le Gai Eaton
(241 pages – English)

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Written by the best-selling author of "Islam and the Destiny of Man", "Remembering God: Reflections on Islam" is a profound analysis of the most urgent concerns and questions facing us at the beginning of the twenty-first century.


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  1. Islam was the religion/faith of all prophets.

    Islam means Submission and all Prophets submitted completely to One God (Allah, Elah,

    Yahweh, Elohim, Lord, Paramatma (whatever the name is)

    Judaism and Christianity were not started by Moses or Jesus by innovated by Men.

    Neither Jesus nor Moses called themselves or the people as Christians or Jews.

  2. Aslamualykum.

    This article should not have been posted. There is confusion in it.

    The author is to be advised.

    “O mankind there has come to you a good advice from you Lord (i.e the Qur’an, enjoining all that is good and forbidding evil) and a healing for that which is in you breasts – a guidance and a mercy (explaining the lawful and unlawful things) for the believers.” (Qur’an 10:54)

  3. Salaam,

    I am in favour of Dr Edriss’s comments. Be very careful when trying to translate the meanings of certain ayah/ verses in the Quran. There are two types of Ayah/Verses : (1)Muhkamaat (clear) & (2)Mutasyaabihaat (ambiguous). Ask the learnt Islamic scholars when dealing with no.(2).


  4. Salaam,

    Generally, quite a good article that invites second thought! However, I doubt the term “Muslims” should also refer to others as well apart from those who embrace Islam. The moment Allah swt declares Islam as the true religion via The Quran to Prophet Muhammad saw,

    the term “Muslims” only refer to those who follow the teachings of Quran & Sunnah.

    But I also wonder: being Muslims nowadays is not the very thing. Being Mukmin with “7” noble characters is everything in the strict sense of the term.


    Mohamad Taib Hussaini

  5. As[k].brother….

    I am sorry if the comment was not a good comment because of the matter in grammer. But i was very interest to add a vision and enrich the paradigm about the religion

    aplicate in our mind and heart. If you are in mind, You can ask to friend or brother Muslims to translate it more. Brother, I can feel deep what your matter to applicate the religion laws from the difference of culture in west and east (This is a first mistake paradigm in Our Islam world to

    use the words “culture or even more social theories as paradigm base to dialog or communication approach with all, Muslim or not).

    Please try to use logical approach to find Allah

    SWT (God of the universe).Please try to make an approach in learning this

    religion from its universally. Skip all theories and find that personally. Remember the current you and all are same as Younger Abraham (AS) when he confused finding true and Logic God. We know the culture

    surround him (his father and families and all) hold the polytheism faith and culture strongly.

    And he was alone. All Human have G-Spot (God Spot)

    in mind. But sometimes we hardly use it personally

    .We always choise a picture (result of complicated

    mindset and media information globally). Remember , this have same situasionally of younger Abraham era. But have more variations. All religions may

    teach monotheism. But the religion that fit with

    G-spot and logically is Islam. When we ourselves define How the face of God, the creator of the universe, the creator of time and all we will find

    that Allah SWT is the One. It is final. Islam is

    what we want all about universal. Islam accept

    the difference. I am very sad look the religion

    learned as object as social and culture problem approach. It is show time the faith to solve human problems all human of the world, no discrimination

    in faith, ethnic and all.


  6. Salam alaikom,

    Baaraka Allah feek Akhi Adam and those you supported. and may Allah guides this guy who wrote this article.

    brothers and sisters in Islam, it is not about spending 50 years or a month in Islam. it is about a part in the body, if it is repaired, the whole body get repaired: it is the heart as the Prophet Salla Allah alaih wa sallam said.

    the Prophet Salla Allah alaih wa sallam also said “it is enough lying for the moslem, to preach from whatever he heard” this hadith narrated by many include Imam moslem:

    the hadith clear call us to check about the information we hear.

    for the brother who wrote the article, may Allah guides you to the right path of Islam not of selling books. or you took that part of yaassin and you twist it to fit what you think or you heard it from someone who did that. and a both are wrong Akhi.

    brother, I’m an arab raised on the Qur’aan and Hadith before I studied few years in the University. I do not recall someone or a book where there is any explanation close to what you said. and to remind you, in Islamic University, we learn all almadaahib and the groups, none of them quoted to say what you said. the big problem Akhi is you come close to the truth but you miss it for some benefits in this life. the worst losers following Allah subhanah wa ta’aala:

    18:103 Say: “Shall we tell you of those who lose most in respect of their deeds?-

    18:104 “Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they thought that they were acquiring good by their works?”

    I wish Allah protect all of us from this losers and the story of Surat yaassin is real story of 3 Prophets (not messengers). they had only one follower which is the one killed at the end of the story.

    NB: the moon and star never ever been symbol of Islam. we do not use symbols to the Path desired to us by Allah.

    salam alaikom

  7. We have not sent you but as Mercy to the whole Universe.Allah has sent the Prophet to invite the whole mankind to the worship of One God as preached by all Prophets from Adam Noah,Abraham down to Moses,Jesus, and all other Prophets.Some came to smal towns,some to cities some to countries and Rasulullah as the last Prophetwas sent to the entire mankind white,black red mixed race and the entire humanity .It is our resposibility as our respected retired diplomat Gai Eaton tried to explain to convey this message.May Allah reward him and give him longer life to continue serving the Ummah as he has been doing for more than half a century.O mankind we created male and female and made you nations and tribes so that you know one another.Lo the noblest amongst you is he who has taqwa i.e more pious.

  8. salaamu alaikum,

    Great paragraphs to read..shukran!

    In a nutshell, the Torah is the first testament, the Bible is the New Testament and the Quran is the final testament!



  9. When I understood the interpretation of the word “Muslim” for an upright person without harboring any doubts to the goodness of God, I counted myself to be one. Again as I encountered the word “Islam” to submission to the Will of God, I fitted that definition having done that myself as follows:

    Jn 6:28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

    Jn 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

    Jn 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

    1Thes 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

    Now I ask, why do the unbelievers call themselves “Muslims” when they are not upright with God?

    Why do they claim their religion as “Islam” when they hate God and the believers? If Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the tribes were Muslims without vehemently claiming to be so, why so many vehemently claim so and knock at the door when they are giants in themselves and do not fit in the room? There is a problem. The right interpretation and explanation may offend many good meaning persons. God knows those who are His. …

  10. I would like to read this book and I am with Imran Ahmed that we do not need to explain but improve and educate who are needy and wants to learn.

  11. I will concur with Imran and Aslam in their submissions, the interpretation of those verses of Sura Ya sin needed clarificafications by brother Charles, and also that monotheism was first (at the beginning of the creation of the first human)then followed by polytheism (at later periods when human grow wings and wanted to become stubborn).

    One thing should be clear, The laws of Moses (AS) belongs to those who followed Moses during his ministry just like the laws of Jesus (AS) belong to those that followed the TRUE teachings of Jesus during the ministry of Jesus. The laws of Muhammad (SAW) came to confirmed the previous messages including (but not limited to) those of Moses (AS) and Jesus (AS) on true monetheism and total submission to Allah (the God and Sustainer of all creations) and therefore by implication the universal message to all mankind from the day of the first revelation to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) till the end of times. To buttress the point further, there was an incident when Umar (RA) the secon khalif, was browsing through the “taurah” of Moses (AS) when he was sighted by the prophet. The prophet’s remark was emphatic that even if Moses (AS) were to return to this world he would have to follow the current teachings of Islam.

    Sum total: those who decided currently to continue to follow the “teachings” of previous prophets as opposed to the teachings of the final prophet Muhammad (SAW) are at lost, period.

    NB AS => ‘Alaihis-salam

    RA => Radiyal-Allahu ‘anhu

    SAW => Sallal-Allahu ‘alaihi wasallam

  12. Very well explained. Possibly muslim is also the thread that binds us; the clot of blood that is called platelet, that becomes a hair, that knits the dna/rna protein strands together and weaves a body: inside & outside.

    People may understand koran, because the koran is written down. What is not written down is


    The problem with Christian-Judeo is that it is not written down in any order. It is almost totally subjected to interpretation, and this

    depends on the interpreter: we can only know him/her by their Actions & we R judged by R


    Therefore, let us see the kabala and the koran;

    let us see the kristian writings of krist’s words and works while in physical form.

    These 3 writings & actions will be excellent

    foundation 4 reflection & study, if U think so 2.

    Thank U4 U’R Excellent & EnLightening Article.


  13. With all due respects to the writer I have never heard the explanation he has given for the verses from Sura Yaseen and would like to know who originally made this interpretation of the verses.

    I also think too many Muslims (capital M always) try too hard to explain Islam to people of other faiths when they should not.

    I came to Islam from a different religion and even today I’m still learning 20 years later. I do not need to explain my actions to anyone other than ALLAH (SWT) nor do I need to defend or justify my religious beliefs to anyone.

    It is high time we looked inward at explaining Islam to Muslims less fortunate than ourselves, instead of trying to make friends in the wrong places.

  14. what a sweet and clear book, mansha allah, may allah reward the brother, it is soo reminding, “valuable lessons of the begining of 21 first Century”, may allah reward you with the best, amin ya allah,

  15. The first two monotheists in the strictest sense were Prophet Adam and Eve. The notion that Prophet Arbaham was the first monotheist is rooted in the erroneous anthropological understanding of history that argues that human civilization evolved from polytheism to monotheism on the basis of its gradual maturity.

    Religious texts present a counter argument. Monotheism was the essence of life at the beginning of the universe. This was changed by people as they failed to grasp the true dimensions of monotheism.