Dictionary Meanings of the Term
aslama lillahi (اَسلَمَ لِلّہِ) means to declare oneself committed to the Will of God.
The verbal noun is’lām (إِسْلَٰم) means: submission (i.e. yielding to the law, power or control of an authority); resignation; surrender; reconciliation; accepting someone’s sovereignty and authority.
Those who submit, surrender or yield to an authority are called muslimoon (مُسلمون) or muslimeen (مُسلمین) (singular: muslim) (مُسْلِم)
Occurrence of the Term in the Quran
The triliteral root sīn lām mīm (س ل م) of the word Islam occurs 140 times in the Quran, in 16 derived forms:
- six times as the form II verb sallama (سَلَّمَ)
- 22 times as the form IV verb aslama (أَسْلَمَ)
- 42 times as the nominal salām (سَلَٰم)
- twice as the noun sullam (سُلَّم)
- five times as the noun salam (سَلَم)
- once as the proper noun sil’m (سِّلْم)
- twice as the noun salm (سَّلْم)
- twice as the noun salīm (سَلِيم)
- once as the active participle sālimūn (سَٰلِمُون)
- three times as the form II verbal noun taslīm (تَسْلِيم)
- three times as the form II passive participle musallamat (مُّسَلَّمَة)
- eight times as the form IV verbal noun is’lām (إِسْلَٰم)
- 39 times as the form IV active participle mus’lim (مُسْلِم)
- twice as the form IV active participle mus’limāt (مُسْلِمَٰت)
- once as the form IV active participle mus’limat (مُّسْلِمَة)
- once as the form X active participle mus’taslimūn (مُسْتَسْلِمُون)
Islam as ‘Submission’ to an Authority
أَفَغَيْرَ دِينِ اللَّهِ يَبْغُونَ وَلَهُ أَسْلَمَ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ طَوْعًا وَكَرْهًا وَإِلَيْهِ يُرْجَعُونَ
“Do they seek something other than Allah’s Deen (i.e. His Socio-Politico-Economic Laws or Prescribed Way of Life)? While whoever is in the heavens and the earth has submitted to Him (i.e. His Physical Laws in Nature) (whether) by choice or by constraint, and to Him shall they all be returned”.
[Al-Quran Surah 3: Verse 83]
Submission vs. Rebellion or Rising up in opposition
The Quran mentions an account of a letter of King Solomon to the Queen of Sheba, in which the King says to the Queen to come to him in submission and do not rise up against him.
أَلَّا تَعْلُوا عَلَيَّ وَأْتُونِي مُسْلِمِينَ
“Do not rise up against me, but come to me in submission.”´
[Al-Quran Surah 27: Verse 31]
Submission vs. Violation of the Law
In the Quran, the word Al-Muslimeen has been used in contrast to Al-Mujrimeen.
أَفَنَجْعَلُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ كَالْمُجْرِمِينَ
“Shall We, then, treat Al-Muslimeen like Al-Mujrimeen?”
[Al-Quran Surah 68: Verse 35]
A Mujrim, is the one who commits an act of disobedience or violates the Law or wrongfully exploits a situation or steals the fruit of others’ labour.
Submission vs. Deviation from the Right Course
In Surah 72: Verse 14, the word Al-Muslimoon has been used in contrast to Al-Qasitoon. Al-Qasitoon are those who deviate from the right course (At-Tareeqah); who act unjustly, injuriously, wrongfully or tyrannically. But Al-Muslimoon are those who take an unwavering stand on the Right Course prescribed by the Almighty.
وَأَنَّا مِنَّا الْمُسْلِمُونَ وَمِنَّا الْقَاسِطُونَ فَمَنْ أَسْلَمَ فَأُولَٰئِكَ تَحَرَّوْا رَشَدًا
“And among us are Al-Muslimoon, and among us are Al-Qasitoon. And whoever has become Muslim – it is they who have sought out the right course.”
[Al-Quran Surah 72: Verse 14]
Submission vs. Going one’s Own Way
The verb form ‘aslamoo’ (اَسلمُو) has been used in contrast with the verb form ‘tawallow’ (تَوَلَّو) which means ‘to turn away; to wander off; or to go one’s own way.
فَإِنْ أَسْلَمُوا فَقَدِ اهْتَدَوا وَّإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَإِنَّمَا عَلَيْكَ الْبَلَاغُ
“And, if they submit (to Allah’s Command), then they have truly achieved guidance. But if they turn away, your responsibility is only to deliver (the command).“
[Al-Quran Surah 3: Verse 20]
Al-Islam: Submission to Allah’s Authority
إِنَّ الدِّينَ عِندَ اللَّهِ الْإِسْلَامُ
[Al-Quran Surah 3: Verse 19]
Every society or state has some rules or laws for the safety, security and preservation of its individual members as well as the society or the state as a whole. The submission or conformity to these laws is called Islam (, the word Islam being used as a common noun). When the rules and laws are those or based upon those given by Allah, then the submission or conformity to these laws and rules, is called Al-Islam (, the word Al-Islam being used as a proper noun).
Since the laws and rules given by the All-Wise and the All-Knowing Allah are free from any subjectivity, bias or limitations of time and space, the submission or conformity to only these can guarantee a perpetual safety, security, preservation and well-being of all human beings living in a society and the world at large. On the other hand, since the laws made by human beings suffer from the eternal drawbacks of subjectivity or bias and temporal or spatial limitations of individual knowledge and wisdom, they can never guarantee an incessant or everlasting safety, security, preservation or well-being of all.
 E. W. Lane, Lane’s Arabic English Lexicon, New ed., Islamic Texts Society, 1984.
 E. M. Badawi and M. A. Haleem, Arabic English Dictionary of Quranic Usage, Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2008
 H. Wehr and J. M. Cowan, A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, 4th ed., J. M. Cowan, Ed., Spoken Language Services, 1993.
 One of the meanings of the word ‘Deen’ is ‘Law’. See Al-Quran Surah 12: Verse 76; Surah 24: Verse 2.
 The particle al (ال) is the definite article and changes the common noun ‘deen’ (دین) into proper noun ‘ad-deen’ (الدّین), referring to the way of life or system of governance based on Allah’s law.
 The particle al (ال) is the definite article and changes the common noun ‘islam’ (اِسلام) into proper noun ‘al-islam’ (الاسلام), referring to the submission to Allah’s authority i.e. His laws.