Islam is not a new religion, but the same truth that God revealed through all His prophets to every people. For a fifth of the world's population, Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life. Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness, and the vast majority have nothing to do with the extremely grave events which have come to be associated with their faith.
The Arabic word 'Islam' simply means 'submission', and derives from a word meaning 'peace'. In a religious context it means complete submission to the will of God. 'Allah' is the Arabic name for God, which is used by Arab Muslims and Christians alike.
Islam is not a new religion but the final culmination and fulfilment of the same basic truth that God revealed through all His prophets to every people. For a fifth of the world's population, Islam is not just a personal religion but a complete way of living. Based on its linguistic origin, the Arabic word 'Islam' means to achieve peace - peace with God, peace within oneself, and peace with the creations of God through submission to God and commitment to His guidance.
The Prophet Muhammad defined Islam in the most appropriate and precise manner. The following narration is called a Hadith, more simply it is an account of the Prophet Muhammad's speech or action. The hadith is narrated by one of the companions of the Prophet. he said:
One day we were sitting in the company of Allah's
Apostle (peace be upon him) when there appeared
before us a man dressed in pure white clothes, his
hair extraordinarily black. There were no signs of
travel on him. None amongst us recognized him. At
last he sat with the Apostle (peace be upon him) He
knelt before him placed his palms on his thighs and
said: Muhammad, inform me about al-Islam. The
Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: Al-
Islam implies that you testify that there is no god but
Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah,
and you establish prayer, pay Zakat, observe the fast
of Ramadan, and perform pilgrimage to the (House)
if you are solvent enough (to bear the expense of) the
journey. He said: You have told the truth.
He (the inquirer) said: Inform me about faith. He (the
Holy Prophet) replied: That you affirm your faith in
Allah, in His Angels, in His Books, in His Messengers,
in the Day of Judgment, and you affirm your faith in
the Divine Decree about good and evil He (the
inquirer) said: You have told the truth.
He (the inquirer) again said: Inform me about al-
Ihsan (performance of good deeds). He (the Holy
Prophet) said: That you worship Allah as if you are
seeing Him, for though you don't see Him, He, verily,
sees you. Then he (the inquirer) went on his way.
It is reported that the prophet remarked that this
inquirer was actually Angel Jibraeel (Gabriel) who
had come to teach you your religion.
(Authenticated by: Bukhari)
To summarize Islam is based on: belief in Allah (one God) and the Prophethood of Muhammad, establishing five obligatory daily prayers, fasting in the month of Ramadhan, Paying the Zakah which is a charitable donation to the poor and the pilgrimage to the holy Ka'bah in Makkah.