Muslims and Christians both worship a deity they call “God.” But Who are they thinking about, when they think about the supernatural Being they call “God”?
When you explore the contrasting conceptions between Muslims and Christians of Who God is, you can see that it is not true that “we worship the same God.” Yes, both Allah and Jehovah God are acknowledged by their respective faith systems as being the Creator of the Universe. Both faiths believe in heaven, hell, angels and the resurrection of all people in the very end of time. But it gets foggy after that.
We’ve already acknowledged the central difference — that Christians believe Jesus Christ is God, ransomed us for salvation through His death on the Cross, and arose three days later, but Muslims do not believe that. It’s an unbridgeable chasm between the two faiths. Consider 1 John 2:22: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” That’s pretty direct.
But Muslims have the same claim against Christians, who believe in the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, three “faces” or Persons of God in one Being. Muslims can’t stand that idea, repudiate the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and insist that God is one Being, period, and His name is Allah: “If anyone associates others with God, God will forbid him from the Garden, and Hell will be his home. No one will help (such) evildoers.” (Qur’an 5:72) Muslims apparently think that Christians believe God the Father must have had sex with the Virgin Mary in order to produce Jesus, which of course is highly offensive and insulting to Christians, who believe in the Immaculate Conception. But there you have it. Muslims have two words to describe the oneness of God: ahad, to deny that God has any partner or companion, and wahid, the concept that there is only one God for all the people of the world, and He is Allah.
Do Muslims realize how insulting those concepts are to Christians? It doesn’t appear so.
Further, Islam condemns not only Christians for believing in Christ, but condemns all who do not believe in Allah: “Allah is but the One God. He is far too immaculate to have any son. . . .” (Qur’an 4:171) In 5:73, the Qur’an condemns the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and emphasizes the Islamic doctrine of tawhid, the absolute oneness of God. Muslims have a word, shirk, for what they call the “error” of thinking of God with any other concepts other than what is expressed in the Qur’an and other holy Islamic documents. It’s dead serious blasphemy, to them. Shirk is especially applied to polytheists such as Hindus, but Jews and Christians still do not get a pass even though they are monotheists like Muslims.
So, essentially, WE think THEY are going to hell for not believing in the God of the Bible as revealed as Jesus Christ, and THEY think WE are going to hell for not believing in Allah as disclosed in the Qur’an. What makes this clear distinction very confusing is what Muslims are instructed to say to Christians and Jews in the Qur’an 29:46, to try to woo them into Islam: “. . . (O)ur God and your God is one (and the same); we are devoted to Him.”
Devoted to the God of the Bible? But they deny that Jesus Christ is God? No wonder there are so many misunderstandings between well-meaning people in this arena.
How else are the concepts of God different between Muslims and Christians?
— Fatherhood. The Qur’an states repeatedly that Allah has only one Essence: “Say, ‘He is God the one, God the eternal. He begot no one nor was He begotten. No one is comparable to Him.” (112:1-4) There is no concept in Islam of Allah as a father. That’s in stark contrast to Christianity, which repeatedly refers to “God the Father.” The Christian concept of the Trinity is like a man who, within his own skin, is all three of these: a son, a father, and maybe an architect or a teacher. Three “persons,” but all the same being. Muslims do not see that as a possibility with God. In 5:18, the Qur’an instructs Muslims to rebuke Jews and Christians for referring to God as a loving Father, because they see that concept as a come-down for Allah; humans are merely God’s creatures, never able to attain the stature of God’s children, according to Islamic teachings.
— God as knowable or unknowable. The Muslim idea of God is that everything is based on Allah’s will, and because things that happen are often contradictory, the conclusion is that God’s nature is inscrutable. You don’t have to know Allah, just obey Him. On the other hand, Christianity is built around the idea of a God who knows each one of us down to the hairs on our heads, and in return, our whole lives should be spent getting to know God better and better, and drawing as close to Him as we can, through prayer, Bible study, fellowship with other believers, and disciplines such as fasting and tithing. Of course the God of the Bible wants obedience, too, but the relationship with the believer — knowing one another — is His key goal.
— God’s morality. In Islam, God doesn’t have to forgive you; in 3:33 it says “God loveth not those Who reject Faith.” In Christianity, God is depicted as loving unbelievers just as much as believers, and wanting every single person to come to faith in Him. In the Qur’an, God is described as “the One Who leads astray” and “the One Who brings damage.” He is called “the Bringer-down,” “the Compeller,” the “Tyrant” and “the Haughty.” In stark contrast is the God of the Bible, whose character is described as “good” repeatedly in the Bible, and in Titus 1:1-2 He is described as being the essence of truthfulness, incapable of lying.
— Symbols. Islam has the crescent moon with a star, hearkening back to the very early days of Islam, when “Allah” was a black stone worshipped as a moon god, one of many pagan idols at the time. The flag of Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood logo have a sword, which appears to signify the importance of violence, threats, fighting and warfare in order to establish the “peace” that Islam promises once everyone has submitted to Islam. These symbols contrast with Christian symbols such as the cross, the dove, the fish and the star, none of which connote paganism or violence.