Islam: What’s it all about?
October 19, 2011 Leave a comment
Scenario: While talking to your co-worker, the subject of Christmas comes up. Since he’s a Muslim, you ask him his thoughts concerning it. He says he believes Jesus was a great prophet. How do you answer?
Obviously, there are lots of news stories concerning Islam, but what about when it gets personal? How can I express my Christian views with a Muslim, without becoming enemies? Well, there are a few points to consider.
First, as a side note, there are people with multiple letters after their names who’ve written more extensively, and with more authority on the subject than this post. Three of them are Ergun Caner, Emir Caner, and Sam Soloman. There is also a website with many articles if you’re interested at:
With all of that being said, I hope this brief overview will be a help.
I. Fast Facts
- The founder of Islam was Muhammad, and was born in the city of Meccain in 570 AD.
- He claimed to be the “final prophet” of Allah (Arabic for God) in a line of prophets stretching back to Adam including major Old Testament figures like Abraham, Moses, and even Jesus of Nazareth.
- The term Islam means “submission” or “surrender”.
- A Muslim is a follower of Islam.
- Three largest sects: Sunni, Shiite, and Sufi.
- The two main components of the belief system are the Qur’an (their holy book) and Sunnah (Muhammad’s example)
This quote from Sam Soloman in Ravi Zacharias’ book Beyond Opinion (p.62) sums up the Muslim worldview:
“Islam cannot be defined as a religion in the Western sense of the word; neither can it be termed as a faith. Muslim scholars state that Islam is an all-encompassing system-a sociopolitical, socioreligious system, as well as socioeconomic, socioeducational, legislative, judiciary, and military system governing every aspect of the lives of its adherents, their relationships among themselves, and with those who are non-Muslims.”
As you can see, it’s a view that includes all aspects of life. As Westerners, we tend to think of life in compartments, including our faith, but not so with Muslims. For them, “life stuff” happens inside the box of Islam, as opposed to us where we tend to think that “Christian stuff” happens inside of life-big difference. Perhaps here is a great place for us to ponder the question, “Does my life reflect Christ in every dimension or just some parts?”
Disclaimer: It’s important to mention here that I list the important doctrines for the purpose of understanding the big picture. Each individual Muslim’s commitment and understanding varies, just like Christians, so avoid a blanket application to every person. Approach each conversation independently.
III. Important Doctrines
- Abrogation – This doctrine teaches that Muhammad continued to receive revelations from Allah, through the angel Gabriel. When a “revelation” conflicted with earlier “revelations”, it superseded the previous. This creates difficulty because the earlier ones were not stricken, and are scattered throughout the Qur’an. For example, early revelations mentions Christians & Jews as friends, but later they’re categorized strongly as enemies.
- Takkiya – This doctrine teaches that it’s OK for a Muslim to lie to or deceive others if the purpose is furthering the cause of Islam. This technique is used effectively in the public arena, such as debates and political discussions. It can be displayed in word and deed.
- Biblical Corruption – This doctrine teaches that Christians and Jews tampered with the scriptures to edit out various prophesies of Muhammad’s coming, and the proper narrative of Ishmael as the rightful heir to Abraham.
- Living Obedience – This doctrine teaches that a Muslim is obligated to observe various lifestyle duties. These include ritual prayer, fasting, almsgiving, dress codes, and much, much more.
- Fitrah- In this doctrine, Muslim scholars reference Sura 30:30 (Qur’an) to say that all mankind is created Muslim, including Old Testament prophets, and Jesus. Since it’s believed that no one is exempt, Sam Soloman explains the rationale as “one’s parents, community, environment, or other influences make one a non-Muslim. As such, people who are of another faith –such as Christian, Jew, pagan, or other belief system- are in a state of rebellion against Allah. That is why when a non-Muslim converts to Islam, the term reversion is applied instead of conversion because they are “reverting” back to their birth status as Muslims.” (p.67)
IV. The Response
As you can see (even with very brief bullet points) a person who follows Islam views the world with a mindset framed by their religion. On first glance, it may seem unlikely that a Muslim would be interested in the Gospel, but the truth is that many are coming to faith in Jesus every day. Here are some points to remember if you should have the chance to discuss spiritual matters with a Muslim:
- Prayer – First, it is of the utmost importance to remember; it’s the Lord through the person of the Holy Spirit who draws people to Himself (John 6:41-44). In that passage, people thought Jesus was “just Joseph’s son”. In the same way, Muslims think of Him as “just a prophet”. Pray for hearts to be tendered toward the true message of Christ.
- Relationships – Titus 2:6-8 tells us to live a life that leaves no room for people to accuse us of being hypocrites. Living what we preach helps us earn the right to speak.
- Respect – As a general rule, it’s a good policy to describe and reinforce the positive aspects of Christianity, as opposed to tearing down Islam.
- Common Ground – Since there is a mutual regard for Old Testament figures and teachings, consider starting with the 10 Commandments. Since the 10 commandments are not possible for us to keep perfectly, we need help…a Savior (James 2:10 & Gal. 3:24).
- Jesus – Love & grace are the keys. These two ideas are totally foreign in Muslim teaching, such as God loving us, dying for us, and desiring to have a personal relationship with us (Eph. 2:8-9). In Islam, the view of God is impersonal and authoritative, not personal and covenant-making as we know Him.
If you have a friend or co-worker that’s Muslim, pray for an opportunity to start a conversation. You may feel unprepared, but remember Who it is that does the spiritual work. Our job is to share. You may be the only true Christian your friend ever meets. Tell of His mercy and grace in your life, and how that same wonderful love is available to them too.
By the way, if you want to listen to an audio interview of Sam Soloman, follow this link:
Series: Consider this… “A Conversational Defense of our Faith”
Lesson 9: Islam: What’s it all about?