Al-Islaam is derived from, “aslama lish-shay”, meaning he submitted to it. As it is said inthe language, “aslama nafsahu lilqatl”, (he submitted himself to being killed)”, meaning that he submitted to being killed. So a person did islaam of himself, means that he submitted to that thing.
So therefore Islaam is submitting one’s face and one’s purpose and resolve and one’s intention to Him, he the Mighty and Majestic.
And who is better in religion than one who submits his face to Allaah and he is the doer of the good which Allaah legislated and he follows the religious way of Ibraaheem, upright and upon his way, turning away from shirk [4:125]
Rather whoever submits his face to Allaah [2:112]
Meaning: he makes his deeds purely and sincerely for Allaah the Mighty and Majestic, and he yields to Allaah obediently and by choice and with desire and out of love.
“Submitting to Allaah with tawheed”: and it is to single out Allaah the majestic and most high with worship, and this is the meaning of tawheed. So whoever worships Allaah alone without attributing a partner to Him, then he has indeed submitted to Him.
His saying, “And yielding to Him, He the Perfect with obedience”: regarding whatever He has commanded you with and whatever He has forbidden you from. So whatever He commanded you with then you do it and whatever He forbids you from then you avoid it, in obedience to Allaah the Perfect and Most High.
His saying, “and freeing oneself from shirk and its people”: freeing oneself means cutting off from and separating from and being far removed from shirk and from the people of shirk, such that you believe the falsity of shirk and keep away from it. And you believe in the obligation of having enmity towards the people of shirk because they are enemies to Allaah, the mighty and majestic, so therefore you do not take them as beloved friends and allies, rather you take them as enemies because they are enemies to Allaah and to his Messenger and to His religion so therefore you do not have love for them and you do not have love and alliance with them rather you cut off from them with regard to the religion and you distance yourself from them and you believe in the falseness of what they are upon so therefore you do not love then with your heart and you do not aid them with your sayings and your actions, because they are enemies to your Lord, and enemies to your religion so how can you have love and alliance with them when they are enemies of Islaam?
It is not sufficient that you submit to Allaah and yield to him with obedience but do not free yourself from shirk and nor from the people of shirk, this will not suffice, you will not be counted as being a Muslim until you have these characteristics:
Firstly: submitting to Allaah with tawheed.
Secondly: yielding to him with obedience
Thirdly: freeing oneself from that which opposes tawheed and that which opposes obedience and it is shirk.
Fourthly: freeing oneself from the people of shirk.
By actualising these characteristics you will be a Muslim, as for if you miss out on a single characteristic from them then you will not be a Muslim. So in these three words the Shaikh summarised the definition of Islaam and how many a person does not know the meaning of Islaam because he has not learned this thing, and if it were said to him, “What is Islaam?”, he will not give you a correct response.