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The Arabic word ‘Islam’ means “complete submission and surrender” to Allah, the One God. Allah himself in the Quran, the holy book of Islam, describes the religion of Muslims with this expression. The word “Muslim”—derived from the same root slm as “Islam”—denotes one “who has submitted completely to God.” The essence of Islam, therefore, lies in submission to God, which results in peace of mind and soul.
The correct name for the religion is Islam, and the proper term for its adherents is Muslims. The origin of Islam is ascribed to one of two points in time: creation or the sixth century CE in Arabia. From the Muslim perspective, the story of Islam starts not with the Prophet Muhammad (c. 570–632) but shares a common biblical tradition that begins with Adam—with God’s creation of the universe and human beings.
In Islamic worldview, the first man was Adam and he was a prophet. He had a correct knowledge of God and creation as he was taught directly by God. In other words, he was not ignorant. His descendants make up the human race.
Some descendants of Adam followed the guidance he brought from God, whereas others did not. Some added new things and changed the original guidance. Some later went in to the worship of the stars or idols they themselves had build. Some went against the natural moral sense and inclined towards obscenity, injustice, and cruelty to others. God in His mercy continued to send prophets to guide these people beck to the straight path and to correct their errant beliefs and ways.
To every people, we are told in the Quran, God sent a guide, a messenger or a prophet. They were the genuine leaders of humankind.
All prophets taught the same message, the need to believe in the Oneness of God. It was their followers and later generations who changed or distorted this message. It is possible, for example, that Zoroaster was a true prophet but his teachings have been so corrupted that they cannot be recognized in the mixture of myths and legends that now form part of the Zoroastrian scriptures. In the case of Jesus, he was undoubtedly a true Prophet but his teachings have been changed by later Christians to the point that his original message is unrecognizable. No doubt there are still elements of good in it but totally false teachings (for example that Jesus is God made flesh or that Jesus is the son of God) make the Bible unfit to be regarded as a true scripture.
Among the prophet mentioned in the Quran are Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad. The last of these prophets was Muhammad and the message revealed to him is the Quran. It still exists in the form it was revealed and remains the only true and authentic expression of God's guidance for humankind. Realizing that our view of human history is part of our worldview, we can say that history is not mainly a progression from simple and primitive to more developed and complex tools, skills, or life-styles. History must be viewed mainly in relation to a constant straight path. This path involves in essence acknowledging the Creator and living according to the natural moral sense with which the human being is endowed. People may stick to this straight path. Same may deviate and go astray but eventually come back to the straight path. Some may deviate and not only go astray but totally get lost. The role of prophets and those who follow them has been to call people back to the straight path, to the belief in and worship of the One God - in other words, to right belief and right action according to that belief.
The most instructive way to look at human beings and the history of humankind therefore is in relation to this natural, moral constant or straight path. To look at the history of humankind from purely materialistic angles such as changes in tools and modes of production and distribution of wealth is fascinating but less meaningful.