Islam was started by a man named Muhammad in the year 610 AD. Muhammad would go to a certain mountain all the time where he could meditate. One of these times, at the age of 40, he was encountered by what he called the angel Gabriel. Gabriel had other encounters with Muhammad. Over time, Gabriel gave Muhammad the entirety of the Qu’ran.
Islam means submission. A Muslim is simply “one who submits”, or a follower of Islam. What does it mean to follow Islam? I will lay out some of the basic beliefs about God, religious practice, Scripture, Jesus, about salvation.
God: Islam is 1 of the 3 major monotheistic religions in the world. Christianity and Judiasm are the other 2. They believe in 1 supreme, holy, completely transcendent, creator, sustainer God. God is referred to as Allah. Muslims vehemently reject the idea of the Trinity. To accept the Trinity is to commit a serious crime called shirk. They consider it idolatry to call anything else God.
Allah requires dedication and commitment from followers. There are 5 basic pillars that are the most foundational forms of submitting to the will of Allah.
1. Recite the shahada: “there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet.”
2. Pray 5 times daily: The prayers are to be at certain intervals and facing Mecca.
3. Alms: every Muslim has to give 2 and a half percent of their income to the poor.
4. Ramadan fast: they spend every day of the month fasting from all foods during daylight hours.
5. Hajj: if their finances allow they will make a pilgrimage to Mecca. This is where they receive their new name.
What are the holy books for Muslims? Primarily, the Qu’ran is the final authority for God’s will. The Qu’ran is made up of 114 chapters, or suras. It is not so much a theological manifesto as much as a document on living and ethics. Second, they also use the Hadith as an example and guidance. The Hadith is the story of Muhammad’s life and journey as the prophet of Islam. It also explains how the Qu’ran came to be.
The Bible is partially accepted. They accept the Old Testament, with special attention to the Psalms. They only accept the Gospels out of the New Testament. Wherever there is a contradiction, the Bible is assumed to be wrong and the Qu’ran correct. They believe Allah inspired these parts of the Bible, but that corruption has changed parts of its message. They believe the Apostle Paul pushed his own religious agenda, which was against God and against the teachings of Jesus.
The Qu’ran and the Bible actually teach a lot of the same things about Jesus with a few very significant differences. Muslims teach that Jesus was a virgin born Messiah- “Messiah” meaning one who is sent from God; not necessarily a unique title. They teach that Jesus was sinless. The Qu’ran also teaches that he worked many miracles.
1 of the major differences about Jesus in the Qu’ran concerns his resurrection. There is not even agreement among Muslims on how to interpret the supposed to resurrection. 1 way to explain it away is called the swoon theory. This is the assumption that Jesus was on the cross but only appeared to die. He passed out and woke up when he was put in the cool cave. The more popular teaching among Muslims is that Jesus did not die on the cross but was replaced by Judas Iscariot. Judas was made to look like Jesus. Many Muslims say that Allah would not allow one of his messengers to die such of painful and humiliating death.
In Christianity, Jesus’s death is necessary for salvation. How then does Islam explain salvation? Islam agrees with Christianity that there is a hell for the punishment of non-believers, non-Muslims. They agree that there is a heaven, a paradise. Allah can bring anyone into paradise regardless of how much they have sinned or what they believe. There is no substitutionary punishment in Islam. There is no act of justification in Islam. There are just good deeds and bad deeds. The Muslim hopes that Allah will look upon them with favor because of their good deeds, but there is no guarantee. It is Muslim doctrine that if you die a martyrs death (in jihad) then you are guaranteed paradise.
What is Muslim paradise? Paradise is where you get 72 virgins for your own pleasure. In paradise, it appears that Allah is still too holy and transcendent to be in a personal relationship with his followers. Allah would not remain holy if sinful and uncleansed people were brought into his uncompromised presence.
Now for a quick Christian response to the doctrines of Islam. First, the nature of God: God is a Trinity according to the Bible, including the Old Testament. The term “elohim”, an Old Testament title for God, implies a plural unity. It is a plural noun that uses singular verbs. Jesus taught the Trinity in John 14 and and Matthew 28:19. God’s triune nature means that His holiness does not have to be compromised in order for him to be personal with man and His creation. It also allows for the greatest act of love to be demonstrated. God, through Jesus Christ, could demonstrate the ultimate act of love. Allah could demonstrate no such act. Allah would either have to remain distant from his creation or compromise his holiness. If Allah is so transcendent, he would not have had the ability how to create the world in the first place. He would have to be active in the world in order to create it.
There is no evidence that the Bible has been corrupted from its original form. In fact, all the evidence points to the Bible being exactly the same document that was originally written. Yes, there are a few areas of questions, but no doctrine is in any doubt whatsoever. This means that Jesus’ words, as written in the Bible, ought to be taken as Jesus’ actual words. What business does a prophet 600 years later have in saying that the texts are corrupted? What right does he have claiming he suddenly has the correct meaning of them?
This is enough to demonstrate that Muhammad is a false prophet and that the “angel” “Gabriel” was not a true messenger of God. But there are other ways to demonstrate Muhammad was a false prophet. He was a polygamist, going against doctrine that he brought into the Qu’ran. He was violent, a pedophile, egotistical, and brought a false gospel with errors and contradictions. He clearly misinterpreted prophecy from the Bible, thinking they referred to him. He misunderstood Jesus’ message- or understood it and wanted to change it.
Each Muslim needs to realize who Jesus is according to the most reliable documents we have. He claimed more than the Muslim is willing to give him credit for. He claimed to be God (John 8:58), the image of the Father (John 14:9), the Son of God (John 10:36, 11:27). He predicted his own death, was killed and resurrected before far too many people for it to be a hoax. It was the Roman’s profession to assure death and guarded burial. The change in the apostles is inexplicable apart from the resurrection. They need to know… all of them!
About 21 percent of the world population is Muslim. 1 billion of the 1.6 billion Muslims live in South and Southeast Asia. In the United States there are only about 2.7 million Muslims- less than 1 percent. But if Europe serves as an indicator for the United States, Islam could be on the brink of a surge in United States.
Let me finish off by giving you some introductory thoughts on meeting and conversing with Muslims. First, we should not unfairly label every Muslim according to what we see Muslims doing on TV. It is a fringe group that are extremely violent. Most Muslims, as well as people from all other walks of life, do not mean to be hostile or aggressive, but gentle and kind. Always give the person the opportunity to be gentle and kind. Along with this, do not be intimidated. I realize some Muslims can come across this way, but if you give in to it it will cloud your thinking. Remember that aggression is often just a sign of a week or insecure argument (other times it is genuine passion and concern). You probably won’t see anybody yield their position on the spot. The goal of your encounter should be to cause them to begin to realize who Jesus is. Encourage them to read the Gospels. Then, prayerfully trust that the Word of God will begin to take fruit in their life.