Knowing themselves as the true Muslims and real Arabs, ISIS wanted to establish an Islamic State in which Islam rules. They attacked thousands of places several times, held many as slaves, mostly women and children, and murdered thousands, whether army forces or ordinary people. Although the focus of their activities was in Iraq and Syria, surely you remember what they committed in France and other countries far from Iraq and Syria. On their opposite side were Iraqi and Syrian forces who were also Muslim and Arab and finally overcame ISIS.
Two groups of Muslims are in war. Which side was true? We shed light on some terms to clarify the issue.
The last prophet (PBUH&HP) was an Arab and began his mission in an Arab country. The language of the Quran and Islamic rituals is Arabic, too. This has led to the fusion of terms such as Islam, Muslims, and Arabs. But there are about 1.8 billion Muslims and about 400 million Arabs in the world. So, not all Muslims are Arab. Like anyone else in the world, Arabs can choose their religion. There are Arabs with religions other than Islam or even ethnic Arabs. So not all Arabs, but many of them, are Muslim.
Anyone who believes that: 1. there is no true god but Allah, 2. Allah has sent prophets to guide humankind, and 3. the day of judgment is true and will come, and pronounces the testimonies of faith (Shahaadatain) is a Muslim [i].
These are the gates to the world of rationality and peace. The world designed for a perfect version of life; in which no room has been arranged for violence. But ISIS forces, who claimed to be Muslim, oppressed many countries and two of them in particular and killed many innocent people. They had not tasted faith; they only used Islamic coverage to reach their goals.
You can find some pictures of ISIS dead forces with a spoon in their pocket. They believed that after their death, they will meet Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and will eat with him in heaven. Poor fools! I think if they did not die on time, they would not catch that meal and they had to wash the dishes.
Therefore, we should differentiate between a Muslim and a Muslim believer.
“The Bedouins say: We have faith. Say: You do not have faith yet; rather say: We have embraced Islam; for faith has not yet entered into your hearts.” (49:14)
Any believer is a Muslim, but not all Muslims are believers.
Saying some words turns you into a Muslim and the rules of Islam runs for you. But the faith is saying what you believe by heart and showing this in your deeds. So, having faith is a higher stage after accepting Islam. A Muslim believer tries to be fully acquainted with Islam and the logic behind its rules and adapt every aspect of life with Islamic teachings.
The nature of all divine religions has been the same, i.e., surrendering to God and obeying Him in all aspects. There have only been little differences in some formalities. Like other religions, although Islam emerged in a particular locality, it was not restricted to that.
Verily, this Qur'an is a reminder for humankind throughout the world. (81:27)
The religions and instructions brought by prophets to people were in accordance with the capacity and level of understanding of different eras. But Islam is the last religion and was brought by the last prophet (PBUH&HP)[ii]. There will be no other religion after that. So, Islam must be an all-inclusive religion, containing all the necessities of human beings until the end. Islam is the continuation of the previous religions and completes them.
It has been traditional for God to appoint a religious leader for people at all times to guide them and clarify the Devine instructions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has marked the correct path of Islam forever in one of the most famous and important Islamic narrations (thaqalain): “Verily, I am leaving behind two precious things among you: The Book of God and my kindred, my household. As far as you take hold of these two, you will never go astray. For indeed, the two will never separate until they come to me by the Pond (of al-Kawthar on the Judgement's Day).”  Prophet Muhammad and the twelve Imams (AS) after Him are leaders of Islam. But now that the twelfth Imam is absent, how should we determine the correct path?
Three sources to the pure Islam;
Islam 1: Quran and authentic narrations from Imams.
Islam 2: Interpretations of Islamic jurisprudents of Islam 1.
Islam 3: The manner of Muslim public.
If we base our opinion towards Islam on Islam 3, it will result in a many-colored or contradictory type of Islam; because we observe different beliefs and customs in Muslim nations.
The best way is following the Islamic jurisprudent who are best familiar with Islam and can take us as near as possible to the truth of Islam.
Anything belonging or referring to Islam which agrees to its basis can be called Islamic. It can be an Islamic government, an Islamic rule, Islamic food, etc.
The actions of nations, groups, and important figures claiming to be Muslim should not form our opinion about Islam. We should be fully familiar with Islam and based on this recognition, decide if something is Islamic or not.
Imam Ali (AS) says: “Truth is not recognized by figures; Know the truth, you will recognize its followers.” 
[i]. See “The Islamic axioms”
[ii]. See “Is Muhammad (PBUH&HP) the Last Prophet?”
- Wassail Al-Shi’a, v.27, p.34; Bihar Al-Anvar, v.2, p.100
- Bihar Al-Anvar, v.40, p.126
The foundation of each person’s life is the faith they have in what they believe. Like other belief systems, there are some “ Islamic axioms”- basic principles or self-evident truths- whose acceptance is regarded as the leading entry to this religion.
Unlike Saint Augustine’s [i] claim that says: “I believe in order to understand,” which shows a lack of reason in at least some sects of Christianity, in Islamic reasoning, rational thinking is a priori and prerequisite for the realization of faith.
In Islam, faith is nothing beyond human’s reason and understanding; in other words, the axioms of this religion are the fundamental principles that are rational by themselves and can be ascertained by people’s common sense. So stepping into the stage of this faith depends on the submission that is gained through preliminary investigation of its axioms.
Additionally, faith is not accepted in Islam unless these doctrines are freely investigated and understood by every individual either commonsensically or intellectually, so Imitation is not permitted at this stage. Consequently, the basic principles or doctrines of Islam are defined as axioms that have to be testified on the verge of converting to Islam.
One might wonder what these axioms are. The most certain and evident of them are monotheism (Tawhid), prophethood (Nubuwwah) and the afterlife (Ma'ad), which are innate in human’s nature separately. ‘Tawhid’ or monotheism is the most fundamental religious knowledge that holds God exists, is The Only One and independent of the entire creation. It declares the unity and uniqueness of God as the only creator and sustainer of the universe.
The realization of this concept (the existence and oneness of God) is before the other two (prophethood and afterlife), that is its acceptance leads to the affirmation of them rationally.
Prophethood is God's blessing and favor that is bestowed on an individual chosen by Him to convey His message. Every prophet states that all he receives is from Allah and for the well-being of humanity. He confirms what was revealed before him and what may be revealed by a future prophet.
Thus the revealed message is always the same in essence and purpose, and it cannot deviate from prior or future revelations. Prophets are needed for conveying God's instructions and guidance to humankind. Without this knowledge, we would be unable to answer the fundamental questions of our existence either here in this world or the world that is to come.
Information about the afterlife, as the third fundamental axiom in Islamic teaching, is provided by the prophets whose truth we have testified. They have told us to have faith in the continued existence of human beings after death and that there will be a day of judgment when all humans will be held accountable for their actions and divided between the eternal destinations of Paradise and Hell.
In brief, Islam is the religion of rational thinking that encourages its followers to individually investigate and question the truth of its doctrines before accepting them, to reach firm belief through common sense or intellect; this makes them submit to God’s commands willingly and contently.
[i]. An early Christian theologian and philosopher.
The plurality of different religions is undoubtedly one of the most important issues that concern people who are interested in religious studies today. Some of the questions they may ask include:
- Which religion is right?
- What do they have in common?
- How should the followers of different faiths behave when faced with the followers of other religions?
- Will all religions lead to eternal salvation?
In this article, we will see how Islam regards other religions and more specifically how it deals with the questions above.
According to the Islamic viewpoint, all Divine religions have been sent to connect human beings to their Gracious Creator, the only one God. Quran says:
“O People of the Book! Come to a common word between us and you: that we will worship no one but Allah, that we will not ascribe any partner to Him, and that some of us will not take some others as lords besides Allah…” (3:64)
As per this verse, Islam holds that all the other Divine religions root in Monotheism. The idea of God is actually so clear in these monotheistic faiths that some religious studies scholars regard it as an essential requirement for them to be included in the category of religions; in other words, those faiths that have no belief in God or practices of worship cannot be called religion at all.
Moreover, though the followers of some other faiths may worship different gods, all the Abrahamic religions assert the unity of God, and that He is the only Creator. This has been mentioned in the holy Quran many times:
“We did not send any apostle before you but that We revealed to him that ‘There is no god except Me; so worship Me.’” (21:25)
The belief in One God is somehow evident in the other religions as well; lots of them admit the fact that they feel there is some being which created the world and life and influences it to some extent. Quran says:
“If you ask them, ‘Who created the heavens and the earth, and who has disposed the sun and the moon?’ They will surely say, ‘Allah.’” (29:61)
This has also been asserted in the verses of Bible and Torah:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before Me. "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.…” (Exodus 20:3) .
Contrary to popular belief, the religion of Islam does not deny the truth of the previous monotheistic religions, rather the religion of God was perfected in Islam through the revelation that was sent to the last messenger of God, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):
“We have sent down to you the Book with the truth, confirming what was before it of the Book and as a guardian over it…” (5:48)
In fact, Islam has been revealed to purify the previous faiths from distortions and to complete their teachings:
“Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam as your religion…” (5:3)
The advent of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) with his true religion was also predicted in the Bible:
“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and He will declare to you what is to come” (John, 16:13) .
Also, Islamic teachings and the holy Quran always emphasize the significance of respecting the freedom and other rights of the followers of the previous religions; Muslims, accordingly, hold the followers of those religions in high regard:
“Do not argue with the People of the Book [the followers of the previous monotheistic faiths] except in a manner which is best, except such of them as are wrongdoers, and say, ‘We believe in what has been sent down to us and in what has been sent down to you; our God and your God is one [and the same], and to Him do we submit.’” (29:46)
In Islam “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256), and even if one chooses to follow another monotheistic faith other than Islam, he/she has every right to live in peace among Muslims as an honored citizen with all rights and privileges .
“So set your heart as a person of pure faith on this religion, the original nature endowed by Allah according to which He originated mankind…” (30:30)
Muslims believe that the innate religion is something both Muslims and non-Muslims possess by birth; this original religion is what Muslims define as Islam. They also hold that the differences between various religions are due to particular requirements and potentials of societies during the various periods of prophecy:
“We did not send any apostle except with the language of his people so that he might make [Our messages] clear to them.” (14:4)
Consequently, the calls of the prophets were alike since all their invitations originated from a single source and followed a unified line of faith with a single aim, i.e., submission to the Lord of the worlds, which is the real meaning of Islam:
“Indeed, with Allah religion is Islam” (3:19)
In fact, Islam, i.e., submission to Allah is the cornerstone of all religions.
So, Muslims testify to the truth of all God’s Messengers and that they have all agreed with each other, each of them testifying to the truth of the words of the preceding Prophets (AS) and giving the tidings of the Divine appointment of the next Messenger:
“Say, ‘We have faith in Allah and what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus were given, and that which the prophets were given by their Lord; we make no distinction between any of them and to Him do we submit’” (2:136).
Indeed, with Allah religion is Islam 
Islam is a religion for all human beings of all time:
“We did not send you [Muhammad] but as a mercy to all the nations” (21:107)
This verse clearly indicates the universality of the message brought by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP).
Although the holy Quran regards belief in the prophets a major basis of a Muslim’s ideology, it maintains that what was revealed to the last Prophet, Muhammad (PBUH&HP), was the most advanced program and the perfect law of the divine religion:
“It is He who has sent His Apostle with guidance and the true religion that He may make it prevail over all religions though the polytheists should be averse” (61:9).
Accordingly, it will not be accepted by Allah to remain on the previous incomplete paths after the revelation of the Holy Quran:
“Should anyone follow a religion other than Islam, it shall never be accepted from him, and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter” (3:85).
The verse above does not, however, mean that the followers of other faiths will be all losers. Quite the opposite! There are believers who have not had a chance to reach the completed and updated truth, or those who are exposed to intense propaganda against Islam and think it is impossible that such a religion (distorted image of Islam) might be the right way to salvation, or even those Christians, Jews or any other believers who have searched enough and have been convinced, based on reasons, that their beliefs are right (even if their reasons seem invalid and wrong in the eyes of Muslims); what do you think Quran says about them?
“Indeed, the faithful, the Jews, the Christians and the Sabaeans—those of them who have faith in Allah and the Last Day and act righteously—they shall have their reward from their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve” (2:62).
Finally, going through the Quranic verses about religions and their messages, we may conclude that Islam encompasses all the other divine revelations; the ones that have been distorted throughout history, or simply do not sufficiently meet people’s needs any longer; Islam is, in fact, the final, authentic, complete, and updated message of God that draws a perfect picture of man and the base for his reformation that will ultimately lead to his salvation.