“Sources on Muhammad’s life concur that he was born ca. 570 CE in the city of Mecca in Arabia. He was orphaned at a young age and was brought up by his uncle, later worked mostly as a merchant, and was married by age 26. At some point, discontented with life in Mecca, he retreated to a cave in the surrounding mountains for meditation and reflection. According to Islamic tradition, it was here at age 40, in the month of Ramadan, where he received his first revelation from God. Three years after this event, Muhammad started preaching these revelations publicly, proclaiming that ‘God is One,’ that complete ‘surrender’ to Him (lit. islām)] is the only way (dīn), acceptable to God, and that he was a prophet and messenger of God, in the same vein as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and other prophets.
“Muhammad gained few followers early on, and was largely met with hostility from the tribes of Mecca; he was treated harshly and so were his followers. To escape persecution, Muhammad and his followers migrated to Yathrib (Medina) in the year 622. This historic event, the Hijra, marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. In Medina, Muhammad managed to unite the conflicting tribes, and after eight years of fighting with the Meccan tribes, his followers, who by then had grown to ten thousand, conquered Mecca. In 632, on returning to Medina from his ‘Farewell pilgrimage’, Muhammad fell ill and died. By the time of his death, most of Arabia had converted to Islam. (“Muhammad”)
“For the Muslim, attaining heaven (or Paradise) rests upon five pillars, or five good works. These are the confession of faith, prayer (with purification), fasting, giving alms, and the pilgrimmage to Mecca. …[Some Muslims] were asked if doing these things would asure one of a place in heaven. They responded that they could not be certain” (Dickson 13; see also the “Five Pillars” articles in the bibliography).
“The term ‘Jihad’ used without any qualifiers is generally understood to be referring to war on behalf of Islam. … In Muslim tradition, the world is divided into two houses: the House of Islamic Peace (Dar al-Salam), in which Muslim governments rule and Muslim law prevails, and the House of War (Dar al-Harb), the rest of the world, still inhabited and, more important, ruled by infidels. The presumption is that by natural law these domains will compete and fighting is inevitable therefore the duty of jihad will continue, interrupted only by truces, until all the world either adopts the Muslim faith or submits to Muslim rule. Those who fight in the jihad qualify for rewards in both worlds—booty in this one, paradise in the next. For most of the recorded history of Islam, from the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad onward, the word jihad was used in a primarily military sense.” (“Jihad”)
While Muslims may be commended for their diligent quest to please “God,” their beliefs are a direct contradiction to what the one, true God has revealed in the Bible. When narrowed down to a short list, the following questions reveal the differences between Islam and Christianity. (For a more comprehensive list of the differences, see M. J. Bardon’s chart in the bibliography.)
1. Is the Bible or the Quran true?
Christians believe that the Bible is inspired by God and is the final rule for faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:14-17). Muslims believe that the Quran is the final revelation of God and that it supercedes what is taught in the “corrupted” Bible of Jews and Christians.
2. Are Allah and the God of the Bible the same?
The Bible teaches that God wants to be known and that he expressed his love for mankind by sending his Son to die for the sins of the world (Jer. 29:13; Acts 17:27; John 3:16). Muslims believe that Allah is unknowable but hope that he will be merciful and reward them for their good deeds after death.
3. Is Jesus just a prophet or is he God?
The Bible teaches that Jesus is the perfect God who became man to die on the cross for the sins of the world (Matt. 1:21-23; John 1:14). Muslims believe that Jesus was not divine but was simply a prophet who taught good things. They also believe that Jesus was rescued from the cross and that he did not die or rise from the dead.
4. How can anyone be accepted by God and get to heaven?
The Bible teaches that God saves from eternal punishment only those who repent of their sins and receive the Lord Jesus as the substitute for their sins (John 1:12; 2 Cor. 5:21). Muslims believe that paradise is a probability for those who follow the Five Pillars of Islam. But in the end, they hope that Allah will be merciful.
“Christians can share with Muslims that the Christian God transcends man’s finitude and sinfulness because He cares about people individually, and He loves individuals. Divine love is a concept missing from Islam and yet essential to human peace and happiness with God. A powerful witness of Scripture to God’s love is John 3:16.” (Martin 367)
“When told about Jesus, many Muslims will refuse to listen, claiming that our scriptures are distorted and untrustworthy.” However, the Bible is still true and must be believed. “Jesus Christ is truly God and is the only way to salvation.” (Martin 367)
“Tell the Muslim the good news that salvation and peace with God does not depend on his own insufficient efforts, but on the grace of God displayed through the atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross. No one can work his way to heaven (or Muslim paradise). The Muslim will agree that Allah could justly choose to bar all men from paradise since no man is perfect as Allah is perfect. However, biblical salvation does not depend on man’s imperfections. Biblical salvation depends on the work and love of God.” (Martin 367)
4. Show them a positive example (1 Tim. 4:12).
“When a Christian can demonstrate the power of the Word of God through the Holy Spirit, and use his own life as an example of the joy and peace possible to those who love Jesus Christ, he becomes an effective example… . (Martin 367)
Bardon, M. J., “A Comparison of Islamic Doctrine, Mormon Doctrine, and the Bible,” a chart posted in Frontline Magazine, March/April 2002, pp. 15. (Note that the entire issue is available as a pdf download at http://www.fbfi.org/pdf/MarApr2002.pdf.)
Carlson, Ron and Ed Decker, Fast Facts on False Teachings, (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1994), 99-115.
Dickson, Gordon, “Islam: What’s the Real Problem,” published in Frontline Magazine, March/April 2002, pp. 12-14. (Note that the entire issue is available as a pdf download at http://www.fbfi.org/pdf/MarApr2002.pdf.)
“Five Pillars of Islam” as posted at Wikipedia, as viewed on January 15, 2008.
“Five Pillars of Islam” as posted at http://www.islam101.com/dawah/pillars.html, as viewed on January 15, 2008.
“Islam,” posted at Wikipedia as viewed on January 14, 2008.
“Jihad,” as posted at Wikipedia and viewed on January 16, 2008.
Martin, Walter, The Kingdom of the Cults, (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1985), 364-367.
“Muhammad,” as posted at Wikipedia and viewed on January 15, 2008.
Vaughn, John C., “The Qur’an: Another Gospel,” published in Frontline Magazine, March/April 2002, pp. 9-11. (Note that the entire issue is available as a pdf download at http://www.fbfi.org/pdf/MarApr2002.pdf.)