So, yesterday in my World Religions class, we discussed Islam. Sad that we had to relegate the 2nd most populous religion to a one-day lecture, but oh well.
Some interesting things...
First, and I had heard this before, but... Allah is simply Arabic for God. The God worshipped by Muslims is the same God YHWH that is worshipped by Christians and Jews.
Second, Islam simply means 'surrender', as in 'surrender to God' and a Muslim is 'one who surrenders to God'.
This gets into the point of Islam. Islam as a movement developped in the 7th century even though it traces itself to Ishmael and refers to itself as the true of the Semitic (of Shem) religions. The point of Islam was a sort of reform of the Semitic traditions. It upholds that God had spoken through the Prophets and through Christ, but as time went on, these revelations had become distorted. The notion of Jesus as God (which remember, was not arrived at until the 4th century) was simply blasphemy. Islam, as Judaism, was strictly monotheist. The notion that God could be summed up in any single image (person or thing) was the highest heresy and deservable of death.
Muhammad, after the angel Gabriel had pressured him into it, transcribed the Koran... directly, word for word, from God. A friend comments that this sort of 'transcription' might have sent ripples over into Christianity, and with heightening during the crusades, caused the Christian tradition to adopt a similar sort of 'transcription'... at least a soft one.
At any rate, Islam was a movement formed to 'reform' the Semitic tradition... to restore it or put things in proper places (sound familiar?). In fact, the Koran references Jesus more than Muhammad and says to read the Bible if more information is needed. Islam's aim was to return, to surrender to God.
The root for Islam actually is a word that means "peace". Interesting, no?