Islam: Religion of health, not submission

SUMMERY OF Islam: Religion of health, not submission

Speaker: Bahram Borgheai

March 4th 2015,  Umass Amhert

Main Questions:

There is a significant difference between the entitling of Islam and other religions. Muslims believe that the name ‘Islam’ has been selected by God[1]. What God entitles cannot be without reason. So it is legitimate to ask what the rationale behind this entitling is.

Frankly speaking, the way people treat the meaning of the term “Islam” as submission is more close to the meaning of the term /Enghiad/ which means the blind obedience. This helps abusing and misunderstanding of this religion and as stated in the question, I think it facilitates the emergence and growth of fundamentalist religious terrorism. Islam is mostly interpreted as submission (Al-Taslim) which as will be stated in the following, faces many problems.

Here, with the help of the following six criteria, it will be examined whether the conception of submission reflects the wisdom behind this divine entitling: not to be trivial, differentiating, goal determination, etymological relevance, consistent reading of Quran and vividness.  Accordingly, we analyze the ‘submission’ with these criteria. Submission interpretation can only pass the first criterion and fails in all other criteria. Therefore, we should investigate another interpretation to replace or enrich it.

According to our research, It entails that “Islam” should be interpreted as its literal meaning indicated in Arabic and Islamic lexicons. Islam is derived from the root /s l m/ and means “making healthy and avoiding harm”[2].  This health (or well-being) includes all physical, mental (spiritual) and social aspects. Interestingly, the ‘health’ interpretation passes all criteria. Specifically, health interpretation in comparison to submission provides a more consistent reading of verses in the Quran where the term ‘Islam’ is used.


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Now, based on the etymological methodology, we can come back to the submission conception. Submission (/Taslim/) is similarly rooted from /slm/. Thus, it literally means selecting health, and keeping off harm. In wars “be submitted” means: do not harm yourself! Come to the way which it is healthful! Thus to reconcile the submission conception with our proposal, we could enrich its meaning as “willing and acting divine instructions to become healthy and to avoid harm”.

Interestingly, by this etymological approach, we can figure out why the followers of Islam, i.e. Muslims, are called /Momin/ in the Quran. /Momin/ is rooted from /amn/ which means kept safe, i.e. devoid of harm and danger. Thus, it implies healthy (Muslim).  The other synonym term for Muslim is /Moslih/ which is derived from /s l h/ meaning peace, i.e. being devoid of challenge and defects of war. Again there is a load of health. More interesting are the terms used in Qur’an as the antonym of Muslims, i.e. for non-believers and sinful people. One term is /Kafer/ which has rooted from /k f r/ meaning to cover. The other term is /Mojrem/ which is rooted from /j r m/ means get germs. Furthermore, frequently Qur’an describes non-believers as those whose heart is sick, the term it used is exactly sickness /Maraz/. All of these antonym terms carry the load of impurity, uncleanness and in general unhealthiness.

Good to mention that health should not be confined only to the physical health, but it should also considered as mental, bodily and social health. By this conception in many of modern problems we can find Devine’s approach.

The bodily conception of health necessitates that a Muslim should be healthy person and should follow all scientifically proven results of empirical modern medicine. Sport will be religiously mandatory. Smoking will be obviously forbidden. Suicide bombing will be forbidden.

With mental conception of health, religion and psychology will become good friends. They can come together to cure mental disorders. Thinking rationally will be mandatory, since otherwise it is not suited for a healthy mind (Muslim). Thus, all Muslims should think to their problems and blind obedience will be forbidden.

More interesting is the social conception of health. Terrorism is forbidden, since it is against and harmful for the society’s health. It ruins people and social peace. Dictatorship is forbidden.

By this interpretation, a rational and scientific exploration of Islamic instructions becomes possible. Furthermore, it stops (political) abusing of Islam and its followers through blind submission and depicts a more peaceful and scientific image of Islam to the world.

2- /Najes/ literally means polluted and impure. Recalling what stated above, granting Muslim as who has been conducted through health and getting devoid from harm and defect, it is almost in the same line that the non-believer be called impure, since they have not been kept away from pollution, impurity and defect.

It is worth noting that the terms Qur’an has used for non-Muslim people,(/kafer/ , /mojrem/ or /Najes/ or having /Maraz/) all convey a meaning that in essence they are clean and without problem, but they have been polluted or contaminated through some (external) impurities. Thus all humans are clean in nature and so, altruistically, Qur’an treat all people the same in nature, but different through gaining some covers or impurities without disturbing their essence.


[1] Al Imran, verse19 and Ma’idah Surah, Verse3

[2] (Tabari A., Jame al-Bayan) (MusaviSabzevari, A. ,Mavaheb-l Rahman)


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Comments (4)

  • 1. Ramin | 16 Jun 2015

I think the correct translation of the word Islam, makes it clear that Islam is the way of peace, not the opposite.

  • 2. Hossein | 16 Jun 2015

This is an interesting article I ever have seen since expresses a contradictious idea toward regular thought about ISLAM. There is a gap in my mind regarding health which is defined by ISLAM. Is there a criteria for health defined by ISLAM? I want to clarify my question by some descriptions. A pilot needs a certain level and specific kind of health to be able to fly plane. A physician needs a certain level of health to be able to remedy others. So I can express my question by another perspective: What is the goal of health which ISLAM promises to followers?

  • 3. Mohammad | 16 Jun 2015

As presented, the criteria for any treatment in Islam is the healthiness of that. So, the crucial question is that, in some cases we have to compromise between two healthy acts, and it needs expert knowledge to figure out which of these healthy treats are more like to the goal of Islam, and it seems this the point that each sect conclude their own compromise and it leads to separation among them. please let me know how you can prevent this separation, by defining just a simple meaning of Islam as religion of health, otherwise every sect declare their own interpretation, consequently it build a vague definition from religion of health.

Kazem Ahmad
  • 4. Kazem Ahmad | 14 May 2015

You are saying that the meaning of Islam is health? and teaching that to Arabs who their own language is Arabic? How many years you have studied Arabic? Remember, even if you study it for many years, you will not be a professional in it like a native Arab.

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