A View behind the Veil
by June Hunt
On September 11, 2001, Muslim extremists hijacked American planes and flew their suicide missions into the Twin Towers in New York City and into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. On that infamous day, the veil was pulled back on the twenty-first century, revealing a world in turmoil between two predominant religions … Christianity and Islam.
Paradoxically, they both look to the biblical patriarch of the Old Testament Abraham and call him “Father.” Yet, is the Islamic god (Allah) the same as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? Muslims regularly recite the creed, “There is no god but Allah.” So who is the one true God? This question is of great importance because God deeply desires that you know Him. The God of the Bible says,
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”
Followers of Islam number well over one billion. They populate every continent of the world, and their numbers are increasing. What is Islam, what is the Qur’an and the Hadith? Who are Muhammad, the Sunnis and the Shi’ites? And why is it important that you become informed? God wants you to be both knowledgeable and wise as you interact with the followers of Islam and with those interested in joining this ever-growing religion.
“The wise in heart are called discerning.”
A. What Is Islam?
Muslims believe that Islam began when God created Adam and Eve and that every person ever born is actually born a Muslim. They assert that Islam has always been the religion of faithful Jews and Christians, thus Moses was a Muslim, as was Jesus. For example, the Qur’an states, “Ibrahim [Abraham] was not a Jew nor a Christian but he was (an) upright (man), a Muslim.” (Surah 3:67)
• Islam is the name of a worldwide religion that began under the leadership of Muhammad in the Arab Peninsula, now called Saudi Arabia, during the seventh century CE.
• Islam is the second largest religion and the fastest growing in the world. Only Christianity has more followers. Approximately 20% of the world’s population is Islamic.
• Islam is one of the few religions that claims to believe in only one god (monotheism). Because Muslims believe that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is polytheistic, they claim that Islam restores true monotheism. Because they believe their revelation through Mohammed is later and corrective, they believe that their teachings supercede both Judaism and Christianity.
• Islam means “submission,” implying submission to the will of Allah. (In Arabic, Allah literally means “the god.”) Some believe that the word Islam is derived from the word salam which means “peace.”
• The followers of Islam are called Muslims, which means “ones who submit” to the will of Allah. Muslims believe that Islam is the final, perfect religion of Allah.
Q “Are all Arabs Muslims?”
No, the word Muslim refers to a person’s religion, while the word Arab refers to a person’s heritage. Originally, an Arab born as a member of the Semitic people lived exclusively on the Arabian Peninsula. However, now 22 countries are considered to be Arab countries. Arabs can be either Christian or Muslim—being Arab is based on family heritage. Likewise, people who are Muslims can live anywhere and can be of any race or heritage—being Muslim is based on religious belief and practice.
Q “Muslims trace their lineage to Father Abraham, the first true monotheistic believer, and his elder son, Ishmael, the ‘direct progenitor of Muslims.’ At what point did the Arab race move away from the one true God of Abraham?”
Before Muhammad established Islam beginning with his revelations in AD 610, there were no historical writings of the Arabs that corresponded with the historical Old Testament records of the Israelites. During this time, Arabs worshipped a smorgasbord of gods and goddesses, stone, astral and other nature deities. “Arab Bedouins worshipped the moon because it provided light at night for their grazing flocks and contemporary Islam focuses on the moon today, as indicated by the crescent moon at the top of the mosque.” However, in the law of Moses such worship was strictly forbidden.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation
B. Who Is Muhammad?
The name Muhammad is repeated throughout the world by millions of Muslims each day. Few religious leaders have had such lasting impact.
• Muhammad, founder of the Islam religion, was both a religious reformer and a political strategist. Ultimately, he united the diverse people in the Arabian Peninsula by abolishing religious liberty and establishing the state-sanctioned creed of Islam.
• Muhammad ibn Abdullah was born in the year 570 in Mecca, a town located in present-day Saudi Arabia. He was born within the Quraysh tribe, a people who were descendants of Ishmael, the firstborn son of Abraham.
• At age twenty-five, Muhammad married a wealthy widow named Khadijah, who owned a trading caravan. (Traders later carried the message of Islam to other parts of the Middle East and Asia.)
• At age forty, Muhammad began to receive disturbing visions that he later claimed were from the angel Gabriel. Defying the pagan polytheistic culture of the day, Muhammad proclaimed the key revelation: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.” Although he was forced to flee Mecca in 622, eight years later he returned in military triumph and established Islam as the religion of all Arabia. After 23 years of revelations, Muhammad died in 632 and was buried in Medina.
• Islam presents Muhammad as the “seal of the prophets”—the last and greatest of a long line of Allah’s prophets, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Moses and Jesus. The name Muhammad (also spelled Muhammed or Muhammud) means “the praised one.”
Q “Does the prophecy in Deuteronomy chapter 18 concerning a coming prophet refer to Muhammad as the Muslims claim?”
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.… I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18)
No, this prophet cannot be Muhammad because the predicted one must be a “brother,” meaning an Israelite, a fellow countryman—not an Arab from the Arabian Peninsula. Jesus fulfills this prophecy in that:
• Jesus was Jewish. (Matthew 1:1 presents, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.”)
• Jesus was, among His other roles, a prophet. (Luke 7:16 records that many people were declaring, “A great prophet has appeared among us.”)
• Jesus spoke what the heavenly Father told Him to say.
“I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” (John 8:28)
• In Acts 3:18–23, the apostle Peter seals this Messianic prophecy, revealing Jesus as “the Prophet.”
Q “Do Muslims worship Muhammad?”
No, Muslims do not worship Muhammad. But Muslims do practice an extreme veneration of Muhammad. The Hadith shows that Muslims consider him as more than a mere prophet.
“Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) said, ‘By Him in Whose Hands my life is, none of you will have faith till he loves me more than his father and his children.’ ”
(Abu Huraira SAHIH AL-BUKHARI)
C. Who Are the Followers of Islam?
When Muhammad died in 632 CE, he had no living sons and left no designated line of succession. Consequently, Islam has a contentious history full of factions and fighting, wars and assassinations—all over who was to have rightful rule—and all in the name of Allah.
• Sunni Muslims
— The Sunni Muslims are the major Islamic group, representing about 85% of the world’s Muslims.
— After Muhammad died, his followers split into two groups. The majority of his followers became the Sunni Muslims. (Sunna means “trodden path,” implying those who followed the traditional footsteps of Muhammad.)
— The Sunni branch believes Muhammad’s legitimate successors were to be democratically elected caliphs. (The word caliph means “successor, representative or deputy.”) Muhammad’s father-in-law, Abu Bakr, one of the first converts to Islam, was elected as the first caliph, followed by Umar and then Uthman.
— Most literature written about Muslims refers to the Sunnis, who are the mainstream Muslim followers of Islam.
— Sunnis are predominant in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Saddam Hussein was born a Sunni Muslim, although most of the people in Iraq are Shia Muslims.
• Shia Muslims
— Shia is the second largest Islamic group, representing about 10–14% of the world’s Muslims.
— The Shia Muslims originated as the splinter group that broke away from the Sunni Muslims following Muhammad’s death. The division occurred over who would be Muhammad’s successor. Numerous times after the original split, the Shia continued to split over this same issue.
— The Shia branch of Islam believes Muhammad’s legitimate successor should be limited to his own personal family. Therefore, Shi’ites acknowledge Muhammad’s cousin (and son-in-law) Ali and his descendants as the only rightful successors or caliphs. (The word shia means “faction or follower,” thus the faction or follower of Ali.)
— The Shi’ites acknowledge only Ali as the first caliph, although he was actually the fourth in Islamic history. Even today, during Friday services the more radical Shi’ites curse the first three caliphs, Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman.
— Shi’ites are predominant in Iran, the primary Shi’ite Muslim country, and in Iraq and Lebanon as well. The Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, who headed the United States Embassy hostage takeover from 1979 to 1981, was a Shi’ite Muslim.
• Sufi Muslims
— Sufism is a mystical Muslim sect that emerged as a recognizable movement in the 700s CE.
— A Sufi Muslim is a mystic who is devoted to mystical practices and who focuses on the internal experience of being one with Allah. This inner experience is in contrast to keeping the external regulations of the Qur’an. Ultimately, Sufism is a reaction to the legalism of Islam. Sufis do not consider the Qur’an as unimportant, but their desire to know and experience Allah is more important.
— Sufi leaders are called “sheikhs,” and their followers are called “Brotherhoods.”
— In Arabic, the word sufi means “wearer of wool.” Sufis are known to wear coarse wool as an indication of their belief in simplicity and poverty. Sufism began as a reaction to the prosperity, immorality and lack of peace in the ancient Muslim world. It was also a reaction to perceived lifeless external obedience to the Qur’an.
— Through Sufism, numerous monastic orders
arose, including the ecstasy-seeking “whirling dervishes.” These mystics engage in a practice of rapidly spinning around until they become light headed or until they go into a trance. Another type in this sect is the group of intellectual Sufis who are characterized by their philosophical attitudes.
• Folk Islam Followers
— Folk Islam is a Muslim sect that does not have a written system of beliefs. In fact, followers of Folk Islam follow neither the Qur’an or the Hadith (the Islamic holy writings), nor do they consider Muhammad to be their only authoritative guide.
— Followers of Folk Islam venerate one of many local Muslim saints. At the tomb of a dead saint, one of the worship rituals may include seeking miracles from that saint.
— Folk Islam is especially popular with women, who are able to have more involvement at Folk Islam shrines than they have in mosques (Muslim houses of worship).
— Folk Islam is rife with superstition and practices in the occult that can vary in different regions of the world. In Kazakhstan, for example, Muslim Kazaks fear the “evil eye” and may live in constant fear of hurt or destruction caused by an envious look from another person. In an effort to protect themselves from evil, they may wear charms containing a portion of the Qur’an.
• Other Prominent Muslim Sects
— Islamic Fundamentalist Movements
a. Within both the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam, many fundamentalist movements have risen. Their common concern is to return Islam to a true following of the Qur’an and to the Islamic law. The fundamentalists object to the distinctive practices of Folk Islam and the Sufi.
b. The powerful and extreme Wahhabi sect, which accepts only the Qur’an and Sunnah as authoritative, is the dominant influence in Saudi Arabia. The radical teachings of the Wahhabi strongly influenced Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan. (Taliban means “students of the Qur’an.”)
— Nation of Islam
a. Founded by Wallace Fard in the 1930s, the Nation of Islam is a Black Muslim group in America and the United Kingdom. Fard and his successor, Elijah Muhammad, blended Islamic teachings with racist ideology.
b. Elijah Muhammad’s book, Message to the Blackman in America, reveals many of his distinctive doctrines: “You will agree with me that the whole Caucasian race is a race of devils.… It is best that they [American Negros] throw the Bible in the waste pail since they cannot understand it.… The Bible is now being called the Poison Book by God Himself.”
c. The Nation of Islam does not follow orthodox Muslim beliefs and is therefore considered a cult by most Muslims worldwide. The primary message of the Nation of Islam is racial separation as a response against all Whites for subjugating the Blacks. The leaders proclaim Islam as the religion for Blacks, while Christianity is the religion for Whites. Well-known leaders of Nation of Islam groups include Luis Farrakhan and Malcolm X (who later renounced the Nation of Islam and became a Sunni). (Not every Black Muslim belongs to the Nation of Islam. Many Blacks belong to mainstream Muslim groups.)
Q “Does Christianity teach any racist theology or favor a separatist mentality?”
No, many Scriptures present just the opposite. The Bible states,
“If you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” (James 2:9)
D. What Are the Islamic Holy Writings?
• The Qur’an (sometimes spelled Koran)
Muslims claim the Qur’an to be the written record of the very words of God dictated by the angel Gabriel to Muhammad between the years 610 and 632 CE. The Qur’an was later compiled between 646 and 650.
Q “What does the Qur’an contain?”
• The Qur’an, which is about the size of a New Testament Bible, has chapters (called surahs) and verses (called ayas). The 114 surahs in the Qur’an are arranged from longest to shortest, with the exception of the first surah. The Qur’an is chronologically reversed because the shortest surahs are the oldest.
— The shorter surahs, those revealed at Mecca during the earlier part of Muhammad’s career, focus primarily on God and the Day of Judgment.
— The longer surahs, those revealed at Medina during the later years of Muhammad’s life, provide principles for establishing the Muslim community order, political and social legislation and the moral standards expected of every Muslim, including detailed instructions detailing how to worship Allah.
Q “How authoritative is the Qur’an to Muslims?”
The Qur’an is the highest authority, but only in the Arabic version. All translations into other languages require some interpretation and are thus considered to contain distortions.
Biblical references are included in the Qur’an although they differ from the Bible’s original manuscripts and meanings. For example, in the Qur’an, Abraham takes Ishmael, not Isaac, up the mountain to be sacrificed and gives Ishmael, not Isaac, his blessing.
(See Genesis chapter 22.)
• The Hadith
The Hadith is a collection of sayings and stories of Muhammad. The word hadith means “story or tradition.” The Hadith is second to the Qur’an in authority.
Q “Who wrote the Hadith?”
The Hadith was compiled primarily in the ninth century—over 200 years after Muhammad’s death—by a number of Muslim scholars known as “traditionalists.” Although some stories were penned during Muhammad’s lifetime, most were written later. Out of hundreds of thousands of hadiths (stories), various committees sought to compile those they considered authentic; consequently, there are different compilations of Hadiths.
Q “What is the purpose of the Hadith?”
For issues in the Qur’an that need further explanation or for issues not addressed, the Hadith adds clarifications by presenting more of Muhammad’s sayings and deeds, as well as those of some of his successors. The Hadith depicts how Muslims should act. The basic message of the Hadith is: When in doubt, do what Muhammad did. Since the Hadith provides details for daily living that are absent in the Qur’an, it functions with almost as much authority as the Qur’an. However, different Muslim groups accept different portions of the Hadith as authoritative. Most Sunnis accept the traditional Hadith, whereas Shi’ites reject this body of work and have their own Hadith.
• The Sunnah
The Sunnah, which means “trodden path,” is a collection of customs and traditions that describe the Islamic way of life. The Sunnah is based on the Hadith.
Q How does the Sunnah differ from the Hadith?
• The Hadith is a narration of Muhammad’s words.
• The Sunnah is a biography of Muhammad’s life.
(The Qur’an is a series of teachings that Muhammad believed he received from God.)
• The Hadith records the commandments of the prophet.
• The Sunnah records the events of the prophet.
Q “How important is the Sunnah?”
Very important! The Sunnah is the legal code of Islamic Jurisprudence.
In his last sermon Muhammad said, “I leave behind me two things, the Qur’an and my example, the Sunnah, and if you follow those you will never go astray.”
• The Bible
The Bible is revered by Muslims as the written Word of God and is referred to as “the Book.” Christians and Jews are called “people of the Book.” The Qur’an asserts that the truth of Allah’s revelation to Muhammad can be confirmed by those who read the Book.
“If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee: the Truth hath indeed come to thee from thy Lord: so be in no wise of those in doubt.” (Surah 10:94)
— The Qur’an also asserts the truth of the Bible. “Ye People of the Book! Why reject ye the Signs of Allah, of which ye are (yourselves) witnesses? Ye People of the Book! Why do ye clothe Truth with falsehood, and conceal the Truth, while ye have knowledge?” (Surah 3:70–71)
— The Qur’an emphasizes that we all should know the Bible. “And there are among them illiterates, who know not the Book, but (see therein their own) desires, and they do nothing but conjecture.” (Surah 2:78)
Q “Are the Bible and the Qur’an compatible?”
No. In spite of the Qur’an’s expressions of respect for the truth and authority of the Bible, they contradict one another sharply. The Qur’an teaches that Allah originally delivered the Torah (Taurat) or the first five books of the Bible, the Psalms and the four books of the Gospel (Injil). The other parts of the Bible have since been corrupted. Accordingly, Islamic scholarship and apologetics draw support from those parts of the Bible with which the Qur’an agrees and deny the authenticity of those parts of the Bible with which the Qur’an disagrees. However, the Bible says,
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
E. Who Are the Muslim Religious Leaders?
— Following the death of Muhammad, the chief leader of Islam was called the Caliph (or Khalifa). Caliph means “successor, representative or deputy,” indicating that he was the guardian of the Islamic faith.
— The Caliph in Islam was equivalent to the Pope in Catholicism. The Caliphate ended in 1924.
— In Sunni Islam, the Imam is simply the leader of the Friday congregational prayers (salat) in the mosque; he serves as caretaker of the mosque. The Imam, whose title means “prayer leader,” currently functions more and more like a Protestant pastor.
— In Shia Islam, the Imam is the divinely appointed chief leader—religious, social and political—who assures the triumph of true Islam. The Shi’ites consider the Imam’s interpretation of the Qur’an to be infallible, much as Catholics regard the Pope’s pronouncements when he is speaking ex cathedra, as head of the Catholic church.
— To Shi’ite Muslims, the Ayatollah holds the highest rank. The chief leaders of Shi’ite Muslims today are a small group of Ayatollahs much like the small group of cardinals or archbishops in the Catholic church.
— Ayatollah means “sign of God.” Many Shi’ites not only believe the words and actions of the Ayatollah but also rely on them to determine their own faith and actions.
— The Mahdi, (Al-Mahdi), whose name means “the rightly guided one,” is the coming world leader whose appearance will be marked by cosmic signs. The Mahdi will reconstruct a true Islamic state. He is from Muhammad’s lineage, of his daughter Fatima and his son-in-law Ali.
— The Sunnis are still waiting for the Mahdi’s initial appearance. The Shi’ites, however, consider the great and last Imam to be the twelfth Caliph, who disappeared when he was very small in the year 874 and who is expected to return as the Mahdi. According to the Hadith, the coming of the Mahdi will precede the second coming of Jesus. The Mahdi will fill the world with righteousness. He is considered by many Shi’ite theologians to be a type of Christ.
II. Characteristics of Islam
In much of the world, Islam is viewed as a highly disciplined, moral alternative to Christianity, in spite of the terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists. Mainline Muslims mirror devout Christians in that they are committed to spiritual growth, they seek moral purity, they believe in a “Day of Judgment,” they contribute a portion of their income to the poor and they place a strong emphasis on proselytizing and evangelizing the unenlightened. Regardless of these similarities, followers of Islam, along with the rest of the world, will ultimately be held accountable for what they do with the person of Jesus Christ.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
A. What Are the Major Muslim Duties?
The Five Pillars of Islam
All Muslims are expected to perform five nonnegotiable obligations.
#1 Confession of faith (Shahada)
Muslims must publicly recite the Shahada (literally “to bear witness”), the creed “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.” Simply saying this creed with conviction is sufficient for a person to become a Muslim.
#2 Prayers (As-Salah)
Muslims must pray five times a day. They pray at dawn, at noon, afternoon, evening and night. Friday is their day of congregational prayers. These prayers involve a series of postures (standing, kneeling, hands and face on the ground, etc.) while facing Mecca. But they must first go through a ritual washing or Allah will not accept their prayers.
#3 Almsgiving (Zakah or Zakat)
Muslims must give money to the poor (as mentioned in the Qur’an), to the Islamic state and to mosques (a later interpretation). Worthy Muslims must give between 2½ to 3% of their disposable income.
#4 Fasting (Siyam)
Muslims must refrain from food, drink and sexual relations during the daylight hours throughout the month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar). At sundown they are allowed to partake of these again until sunrise the next morning.
#5 The Pilgrimage (Hajj)
Mecca is located in present day Saudi Arabia. Muslims are required to visit Mecca once during their lifetime. If health or finances make the pilgrimage prohibitive, a Muslim is permitted to have a proxy. Muslims believe that the central sanctuary in Mecca called the Ka’ba (which means the “cube”) was built by Abraham and Ishmael.
B. What Are the Major Muslim Doctrines?
The Six Articles of Faith
“Doctrine is viewed in Islam as a preamble to Islamic law, the Shariah; it is a comprehensive code governing every aspect of life, both the inner thought life and overt actions. The Confession (Shahada) defines right-thinking and the Shariah defines right-acting.… every Muslim must confess them [the Six Articles of Faith] verbally and endorse them intellectually.”
Muslims believe in only one god, Allah. In Islam, the relationship dynamic between Allah and human beings is as master to slave, unlike the relationship in Christianity in which God relates to His own as father to child. Islam’s Allah is distant from people, while the biblical God relates directly to people through Jesus Christ. Allah is said to have seven primary characteristics: all-seeing, all-hearing, all-speaking, all-knowing, all-willing, all-powerful and absolute unity. (Allah has no son or partners.) The Qur’an says that God is not a Trinity.
“They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily, a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them.” (Surah 5:73)
The Bible states that God is a Trinity—one God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus gave the Great Commission in these words,
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
#2 The Prophets
Muslims believe that Allah has spoken through over 100,000 prophets including Adam, Ishmael, David, Jonah and John the Baptist. But the five greatest prophets are Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, who are called “the ones of Resolution.” While each prophet presented truth for his particular time, Muhammad is considered a prophet for all time. Jesus is not God, but rather a prophet from God.
“Christ, the son of Mary, was no more than a Messenger; many were the Messengers that passed away before him.” (Surah 5:75)
The Bible states that Jesus is God, not just a messenger or a prophet. He did what only God can do. For example, He created the universe, raised people from the dead and, even today, possesses supreme authority.
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3)
“Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out.” (John 11:43–44)
“Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’ ” (Matthew 28:18)
Muslims believe that angels are the servants of God, through whom He reveals His will. The greatest angel is Gabriel, who appeared to Muhammad. Each person has two “recording angels”: one to record good deeds, the other to record bad deeds. Those recorded deeds will be brought forth at the coming judgment for consideration of salvation.
“Every man’s fate we have fasted on his neck; on the Day of Judgment we shall bring out for him a scroll, which he will see spread open.” (Surah 17:13)
The Bible states, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).
Regardless of what any angels supposedly “record,” individuals cannot be saved based on their own good deeds or works. And regardless of what Gabriel supposedly revealed to Muhammad, salvation by works is a false gospel.
“Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:8)
#4 Holy Books
Muslims recognize four books as inspired: the Law of Moses, the Psalms, the Gospels and the Qur’an, but they consider the first three to be badly corrupted by the Jews and Christians. The Qur’an is the holiest book of Islam, Allah’s final revelation to humanity. It contains Allah’s word as passed on orally to Muhammad by Gabriel; therefore, it supersedes all previous revelations as found in the Bible. Many, but not all, Muslims also consider the Hadith authoritative. Although many passages of the Bible are referenced in the Qur’an and in the Hadith, major changes were made.
The Bible states that nothing should be added to the inerrant Word of God.
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5–6)
#5 Day of Judgment
Muslims believe there will be a Day of Judgment and that Allah will be the Judge. Good and bad deeds will be balanced on a scale to determine each person’s fate: heaven or hell. Yet Muslims have no assurance of salvation (except when their lives are given in Jihad) because Islam teaches that eternal destiny is determined on the Day of Judgment.
The picture is like a scale, “Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy—they will attain salvation: But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls; in Hell will they abide.” (Surah 23:102–103)
The Bible states that where people spend eternity is based on what they choose before the Day of Judgment regarding Jesus Christ. If, by an act of their will, they put their total belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, they will not perish.
“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17)
#6 Decree of Allah
Muslims believe that Allah ordains the fate of everyone. In almost every situation, devout Muslims say, “If Allah wills it.” People will go to heaven “if Allah wills it” or to hell “if Allah wills it.” No matter the good deeds, a person’s fate ultimately rests in the will of Allah and whether he shows mercy. This fatalistic teaching is called “kismet.”
“Then Allah makes whom He pleases err and He guides whom He pleases.” (Surah 14:4 Shakir Qur’ran)
The Bible states that people go to heaven if they repent of their sins and come to faith in Christ. This is God’s perfect will for everyone.
“He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
C. Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?
Because both Christians and Muslims trace their roots to Abraham, many people conclude that both worship the same God. But, is the god of the Qur’an and the God of the Bible the same God? The truth is there are major differences between the god of the Qur’an and the God of the Bible. Therefore, in order to avoid confusion, and even offense, many Arabic speaking Christians use the Persian word khudu for God, rather than Allah.
“As they say the Beneficient has taken to Himself a son. Certainly you make an abominable assumption.… It is not worthy of Allah that He should take to Himself a son.” (Surah 19:88–92) Unveiling Islam
What Are the Different Beliefs about God?
• The Allah of the Qur’an is not the god who loves both believers and unbelievers. Of all the ninety-nine names used to describe Allah in the Qur’an, love is not one of them. Additionally the Qur’an says,
“Allah loveth not those who do wrong.” (Surah 3:57)
• The God of the Bible is a God of love.
“God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
• The Allah of the Qur’an promotes a slave/master relationship, not a father/child relationship. Allah is regarded by Muslims with fear and awe—the only words of closeness refer to a threat of judgment: Allah is as “close as your jugular vein.” (Surah 50:16)
• The God of the Bible is regarded by Christians as loving and intimate. He seeks to draw His people into a vital personal relationship with Him as in father to child.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)
• The Allah of the Qur’an does not seek to redeem the sinner.
“As to those who reject Faith. It is the same to them whether you warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe. Allah has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing … For [Allah] loves not any ungrateful sinners.” (Surah 2:6, 7, 276)
• The God of the Bible seeks out sinners and offers salvation to them.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
• The Allah of the Qur’an has no love or compassion for those who reject the faith.
“Allah loves not those who reject Faith.” (Surah 3:32)
• The God of the Bible has a heart of love and compassion toward all those who have wandered from the faith.
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.” (Matthew 18:12–13)
• The Allah of the Qur’an is repeatedly called “the merciful and the compassionate,” but those benefits are extended only to his faithful, obedient followers. Allah’s compassion is not extended to unbelievers.
“For Allah loveth not transgressors.” (Surah 2:190)
• The God of the Bible is merciful and compassionate toward all sinners, having given His Son to die for all the sins of the world.
“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:5)
D. Is the Jesus in Islam the Same as the Jesus in Christianity?
Just a casual look at the account of Jesus (Isa) from the Qur’an and the account of Jesus from the Bible quickly confirms that they cannot be the same. For example, Muslims do not see the need for a savior because their salvation comes from doing good deeds. Christians, however, say that while living a good, moral life is very beneficial, good deeds can never take away sin, and in reality, individuals need to give control of their lives to Jesus, who died on the cross to pay the penalty for their sins.
|Qur’an and Hadith
|• Jesus is the Son of God.
|• Jesus is not the Son of God.
|“The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’ ” (Luke 1:35)
|“Christians call Christ the son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the Unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!” (Surah 9:30)
(See Surah 19:88, 92.)
|• Jesus is the incarnation of God in human flesh.
|• Jesus is not the incarnation of God in human flesh.
|“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1, 14)
|“In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ, the son of Mary.” (Surah 5:17)
|• Jesus is the atoning sacrifice.
|• Jesus is not the atoning sacrifice.
|“We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)
|“No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another.” (Surah 39:7)
|• Jesus is the Savior.
|• Jesus is not the Savior—people are saved by doing good deeds.
|“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
|“Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy—they will attain salvation: But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls; in Hell will they abide.”
|• Jesus is the intermediary between God and humanity.
|• Jesus is not the intermediary between God and humanity—Muhammad is.
|“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)
|“The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘Some people will be taken out of the Fire through the intercession of Muhammad (peace be upon him): they will enter Paradise.…’ ”
(Imran ibn Husayn SAHIH AL-BUKHARI)
Why are radical Muslims attacking the United States of America and its allies? The answer is simple.
On February 23, 1998, Osama Bin Laden and four other Islamic caliphates signed a religious decree (a fatwa) declaring war against the United States. These leaders of five radical factions called upon all Muslims to rise up against the perceived enemy of Islam and to follow the example of Muhammad, who said, “I have been sent with the sword between my hands to ensure that no one but … [Allah] is worshipped.”
The text reads, in part:
“The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible.… We—with … [Allah’s] help—call on every Muslim who believes in … [Allah] and wishes to be rewarded to comply with … [Allah’s] order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.”
A. Why the Rapid Growth of Islam?
“According to Islam the world is divided into two areas: the world of obedience to … [Allah] and the world of disobedience. The word Islam means obedience. The motive and mission of Islam is to bring the world of disobedience under the rule of the Islamic world of obedience.” Committed followers of Muhammad are now on every continent and in almost every country of the world. And this movement is not happening for just political positioning or world power, but for propagating “a way of life” … a religious worldview. What has enabled this rapidly growing religion from the desert sands of the Middle East to be so successful in penetrating the non-Muslim world?24
Islam is a “missionary” religion. Its world vision is for all of life to be subjected under the laws of Allah: personal life, family life, culture, society, religion and government. The foundation for the vision is the Qur’an, and every Muslim is called to please Allah by offering Allah’s religion to others.
For 1400 years, Islam has been on the move and has grown far beyond its Middle Eastern roots. The simplicity of doctrine and rules make it appealing across geographical lines and cultural boundaries. After the fourteenth century, Muslim traders carried Islam to Indonesia and Malaysia, easily adapting it to the Hinduism, Buddhism and other ethnic beliefs and practices. The largest areas of Muslim population are now no longer in the Middle East but in Asia.
Muslims seek to have a moral lifestyle. Life is lived under strict rule and order according to the teachings of Muhammad and the Qur’an. Muslims have specific instructions for ritual cleansing before prayers, for what clothes to wear and for what to eat. The Qur’an describes the roles men and women are to fill within the family and dictates standards for all community life, including standards for governing society, for good commerce and even for conditions on waging war. Most people are drawn to this outward form of “keeping the law” because it feeds an inner need for personal worth, achievement and eternal reward.
Wealth from vast amounts of oil revenue has helped the Muslim governments strengthen Islamic identity, self-confidence and political power around the world. The goal is to counteract Western dominance and to fund Islamic advances, mainly in Africa, Europe, Central Asia and North America. Billions of dollars are spent to fund the building of mosques, to establish study centers in major universities and to support other Islamic movements, both missionary and militant.
“Jihad” is a very real concept in Islamic belief. It has two aspects: (1) the Islamic requirement that the individual must carry out jihad to be a worthy Muslim and (2) the warfare of the community against infidels and those who attack or resist Islam. All Muslims are under mandate to participate in jihad because they believe that Islam is the correct and perfect religion and all other religions are corrupt. Not only are they to follow the teachings of the Qur’an, but they are also to emulate the model of their prophet Muhammad, who led his fighting forces into battle to defend Islam and to make Islam dominant. While militancy conquers land and appears to be an effective way to promote religion, the Bible says,
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
B. What Is the Historic Muslim Mindset toward Christians and Jews?
• The Pact of Umar states, in part, that Christians …
— “shall not build, in our cities or in their neighborhood, new monasteries, churches, convents, or monk’s cells, nor shall [they] repair, by day or by night, such of them as falls in ruins.…”
— “shall not manifest religion publicly nor convert anyone to it.…”
— “shall show respect toward the Muslims, and shall rise from seats when [Muslims] wish to sit.…”
— “shall not display crosses or books in the roads or markets of the Muslims.”
• The Qur’an says about Jews and Christians:
— “Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors.” (Surah 5:51)
— “Strongest among men in enmity to the believers [Muslims] wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans.” (Surah 5:82)
— “Those who reject (Truth), among the People of the Book [the Bible] and among the Polytheists, [Christians and others], will be in Hell-Fire, to dwell therein (for aye). They are the worst of creatures.” (Surah 98:6)
• The Bible says the opposite.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14)
C. Why the Violence and Terrorist Attacks?
What would cause a group of men to hijack an airplane and fly it into a building filled with innocent people? Why would a teenage girl strap a bomb to her chest and kill herself in a suicide/genocide bombing? Although most of your Muslim neighbors verbally condemn the violent actions of militant Islam, most non-Muslims are stunned to learn that the very wording within the Qur’an supports this violence.
The Holy Jihad
Jihad is the Arabic word for “struggle or strife,” implying a struggle in the cause of Allah with pen, speech or sword. To militant Muslims, jihad means a holy war against infidels on behalf of Allah, fighting to extend or defend the interests of Allah.
Muslims are charged to “fight with them until there is no persecution, and religion should be only for Allah.” (Surah 2:193 Shakir Qur’an)
Q “Does the Qur’an promote peace or violence?
• The Qur’an promotes violence against non-Muslims, unless they become Muslims.
“Fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war).” (Surah 9:5)
“Fight those who believe not in Allah.” (Surah 9:29)
• The Bible promotes peace toward enemies.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peace makers.… Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:9, 44).
Q “Does the Qur’an teach jihad?”
• The Qur’an not only teaches jihad but even states, “Fighting is prescribed for you.” (Surah 2:216) This is contrary to New Testament teaching.
• The Bible teaches against fighting.
James 4:1 asks, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” The previous two verses present God’s appeal for us to live in peace. Rather than being makers of war, we are to be peacemakers.
“The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:17–18)
Q “Why is jihad so significant to many Muslims?”
Having a cause, having a purpose, holds great appeal for all human beings. Everyone was created with three God-given inner needs—needs for love, for significance and for security. The jihad appeals to this need for significance because Islam teaches that struggling and fighting a holy war is part of the Muslims’ reason for being—a significant part of their purpose in life.
• The Qur’an instructs Muslims to fight and slay unbelievers.
“For the unbelievers are unto you open enemies.” (Surah 4:101)
“I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their fingertips off them.” (Surah 8:12)
• The Bible exhorts Christians to do good to their enemies.
“On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.” (Romans 12:20)
Q “Why are some Muslims eager to die as martyrs?”
“Every Muslim goes to hell for some period of time except for those who die in jihad—they go immediately to Paradise.” (Surah 19:71)
“The faithful will be in ‘The Garden of Felicity,’ (Surah 37:43) a state of eternal bliss. (Surah 3:198) Among many other earthly passions, the faithful will have whatever their heart’s desire, drink wine from a clear-flowing fountain and promised the companionship of young, beautiful, chaste women.” (Surah 37:44–49)
• The Hadith states that Muslim martyrs will receive an abundance of benefits in the afterlife. Men enjoy the sexual pleasures of 72 maidens for eternity, not just the maximum of four wives as stated in the Qur’an. And 70 members of the martyr’s family are guaranteed eternal life in paradise.
“The martyr … is forgiven at the first shedding of his blood; he is shown his abode in Paradise … he is married to seventy-two wives of the maidens with large dark eyes; and is made intercessor for seventy of his relatives.” Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah transmitted it.
(Al-Miqdam ibn Ma’dikarib MISHKAT AL-MASABIH)
• The Bible promises eternal life, not through martyrdom, but through belief in Jesus Christ—through entrusting our lives to Him.
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)
Q “Aren’t Christians being hypocritical to criticize the Muslim jihad? Centuries ago, Christians launched the violent crusades against the Muslims.”
Unquestionably, acts of violence were committed in the name of Christianity; however, those acts in no way represented the heart of Christ or authentic Christianity. Christians are not hypocritical when they object to anyone who advocates violence. Jesus never commanded His followers to attack anyone. To the contrary, He commanded His followers to love their enemies, not to kill them. Muslim extremists look to Muhammad as an example of a military leader, but true Christians look to Jesus as an example of peace and love.
“I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
D. Why the Oppression of Women?
“Prevent the woman from learning to write! Say no to their capricious ways.”
These words, spoken by Umar, the second Caliph, have been engraved on the wall of the mosque in Kabul for years. Why have these words not been eradicated?
Critics of Islam express grave concern over the oppression of woman in many Islamic nations. Such oppression may include allowing fewer legal rights to women than to men, restricted travel (travel is permitted only in the company of a man), and no protection from the legal right of a man to beat his wife.
What gives Muslim men justification for their oppression of women? Some will say the Qur’an. For example, in Surah 4:15, in cases of adultery, there is no punishment for the man who repents; however, the punishment for the women is mandatory life imprisonment.
So, what do the Islamic holy books say about oppression in comparison to the Bible?
• The Qur’an condones the practice of wife beating.
“(As to) those [women] on whose part you fear disertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them.” (Surah 4:34 Shakir Qur’an)
Once when Muhammad was asked about this, he replied, “What rights does the woman have with the man? He should feed her if he eats, clothe her when he dresses, avoid disfiguring her or beating her excessively or abandoning her except at home.” (Hadith 7.62.77)
• The Bible tells husbands to treat wives with respect.
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (1 Peter 3:7)
• The Qur’an literally teaches that men have greater legal rights than women.
“And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them.” (Surah 2:228)
— In regard to an inheritance, a woman receives one-half of a man’s portion: “To the male a portion equal to that of two females.” (Surah 4:11)
— The Hadith elaborates on the “why”:
“The Prophet said, ‘Isn’t the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?’ The women said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This is because of the deficiency of a woman’s mind.’ ” (Hadith al Bukhari 3.48.22) (Also see Surah 2:282)
• The Bible teaches equality between men and women.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
• The Qur’an and Hadith teach that wives are “fields to be plowed” and “playthings.”
“Your wives are as a tilth [field to be plowed] unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will” (Surah 2:223)
“Wives are playthings, so take your pick.”
• The Bible teaches that wives are noble and to be valued.
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:10–12)
E. Root Cause of Attraction to Islam
Everyone is created with three inner needs for love, for security and for significance. We can try to perform a multitude of good deeds to meet those needs, hoping the good will outweigh the bad.
Ultimately, we can try to be our “own savior” without realizing that we all need the true “Savior” to redeem us from our bondage to sin. Islam appeals to the message, “You can do it yourself. You can live a life of purity, and you can obey the ritualistic rules and duties. You, yourself, can achieve eternal life. You don’t need the Savior.”
“Eternal life is contingent upon my keeping the law. I must follow the Qur’an, keep the Five Pillars, and be faithful to Allah, hoping that I might earn eternal life. Only by sacrificing my life in a jihad am I assured of eternal life in paradise.”
“The martyr … is forgiven at the first shedding of his blood.” (from the Hadith)
Eternal life cannot be earned—it is a gift from God. When I begin to recognize that I am in bondage to sin and cannot keep the law, I realize my need for a Savior. Only by entrusting my life to Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and believing that He sacrificed His life for my sins, will I have assurance of eternal life.
“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)
IV. Steps to Solution
The Lord had made a covenant with Abraham that from his seed would come a great nation. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, believing she was too old to bear a child, convinced her husband to sleep with her maidservant, Hagar. Soon Ishmael was conceived, but God’s promise was still to be fulfilled through Sarah. Abraham prayed for God to allow Ishmael to “live under His blessing.” God answered Abraham’s prayer saying, “I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation” (Genesis 17:20).
“My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”
Animosity between half brothers is no new story! While the descendants of Ishmael have been “fruitful and greatly increased in numbers” the schism between these sons of Abraham has grown deeper and wider. Muslims know little about Christ and the basics of God-given grace, while Christians have failed to understand the heart of the Middle East. Can you rise above the fear of what seems so strange and different to have compassion for the millions who are lost? Forgetting the religious and cultural differences, will you reach out to a Muslim friend, neighbor or acquaintance and “literally love them to the cross?”
“The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”
(1 John 4:18–19)
A. Key Verse to Memorize
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
B. Key Passage to Read and Reread
The Gospel of Luke
Although it is possible to discuss religion with your Muslim friend without getting into the Bible, it is not likely your friend will come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ without the Scripture’s supernatural ability to penetrate the heart with God’s truth. The Gospel of Luke is a good place to start because chapters one through three do not begin with the deity of Christ but with themes that are familiar to Muslims such as the birth of John the Baptist, the angel’s announcement to Mary and the virgin birth of Jesus. As you begin chapter four, pray for God to make the meaning of His words clear … especially when the text introduces issues that are problematic for Muslims.
Jesus’ Supernatural Power Revealed
|• Jesus had compassion for the demon possessed. He proved He had supernatural power over the demonic.
| vv. 4:31–37
|• Jesus had compassion for the paralytic. He proved He had supernatural power to heal and to forgive sins.
| vv. 5:17–26
|• Jesus had compassion for the sick. He proved He had supernatural power over illness.
| vv. 6:1–19
|• Jesus had compassion for the grieving. He proved He had supernatural power over death.
| vv. 7:11–17
|• Jesus had concern for His disciples. He proved He had supernatural power over nature.
| vv. 8:22–25
|• Jesus had compassion for the hungry. He proved He had supernatural power to multiply food.
| vv. 9:1–17
Jesus’ Heart Revealed
|• Jesus teaches His message of love and mercy.
| vv. 10:25–27
|• Jesus teaches that inner attitudes (of love and justice) are more important than outer actions (of tithing and prayer).
| vv. 11:37–44
|• Jesus teaches that when you seek the kingdom of God, He will meet your needs.
| vv. 12:22–32
|• Jesus teaches that to gain salvation, you enter through the narrow door.
| vv. 13:22–30
Jesus’ Priorities Revealed
|• Priority: You must first count the cost of making Jesus your priority.
| vv. 14:25–33
|• Priority: The Lord prioritizes all those who are lost.
| vv. 15:1–24
|• Priority: You must prioritize the Lord while you are still alive.
| vv. 16:19–31
|• Priority: Jesus said to prioritize forgiveness of those who sin against you.
| vv. 17:1–4
Jesus’ Role in Prophecies Revealed
|• Prophecy: Jesus’ death was predicted in detail by the prophets. (Read Isaiah chapter 53.)
| vv. 18:31–34
|• Prophecy: Jesus enters Jerusalem as King on a donkey and fulfills prophecy. (Read Zechariah 9:9.)
| vv. 19:28–44
|• Prophecy: Jesus presents a parable that He is more than a prophet. (Read Psalm 118:22.)
| vv. 20:9–19
|• Prophecy: Jesus prophecies that there will be false prophets and that His own followers will be persecuted.
| vv. 21:5–28
Jesus’ Relationship to Death Revealed
|• Jesus knows He faces death and is strengthened by an angel.
| vv. 22:39–43
|• Jesus, while hanging on the cross, has a forgiving heart.
| vv. 23:33–34
|• Jesus rose from the dead, is alive today and still forgives sins.
| vv. 24:1–53
C. What Do Muslims Need to Know about True Christianity?
Over the years, why have millions of Muslims been drawn to Christianity? Many explain that once they read for themselves what the Bible truly teaches, barriers began to fall. They came to recognize that often what is done “in the name of Christianity” in no way represents Christ Himself or authentic Christianity. That is why you need to know, share and live out the truths of authentic Christianity as revealed in the Bible.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
(2 Timothy 3:16)
You could say to your Muslim friends, “Just as you don’t want people to misunderstand Islam, I don’t want you to misunderstand true Christianity.” And then share the following information:
God and Salvation
• True Christians experience a personal, loving relationship with God.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)
• True Christians know that God demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus, the Savior, to earth to die on the cross for our sins.
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
• True Christians receive the complete and final forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ.
“I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)
• True Christians experience the certainty of eternal life with God by entrusting their lives to Jesus.
“I write these things … so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)
• True Christians experience the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit for guidance, encouragement and the power to overcome sin.
“I [Jesus] will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you.” (John 14:16–17)
• True Christians look at the person of Jesus Christ as their example for godly living.
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5–8)
• True Christians possess direct revelation from God in the Holy Scriptures.
“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20–21)
• True Christianity is not a threat to society. Christians can still support those in authority even when they disagree with the leaders.
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)
• True Christianity does not propagate itself through force or military conquest over enemies.
“On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ ” (Romans 12:20)
• True Christianity promotes religious tolerance.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)
• True Christianity advocates and supports family values.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.… Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise.” (Ephesians 5:25; 6:1–2)
• True Christianity condemns immorality as sinful and destructive.
“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7)
Role of Women
• True Christianity exalts women as spiritual equals with men.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
• True Christianity understands the distinctions between men and women without devaluing women because of these distinctions.
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (1 Peter 3:7)
Value of the Individual
• True Christianity presents every person as being so special that God does nothing that brings harm to them. Christianity does not sacrifice individuals for the good of the community.
“ ‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)
• True Christianity does not demand conformity to the community.
“One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not … the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.… One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14:2–3, 5–6)
• True Christianity recognizes the God-given uniqueness of each individual as a benefit to everyone.
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” (Romans 12:4–6)
• True Christianity provides hope, encouragement and help to individuals through the Christian community, the church.
“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24–25)
D. How Do You Answer the Muslim’s Argument That the Bible Is Corrupt?
“The Jews and Christians have corrupted the Bible, but the Qur’an is the uncorrupted direct revelation from God.”
While Muslims claim that the Bible is corrupt, they cannot present proof that the Bible has been so corrupted that its message is changed. Muslims must insist that the Bible is corrupt, for they claim that Islam presents the same message that all the prophets of the Bible proclaimed.
• In fact, the Qur’an’s own words about the Bible support the Bible’s accuracy, for the Qur’an claims that no one can alter God’s words. (Muslims assert strongly that the Qur’an cannot be altered.)
“There is none that can alter the Words (and decrees) of Allah.” (Surah 6:34)
• The Qur’an acknowledges that the Old Testament Law and the Gospel came from God.
“It was We who revealed the law (to Moses): therein was guidance and light … And in their footsteps we sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the law that had come before him: we sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah. Let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel. To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety.” (Surah 5:44, 46–48)
• When did the Bible become corrupt? Obviously not before the Qur’an was written, or Muhammad would have told his followers which copies of the Bible were not corrupted.
• Therefore, if the Bible was corrupted, it must have been after the Qur’an was written (about 650 CE). But we possess manuscripts older than 650 CE for all of the books in the Bible, and they all contain the same message found in the modern Bible.
There is no proof or possibility that the Jews and Christians corrupted the Bible. The message is still the same as it was when it was originally written. Therefore, we must conclude that since the Qur’an contains a different message from what God proclaimed through the prophets in the Old and New Testaments, it is the Qur’an that is corrupt, not the Bible.
E. Why Do Christians Call Jesus the “Son of God”?
The four authors of the four Gospels were all eyewitnesses who saw Jesus, walked with Him and wrote what they experienced. The reason Christians call Jesus the Son of God is that all four Gospels refer to Him with those exact words. The Qur’an teaches that the Gospels came from Allah and that Allah’s words cannot be altered; therefore …
• All faithful Muslims believe that the Gospel of Matthew is true. This Gospel records that …
— Simon Peter said to Jesus,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
— The disciples who saw Jesus walk on water said,
“Truly, You are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:33)
— The Roman soldiers came to the same conclusion.
“When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’ ” (Matthew 27:54)
• All faithful Muslims believe that the Gospel of Mark is true. This Gospel records that …
— The evil spirits fell down before Jesus and cried out, “You are the Son of God” (Mark 3:11). And another evil spirit identified Jesus, saying, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” (Mark 5:7).
— The high priest asked Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus answered, “I am” (Mark 14:61).
— The Roman centurion recognized the identity of Jesus following His death.
“The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’ ” (Mark 15:38–39)
• All faithful Muslims believe that the Gospel of Luke is true. This Gospel records that …
— The angel of the Lord explained the birth of Jesus to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.… He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:35, 32).
— God declared from heaven when Jesus was baptized, and as “the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.… ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’ ” (Luke 3:22).
— Demons whom Jesus cast out of people, shouted out His identity. “The people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God’ ” (Luke 4:40–41).
• All faithful Muslims believe that the Gospel of John is true. This Gospel records that …
— John the Baptist gave this testimony: “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34).
— Martha said, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” (John 11:27).
— The apostle John proclaimed, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30–31).
F. How Can Christians Believe That Jesus Is God?
• All faithful Muslims believe that angels are from the Lord and that an angel would not lie. Matthew records that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph saying, “ ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us’ ” (Matthew 1:20–23). The angel declared that Jesus is God.
• All faithful Muslims believe that John the Baptist is a prophet and that a prophet would not lie. When the prophet John the Baptist first saw Jesus, he proclaimed, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). No mere prophet—not even Muhammad—has the ability to take away sin. Only God has the power to remove sin. God took on human form in the person of the sinless Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins. John the Baptist declared that Jesus is God.
• All faithful Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet and a prophet would not lie. Jesus not only healed a paralytic man but also forgave his sin. Even the unbelieving Jews acknowledged that only God could forgive sins, and they accused Jesus of blasphemy. “He [Jesus] said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ ” (Mark 2:5–12). Jesus declared that He Himself was God.
• All faithful Muslims believe that “He [Allah] … sent down … the Gospel (of Jesus) … as a guide to mankind” (Surah 3:3) and Allah would not lie. The Gospel of John records that the disciple called Thomas doubted the deity of Jesus, not believing that Jesus arose from the dead. But then when he saw Jesus with the nail scars in His hands, “Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ ” (John 20:28). Thomas declared that Jesus is God. (Also read John 8:59; 10:31–33)
G. What Is the Truth about the Trinity?
Muslims inaccurately claim that the Bible teaches the worship of three gods (tri-theism). The truth is that the Bible proclaims in many passages that there is only one true God (monotheism).
“The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
• The Bible teaches that within the one true God, three coequal, coeternal persons exist: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
— The Father is called God.
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (John 6:27)
— The Son is called God.
“About the Son he [God] says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.’ ” (Hebrews 1:8)
— The Holy Spirit is called God.
“Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.’ ” (Acts 5:3–4)
• The Bible presents the attributes of deity for each person of the Trinity—attributes that can be assigned only to God.
— Omnipotence (all-powerful)
a. The Father
“Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:14)
b. The Son
“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power.” (John 13:3)
c. The Holy Spirit
He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement …
“The power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.” (Romans 15:19)
The Holy Spirit has the power to convict every heart, guide every life, and communicate every truth … even about the future.
— Omniscience (all-knowing)
a. The Father
“If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?” (Psalm 44:20–21)
b. The Son
“Now we can see that you [Jesus] know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions.” (John 16:30)
c. The Holy Spirit
“The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
— Omnipresence (everywhere present)
a. The Father
“ ‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the Lord, ‘and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:23–24)
b. The Son
“Surely I [Jesus] am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
c. The Holy Spirit
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” (Psalm 139:7–8)
Don’t initiate the word Trinity, a term viewed by Muslims as the worship of three gods and, thus, equivalent to polytheism. If the subject does arise, when seeking to express a Trinitarian concept, use accurate analogies and perhaps the term Godhead. (For example, in math 1 × 1 × 1 = 1.)
Q “How can the Trinity be illustrated?”
An analogy describing daylight could be used. Scientifically, light is comprised of the three primary colors: red, yellow and blue. Each color is separate, but when blended together they make “white light” or daylight, and they function as one. Similarly, each person of the Trinity is a separate and distinct person, but together they constitute the Trinity and function as One.
H. Be Discerning about the Don’ts
Caring Christians can be on the side of right, but inadvertently do that which is wrong in the eyes of a Muslim. Words and ways that would seem appropriate to you could be considered inappropriate. Be wise and cautious. Having discernment could make the difference between your words being accepted or rejected.
“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.”
• Don’t create needless barriers. Deriding or criticizing Muhammad or the Qur’an will only put your Muslim friend on the defensive. Instead, focus on the admirable qualities, words and deeds of Jesus, especially why He sacrificed His life on the cross.
“A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.” (Proverbs 11:12)
• Don’t be negative about any required Muslim apparel. Head coverings and outer garments are worn in an attempt not to be worldly. Those are merely externals, whereas God wants to change the hearts.
“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
• Don’t use the word Muhammadans or Muhammadism. Muslims consider these terms offensive in that they indicate worship of Muhammad, which they repudiate. Use the term Islam for the religion and Muslims for the followers of Islam.
“The lips of the righteous know what is fitting.” (Proverbs 10:32)
• Don’t call a Muslim your “brother.” To a Muslim, the word brother connotes theological agreement or reference to one who is a Christian. Instead you could say, “my friend.”
“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:23)
• Don’t take offense at the Muslim’s use of the word Allah. In Arabic, the word for god is Allah. Some Christians when speaking in Arabic, refer to the God of the Bible, as Allah. However, “many Arabic-speaking Christians use the Persian term khudu for God” in order to avoid confusion.
“Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding,” (Proverbs 3:13)
• Don’t use a King James Version of the Bible or a Bible that was translated from the King James Version. Certain Muslim sects teach that in the early 1600s, King James of England translated this version himself (though he did not) and that he intentionally corrupted it. Seek to use a translation that has no negative bias and one that can be easily understood.
“Every prudent man acts out of knowledge.” (Proverbs 13:16)
• Don’t use a Bible that has pictures of God or of any other biblical character. Such depictions can be viewed as a form of idolatry.
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” (Proverbs 1:5)
• Don’t use a Bible or the Qur’an that is marked by pen, pencil or highlighter. Muslims consider such markings disrespectful of any holy writings.
“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” (Proverbs 19:2)
• Don’t defend Israel, get angry, argue or force your point, even though your position may be right. You could win the battle, but you will lose the war. Seek to win the heart of your friend by showing the love of Christ.
“It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” (Proverbs 20:3)
• Don’t avoid the word Islam. Share with your Muslim friend that you know that the word Islam means “submission.” Ask if submission is good. (The response will be yes.) Then share how Jesus submitted by dying on the cross for the sins of all humanity. As a result, Jesus made possible the free gift of salvation—not based on works—to all who entrust their lives to Him.
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers … and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:7–9)
• Don’t fail to mention the Qur’an. The Qur’an exhorts every Muslim to believe in and to honor all of God’s prophets. Since Jesus was listed in the Qur’an as one of the five major prophets and is called “the Word of God” and the “Lamb of God,” encourage the Muslim to know more deeply the truth about what Jesus claimed.
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ” (John 14:6)
• Don’t hesitate to quote the Bible. Although Muslims are taught that the Bible has been corrupted, share why you trust the accuracy of the Bible.
“All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.” (Psalm 119:160)
I. How to Share Your Christian Faith with Your Muslim Friend
Is it possible that God is moving you to reach a Muslim friend for Christ? If so, what do you need to know? You need keys to unlock closed doors—keys to the Muslim heart and mind.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
(1 Peter 3:15–16)
• Be a friend—a faithful friend.
Always show the love of Christ toward your Muslim friend. Focus your heart on being a friend, not just on sharing facts. The obstacles are great against Muslims becoming Christians, but by demonstrating the reality of Christ in your life, you may overcome your friend’s objections to Christianity.
“A friend loves at all times.” (Proverbs 17:17)
• Be a learner—learn from them.
Take the position of a learner by asking questions. Show interest in them by asking about their lives, their background, their families, their problems and their interests.
“Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 23:12)
• Be an encourager by showing that you care.
Be attuned to their very real needs and offer practical help. Encourage them physically, emotionally and spiritually. Muslims need friendship, love and care … and most of all, the Savior, just like everyone else.
“Encourage one another and build each other up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
• Be discerning about their dedication.
Recognize their level of adherence to Islam. How much do they practice the Muslim beliefs? Are they devout Muslims or merely cultural Muslims?
“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Proverbs 18:15)
• Be understanding about their viewpoints and values.
Try to understand their perspective on life. What you value and respect may not be what your Muslim friend values and respects. Perhaps ask, “What part of Islam appeals to you?” And be aware about what part of Christianity often offends a Muslim. Each individual is different, so listen carefully, without condemning.
“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” (Proverbs 20:5)
• Be realistic about their fear of being a “kafir.”
A former Muslim is called kafir. Leaving Islam is a major Muslim offense. Conversion can bring about rejection of family, expulsion from the country, torture, imprisonment and even death. A kafir is considered an infidel, a blasphemer, and according to a literal interpretation of Islamic Law, comes under the sentence of death. How will their friends and family members respond if they become Christians? Is this a major hindrance to their becoming Christians? A Muslim who becomes a Christian needs your personal encouragement and the strong support of a church community.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
• Be humble in your heart and with your words.
A “better-than-thou” spirit shouts pridefulness and will push your friend away. Seek to share the Savior with your Muslim friend without attacking Muhammad or Islam. Speaking down to Muslims builds unnecessary barriers, whereas a humble spirit builds bridges.
“Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ ” (1 Peter 5:5)
• Be patient, patient, patient when presenting principles.
Misconceptions abound in Muslim minds about what the Bible really teaches and who Jesus really is. Correcting deeply entrenched error takes time. Patience sometimes means explaining the same truth over and over to your Muslim friend.
“Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.” (Proverbs 25:15)
• Be aware of what they need to know about God.
Muslims can’t imagine approaching God on their own. Because they are not allowed to know Allah, they need to be told they can actually know God personally.
“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)
What to Say and How to Say It
• Be ready with reasonable answers.
Get the best training and use the best resources possible. For example, be ready to share how the early Muslims were commanded to respect “the Book,” the Bible. Ask them to read from the Qur’an surahs 6:92 and 10:94.
“And this is a Book which We have sent down, bringing blessings, and confirming (the revelations) which came before it: that thou mayest warn the Mother of Cities and all around her. Those who believe in the Hereafter believe in this (Book), and they are constant in guarding their Prayers.” (Surah 6:92)
“If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee: the Truth hath indeed come to thee from thy Lord: so be in nowise of those in doubt.” (Surah 10:94)
• Be wise with your words about Jesus.
Use the phrase Jesus the Messiah rather than Jesus the Son of God.
To Muslims, the term Son of God implies a blasphemous teaching that Mary had physical relations with God and that their son is Jesus. Since Christians also reject this implication, preferred phrases are Jesus, the Word of God or Jesus, the Messiah. Eleven times in the Qur’an Jesus is called “al Masih,” the Messiah, which means the Anointed One—a title given no one else including the prophet Muhammad. The terms Jesus the Savior and the Lamb of God are also well received.
“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:23)
• Be knowledgeable about sharing the Savior.
— The Qur’an says that:
a. “Jesus was and is to be honored.”
“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)
b. Jesus had and has supernatural power.
“I [Jesus] heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by Allah’s leave; Surely therein is a Sign for you if ye did believe;” (Surah 3:49)
— Respectfully mention, “Muhammad was exhorted to seek forgiveness for his faults.”
[To Muhammad] “Ask forgiveness for thy fault, and for the men and women who believe: for Allah knows how ye move about and how ye dwell in your homes.” (Surah 47:19)
— Then share the following truths from the Bible.
a. “Sin is a barrier between God and all human beings. Jesus loved us so much that He died on the cross for our sins, even though He was sinless.”
“God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
b. “Jesus took the penalty we should have paid to remove the barrier between us and God. If we humble our hearts, ask forgiveness for our sins and receive Jesus Messiah into our hearts, giving Him control of our lives, He will forgive us of all our sins.”
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
c. You could receive forgiveness for the penalty of your sins by entrusting your life to Jesus the Savior now …
|Prayer of Salvation
God, I need a real relationship with You. I admit that I have sinned. But I don’t want my sin to separate me from You. Jesus, thank You for being the Lamb of God who died on the cross for my sins. I ask You to forgive me for all my sins. Jesus, come into my life to be my Lord and Savior. Take control of my life and make me the person You want me to be. In Your holy name, I pray, Amen.
J. Learning the Art of Diplomacy
Few people know that when new ambassadors are chosen to represent their countries in foreign lands, they are required to attend “Diplomacy School.” The assumption is not that new ambassadors lack normal social skills, but rather, it emphasizes the importance of being prepared for interacting in a different culture without offending the code of behavior in that culture.
The Islamic religion speaks specifically to social behavior (morals, manners and proper conduct), and you too may be called to be an effective Ambassador for Christ to a Muslim friend or neighbor. The following will help prepare you to become a successful diplomat to someone with an Islamic worldview.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”
(2 Corinthians 5:20)
Most Islamic-ruled countries forbid even casual conversation with members of the opposite sex. Remember …
• Make Muslim friends of your own sex, not of the opposite sex.
• Men and women must not sit next to each other on a sofa.
• Men and women must not shake hands.
• Women should not look at a Muslim man full in the face.
• Women should not speak forcefully to a Muslim man.
• Men should not speak to a married Muslim woman without her husband’s being present or he will feel dishonored. If a woman answers the door, ask to speak with her husband.
• Men should avoid asking questions about a Muslim’s female relatives.
• Muslims in certain countries do not welcome photographs being taken of them. First ask if taking a picture of them would be appropriate.
When attending a service at a mosque …
• Stand to the side. (Don’t stand on the prayer rug.)
• Be an observer, not a participant. (Don’t engage in the various practices of Muslims.)
• Respectfully ask questions of your host. (Don’t ask questions loudly.)
• Be compassionate when attending a Muslim’s funeral. (Don’t encourage the deceased’s relatives to weep because, “The deceased is punished [in hell] for the wailing of his relatives over him.” (Hadith al Bukhari 2.23.63)
Food for Thought
When entertaining Muslims …
• Prepare no item from pig, which is considered detestable (all pork products including bacon, pork ribs, gelatin taken from the pig’s foot).
• Serve no shellfish or catfish, which both the Hadith and the Old Testament dietary laws prohibit (Leviticus 11:10–12).
• Cook nothing with lard.
• Serve nothing containing alcohol, such as rum cake. If there are bottles or cans of cooking alcohol, remove them before your friends arrive.
• Offer no food or beverage between sunrise and sunset during the holy month of Ramadan. Eating and drinking (even water) is forbidden.
• With the left hand, pass no plate, serve no dish, eat no food, for the left hand is considered “unclean.”
• As you serve each dish, explain how it was prepared so that you will put your guests at ease. They will appreciate your sensitivity.
• Pass a drinking vessel only to your right.
When accepting a Muslim invitation for a meal …
• Do not arrive early, but perhaps between 5 to 15 minutes after the stated time.
• Remove your shoes if your hosts have removed their shoes.
• Never show the soles of your shoes or feet—this would be insulting.
• Always allow time for a long, leisurely meal … avoid rushing.
• Eat everything set before you. (The food will be very tasty.)
• Compliment the preparation of the food—and compliment again.
• If you are in doubt about proper protocol or what could be offensive, allow your Muslim friend to act first.
Accepting an invitation can show great sensitivity and may win great favor.
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”
Not all of the suggested items listed above may be appropriate for all people of Muslim faith. Be sensitive to inquire into what is appropriate within individual Muslim countries and families.
May you have great success at Diplomacy School!
K. Time Line
The Early Years of Muhammad
(Some of the dates mentioned are approximate because different sources do not always agree on the time line.)
|• 570 CE
|— Birth: Muhammad is born at Mecca within the Quraysh tribe in what is now Saudi Arabia. His father, Abdu’llah, a leading citizen, died just before Muhammad’s birth. His mother, Amina, gives him to a Bedouin woman to be nursed in the desert’s open air—a practice thought to produce healthier children.
|— Orphaned: After five years, when Muhammad is returned to his mother, she takes him on a trip to Yathrib (now called Medina). However, on the return trip she dies. The orphaned Muhammad comes under the care of his grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib.
|— Two years later, Muhammad’s grandfather dies, and Muhammad is left to be raised by his uncle Abu Talib.
|— First Marriage: At age twenty-five, Muhammad becomes skilled in the caravan trade. A wealthy widow Khadijah takes notice and employs him. Although she is 15 years older, she offers marriage and he accepts. (From their six children, only one daughter survives to bear children.)
|The Beginnings of Islam
|— First Revelation: At age forty, Muhammad receives his first “revelation” as he is meditating in a cave on Mt. Hira. A voice calls out, “Recite!” Not knowing what to recite, he becomes fearful. Khadijah and her elderly cousin comfort him, saying he has received a revelation like the prophets of old. The voice says that Allah is the only god and that he, Muhammad, is to adopt the name “Prophet” and convert the Quraysh tribe to accept no other god.… Further revelations continue and years later are recorded in what became the Qur’an (or Koran), which means, “recitation.”
— Muhammad denounced the local gods in Mecca as false gods and called worship of these idols idolatry. The city’s primary income stream was the travelers who came from all over the world to worship the 360 idols in the Ka’bah, the black stone shrine.
|— Death of Khadijah: After 25 years of a monogamous marriage, Muhammad’s wife, Khadijah, dies. Muhammad is fifty years old.
— Muhammad marries Sawda, the second of 11 wives and two concubines.
|— Hijra: The city fathers of Mecca violently resist this new religion because it threatens the profitable pilgrimages to the pagan shrines. Muhammad and his small band of followers are forced to flee Mecca 250 miles north to Yathrib where they are received with open arms. After appointing himself as ruler, Muhammad changes the name of the town to Medina, meaning “City of the Prophet.” Muhammad’s flight was known as the hijra, which means “the flight or migration”.
— The Islamic Calendar: The Hijra marks the beginning of the Muslim era. The year 622 becomes the first year in the Islamic calendar that contains solar or lunar years. (The following years are noted as AH meaning “After Hijra” or “Anno Hejras.”)
|— Muhammad’s Multiple Marriages: Aishah becomes betrothed to Muhammad when she is six years old, and the marriage consummated when she is nine.
|— Muhammad marries Hafsah, who is eighteen years old.
|— Muhammad marries Um Salma and Zaynab.
|— Muhammad marries Juweiriyeh, Zaynab bint Jarsh and Rayhana.
|— Muhammad marries Maryam, Um Habeeba and Sufin, a Jewish woman.
|— Muhammad marries Maimoona.
|— Mecca Conquered: Muhammad gathers 10,000 men, conquers Mecca and destroys all the idols in the Ka’ba—the famous cubed temple known for housing the 360 pagan deities of the pre-Islamic Arabs.
— Muhammad abolishes polytheism, establishes Islam as a monotheistic religion and declares the Ka’ba a “mosque” (a Muslim house of worship). The Ka’ba is the most significant holy site in Islam.
— Last Revelation: Surah 5 is called “the TABLE.” According to Islamic tradition, during the last year of Muhammad’s life, he reviewed the text of the entire Revelation with the angel Gabriel in order to ensure its accuracy.
|— Death of Muhammad: Muhammad, the religious and political leader of much of the Arabian Peninsula, dies with no male heir. (Two sons die in infancy.) A successor is immediately needed.
|The “Four Righteous Caliphs” of Islam
|— According to the Shi’ites, Muhammad’s cousin Ali claims that Muhammad designated him as successor. Ali seems the logical choice as a family member by blood, as a devoted follower, and even as a son-in-law (married to Muhammad’s favorite daughter, Fatima). However, Ali is viewed as arrogant and unreliable and does not have the confidence of fellow Muslims.
— The First Caliph: Muhammad’s father-in-law and friend Abu Bakr is elected Caliph, which means “successor, representative or deputy.” Although this successor lives only two more years, he immediately begins a military expansion to enforce the Caliph’s authority and secure the Arab Peninsula. Under Abu Bakr, the text of the Qur’an is established.
|— Muslims invade Palestine with the jihad (holy war).
|— The Second Caliph: Instead of Ali, Umar is chosen as the second Caliph and begins a military campaign against the neighboring empires.
|— Muslims conquer Damascus.
|— Muslims conquer the capital of Persia.
|— Muslims conquer Jerusalem.
|— Muslims conquer Cairo.
|— Muslims conquer Alexandria.
|— Muslims complete their conquest of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and Islam spreads into Egypt.
|— In Caliph Umar’s tenth year of rule, he is assassinated by a Persian slave.
— The Third Caliph: Uthman then takes the helm and once again, Ali is passed by.
|— During Caliph Uthman’s 12-year rule, he orders Muhammad’s revelations to be recorded into one volume. Because Muhammad had written nothing, his followers assume the task of recording his words on whatever materials were available at the moment—whether parchment, palm leaves or pieces of wood. In 652, the first official edition of the Qur’an is sent to the chief mosque in each of the capital cities of the Muslim provinces.
— Many Shi’ites believe that Uthman deliberately destroyed references designating Ali as Muhammad’s successor.
|— Muslims conquer Cyprus.
|— Muslims conquer the Persian Empire.
|— Islam spreads into all of North Africa.
|— Uthman, an unpopular and even hated ruler, is stabbed to death.
— The Fourth Caliph: Finally Ali takes control as fourth caliph; however, civil war reigns. Ali’s long-awaited leadership is short-lived.
|— In his fifth year, Ali is assassinated by his own followers. With the death of Ali, the time of the “Four Righteous Caliphs” comes to an end.
— The Shi’ites consider Ali to be the first Imam. His sons Hasan and Hussein were to become the second and third Imams. Although Ali had designated his son Hasan to succeed him, Mu’awiya, the cousin of Caliph Uthman, forced Hasan out of the Caliphate and poisoned him.
The Dynasties and Empires
|— The Umayyad Dynasty: The First Dynasty of Caliphs. The Muslims establish the Umayyad Caliphate, with Damascus, Syria, as their capital and with Arabic as the official language. (Ultimately this empire expanded far and wide to include Andalusia, Africa and part of India.)
|— Muslims conquer Tunisia and Kabul in Afghanistan.
|— Muslims conquer the island of Rhodes.
|— Muslims conquer Constantinople.
|— Hussein (Hasayn), son of Ali and grandson of Muhammad, is killed at Kabala on October 10. Shi’ites separate from the rest of the Islamic community.
|— The Dome of the Rock is built in Jerusalem on the Jewish Temple Mount, demonstrating Islam’s superiority over Judaism. Muslims believe Muhammad was transported from this site into heaven to receive visions and then was returned back to earth. This site, therefore, is considered the third holiest place in Islam. (First is the Ka’ba in Mecca and second, the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina.)
|— Muslims standardize coinage and reform government.
|— Muslims conquer North Africa.
|— Muslims conquer Spain.
|— Muslims conquer the Chinese Turkestan border.
— The Great Mosque of Damascus replaces the Cathedral Church of St. John demonstrating the superiority of Islam over Christianity.
|— Muslims conquer Morocco.
|— Muslims attack France in the Battle of Tours; however, their Invasion is defeated, stopping Islam’s advance across Europe.
|— The Abbasid Dynasty: Headquartered in Baghdad, Iraq, the Abbasid Caliphate claims to be descendants of Abbas, the uncle of Muhammad.
|— The founding of Baghdad, which Muslim leaders soon decide would be a better Islamic capitol than Damascus.
|— Authoritative Hadith collections are compiled.
|— The Golden Age of Islam introduces the zenith of Muslim culture in art, philosophy, poetry and architecture. Medieval Islamic research in the sciences lays the foundation for the fields of mathematics and science today.
|— Fatamid Dynasty: Established in Cairo, Egypt. The sixth Caliphate, al-Hakim, who declared himself to be the incarnation of God, destroyed Christian holy sites and violently persecuted Christians. A reaction to this cruelty ushered in one of the darkest eras in history—the Crusades.
|— The Christian Crusades invade the Holy Land.
|— The Christians recapture Jerusalem.
|— Muslims conquer Delhi (India).
|— The Ottoman Empire: After the Turks defeat the Christians at the Battle of Matiza, the Patriarch of the Eastern church becomes a vassal of the Ottoman Empire.
|— The Colonial Period: The Western nations take occupation of 90 percent of the Muslim world, creating a sense of Muslim humiliation that seeks revenge.
|— The Muslim Ottoman Turks, who had converted to Sunni Islam, conquer Constantinople and rename it Istanbul, Turkey. It becomes the new capital city. The Ottoman empire expands from the Balkans throughout the Middle East and ultimately conquers the Byzantine Empire.
|— King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella end the Muslim domination of Spain and re-establish the Roman Catholic Church. All of western Europe is once again part of Christendom.
|— Taj Mahal is completed in Agra, India.
|— The rise of the fundamentalist Wahhabi movement, founded by al-Wahhab of Arabia becomes a radical sect with powerful influence.
|— Muslim Turks are defeated by the Austrians; Hungary is won back by the Christians.
|— Christian colonization flourishes in North Africa and the Middle East.
|— Turkey loses 80 percent of its territory at the Treaty of Berlin.
|— Ottoman rulers make a fatal miscalculation by joining the Empire’s fortunes with those of Kaiser Wilhelm, the German Head of State, during World War I.
|— The Turks overthrow the Ottoman Empire.
Modern Period (1917–Present)
|— The end of World War I marks the demise of the Ottoman Empire, which is divided among European powers.
|— Liberation of countries under Colonial rule.
|— The Caliphate is disbanded.
|— Muslim Brotherhood founded.
|— The State of Pakistan is created out of a majority Muslim population in India.
|— The Arab army is defeated during the Arab-Israeli war; the restoration of the state of Israel is perceived by Muslims as the greatest sin ever committed in human history.
|— PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) is founded.
|— Muslims lose Jerusalem to the Jews after more than 1300 years of possession.
|— Iranian revolution in January ousts the Shah of Iran, a strong supporter of America. The exiled Ayatollah Khomeini returns in February with rabid anti-American rhetoric. In October the Shah comes to America for cancer treatments. In November the Ayatollah incites Shi’ite militants to overthrow the United States Embassy. About 70 Americans were held hostage for 444 days.
|— Beginning of the Iran-Iraq war.
— Palestinian bomb attack on synagogue in Paris, France. Four are killed and 12 injured.
|— Pope John II is seriously wounded in an assassination attempt in Rome.
— Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat is shot dead by rebel troops who machine gunned the reviewing stand at a military parade in Cairo.
|— Lebanese President Bashir Gemayel is assassinated by a massive car bomb in Beruit.
|— U.S. Embassy in Kuwait is targeted by Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia terrorist.
|— Car bomb in Beirut, Lebanon, kills 80 and wounds more than 200 civilians.
— Suicide bomb attack on U.S. Embassy in East Beirut kills 23 people and injures 21.
|— TWA Boeing 727 is hijacked with eight crew and 140 passengers held hostage while flying from Athens to Rome. It was forced to land in Beirut, Lebanon.
|— Four thousand Kurdish civilians are killed during Iraqi nerve gas attack.
— PanAm Boeing 747 blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, is attributed to a number of Middle Eastern terrorist groups.
|— French UTA airliner explodes in midair over Niger. French government orders arrest of four Libyans.
|— Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is devastated by a bomb that killed 20 and injured scores more. Islamic terrorists suspected.
|— Islamic terrorists attempt to bomb a bus carrying German tourists in Egypt. A day earlier, Japanese tourists had been fired upon by terrorists in southern Egypt.
— World Trade Center in New York, U.S.A., is badly damaged by a massive bomb planted by Islamic terrorists.
|— Islamic jihad suicide bomber attacks military convoy in Gaza, killing seven soldiers and an American tourist.
|— Islamic radicals plant bomb in Egyptian embassy in Pakistan, killing 17.
|— Islamic terrorists opposed to the western military presence in the Gulf region explode a bomb in Dhahran, Saudia Arabia, killing 19 American servicemen and injuring 385 more.
|— Islamic rebels slit the throats of 14 villagers and behead them in an attack near the city of Bilda, Algeria.
|— U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, are damaged by massive bomb attacks. In the Nairobi attack 247 people were killed, including 12 Americans, and 4,000 were injured. U.S. intelligence blames Islamic groups linked to Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden.
— On February 23, five Islamic caliphates representing five radical factions sign a fatwa (a religious decree) declaring war against the United States. In part, the fatwa states, “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible.…” Osama Bin Laden was one of the five calling all Muslims to fight their enemy.
|— On September 11, Muslim extremists attack the United States, destroying the World Trade Center in New York City and severely damaging the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., resulting in a tremendous loss of American lives and property.
For their wise counsel and editing, gratitude is warmly extended to these:
Robert Adams of Arab Vision
Dr. Samuel Shahid of Good News for the Crescent World
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