Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Islam and Muslim

Islam vs Muslim

Nearly one quarter of the world’s population follows the religion that was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed and subsequently transcribed into the Quran. Despite its number of faithful followers that have now settled across the globe, many Westerners don’t have a clear idea of what this religion entails. Subsequently, even incredibly fundamental questions, such as the difference between Islam and Muslim, arise as these same Westerners are beginning to explore their increasingly globalized world. Beyond linguistic distinctions, there are actually very few differences between Islam and Muslim.

Definition of Islam and Muslim

  • Islam : the meaning comes from the Arabic verbal noun (like a gerund) s-l-m. When appropriate vowel markers are added the word Islam appears. The etymology of s-l-m is to submit, accept, or surrender. From this comes Islam’s conventional definition of surrender to God.
  • Muslim : also has its roots in the s-l-m verb. It is a participle of the verb and refers to a person who engages in the act of submission, acceptance, or surrender. Therefore a Muslim is a person who submits to the will of God, or a follower of Islam.

Uses of Islam and Muslim

  • Islam  is generally used in conversation to denote the religion or community of believes as a whole. For instance: ‘The Islamic community in town will be celebrating Eid next week.’ It is also used when talking about the religion as a noun unto itself. For instance: ‘Islam is based on the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed that have been written down in the Quran.’
  • Muslim  is generally used in conversation to qualify or distinguish a person. For instance, ‘Remember the Muslim man who works at the bank?’ It can also be used as a simple description of one’s religious beliefs. For instance: ‘He is Christian but she is Muslim.’ Because Muslims are a minority community in many countries and most of the West, describing someone as Muslim may also reflect on their lifestyle and choice of dress in addition to their religious beliefs.

Misuses of Islam and Muslim

  • Islam : grammatically speaking, Islam should only refer to the religion or acts done in the name of that religion, never a person who practices that religion. Islamic community and Islamic art are correct, Islamic man is not.
  • Muslim  should be used to describe all people of the Islamic faith but not the faith itself. You may say that you are interested in the religion of Muslims, but never in the Muslim religion.

Summary:
1.Islam and Muslim are both words used to describe the religion revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.
2.Islam and Muslim both have the same origin in the Arabic verb s-l-m.
3.Islam is the act of submitting to the will of God whereas a Muslim is person who participates in the act of submission.
4.To be correctly used, Islam or Islamic should describe the religion and its subsequent cultural concepts whereas Muslim should only describe the followers of the religion of Islam.


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387 Comments

  1. Is it okay to call a community ‘Muslim?’ I read in your piece that it’s a word reserved for individuals, but since a community is made up of individuals, doesn’t that make saying, “Muslim community” okay?

    I’ve grown to hate the word, ‘Islamic,’ because of the way the ignorant racists are using it. Unless in the same paragraph as say, the ‘Christian Faith,’ I can’t see any reason to refer to Islam as, ‘the Islamic Faith.’ I prefer to call Islam, “Islam.”

    And btw, while we’re on racists’ corrupted use of the English language, wtf is an ‘Islamist?” Do we call Christians, “Christianists?”

    It’d be nice if you’d address that particular word.

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