Last week we covered the question: What is “Islam?” and we learned that Islam is a non-Christian religion.
Question #2: What is the meaning of “Islam?”
The word Islam comes from the Arabic verb meaning, “to submit, surrender or commit oneself to the will of Allah.” It carries the idea of “action.” Thus, the act of submissive commitment to the will of Allah is at the very heart of Islam. Therefore, a “Muslim” (a noun form of the same verb) literally means “the one who submits.”
Question #3: Where does Islam come from?
The seed of present day Islam was planted all the way back in Genesis chapter 16. Here Abraham and Sarah try to “help God out” in fulfilling His promise to give them a son in their old age: “So Sarai said to Abram, ‘Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid [Hagar]; perhaps I will obtain children through her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai” (Genesis 16:2).
We need to understand the cultural context for this practice. As a servant, Hagar was considered both the property and legal extension of her mistress, Sarah. As such, Sarah could employ Hagar to perform a variety of household tasks and even use her to serve as a surrogate mother (a substitute) for her own barren womb. And so, when Ishmael was born, he legally became the son of Abraham and Sarah.
“The angel of the Lord said to [Hagar] further, ‘Behold, you are with child, And you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction. He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers,” literally, “in defiance of” all his brothers (Genesis 16:11-12).
Keep in mind that Abraham was 86 years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him (Genesis 16:16). Thirteen years later, God’s original promise to Abraham and Sarah was fulfilled in the birth of Isaac. You can read the rest of the story in Genesis 21:1-21.
“For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. … But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also” (Galatians 4:22-23, 29).
(Jessie J. Charpentier Sr. is pastor of Jenkins Memorial Baptist Church in St. Martinville.)