“Islam is no longer a foreign religion that we hear about from missionaries: it is a global force that must be approached with respect and wisdom.”
I pastor near Dearborn, Michigan, which has one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States. We have had the privilege of baptizing several Muslims in Jesus’ name. Islam is no longer a foreign religion that we hear about from missionaries; it is a global force that must be approached with respect and wisdom.
* There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today.
* There are 7 million Muslims in United States.
* The world’s population is predicted to be 50 percent Muslim by 2055.
* The number of mosques in America has increased over 25 percent in the last ten years.
* Islam is the second largest religion in the world.
With growth of Islam, it is important for Christian to learn all they can about Islam and the Muslim people. It is surprising how little is known of such a large and far reaching religion. In these last days of the church, we must discuss Islam if we are going to impact our world. Muslims must be reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Muslims need be taught about their risen Savior. They must understand that Jesus is indeed the one true God who loves them and wants to save them.
Islam was founded in Arabia by Muhammad in the early seventh century. Muslims refer to the period before Islam as “time of ignorance.” Before the founding of Islam the Arabian people were largely polytheistic and idolatrous. Muhammad was greatly concerned with the confusion of his people and would often search out deeper truth through research and meditation. During a pilgrimage in the hills to meditate, he claimed to have been visited by the angel Gabriel. This is recognized as the time of the birth of Islam. Early Islam emerged in Mecca with about fifty converts (largely made up of Muhammad’s family and friends), but because of rejection, he relocated to Medina. In just a few years Islam began to define itself as a force in the community and it now spans the globe.
I have found it to be helpful to tell Muslims that I use both the Bible and the Quran to discuss truth and history. I then show them that the Quran affirms the Bible as the word of God (Allah). (See Sura 2:135-136 and II Timothy 3:16.) This demonstrates that I have done my research, I respect their religion, and it takes them off the defensive. It also gives them the freedom to consider what the Bible has to say. On a related note, the word for God in Arabic is Allah, so this is the word they use when speaking about God. The Quran was written in Arabic, and translations of the Quran are not considered to be authoritative. Hence, the only word a Muslim has for God is the Arabic Allah. Even Christians who speak Arabic use Allah to refer to God.
Who is God?
Muslims tend to view all Christians as polytheists who worship three gods, something strongly condemned in Islam. The Quran forbids the belief in the doctrine of the Trinity! (See Sura 4:171; 5:73.) When speaking with Muslims, we can admit there are circles in Christianity that believe in the Trinity but assure them this is not a biblical doctrine. Muslims believe in an all-powerful, spiritual God who created all things and who will judge the dead. They believe in eternal reward and punishment, and they believe that Allah was the God of Abraham. Their great prophets include Moses and Abraham.
Then who is Jesus?
It is important to start this part of the conversation from the Quran so the Muslim will be more open to what the Bible has to say. The Quran affirms that Jesus was the Messiah, born of the virgin Mary, the Holy Son, a teacher, and a prophet. When they acknowledge these offices you can proceed.
Muslims hold sacred the word “Holy” and only connect it to Allah. Yet the Quran repeatedly refers to Jesus as the Holy Son and the Messiah. The Bible teaches that the Messiah was actually a manifestation of God. This can be seen in the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament) as well as the Christian Scriptures, both of which predate the Quran. (See Isaiah 12:1-3; 59:16; John 4:25-26; 10:33; Surah Al ‘Imran 3:45-48; Sura 19:20-21; 3:45; 4:171.
Additionally, Allah/God has many names and attributes, but across the Quran, Old Testament, and New Testament, the most commonly shared reference to Allah/God is “Holy One.” God is the only being who is intrinsically holy. However, the Quran, Old Testament, and New Testament refer to Jesus as the Holy Son or Holy One. (See Sura 19:19; 59:23; Psalms 16:10; Isaiah 43:15; Mark 1:24; Luke 1:38; Acts 2:27; 3:14; 13:35; I John 2:20.) After discussing these passages, you can confidently proclaim that Jesus Christ is God!
Jesus had no sin because He was holy (Sura 19:19); however, Mohammad was a sinner (Sura 47:19). And Muslims do not claim Mohammad was divine, only that he was a prophet. This is one of the fundamental differences between Islam and Christianity. Christianity claims that Jesus Christ is more than a prophet; He is God! (Muslims teach that Jesus is one of the great prophets.)
Because Jesus had no sin, He sacrificed His life on the cross for sinners. Accordingly, He has the authority to instruct us, and we must listen to Jesus the Messiah tell us how to be cleansed from our sin (John 3:1-7; Matthew 20:28). Other New Testament passages go on to illustrate in more detail what Jesus was speaking of. (See I Peter 3:21; Acts 2:38; 2:1-4; Romans 8:9; Acts 10:44-48.)
Art Wilson is the founding pastor of The International Church of Metro Detroit. He currently serves as the director the Michigan District Men’s Ministry.