God-fearing Muslims from many counties are moving to the U.S. It is estimated that 3.3 million Muslims currently live in this country, which is equivalent to 1% of the population. Many of us who read this blog don’t know much about Muslims or what they believe, outside of what we see on TV or read in the news. So I am starting a monthly series on Islam to help us become better informed and learn how to engage in relationship with our Muslim neighbors. Next month, Muslims will celebrate Ramadan, which commemorates the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. That will be the topic of my blog post next month. This month, I want to share 5 ways Christian beliefs are essentially different from what Muslims believe.
The most important driving principle to understand behind Islam, recited in the call to prayer, is La ilaha illa Allah—”There is no god but Allah.” This heavily influences all other Muslim confessions, and explains why many Muslims don’t “get” Christian faith.
1) There is no category in Islam for the Trinity. Muslims believe that Jesus was the son of Mary and was a Messenger of God. But since God is only One God, Muslims would never agree that Jesus was in very nature God; “I and the Father are One”; John 10:30.
2) Muslims do not accept our primary source for faith, the Bible, as Divinely Inspired. Christians believe that the Bible is authoritative and inspired by the Holy Spirit. God used real people at specific times to write in their own words, exactly what God wanted said. Muslims find it unbelievable that God would speak through many human beings rather than dictate directly to one messenger of God, i.e. Muhammad. For Muslims, only Muhammad was the incorruptible conduit of God’s word.
3) Muslims understand ‘Isa—Jesus, very differently than Christians. Muhammad viewed Jesus as an important prophet—along the lines of Noah, Abraham, and Moses—but not Immanuel, God with us. Muslims do honor Jesus and affirm the miracles associated with him, but they would never consider worshiping him. Muslims agree that Jesus was condemned to die on the cross, but they claim he was never crucified. In Islam a prophet would never be executed as a criminal. Even more inconceivable is the idea that a Son of God would be a slave or be publically executed as a criminal. If Jesus died on the cross, enduring shame, then, from the Muslim perspective, Jesus was an utter failure.
4) Salvation by grace through faith makes no sense for a Muslim. For a Muslim, the validating sign of faith is in what a person does. (James says something similar in James 2:14.) But for a Muslim, the idea of an undeserved gift–like Jesus taking all our sins on Him so that we could take all His righteousness on ourselves–is incomprehensible.
5) In Islam, God is all merciful, all knowing, and all compassionate. Muslims actually have 99 names for what God is, but none of them conveys the intimate relationship with Abba Father that is a major characteristic of God in the Christian faith.
So what’s the point? Our media often portrays Islam as a violent religion. Some Muslims are violent but most are not. Islam is built around the core tenant that there is no God but Allah. Muslims are deeply devoted religious people. They are also very hospitable.
Christianity is essentially relational. We love our neighbors, one another, and the God who has come to us in Jesus. This love is unconditional and the relationships are intimate. It is this latter reality that makes Christianity so attractive. Muslims won’t become convinced about Jesus or the Bible or grace through a quick conversation or a debate. But they will see the real Jesus when we show grace and the effects of an intimate relationship with Abba Father. So who are the Muslims God has put in your life and how can you show them love, grace and Abba Father?