World Religions: Islam
What first comes to your mind when you hear the word “Muslim”? Perhaps it is Al-Qaeda, or ISIS, terrorists who wreak havoc and cause fear among innocent people. Or maybe you think of your neighbor or coworker who faithfully prays towards Mecca several times a day. Whatever the case may be, Islam is a major world religion, and as such, Christians need to be informed about it.
My first exposure to Islam was a man named Ali. He was an older man, originally from Pakistan, who visited at worship every now and then. He was a nice fellow, although it seemed he had a particular knack for showing up on the Sundays when there would be a fellowship meal afterwards!
One time I remember going with my dad to his house, and we talked with his family about religion—it was as close to a Bible study as we could get. When we got there, his daughter mentioned to us that Muslims hold Jesus to be a prophet, and also believe parts of the Bible to be of divine origin. However, when we pointed certain things out to them from the Bible (such as Jesus’ words in John 8:24,
if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins), she further explained that, according to Muslims, much of the Bible has been corrupted over time, and thus only the Quran can be completely trusted. We had a friendly conversation, but it was clear that with this kind of mindset, we could make little progress showing them the true nature of Christ.
The Muslim population is growing all across the United States and Europe, and while this may be cause for concern, I believe we need to take a step back and ask such questions as “Who are these people?”, “What do they believe?”, and “How can I reach them with the Gospel?”
Answering all these questions thoroughly is impossible in just one blog post, but for now let’s just examine the holy scriptures of the Muslims, the Quran, and we will see why it is so hard for people like Ali’s family to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
What sort of things does the Quran teach?
If you were to read the Quran, what would you find? If it was written by Mohammed, a wandering warrior from the Middle Ages, without divine guidance, we might expect to find many allusions to violence, and that is exactly what we find.
Surah 47:4 of the Quran clearly lays out the concept of holy war against Christians and Jews:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain.(Pickthall)
Many Muslims today are peaceful, but that does not annul the commandments of their book. While Christianity is spread through peaceful teaching and pleading, Islam has a history of being spread by the sword, which (surprise!) has turned out to be very convincing.
Does the Quran contradict the Bible?
Although Muslims believe in one God, and that Jesus was a good prophet who received revelation from God, their concept of that God is nothing like the triune divinity revealed by the Bible, and the Quran explicitly denies the status of Jesus as the Son of God:
He unto Whom belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, He hath chosen no son nor hath He any partner in the Sovereignty. He hath created everything and hath meted out for it a measure.(Surah 25:2, Pickthall)
Because Islam came about after the establishment of the church of Christ, Mohammed saw a need to deny the sovereignty of Jesus, as any acknowledgement of His deity would erode the authority that he claimed for himself. This is in direct contradiction to numerous New Testament passages referring to Jesus as the Son of God, such as Hebrews 1:1-2.
Moreover, the Quran denies that Jesus was crucified (Surah 4:156-158), and the foundation of Christianity—the sacrifice of Christ to atone for the sins of those who would obey Him—is notably absent in Islam. Islam simply claims that if you follows the commandments, Allah will annul your evil deeds, and overlook them, with no mention of atonement.
Is the Quran inspired?
If the Bible is inspired by God, then the Quran is not—because of the contradictions between the two, they are mutually exclusive. However, there are some additional things we can consider about the claim of the Quran to be of divine origin.
If a book is not inspired, its author had to get the content from somewhere. Either he made it up, or borrowed it from other sources. While a casual observer might think that either the Quran is inspired or Mohammed made it up, surprisingly there are many parts of the Quran that apparently were borrowed from the Talmud, a collection of writings from Jewish rabbis over the years that fit the description of “tradition of men” (Mark 7:8). Nobody has ever claimed the Talmud to be inspired, yet some of the exact same stories and details show up in the Quran.
One such detail is from Surah 7:148, where we learn the surprising fact that the golden calf made by the Israelites actually mooed:
And the folk of Moses, after (he left them), chose a calf (for worship), (made) out of their ornaments, of saffron hue, which gave a lowing sound. Saw they not that it spake not unto them nor guided them to any way? They chose it, and became wrong-doers.(Pickthall)
This detail is absent in the Biblical text, but Mohammed didn’t make it up—it came from the Talmud. And this is only one example of many small details that differ from the Biblical account, yet have corresponding passages in Talmudic texts, which are merely Jewish legends passed down over the years, and clearly not inspired. If the Quran were divinely inspired, why would it draw from these unreliable sources?
The Quran also often appeals to man’s fleshly desires, as opposed to the Bible, which calls us to live a spiritual life of purity. For these and other reasons, we can conclude that it is not the inspired word of God, as Muslims claim.
Muslims need Christ
The bottom line is that Muslims hold to and defend a book that was written by one man, a false prophet who has led many astray and whose influences sadly continue to the present day. And yet, just as all other people who do not know God, Muslims need the Gospel, the saving power of Christ, and our responsibility is to take that to them. Paul’s description of his fellow Jews rings true for Muslims as well:
For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.(Romans 10:2-3 ASV)
May our heart’s desire be for their salvation (Romans 10:1), and may they have soft hearts to receive the Gospel.