Rev. Johnson Thomaskutty graduated with a BA from Kerala University; BD and MTh from Serampore University; ThM from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is a former Faculty of New Testament and College Chaplain, Serampore College, Hooghly, West Bengal. Rev. Johnson Thomaskutty has worked as an Apologetic Minister in the US context and is currently Assistant Professor of New Testament at Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, and Editor of Union Biblical Seminary Journal. Rev. Johnson Thomaskutty is interested in Bible, Theology, Apologetics and Missions.
Islam makes up around 20% of the world's population. It is the second largest religion in the world, trailing only Christianity. Muslims are spread primatily over the areas of North Africa, the Middle East, South-Central Asia, and Indonesia. Although Islam began in Saudi Arabia, non-Arab Muslims now outnumber Arab Muslims by a ratio of almost three to one. Also, the four nations with the largest number of Muslims today are all outside the Middle East. Indonesia-166 million (88% of the population); Pakistan-111 million (97%); Bangladesh-97 million (85%); and India-93 million (11%).
Do you know that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today? Do you know that a significant number of immigrants who come to the United States are Muslims? And do you know that these immigrants come from many Islamic countries or countries with large communities of Muslims? Do you know that an estimated 4 to 6 million Muslims reside in the United States? Do you know that there are more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide? Do you know that Muslims are mission-minded and intend to convert the West to Islam? Do you realize that Jesus not only died for you, but he died for Muslims, too, and they need to accept Him as their personal Savior? When Muslims visit or move to Christian countries, we as Christians are given an incredible opportunity to share the gospel with this group of people. This opportunity is not made available while Muslims are living in Islamic countries. Those who share the gospel, and those who accept Christ as their Savior, are persecuted in Islamic countries. God has brought them to our backyard so that they may hear the Word of God without fear or persecution. Let us try to learn more about this rapidly growing people group for missional purposes.
I The Name 'Islam' or 'Muslim'
The name of this religion, Islam, is derived from the Arabic word 'salam', which is often interpreted as meaning 'peace'. However 'submission' would be better translation. Muslim is a follower of Islam. 'Muslim' is an Arabic word that refers to a person who submits himself/herself to the will of God. Many Muslims are offended by the phrase Islamic Terrorist or Muslim Terrorist, which have been observed so often in the media.
Followers of Islam are called 'Muslims'. An alternative spelling for 'Muslim' that is occasionally used is 'Moslim'; it is not recommended because it is often pronounced 'mawzlem', which sounds like an Arabic word for 'oppressor'. Some Western writers in the past have referred to Islam as 'Mohammedism'; this is deeply offensive to many Muslims, as its usage can lead some to the concept that Muhammad the Prophet was in some way divine.
II Origin of Islam
The origin of Islam can be traced back to 7th century Saudi Arabia. Islam is thus the youngest of the world religions. The prophet Muhammad (about 570-632/3 AD) introduced Islam in 610 AD after experiencing what he claimed to be an angelic visitation. Muhammad dictated the Quran, the holy book of Islam, which Muslims believe to be the preexistent, perfect words of Allah. The origin of Islam is generally accredited to the prophet Muhammad but to the devout Muslim, Islam began long before Muhammad ever walked the earth. The Quran was dictated by Muhammad but, according to the Quran, it did not originate with Muhammad. The Quran testifies of itself that it was given by God through the angel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad.
In AD 570, Muhammad was born into an Arabian tribe called the Quraysh. The Quraysh were influential because they controlled the city of Mecca. Mecca was important religiously because the Ka'bah was located there. The Ka'bah is a cubic structure that, at the time of Muhammad, contained 360 deities. Each Arabian tribe had hand-picked its own deity and came to Mecca each year to pay homage to its god.
In the year 610, at the age 40, Muhammad received his first revelation from the angel Gabriel. This was the beginning of a series of revelations that were eventually compiled in Islam's sacred scripture, the Quran, which means 'recitations'. Muhammad is said to have doubted initially the origin of these new revelations. His wife Khadijah, however, reassured him that his visions were of divine origin, and she encouraged him to teach that which had been revealed to him. As Muhammad began to preach more publicly, the leaders of his own tribe pressured him to keep quite about his message of strict monotheism. They viewed such a teaching as a threat to their polytheistic religion and especially to the source of their livelihood.
As he continued to preach against polytheism, persecution increased against the followers of his new religion. Eventually, around 100 Muslim families were forced to flee to a city named Yathrib (now called Medina), which is around 200 miles north of Mecca. Muhammad followed these families shortly thereafter, fleeing Mecca in the year 622. Muslims now look to the year of his flight to Yathrib as the beginning of the Muslim calendar. This event is known as the Hijrah (also spelled Hegira), which means 'a series of migrations'. After several successful sieges and military victories against Mecca, and after making treaties with the Quraysh tribe, Muhammad and his army took control of Mecca in 630 without a struggle. Upon entering the city, he personally destroyed the idols in the Ka'bah. Within a year of Mecca's submission to Muhammad, he was able to unify all the tribes of the Arabian peninsula under the religion of Islam. On June 8, 632 Muhammad died.
III The Sects of Islam
Simply speaking, one can see three very broad categories of Muslims. They are: (1) Conservative Muslims: They believe that all the Quran and, usually, the Hadith traditions are for all times, except for parts specifically abrogated; (2) Liberal Muslims: They want a changed, mellowed-down Islam adapted to their modern lifestyle. Some still read the Quran a lot, and others are more secular. They may not pray five times a day, and ignore what the Hadiths say about Muslim women having to wear veils; and (3) Innovative Groups: They have strange theology that is different from the Quran. At an extreme, the Nation of Israel (Black Muslim Group) taught the black race was superior and the white race was created by devils.
The sects can be further divided. Islamic sects are not simply 'denominations', if that word is understood to mean various valid approaches to the same religion. Members of the Islamic groups do not usually recognize members of other groups as fellow Muslims, and open conflict between sects is not uncommon. The further division goes in the following way:
(1) Sunnis: With 940 million adherents, the vast majority of the world's Muslims are Sunnis. Followers of the Sunni tradition are known as Sunnis or Sunnites. Sunnis have their historical roots in the majority group who followed Abu Bakr, an effective leader, as Muhammad's successor instead of the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law Ali. The Sunnis are so named because they believe themselves to follow the Sunnah ('custom' or 'tradition') of the Prophet. Sunnis base their religion on the Quran and the Sunnah as understood by the majority of the community under the structure of four schools of thought. The four Sunni schools of law: the Hanafi, the Maliki, the Shafi'i, and the Hanbali-are sometimes mistakenly understood as different sects, but they are not. The Sunnis also receive guidance from the principles arrived at by a consensus of the elders, or religious scholars (Ulama), who drive their decisions based on the Quran, the Sunnah, a.nd subsequent rulings
Some general statistics: Algeria is nearly 99% Sunni (i.e., Sunni Islam is the state religion), Kuwait is 70% and Afghanistan is 80% Sunni. Sunnis also outnumber Shi'ites in Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Sudan (70%), Syria (80%), Tajikistan (85%), Libya (97%), Jordan (92%) and certain islands like Maldives, Comoros (98%) and the Cocos islands (80%). Contrastingly, Iraq is only about 45-60% Sunni, who are concentrated mostly in the central and northern parts of the country. Sunni Muslims are a smaller minority in Iran (10%) and Bahrain (30%).
(2) Shi'a Islam: Shi'a Islam includes most of the Muslims that are not counted among the Sunni. The primary division within Islam, between Sunni and Shi'a, dates to the death of the prophet Muhammad when his followers were faced with the decision of who would be his successor as the leader of Islam. Shi'ites are those who followed Ali, the closest relative of Muhammad, as Muhammad's successor. Today there are approximately 120 million Shi'ite Muslims in the world. The Shia consist of one major school of thought known as the Jafaryia or the 'Twelvers', and a few minor schools of thought, as the 'Seveners' or the 'Fivers'. These names all refer to the number of Imams they recognize after the death of Muhammad. The Shi'ites await the return of the twelfth Imam, called Mahdi, similar to the way Christians look for the return of Christ. Shi'ites are typically more authority-oriented than consensus oriented. Another difference between the two sects is that the Sunnis believe there should be a separation between civil and religious authorities, whereas, the Shi'ites maintain that the religious authorities should exercise both political and religious power.
(3) Sufism: Sufism is less an Islamic sect and more an alternative way of approaching the Islamic faith. Sufis are mystically-inclined Muslims who seek a direct experience of God. Sufism has been a prominent movement within Islam throughout most of its history. By the 19th century AD, more than half of the male Muslim population was attached to a Sufi order (Tariqa). Sufism is considered by the majority of Sunnis to be integral part of Sunni Islam. It deals with the spiritual aspects of a Sunni Muslim's everyday life. Some of the most famous Sufi schools are the Qadiri, Naqshbandi, Chishti, and Rifa'i paths or tariqas. The goal of the Sufi is to renounce worldly attachments, to see only God in all things, and to attain assimilation of the self into the vast Being of God.
(4) Ahmadiyya: Ahmadiyya Islam was founded in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmed (c. 1839-1908) in Qadian, Punjab, India. Ahmed claimed to be the appearance of the promised Messiah (or, according to some sources, the manifestation of the Prophet Muhammad as well as an incarnation of Jesus and the Hindu god Krishna). Ghulam Ahmed taught that Jesus feigned his crucifixion and resurrection, then lived to be 120 years old in India, contradicting the orthodox Muslim doctrine that Jesus was taken up into heaven before his death. Ahmed also reinterpreted jihad as a nonviolent battle against nonbelievers, using as its weapon the pen instead of the sword. These doctrines, along with the teaching that Ahmed was a prophet like Muhammad, have led Ahmadiyyas to be denounced as a heretics by most orthodox Islam.
Upon the death of Ahmed, Mawlawi Nur-ad-Din was elected as successor (Caliph). When he died ,in 1914, the Ahmadiyya group split into two groups: (1) Qadiani: who recognize Ahmad as a prophet; (2) Lahore: who regard Ahmad only as a reformer of Islam. Today there are 170 million Ahmadiyya Muslims in the world. Ahmadiyya Islam is also associated with several Sufi orders, most notably the Al-Badawi order of Egypt.
There are also several minor Muslim sects, including the Wahhabis (primarily in Saudi Arabia), the Druze (primarily in Lebanon, Syria, and northern Israel), and the Alawites (primarily in Syria). Beyond the major and minor sects, Islam has also been a contributing factor in two religions: Sikhism and Baha'i.
IV Islamic Scriptures
Muslims believe that revelation is rooted in the Divine will whereby Allah chooses to reveal his will to the human race. In other words, the content of the revelation has been perfectly recorded in truth statements, which have been written down in the Arabic Quran. The 114 chapters or Surahs of the Quran, comprising 6,236 verses known as Ayat, were revealed to the person, Muhammad (48: 28, 29), through one mediator, the angel Gabriel (2: 97), over a twenty-two year period of time (610-632). Muslims believe that all of the words contained in the revelation have been fixed on a heavenly tablet since before the world was created. This heavenly tablet is called in Surah 85: 22 the "Preserved Tablet" to distinguish it from earlier revelations, which were not in Arabic and have become corrupted. The contents are, thus, recited to Muhammad who takes them down like dictation from the heavenly tablet, which is also known as the Mother of the Book. The Quran is specifically in Arabic since "the Twenty-eight letters of the Arabic alphabet form the language of the Divine Breath itself. The contents of the Quran, therefore, represent a "bounded set".
Muslims also have a second tier of revelation known as the Hadith. Both Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims accept the idea that the example of Muhammad, known as Sunna, is an important source for guiding the Islamic community, particularly since the Quran is silent about many of the practical social and religious details, which are essential for Islamic catechesis and the formation of a comprehensive legal code, known as Sharia.After Muhammad's death, many stories began to circulate about events in the life of Muhammad, Muhammad's practice, and a number of pithy sayings of Muhammad which revealed his wit and wisdom. Eventually these stories were collected together into short narratives known as Hadith. Today, there are six collections of Hadith, which the Sunni accept; the oldest and most reliable is the collection by Al-Bukhari containing 7,300 Hadith. Shi'ite Muslims have five collections of Hadith, which they accept. The Hadith is not a "bounded set" for all Muslims everywhere, since various groups within Islam accept as authoritative different collections of Hadith.
V Christianity Vs. Islam
(1) The Fallen Nature of Man: Muslims do not believe in the fallen nature of man. According to them, man is born innocent, but he disobeys God because of his weaknesses. When he repents, as Adam and Eve did, God accepts his repentance. Islam teaches that human beings need teachers and prophets to guide them in the straight path
(2) The Fatherhood of God: Muslims reject the entire concept of the fatherhood of God. They believe it is blasphemous to hold to the fatherhood of God. He is the Creator and we are His servants. According to them, there is no personal relationship between man and God
(3) The Incarnation and Divinity of Jesus: Jesus is just a prophet like the rest of the prophets. It is true that He was born without a father, but Adam’s creation is more miraculous than Jesus’ birth, because Adam was created without a Father or a Mother. Therefore, Jesus is only a prophet, not God incarnate
(4) The Trinity: Muslims believe in the oneness of God. Therefore, they reject the trinity. For Christians, Jesus is divine because He is the Logos and was born of the Holy Spirit. As Logos, He was with God from eternity. Muslims charge that Christians believe in three gods: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christians are polytheists in the eyes of Muslims. Therefore, Christians are infidels, though they are called the People of the Book in the Qur’an (Surah 5:69; 10:94; 16:43)
(5) The Crucifixion: The Quran denies the crucifixion. Muslims believe that a crucifixion took place, but the one who was crucified was not Jesus Christ, but His likeness, the one who betrayed Him. And, since they believe Jesus was not crucified, then the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus never took place. Therefore, the whole concept of redemption and atonement is conclusively rejected
(6) The Bible: The Quran testifies to the truthfulness of the Bible. In many cases, it refers Muhammad and his followers to the Scriptures. However, Muslims claim that when the Quran refers to Bible, it is referring to the original Bible before it was distorted by Christians and Jews. Muslims believe that Christians and Jews perverted the Bible, and the contradictions between the Bible and the Quran are ascribed to the perversion of the original scriptures. Originally, there was no contradictions because God was the source of both books
(7) Inspiration: According to Muslims, the Quran was revealed to Muhammad by Allah through the Archangel, Gabriel. Though Muhammad penned the Holy Book, the words, style, and language are God’s. Muhammad was merely the tool through whom the revelation was manifested in words. Since the Quran is God’s style, diction, and content, Muslims allege that no human being can emulate the Quran in any way. Just as Muslims, Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God. However, contrary to Muslims, Christians believe that the inspiration of the Bible includes some aspects of the human element
(8) Salvation: Salvation in Islam is based on belief in God, the angels, the Scripture, the prophets of God and His messengers, and the Day of Judgment. Good deeds are also necessary for salvation. In Islam, good deeds comprise an act of atonement in order to obtain God’s favor. There is no assurance of salvation in Islam as we understand it in Christianity. As Christians, we are saved through the blood of Jesus Christ and our good deeds are the natural fruits of our being new creatures in Christ
(9) Holy Spirit: The concept of the Holy Spirit in Islam is not the same as in Christianity. Muslims believe that the Holy Spirit is the archangel Gabriel, the bearer of the revelation (Surah 2: 97-98). Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is one of the Trinity and that the HS is active in the life of Christians, as well as in the life of the Church, today. The HS reveals the will of the Father to us
(10) Islam is legalistic in its nature: In order to obtain God’s favor and forgiveness, Muslims must perform certain duties and rituals. The five pillars and the rituals are essential in Islam. This contradicts Christianity which emphasizes that salvation is not the result of works, but comes through the blood of Jesus
(11) Promised Son of Abraham: Christians believe that Isaac was the promised son of Abraham; Whereas Muslims believe that Ishmail was the promised (Surah 19: 54; 37: 83-109; with Gen. 22: 1-9)
(12) The Five Pillars: The confession of faith (There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah); Prayers (5 times, only in Arab); Fasting (sunrise-sunset, during Ramadan); Pilgrimage (During Id to Mecca); and Almsgiving (2.5% of the annual income)- In Christianity we practice all these, but our basis of salvation is by faith through grace
(13) Terror vs. Peace: Allah (Surah 8:60): "Against them (nonbelievers) make ready your strength… steeds of war… strike terror…" In the NT we see a peace-loving God
(14) God of Intimacy: The Christian God is intimate, personal, imminent and loving. There is no such Muslim having a personal, intimate relationship with Allah. In Islam, there are 99 names of Allah and not one of those terms is intimate. Allah and God the Father are not the same and one
(15) The Six Doctrines: The basic doctrines that every Muslim must believe are: (1) God; (2) Angels; (3) The Scriptures; (4) Muhammad and other Prophets; (5) The End Times; and (6) Predestination
(16) God in Islam and Christianity: (1) Christianity: God does not change (Jam. 1:17); Islam: Changes (Surah 2:106); (2) Christianity: God loves everyone (Jn 3:16); Islam: Allah is temperamental (Sur. 32:13); (3) Christianity: God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2); Islam: Allah deceives (Sur. 8:30); (4) God is Triune (Jn. 6:27; Col. 2:9; Acts 5:3-9); Islam: Trinity is blasphemy (Sur. 5:73); (5) Christianity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt. 28: 19); Islam: God the Father, God the Mother (Mary) and God the Son (Jesus)-Surah 5:116
(17) Jesus in Christianity and Isa in Islam: (1) Christianity: Jesus is not created (Col. 1:17); Islam: Jesus was created (Sur. 3:59); (2) Christianity: Jesus is Lord (Jn. 14:6; Islam: Jesus is just an Apostle (Sur. 4: 171); (3) Christianity: Jesus was crucified (1 Cor. 2:2); Islam: Jesus was not crucified (Sur. 4:157)
(18) Jesus vs. Muhammad: (1) Christianity: Jesus is Son of God (Jn. 10:36); Islam. Jesus was just a man (Sur. 18:4-5); (2) Christianity: Jesus knew the thoughts of men (Rev. 2:23); Islam: Muhammad did not know (Sur. 11:31); (3) Christianity: Jesus is our advocate (1 Jn. 2:1-2); Islam: Muhammad is not (Sur. 9:80); (4) Christianity: Jesus forbade the use of the sword (Mt. 26:52); Islam: Muhammad urged the use of the sword (Sur. 8:65); (5) Christianity: Jesus taught forgiveness (Mat. 5:38-39); Islam: Muhammad taught revenge (Sur. 2: 194); (6) Christianity: Jesus was sinless (1 Pet. 2:21-22); Islam: Muhammad was sinful (Sur. 18:110)
(19) Salvation in Christianity and Islam: (1) Christianity: man is born with original sin (Rom. 5:12); Islam: Man has no original sin, sin by deed only; (2) Christianity: Jesus is the only way (Phil. 2:10-11); Islam: Jesus was a man, and a worshipper of Allah (Sur. 19:30); (3) Christianity: Salvation is offered to all (Rom. 10:13); Islam: Salvation is only in Allah’s hands (Sur. 2:284); (4) Christianity: Grace alone saves (Eph. 2:8-9); Islam: Good works cancel bad deeds (Sur. 11:114); (5) Christianity: There is eternal security (Jn. 10:28); Islam: Jihad is the only eternal security (Sur. 3:157); (6) Christianity: God forces no one to salvation (Rev. 3:20); Islam: Allah forces worship (Sur. 2: 193; 9:29)
(20) Islam-Christianity-Judaism: (1) All three religions claim to believe in the same God, the God of Abraham. Muslims generally claim that ‘Allah’ is just their name for the God of the Bible; (2) All began fro the works of major individual prophets: Jews’ beliefs were revealed by Moses; Christians by Jesus; and Muslims by Muhammad. Islam recognizes both Moses and Jesus as prophets, but it claims that Muhammad is the last; (3) All are based on written revelations claimed to be infallibly inspired by God.
The Jews accept only OT, Christians also accept the NT, and Muslims accept the Koran (also Muslim traditions). Just as Christians believe the OT was inspired but was replaced by the NT, so Muslims believe the Old and New Testaments were inspired but were both replaced by the Koran (Note: We have evidence that God authorized the NT to replace the OT, but we have no such evidence that God authorized the teachings of Muhammad to replace the NT)
(21) Sacrifice: OT had animal sacrifices. The NT has the superior, perfect sacrifice of Jesus. But, Islam has no sacrifice for sin at all. Islam, just like Judaism, is a system of strict law keeping
We believe, right now, that you grasped a comprehensive idea about the religion of Islam.
(Researched from various sources) - MapInt.Org