Key Figure In History: Muhammad (A.D. 570–632)

Date Of Its Establishment: A.D. 622

Adherents: Worldwide: Estimated 800 million to 1 billion; 58 percent live in South and Southeast Asia; 28 percent in Africa; 9 percent in Near and Middle East; 5 percent other. U.S.: Estimated 6.5 to 8 million.

What Is Islam?

Islam is the world’s youngest major world religion. It claims to be the restoration of original monotheism and truth and thus supersedes both Judaism and Christianity. It stresses submission to Allah, the Arabic name for God, and conformity to the "five pillars" or disciplines of that religion as essential for salvation. From its inception, Islam was an aggressively missionary-oriented religion. Within one century of its formation, and often using military force, Islam had spread across the Middle East, most of North Africa, and as far east as India. While God is, in the understanding of most Muslims, unknowable personally, His will is believed to be perfectly revealed in the holy book, the Qur’an. The Qur’an is to be followed completely and its teaching forms a complete guide for life and society.

Who Was Muhammad?

Muhammad is believed by Muslims to be the last and greatest prophet of God—"the seal of the prophets." It was through him that the Qur’an was dictated, thus according him the supreme place among the seers of God. A native of Mecca, Muhammad was forced to flee that city in A.D. 622 after preaching vigorously against the paganism of the city. Having secured his leadership in Medina, and with several military victories to his credit, Muhammad returned in triumph to Mecca in A.D. 630. There, he established Islam as the religion of all Arabia.

What Is The Qur’an?

The Qur’an is the sacred book of Islam and the perfect word of God for the Muslim. It is claimed that the Qur’an was dictated in Arabic by the angel Gabriel to Muhammad and were God’s precise words. As such, it had preexisted from eternity in heaven with God as the "Mother of the Book" and was in that form uncreated and co-eternal with God. Islam teaches that it contains the total and perfect revelation and will of God. The Qur’an is about four-fifths the length of the New Testament and is divided into 114 surahs or chapters. While Islam respects the Torah, the psalms of David, and the four Gospels, the Qur’an stands alone in its authority and absoluteness. It is believed to be most perfectly understood in Arabic and it is a religious obligation to seek to read and quote it in the original language.

What Are The "Five Pillars"?

They are the framework for the Muslims’ life and discipline. Successful and satisfactory adherence to the pillars satisfies the will of Allah. They form the basis for the Muslim’s hope for salvation along with faith and belief in Allah’s existence, the authority of Muhammad as a prophet, and the finality and perfection of the Qur’an. The five pillars are:

The confession of Faith or Shahada: It is the declaration that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet. Sincerity in the voicing of the confession is necessary for it to be valid. It must be held until death, and repudiation of the Shahada nullifies hope for salvation.

Prayer of Salat: Five times a day, preceded by ceremonial washing, the Muslim is required to pray facing Mecca. Specific formulas recited from the Qur’an (in Arabic), along with prostrations, are included. Prayer is, in this sense, an expression of submission to the will of Allah. While most of Islam has no hierarchical priesthood, prayers are led in mosques by respected lay leaders. The five times of prayer are before sunrise, noon, midafternoon, sunset, and prior to sleep.

Almsgiving or Zakat: The Qur’an teaches the giving of two-and-a-half percent of one’s capital wealth to the poor and/or for the propagation of Islam. By doing so, the Muslim’s remaining wealth is purified.

The Fast or Sawm: during the course of the lunar month of Ramadan, a fast is to be ob- served by every Muslim from sunrise to sunset. Nothing is to pass over the lips during this time, and they should refrain from sexual relations. After sunset, feasting and other celebrations often occur. The daylight hours are set aside for self-purification. The month is used to remember the giving of the Qur’an to Muhammad.

Pilgrimage or Hajj: All Muslims who are economically and physically able are required to journey to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. The required simple pilgrim’s dress stresses the notion of equality before God. Another element of the Hajj is the mandatory walk of each pilgrim seven times around the Kaabah—the shrine of the black rock, the holiest site of Islam. Muhammad taught that the Kaabah was the original place of worship for Adam and later for Abraham. The Kaabah is thus venerated as the site of true religion, the absolute monotheism of Islam.

The Doctrines Of Islam

God: He is numerically and absolutely one. Allah is beyond the understanding of man so that only his will may be revealed and known. He is confessed as the "merciful and compassionate one."

Sin: The most serious sin that can be ascribed to people is that of shirk or considering god as more than one. Original sin is viewed as a "lapse" by Adam. Humankind is considered weak and forgetful but not as fallen.

Angels: Islam affirms the reality of angels as messengers and agents of god. Evil spirits or Jinn also exist. Satan is a fallen angel. Angels perform important functions for Allah both now and at the end of time.

Final Judgment: The world will be judged at the end of time by Allah. The good deeds and obedience of all people to the five pillars and the Qur’an will serve as the basis of judgment.

Salvation: It is determined by faith, as defined by Islam, as well as by compiling good deeds primarily in conformity to the five pillars. Marriage: Muslims uphold marriage as honorable and condemn adultery. While many Muslim marriages are monogamous, Islamic states allow as many as four wives. Men consider a woman as less than an equal, and while a man has the right to divorce his wife, the wife has no similar power (see Surah 2:228, 4:34). Nonetheless, the female has a right to own and dispose of property. Modesty in dress is encouraged for both men and women.

War: The term jihad or "struggle" is often considered as both external and internal, both a physical and spiritual struggle. The enemies of Islam or "idolaters," states the Qur’an, may be slain "wherever you find them" (Surah:5). (See Surah 47:4). Paradise is promised for those who die fighting in the cause of Islam (see Surah 3:195, 2:224). Moderate Muslims emphasize the spiritual dimension of Jihad and not its political element.

Answering Muslim Objections To Christianity

Christians and Jews are acknowledged as "people of the book," although their failure to conform to the confession of Islam labels them as unbelievers. Following are several questions that Muslims have about Christianity.

Is the Trinity a belief in three gods? Christians are monotheistic and believe that God is one. But both in His work in accomplishing salvation through the person of Jesus Christ and through biblical study it has become clear that His oneness in fact comprises three persons —Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. Mary is not part of the Godhead. The notion of God, who is three-in-one, is part of both the mystery and greatness of God. God is in essence one while in persons three. This truth helps us understand God as truly personal and having the capacity to relate to other persons. As well, Christians confirm the holiness, sovereignty, and greatness of God. How can Jesus be the Son of God? Scripture affirms that Jesus was conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary. It does not in any way claim that Jesus was directly God the Father’s biological and physical son. It rejects the notion of the Arabic word for son, walad, meaning physical son, for the word ibin, which is the title of relationship. Jesus is the Son in a symbolic manner designating that He was God the Word who became man in order to save humankind from its sin. The virgin birth was supernatural as God the Holy Spirit conceived in Mary, without physical relations, Jesus the Messiah. In this manner even the Qur’an affirms the miraculous birth of Christ (see Surah 19:16–21). Jesus was in this sense "God’s unique Son." During His earthly ministry He carried out the will of the Father. Notably the Qur’an affirms Jesus’ supernatural birth, life of miracles, His compassion, and ascension to heaven (see Surah 19:16–21,29–31, 3:37–47, 5:110).

How could Jesus have died on the cross especially if He’s God’s son? The testimony of history and the Injil, or the four Gospels, is that Jesus died on the cross. If it is understood that God is love, and that humankind is lost in sin, then is it not likely that God would have provided a sacrifice for sin? Jesus is God’s sacrifice for all the sins of the world and is a bridge from a holy God to fallen and sinful humans. This truth is revealed in the Injil, John 3:16. Even the Qur’an states in Surah 3:55 that "Allah said: O Isa [Jesus], I am going to terminate [to put to death] the period of your stay (on earth) and cause you to ascend unto Me." What other way could this concept have any meaning apart from Jesus’ death for sin and His subsequent resurrection? Muslims believe that God took Jesus from the cross and substituted Judas in His place, or at least someone who looked like Jesus. He was then taken to heaven where He is alive and from where one day He will return.

Answering Muslims’ Questions To Christians About Islam

What do you think about the prophet Muhammad? Muhammad was apparently a well-meaning man who sought to oppose paganism and evil in his day. While he succeeded in uniting the Arabian Peninsula and upheld several important virtues, we do not believe he received a fresh revelation from God. Jesus Christ fulfilled not only the final prophetic role from God, but He is the Savior or the world and God the Son. While Islam believes that some Bible passages refer to Muhammad (see Deut. 18:18–19; John 14:16; 15:26; 16:7), that is clearly not the meaning of the texts. Other passages may help in understanding and interpreting the previous texts (see Matthew 21:11; Luke 24:19; John 6;14; 7:40; Acts 1:8–16; 7:37).

What is your opinion of the Qur’an? It is a greatly valued book for the Muslim. It is not received or believed to be a divine book by the Christian. The statements of the Qur’an are accepted only where they agree with the Bible.

What is your opinion about the five pillars? Salvation is from God and comes only through the saving work of Jesus Christ. When we put our faith in Him, we may be saved (see John 3:16–21,31–36).

Witnessing To Muslims

Be courteous and loving.

Reflect interest in their beliefs. Allow them time to articulate their views.

Be acquainted with their basic beliefs.

Be willing to examine passages of the Qur’an concerning their beliefs.

Stick to the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith but also take time to respond to all sincere questions.

Point out the centrality of the person and work of Jesus Christ for salvation.

Stress that because of Jesus, His cross, and resurrection, one may have the full assurance of salvation, both now and for eternity (see 1 John 5:13).

Share the plan of salvation with the Muslim. Point out that salvation is a gift and not to be earned.

Pray for th fullness of the Holy Spirit. Trust Him to provide wisdom and grace.

Be willing to become a friend and a personal evangelist to Muslims.

How to Witness to Muslims

In Acts 17:22–31 the apostle Paul built on areas of "common ground" as he prepared his listeners for the good news of the gospel. Even though he was addressing Gentiles whose beliefs were erroneous, he didn’t rebuke them for having a doctrine of devils— "The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God" (1 Corinthians 10:20). Neither did he present the great truth that Jesus of Nazareth was Almighty God manifest in human form. This may have initially offended his hearers and closed the door to the particular knowledge he wanted to convey. Instead, he built on what they already knew. He first established that there is a Creator who made all things. He then exposed their sin of transgression of the First and Second of the Ten Commandments. Then he preached future punishment for sin.

There are three main areas of common ground upon which Christians may stand with Muslims. First, that there is one God—the Creator of all things. The second area is the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet of God. The Bible makes this clear: "And He shall send Jesus Christ,…For Moses truly said to the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up to you of your brethren, like to me; him shall you hear in all things whatsoever he shall say to you" (Acts 3:20–22). The Qur’an (Koran) says: "Behold! The angel said ‘O Mary! Allah giveth you Glad Tidings of a word from Him. His name will be (Christ Jesus) the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah’" (Surah 3:45). In Surah 19:19, the angel said to Mary, "I am only a messenger of thy Lord to announce to you a gift of a holy son." Surah 3:55 says, "Allah said: ‘O Jesus! I will take you and raise you to Myself." It is because of these and other references to Jesus in the Qur’an that a Muslim will not object when you establish that Jesus was a prophet from God.

This brings us to the third area of common ground. Muslims also respect Moses as a prophet of God. Therefore, there should be little contention when Christians speak of God (as Creator), Jesus the prophet, and the Law of the prophet Moses. Most Muslims do have some knowledge of their sinfulness, but few see sin in its true light. It is therefore essential to take them through the spiritual nature of the Ten Commandments. While it is true that the Law of Moses begins with, "I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before Me," it may be unwise to tell a Muslim, at that point, that Allah is a false god. Such talk may close the door before you are able to speak to his conscience. It is wise rather to present the Law in a similar order in which Jesus gave it in Luke 18:20. He addressed the man’s sins of the flesh. He spoke directly to sins that have to do with his fellow man.

Therefore, ask your hearer if he has ever told a lie. When (if) he admits that he has, ask him what that makes him. Don’t call him a liar. Instead, gently press him to tell you what someone is called who has lied. Try to get him to say that he is a "liar." Then ask him if he has ever stolen something, even if it’s small. If he has, ask what that makes him (a thief). Then quote from the Prophet Jesus: "Whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:27). Ask if he has ever looked at a woman with lust. If he is reasonable, he will admit that he has sinned in that area. Then gently tell him that, by his own admission, he is a "lying, thieving adulterer-at-heart." Say, "If God judges you by the Law of Moses on Judgment Day, will you be innocent or guilty?"

At this point, he will more than likely say that he will be innocent, because he confesses his sins to God. However, the Qur’an says: "Every soul that has sinned, if it possessed all that is on earth, would fain give it in ransom" (Surah 10:54). In other words, if he possessed the whole world and offered it to God as a sacrifice for his sins, it wouldn’t be enough to provide atonement for his sins. Imagine that a criminal is facing a 50,000 fine. He is penniless, so he sincerely tells the judge that he is sorry for a crime and vows never to do it again. The judge won’t let him go on the basis of his sorrow, or his vow never to commit the crime again. Of course, he should be sorry for what he has done, and of course, he shouldn’t break the law again. The judge will, however, let him go if someone else pays the fine for him.

Now tell him that Moses gave instructions to Israel to shed the blood of a spotless lamb to provide a temporary atonement for their sin; and that Jesus was the Lamb that God provided to make atonement for the sins of the world. Through faith in Jesus, he can have atonement with God. All his sin can be washed away—once and for all. God can grant him the gift of everlasting life through faith in Jesus Christ on the basis of His death and resurrection.

The uniqueness of Jesus of Nazareth was that He claimed He had power on earth to forgive sins (Matthew 9:2–6). No other prophet of any of the great religions made this claim. Only Jesus can provide peace with God. This is why He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).

God commands sinners to repent and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior, or they will perish. To try to justify himself, your listener may say something like, "The Bible has changed. It has been altered. There are many different versions, but the Koran has never changed." Explain to him that there are many different versions, printed in different languages and in modern English, to help people understand the Bible, but the content of the Scriptures remains the same. The Dead Sea Scrolls prove that God has preserved the Scriptures.

Tell him that the 100% accurate prophecies of Matthew 24, Luke 21, and 2 Timothy 3 prove that this is the Book of the Creator. Your task is to present the truth of the gospel. It is God who makes it come alive (1 Corinthians 3:6,7). It is God who brings conviction of sin (John 16:7,8). It is God who reveals who Jesus is (Matthew 16:16,17). All God requires is your faithful presentation of the truth (Matthew 25:21).

"Why do Jews and Arabs / Muslims hate each other?"

First, it is important to understand that not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arabs. While a majority of Arabs are Muslims, there are many non-Muslim Arabs. Further, there are significantly more non-Arab Muslims (in areas such as Indonesia and Malaysia) than Arab Muslims.

Second, it is important to remember that not all Arabs hate Jews, that not all Muslims hate Jews, and that not all Jews hate Arabs and Muslims. We must be careful to avoid stereotyping people. However, generally speaking, Arabs and Muslims have a dislike and distrust for Jews and vice-versa.

If there is an explicit biblical explanation for this animosity, it goes all the way back to Abraham. The Jews are descendants of Abraham’s son Isaac. The Arabs are descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael. With Ishmael being the son of a slave woman (Genesis 16:1-16) and Isaac being the promised son who would inherit the promises to Abraham (Genesis 21:1-3), animosity between the two sons was almost inevitable. As a result of Ishmael mocking Isaac (Genesis 21:9), Sarah talked Abraham into sending Hagar and Ishmael away (Genesis 21:11-21). Likely this caused even more contempt in Ishmael’s heart toward Isaac. An angel even prophesied to Hagar that Ishmael would “live in hostility toward all his brothers” (Genesis 16:11-12).

The religion of Islam, of which a majority of Arabs are adherents, has made this hostility more profound. The Qur'an contains conflicting instructions for Muslims regarding Jews. At one point it instructs Muslims to treat Jews as brothers, but at another point it commands Muslims to attack Jews who refuse to convert to Islam. The Qur’an also introduces a conflict as to which son of Abraham was truly the son of promise. The Hebrew Scriptures say it was Isaac. The Qur’an says it was Ishmael. The Qur’an teaches that it was Ishmael that Abraham almost sacrificed to the Lord, not Isaac (in contradiction to Genesis chapter 22). This debate over who was the son of promise contributes to the hostility today.

However, the ancient root of bitterness between Isaac and Ishmael does not explain all of the hostility between Jews and Arabs today. In fact, for thousands of years of Middle Eastern history, Jews and Arabs lived in relative peace and indifference toward each other. The primary cause of the hostility has a modern origin. After World War II, when the United Nations gave a portion of the land of Israel to the Jewish people, the land was at that time primarily inhabited by Arabs (the Palestinians). Most Arabs protested against the nation of Israel occupying that land. Arab nations united and attacked Israel in an attempt to wipe them out of the land, but they were defeated by Israel.

Ever since, there has been great hostility between Israel and its Arab neighbors. If you look on a map, Israel has one tiny little sliver of land and is surrounded by much larger Arab nations, i.e. Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt. It is our viewpoint that, biblically speaking, Israel has a right to exist as a nation with its own land because God gave the land of Israel to the descendants of Jacob, grandson of Abraham. At the same time, we strongly believe that Israel should seek peace and display respect for its Arab neighbors. Psalms 122:6 declares, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure."