Lesson 14: Islam

Lesson 14: Islam

[Note to teacher: this lesson could easily take two class periods]

We will conclude our study in apologetics by examining one of the fastest growing and most influential non-Christian religions today, Islam. Followers of Islam are Muslims or Mohammedans. Islam has much in common with Christianity and Judaism. All three originated with Abraham, recognize one God (monotheistic), are centered in the Middle East, and emphasize similar moral principles. Thus, some see Muslims, Jews and Christians as different branches of the same tree. There are even some within Christendom who suggest that sincere Muslims do not need to hear the Gospel because God accepts all sincere people of faith. However, Islam and Christianity are contradictory on many points. Christians should develop a basic understanding of Islam so that they’ll be able to both defend Christianity from Muslim claims and effectively point Muslims to Christ.


Background:1 The word Islam means peace by submission and obedience to the will and commandments of God (Allah). It is also understood to mean total peace that comes from surrender to the will of God Almighty. The word “Islam” should be pronounced with a “ss” (Islam) sound rather than a “z” sound (Izlam).

Islam arose in the deserts of Arabia near the city of Mecca. Mecca was an important commercial city and also a shrine city. In it is the Ka’aba, “the cube,” a building traditionally thought of as a worship center built by Abraham and Ishmael. Although the Arabs recognized Allah as the supreme God, he was not the only god they worshipped. The Ka’aba was full of images of other gods and goddesses. The Arabs at the time of Muhammad were thoroughly pagan.

The shrine at Mecca was an important element in Arab culture when the father of the faith, Muhammad ibnu Abdillah, was born around 570 AD. He earned his living as a trader and was known by his people as al-amin (the trustworthy one). By the time he was twenty-five, Muhammad had become well known in the city for his integrity and kindness. When Muhammad reached the age of 40, the angel Jibril (Gabriel) supposedly came to him with revelations that established Muhammad as a prophet. He first instructed his immediate family in Islam, including his wife Khadija and their six children. But eventually it was revealed to him that he should begin delivering the message to all of mankind. For the next 20 years, he communicated the message of Allah to his people, and set an example for how each human being should lead his life. Muhammad died on June 8, 632 AD.

According to Muslim tradition, the angel Gabriel visited Muhammad as commanded by Allah revealing Ayat (meaning signs, loosely referred to as verses) in Arabic over a period of twenty-three years. The revelations that he received were sometimes a few verses, a part of a chapter or the whole chapter. The revealed verses were recorded on a variety of available materials (leather, palm leaves, bark, and shoulder bones of animals), memorized as soon as they were revealed, and were recited in daily prayers by Muslims. All the revealed verses were compiled in the book known as Qur’an (Koran). The Qur’an speaks in the first person as Allah’s commandments to His creation. Gabriel also visited the Prophet throughout his mission informing and teaching him of events and strategy as needed to help in the completion of the prophetic mission. The Prophet’s sayings, actions, and approvals are recorded separately in collections known as Hadith.

The mission of Muhammad was to restore the worship of the One True God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, as taught by Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and all Prophets of God, and to demonstrate and complete the laws of moral, ethical, legal, and social conduct and all other matters of significance for the humanity at large. Almost sounds like Mormonism—an angel appears to Joe Smith telling him to restore true worship.

The first few people who followed this message were Mohammed’s cousin Ali, his servant Zayd ibn Harithah, his friend Abu Bakr and his wife and daughters. At first, the Muslims were a small, persecuted group within their community. They endured insults and hostility from all sides, engaged in battles with opposing warlords, and even had to leave the area temporarily. Eventually, however, Muhammad and his followers became more influential. Several prominent Arab leaders converted to Islam, as did the people in many communities. Muslims carried the message of Islam wherever they went, and within ninety years the teachings of Islam reached Spain, North Africa, the Caucasus, northwest China and India.

Today, there may be 6 to 8 million Muslims in North America, over 30 million in Western Europe, and 50 to 60 million in different parts of the Republics that were once a part of Soviet Union. Significant Muslim minorities live in the Far East and in Eastern Europe. Islam prevails in countries like Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sudan, Lebanon, etc.

Beliefs:

Islam is a complete way of life. It embraces the spiritual, social, moral, economic and cultural life of its followers, as well as their belief in God. It is concerned with the total person, and all acts receive their justification and direction from the teaching that is embodied in Qur’an. Unlike in the US where one’s religion is often separate from the rest of his life.

  • God: As noted above, Muslims are monotheists, believing in only one God, Allah. Allah is the proper name (not a title) in Arabic for the one and only God, the creator and sustainer of the universe. Muslims believe this is the same God the Christians and the Jews worship. Allah does not have any associate or partner, and he does not beget nor was He begotten. Islam proclaims that God is infinitely beyond anything that the human mind or senses can grasp or comprehend, imagine or explain. He is the originator and the fashioner of the whole universe and all of its perfect systems, which he sustains according to his infinitely wise plans and laws. Islam proclaims that God alone is divine and no one else shares his divinity.2
  • Muhammad (“the Prophet”): He was the last and greatest of God’s prophets. All sincere Muslims try to follow the Qur’an and the Prophet’s example to minute details.
  • Other religions: Muslims have respect for other “people of the book,” that is, Jews and Christians. The Qur’an mentions four previously revealed Scriptures: Suhoof (Pages) of Ibrahim (Abraham), Taurat (‘Torah’) as revealed to Prophet Moses, Zuboor (‘Psalms’) as revealed to Prophet David, and Injeel (‘Evangel’) as revealed to Prophet Jesus. Islam requires belief in all prophets and in all original, non-corrupted scriptures.
  • Scriptures: The Muslim teaching is that Islam as a religion has been practiced by the righteous since the creation of mankind and that all the prophets of God preached the same message. Many prophets were given scriptures to guide their nations and communities. Muslims believe that the last revealed scripture is the Holy Qur’an, and it is the only revealed scripture that has not been corrupted by human additions or deletions since its revelation 1400 years ago.

The Qur’an has 114 chapters that vary in length from four to 286 verses and it contains about 78,000 words. The Qur’an is believed to be the word of God, spoken through the angel Gabriel and recorded by Prophet Mohammad as God willed it to be. The Qur’an regulates every phase of the Islamic law, religious practice, culture and morals.

Another body of Islamic literature is called The Hadees (or Hadith). There are six such collections and each collection has multiple volumes. The Hadees, or The Traditions, is a recording of the actions, words, and deeds of Prophet Mohammad. For instance, the Qur’an commands that the Muslims should pray and worship, and pay charity; the Hadees explains the method of prayer, worship and the acts of charity. The Hadees and the Qur’an are complimentary, but the source of all the principles is the Qur’an.

  • The Prophets: The Qur’an states that God sent a guide to every community, nation or tribe of people, and it mentions the names of many of them, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. According to the Qur’an, Adam was the first prophet and from Abraham came a long line of prophets through his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael was the forefather of the Arab people and thus of Prophet Mohammad, and, from Isaac descended a number of prophets, including his son Jacob, grandson Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, John the Baptist and Jesus. The Qur’an tells that Moses, David and Jesus were given written scriptures by God, and only scattered portions of the originals remain today.

Islam teaches that Jesus was one in the line of prophets sent to the children of Israel. He brought the message that reiterated the need of submission to God Almighty and obedience to God’s law as had been given to Moses. The Qur’an states that Jesus was a human being, who delivered the message of one-ness of God and taught that God should be worshipped.3 Jesus was the greatest prophet other than Mohammad. Muslims believe that Jesus did not die on the cross. God performed a miracle and delivered him from the hands of his enemies.

  • Morality: Islam emphasizes social justice, mercy, charity, and generosity. The duty of each person is to work out his or her own destiny, and each is responsible for his or her own actions.
  • Doctrine: Islam is not a doctrinally driven religion. The focus is on faithfulness to Allah and to Muhammad as the Prophet, but beyond that, individual belief varies significantly.
  • Salvation: there will be a day of judgment and accountability with resurrection, at which time, those subservient to the will of God will be rewarded and those who failed to observe their obligations will be punished. An average Muslim believes that God gives life and death and that death may come at any time; thus, every one should try to earn the pleasure of God through good deeds. With this perception, a Muslim has to live a virtuous life all the time. Thus salvation is by works.
  • Worship: Muslims believe in Five Acts of Worship:
  • Declaration of Faith – Declaration of faith is the first act of worship when it is done with full sense of sincerity and commitment. The declaration that “There is no other God but One God (Allah) and Mohammad is His Messenger and servant” is the simple statement that makes a person a Muslim and is required to be said once in one’s life time with full conviction and understanding. In practice Muslims may say it several times a day.
  • The Prayer (Salat) – The prescribed prayer is the most visible act of worship. Prayer is to be offered five times a day (at the break of dawn, at noon, mid-afternoon, at sunset and at dusk after dark).
  • Fasting (Saum) – Muslims fast in the month of Ramadan every year from the break of dawn till sun set. In addition to physical fasting, Ramadan is the month of spiritual activity at a heightened level.
  • Charity (Zakat) – In simple terms, the rich and the well-to-do are obligated to pay charity to help the needy. This obligatory tax is paid out of all assets that the individual possesses at the end of every year, above and beyond the individual’s personal and family needs. It is calculated at a fixed rate of two and one half percent per year.
  • Pilgrimage (Haj) – A trip to Mecca is an essential duty that all Muslims should attempt at least once in a lifetime. Only those people are required to go for Haj who are in good health and have the means to travel to Saudi Arabia. The person who travels to Mecca and carries out the prayers and procedures in and around the grand mosque of Ka’aba at the time of Haj is called Haji (the pilgrim). Every year more than 1.5 million Muslims from all parts of the world perform Haj at Ka’aba.

What about jihad? Although jihad is not considered one of the five pillars, it is still an essential concept in Islam. The word literally means “strive, struggle, fight.” In the Muslim sense, it has a wide range of meanings, anywhere from inner, personal struggle for greater piety or to overcome evil (“greater jihad”) to political or military struggle to defend or expand the Muslim world (“lesser jihad”). We often associate the term with “holy war,” armed conflict Muslims conduct against “infidels” (non-Muslims). A person who engages in any form of jihad can be called a mujahid (plural: mujahidin, Arabic for striver, struggler). Such a person might engage in fighting as a military struggle for religious reasons, or for example, struggle to memorize the Qur’an. Extremists/radicals/terrorists have used the concept of jihad as a pretext for armed conflict against infidels, or even against other Muslims, in the name of Allah. Some Muslim traditions teach that those killed in the pursuit of jihad will receive great rewards in heaven. “Shahada,” or Death for Allah, promises rewards including the enjoyment of 72 “dark-eyed virgins” in Paradise. The only certain way of getting to Paradise is to die in jihad.

What’s the Difference?

It should be obvious that Islam is a force to be reckoned with, a highly influential and growing religion with many millions of adherents. In the U.S., Islam is growing very quickly through immigration of Muslim believers and conversion of non-Muslims to Islam. How should Christians respond to these challenges?

Christians should recognize that Christianity and Islam are incompatible as sources of truth. Christianity and Islam contradict each other on many points.

Some suggest that Muslims are indeed worshipping the correct God, but are just mistaken in their concept of Him. But there are many distinctions between Allah and Yahweh Elohim (the LORD God): 4

Islam

Christianity

Allah is an absolute unity, without partner or peer.

God is a Trinity (or tri-unity). God eternally exists within the three Persons of the Trinity: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Allah claims to be a schemer, the author of evil and deception.

God neither is tempted by sin nor does He tempt anyone to sin.

Allah frequently changes his mind and substitutes one revelation for another.

God’s character and purposes are eternal and unchangeable (immutable).

Allah presides over a paradise of sensual pleasure (72 virgins, etc).

Holy worship, contentment and joy characterize God’s heaven.

Allah has no children. A Muslim would never claim Allah as his father. Men are servants of Allah, but enjoy no close personal relationship.

God claims to be a Father to His people. God invites men to come to him and enjoy close personal fellowship.

Allah rarely expresses love for anyone. Allah does not love those who don’t love him.

God frequently expresses His love for all people, those who serve Him as well as those who don’t.

Allah is utterly unknowable. He does not reveal himself to anyone in any way. Allah reveals only his will.

God cannot be fully known, but He can be truly known. God reveals both Himself and His will. The most outstanding revelation of God is Jesus Christ.

Allah is the personal name for God.

The Bible says God’s name is Yahweh.

Allah is essentially one of the pagan gods of the Arabs whom Muhammad chose and exalted to a high position.

God chose Abraham and revealed Himself as the one and only God. The worship of Yahweh did not evolve from polytheism.

  • Muslims claim to respect the Christian Scriptures, but in reality they deny the Bible and Christian theology. Muslims claim that the Christian Bible has been corrupted over the years and is no longer reliable. Christians obviously disagree. There is no reason to believe any part of the Bible is corrupt or invalid. The Qur’an is guilty of verifiable historical errors, unlike the Bible.
  • Muslims claim to respect Jesus as a most important prophet. However, they are far more devoted to Muhammad than to Jesus. Islam teaches that Jesus was a great man, but not equal with God and certainly not worthy of worship. They don’t even believe that Jesus died on the cross, teaching that Allah would never let his prophet die such a dishonorable death. Thus Muslim teaching directly contradicts biblical teaching and historic Christian theology.
  • Islam teaches salvation by good works. Muslims must both believe in Muhammad and Allah, as well as perform good works in the hopes of earning a place in paradise. Muslims hope to accumulate enough good works to outweigh their bad works. They can never be sure if they are acceptable to Allah, whether they’ll go to heaven or hell. Christianity teaches that salvation is through faith based on God’s unconditional grace. Those who are saved may be confident that God accepts them on the basis of Christ’s death for them.
  • Islam teaches that man is weak, sinful and ignorant, but not spiritually dead. Man needs a teacher and guide, not a savior. Man is fully capable by his own will and efforts of pleasing God. In contrast, the Bible teaches that man is incapable of saving himself. Man is dead in sin, unable and unwilling to please God, in need of a new heart, not just a shove in the right direction.
  • Some Muslim practices and doctrines give evidence of Islam’s pagan roots. For example, Muslims believe that the black stone meteorite in the Ka’aba was originally crystal clear but became pitch-black through taking the sins of the Muslims who kiss it. Any form of veneration of a dead stone—especially to the extent of bowing down and kissing the stone—can only be identified with pagan idolatry rather than pure monotheistic worship.

A Note about radical Islam (“Islamo-radicals, Islamo-fascists”):

Some assert that militant, radical, “extreme” Muslims are not following the true faith but are corrupting a peaceful, tolerant religion. However, from its very inception, Islam expanded throughout the Middle-East and Africa due to the correct understanding of its followers, that the Dar al-Islam (“the house of Islam”5) must extend to all the corners of the earth, and that this expansion is to be achieved by fighting and conquering the forces of unbelief. Far from getting it wrong, groups like the Iranian Revolutionaries, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda understood the message of Muhammad far better than most of their modern brethren. Christians shouldn’t believe for a moment the ridiculous line the media is currently preaching regarding Islam being a noble religion of peace and tolerance. Islam is by nature a militant religion that cannot ultimately allow for the existence of opposition.6 There is every reason to believe that the radicals are seeking and will use WMD—chemical, biological and/or nuclear.

Note the Quote: “To those who doubt, to those who ask is it possible, or those who do not believe, I say accomplishment of a world without America and Israel is both possible and feasible.” Iranian dictator Ahmadinejad

Conclusion: If there is indeed only one God, there can only be one true religion, one faith that alone can give men access to the presence, knowledge and favor of God. That religion is Christianity, not Islam. While Islam has some things in common with Christianity, it is clearly not compatible with Christianity. Muslims worship a different god, seek salvation through different means, and believe different scriptures.

The best approach to Muslims is one of understanding, love and respect. Christians who “blast away” at Islam will likely be highly ineffective witnesses. But those who display great patience and kindness will find Muslims eager to discuss spiritual matters.

The Qur’an says:

You will find those who are nearest in love to [Muslims] to be those who say, “We are Christians” because among them are men devoted to learning and self-denial, and they are not arrogant.

Christians should always be “nearest in love” to Muslims and everyone else they come into contact with. An attitude of caring and concern for their well-being, both temporally and eternally, should be the overriding factor in our dealings with all men.7

Discussion:

  1. Who is the father of Islam? Muhammad ibnu Abdillah
  2. Where and when did Islam arise? Around 600 AD in what is now Saudi Arabia
  3. What is the name of the shrine at Mecca? Ka’aba
  4. What is the Muslim book of scripture called? The Qur’an (Koran)
  5. T or F Muslims believe Allah is the same God that Christians and Jews worship.
  6. What do Muslims think about Jesus? They revere Him as a great prophet and teacher, second only to Muhammad, but not as equal with God or worthy of worship. They don’t believe He died or rose again.
  7. What do Muslims teach about salvation? One is saved by good works. One must accumulate more good works than bad.
  8. What is the Declaration of Faith? “There is no other God but One God (Allah) and Mohammad is His Messenger and servant”
  9. What do Muslims think of the Bible? They claim to respect the Christian Scriptures, but in reality they deny the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Muslims claim that the Christian Bible has been corrupted over the years and is no longer reliable.
  10. Are Muslims saved? No; if one is a genuine Muslim, he denies the Bible, the deity of Christ, the sacrificial death of Christ, the resurrection, the character of God, and many other cardinal doctrines of Christianity. They claim to respect Christianity and see it as a true religion, but they essentially reject Christian doctrine.

1 Much of this history taken from Biography of Prophet Muhammad by Dr. A. Zahoor and Dr. Z. Haq © 1990, 1997, 1998 (http://users.erols.com/zenithco/muhammad.html)

2 An Introduction to Islam Mohammad I. Hussain, M.D.

3 Hussain

4 Sam Shamoun, Is Allah The God Of Bible? http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/god.htm and The Character of God in Bible and Qur’an: A Study In Contrasts http://www.answering-islam.org/God/ character.html

5 Dar al-Islam (Arabic: literally “house of submission”) is a term used to refer to those lands under Muslim government(s) or where Muslims are free to practice their faith. In the conservative tradition of Islam, the world is divided into two components: dar al-Islam and dar al-Harb, the “house of war.”

6 Andrew Webb

7 John Gilchrist Our Approach to Islam: Charity or Militancy? http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/charity.html#3