Islam and Muslim are both Arabic words that are derived from three letters: seen laam and meem, س ل م. These three letters make up the root word, selima, which, when the letters are rearranged, has a multitude of meanings from providing safety to sincerity.
Selima in its original form means to be safe, secure, protected, guarded or free from. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used the word selima to describe a Muslim. He is reported to have said "A true Muslim (person who surrenders to God) is he from whose tongue and hand other believers remain safe (selima).” (1) Here, the word selima is being used to describe one of the attributes of a true Muslim, which is someone who keeps from harming others.
Muslim, another derivation of selima means a person who submits or surrenders to the command of his Creator and Sustainer. In its dual and plural form, Muslim is used in a prayer made by Abraham after building the Kaba’h (2) with his son Ismail (peace be upon them both). Abraham prays to his Lord saying “Our Lord make us of those who submit (Muslimayni) to You and make our descendants a community who submit (Muslimah) to You.” (3)
The verb aslama, also derived from selima, means to submit, surrender or give in. God says “Nay, All who submit (aslama) themselves completely to God and are doers of good will find their reward with their Lord and they will feel no fear and know no sorrow.” (4) Aslama can also mean to be sincere. Arabs say aslama deenahu lillahi, which means ‘he made his religion sincere for God.’ Islam, another derivation, means to submit to the sacred law revealed by God to His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him).
The Islamic greeting, assalamu alaikum, is translated as “peace be upon you”. The word as-salam is derived from selima and means peace, tranquility and safety. As-salam is also one of God’s names which means, The One who gives peace and so the Islamic greeting is in reality a prayer for the one being addressed, as well as a promise and assurance of peace and safety to the one who receives these words.
Prophet Jesus (upon him be peace) uses the word assalam in a prayer that he makes for himself as a baby, which is described in the chapter of Mary in the Qu’ran. After his blessed mother Mary (upon her be peace) gave birth to Prophet Jesus, she returned to her people who could not believe that she had given birth to a child without a father.
“She brought him to her people, carrying him. They said - when they saw her with a child -‘Maryam, you have done an unthinkable thing - producing a baby with no father! Sister of Harun, your father was not an evil man (a fornicator), nor was your mother an unchaste woman so how can you have this child? She pointed towards him (asking them to listen to her child who testifies to his mother’s innocence) They said “How can a baby in the cradle speak?” He Jesus said “I am the slave of God. He has given me the book (the Gospel) and made me a Prophet. He has made me blessed wherever I am and directed me to pray and pay charity as long as I live and to show devotion to my mother. He has not made me insolent or arrogant. Peace (assalamu) be upon me the day I was born, and the day I die and and the day I am raised up again alive.”
The richness and beauty of the Arabic language can be seen in the word selima and all that is derived from it. A true Muslim is a person who possesses the qualities and meanings of the word Islam. He is a person who surrenders to the Creator sincerely living in tranquility, offers peace to society, works on becoming a person of perfection, prays for humanity and is a source of security for those around him.
Se li ma
Selima - to be free from, safe, secure, protected Islam- submission, surrender, giving in Aslama- to be sincere to surrender Muslim- a person who submits As-salaam- peace and safety As-salaam- one of Gods divine names the One who gives peace and safety. As-Salaamah- free from imperfections, reconciliation. Silm -peace or peace treaty Musallamah- perfectly sound free from defect
* All references to the Prophet Muhammad are followed by the salutation (Peace and blessings be upon him)(1) Bukhari and Muslim (the book of faith) (2) Kaba’h- The sacred house of worship located in the city of Mecca built by Abraham and his son Ismael peace be upon them. (3) Quran, The Cow, Chapter 2, verse 128 (4) Quran, The Cow, Chapter 2, verse 112
By Kemal Cecunjanin