A lot of the suspicion surrounding Islam comes from a lack of knowledge or understanding of a religion that is still foreign to many people, despite its 1.6 billion followers. Often this lack of knowledge results in the public cooptation of important aspects of the faith.
Words like jihad and shariah have become synonymous with things like terrorism, violence and radicalism, resulting in Muslims being unable to freely use or express these important tenets of their faith.
To help clarify some common misconceptions about one of the world’s largest religions, here is a page from my Muslim dictionary.
: peace that comes from submission
Islam derives from the Arabic root consonants s-l-m, which means submission.Islam is also derived from the root word salaam, meaning peace. Islam is thus the submission of oneself to God through which the highest form of peace is attained. Assalaamu alaykum, a common Muslim greeting, is translated from Arabic to be “Peace be upon you.”
: one who has submitted
The word Muslim in Arabic is also derived from the same root consonants as Islam, s-l-m. A Muslim is one who has submitted or surrendered; in this religious context, a Muslim is one who has voluntarily submitted to God’s will or God’s decree to achieve peace.
: The God
The word Allah can be broken down into two parts. The al is a prefix definite article that translates to the. The second part luh simply translates to God. Therefore, Allah refers to The God. This is an important clarification to make because Allah is not a God Muslims believe in that is inherently antithetical to other groups’ beliefs; rather, Allah just refers to The God. From an Islamic viewpoint, this is the same God that the other Abrahamic faiths believe in. For example, Christian Arabs would also refer to God as Allah.
: a spiritual self struggle
Jihad is derived from the Arabic root word juhud, which means effort. Jihad is thus generally the process of exerting effort and can be applied to nonreligious actions. In the religious context, however, jihad does not mean waging a holy war or engaging in violence. Rather, the greatest form of jihad is an individual’s struggle with the self — the heart, the soul. A Muslim exerts effort in daily life activities — such as pursuing an education or a career — to do and achieve good for the personal process of self-improvement so as to achieve internal peace and closeness with Allah.
: legal reasoning; law
Shariah derives from the root shara’a and refers to a pathway or a path that leads to water. Shariah refers to the pathway upon which the believers should tread so as to reach this source of water i.e. the righteous way of life. The shariah is derived from Quranic revelation, the Prophet Muhammad’s sunnah (Peace be upon him) or his traditions and sayings, and other sources of law and legal reasoning.
: a school
The word madrasah derives from the root consonants d-r-s, meaning to learn or to study. Derived from this root, madrasah literally translates into a place where one goes to learn or study. A madrasah, though it can be, is not necessarily exclusively for religious studies; for example, a high school Muslim American student in the United States would refer to her public high school as a madrasah.
The implications of this false use of rhetoric is neither trivial nor inconsequential; rather, it has serious implications for the millions of Muslim Americans living in the United States. This false rhetoric — used by everyone from the 2016 presidential frontrunners to our next door neighbors — contributes to the increasingly unwelcoming and hostile environment and promotes dangerous Islamophobic sentiment.
The use of jihadists to refer to terrorists and Islamism to terrorism is detrimental to American Muslims’ ability to freely and confidently practice and express faith. Reversing the seemingly continuous stream of hatred directed towards Muslims requires fostering a deeper understanding of Islam among Americans, and so I offer to you a page from my Muslim dictionary.
30 Rabiul Akhar 1437
Jihad for Truth
A man asked the Messenger of Allah (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) “What is the most virtuous struggle (Jihād)?” The Prophet said, “A word of truth in front of a tyrannical ruler.” 
When people think of Jihād today, they often think of it in the military sense only because of rogue groups and with the help of the media notoriously tarnishing the word ‘Jihad’, the mass hold a misconception of it’s deeper meaning. In both cases thus the true essence of Jihad—such as standing up against injustice and oppression—is forgotten.
In Islām, truthfulness is the very cornerstone of the upright Muslim’s character and the springboard for his/her virtuousness deeds. Allāh says:
“O you who believe! Fear Allāh, and be with those who are true (in word and deeds).” 
‘Abd-Allāh ibn Mas’ūd (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said: “The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: ‘You must be truthful, for truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Paradise. A man will keep speaking the truth and striving to speak the truth until he will be recorded with Allāh as a siddeeq (speaker of the truth). Beware of telling lies, for lying leads to immorality and immorality leads to Hellfire. A man will keep telling lies and striving to tell lies until he is recorded with Allāh as a liar.” . This hadīth indicates that truthfulness leads to righteousness (al-birr), an all-embracing concept that includes all kinds of goodness and different kinds of righteous deeds.
It is narrated in the hadīth in al-Bukhāri and Muslim that no baby spoke in the cradle except three (and some say four), those being ‘Īsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām), Juraij, and another baby from the Banī Isrā’īl, and others mention the story of the Companions of the Trench, where a baby spoke to its mother to become a martyr. What you will notice is that Allāh made all the babies speak out of some impetus for justice. He made ‘Īsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) speak to absolve his mother of charges of indecency; the baby in the story of Juraij spoke for a similar reason, the child of the Banī Isrā’īl spoke to differentiate a man that was a tyrant from a girl that was falsely accused. Allāh made miracles speaking for justice. And if Allāh made babies speak up for what is right, do you not think this is expected of you and me? 
As we can see from the above, it is from the fundamental teachings of Islām that truth cannot make concessions with falsehood. We are taught that wherever we see falsehood, we should run towards it to confront it with the truth, however bitter it may sound. Indeed this was from the way of the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), the following is a very good example of this.
When the Prophet’s (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) uncle, Abū Tālib died, you can imagine the anxieties he was facing now that he lost his main protection from among the people. During this period, one of the biggest enemies of Islām and of those who caused most suffering to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), Abū Lahab said: “O Muhammad, pass on freely as you want. Do whatever you did when Abū Tālib was alive. No, by al-Lāt (an idol), I swear no harm will befall you before I die.”
When the Quraish heard this, they said to Abū Lahab, “Ask your nephew where your father has been sent”. So he then went and queried this with the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) who said that Abū Lahab’s father (who of course is the Prophet’s grandfather) ‘Abd al-Muttalib was with “his people”. When Abū Lahab told the people of Quraish this, they said to him “ask your nephew is ‘Abd al-Muttalib in the hell fire”. So Abu Lahab asked the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) this. Now before giving you his response, think about the Prophet’s (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) predicament – he has lost one of his most important pillars of support which now made him an open enemy of the Quraish and they could do with him what they wished and yet surprisingly, he now had gained the support from one of his biggest enemies, Abū Lahab.
He could have easily given him a vague response to please him, to have dressed his response up in order to ensure that Abū Lahab remained on good terms with him. But such was the firmness of the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and his certainty in his greatest ally and protector, Allāh jalla wa’alā and his principle in standing with the truth that he responded as follows, and in doing so, invited on himself once again the wrath of Abū Lahab:
“Na’m (yes), whoever dies in the state of ‘Abd al-Muttalib was in, goes into hell-fire.”
On hearing this, Abu Lahab announced, “By God, I shall always be your enemy for your claiming that he is in the fire!”.
Fulfilling the needs of people is one of the greatest acts of worship, and proof enough for this are the Prophet’s words, (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam):
“For me to walk along with my brother to fulfil his need is more beloved to me than to make I’tikaf in this mosque of mine for a month.” 
To our brothers who are being maligned in this difficult time, we pray that Allāh keeps you firm, protects you and makes these deeds of yours weigh heavily on the scale of deeds. And know that you have done what many great men have done before you such as Ibrahīm (ʿalayhi al-Salām) against Nimrūd, Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) against Fir’awn, and Malcolm X RH against the oppressive racist powers of his time; in each case, accounting the powers that be and inviting scorn on themselves in the process. Dear brothers, I leave you with the statement of the great sage and scholar of Islam, Ibn al-Qayyim RH which I hope you will take heart from in this testing time you are facing:
“Truthfulness is the greatest of stations, from it sprout all the various stations of those traversing the path to God; and from it sprouts the upright path which if not trodden, perdition is that person’s fate. Through it is the hypocrite distinguished from the believer and the inhabitant of Paradise from the denizen of Hell. It is the sword of God in His earth: it is not placed on anything except that it cuts it; it does not face falsehood except that it hunts it and vanquishes it; whoever fights with it will not be defeated; and whoever speaks it, his word will be made supreme over his opponent. It is the very essence of deeds and the well spring of spiritual states, it allows the person to embark boldly into dangerous situations, and it is the door through which one enters the presence of the One possessing Majesty. It is the foundation of the building of Islām, the central pillar of the edifice of certainty and the next level in ranking after the level of prophethood.” 
 Al-Qur’ān 9:119
 Riyād as-Sālihīn
 [Ibn Katheer’s, Life of the Prophet (S.A.W) Volume 2.
 Madārij al-Sālikīn
By Shaykh Abul Hasan ‘Ali an-Nadwi (rh)
This is a transcription of a speech delivered in Dewsbury, UK in 1982 at the opening of the Dewsury Markaz.
I am filled with happiness by your reception. I would be most ungrateful if I do not respect your wishes and share my inner feelings. If I desire I could shower you with praises, for Almighty Allah has bestowed me with an abundance of vocabulary, but I would not be fulfilling the right of friendship.
Da’wah in the Seerah
As you are aware, the Prophet (Sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) had a burning desire to invite humanity towards Islam. Despite 13 years of untiring effort in Makkatul Mukarramah and 7 years in Madinah Munawwarah, there was no large scale movement of non-Muslims into Islam. Between 7 AH and 10 AH, which is the period after Fatah-Makkah until the Prophet (Sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam)’s demise, there was such an influx of people entering the ranks of Islam that was not witnessed in the preceding 20 years.
Imam Zuhri (ra), an eminent Muhaddith and Tabi‘, expressed surprise on this sea change, with so many people embracing Islam in a matter of just 3 years. Along with other distinguished Muhadditheen, he has commented that this was due to non-Muslims having had an opportunity for the first time to observe and intermingle with Muslims, witness their honesty, fair dealing, compassion, and sole reliance on Almighty Allah. This left such a deep and profound impression on non-Muslims that thousands entered into the fold of Islam within a relatively short period of time.
Applying the Lessons of Seerah Here and Now
This incident also contains abundant lessons on how Muslims should live in this country. Their conduct should be sublime and captivating. Whosoever should see us should accept Islam. Whosoever sits with us should be inclined towards Islam. There should be no need to convince anyone to accept the Truth.
Therefore, in this country if you wish to live peacefully and have an opportunity to present Islam to the host community, you will need to inculcate and manifest sterling qualities, not just inside the Mosques but also outside in the streets, in the markets, in your daily activities, and at home. A life of Taqwa will immediately attract non-Muslims towards Islam.
Dangers of Living Isolated and Insulated
As an ordinary student of Islam it is my religious responsibility to warn you. If you do not lead an upright life, if you continue to live an insular lifestyle, and if you fail to manifest the beauty of Islam to non-Muslims, then you face some real dangers. In such a case, there is no reason for you to feel content and secure in this country.
If ever the fire of race, religion, or nationalism rages here you will not be saved. In Spain there were Mosques a hundred times more beautiful than yours. So do not feel content and self-satisfied. As an ordinary student of religion I would wish to express my joy and happiness at this wonderful new Mosque. But what words shall I use to congratulate you?
Lessons from Spain
Others may not speak to you as plainly, but remember the glorious Masjid of Cordoba. It still stands in Spain. Iqbal, Poet of the East, so eloquently reminisces the great legacy of Islamic Spain in his famous poem, Masjid-e-Qurtaba. In Islamic Spain, there were such brilliant Mosques, celebrated Madrasahs, famous scholars like Shaykh al-Akbar (ra), Ibn al-Hazm (ra), Qurtubi (ra), Shatbi (ra) – and how many others shall I mention?
However, when the flames of religious sectarianism raged then the Mosques and Madrasahs became deserted. Once, Islamic Spain boasted such magnificent structures, distinguished educational centers, refined culture and society. Regrettably, the Muslims, despite such a high standard of living, did not draw the non-Muslims of that country to see the truth of Islam, to warn them of the dangers of disbelief, with the result that ensuing religious violence subsequently consumed them like a morsel. The Arabs with their glowing history, architectural splendor, and vast oceans of knowledge, were displaced from the country. Today, unfortunately, the ears eagerly wait to hear the Azaan and the empty Mosques thirst for the Salaah.
Earn Your Place in Your Country
My dear brothers, you must earn your recognition in this country. You should earn your place and leave an imprint on the host community of your value and significance. You must show your exemplary conduct is far nobler than that of other people. You must impart on them the lessons of humanity. You should demonstrate such commitment and noble virtues that impress on people that there cannot be found more upright humans elsewhere besides you. You need to establish your worth, showing what blessing and mercy you are for the country.
If however you decide to live in an enclosed environment simply content with your Prayers and Fasting, apathetic to the people and society you live in, never introducing them to the high Islamic values and your own personal qualities, then beware lest any religious or sectarian violence flares up. In such a situation, you will not find safety or protection.
I pray to Almighty Allah my prediction is totally unfounded. But remember, you are guests here. YourTabligh, Mosques, Madrasahs, Ibadah, and religious sacrifices are all worthy of commendation. May Almighty Allah grant you Barakah. But do not forget to earn your place in this country. Gain proficiency of the national language and use it to effectively propagate Islam. Prepare writers and orators to convey the message of Islam. Although you will distance yourself from their religion, do not distance yourself from them. Establish your credibility to the extent that if you are entrusted with onerous responsibilities, as was Prophet Yusuf (`Alayhi as-Salaam), you do not shirk but embrace all challenges wholeheartedly.
Your Priority Should Not Be Wealth and Luxury
You will have to present a new pattern of life to this country. You will not earn recognition by exerting yourselves in the workplace. If you overwork you will be looked upon disparagingly and be likened to horses and bulls. In fact, you will be labelled as money-making machines. However, if you can show to the people here that you are worshipers of Almighty Allah and not wealth, you do not bow before power but only before virtue, you are humans and think like humans, you are concerned not only about yourselves but also about others; and you are compassionate about your own children as well as theirs, that you are earnestly concerned about the path of destruction they have chosen for themselves, you will then earn their respect. They will begin to respect Islam and become desirous of studying it. They will ask you for literature concerning Islamic beliefs and practices and an opportunity will arise here for you to promote Islam.
On the other hand, if you remain preoccupied in eating and working, engaged in prayers, remaining indifferent to what is happening in the country, insulated within the Muslim community, totally apathetic to what is happening outside, which direction the country is taking – in such a situation if there is trouble you will not be able to save yourselves.
I have been meaning to convey and accentuate this message to you as I do not know whether I will be able visit you again in the future. You gathered here with love and affection and therefore it was easy for me to convey. As a student of religion it would have been convenient for me to recommend the virtues of reciting various Zikr or prescribe certain Wazifahs but you may not have had an opportunity of listening to the message I have just conveyed from anyone else.
Please strengthen your position in this country. Earn your recognition. Do not be like a straw or crop that is uprooted by a mere breeze. You should be so firm that not even a hurricane is able to displace you. Display such noble character that you attract the hearts of the people. See then how these people will stand up to defend you. If there is the slightest hostility towards you, they will be the first ones to argue on your behalf and argue what a blessing you are for them.
May Almighty Allah grant us the ability to understand what is right; may He bless and protect you. Ameen.
Courtesy of Darul Ihsan