For a Muslim Enquirer
Apologetic Paper by Jay Smith (with help and advice from Marietta and Joe Smith) – May 1995
A preliminary discussion, using a Muslim’s criteria, on the Six Beliefs (Iman)
- Belief in One God (Allah)
- Belief in the Prophets
- Belief in the Holy Books
- Belief in Angels
- Belief in the Day of Judgment
- Belief in the Decrees or the Predestination of God (Allah)
A1: The Muslim View
The first and greatest teaching of Islam is proclaimed by the Shahada: “La Ilaha illa-l-lah, Muhammadun rasulu-l-lah.” (“There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the apostle of Allah.”) It is this very confession, which, once uttered sincerely, makes one a real Muslim.
For a Muslim, Allah is one (Wahid), and has no partners, no equals. According to the Quran, Sura 28;88, it is stated: “And cry not unto any other god along with Allah. There is no god save Him.” Thus, Allah is totally other. He created and maintains the world, and since Allah is one, no one else can share even an atom of His Divine power and authority. Islam makes it clear that Allah has no son, no father, no relative, and no associates.
In the Hadiths, Muhammad is reported to have related the ninety-nine names of Allah, to express some of His attributes. A number of these are: that He is merciful (that he provides man with food, drink, the means of movement, and all the necessities of life), that He is all-powerful (omnipotent), that He is wise and all-knowing (omniscient), and that He is eternal (no beginning and no end).
A2: The Christian Response
Christians and Muslims worship the God of Abraham. As do Muslims, Christians believe in only one righteous and transcendent creator God. The key verse of the Torah of the Prophet Moses states that: “The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4). God is one and He commands us to love Him totally.
Jesus Christ, speaking more than a thousand years after the Prophet Moses says: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:28-30 and Matt.22:37).
Thus, both the Torah and the Gospel (Injil) agree that God is one. We are commanded to love one God. Only He has the right to command our ultimate loyalty. All other gods which man invents are totally false (Hosea 13:2,3).
Perhaps the greatest criticism against Christians by Muslims is the view of the plurality of God, that God is three; and consists of “God the Father, Mary the mother, and Jesus the son.” This view is as repugnant to Christians as it is to Muslims, and has its origins in a heretical Christian sect (called Choloridians) who had contact with Muhammad during his tenure in Mecca.
We must say, however, that from the Scriptures we find revealed a Divine unity of three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, commonly known as the “trinity.” It is impossible to express the mystery of God as “triune.” In fact, this word is not found within Scripture, but was coined three centuries later by the Church, to express what Scripture delineated as God comprised of three Persons, who are in complete unity of will, purpose, action and love, yet cannot be separated though they have different functions. The Scriptures speak of God, the Father, who as the co-Creator, blesses (Eph.1:3-4), initiates (Jn.17:2-9) and sends (Jn.17:3,18). God, the Son, speaks-out the creation (Jn.1:1), and acts physically into history, both during the time of the prophets (Gen.32:25-30; Ex.3:2-5; 13:21; 33:9-11; Judge 2:1), and as the savior, Jesus Christ (Jn.1:14). And finally God, the Holy Spirit, who is resident within the believer, guides, instructs and empowers him (Jn.14:16-17), and mediates Jesus Christ and his atoning work (Jn.15:26).
Jesus referred to this ‘Trinity in Unity’ when He commanded His apostles to go everywhere and persuade men to become His disciples, and baptize believers “…in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
It is important that God as “Father” must not be viewed within a biological context. Christians share with Muslims the prohibition against conceiving of God in the form of an image. God as “Father” refers, rather, to a relationship; a description of the covenant and fellowship relationship between God and man.
Christians accept all the 99 names of God which Muslims repeat in praise to God. Even the name Allah is affirmed by Christians as one of the names of God, the same Arabic name which the Prophet Abraham used in Hebrew as “El” or “Elohim.”
B1: The Muslim View
Islam makes a distinction between a messenger (rasul) who is sent with a Divine Scripture to guide and reform mankind, and a prophet (al nabbi) who simply carries information or proclaims Allah’s news. Therefore, though all messengers are prophets, not all prophets are messengers.
The number of Allah’s prophets is said to be 124,000, yet the Qur’an mentions only 25. Adam was the first prophet, followed by others, some of whom are: Abraham, Jacob, Ishmael, Isaac, David, Solomon, John the Baptist, Jesus, and also Muhammad, the final and greatest of the prophets; or the “Seal of the Prophets.”
Allah raised up these prophets, among every nation (Sura 16:36), to provide mankind with firm and constructive guidance, so that they could walk the straight path of Allah, could live happily in this world, and could be prepared for life after death. Their fundamental message (Islam) was identical, remind- ing mankind of Allah’s unity; the reward of a good life; the day of judgment; and the terrible punishment for unbelievers.
Their witness was not always received well, and sometimes with total rejection, even in their own communities (Sura 17:94). Yet, Allah promised to protect them from serious sins and from bad diseases. Thus, the belief that a prophet could never be killed; and their denial that Jesus, a prophet, died on the cross.
B2: The Christian Response
Christians believe that God appointed prophets and others to speak to mankind His Word, the story of His redemptive acts in history. God revealed (nuzul) the interpretation of His acts to prophets, who passed it on to man by preaching, teaching, and writing.
Of the thirty or so prophets who are listed in the Bible, many are well known to Muslims, such as: Abraham, Moses, David, and John the Baptist; while others are not, such as: Miriam (Moses’s sister), Nathan, Isaiah, Jonah, Joel, and Daniel; all of whom came before Christ. Others, like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter and Paul, wrote after Christ’s departure, and, though not recognized by Muslims, they are, for Christians, believed to be the last of the prophets.
We know as well, that all of these prophets were descendants of Abraham and Isaac, sent down over a period of 2,000 years, chiefly to the people of Israel, whom God had chosen to be His Covenant people; in order that from them the Truth of God might be made known to all the people of the world.
They came from different classes of society, some rich, others poor, young and old; some scholars, and others with little education. Not all wrote books (Elijah, John the Baptist), but they all heard God’s word, either through angels, by means of visions, by God’s voice, or by receiving the message in their minds and hearts.
We know also that the prophets were not sinless, but were believers who knew their sins were forgiven. To some the power was given to perform miracles, which verified the message. Yet, others, such as John the Baptist, performed none.
Their message was profound, but clear. They defined the character of a righteous God, and what He requires of them, warning of His judgment on rejecting Him and His Law, yet, assuring them of his forgiveness and blessing if they accepted them.
The prophets most important message, however, was that since there are none who could obey the Law fully, they remained still in sin, and so deserved death. Yet, they need not despair, because God had promised to take upon Himself the guilt of their sins, by incarnating Himself and dying on the cross, thus taking upon Himself that penalty, and so freeing Him to forgive them from those sins, which then brought them back into a personal relationship with Him.
In evaluating whether Muhammad was a prophet, a Christian must see Muhammad in light of the total Biblical witness culminating in Jesus the Messiah. To the extent that the prophet Muhammad 1) fully accepts the former Scriptures, and 2) points to the central significance of Jesus as redeemer, and 3) to the extent that the life and teachings of Muhammad exemplify suffering redemptive love, which is demonstrated by Jesus the Savior, Christians should, and will affirm the Prophet Muhammad. (Unless my Muslim brothers can show me otherwise, I find him lacking in all three.)
C1: The Muslim View
Whenever chaos, confusion, or evil filled human society, Allah sent a message, via His prophets, to reform society. These messages were contained in the Holy Books of Allah, of which 5 are accepted by Muslims today: the Suhuf (Scrolls), revealed to the prophet Ibrahim, and now lost; the Taurut (Torah), revealed to the prophet Musa (Moses); the Zabur (Psalms), revealed to the prophet Daud (David); the Injil (Gospels), revealed to the prophet Isa (Jesus); and the Qur’an (Koran), the Holy Book, or “final message to mankind,” revealed to the prophet Muhammad. Each Scripture confirmed the preceding revelation, with the purpose of reforming mankind.
Yet, according to Muslims, the first three existing revelations (Tawrut, Zabur, and Injil) include teachings which are confined to a particular tribe, community, or nation, and to a specific period. Furthermore, they believe that human imperfections, or abrogations have been introduced. The Bible, they say, seems to be a mixture of history and revelation. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to separate the true revelation in the Bible from that of history and human personality.
Thus, the Qur’an, they believe, was sent as the perfection and culmination of all the truth contained in the earlier Scriptures. Though sent down in Arabic, it is the Book for all times, for all mankind. It guards the previous revelations by restoring the eternal truth of Allah (Sura 3:3-4a), and clears up all uncertainties.
C2: The Christian Response
Christians believe that the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, is the inspired Word of God (2 Tim.3:16,17). By inspired, they mean that the messages of God were relayed to His chosen men who spoke or wrote them, using their own language, personalities and thought forms. (Inspiration, thus, does not mean divine dictation.) David wrote as an inspired poet, and Jeremiah spoke as an inspired preacher, and so on.
The sixty-six Holy books, divide into two sections; the Old Testament and New Testament. The Old Testament, which means old covenant or sacred promise (between God and His chosen people), records God’s revelation of Himself to them, while processing them to receive Himself as the Redeemer Messiah, who would be born as one of them.
The Old Testament prophets recognized that the redemption for the world would be fulfilled through this Messiah (Jeremiah 31:31,33). Thus, they prophesied His coming hundreds of times, even speaking specifically of when and where His birth would occur, why He would come, how He would die, and that He would rise again; all hundreds of years before the events.
The New Testament (new covenant) is the historical record of the manner in which God fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah, and established the new covenant. It contains the account of the life and teachings of the Messiah (the Gospels), the creation of the Church (Acts of the Apostles), explanations of Christian beliefs and conduct (Epistles), and a description of the end times, when God’s purpose for mankind will be fulfilled (Revelation).
Christians accept only the Old and New Testament in the Bible as God’s inspired written Word, consisting of teachings by more than thirty prophets and apostles, written in times of tremendous change and diversity, spanning more than 1,500 years, yet holding a common unifying idea; that God is at work in history with the intent to redeem and save mankind from death.
The Bible has been translated into over 1,600 languages, so that 93% of the world’s population can read it in their mother tongue. Therefore, it is no surprise that the Bible continues to be the best-selling book in the history of mankind.
D1: The Muslim View
Muslims believe that Allah created a host of angels, all of whom are sinless, do not eat or drink, and have no determining sex. They, like humans, will die and be resurrected.
The angels have differing ranks, but there are four who are the mightiest of all, and are known as the four archangels. They are:
- Gabriel, Allah’s chief messenger, or intermediary, who is referred to as the “Holy Spirit” in the Qur’an;
- Izrail, the Angel of Death; and
- Israfil, who will blow the trumpet on the last day to awake the dead.
When Adam was created, Allah commanded all the angels to bow down to him. All the angels did so, except Iblis (Satan), who refused, saying, “He was made of clay, but I was made of fire, so I am better then he” (Sura 15:28-33). For his refusal, Allah cursed him and threw him out of paradise. From that time till now Iblis has become man’s chief enemy, and is the leader of all the demons and evil jinn, who harass and torment mankind (Sura 15: 34-46).
The chief responsibility of the angels is to praise Allah, and to do his will. They do His will by watching over believers, interceding for them and aiding them in their battles (thousands were used at the great battle of Badr).
Many Muslims believe that all individuals on earth have two angels who are positioned above each of their shoulders, as ‘recording angels’; one to record the good deeds man does, and the other to record his sins. At the time of death, two fierce black angels visit each corpse in the grave and ask him, “Who is thy Lord? What is thy religion?” and “Who is thy Prophet?” Depending on the response, the angels take the souls of the believers, and cause them to either fall into the fiery pit (Gahenna), or they send them across the razor sharp bridge, to paradise.
D2: The Christian Response
In the Bible there are many references to beings, other than men, who were created by God and were usually referred to as angels. They are God’s messengers, and were often sent by God to make His will known to the prophets and to help believers.
Angels appeared in human form to Abraham, Moses and others. The names of only two of God’s angels are given in the Bible: Michael and Gabriel. The angel Gabriel was the one who informed Mary that she would have a son named Jesus.
In addition to the holy angels who are obedient to God, we are told, in Scripture, that there are other created spiritual beings who were disobedient, who are enemies of God; the chief of whom is called Satan, the Devil, the dragon and serpent (Rev.12:3-9).
Many Christians think that Satan was created good, but because of pride disobeyed God. As a result, he, and the spirits who followed him, fell from their high and holy position in heaven. They are now doing all they can to destroy God’s work on earth.
Satan deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden, and ever since he has been trying to turn people away from the living God. He even tried to persuade Jesus Christ to disobey God three times (in the wilderness), but failed.
Satan has great power, which is not equal to God, and in fact is limited by God. Thus, Christians do not need to fear him or his evil spirits who harm so many people, because of Satan’s defeat through the historical death on the cross by the redeemer, Jesus Christ (Col.2:14,15). Because of that historical act, all believers have the strength, given by Christ, through the Holy Spirit, to resist and repel Satan and all his cohorts. God will finally cast Satan out of the earth and into the eternal fire, from where he will never bother man or God again.
E1: The Muslim View
For a Muslim, sin is a private matter. The idea that one’s sin is binding from one generation to the next does not exist. This is because Satan is the root of all sin; and Allah, who is all-merciful, will forgive those who ask for forgiveness. There is one sin, however, which is unforgivable, that of “shirk,” the practice of associating anyone or anything with Allah.
Thus, the sin of Adam and Eve (Adam and Hauwa), was not really their fault, as they were tricked by Satan, and they asked for forgiveness. Furthermore, their sin is not hereditary. Adam, having repented, was made Allah’s first messenger on earth. How could Allah entrust such a high office to an evildoer?
For the Muslim, salvation is attained not by faith, but by works, in observing the Five Pillars of Islamic practice, as well as avoiding the major and minor sins. Tradition indicates that on the Judgment Day, once the person is buried, the two recording angels appear, and the dead person sits up to undergo an examination. If he says the “Shahada” (“There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the apostle of Allah”), he lies down peacefully and awaits his judgment. If he refuses the “Shahada,” he is severely beaten for as long as Allah pleases.
Each individual is then put on a scale where his good and bad deeds, taken from their “book of destiny,” are weighed. Yet, Allah reserves the absolute right to send the individual to wherever He pleases. If the book is placed in his right hand he is saved and crosses a razor sharp bridge as narrow as a hair.
On the other side is paradise, a perfumed garden of material and sensual delights, surrounded by rivers and flowing fountains, populated with black-eyed virgins, who are there to serve them with all variety of fruits (Suras 47 & 56).
On the other hand, a vivid hell (Gahenna) awaits those who fail the above test, a hell which consists of boiling water, gore and fire, a hell of extreme physical pain (Suras 4, 38, & 50).
E2: The Christian Response
According to Scripture, any sin is an abomination to a holy God, because it is, in essence, a rejection of His character. We believe, as Muslims believe, that Satan does tempt us. Yet, we are responsible for our own sins, and not Satan. We have the choice to reject Satan’s tempting. But, the Scripture insists throughout, that the wages of sin is death, and since we are all guilty, therefore, we all deserve death. God, however, in His mercy, has not left us in that guilt, but has offered payment and forgiveness for those who receive it. He has sent His Son to die in our place, to take upon Himself our guilt. Therefore, those who believe in His redeeming death on the cross, and repent of their sins, are saved from eternal separation (John 3:16,17); while those who reject Him will be eternally condemned.
Before His ascension into heaven, Christ promised to return a second time to judge the world. He warned his followers against false Christs and false prophets, saying that the whole world will know when He comes again; and that He will come as He was taken up (Acts 1:11). When He returns, He will raise all the dead to life (John 5:28-29), and will separate those who believe from those who reject, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats.
Those rejecting Christ, will live in eternal punishment, in total isolation from God; because, in rejecting God’s Son, they have rejected God the Father and God the Holy Spirit as well, and no sin is greater than this (1 John 2:22-23).
Those who have truly believed in Christ the redeemer, will not fear Christ the Judge, and will have eternal life (John 5:22- 24; Acts 17:30-31). This does not mean that they will go into a garden full of carnal pleasures, which, as we know in this life, separates us from God, but they will go into the presence of God Himself, to live forever with Him in love and in joy. For, as it says in Revelation 21:1-7, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people,… He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain.”
F1: The Muslim View
“Islam,” the word, means submission to the will of Allah. A Muslim, therefore, is one who submits, much as a slave submits to his master. The reason for this submission is found in the belief that everything, including good and evil, faith and unbelief, is preordained. As a religion, Islam is a code of political, ceremonial, civil, and criminal law, as well as moral and religious precepts, all promulgated in Allah’s name, while leaving nothing to the believer’s initiative.
Muslims believe that Allah is in control of all of history. This belief embraces the doctrine of predestination, an acceptance of destiny, and resignation to fate (Kismet). Allah is sovereign. Thus, anything that happens is the will of Allah, and so is attributed to him. It explains why the phrase In sh’allah, “If Allah wills it,” is so common in the Muslim world. For some, this idea that Allah has total control over history leads to fatalism and passivity. For others, it sets the mind at liberty from matters over which they have absolutely no control. Kismet makes the Muslim fanatically self-sacrificing in war, resigned in defeat, in bereavement and disaster, and inactive in the presence of preventable evil, such as epidemics, because these could be called the “Will of Allah.”
Furthermore, Allah is not bound by any moral obligation, as this would limit his sovereignty. Therefore, it follows that Allah is also the author of evil. He is under no necessity of his nature, to be right or just or merciful. Allah does not will an act because it is good; rather, it is good because he has willed it.
F2: The Christian Response
For the Christian, God’s attributes are found in His holiness, grace and love (1 John 4:16). For a Muslim, Allah “loves” only those who do His will. Yet, we find that the God of the Bible not only loves those who are good, but He loves those who are sinners as well, even to the point of giving His life for them. (Romans 5:1-10)
Unlike Allah of the Qur’an, who is portrayed as a distant God with whom no one can have a personal relationship, the Biblical view of God is one who very much wants a personal relationship with His creation (John 1:11-14;15:9-15).
In the Qur’an, as was mentioned above, Allah is considered as the author of evil. Yet, in the Bible we find just the opposite. God is infinitely righteous and holy (Psalm 77:13;99:9). His “eyes are too pure to look on evil” (Habakkuk 1:13).
If we take these three attributes of the Biblical God (a God of selfless love, in relationship with His creation, unable to create or accept evil), we will find in these three the relation- ship that He seeks with His creation as well.
God doesn’t seek total blind obedience from His creation. This is not true love. True love seeks the best for the other at one’s own expense. It is best exemplified in Christs’ own sacrificial act on the cross. It is this love which God desires of us, both in our relationship with Him, and with others.
The Bible tells us that man was created in God’s image (Genesis 2:27), a view which is in direct contrast to that of the Muslim ideal, of man as slave. Man was never created to be a slave to God, but was meant from the very beginning, to be His son, in perfect relationship with Him. This assumes, however, freedom of choice, in that man can accept to be in relationship with His creator, or reject Him.
And finally, by God’s very nature, He cannot create nor tolerate evil. Thus, He has not brought about, nor can He tolerate the evilness of man. Sin is of man’s own doing. But God has made a way by which sin can be forgiven, so that man can, once again, be brought back into relationship with God, as was intended from the very beginning, with Adam and Eve. Our fate, therefore, is never predestined. We can, by simply acknowledging Christ as our Lord and Saviour, be assured that we will be once more reunited with God, in heaven, for eternity.
- A Guide to Islam, Angus Nicolson, Sterling Tract Enterprise, 1951
- Islam-The Basic Truths, Ja’sfar S. Idris, Muslim Welfare House, London
- A Christian’s Response to Islam, W. M. Miller, Presbyterian & Reformed Publ. Co., Philipsburg, New Jersey, 1976
- Beliefs and Practices of Christians, W.M.Miller, Masihi Isha’at Khana, Lahore, Pak.
- Islam, A Christian Perspective, M.Nazir-Ali, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1983
- Islam and Christianity, Badru Kateregga and David Shenk, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1980