By IMAM JAMAL RAHMAN
Islam was revealed to Prophet Muhammad in year 570 AD more than 1,400 years ago. It is the second largest religion in the world, with 1.6 billion adherents. Unfortunately, the religion of Islam continues to be linked to terrorism, due to the politically motivated acts of violence committed in its name, leaving many to wonder, “What is Islam?”
Islam is a spiritual path that is defined by the root of its name, Salaam. Like its Hebrew cousin, Shalom, Salaam means “peace” in the sense of psychological and emotional wellbeing—the well-being that comes from surrendering the ego to a higher, divine power; following the precepts of the prophets and the Qur’an; and doing our best to be God’s agents for good upon the earth.
According to a celebrated prophetic saying (Hadith), a stranger dressed in white appeared to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and posed this exact question. After an intense conversation, the visitor disappeared as mysteriously as he had arrived. To his astonished companions who witnessed the event, the Prophet confided that the visitor was the angel Gabriel in the shape of a human. The angel validated the Prophet’s understanding of the core teachings of Islam contained in three principles and five pillars.