The Heart of Islam

With the prominence of Islam in the news you would think that everyone knows a lot about it [and especially all those reporters]. In fact, if you followed many reports you'd be sure that all the Islamic extremists are just misguided zealots that don't know what the Koran (alt spelling Qur'an) really says. Islam is truly a peace loving, progressive, religion we're assured. Following September 11, many churches held 'information' sessions to show how much Christians have in common with Islam. Similar courses have and are being held in Bible schools and seminaries. The purpose of this article is not to provide detailed information on all aspects of Islam [something we may provide in the future], rather it's intended to highlight the one most important area where Islam differs with Christianity.

Before the rest of this article focuses on its intended subject, don't let silence be construed as condoning other teachings of the Koran. From subtle changes and rewriting of Biblical subjects, ranging from the story of Moses (as partially conveyed in the popular children's cartoon, The Prince of Egypt), to verses like the following...

Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other... As for those [women] from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them. (Surah 4:34)

... the Koran shows itself to stand opposed to the truth revealed in the Old and New Testaments. In fact, the bits and pieces of the Bible that are interspersed throughout the Koran testify to the historical fact the Muhammad (alt spelling Mohammed) was illiterate and drew on all the religious traditions in the area, including Judaism and Christianity. Blatant factual/historical errors, that Muslim commentators have tried to explain away, reflect what happens when only part of the truth is known (example: Surah 19:26, "Maryam – their transliterated spelling for Mary mother of Jesus – sister of Aaron." Likely confused with Old Testament Aaron whose sister was Mariam!). Embellishments to Biblical accounts, often significantly changing their meaning are defended as...

That which We have now revealed to you is secret history: it was unknown to you and your people. (Surah 11:49, emphasis mine)

Later works in the Koran are taken to supersede earlier works to deal with other internal contradictions contained within its sections. This is a far cry from the Christian understanding that the Bible is the infallible word of God from beginning to end, without contradiction or error (2 Timothy 3:16-17). From a Christian perspective, one of the most dangerous things about Islam, and one of the reasons for its historical success, is that it contains a ring of truth. But, remember, if something is not 100% the truth, even if it's 99% the truth, it's a lie. And that makes it a weapon in the hands of the one that Scriptures calls "the father of all lies" (John 8:44).

To get to the heart of Islam, you need to first understand the heart of Christianity. The apostle Paul clearly identified it when he said...

But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:23-24)

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:14-15a)

Christianity is all about Jesus Christ. For that matter, all of Scripture is about Jesus Christ (John 5:39). Even more focused, the message is that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, came to earth, was crucified, buried, and raised to life. Paul was right in stating that the crucifixion is foolishness to Gentiles. This can range from the attitude of "I don't care," to denial of the historical fact. Islam merely shows its heart to be that of the unsaved Gentile world when their doctrine is examined...

Whereupon he [Jesus as a baby in the cradle, see preceding verse] spoke and said: 'I am the servant of God. He has given me the Book and ordained me a prophet...' Such was Jesus son of Mary. That is the whole truth, which they [Christians] still doubt. God forbid that He [God] Himself should beget a son! (Surah 19:30)

Having denied that Jesus is the Son of God (contrast John 3:16), these additional passages of the Koran teach that Jesus was never crucified...

They [Jews] denied the truth and uttered a monstrous falsehood against Mary. They declared: 'We have put to death the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the apostle of God.' They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did... God lifted him up to Himself. (Surah 4:155-158)

To expound on their teaching a bit, they believe that God would never allow his prophet Jesus to die the cruel death of crucifixion, so God took him straight to heaven, leaving another person who looked the same to die in Jesus' place. This is why the Koran says "they thought they did," in regards to the Jews believing that Jesus died on the cross. Islam completely ignores the love God displayed in providing a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

Note carefully that the belief that God would not allow Jesus to be crucified not only discards the crucifixion, and any need of it, but also a death, burial, and resurrection. Getting back to what Paul said, if Jesus was never raised from the dead our faith and preaching is useless and all the apostles are nothing more than false teachers.

The Koran insists in its pages, over and over, that it is not to be doubted. Yet its claim, that it confirms what was revealed before it, rests on the ignorance of the hearer. Rather than "fully explaining" Scriptures, it contradicts them over and over. A fact that is now explained away as being distortions made by Jews and Christians. Once again, the overwhelming evidence of manuscripts, stretching far before the Koran, testify to the accuracy of Biblical Scriptures and their transmission to us.

This Koran could not have been devised by any but God. It confirms what was revealed before it and fully explains the Scriptures. It is beyond doubt from the Lord of the Universe. (Surah 10:34)

The Koran even admonishes Christians for supposedly telling lies about Jesus...

People of the Book [Christians], do not transgress the bounds of your religion. Speak nothing but the truth about God. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was no more than God's apostle... And do not say: 'Three [Trinity].' Forbear, and it shall be better for you. God is but one God. God forbid that He should have a son! (Surah 4:171)

Those who say: 'The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,' preach a monstrous falsehood... (Surah 19:85)

To say that Jesus is God, the second person of the Trinity, is deeply offensive to Islam. While the Triune nature of God is admittedly hard to understand, it is the one God who revealed Himself. [And that God would be beyond our full understanding makes sense. Would you want to worship a God that you could fully understand?]. Islam's entire earthly focus is on the man Mohammed. He alone is considered to be the great Apostle or Prophet, greater than all who came before, including Jesus. This in spite of the fact that Mohammed is known to have died and stayed dead (June 8, 632 A.D.). Jesus is considered to be just one of a long line of apostles or prophets from old (example: Surah 19:45-52), whose message was merely to point to one that would come after him.

And of Jesus son of Mary, who said to the Israelites: 'I am sent forth to you from God to confirm the Torah already revealed, and to give news of an apostle that will come after me whose name is Ahmad.' [Ahmad is another name of Mohammed, meaning "The Praised One"] (Surah 61:6)

To the Muslim, Mohammed as the last Prophet or Apostle, was/is the greatest and his message is superior to all the others...

You people! The Apostle [Mohammed] has brought you the Truth from your Lord. (Surah 4:170)

It is He [God] who has sent forth His apostle [Mohammed] with guidance and the True Faith [Islam] that he may exalt it above all religions... (Surah 61:6)

This is the heart of Islam and all the unsaved Gentile world — the denial of Jesus Christ and his crucifixion. While Moslems go on to focus on Mohammed for their excuse, every non believer that has ever lived comes up with their own. From a Christian view point this means that we should treat them no different than any other unsaved individual. They need the truth of the gospel too. The historicity of Jesus Christ, his life, crucifixion and resurrection are incontestable — a fact that many have investigated throughout history. Moreover, the message of God's grace and payment for sin, that we can find God's forgiveness and life in Jesus Christ, is something that Islam knows nothing of. To the Moslem, God's mercy can only be remotely hoped for and perhaps gained by works. If God forgives He does so on a whim without payment for sin. The popular picture of God using a scale to weigh out our good versus bad works on the day of judgment is also found in the Koran...

We shall set up just scales on the Day of Resurrection, so that no man shall in the least be wronged. Actions as small as a grain of mustard seed shall be weighed out. Our [God's] reckoning shall suffice. (Surah 21:45)

Working one's way into the presence of a Holy God, who must judge all sin, is something that no one would want. What good could one do that would outweigh the evil actions, thoughts and intents of our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9-10)? And since the Bible assures us that any sin earns death as a penalty (Romans 3:23, 6:23), beyond that one sin all the good in the world doesn't do away with the just punishment of that one sin (and how much more for each additional!). To any seeking salvation by works, there really is no hope (Isaiah 64:6). The Biblical message, that a believer in Jesus Christ can know with certainty that their sin's are paid for, is something all Moslems need to hear...

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17)

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (John 3:36)

"People of the Book," do you know what it says? This phrase from the Koran should be taken as high praise by Christians. Truly we are people of God's only Book, the Bible! Even those that Mohammed came in contact with hundreds of years ago (c. 600 A.D.) stood out, at least nominally, for their love of God's Word. In those pages are the only message of hope for all the world (John 14:6). Paul's warning regarding any that would change (or distort) this message still applies...

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. 11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:8-12)

Every writer of Biblical Scriptures knew with assurance where his message came from! That Mohammed professed to get his revelation from the angel Gabriel makes no difference (even as Joseph Smith, more than a thousand years later, professed to get Mormon doctrine from the angel Moroni). If it opposes God's eternal gospel it's a lie. The handed down account of Mohammed's first encounter with this angel and the very first words he was commanded to recite (professing that man was made from "clots of blood" instead of the "dust of the earth") are given in contradiction to Genesis 2:7 — showing this spirit to be a deceiving one from the very beginning.

And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11:14-15b)

For more about the Muslim Isa (the Qur'anic name of Jesus) versus the Jesus of the Bible see this article: Is the Muslim Isa the Jesus of Scriptures?

Written by Brent MacDonald of Lion Tracks Ministries. (c) 2002.
Feel free to duplicate as long as the source is cited.