Islam's Basic Beliefs

Because of Islamic beliefs, Islam and Christianity are forever set against one another.

Twelve centuries ago a religious movement thundered out of the Arabian desert forever changing the course of human history. Its fiery leader, Mohammed, and his people, Muslims, now intrude into American religious life in an unprecedented way. The challenge they pose to New Testament Christianity is very real. Any sort of realistic defense that would be made against Islamic teaching must be based on an understanding of the fundamental tenets of the Muslim religion and their implications to Christianity.

Muslims are taught to practice their religion via the five pillars of Islam. These five pillars provide an excellent place to begin studying Islam.

The first pillar is the reciting of the creed, "There is no god but the One God, and Mohammed is his prophet." Muslims repeat this many times every day, believing that saying this in faith and sincerity makes one a Muslim.

The second pillar is daily prayer. Muslims must pray five times each day, facing Mecca, the holy city in Saudi Arabia.

The third pillar is the giving of alms. Muslims are very concerned about caring for the poor, requiring set percentages of income to be given to aid the impoverished.

The fourth pillar is fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year, commemorating the giving of the Koran to Mohammed. All faithful Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during this month. Because Islam uses a lunar calendar, Ramadan comes at different times each year.

The final pillar is the pilgrimage to Mecca. Every adult Muslim who is financially and physically able is expected to travel to Mecca once during his or her lifetime in the month of Dhul-Hijah. Various rituals and rites are performed during this time in Mecca.

Having examined the five pillars of Islam, we can distill Islam into three foundational beliefs. First, at the core of everything, Islam is the idea of only one God. This is reflected in the first pillar and in everything else Islam is and stands for. To the Muslim, God is one sovereign, almighty and unique being. In Islam, man is not to know God and become more like Him but to learn God's will and become more obedient to His commands. To associate anything or anyone with Allah is incomprehensible to a Muslim and constitutes blasphemy. God is absolutely alone in the place given to Him by Islam.

The Koran says, "Allah is He, than Whom/ There is no other god -- / Who knows (all things) / Both secret and open; / He, Most Gracious, / Most Merciful. / Allah is He, than Whom / There is no other god -- / The Sovereign, the Holy One,/ The Source of Peace (and Perfection), / The Guardian of Faith, / The Preserver of Safety, / The exalted in Might, / The Irresistible, the Supreme; / Glory to Allah! ... / He is Allah, the Creator, / The Evolver, / The Bestower of Forms / (Or Colours). / To Him belong / The Most beautiful Names: / Whatever is in / The heaven and on earth, / doth declare / His Praises and Glory; / And He is Exalted / In Might, the Wise" (59:22-24, Yusuf Ali's translation of the Koran).

The second foundational belief, almost as important as the idea of one God, is the concept of Mohammed as Allah's prophet. Muslims do not worship Mohammed (that is for Allah alone), but they do so reverence, glorify and adore him that one might imagine he was deity. Muslim literature overflows with great tales of Mohammed. He is said to be a religious teacher, social reformer, tremendous administrator, military genius, perfect husband and father and faithful friend. One Muslim writes, "No other man in history ever excelled or equaled him in any of these different aspects of life."

An unbiased examination of history will quickly find that Mohammed was not nearly as perfect or brilliant as Muslims want to believe. He sanctioned polygamy, ruthlessly exterminated his enemies, changed divine law whenever it suited him (2:217; 66:2), and took to himself privileges no other Muslim could have (33:50). He appears to have been little more than a very ambitious chieftain who founded a religion because he needed something to weld together various warring Arab tribes so he could fight against the Jews and Christians. His success is undeniable. His greatness is, to say the least, subject to debate.

Third, and tightly linked with the other two core beliefs, is the idea that the Koran is the absolute Word of God. Muslims believe the Koran was given through the angel Gabriel to Mohammed when he was about 40 years old. Supposedly Mohammed memorized it and then dictated it to his companions who wrote it down. Actually, the Koran was collected from various writings after Mohammed had died. Nevertheless, the Koran is accepted as the last revealed word from God and supplants and supersedes every other prior revelation of God, including the Bible.

Muslims are taught that not one word of its 114 chapters has been changed in any way at all. This is not true. Islam does not even possess the original Koran. The oldest existing Koran is dated about 200 years after Mohammed. There are different early codexes of the Koran in existence that contain textual variants. The Koran itself contains contradictions (cf. 7:54; 32:4; 41:9-12) and evidence of a progressively changing theology (2:106; 9:54). Muslims will, however, vehemently deny any problems of any kind with the Koran.

What are the ramifications of Islamic beliefs for Christians? First, if Allah is one, then Jesus is not deity.

The Koran contains several explicit passages that state that Jesus is not God: "O People of the Book! / Commit no excesses / In your religion: nor say / Of Allah aught but the truth. / Christ Jesus the son of Mary / Was (no more than) / A messenger of Allah, / And His Word, / Which He bestowed on Mary, / And a Spirit proceeding / From Him; so believe / In Allah and His Messengers. / Say not 'Trinity': desist: / It will be better for you; / For Allah is One God: / Glory be to Him: / (Far Exalted is He) above / Having a son" (4:171). Muslims believe Jesus was only a prophet of God (and a prophet not as great as Mohammed at that). He was not crucified, nor did He arise from the dead. Muslims love to quote from liberal Bible scholars who deny Jesus' deity and miracles and the Bible's inspiration and integrity. These only reinforce the Muslim idea that Jesus is not God.

Second, faith in the Koran means the Bible is insufficient, flawed and inaccurate. All Bible statements that contradict Islamic teaching or teach that Jesus is divine are explained away or said to represent corruption in the Bible. Muslims claim to believe the Bible, but they really don't, and usually know very little about it. It does not seem to bother Muslims to believe God allowed His Word to be changed and altered. Further, they will not concede that if God allowed changes to happen to the Bible, logically the same could happen to the Koran. In fact, following this premise consistently would lead us all to be Mormons -- after all they have an even latter-day revelation.

So one can see that Islam and Christianity are forever set against each other as mortal enemies. Mohammed would destroy faith in our Savior and in the Book that tells us about Him. Surely we must answer the rising threat of Islam or see many people forfeit their souls to this false religion.

Dialogue with Muslims must begin by establishing the Bible's inspiration, reliability and veracity. As with all groups that accept and are guided by additional revelation, no progress can be made until genuine faith in the Bible is established. It is not too difficult to show Muslims they should trust the Bible. The Koran teaches Jesus was a prophet who should be believed (4:171; 5:78). Mohammed claimed his revelations could be verified by New Testament teachings (10:95). The New Testament of the seventh century (Mohammed's time) is the same as today (in fact, we have manuscripts that go back even further). If Mohammed was satisfied with the New Testament of his day, Muslims should be too. It is the same book.

Further, the Koran teaches that the Bible is the "word of thy Lord" (6:115-116), and "no change can there be / In the words of Allah" (10:64). What Muslim then can believe the Bible was corrupted and changed? Other evidences for Bible truthfulness, particularly manuscript evidence, can easily be had from any good handbook about apologetics. Gather this kind of material and prepare yourself to establish the Bible as God's only Word. Only in this way can we turn so many zealous followers of a deluded man into followers of the Christ of God. *

by Mark Roberts

Mark Roberts may be contacted at 2300 W. Pioneer Drive, Irving, TX 75061. 

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