There’s no better time for a Christian to start a period of sober reflection on what your faith means, and how it is different than other faiths, than Ash Wednesday. Of course the Page One news lately has been about clashes and confusion involving Christianity and Islam. I already had to give up candy because of a borderline diabetes diagnosis last year. Sniff, sniff. So my Lenten “sacrifice” this year is going to be a 40-day series exploring the many differences between these two major belief systems in our world.
I am one of those that Muslims call “The People of the Book” — I’m a Christian, and the other “people” so nicknamed are the Jews. My relationship with the God of the Bible is very, very different than the picture of Allah as taught in the Qur’an by the prophet that Muslims believe brought the true word of God, Muhammad (the Messenger).
I have studied Islam for several years now, have a couple of Muslim friends, and think I have a pretty good grasp of the differences between Islam and Christianity, from matters of culture to governance to human interaction to religious doctrine. I would like to share these insights with you this Lenten season.
I will try to keep these articles short and thought-provoking, with hopes that you have built, or soon will build, a good relationship with a Muslim person. I pray that you can eventually trust one another enough to explore these “hot potato” issues and come to a real and meaningful understanding — and yes, stay friends.
So let’s start with the biggie. Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? They both CALL God “God.” Are they conceptualizing the same Being?
Well, the truth is, absolutely not. No way, no how.
Here’s how we know: Christians say Jesus is divine — the Savior who won eternal life for believers — God. Muslims say the Bible got “corrupted,” and the stuff that Christians believe is mostly false.
The Qur’an, the Muslims’ holy book, says that Jesus Christ was a great prophet, on a par with Noah, Abraham, Moses and Muhammad, but as a matter of fact, they say, Muhammad was even a bigger deal than Jesus, according to Islamic doctrine. All of them were merely human and not divine. In fact, if you believe in the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost all in one Being), you are guilty of “shirk,” which they consider idolatry and blasphemy. The Qur’an denies that Christ died on the cross to ransom our sins and earn us eternal life, and it denies that He rose from the grave physically three days later.
According to the Qur’an, Jesus Christ is not God, was not sent to Earth as the Son of God, there is no Trinity, the Crucifixion was a hoax, and Muslims ought to subjugate or kill Christians along with Jews:
“(I)t would not befit God to have a child. He is far above that: when He decrees something, He says only, ‘Be,’ and it is. (Quoting infant Jesus) ‘God is my Lord and your Lord, so serve Him: that is a straight path.'”
(Note: This passage denies that Jesus was the Son of God in contradiction to the Bible, quotes Jesus as speaking at age two days from the cradle while there is nothing like that in the Bible, and goes on to say that Jesus should not be worshipped. Despite the heresies, these verses from the Qur’an were sung aloud during a Eucharist service at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow in January 2017. That holiday is supposed to mark the feast of the Epiphany, in which Jesus is revealed to be the Son of God.)
“Fight those of the People of the Book who do not (truly) believe in God and the Last Day, who do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden, who do not obey the rule of justice, until they pay the tax promptly and agree to submit. The Jews said, ‘Ezra is the son of God,’ and the Christians said, ‘The Messiah is the son of God’: they said this with their own mouths, repeating what earlier disbelievers had said. May God thwart them! How far astray they have been led!”
(Note: at the time Muhammad dictated the Qur’an, there may have been a certain group of people who claimed that Jews venerated Ezra, although of course that is not true in the Bible or legitimate Jewish doctrine.)
Remember what Jesus told us in the Bible:
“No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
So the Bible says if you deny Christ as your God and Savior as depicted in the Bible, then you don’t go to heaven. But Muslims deny Christ’s divinity and deny that He is the one and only way of salvation.
In the realm of differences of opinion, that, my friends, is a biggie. There are lots more.
Let’s stick together from now ’til Easter, and explore other differences which, when revealed in friendship between Muslims and Christians, reveals truth and gives hope for mutual understanding.