Category Archives: Muslim Questions

Muslim Questions: Why Did Jesus Have to Die (for Muslims)?

 

Jesus died on the cross to bear sin’s punishment for believers. Many people have doubted Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, despite historical evidence. Muslims question, “Why would Allah require His prophet Isa to die?”

The Scripture explains that Jesus Christ died for our sins: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3b–4).

Scripture affirms that the sinless Jesus bled and died on the cross to pay the punishment for believing sinners. Let’s study the Scriptures, the Bible, to find out why Jesus’ death and resurrection provide the only entrance for sinners into paradise.

The punishment for sin is death The Bible says the holy God created earth and man perfectly. But Adam and Eve fell to the temptation of Satan and disobeyed God. Ever since Adam’s sin, sin has infected the human race. Each person is guilty: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Sin is not just big things like murder or blasphemy but also includes lying, lusting, and stealing. Even the love of money or hatred of enemies is sin, according to the Bible. Good works cannot make up for wrongs against the holy God. Compared to His holiness, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6b).

Having sinned against God, we deserve His punishment. A judge who pardons lawbreakers isn’t a good judge. Likewise, God will not overlook sin. He pours out His righteous wrath against sinners (Romans 2:1–11). Unbelieving sinners pay for their sin by suffering eternal death in hell: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a).

The promise required an innocent death Although God banished Adam and Eve from the garden and the tree of life, He gave them hope of salvation and paradise. He promised to send the woman’s offspring—Jesus—Who would conquer Satan (Genesis 3:15). Until then, men would sacrifice innocent lambs as a substitute for the punishment they deserved. Sacrificing an animal showed men’s humble acknowledgement that their sin required death and showed their faith in the future offspring and sacrifice from God—Jesus—Who would bear the believer’s penalty once and for all.

The prophets foretold Jesus’ death From Adam to Jesus, God sent prophets to mankind, warning them of sin’s punishment and foretelling the coming Savior. Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah described Him:

“Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:1–12).

The prophet compared the coming Savior to a lamb, slaughtered for the sins of others.

Centuries later, Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. Although Jesus is eternally one with God, God the Father sent His Son to earth (John 3:16). Jesus is the promised offspring of the woman (Genesis 3:15), born in human flesh to the virgin Mary. God witnessed that Jesus is His own Son (Matthew 17:5). On seeing Jesus, the prophet John the Baptist cried, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Taking the sin of the world as the sacrificial Lamb of God is why Jesus had to die. He came to take the punishment for sin—death.

Jesus prophesied His own death many times: “And taking the twelve, he said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise’ ” (Luke 18:31–33).

God sacrificed Jesus for sin During the life of Jesus, crowds thronged around Him for healing and teaching, but the religious leaders scorned Him. They arrested Him and charged Him with blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God (Luke 22:70). Mobs cried out, “Crucify Him!” Soldiers beat, mocked, and crucified Him.

On the cross, Jesus bore the punishment of sin. At His death, He cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30b). Jesus finished paying the punishment for sin as the perfect Lamb of God.

As Isaiah prophesied, Jesus was crucified in between two criminals and was buried in a rich man’s tomb. But Jesus didn’t remain in the grave. As He prophesied, Jesus rose from the dead, proving His victory over sin and death.

Why did Jesus have to die? Jesus died for believing sinners. We cannot reach paradise on our own merit. Remember, the holy God will not let sin go unpunished. If we bore our own sins, we would suffer judgment in the flames of hell. But God sacrificed Jesus as the believer’s perfect Substitute.

The Scripture says, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified [made righteous/good] by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation [restored relationship].

“Therefore, just as through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.… So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:6–12; 18–21).

Jesus died to provide the only way to eternal life. If God is showing your sin and need of Jesus, repent, turning from your sin and own way of trying to please God. You cannot fix yourself. Believing the Bible’s truth about Who Jesus is and what He did, trust in Jesus as Savior from sin and follow Him as the Lord of your life. He will lead and strengthen you through His Word, the Bible.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Muslim Questions: Should Christians Be Concerned about the Idea of Sharia Law?

 

First, we should define Sharia Law. Sharia is, as expressed in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, divine law. The Sunnah is a record of the life and example of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The Sunnah is primarily contained in the Hadith or reports of Muhammad’s sayings, his actions, his tacit approval of actions, and his demeanor. Where it has official status, sharia is interpreted by Islamic judges who may be influenced by the religious leaders, or imams.

In secular Muslim states (such as Mali, Kazakhstan and Turkey), sharia is limited to personal and family matters. Countries such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Sudan and Morocco are strongly influenced by sharia, but ultimate authority lies with their constitutions and the rule of law. Saudi Arabia and some Gulf States enforce classical sharia. Iran has a parliament that legislates in a manner consistent with sharia.

“Traditionally, the Islamic umma [community or nation] is divided into three regions: the territory of Islam (dar al-Islam) the territory of peace (dar al-sulh), and the territory of war (dar al-harb).… In regions such as Pakistan, Iran, and Libya, Islamic law is assumed to form the basis of government. The second territory represents regions such as India and Africa where Muslims are in the minority but are permitted for the most part to live in peace and to practise their religion freely. The rest of the world comprises the third territory, which is viewed more as an ideological battleground contested by groups with conflicting values than as a literal theatre of war. Within this territory holy war (jihad) is waged against all non-Muslims or infidels (kafir) in perpetuity until they too are absorbed into the world of Islam.… No systematic exposition of Muslim beliefs appears in either the Qur’an or the Hadith [traditions]. Instead, such exposition is found in the compilation of Islamic canon law (shar’ia), which is considered to be divinely established and enjoins on all adherents strict obedience in all aspects of life. The principal sources for Islamic law are: the Qur’an, Tradition, Consensus (ijma’), and Reason (qiyas). The Shi’ites reject the ‘consensus’ and substitute what is for them the divinely appointed, infallible spiritual guide (Imam)” (from Islam: The Way of Submission by Solomon Nigossian, Crucible, 1987).

Aspects of Sharia Law that concern Christians:

Jihad: Jihad is holy war against the infidels of the world. All Muslims are obliged to kill the infidel. An infidel (or kafir) is a non-Muslim. Many Muslims think that killing an infidel guarantees going straight to paradise.

Apostasy: All apostates are to be killed. An apostate is any person who renounces Islam and changes his religion. Christians are not allowed to convert Muslims to Christianity. Conversion is perceived as blasphemy and carries the death penalty. Distributing Christian literature can result in a five-year prison sentence under Sharia Law.

Criticism of Islam: The death penalty applies to Muslims who criticize Muhammad, the Qur’an or Sharia Law. Severe penalties also apply to Christians who speak out against Islam.

Freedom of Worship: Although Islam pays lip service to “people of the book” (other Abrahamic religions), and the Qur’an says to respect and honor all people irrespective of their religion, the reality is that some Islamic countries are persecuting Christians, targeting their places of worship, and killing and imprisoning believers. Persecution is intense in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Maldives, and other countries with a strong Islamic influence.

Female victims of rape: Sharia Law protects rapists. A woman making an accusation of rape has to provide four male witnesses. If she is unable to do so, she will be charged with zina, for which the prescribed punishment is flogging or stoning. Thousands of women are imprisoned as a result of unsuccessful charges of rape. Some are even stoned to death. On October 27, 2008, Aisha, a 13-year-old girl in Kisayu, Somalia, was stoned to death for adultery; later, her aunt told the British Broadcasting Corporation that Aisha had been raped by three armed men. Rapists are seldom brought to trial, let alone punished.

Miscellaneous crimes: Fornication and adultery: Unmarried fornicators are to be whipped, and adulterers are to be stoned to death. Homosexuality: Homosexuals must be executed. Theft: Any person found stealing is to have a hand cut off. Battery and assault: An injured plaintiff can extract legal revenge; lex talionis (“an eye for an eye”) is in effect.

Should Christians be concerned? Many people in Europe, North America and Australia are unaware of the influence of Sharia Law in Islamic countries and have never considered the possibility of Sharia Law being introduced in their country. In November 2011 the MacDonald-Laurier Institute poll of Canadian Muslims found that 75 percent of respondents want Sharia Law. In December 2012 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the imam at Australia’s largest mosque had issued a fatwa (legal ruling) against Christmas. In July 2011 Islamic extremists called upon British Muslims to establish three independent states within the U.K. There are also Muslim groups in the United States calling for the implementation of Sharia Law in America.

Christianity and Islam have opposing beliefs. Jesus (Isa) is mentioned 25 times in the Qur’an, but the Jesus of the Qur’an bears no resemblance to the Jesus of the Bible. The Qur’an says Jesus was only a human prophet and was not killed; rather, Allah took him up to heaven (Surah 4:157–158). When Jesus returns, he will be a follower of Muhammad and will kill the Antichrist, break the cross and slay the pigs. Everyone who does not accept Islam will be slain (Hadith 656). After ruling on earth for about 40 years, Jesus will die.

The Bible says Jesus is the eternal Word who was with God and who is God. The Word dwelt with man (John 1). The Bible says Jesus was crucified then resurrected and ascended into heaven—in front of eyewitnesses. When He returns, it will be to judge the world in true righteousness.

Allah tells Muslims to kill anyone who rejects Islam, converts to Christianity, or becomes an atheist. Jesus tells Christians to love Muslims because He wants Muslims to join Christians in heaven. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43–44). Christians bless those who curse them and do good to those who hate them. This is not the way of Islam.

Christians should be very concerned about the spread of Islam in general and the impact of Sharia Law in particular. And we should always be alert to opportunities to witness to Muslims about the love of God through Christ Jesus.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Muslim Questions: Why Don’t Christians Fast the Same as Muslims?

 

Both Muslims and Christians fast, but their purposes for fasting differ. In order to keep one of the Five Pillars, a Muslim is obligated to fast during Ramadan.

The Bible teaches that fasting merits neither God’s favor nor a place in paradise. Christians may fast for one of the following reasons:

•     To demonstrate their satisfaction in God (Matthew 4:4)

•     To humble themselves before God (Daniel 9:3)

•     To request God’s help (2 Samuel 12:16; Esther 4:16; Ezra 8:23)

•     To seek God’s will (Acts 13:2–3)

•     To turn from sin (Jonah 3:5–10)

•     To worship God without distractions (Luke 2:36–38)

Jesus fasted
At the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, before His great miracles and teaching, He fasted forty days. Afterwards, the devil tested Jesus while He was weak with hunger: “And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.… Again, the Devil took Him up into a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” ’ Then the Devil left him. And behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (Matthew 4:2, 8–11).

Although Satan tempted Jesus to sin, Jesus remained perfect, unlike all other human beings in history.

Jesus’ warning against prideful fasting
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day prided themselves in fasting twice a week, but Jesus challenged their sincerity.

• Don’t fast to appear religious before men
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:16–18).

• Don’t fast to earn forgiveness of sin

(A Pharisee is one who belonged to a religious, fundamental sect of the Jews.)

“The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:11–14). Jesus taught that we cannot earn entrance to paradise through fasting. Our sin renders even our best religious deeds unworthy (Isaiah 64:6).

Jesus’ transformation of fasting
Jesus taught that following God’s will brings more satisfaction than eating: “… His disciples were asking Him, saying, ‘Master, eat.’ But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat which you do not know.’ Therefore the disciples said to one another, ‘No one brought Him anything to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work’ ” (John 4:31–34).

What is God’s will? “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes on Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you also have seen Me and do not believe. All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will in no way cast out. For I came down from Heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all which He has given Me I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes on Him should have everlasting life. And I will raise him up at the last day’ ” (John 6:35–40).

Just as we will die if we don’t eat bread, we will die (i.e., be separated from God eternally in hell) if we don’t receive Jesus, the Bread of Life. Because He came “down from heaven,” born of a virgin, Jesus called God His Father. Jesus proved by His perfect life, death, and resurrection that He is divine, the Son of God. Jesus fulfilled His Father’s will: saving believing sinners by taking their punishment for sin on the cross. By raising Jesus from the dead, God showed that He accepted Christ’s sacrifice.

How do you receive the Bread of Life? You must turn from sin and trust in the Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection to save you—not your own goodness through works such as fasting.

After saving you from sin, the Lord will give you the desire and strength to glorify God through good works—even fasting: “But now, being made free from sin, and having become slaves to God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:22–23).

A personal testimony of fasting
A wise man, who spent years of his life serving Muslims in the Middle East, shares his reasons for fasting.

I want fasting to be …

•     an honest statement of what is most important to me. I want this simple act (going without food for a while) to remind me that spiritual, eternal things are more important than temporal things.

•     a symbol of the satisfaction I’m finding in God Himself: loving Him, learning of Him, doing His will.

•     a celebration of God’s setting me apart, granting me forgiveness through the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and rescuing me from the sinful habits that were enslaving me.

•     a time of gladness, praise, and intercession on behalf of my family and friends in many countries.

•     a means of deeper contentment in the Lord. Thus, I will be more motivated and better able to share my material and spiritual gifts with others. The Lord Jesus said, “And your Father … will reward you” (Matthew 6:18b).[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Muslim Questions: Why do Jews and Arabs / Muslims hate each other?

 

First, it is important to understand that not all Arabs are Muslims, and not all Muslims are Arabs. While a majority of Arabs are Muslims, there are many non-Muslim Arabs. Further, there are significantly more non-Arab Muslims in areas such as Indonesia and Malaysia than there are Arab Muslims. Second, it is important to remember that not all Arabs hate Jews, not all Muslims hate Jews, and not all Jews hate Arabs and Muslims. We must be careful to avoid stereotyping people. However, generally speaking, Arabs and Muslims have a dislike of and distrust for Jews, and vice-versa.

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

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

However, the ancient root of bitterness between Isaac and Ishmael does not explain all of the hostility between Jews and Arabs today. In fact, for thousands of years of Middle Eastern history, Jews and Arabs lived in relative peace and indifference towards each other. The primary cause of the hostility has a modern origin. After World War II, when the United Nations gave a portion of the land of Israel to the Jewish people, the land was at that time primarily inhabited by Arabs (the Palestinians). Most Arabs protested vehemently against the nation of Israel occupying that land. Arab nations united and attacked Israel in an attempt to drive them out of the land, but they were defeated. Ever since, there has been great hostility between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Israel exists on one tiny piece of land surrounded by much larger Arab nations such as Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt. It is our viewpoint that, biblically speaking, Israel has a right to exist as a nation in its own land that God gave to the descendants of Jacob, grandson of Abraham. At the same time, we strongly believe that Israel should seek peace and display respect for its Arab neighbors. Psalm 122:6 declares, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure.”[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Muslim Questions: What is the gospel of Barnabas?

 

It’s important that we not confuse the gospel of Barnabas (ca. A.D. 1500) with the Epistle of Barnabas (ca. A.D. 70–90). The Epistle of Barnabas was written in the late 1st century, but probably not by the Barnabas named in the New Testament. While more of a pseudo-Gospel with some historical value, the Epistle of Barnabas was never considered canonical by the early church or any church council.

The gospel of Barnabas, however, has absolutely no apostolic support and was written 1400 years after the time of Barnabas. This is evidenced by the fact that it was never quoted by any church father or church historian before the 16th century!

By contrast, the books of the New Testament were all written early (before A.D. 100) and by eyewitnesses, or by those who interviewed the eyewitnesses of the Lord Jesus (1 John 1:1–5; Luke 1:1–4). The four Gospels found in the New Testament were never questioned as to their authenticity.

Even had the gospel of Barnabas been written during the time of the Apostles, it still would have never attained canonical status due to the historical and doctrinal errors it contains. For example, the gospel of Barnabas purports that Jesus did not claim to be the Messiah (see Matthew 26:63–64). The gospel of Barnabas also says that Jesus was born when Pilate was governor (but history records Pilate becoming governor in A.D. 26 or 27).

Furthermore, the gospel of Barnabas keeps some strange company, for it’s a favorite among Muslims as it teaches a Jesus consistent with the Koran. The gospel of Barnabas claims that Jesus did not die on the cross, as does the Koran in Sura 4:157. Historians are unanimous that the gospel of Barnabas was written in the 15th-16th century A.D., most likely by Muslims seeking to discredit the Biblical message regarding Jesus.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.