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What Is Islam?

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Also See What Does Islam Teach About Salvation? (Below)

 

It's not every day that religion appears as a front page story in today's newspapers, particularly on a regular basis. But over the few months one religion has made the front page perhaps more than any other . . . .Islam.

What does Islam teach? How are the teachings of Islam similar to those of Christianity? How are they different? What should our attitude be toward Islam, and toward those who follow this powerful religion?

 Islam has a world-following in excess of one billion devotees, about 20% are in the Middle East, with the largest co
 
ncentration of Muslims in Indonesia. There are over 4 million Moslems living in America---which means that there are about twice as many Moslems in the US as Episcopalians! There has been an active Muslim contingent in North America for over 300 years, since the time the religion arrived with West African slaves. There are now up to 5 million Muslims in the U.S., and over 1,100 mosques or Islamic centers. The Arabs comprise only 25 % of the present population of Islam. They form majority of the population in roughly thirty-six (36) countries and nearly half of the population in five others

 The Arabic term islam literally means "surrender," or "submission." Islam's believers (known as "Muslims" from the active participle of "islam"), accept surrender to the will of Allah (the Arabic word for God). Allah is viewed as a unique God---creator, sustainer, and restorer of the world. The will of God, to which man is to submit, is made known through the Qur'an (the Koran), revealed to his messenger Muhammad. Muhammad, it is claimed was the last of the great prophets which included Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus and some others. The basic belief of Islam is expressed in the shahadah, the Muslim confession of faith, "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the prophet of God."


The History of Islam
 Islam was founded in the early seventh century by Muhammed. When he was 40 years of age, in A.D. 610, Muhammed claimed to be receiving messages from God. These messages were later compiled and recorded in the Koran--Islam's holy book.

(When Gabriel told Muhammad to read a written message from Allah,  he said that he was illiterate and could not read it. Thereupon the angel caught him by the throat and commanded him again to read. Thrice Muhammad expressed his inability to read and thrice the angel choked him. He was extremely frightened. It was his wife, Khadijah, who told him that the "spirit" he saw was a good one, and not the devil. [www.hinduunity.org/articles/islamexposed/theprophetmuhamed.html. Link is no longer valid]

(Mecca at the time the prophet was born was inhabited by the tribe of Quraysh (Koreish) to which the clan of Hasim belonged. The city was a mercantile center with shrines to many gods, chief of whom was Ilah. The Ka'bah sanctuary in the city square guaranteed the safety of those who came to trade. The pre-Islamic deities of Arabia which were most venerated were astral deities, especially the triad of the moon god, the sun goddess, and the god associated with the planet Venus. The moon god was the chief and was protector of the cities. These deities were given various names, however the moon god was evidently originally the Babylonian moon god Sin. To end division among his people in Mecca, Muhammad elevated the moon god Al Ilah to the chief and only god. (It is not widely known in Islam that Allah was a sexual being, having fathered three daughters--this is documented in the E.B.). SEE FOOTNOTE

About this same time, Muhammed began preaching against the greed, economic oppression, and idolatry that plagued the Arab peoples. He called on the many factions of the Arab peoples to unite under the worship of Allah, the chief god of the Arab pantheon of deities. Though his message was initially rejected, by the year 630 he had succeeded in gaining control of Mecca, the economic and religious center of the Arabian peninsula.

Though Muhammed died two years later, the religious/political movement he founded rapidly spread throughout the Arab world, and far beyond. By A.D. 750, the Muslim empire spanned from Spain in the west to India in the east. In the centuries that followed, Islam penetrated deeper into Africa and Asia, extending as far as the Philippines. During its "golden era" Islam claimed some of the world's finest philosophers and mathematicians. It was during this time also that Islam and Christianity clashed as a result of the Crusades to reclaim the Holy Land from the Muslims. Muhammad died in 632 AD and through jihad, Islam spread within a century from Spain to India. During the Muslim conquests Jews and Christians were assigned a special status as communities possessing Scriptures and are known to Muslims as "people of the Book" (ahl al-kitab) or dhimmis (protected people). Christians, Jews, and later Hindus and Zoroastrians were allowed religious autonomy, but had to pay a per capita tax called the jizyah. Many people converted to Islam to avoid the jizyah tax. In the 12 century the Muslim mystics, known as Sufis, were primarily responsible for spreading Islam to India, China, Central Asia, Turkey, and sub-Saharan Africa. Islamic traders were responsible (by the 14th century) for extending Islam to Indonesia, Malaya, and China.

Under Islam, land once possessed by Islam, if subsequently lost to an invader, remains land that is holy to Islam. It is especially imperative that such lost lands be restored to the rightful rule of Islam. Historically, of course, such lost lands now lost to Islam include not only Israel but large portions of Southern Europe, Spain and North Africa. Since Allah's will is for the entire world to come under subjection to the rule of Islam, Muslims are known for their zeal in spreading their religion, whether by peaceful means or by the sword.

Beginning around 1500, and accelerating after the industrial revolution of the 1700-1800s, Islam felt the increasing influence of the European powers. Eventually, large portions of the Muslim world were colonized by European countries. This political and economic domination by Europe continued until the end of WWII, after which Muslim countries began to attain political independence. With the discovery and development of the vast oil reserves in many Muslim lands, economic independence suddenly came within reach also. At last, Islam had in its grasp both the opportunity and the resources to reassert itself as a powerful force in the world. After being on the defensive for many centuries, Islam was now on the offensive!
 

The Current Status of Islam
Islam is not a monolithic system. Though all Muslims draw their inspiration from Muhammed and the Koran, there are many identifiable groups and movements within Islam. The most obvious division is that between Sunni and Shia Islam.

    The Sunnis (who compose about 90% of all Muslims) draw their name from the fact that they look both to the Koran and to the "sunna" in establishing proper Muslim conduct. The "sunna" is the behavior or example of Muhammed and of the early Muslim community. Of course, there are many sub-divisions among the Sunnis, but they all identify themselves as Sunni. The Sunni sect embraces the principle of toleration, making it possible for diverse sects to recognize and coexist with one another. Sunni theologians place emphasis on divine omnipotence at the expense of the freedom and efficacy of the human will, a deterministic outlook on life characteristic of the Sunni (and invigorated by the Sufi) teaches that nothing exists except God. The Sunnites support the concept that "Muslims must obey even a tyrannical ruler."

    The Shi'ites: The other major group of Muslims are the Shi'ites (who compose about 10% of all Muslims and reside mainly in Iraq and Iran). The word Shi'ite means "partisan," and refers to the fact that Shi'ites are "partisans of Ali." Ali was the son-in-law and cousin of Muhammed and one of the early Caliphs or successors to Muhammed as leader of the Muslim people. Shi'ites believe that the leader of Islam should be among the descendants of Ali, whom they believe possess a special divine anointing for this task. The last of these divinely appointed leaders, or "imams" most Shi'ites believe to be in "hiding" in another realm of existence. The Ayatollah Khomeini was believed to have been a spokesman for this "hidden imam." The Shi'ah recognize a dozen imams throughout history and believe that knowledge derived from sources other than the imam is useless. Shi'ism in contrast to Sunnism adopted the doctrine of freedom of the human will and the capacity of human reason to know good and evil. In the sphere of law Shi'ism differs from Sunni law mainly in allowing temporary marriage, legally contracted for a fixed period of time based upon a fixed dower. See The 12th Imam

    The Sufis: A third group that should be mentioned are the Sufis--those Muslims (among both Sunni and Shia) who seek a mystical experience of God, rather than a merely intellectual knowledge of Him, and who also are given to a number of superstitious practices.

In addition to these divisions within Islam, mention must also be made of attitudes among Muslims toward their contact with the Western world in modern times. Though the situation is much more complex than we are capable of dealing with in this pamphlet, two broad trends have been evident within Islam.

One trend is toward some degree of accommodation and adjustment to the West and to modern ways of life. This has manifested itself most obviously in countries like Turkey, which have instituted largely secular forms of government and Western ways of life, while maintaining Islamic religious practices.

The opposite trend is toward a return to a more traditional approach to Islamic life and a rejection of Western and modern ways. The most extreme expression of this trend is manifest in the various forms of Islamic fundamentalism, which insist on the implementation of Muslim law (called the Sharia) in every area of life. Fundamentalists have been most successful in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and Sudan; but they are active in virtually every Muslim country, at times resorting to violence and terrorism in attempting to implement their agenda.

In understanding this potent religious and political movement, it is important to understand the various divisions and attitudes within Islam and the basic beliefs at Islam's core.


The Basic Beliefs of Islam
Though the beliefs of Muslims worldwide are about as diverse as those among Christians, there are six basic articles of faith common to nearly all Muslims.

The first of these is that there is no God but Allah. The pre- Islamic Arabs were polytheists. But Muhammed succeeded in leading them to devote themselves solely to the chief God of the pantheon whom they called Allah (which simply means God). To worship or attribute deity to any other being is considered shirk or blasphemy. The Koran mentions numerous names of Allah, and these names are found frequently on the lips of devout Muslims who believe them to have a nearly magical power.

The second article of faith is belief in angels and jinn. Jinn are spirit beings capable of both good and evil actions and of possessing human beings. Above the jinn in rank are the angels of God. Two of them are believed to accompany every Muslim, one on the right to record his good deeds, and one on the left to record his evil deeds.

The third article is belief in God's holy books, 104 of which are referred to in the Koran. Chief among these are the Law given to Moses, the Psalms given to David, the Gospel (or Injil) given to Jesus, and the Koran given to Muhammed. Each of these is conceived to have communicated the same basic message of God's will to man. Obvious discrepancies between the Jewish and Christian Scriptures and the Koran (particularly with reference to Jesus and Muhammed) were accounted for by Muhammed in his suggestion that the Bible had been tampered with by Jews and Christians.

See  The Reliability of The Four Gospels

The fourth article of faith is belief in God's prophets, through whom Allah appealed to man to follow His will as revealed in His holy books. There is no agreement as to how many prophets there have been--some say hundreds of thousands. Among them were Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. But all agree that Muhammed was God's final and supreme prophet--the "seal" of the prophets. Though Muhammed himself said that he was a sinner, nonetheless there are many Muslims throughout the world who appear to come close to worshiping him.

The fifth article of faith is belief in the absolute predestinating will of Allah. Though some Muslims have modified this doctrine somewhat, the Koran seems to support the idea that all things (both good and evil) are the direct result of God's will. Those who conclude that Islam is a fatalistic religion have good reason for doing so.

The sixth and final article of faith is belief in the resurrection and final judgment. At the end of history, God will judge the works of all men. Those whose good deeds outweigh their bad deeds will enter into paradise (pictured in rather sensual terms). The rest will be consigned to hell. The paramount feature of Islamic belief, aside from its strong monotheism, is that it is a religion of human works. One's position with regard to Allah is determined by his success in keeping His laws.


The Basic Practices of Islam
The five pillars of faith and practice are:

    1. The Shahada (Witness)

    2. The Salat (Prayer)

    3. The Zakat (Alms)

    4. The Sawm or Siyam (Fasting)

    5. The Hajj (Pilgrimage)

The first pillar is recitation of the creed: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammed is his prophet." It is commonly held that to recite this creed in the presence of two witnesses is to constitute oneself a Muslim--one in submission to God. Of course, the word Islam simply means "submission."

The second pillar is the regular practice of prayers. Sunni Muslims are required to recite specific prayers accompanied by prescribed motions five times daily. (Shi'ites do so only three times a day.) All male Muslims are also enjoined to meet for community prayer (and sermon) each Friday at noon.

The third pillar is almsgiving. Born an orphan himself, Muhammed was deeply concerned for the needy. The Koran requires that 2.5% of one's income be given to the poor or to the spread of Islam.

The fourth pillar of Islam is the fast during the month of Ramadan (the ninth lunar month of the Muslim calendar, during which Muhammed is said to have received the first of his revelations from God, and during which he and his followers made their historic trek from Mecca to Medina). During this month, Muslims in good health are required to forego all food and liquid during daylight hours. This fast promotes the Muslim's self-discipline, dependence on Allah, and compassion for the needy.

The fifth pillar is the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca.(The cities of Mecca and Medina are holy shrines of Islam) If possible, every Muslim is to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once during his life. It can be made properly only on a few days during the last month of the Muslim year. The Hajj promotes the ideas of worldwide unity and equality among Muslims. But it also contains many elements of prescribed activity that are of pagan origin. the pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca, begins on the 7th and ends on the 10th month of the Dhu al-Hijjah. When the pilgrim is ten kilometers from the Holy City (Mecca) he enters the state of ihram, he wears two seamless garments and neither shaves nor cuts his hair or nails until the ceremony ends. The principal activities consist of a visit to the Ka'bah sanctuary or the Sacred Mosque; the kissing of the Hajar al-Aswad (the Black Stone); seven circumambulations of the Ka'bah; and the ascent of and running seven times between Mt. Safa and Mt. Marwah (not really mountains but topographic elevations in the desert). At the second stage of the ritual, the pilgrim proceeds from Mecca to Mina, a few miles away; and from there he goes to Arafat, where it is essential to hear a sermon and spend one afternoon. The last rites consist of spending the night at Muzdalifah (between Arafat and Mina) and offering sacrifice on the last day of ihram, which is the id (festival) of sacrifice.

Jihad: A sixth pillar, that of jihad, is often added. (The term means "exertion" or "struggle" in behalf of God.) Jihad is the means by which those who are outside the household of Islam are brought into its fold. Jihad may be by persuasion, or it may be by force or "holy war." The fact that any Muslim who dies in a holy war is assured his place in paradise provides strong incentive for participation! Also See Does Islam Promote Peace on THIS Page

The general religious life of the Muslims is centered around the mosque. Friday is the weekly Muslim holy day. The most important and comprehensive concept of Islam, at the practical level, is that of the Shari'ah (the path leading to the watering place). In religious terms it means the highway of life leading to God. The virtue of chastity is regarded as of prime importance by Islam. The Qur'an advanced its universal recommendation of marriage as a means to ensure a state of chastity (ihsan) which is held to be induced by a single free wife. Adultery and false accusations of adultery are severely punished. In classical Islamic law, Shari'ah, offenses against the person, from homicide to assault, are punishable by retaliation---the offended being subject to precisely the same treatment as the victim. For six specific crimes the punishment is fixed (hadd): death for apostasy (renunciation of religious faith) and for highway robbery; amputation of the hand for theft; death by stoning for extramarital sexual relations where the offender is a married person and 100 lashes for unmarried offenders; 80 lashes for an unproven accusation of unchastity/adultery, or for consumption of any alcoholic beverage.


A Christian Perspective on Islam
There is much in Islam that the Christian can affirm. Among the most significant Islamic doctrines that can be genuinely affirmed by the Christian are its belief in one God, its recognition of Jesus as the virgin born, sinless prophet and messiah of God, and its expectation of a future resurrection and judgment. Islamic belief has obviously drawn heavily on information available to the prophet Muhammed from local Jews and Christians living in Arabia during his. The principle claim that the revelation given to the Prophet came from an angel is not unusual among world religions or cults, and is consistent with the warning of the Apostle Paul given in 2 Corinthians.

    "I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ...And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (11:1-15)

There are, however, some very significant areas of difference. First, the Muslim perception of God is by no means the same as that revealed in the Bible. Islam portrays God as ultimately unknowable. In fact, in the Koran, Allah reveals His will, but He never reveals Himself. Neither is He ever portrayed as a God of love, nor as a Father to His people, as He is in the Bible. Islam attributes mercy and compassion to Allah, but has no provision for the certain salvation of the individual, no sacrifice for sin and of course no risen Lord to indwell and guide the believer through this life and the next. Allah is notoriously unpredictable and whimsical in his actions and the Koran sufficiently vague so as to give little assurance or guidance for daily life beyond strong, harsh legalistic restrictions and punishments taken out of context from the Law of Moses.

Though Jesus is presented as a miracle working prophet and messiah, and even without sin, Islam denies that He is the Son of God or Savior of the world. Indeed, it is denied that Jesus ever died at all, least of all for the sins of the world. Jesus, it is taught, was born of a virgin, without human father, and lived a sinless life. He is given titles of honor bestowed on no other prophet and He is pictured as a wandering preacher who performed miracles and spoke beautiful words.

See Section on Jesus

To Him was given a book for His people, the Gospel, but the book was lost (or hopelessly distorted) and Jesus Himself was rejected. His people attempted to crucify Him, but Jesus was saved when someone took His place on the cross or tree and He ascended into heaven, having promised to send a comforter (Muhammad)."

See  The Reliability of The Four Gospels

"In Muslin piety many legends surround Jesus. Some Muslims believe that at some time in the distant future He will return to earth and marry. A grave site has been reserved for Him. Others declare that Jesus will judge the world at the end of time--or that He will help Muhammad with his work of judgment. Still another tradition, from the Ahmadiyya Muslims of South Asia, has it that Christ fled Palestine for India, where He gathered many followers, died at a ripe old age, and was buried at Srinagar, where His tomb was recently uncovered.

Also See The ‘Lost’ Years of Jesus

Mankind is depicted as weak and prone to error, Islam denies that man is a sinner by nature and in need of a Savior, as the Bible so clearly teaches. People are capable of submitting to God's laws and meriting his ultimate approval. According to Islam, man's spiritual need is not for a savior but for guidance.

See Sin and Salvation

Islam's claim as far as Israel is concerned is to assume (without any Biblical basis of course) that Ishmael, not Isaac, is the legitimate heir to whom the Abrahamic promises were passed.
 

InPlainSite.org Footnote: It is an undeniable fact of history that before Muhammed was born, the moon god "al-Ilah" (Allah) had three daughters named al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat. The first two were even named after their father. Each daughter had a separate shrine near Mecca, where Allah's shrine was located.

Muslims today do not worship Allah's daughters and view them as pagan deities. Having said that, it is important to note that Muhammad himself commanded his followers to offer prayers to these "Allah's daughters"... Lat, Uzza and Manat. He later retracted it (17:73-75 and 22:52-53) and blamed it on the Devil saying that he was tricked by the devil into adding a verse in the Koran that commanded Muslims to pray to Allah's three pagan daughters. Such "after the fact corrective revelations" are very common with cults. Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons also received an "after the fact corrective revelation" from God retracted the previous "divine command" allowing polygamy.

Here is how the Koran once read with the ‘satanic’ verses: The line in bold has since been removed

    Near it is the Garden of Abode. Behold, the Lote-tree was shrouded (in mystery unspeakable!) (His) sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong! For truly did he see, of the Signs of his Lord, the Greatest! Have ye seen Lat. and 'Uzza, And another, the third (goddess), Manat? These are the exalted cranes (intermediaries) Whose intercession is to be hoped for. PLACE IN TEXT

 

Bible1-Bar

 

What Does Islam Teach About Salvation?
by Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon

Because the Qur’an [1] teaches that, "The true religion with God is Islam" [2] this means for the Muslim that salvation is achieved only through submission to the teachings of Allah. Thus, salvation in Islam requires one must be a member of the Islamic faith. "Whoso desires another religion than Islam, it shall not be accepted of him; in the next world he shall be among the losers." [3] Thus: "But those who disbelieve, and die disbelieving—upon them shall rest the curse of God and the angels, and of men altogether; there indwelling forever; the chastisement shall not be lightened for them; no respite shall be given them." [4]

But, what exactly does the Muslim believe about salvation? Below we present four basic teachings that reveal what Islam teaches about salvation.
 

A. Islam teaches that forgiveness is conditioned upon good works and Allah’s choice of mercy.
Islam is a religion of salvation by personal righteousness. In other words, the Muslim believes that by striving to please God and by doing good works, he will hopefully gain entrance to heaven through personal merit.

The Qur’an clearly teaches that salvation is achieved on the basis of good works. Considering the following statements:

    ...every soul shall be paid in full what it has earned,... [5]

    ...God loves those who cleanse themselves. [6]

    Gardens of Eden, underneath which rivers flow, there indwelling forever; that is the recompense of the self-purified. [7]

Islam teaches that on the Day of Judgment one’s good and evil deeds will be weighed on a scale. Good works are heavy and evil deeds are light. Thus, the person whose balances are heavy with good deeds will go to heaven, while the person whose scales are light will go to hell. The Qur’an asserts:

    [In the Day of Judgment] they whose balances shall be heavy with good works, shall be happy; but they whose balances shall be light, are those who shall lose their souls, and shall remain in hell forever. [8]

    With knowledge We will recount to them what they have done, for We are watching over all their actions. On that day, their deeds shall be weighed with justice. Those whose scales are heavy shall triumph, but those whose scales are light shall lose their souls, because they have denied Our revelations. [9]

The Muslim assumes that his chances for heaven are good if he 1) accepts only the Muslim God Allah and his prophet Muhammad, 2) does good works and all that is required of him by Allah (e.g., the pillars of religion), and 3) if he is predestined to heaven by Allah’s favor.

Unfortunately, given such requirements, one wonders if the Muslim can have any assurance of salvation at all. Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq comments that the Islamic reliance on good works is bound to leave any Muslim who seeks for personal assurance of salvation "utterly confused" [10] because in this life no Muslim can ever know if his good works are finally sufficient—let alone if he is predestined to Allah’s favor.

InPlainSite.org: Neither are Christians Predestined to God’s favour.
See Section on Predestination

William Miller was a missionary to Muslims in Iran from 1919 to 1962. He discusses the Islamic view of salvation, its dependence upon good works and personal merit and the uncertainty this tends to bring to the heart of every Muslim:

    Islam has no Savior. Mohammad is rarely called Savior. He is said to have brought God’s laws to men, and they, by keeping those laws, must satisfy God’s requirements and win His approval.... Since many Muslims realize that they [fall short of Koranic standards],… they recite extra prayers in addition to those required for each day, they make gifts to charity, and go on pilgrimages not only to Mecca, but also to other sacred shrines, in order to gain merit, and if possible, balance their account with God. But since God does not make known how the accounts of His stand, a Muslim facing death does not know whether he is to go to paradise or to hell. After all, the decision is made by the arbitrary will of God, and no one can predict what that decision will be.... And so the Muslim lives and dies, not sure of his final salvation. [11]

Thus, the Muslim concept of forgiveness is unlike that of biblical Christianity. In biblical Christianity, forgiveness is based upon the death of Christ on the cross as a past action. This means that once a person receives Christ as his or her Savior, all of his or her sins are forgiven and each one is guaranteed a place in heaven: "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned" (John 5:24); and "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. 1:3-5). [See Salvation]

In Islam, there is no atonement for sin—no propitiatory basis for forgiveness of sins. The Bible, however, teaches of Jesus that "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins." Because of His great love for us, Jesus willingly died in our place (John. 10:18)—taking the penalty due our sin—so that God could freely forgive us. Indeed, "God presented him [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement" and "God did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:25-26). In Islam, however, Allah simply forgives whom he chooses to forgive. Again, this forgiveness is predicated upon both personal merit and Allah’s choice of mercy. Again, no one ever knows if one’s personal works are sufficient to forgive one’s sins or if Allah will finally be merciful to him. Muslims certainly hope they will be saved. But the following statements in the Qur’an, as well as others, indicate the conditional nature of Islamic forgiveness:

    …And whosoever of you turns from his religion, and dies disbelieving—their works have failed in this world and the next; those are the inhabitants of the Fire; therein they shall dwell forever. [12]

    God has pardoned what is past; but whoever offends again, God will take vengeance on him; God is All-mighty, Vengeful. [13]

But this is contrary to what the Bible teaches—that full salvation comes solely by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, who died for all the believer’s sins: "He forgave us all our sins" (Col. 2:13). The Bible also emphasizes that salvation does not come by good works or anything else we can do to please God on our own efforts: "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law" (Romans 3:28). "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" (Eph. 2:8-9).

In contrast to the teachings of Islam, the Bible teaches that anyone who wishes may come to God, freely receive salvation, and know they are eternally saved. Jesus taught, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (Jn. 3:16). The Apostle Peter taught, "The Lord… is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). Again, Jesus taught, "He who believes has eternal life" (Jn. 6:47) and "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life" (Rev. 21:6). The Apostle John emphasized, "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 Jn. 5:13).
 

B. Islam teaches that Jesus Christ was neither crucified nor resurrected; therefore salvation cannot possibly be had through faith in Jesus Christ.
Islam rejects the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross. One reason for this is its view that man is basically good; thus, if men are not unredeemed sinners, they do not need a savior from sin, just good works, abstention from wickedness, and Allah’s favor. Also, Islam considers Jesus Christ one of Allah’s prophets, and it is unthinkable that God would permit one of His prophets to be crucified. Thus, the Muslim religion denies that Christ died upon the cross. The Qur’an teaches: "They denied the truth and uttered a monstrous falsehood…. They declared: ‘We have put to death the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary; the apostle of Allah.’ They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did." [14]

Because Muslims do not believe that Christ died on the cross, they are also forced to deny His resurrection. Ahmad Dedat is one of the leading public defenders of Islam. He claims the following:

    Throughout the length and breath of the 27 books of the New Testament, there is not a single statement made by Jesus Christ that "I was dead, and I have come back from the dead." The Christian has [wrongly] been belaboring the word resurrection. Again and again, by repetition, it is conveyed that it [the resurrection] is proving a fact.... [But] Jesus Christ never uttered the word that "I have come back from the dead," in the 27 books of the New Testament, not once. [15]

But Mr. Dedat is wrong. On numerous occasions in the New Testament Jesus predicted both his death and his resurrection. For example, he told his disciples, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life" (Lk. 9:22). After His resurrection, He told His disciples that this was to fulfill the prophecies written about Him:

    This was what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and Psalms.... He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations,..." (Luke 24:44-47)

Further, in Revelation 1:18, Jesus taught, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold l am alive for ever and ever!"

Also See Section on The Resurrection

Muslims also say Jesus Christ will not return at the Second Coming. But in Matthew 16:27 and 25:31 and elsewhere Jesus also predicted His literal, physical return to earth to set up His millennial/eternal kingdom.

Dr. John Elder was a missionary to Muslims in Iran from 1922 to 1964. Among his scholarly works are eleven books in Persian and two in English. He discusses the Muslim rejection of the atonement and the reasons upon which it is based:

    Like the doctrine of the death of Jesus, the ordinary Muslim completely rejects the doctrine of Jesus’ atonement for sin. He rejects it first on historical grounds. If Jesus survived the cross [i.e., never truly died], as the Muslim believes, then He could not have given His life to atone for man’s sins.

    In the second place, the Muslim idea of God and His decrees recognizes no need for atonement. According to the doctrine of decrees, God determined the fate of all men from the beginning, and we are helpless to change it. This belief is taught in many places in the Qur’an....

    A third reason why Muslims deny the possibility of an atonement is their belief that God does not love man, and indeed, is unaffected by man’s actions... any idea that God so loved the world that He gave His only son is completely foreign to the Muslim mind... Thus, a pious Muslim is constantly performing acts which he explains by saying, "savab darad" (It is meritorious). Thus, he saves for most of his lifetime to make the Meccan pilgrimage; he gives money to help erect a mosque; he faithfully reads the Qur’an even though it be in a language he does not understand; and he prays the prescribed Arabic prayers.16

In conclusion, Muslims reject the biblical teaching that Christ died for their sins and, therefore, seek salvation by religious observance. Unfortunately, in doing so they deny their need for Christ and repudiate what Jesus and the Bible teach concerning His death: "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" and that "He Himself bore our sins in his body on the Cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness..." (Mt. 20:28; 1 Pt. 2:24).
 

C. The concept of the loving God of the Bible is difficult for the Muslim to accept.
As we have indicated, the God of Islam, Allah, is not ultimately a God of love. In Islam, Allah’s love is not based on unconditional commitment and self sacrifice as is biblical love (1 Cor. 13:1-13). "But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). In Islam, Allah’s love is based on conditional performance and/or divine decree. In Islamic theology, much like Buddhist philosophy, the concept of love seems to be primarily that of "mercy." It is more impersonal than personal.

Dr. J. Christy Wilson observes that the concept of God’s love is foreign to Islamic thinking because of the extreme emphasis placed upon Allah’s sovereign power and transcendence: "It should be said, however, that most Muslims will misunderstand and question the statement of the New Testament that ‘God is love.’ His power and sovereign transcendence over all creation are so emphasized in Islam that to call Him a God of love or to address Him as ‘Father’ would be far from Muslim thought." [17]

John Elder, cited above, comments, "In addition to the idea that God does not need men and therefore cannot love, the Muslim commonly cites two main problems in believing that God is love: the existence of sin and pain, and man’s insignificance in the vastness of the universe." [18]

But again, the Bible teaches the Islamic view of God is wrong when it declares that "God is love" (1 John 4:16).
 

D. Muslim salvation is fatalistic.
The Muslim concept of forgiveness is conditioned upon good works. On the one hand, we find in the Qur’an the promise of heaven for those who do good. But on the other hand, the promise is conditional—one must possess the true religion of Islam, obey its precepts, and also find favor with Allah. But at this point Islam’s predestination (in contrast to that of the Bible) appears to become fatalistic.

The largest apparent indeterminacy in the Muslim concept of salvation is Allah’s predestination. The Qur’an teaches, "All things have we created after a fixed decree…." [19] Further, "God leads astray whomsoever He will; and He guides whomsoever He will.…" [20] Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq observes, "There are several [Muslim] traditions also about the predestination of all things, including all good and bad actions and guided and misguided people.... Even if a person desires to choose God’s guidance, he cannot do so without the prior choice of God in favor of his free choice. This is sheer determinism." [21]

Dr. Wilson comments, "The fifth article of faith is predestination,... the fact that everything that happens, either good or bad, is foreordained by the unchangeable decrees of Allah. It will be seen at once that this makes Allah the author of evil, a doctrine that most Muslim theologians hold." [22] The Qur’an teaches, for example, "And if a good thing visits them, they say, ‘This is from God’; but if an evil thing visits them, they say, ‘This is from thee.’ Say: ‘Everything is from God.’" [23]

And,

    The man whom Allah guides is rightly guided, but he who is led astray by Allah shall surely be lost. As for those that deny Our revelations, We have predestined for hell many jinn and many men... .We will lead them step by step to ruin... None can guide the people whom Allah leads astray. He leaves them blundering about in their wickedness.... Say: "I have not the power to acquire benefits or to avert evil from myself, except by the will of Allah." [24]

At first glance, there does appear to be one way a Muslim can guarantee his salvation. This is found in connection with the Muslim concept of jihad or holy war: achieving security of salvation requires death in battle: "If you are slain or die in God’s way,… it is unto God you shall be mustered.…" [25]

    When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefields strike off their heads and, when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly.... Thus shall you do.... As for those who are slain in the cause of Allah,… he will admit them to the Paradise he has made known to them. [26]

    Allah has given those that fight with their goods and their persons a higher rank than those who stay at home... The unbelievers are your sworn enemies... Seek out your enemies relentlessly... You shall not plead for traitors... Allah does not love the treacherous or the sinful. [27]

In the above material, it first seems that the Muslim is promised heaven for death in battle. But we discover that even this security of salvation is apparently conditioned on something else—in this case, bravery:

    O believers, when you encounter the unbelievers marching to battle, turn not your backs to them. Whoso turns his back that day to them, unless withdrawing to fight again or removing to join another host, he is laden with the burden of God’s anger, and his refuge is Gehenna—an evil homecoming! [28]

Thus, even in the guarantee of heaven through death in a holy war, the Muslim promise of salvation appears to remain provisional. And none can deny that unnumbered Muslims, trusting in Islam to save them and take them to heaven, have instead been sent to their deaths in the jihads of history and today. They have been sent to eternity without Christ.
 

E. Do Christians Have Salvation According to Islam?
Some have claimed that, according to Islam, Christians can remain Christians and still inherit salvation. They also claim that the God of Islam and the God of the Bible are the same God. But to the contrary, the Qur’an teaches that only if Christians convert to Islam and remain good Muslims will they have the opportunity for salvation. If Christians reject the Qur’an, they are classified as unbelievers and their destiny is an eternal hell:

    God guides not the people of the unbelievers…. They are unbelievers who say, "God is the Messiah, Mary’s Son."... The Messiah [Jesus] said, "Children of Israel, serve God, [Allah] my Lord and your Lord. Verily, whoso associates with God anything, God shall prohibit him entrance to Paradise, and his refuge shall be the Fire; and wrong doers shall have no helpers." They are unbelievers who say, "God is the Third of Three." No god is there but One God. If they refrain not from what they say, there shall afflict those of them that disbelieve a painful chastisement.… [29]

In the above citation, we see that (1) Christians who believe that Jesus is the Messiah are classified as unbelievers; (2) that those who believe in the Trinity (that "God is the Third of Three") are unbelievers, and (3) that Christians who believe that Christ is God (those who associate God with Jesus) will be consigned to hell. Thus, if Christians do not turn from their errors and accept Islam they are subject to the strictest judgment:

    …[in war] kill those who join other gods with God [the phrase in other translations reads "kill those who are idolaters, pagans"] wherever ye shall find them; and seize them, besiege them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush: but if they shall convert, and observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms, then let them go their way, for God is Gracious, Merciful. [30]

    Do they not know that whosoever opposes God and His Messenger—for him awaits the fire of Gehenna, therein to dwell forever? [31]

    Verily, God will not forgive the union of other gods with Himself!… And He who uniteth gods with God hath devised a great wickedness.... the flame of Hell is their sufficing punishment! Those who disbelieve our signs we will in the end cast into the fire: so oft as their skins shall be well burnt, we will change them for fresh skins, that they may taste the torment. [32]

Ali’s translation at Sura 9:17 reads, of those who "join gods with God.... In Fire shall they dwell."

In conclusion, by accepting the biblical nature of God as trinitarian, Christians show themselves to be unbelievers destined for eternal judgment. Thus, Islam does not accept that Christians can have salvation if they remain Christian.
 

Notes

1 Variously spelled Koran, Quran, et al.

2 A. J. Arberry, The Koran Interpreted (NY: MacMillan, 1976), p. 75.

3 Ibid., p. 85.

4 Ibid., p. 48.

5 Ibid., p. 93.

6 Ibid., p. 220.

7 Ibid., p. 344; cf., pp. 102, 105.

8 Sura 23:104-105 in the George Sale translation (1734) as cited by Phillip H. Lochhaas, How To Respond to Islam (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1981), p. 24.

9 N. J. Dawood, The Quran (Baltimore, Penguin Books, 1972), p. 241.

10 Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq, Sharing Your Faith With A Muslim Minneapolis, MN: Bethany, 1980), p.164.

11 William Miller, A Christian’s Response to Islam (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1977), pp. 82-83.

12 Arberry, p. 58.

13 Ibid., p. 143.

14 Dawood, p. 372.

15 Josh McDowell and John Gilchrist, The Islam Debate (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1983), p. 172.

16 John Elder, The Biblical Approach to the Muslim (Fort Washington, PA: Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, 1978), pp. 94-96.

17 J. Christy Wilson, Introducing Islam (NY: Friendship Press, 1965, rev.), p. 20.

18 Elder, p. 59.

19 J. M. Rodwell, The Koran (NY: Dutton, 1977), p. 78.

20 Arberry, p. 274.

21 Abdul-Haqq, p. 159.

22 Wilson, p. 24.

23 Arberry, p. 111.

24 Dawood, p. 256, emphasis added.

25 Arberry, p. 93; cf. p. 98.

26 Dawood, pp. 212-122.

27 Ibid., pp. 367-368.

28 Arberry, pp. 198-199.

29 Ibid., pp. 139-140

30 Rodwell, p. 471.

31 Arberry, p. 214.

32 Rodwell, p. 417.

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