Islam, being the second most followed religion of the world, has over a billion followers. It was introduced in Mecca, Arabia, over 1400 years ago by the Prophet Muhammad. There are five pillars of Islam and the Qur’an regulates and teaches every phase of Islamic law, while the practical examples of the Prophet Muhammad, which are called the Sunnah, also act as guidelines alongside acts of worship and lifestyle advice.

Although it is a universal religion with people embracing it from Asia, Europe, Africa, America and the Middle East, some corners of the world still fail to recognize or comprehend its depth and breadth. Certain misconceptions had been created by Western writers of the past, questioning even the most essential foundations of the religion. For example, the Arabic roots of the terms “Islam” and “Muslim,” were explored in deep detail, which further led to the exploration of the language itself. English speakers incorrectly assume that the same root in two Arabic words denote a relationship between the meanings of the words, which is mostly not the case. 

Islam vs. Muslim: Definition


Deriving from the Arabic triconsonantal root sīn-lām-mīm (S-L-M [ س ل م ]), Islam translates basically into “submission” or “surrender.” However, from the same root word, the words “peace” and “safety” are also drawn, which make it simpler to understand the term “Salaam,” the widespread official Muslim greeting. Islam is the entire body of Muslim believers, a basic principle of which absolute submission to a personal and unique God, Allah, is key.


Derived from Arabic, its literal meaning is “the one who surrenders.” A Muslim is a person believing in and consciously following Islam. 

Islam vs. Muslim: Uses


Islam is commonly used in conversations and discussions, in order to represent the religious entity of the believers as a whole.

For example: That Islamic neighborhood welcomes people from all religions and cultures to their Eid festival.

Furthermore, the word Islam can also be used when referring to the religion as a noun itself.

For instance: Islam is a religion of peace, which bases its teachings on the way of the Prophet Muhammad, and the laws of the Holy Quran.


Muslim is commonly brought up where a person is being characterized and distinguished.

For instance, “Do you remember the Muslim man who owns that restaurant?”

At the same time, it could be used to describe or categorize someone at the core of one’s religion or religious beliefs.

For example, “I am a Jew, but he is Muslim.”

Interestingly, as Muslims living in particular places are still in minority, describing them with the term Muslim may display their dressing style or lifestyle in accordance with their religion.

Misuses of Islam and Muslim


Islam should solely indicate religion or acts of faith in the name of the religion, but not to pinpoint someone who practices the religion. Therefore, one cannot say, “Islamics practice Islam” or “the Quran is the Islamic Holy book.” On the contrary, saying Islamic community or Islamic art, for example, is not wrong. Thereby, grammatical errors should be avoided to reduce ambiguity. 


In Arabic, the word Muslim is the participle of the verb with addition to Islam as an infinitive. A Muslim is a person who exclusively dedicates worship to God. Therefore, the word Muslim should not be used to represent faith itself but the people and followers. For example, it is more correct to say “Muslim people practice Islam” instead of saying “people practice the Muslim religion.”

In conclusion

  •  Islam and Muslim are words that are both interconnected and are used to represent the message and religion revealed to Prophet Muhammad.

  • They both originate from the same Arabic root, s-l-m.

  •  I am a Muslim, my religion is Islam. This sentence clearly indicates the different contexts in which both these words are to be used. Islam being the religion itself, the act of submissiveness to one God while Muslim, a person who takes role in the act of the submissiveness.

  • All in all, Islam could also symbolize the cultural notions of the religion as well, meanwhile the term Muslim only denotes the followers of this religion.

What About Shia and Sunni Muslims?

The main difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims is that these two sub-groups stem from political differences, not spiritual ones. Anyhow, it’s true that they both share the same central core beliefs and articles of the Islamic faith. On a bigger scale though, as centuries passed by, these political differences gave birth to diverging practices and positions that later on became significant enough to impact people spiritually.

Their division gave root after the passing away of the Prophet Muhammad, when the take on leadership was to be addressed. The argument lies where the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, was elected by the Holy Prophet and there rose a minority of Muslims believing that leadership should have been inherited by the Prophet’s own bloodline, his son-in-law and cousin, Ali bin Abu Talib.

The term Sunni stands for “follower of the traditions of the Prophet.” The term Shia, stands for “supportive party or a group of people.” Throughout decades, their division was based on the line of Imamat, which they believe were appointed by God Himself or Prophet Muhammad.   


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  • TruthJul.4 12:44
    Islam is a cancer.
  • Y'all are saying Islam is the religion of murderers and rapists, have you heard of the Lord's Resistance Army, the KKK, the National Liberation Front of Tripura? Stop making such awful generalised comments
  • Sarg HimmelMar.27 01:38
    After reading what some posted, most was those that in some way are connected to the Islamic/Muslim group. But for sure do not believe in the true God, there's is a human Man. What I can see is that they have there own customs, and if other do not agree, then they will not embrace there beliefs. Same as a few that do not believe in any Form of God. Can a Muslim/Islamic leave there unity of belief and become a Christian and still be a Muslim/Islamic ? I would guess no. The present problems in the US, is that it seems Muslims/Islamic's will not follow the US laws, which in a sense means that they are in there words, not the true Christians being outcast. I can understand that both have came from the wherever Land that was strictly what they are. Which as a Us Citizen if I where to go to there home land I would not expect to change them to my beliefs. But such is not the case when they are in the US, One can read the post and quickly see that they are set in what they believe and would desire that all should follow. I refer to that because of the problems that they demand that certain items shall not be displayed, and certain meat shall not be present. I have been in other country's, and not once did I make demands that that country must change. In closing they in no way believe in the one and only true God. Thus this is against all Christian beliefs. So there problem is not the people of the US, but there beliefs and customs that will never be accepted in the US. Is not it true that both Islamic and Muslims donate to the demise of the Us, ? Which I would see as a major problem that will cause them to never be fully embraced in the US. Living in the US is great for those that embrace the US. but to ask to change this, then again they will be dissatisfied and flee to another country. All because of beliefs that they perceive to be the only way. Yes my post is a slight bit off the topic, but it points out that there is a difference between the Us beliefs and theirs. I see actually no difference between an Islamic and a Muslim, just the name. Of course some have quoted customs where some lived that where different from where other lived. But the fine line is that the difference is very shallow.
  • Ryan Mar.23 13:49
    Islam is NOT a religion of peace. That is the biggest lie. You must be a liberal Dem.
  • MacMar.23 11:51
    not even Hitler was all bad, or were all Germans, but some of his actions dictate otherwise ... he did not preform his actions in the name of religion as the Muslims do ... no matter how you argue it Muslim intent is to destroy the western world and all non believers of the Islam faith all over the world .. Mohamed was the greatest con man in the world to date, self proclaimed first Muslim, led first Jihad .. all Muslims of today follow his teachings which he claimed was given to him by Allah .. God has been called many different names throughout history and he doesn't command genocide ! remember the Ten Commandments ? ...... you are entitled to believe any religion you choose but not a murderer !
  • Smart GirlMar.11 12:36
    This was a great article! And to all the hater stop. I'm a Jewish women who grew up with a Muslim step-father. Everyone has always been welcoming and kind to me and my mother's side of the family. All these comments are from people who have never actually met anyone from the Islamic faith.
  • Dog personFeb.19 17:31
    I've lived in a Islamic country and I'm Christian they were all very nice to me so don't say they are mean because they are not!
  • ChristinaFeb.19 10:07
    This was informative. Thanks!
  • SaFeb.19 03:34
    Islam is peace and does not promote any bad upon anyone it is corrupted individuals who don't follow the religion properly who mess it up for the real believing Muslims. I would advice you to do reserch before making assumptions or disrespecting any religion as this is what narrow minded people do. So don't hate on a religion You no Nothing about !!
  • JeralMar.27 22:09
    @ : @tim Yeah, aren't Christians terrorist as well. By definition, a terrorist is "a person who uses terrorism in the pursuit of political aims". I mean look at the KKK or self-proclaimed Christians who shot innocent people at Planned Parenthood. People need to stop killing in the name of God and hide behind religion to support their agendas. I know most practiced religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) are very similar and they all yearn for peace and love.
  • ROMay.6 12:31
    @ : i doubt real muslims to exist in 4 years time, the fanatic ones will kill them all.
  • timJan.15 01:12
    Wake up people. Islam are Muslims who want to kill all non Muslims fact. Islam and Christianity cannot exsist together no matter how much you want it to. R. A belief of pure evil and fear. Muslims are Islamic terrorists are Muslims.
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