The founder of Islam, Muhammad was born in 570 AD. Islam teaches that Muhammad, a 40 year-old merchant from Mecca received a vision while he was resting in a cave called Hira, which is about two miles from Mecca. This happened in the year 610 AD. Angel Gabriel appeared and told him to be the prophet to his people. So, Angel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad and anointed him as the final prophet. You can write off Islam based on this story alone. Because Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in Luke chapter one and announced the birth of Jesus. Gabriel told Mary, ‘behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name JESUS. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David. and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end.” Gabriel announced the birth of Messiah, the Son of God, who is the Savior of the world, who will sit on the throne of His father David. In Jesus, all the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled. Jesus lived in this world, preached the Word of God, died on the cross, buried and resurrected from the death. The revelation of God to humanity is complete and closed in Lord Jesus Christ. So, six hundred years after His resurrection, God would not send Gabriel to a cave near Mecca to start another religion. There was no need for another messenger because Jesus Christ was the final messenger of God to humanity. The will of God, the message of God, the plan of God, the salvation of God, we can obtain at the feet of Christ. Let us go back to the story.
Islam teaches that from 610 AD, over the next twenty years, Muhammad received different revelations from Allah. After Muhammad’s death, they were collected into a book we now call Quran. It was written in Arabic. Muhammad said that Allah who spoke through him was the same God revealed to Jews and Christians. He argued that his Quran was from God. He said five major prophets came before him: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Jews and Christians corrupted the message of God. Therefore, Allah decided to to speak through Muhammad. So, Muhammad put himself on a pedestal higher than that of Christ. That is blasphemy. Jesus Christ was God in human flesh. When you elevate yourself above Christ, you are elevating yourself above God, which is nothing but blasphemy.
In 622, Muhammad was forced to leave Mecca under pressure from his dissenters. He and his followers fled to Medina. In Medina, he acquired thousands of followers. In 630, he gathered an army of 10,000 converts and invaded Mecca. He destroyed all the idols at Mecca except a great shrine at the Ka’bah, where there was a large meteorite called the Black Stone. It became the geographical center of Islam ever since.
Muhammad died in the year 632 and the rest is history. Today, Islam is the second largest religion in the world with two large denominations: Sunnis comprising 85 percent of Muslims and shiites 15%.
- God of the Bible is triune, while Allah is a loner:
The fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity start with their doctrine of God. Christians uniquely believe in a triune God. One God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. These three persons dwell in eternal fellowship with each other. They love each other, they honor each other, they serve each other, they thank each other, they are in a sweet, self-sufficient, holy relationship with each other. Their creative work was motivated by their desire to share their joy with their creatures. They created angels and human beings. They created us, not because they needed something from us, but because they wanted to share their joy and love with us. Sin ruined their relationship, first with the disobedient angels and then the fallen human race. Then started the unfolding drama of human redemption. The triune God sent the second member of their being – Lord Jesus Christ to save us from our sins and bring us back into the divine fellowship. That is the central message of Christian faith: triune God reaching out to human beings through Lord Jesus Christ.
Islam denies this central message of Christian faith. It rejects the trinity. Allah is all by himself. This singularity of Allah is the foundational doctrine of Islam. There is a special word for this: Tawhid. Allah is one person. There are five pillars of faith in Islam. The first pillar is a statement called Shahada: ‘There is no God but God’. Shahada is a proclamation of tawhid. You can see the shahada on the flag of Saudi Arabia, on the flags of Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram. These terrorist organizations take particular aim at Christians because they see Christian faith as a rejection of shahada and tawhid. Quran has its own Jesus. In one of its chapters, 5:116, Allah says to Jesus, ‘Did you say to the people, ‘take me and my mother as two gods in addition to Allah?’. It was a rhetorical question, as you can expect, Jesus responds to Allah with a resounding ‘no’. Islam’s main accusation against Christianity is alleged polytheism: we add Jesus and Mary to divine godhead.
The second pillar of Islam is a prayer. This prayer is an intrinsic part of every Muslim. It starts and ends with Allahu akbar, meaning ‘Allah is great’. The tawhid and shahada are integral to the Muslim prayer: La Illaha Illa Allah.
When you talk to Muslims, tawhid and shahada become points of contention. Akbar was a Mughal emperor. He was ruling India when Queen Elizabeth was ruling England. Christian missionaries presented the gospel to Akbar. Officially Akbar had twelve wives. He also maintained a harem. Akbar did not accept the monogamous marriage, trinity and divinity of Christ. He reasoned, ‘polygamous marriage with a belief in monotheism is better than the monogamous marriage with a belief in polytheism’.
Like Akbar, Muslims think Christians are polytheists. But Christians are not polytheists. We don’t believe in three gods in three persons. We believe in one God in three persons. There is beauty in trinity: Love, dignity, holiness, honor, goodness, gratitude and every other noble quality we talk about, existed between the three persons of trinity throughout eternity. Islam’s central doctrine of tawhid is also its central flaw. Allah is a lonely person throughout eternity.
Did Allah love anyone before his creation of human beings and angels? Did Allah have any fellowship with anyone before his creation of human beings and angels? Did Allah have any relationships before his creation of human beings and angels? Unless he creates some persons, Allah is unable to show his qualities of love and relationship.
Trinity is a complex doctrine but it is a beautiful doctrine. Yes, Tawhid is simple to understand but simplicity is no warranty to reality. Albert Einstein is known for theory of relativity. He put time, space and matter in a complex relationship. In Newtonian system, time, space and matter are independent of each other, they were absolute and were easy to comprehend. But Einstein brought them into a complex, dependent web of physical reality. Einsteinian physics is more complex than Newtonian physics, but the former is a better description of reality than the latter. Trinity is more complex than Tawhid, but the former is far more meaningful, far more rational, far more relational, far more beautiful description of divinity than the latter.
It is true Tawhid put a restraint on idolatry. Because Allah is an absolute unity, his images or his messenger’s are not permitted in Islam. We do not find any images or statues of Allah. But this is not unique to Islam. I traveled across Israel, I could not find any images or statues of Jehovah. A strict reading of the Christian Bible also forbids us from drawing any images or figures of God or Jesus. Apostles of Christ just carried their Bibles. They did not build any statues for Jesus. After the end of apostolic Christianity, elements from pagan religions entered into Christian church. If you go to Florence or Rome, you can see statues of Jesus, David, Moses in the form of Greek gods. Many Muslims mistakenly think that this paganized version of Christianity is the true Christianity. Jesus in the form of Jupiter you see on the ceiling of Sistine Chapel is a corrupted version of Christianity. It is not from the New Testament. In John 4:24, Jesus said, ‘God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth’. Jesus calls us to worship in spirit and truth, not in flesh and falsehood. Jews are still awaiting for physical temple. Millions of Muslims flock to Mecca every year and run around a black stone. Is that not idolatry? to be fixated with a black stone? So, out of all three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – Christianity is the most spiritual as it was preached by Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles. The New Testament does not give us any hints about the physical appearance of Lord Jesus Christ. Every image of Jesus we have on our walls is a product of human imagination. There is a reason for this: what Jesus did for us on the cross is more important than how Jesus looked. That is where we receive the righteousness of God: the cross of Christ.
Nabeel Qureshi is now in heaven with the Lord. He was a Muslim. He was searching for Allah; he was struggling to achieve righteousness before God through his own efforts. Then he realized that his righteousness was like filthy rags before God. In humility, he went to the cross and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
It may sound odd but the terrorist in New York City was trying to gain favor in the sight of Allah by killing infidels. How can we fight terrorism? The most important weapon is the gospel of Lord Jesus Christ.
Our enemy is not Islam. Our enemy is our own unbelief. Back in 1978, English writer Anthony Burgess published a dystopian novel entitled 1985. It was a tribute to George Orwell’s 1984.The first chapter, ‘The Yuletide Fire’ opens with this line:“It was the week before Christmas, Monday midday, mild and muggy, and the muezzins of West London were yodeling about there being no God but Allah” 1978, almost forty years ago, Anthony Burgess predicted the rise of Islam in Britain. First you embrace Darwinism and naturalism, then you lose faith in the Bible, soon churches will be empty, empty churches lead to empty wombs, a demographic decline will descend on your society; your government then brings on millions of immigrants who will come, take your empty churches and convert them into mosques and produce radicals ,some of whom become terrorists. Pretty much,this is the story of every Western nation in our time. Is there any hope? There’s if we rediscover God, return to our Christian roots and rededicate our lives to the Word of God. Let us pray.
PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus Christ, we pray for your grace upon America. We pray that you comfort the family members of the victims who lost their lives in New York City. We pray that you open the hearts and minds of the people of our generation to see you as their Saviour, Lord and God. In your precious name we pray, Amen.
Paul Kattupalli MD