This article is about the Islamic faith and the way it views Jesus Christ. The author concludes by looking at the radical differences between Christianity and Islam

Source: The Outlook, 2006. 4 pages.

Can We Welcome Muslims as Fellow Believers in the One True God?

Under the banner of religious plu­ralism, many seem to downplay all real differences among religions. They claim disputes among the dif­ferent “ways” of salvation are pointless. Christ may be called the one way to the Father, but He is not the only one. Many believe Chris­tians and Muslims worship the same deity. A traditional Japanese saying states: “Although the paths to the summit may differ, from the top one sees the same moon.” When applied to religion, this axiom suggests that although there are different religious paths, ultimately each way will reach the same destination.

Unfortunately, a growing number of Christians have embraced the no­tion that while the Christian faith is “true” and legitimate for them, other religions can be equally “true” and legitimate options for others in different circumstances. This view makes it difficult to ap­peal to the Bible as one’s sole au­thority. It also hinders missions. The Gospel story has become only one among the many stories.

Religious pluralism is not a new experience for the Christian church. As far back as recorded history takes us, there have been different religions and practices. The apos­tolic Church was launched into a religiously pluralistic world, a world where, as the apostle Paul wrote, there were many gods and many lords (1 Corinthians 8: 5). The re­lationship between the Christian faith and other religions was already discussed when the Christian church was no more than a small group, scattered over the whole Roman Empire. The Church knew that the Gospel would not be welcomed with “open arms.” The early Church was despised, persecuted, and living in very difficult circum­stances. The New Testament clearly states that the normal atti­tude toward the Christian Church will be one of hostility.

The way of Islam🔗

Among the religions of the world, there is not one that has a shorter creed than Islam; and not one whose creed is so well known and so often repeated. The whole sys­tem of Muslim theology, philosophy, and religious life is summed up in seven words: La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad rasul Allah, “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle.”

By this creed Muslims are called to prayer five times daily. It is the platform on which all the warring sects of Islam unite. It is the very foundation of the Islamic religion. In Islam in Focus, which was written for “the young and lay readers,” and distributed by the Vanguard Islamic Association and the Canadian Islam Congress, Dr. Hammudah Abdalati states that Islam is the universal religion of God, the Maker of human nature, Who knows what is best for human nature. He says that who­ever refuses the confession that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, refutes the first part of the confession that Allah is God.

Islam is the only religion that can be based on the Koran revealed to Muhammad. Abdalati says that the original founder of Islam is no other than God Himself, and the date of the founding of Islam goes back to the age of Adam. Islam has existed in one form or another all along, since the beginning, and will con­tinue to exist until the end of time. Every person is born “Muslim.” All the characters of the Bible, from Adam to Abraham, Moses to David, the Hebrew prophets, Mary, Jesus, and the apostles were Mus­lim prophets who preached Islam. It is only in their quality as Muslims that they are recognized. Muhammad is the “Seal of the Prophets.” Whoever obeys him, obeys Allah (Sura 4:80).

Islam means submission to the Will of Allah and obedience to His Law. Only through submission to the Will of Allah and by obedience to His Law can one achieve true peace and enjoy lasting purity. Therefore, whoever departs from Islam, stands outside the true religion and falls victim to “excommunication.” Muslims oppose idolatry and do not want to be identified with Christian­ity, Hinduism, Buddhism, or what­ever. They believe Islam is unique. It is the only way!

The Koran🔗

For Muslims, the norm is first and foremost the Koran itself. For cen­turies, Muslims have read and memorized the Koran in Arabic as “the language of heaven.” And those who can read Arabic call the language of the Koran “divinely beautiful, terrifying, tear-inducing, spine-tingling, mesmerizing,” and impossible to imitate. Abdalati notes that the Koran came to Muhammad “through the Heavenly Messenger Gabriel” who was sent down with concrete divine words to convey Allah’s message. For Muslims, the Koran is the word of Allah. It is the Word of God incarnate, eternal, and uncreated. Muslims believe every letter in the Koran is the word of Al­lah, and every sound in it is the true echo of Allah’s voice. Every Muslim must abide by it and reflect on it. Abdalati clearly states the Muslim’s conviction that the Koran has the “sole truth.” He says that it “is given to the Muslims as the standard or criterion by which all other books are judged.”

Whatever agrees with the Koran is accepted as Divine truth, and what­ever differs from the Koran is either rejected or suspended. The Koran is the only way to Allah. It frequently censures Christians for believing in false doctrines – including beliefs that are central to their faith as it has been understood and practiced for as long as six centuries before Muhammad began preaching. Referring to both Jews and Christian, the Koran says, “Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth” (Surah 9:30).

Salvation by works🔗

The Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas,

Sirs, what must I to do be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved ­ you and your household.Acts 16:30, 31

Muslims would answer the jailer’s question by saying, “Every Muslim is his own redeemer; he bears all possibilities of spiritual suc­cess and failure in his heart.”

Islam has an optimistic view of human nature. Conspicuously lacking in Is­lam are concepts of the radical de­pravity of human nature, the perva­sive impact of sin and the complete inability of humankind to redeem it­self from the bondage of sin. Sin is considered more a weakness, a de­fect or imperfection rather than a radical corruption of the nature and the will. Abdalati declares that every person is born free from sin and all claims to inherited virtue. “He is like a blank book.”

Each person must bear his own bur­den and be responsible for his own actions.

Consequently, the Muslim cannot entertain the story of Jesus’ death on the cross just to do away with all human sins once and for all.

In other words, Muslims believe there is no need for a Savior and Re­deemer.

Islam is a legalistic religion, insofar as it stresses the law of Allah, which every believer must observe whole­heartedly. Obedience to the law is something that is held to be within the grasp of disciplined and religiously sensitive persons. In other words, Islam seeks self-salvation. Muslims believe that man must work out his salvation through the guidance of God. The Koran says, “Whoso makes effort to follow in Our ways, We will guide them: for God is assur­edly with those who do righteous deeds” (Surah 29:69). The Koran teaches there definitely will be com­pensation and reward for the good deeds, and punishment for the evil ones. On the Day of Judgment there will be a final settlement of all ac­counts.

The jesus of Islam🔗

Today we increasingly hear and read that Christianity and Islam “share” Jesus, that He belongs to both reli­gions. Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Pe­ter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15, 16). Christians think of God in terms of Christ.

The opposite is true for Muslims. If you asked them, “Who do you say Jesus is?” They would answer, “Isa (His true name according to the Ko­ran) was a prophet of Islam. His message was pure Islam, surrender to Allah. He was a lawgiver.” Isa was simply a created human being and a slave of Allah. Muslims claim that Isa’s mother was Miriam. While still a virgin, Miriam gave birth to “Isa alone in a desolate place under a date palm tree” (Not in Bethlehem). He did not die on the cross but ascended to Allah. On the day of the Resurrec­tion “Isa himself will be a witness against Jews and Christians for be­lieving in his death.”

The Koran expressly denies the divin­ity of Christ. Islam has always looked upon Jesus as one of their greatest prophets. Abdalati states that all prophets of God, including Jesus, and their faithful followers were Muslims, and their religion was Islam, the only true universal religion of God. Islam commands Christians not to believe that “Isa is the Son of God.” At the last judgment He will condemn Christians to hell for believing in the cruci­fixion and the incarnation.

By Islamicising Jesus, and making Him a Muslim prophet who preaches the Koran, Islam destroys Christian­ity and takes over all its history. But the Isa of the Koran is based on no recognized form of historical evi­dence, but on fables current in sev­enth-century Arabia. The Koran is oblivious to the real contents of the Bible. The identity of Jesus Christ reveals the unbridgeable gap between Islam and Christianity. Both cannot be correct.

Islam and the Trinity🔗

The Trinity is not an appendix to the Christian faith. It is at the heart of the Christian faith, but Islam denies it. Allah has neither an associate nor equal. The cornerstone of Muhammad’s message was the ab­solute unity and sovereignty of God. The famous Islamic scholar al­Ghazzali (1058-1111) said about Allah, “as touching His essence, He maketh known that He is one, and hath no partner.” Abdalati teaches that Allah has no partner or son, and neither gives birth, nor is He born. He is eter­nally besought by all and has not be­ginning or end, and none is equal to Him (Surah 112:1-5). There is only one God for Muslims, and he is the same God for all peoples. It is due to this uncompromising emphasis on God’s absolute unity that in Islam the greatest of all sins is the sin of shirk, or assigning partners to God (Surah 4:116).

The Koran clearly shows that Allah is not the same as the Triune God of the Bible. The Triune God is different from all other gods. Only He has the answer to the question, “Who can save men and women from their lost condition?” The Triune is the God of love. The love of God the Father is evident by giving His Son. The love of the Son is evident by His acceptance of the death on the cross.

The Jesus of the scriptures🔗

Who is Jesus? The Christian believes Jesus Christ is the Seal of the Proph­ets, as priest, king, and the only begot­ten Son of the Father, and therefore is God. Scripture presents Jesus as the Creator and preserver of the uni­verse, as the incarnate, crucified and risen Redeemer and living Renewer of His people. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End; the entire eternal order is grounded in Christ.

The Gospel is not about Jesus discov­ering the way and the truth, and that if we follow His teaching we too can find the way ourselves. The apostle Paul says that not even apostolic sta­tus, not even angelic existence, stand above the unchanging gospel. Paul argues for the centrality of the cross. It is the only way of salvation for guilty sinners – justification comes to guilty men and women exclusively on the ground of the grace of God in the cross (Galatians 1: 8-9).

Salvation means, therefore, that the guilt that rested on human beings and made them God’s enemy has been taken away by the wholly mysterious event of the suffering and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Salvation also includes the restoration of creation, the new heaven and earth. Christ does not stand at the beginning but in the midst of history, the event of His death, res­urrection, and ascension.

Islam denies Jesus’ death; Christian­ity glories in it. No one is reconciled to God except through the cross of Jesus Christ. Our Lord gave us the responsibility to proclaim this unique Gospel of reconciliation. It is pre­cisely this uncompromising exclusivism of the early Christians that provoked the antagonism of the surrounding culture.

The radical difference between Islam and Christianity🔗

Christians, who hold that salvation is available only through Jesus Christ, and that sincere Muslims are mistaken in their basic beliefs, are routinely dis­missed as intolerant. Although the Christian faith is one of several world religions, this does not mean to imply that they are more or less identical and rooted in the same soil. These reli­gions are radically different from each other.

Islam seeks salvation through obedi­ence to the law; Christians believe that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that who­ever believes in Him may have eter­nal life” (John 3:16).

Islam claims to be the only true rev­elation and pathway to God. Not all revelations can be equally true, equally right, equally good. Insofar as other religions actually contradict the revelation of God in Scripture, we claim that these religions are not true revelations at all, the Koran included. The Bible serves Christianity as its normative standard.

God’s revelation declares other reli­gions as forms of idolatry. Paul’s as­sessment of the idolatrous religions of his time is true for our own genera­tion.

He says, “Since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God over­looked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”Acts 17:30, 31

A genuinely biblical perspective on other religions should recognize that much religious activity and belief is influenced by the adversary, Satan (1 Corinthians 10:20). Scripture speaks of those who are not yet saved as “spiritually blind” and under the power of the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 4:17-18). The sphere of religion is the battlefield par excel­lence for the demonic. We neglect this fact to our peril as we witness to Muslims of the saving grace of our Triune God. We must be firmly rooted in the life of the Church, in Scripture, in the creeds and confes­sion of the church if we want to en­gage the world of Islam for Christ.

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