Most Muslims accept as a fellow Muslim anyone who has sincerely pronounced the Shahada, a ritual declaration of submission to God and assertion that Muhammad is the last prophet. Muslims describe many Biblical figures, such as Musa (Moses) and Isa (Jesus), as Muslims because they submitted completely to God.
- For a list of Muslims, see List of Muslims.
- For a list of different Muslim sects and divisions, see Divisions of Islam.
The singular form of the word Muslim comes from the Arabic plural form 'Al-Muslimīn, from the tri-consonantal root SLM, also found in the words Islam and salām. The plural form is instanced in the Qur'an, 22:79, Al-Hajj.
Pronunciation and spelling
Until around the late 1980s, the word was commonly spelled Moslem. The spelling has since fallen into disuse. Muslims do not recommend this spelling because it is often pronounced "mawzlem," which sounds somewhat similar to an Arabic word for "oppressor" (Za'lem in Arabic). The word is pronounced "Mus"-lim in Arabic, but some English dictionaries allow both "Mus"-lim and "Muz"-lim. The word is now most commonly written "Muslim".
Other words for Muslim
Many English-language writers used to call Muslims "Mohammedans" or "Mahometans," meaning "followers of Mohammed," but this terminology is considered incorrect and insulting, because Muslims believe it implies that they worship the prophet Muhammad, contrary to the fundamental principles of Islam itself. This terminology is seen as too similar to Christians as followers and worshippers of Christ. In addition, Muslims believe that the religion of submitting to God (Islām in Arabic) existed long before the birth of Muhammad, making all the prophets before him "Muslims."
English writers of the 19th century and earlier sometimes used the words Mussulman, Musselman, or Mussulmaun. Variant forms of this word are still used by many Indo-European languages. These words are similar to the French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese words for "Muslim."
Arabic terms describing Muslim identity
When discussing whether or not someone is a real Muslim, the following terms may be used by those arguing:
- Mu'min - believer
- Fasiq - shameless sinner
- Munafiq - hypocrite; professes Islam but does not live up to it
- Kafir - neither professes nor believes
There are some groups that claim to be Muslim, but are not accepted as Muslim by most Muslims. For example, neither Sunni nor Shi'a Muslims accept Ahmedis as fellow Muslims. An agnostic of Islamic background may refer to him/herself as a "cultural Muslim", but this is likewise unacceptable to most observant Muslims. Many Sunni regard the Shia and the Allawi sects as non-Muslim. There have also been numerous instances in which some Sunni have declared other Sunni to be unbelievers, some Shi'a have declared other Shi'a the same, and so on. The act of calling another an unbeliever is called Takfir.