Islam is the last of all the Divine faiths. Its name was instituted by the Qur’aan during the Farewell Pilgrimage:
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا
This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (Soorah Maa’idah: 3)
Islam is the last of the universal faiths. Today it numbers over 1.5 billion followers. Every country in the world has at least a small Muslim minority. Islam has shown itself to be not only the most widespread faith in the world, but also the most dynamic one, attracting converts at a faster rate than at any time in the last few centuries.
The Arabic term Islam, meaning submission, points to a fundamental religious tenet that a Muslim submits to the Will of Allah (The Mighty and Majestic) by conforming inwardly and outwardly to His law. Islam is not a religion in the narrow sense used by secular humanists in the West, but it is the universal and eternal religion made known through Prophets to every nation or people since the human race first began. This religion of Islam lays great emphasis on uncompromising monotheism and strict adherence to its creed and its method of worship. It enjoins submission to the Will of Allah (The Mighty and Majestic) and urges every person to follow as closely as possible the exemplary way of the life of Muhammad (peace be upon him), the last of the Prophets and Messengers.
Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) created the universe and what is in it so that He would be recognized as the One and only God. He created men and jinn only to celebrate His praise, and worship Him. Allah (The Most High) says:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone). (Soorah adh-Dhaariyaat: 56)
The method and form of worship are not left to man’s whim or discretion. Allah (The Mighty and Majestic) is the one who ordains and decrees all acts of worship and how they must be performed. Since Islam deals with every aspect of life, spiritual and physical, it’s jurisprudence is based on creed, worship, admonitions and ordinances dealing with social, economic, and political transactions.
Because Islam is a perfect way of life, it enjoins the maintenance of a refined standard of character. Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “Verily, I have been sent to perfect good character.” Allah (The Mighty and Majestic) praised the model behavior of his Messenger (peace be upon him) by His saying:
وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ
And verily, you (O Muhammad) are upon an exalted standard of character. (Soorah Al-Qalam: 4)
‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her), the wife of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him), was asked about his behavior. She said, “His standard of behavior was the Qur’aan.” ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) meant that the prophet (peace be upon him) adhered strictly to the Qur’aan, to its rules of discipline, commands, and prohibitions and to all of its excellent, beautiful, and gracious teachings. For this reason, Allah (The Mighty and Majestic) commands the believers to follow the exemplary life of His messenger (peace be upon him):
لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّـهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ
Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) you have an excellent example to follow. (Soorah Al-Ahzab: 21)
Islam enjoins good characters expressed in good manners for every occasion (e.g., on greeting, sitting, eating, learning, teaching, sporting, traveling, dressing, eating, sleeping, treating people, particularly relatives and neighbors with kindness, etc.). Codes for all such aspects of refined behavior are found in both the Qur’aan and the traditions of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him).
The family enjoys a high status in Islam. It is the core of the society because a healthy family means a healthy society. Hence Allah (The Mighty and Majestic) commands that parents be treated with gentleness and submissiveness saying:
وَقَضَىٰ رَبُّكَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا ۚ إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِندَكَ الْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَا أَوْ كِلَاهُمَا فَلَا تَقُل لَّهُمَا أُفٍّ وَلَا تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُل لَّهُمَا قَوْلًا كَرِيمًا ﴿٢٣﴾ وَاخْفِضْ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ وَقُل رَّبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي صَغِيرًا
And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: “My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was small.” (Soorah Al-Isra: 23-24)
Next to the immediate family come kinfolk. Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said that Allah (The Mighty and Majestic) has promised to be kind to the person who treat his kin with kindness, and to bar from Allah’s Mercy the person who servers relations with his relatives.
Source: Darussalam Research Division, What is Islam, p. 35-38