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Muslims are found throughout various parts of the world including China
Muslims are found throughout various parts of the world including China

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A Muslim (Arabic: مسلم‎) is an adherent of the religion of Islam. The feminine form is Muslimah[1] (Arabic: مسلمة‎). Literally, the word means "one who submits (to God)". Muslim is the participle of the same verb of which Islām is the infinitive.[2] Muslims believe that there is only one God, translated in Arabic as Allāh. Muslims believe that Islam existed long before Muhammad and that the religion had evolved with time from the time of Adam until the time of Muhammad and was completed with the revelation of verse 3 of Surah al-Maeda:

This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.

The Qur'an describes many Biblical prophets and messengers as Muslim: Adam, Noah (Arabic: Nuh), Moses (Arabic: Mūsā) and Jesus (Arabic: ˤĪsā) and his apostles. The Qur'ān states that these men were Muslims because they submitted to God, preached his message and upheld his values. Thus, in Surah 3:52 of the Qur'ān, Jesus’ disciples tell Jesus, "We believe in God; and you be our witness that we submit and obey (wa ashahadu bil-muslimūna)."

Most Muslims consider making ritual prayer five times a day a religious duty (fard) (see the section on Ismāˤīlīs below for exceptions); these five prayers are known as fajr, dhuhr, ˤasr, maghrib and ˤishā'. There is also a special Friday prayer called jumuˤah. Currently, the number of Muslims is estimated to be 1.3 billion.




Main article: S-L-M

Arabic muslimun is the stem IV participle[3] of the triliteral S-L-M "to be whole, intact". A literal translation would be "one who wants or seeks wholeness", where "wholeness" translates islāmun. In a religious sense, Al-Islām translates to "faith, piety", and Muslim to "one who has (religious) faith or piety".

The feminine form of muslimun is muslimatun (Arabic: مسلمة‎).

Other words for Muslim

The ordinary word in English is "Muslim", pronounced /'mʊs.lɪm/ or /'mʌz.ləm/. The word is pronounced /'mʊslɪm/ in Arabic. It is sometimes spelt "Moslem", which some regard as offensive.[4]

Until at least the mid 1960s, many English-language writers used the term Mohammedans or Mahometans.[5] Many Muslims argue that the terms are offensive because they allegedly imply that Muslims worship Muhammad rather than God.

English writers of the 19th century and earlier sometimes used the words Mussulman, Musselman, or Mussulmaun. Variant forms of this word are still used by many Indo-European languages. These words are similar to the Turkish, Kurdish, Persian, French, Russian, Spanish, Italian,Hindi and Portuguese words for "Muslim".


Most Muslims accept as a Muslim anyone who has publicly pronounced the Shahadah, which states, "There is no god except God and Muhammad is His Messenger." Currently, there are an estimated 1.4 billion Muslims, making it the second largest religion in the world.[6]

Muslim and mu'min

One of the verses in the Qur'an makes a distinction between a mu'min, a believer, and a Muslim:

The Arabs of the desert say, "We believe." (tu/minu) Say thou: Ye believe not; but rather say, "We profess Islam;" (aslamna) for the faith (al-imanu) hath not yet found its way into your hearts. But if ye obey [God] and His Apostle, he will not allow you to lose any of your actions: for [God] is Indulgent, Merciful ('The Koran 49:14, Rodwell).

According to the academician Carl Ernst, contemporary usage of the terms "Islam" and "Muslim" for the faith and its adherents is a modern innovation. As shown in the Quranic passage cited above, early Muslims distinguished between the Muslim, who has "submitted" and does the bare minimum required to be considered a part of the community, and the mu'min, the believer, who has given himself or herself to the faith heart and soul. Ernst writes:

"The Arabic term Islam itself was of relatively minor importance in classical theologies based on the Qur'an. If one looks at the works of theologians such as the famous al-Ghazali (d. 1111), the key term of religious identity is not Islam but iman(faith), and the one who possesses it is the mu'min (believer). Faith is one of the major topics of the Qur'an; it is mentioned hundreds of times in the sacred text. In comparison, Islam is a relatively less common term of secondary importance; it only occurs eight times in the Qur'an. Since, however, the term Islam had a derivative meaning relating to the community of those who have submitted to God, it has taken on a new political significance, especially in recent history."[7]

For another term in Islam for a non-Muslim who is a monotheist believer (usually applied historically in a pre-Islamic context), see hanif.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Burns & Ralph, World Civilizations, 5th ed., p. 371
  3. ^ also known as "infinitive", c.f. Burns & Ralph, World Civilizations, 5th ed., p. 371
  4. ^ Reporting Diversity guide for journalists
  5. ^ See for instance the second edition of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage by H. W. Fowler, revised by Ernest Gowers (Oxford, 1965)).
  6. ^ Teece (2003), p.10
  7. ^ Ernst, Carl, Following Muhammad, University of North Carolina Press, 2003, p. 63

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