This is the fourth in a series of blog posts I have been writing on Islam. There are 3.3 million Muslims living in the U.S., and that number is steadily increasing which is welcome news for Christians who have been praying for Muslims. My hope for this series is that it will help us be more confident and comfortable as we build relationships with our Muslim neighbors.
So let’s look at three big ideas Christians and Muslims share about God and how our perspectives differ.
Christians and Muslims believe there is only One God.
Muhammad, who is the prophet of Islam, grew up in Mecca where the people worshipped many different gods. This deeply troubled Muhammad and prompted him to devote his life to finding spiritual truth. Islam emerged from that context with the message that there is only One God. Today, many Muslims daily recite a phrase called the ‘Shahada’ which is “There is no God but ‘Allah’ and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
But the God described in the holy book of Islam, called the ‘Quran’, is different than the God described in the Bible. One of the biggest differences is that the God of the Bible is Triune. This means that there is One God, but this God consists of three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each Person has a unique role. God the Father created this world. God the Son redeemed it through the cross. God the Holy Spirit guides and empowers followers of Jesus in this world. Christians call this ‘The Trinity’, and there are several places in the Bible that show the Trinity of God at work: Genesis 1:26-28; Matthew 3:16-17 and Matthew 28:18-21. Muslims reject this doctrine. For a Muslim, there is only One God, so Jesus was only a prophet.
Christians and Muslims believe that God is Transcendent.
God exceeds the barriers of physical space and time limitations. This means God is Supreme, All-Powerful, and All-Knowing. God is the necessary and unique Creator of all things. There is no one and no thing like God. Christians and Muslims both agree on this.
For a Muslim though, God is so unique and so far removed from our lives that a Muslim cannot know God personally. The term Muslim means ‘to submit’ and the human-God relationship in Islam (which means ‘the submission’) is best described as servant-master. A Muslim submits to God’s laws and lives a life of obedience characterized by the five pillars of Islam (saying the Shahada, prayer, fasting, alms, and pilgrimage to Mecca.) A Muslim can know God’s attributes, and this knowledge gives a Muslim comfort and encouragement, but there is no personal relationship with this God.
Christians believe that the transcendent God burst into this world in the person of Jesus. Matthew 1:23 records for us that the angel Gabriel, in announcing Jesus’ birth, said; “they will call Him Immanuel, which means God with us.” Later, Jesus would tell His disciples “Anyone who has seen me has seen my Father,” John 14:7
Jesus came so that we could know the Father personally and relate to Him as His children, Galatians 3:26, 1 John 3:1.
Christians and Muslims believe that God provides guidance through this life.
We live in a world that does not know God or follow Him. So God has given us prophets and His Holy Word to show us His will and guide us. This is another idea we agree on.
Muslims have a very high view of the Torah (The Jewish Scriptures) and the Bible, in addition to the Quran. But Muslims also believe that the Torah and the Bible became corrupted over the years. So God gave Muhammad the exact words which are written in the Quran. These words came directly from heaven and were spoken to Muhammad in Arabic, which is why the Quran is only read and spoken in Arabic. All other translations are imperfect versions or translations. The purpose of the Quran is to make people aware of God’s creation plan and to earn God’s pleasure. The Quran describes human beings as good, created with the capability of being good. Adam and Eve sinned simply because they forgot or became distracted from obeying God’s law. The Quran reminds a Muslim about God’s law and provides the guidance a Muslim needs to obey it. By doing so, a Muslim shows their devotion to God and hopes in return to inherit paradise.
Christians believe the complete opposite. The Bible teaches us that God’s law, summed up in the commandments, is good, but it does not have the power to make us good, Romans 7:7-25. Rather, the law shows us how corrupt we are and how unable we are to live righteous and obedient lives. This is because we have a sin nature that makes it impossible for us to be good on our own. We need a Savior. Someone who can make us righteous and heal our sin nature. We need Jesus because that’s exactly what He does for us.
The heart of the Christian message is “God loves you!”
“God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life”, John 3:16. God is personal, relational, and wildly in love with you. God goes to the most radical extreme to demonstrate His love. Romans 5:8 tells us “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” By placing all our brokenness and sin on Himself when He died on that cross, God received the Judgment that was coming for us all. Now we are totally free. That is really different from the God of the Quran.
So what can you do today? Begin praying for God to give you a Muslim friend. Have fun with the relationship. Love them. Serve them. Ask questions about their faith. And when the time comes, share your own personal experience with God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Prayer: “Jesus, light the fire of your love in me for the sake of the world.”