History And Background
Mohammed, the founder of Islam, was born in AD 570 i n the city of Mecca (present day Saudi Arabia). According to Islamic tradition, Mohammed received a “revelation” from the angel Gabriel in AD 610. This was the first of many such messages that were eventually compiled into a book called the Quran, Islam’s sacred book.
Mohammed’s revelations formed the basis of a new religion, Islam. This new belief system eventually united the Arabic tribes of the region. Mohammed died on June 8, 632.
Today, there are over 1.2 billion Muslims (followers of lslam) worldwide, living primarily in the Middle East, North Africa, South-Central Asia and Indonesia. Although Islam began in Saudi Arabia, today there are more non-Arab Muslims than Arab Muslims.
Beliefs And Obligations Of Islam
The term Islam means “submission”, focused on a fatalistic view of Allah’s will – that whatever happens is Allah’s will and must be accepted. Orthodox Islam teaches that Allah has predestined both good and evil. Every thought, word and deed was supposedly foreseen and predetermined by Allah, and will take place according to Allah’s will. This position makes Allah responsible for evil and takes away human free will; thus people are not responsible for their personal choices.
The person who submits in this way to Allah is called a Muslim.
A. Beliefs Of Islam
The Muslims have five basic doctrines:
1) God. Muslims believe there is only one god, and his name is Allah. Nothing and no one can be added to him or associated with him; to do so is to commit an unforgivable sin (Sura 4:48).
2) Angels. Islam promotes a hierarchy of angels between Allah and man. Gabriel is the chief angel in their hierarchy and is believed by Muslims to have given revelations to Mohammed. There is also Shaitan (from Hebrew satan) and other spirits called djinn or jinn.
3) The Prophets. According to Islam, Allah has sent a prophet to every nation to preach the way of Islam. Mohammed is considered to be the final and most important prophet.
4) Day of Judgment. Muslims believe that there will be a day of recompense for each person’s deeds. Hell will be a place of torment and heaven a place of sensual pleasure. Those qualified for Islamic heaven (paradise) will have done enough good deeds to outweigh their bad deeds. For those destined for punishment, the opposite is true. However, the balance of a person’s deeds, good or bad, is known only to Allah until Judgment Day. The result is that a Muslim has no assurance or confidence that he will be accepted by Allah. This is a type of a “salvation by works” approach to eternal life.
5) Muslim “Holy” Books. For the Muslim, there are five “holy books” mentioned in the Qu‘ran: The Scrolls of Abraham (which Muslims say is now lost); the Tawrat (Torah) given to Moses; the Zabur (Psalms) given to David; the Injil (Gospel) given to Jesus; and the Qu‘ran given to Mohammed. Muslims believe that only the Qu‘ran has been correctly preserved; they teach that the four other books mentioned have been either “corrupted” or lost, and are not to be accepted as now presented. Therefore, for the Muslim, the Qu‘ran replaces the true Scriptures of the Bible.
B. Obligations Of Islam
1) To recite the shahadah. The word shahadah means “to bear witness”. To recite the shahadah, a Muslim says, “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger.” To become a Muslim, a person must recite this phrase with sincerity before two witnesses.
2) To pray (salat). Muslims are required to pray five times per day, reciting certain portions of the Qu’ran at dawn, noon, mid afternoon, dusk, and two hours after sunset. They are to ritually wash themselves and pray facing toward Mecca. On Fridays, a noon service is held and Muslims are expected to attend.
3) To fast (sawn). Muslims memorialize Mohammed’s receiving of the Qu’ran during Ramadhan, the ninth month in the Muslim calendar. They are expected to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual relations during the daylight hours. After sundown, they may resume all these activities until sunrise.
4) To make the pilgrimage (Haji). All Muslims are required to make a trip to Mecca once in their lifetime (even if by proxy). They are to wear a white robe (to signify no status or class distinctions) during both the pilgrimage and the visit to several other sacred locations. While visiting the Ka’bah, pilgrims try to touch or kiss the Black Stone – a round medium sized rock, representing Allah.
5) To give alms (zakat). A Muslim is commanded to give one-fortieth (2.5%) of his income as an alms tax, primarily for the poor.
Beliefs of Christianity and Islam Contrasted
God -God is revealed in Scripture as a compound unity – One in essence yet three in Person: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit; three Persons Who are co-eternal and coequally God (Matt 28: 19; 2 Cor 13:14).
Jesus -Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity and is the Son of God born in the flesh. Jesus lived, Christ taught, performed miracles, declared the Gospel, suffered and died on the Cross to pay the price for mankind’s sin, rose from the dead, lives eternally, and will return again to earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords (John 1:1-18 ; 3:16; Acts 2:22-33).
Man –Man is created in the image of God, for the purpose of personal relationship with Him. After the Fall, man is now corrupted by sin and separated from God. Man is spiritually dead and not capable of doing good apart from God’s grace and saving faith in Christ (Gen 1:26,27; Eph 2:1,5,8-10).
Sin – Sin causes spiritual death. Sin is moral rebellion and willful serving of selfishness and resistance to God. Man is not capable of saving himself; no good works are enough to satisfy the requirements of a perfectly holy and just God (Eph 2:5, 8, 9).
Death of Christ -It was God’s foreordained plan to send Jesus to earth to die for the sins of all humanity. Jesus voluntarily gave His life for mankind. He actually died a physical death, was buried, and rose again on the third day after His death. He was resurrected in an immortal Body and was seen by hundreds of witnesses. Jesus’ sacrifice brought Him not dishonor, but the highest exaltation (1 Cor 15:3-7; 2 Tim 1:9; Rev 13:8).
Salvation –Salvation comes as a free gift given only through faith in Christ as the Son of God and Savior; salvation is not based on human effort, which is insufficient to satisfy an absolutely Holy God. The gift of salvation is offered by God because of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross in our place. The born-again believer has assurance of salvation in this life through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. God gives the free gift of salvation to all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord, because He loves all people of the world equally (John 3:16; Him 2:4; Rom 8:16,17).
The Bible –The Bible is the authoritative, authentic revealed Word of God. It has final authority for all matters of faith and truth. It is internally consistent and totally accurate. All discoveries of ancient texts clearly support the unchanged, uncorrupted texts we now have in both the Old and New Testaments (Isa 40:8; Matt 24:35; 2 Tim 3:16, 17).
God – No god but Allah; a singular unit. Justice is Allah’s primary concern. The Qu‘ran portrays Allah as merciful and compassionate, primarily in sending messengers warning of judgment and revealing Allah’s requirements for obedience.
Jesus Christ – To Muslims, Jesus was only a man. They recognize Jesus as a prophet but consider Him inferior to Mohammed. They consider it blasphemy to call Jesus God. They do, however, recognize the virgin birth and the miracles Jesus performed.
Man -Man is essentially good with a spark of the divine in him called tagwa. This enables him to choose good. Conscience is of high value to the Muslim, as love is to the Christian.
Sin – Sin for the Muslim is rejecting right guidance. It can possibly be forgiven by repentance and dedication to good works. No atonement is necessary.
Death of Christ -According to the Qu‘ran, Jesus did not die on the Cross. Judas died in His place while Jesus ascended to Heaven. Muslims consider it deeply disrespectful to God to believe He would allow one of His prophets to be crucified.
Salvation- For the Muslim, salvation lies in a person’s good deeds outweighing his bad deeds. Therefore, salvation comes through human effort. There is no assurance of salvation. Salvation must wait for Allah’s decree on Judgment Day. The Qu‘ran says Allah does not love those who do wrong and salvation must be earned.
The Bible – The Muslims are taught that the Bible as we now have it is filled with corruptions and that Christians and Jews have changed the Scriptures. The Bible is replaced by Mohammed’s Qu‘ran. However, in several places in the Qu‘ran, Muslims are advised to consult the Bible and to believe in it. The Qu‘ran uses both the Old and New Testaments to attempt to authenticate Mohammed as a prophet. Islam’s attitude toward the Scriptures is both inconsistent and contradictory.
Answering Muslims’ Questions About Christianity There are several questions Muslims commonly ask about Christianity :
- “Do Christians Worship Three Gods?”
Muslims have difficulties with the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Though there are a few similarities between the Muslim’s Allah and the God of the Bible, there are critical and important differences.
As to the similarities between Allah and the God of the Scriptures, both are represented as:
- One God;
- The sovereign Creator and Lord over the universe;
- The supreme ruler of Creation and all-powerful;
- One who knows the thoughts, intents, motives and plans of men’s hearts ;
- One who has spoken to man through angels, prophets, teachers and the written word ;
- One who will ultimately judge all men.
The differences between Allah and the God of the Bible are crucial, as shown in the comparison below:
The God Of The Bible
- God is One in essence, but compound in His makeup, and consisting of three coeternal and coequal Persons: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit (Gen 1:26; Matt 28: 19; Luke 3:21,22; John 5: 18; 10:30; Acts 5:3,4).
- God has an everlasting love for all mankind (John 3:16; Rom 5:8-10; see also Luke 15:11-24 as a metaphor for God’s heart toward humanity).
- God is merciful and kind to all (Matt 5:45; Acts 14:16, 17), and His great love causes Him to take NO pleasure in the pain, suffering or death of the unrepentant wicked (Ezek 18:23).
- God desires that all people be saved and come to know Him (Rom 11:32; Gal 3:22; 2 Pet 3:9). Therefore, He sent God the Son to bring mankind salvation. This salvation did not come in a new message or new set of religious rules, but in the Person of Jesus Christ (Gal 4:4-7 ; Col 1:15-20; Heb 1:2,3; 2:14-17; 12:2; 1 John 4:9,10) .
- Man could not save himself and no amount of good deeds could ever satisfy God’s standard of perfect holiness (Rom 3:20; Gal 2:16) . Thus, God sent His Son, a sinless Savior, Jesus Christ, Who took mankind’s sins upon Himself at the Cross and paid the penalty for them in mankind’s place (Matt 20:28; John 10:9-11; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3: 13;1 Thess 5:9,10; 1 Pet 1:15-21).
The Allah Of The Qu‘ran
- Allah is one god, and is linked to no other.
- Allah has no love for sinful man (according to the Qu ‘ran – Suras 3:140; 4:107; 6:142 ;7:31).
- Allah capriciously afflicts men because of their sins (Suras 4: 168,169; 5:49; 7: 179; 9:2;40:10).
- Allah demands that his will be obeyed but does nothing to help mankind achieve this. Salvation for the Muslim is through his own personal efforts, with no assurance or hope of salvation from Allah or the Qu‘ran.
- Allah commands that each man bear his own burdens, either good deeds or bad (Suras 17:15; 35:18) and that good deeds must outweigh bad deeds in order to enter the Muslim version of heaven (Suras 7:8, 9; 21:47).
The Concept Of The Trinity
When discussing the Trinity with a Muslim, always affirm that Christians do NOT worship three gods, because there is only One God (Deut 6:4; 1 Cor 8:4). Muslims sometimes mistakenly believe that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity consists of God, Mary and Jesus (Sura 5: 116). It is important for a Christian to show, from the Bible, the actual compound unity (the tri-unity) of God. In the Bible, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – all three – are referred to as God and are acknowledged as possessing the attributes of God:
Referred to As God:
- The Father – Matt 11:25; Eph 4:6; John 6:27; 8:54;
- The Son- Luke 5:17-26; John 1:1; 20:28;Titus 2:13
- The Holy Spirit-Acts 5:3,4; 2 Cor 3:14-18
Acknowledged as Possessing Attributes of God
- The Father – Jer. 23:24; Ps. 146:5,6;Mark 13:19; Acts 4:24; 17:24,25
- The Son- Matt 18:20; 28:20; John 1:1-3,14; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16,17
- The Holy Spirit – Gen 1:1-3
God The Son
Muslims often have difficulty believing that God has a physical Son (Arabic waladdu’llah). Christians who have a Muslim background suggest that Jesus be presented to a Muslim as the spiritual Son of God (Arabic ibn).
However, it must be clearly and unequivocally affirmed that Jesus came to earth as a Man – that He was born in a physical body, lived on earth, and died a physical death.
It can be pointed out that God is all-powerful and therefore could certainly manifest Himself in a human form; for there is nothing too hard for Him (Jer 32: 17; Luke 1:37).
The biblical doctrine of the Trinity does not contradict itself – even though it is difficult for our finite minds to comprehend this, as we are limited in our ability to understand. It is important to communicate to a Muslim the truth that God is One in essence and three in Person. God is One in essence in that each Person of the Trinity shares in the same self-existent attributes and qualities that are unique to God. Yet God is three in Person in that each Person of the Trinity is uniquely distinct within the essence of God.
B. “Is It Possible That The Bible Has Been Corrupted Or Altered?”
Muslims are taught that the Bible as we now have it was altered from the original writings by Jews and Christians. Muslims call this the doctrine of tahrif, or alteration.
The Bible: God’s Unaltered Word
It is important to assure Muslims that it is actually impossible for the Scriptures to be altered. It would require that Jews and Christians from all over the world agree on many supposed changes in the Scripture over centuries, and then not allow one copy to exist that did not have these exact changes!
Not only that, but subsequent archaeological discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls (dated from 100 BC and found in 1947) completely confirm that the Old Testament has remained unchanged over all these centuries.
To establish the authenticity of the New Testament, researchers have gathered 3, 157 Greek manuscripts that contain either the entire New Testament, or portions of it. These documents date from AD 200 (400 years before Mohammed). The only inconsistencies found in comparing these texts are insignificant errors, such as a wrong letter in a word.
The idea that changes to the sacred texts of the Bible have occurred, thus causing changes to biblical history and doctrines, is completely false and without factual basis.
C. “Why Would God Crucify Jesus?”
The Muslims believe that it would be a dishonor for God to have allowed one of His messengers to be martyred.
Muslims who have difficulty with the crucifixion of Jesus might be helped to know that Jesus continually predicted His own death. And He did so because His atoning death was a focal point of His ministry (Matt 10:28), not just the convergence of forces opposed to His teaching. Read the following verses with a Muslim: Matthew 12:39,40; 16:4,21; 17:22,23; 20:17- 19; 26:2; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33,34; Luke 9:22,44; John 10:11,17,18; 12:32,33.
Part of a Muslim’s struggle is why God would have Jesus die. Have them read Isaiah 53:4-12 to help answer this question. The final verse begins to answer the Muslim’s objection that Jesus would be dishonored by such a death. Instead of dishonor, Jesus was exalted by God for His obedience and submission to God’s will (Phil 2:8, 9; Heb 12:2; see also Hebrews 10:5-10). It is the obedience of Jesus to the Father’s will that fulfilled God’s plan to bring salvation to all mankind. A Muslim should actually honor Jesus for His true submission and obedience to God!
In answering these common questions Muslims have about Christianity, it must be remembered that theological arguments will not save a person. Each person must make a personal decision of faith: To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and His work of salvation for them. A Muslim has no assurance of salvation – only the unsure hope of having done more good deeds than bad deeds. He must be shown that a person can be assured of salvation by receiving God’s grace through faith in Christ. Obedience to the Jaw or other religious rituals and regulations will never be sufficient for salvation.
Practical Guidelines For Sharing With Muslims
- Befriend them and show love and respect to them (this can take a long time). Above all, be Christ like, and remember that it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance (Rom 2:4). Do not be critical or disrespectful of Islam, the Qu’ran or Mohammed.
- As friendship develops, offer to pray for them or for the needs of their family if they will permit it. The power of God at work in their situation will be a mighty testimony indeed!
- Meet individually with them. People will more easily voice their doubts and questions in a less public setting. Do not argue with them; instead, help them think about the truth by using questions or parables from the Bible (such as God’s unconditional love shown in the parable of the Prodigal Son [Luke 15:11- 32]).
- Be thoroughly familiar with your Bible and cite specific passages from it often to support what you are saying. Also, be somewhat familiar with the Qu’ran in order to understand a Muslim better and to show respect.
- Handle your Bible carefully and treat it with the utmost respect. Do not put it on the floor or even lower it below your waist; do not write in your Bible in front of a Muslim; such actions are considered disrespectful according to the Muslim way of thinking.
- Always point a Muslim to Jesus. It is critical that a Muslim (or anyone else) understand that Christianity is not a religion; it is a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
- Be patient, yet persistent. Do not invite them to church until you think they are ready to respond. If you do take them to a church service, explain to them beforehand what to expect and how to interpret the things they will see.
- Be prayerful. Trust the Holy Spirit to bring conviction to them (John 16:5-15) and to reveal to them the truth of Who Jesus is (John 15:26; 16:14). Let the Holy Spirit lead and guide you as to what to say and when to say it; or even when to be silent and listen.
Remember: A Muslim is a person with the same needs, fears, desires, pride and failures as any other person. He or she is a person whom God loved so much that He sent His Son to die for him or her. So treat them in a way that is a living demonstration of Christ, the hope of glory, living in you!