Understanding Islam from a Christian Perspective

 

Continuing our pull-out series from Understanding Islam from a Christian Perspective, a popular and informative book by Rosemary Sookhdeo, Barnabas Fund’s International Director of Finance, this excerpt is the first part of a table showing the key theological differences between the two religions in tabular form.

A table comparing and contrasting doctrinal points in Islam and Christianity

ISLAM

CHRISTIANITY

THE QURAN

It has 114 chapters ( suras ) and is roughly the size of the New Testament. The suras are put together in order of length, the longest ones at the beginning and the shortest at the end, except the first sura The Opening ( al-Fatihah ). Muslims believe the Quran is uncreated, eternally preserved on a tablet in heaven, known as the “Mother of the Book” ( sura 85:21-22). That was communicated word-for-word to Muhammad in Arabic over a period of 23 years ( sura 12:2). Muslims believe the angel Gabriel, sent by Allah, visited Muhammad with the revelations ( sura 26:193).

It is considered by Muslims to be the ultimate error-free authority on Islam.

The Quran is considered the final revelation of Allah to mankind, after the Torah ( Taurat ) of Moses, the Psalms ( Zabur ) of David and the Gospel ( Injil ) of Jesus. Muslims say that these Scriptures (except the Quran) have been corrupted over time by the Jews and Christians.

Muslims believe that the Bible and all other holy books have been superseded by the Quran.

Many of the verses in the Quran are contradictory. Some of these contradictions are overcome by the Doctrine of Abrogation. This means that many of the suras (chapters) that were revealed earlier in Muhammad’s life are superseded by those that were revealed at a later date ( suras 2:106, 13:39).

THE BIBLE

It consists of 66 books written over a period of 1,400 years by over 40 authors in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

They wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “…no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

The Bible is the infallible word of God and is the ultimate authority for Christians.

ALLAH (GOD)

God is known as Allah. He is absolute oneness ( tawheed ). Sura 112 states “He is Allah, the One and Only”.

To put anyone or anything equal to Allah is the sin of shirk (polytheism). Therefore he has no equal partner, children or son and therefore there is no Trinity ( tathlith ) ( sura 4:171).

Muslims are often confused about the Christian Trinity and some believe it is God the father, Mary the mother and Jesus the son (sura 5:116).

GOD

God is one in an eternal Trinity, made up of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Not three gods, rather a unity of the Godhead: “In the beginning God…”, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Genesis 1:1; Matthew 28:19).

ALLAH IS NOT A GOD OF LOVE

Allah is not a god of love. He does not love sinners ( suras 2:276, 3:57, 4:107).

GOD IS LOVE

It was out of His love for mankind that God sent His Son: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us”. “God is love” (John 3:16; Roman 5:8; 1 John 4:8).

ALLAH IS NOT FATHER

Allah is unknowable and is not referred to as “father”. He is transcendent ( tanzih ) and powerful.

GOD IS FATHER

God has adopted those who believe in His Son as His heavenly children: “Dear friends, now we are children of God” (1 John 3:2). God is a knowable, heavenly Father. He is transcendent and immanent, full of grace and glory: ‘Am I only a God nearby’ declares the Lord, ‘and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:23-24).

ALLAH IS CREATOR

Allah is the creator of the world ( suras 23:14, 6:102, 13:16).

GOD IS CREATOR

God is almighty, the Creator and sustainer of the world (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 148:5).

ALLAH HAS NOT REVEALED HIMSELF TO MANKIND

Allah is self-sufficient ( sura 31:26).

Allah predetermines everything; the destiny of creation is fixed (suras 25:2, 65:3). He determines all according to his mercy and wisdom ( suras 2:216, 42:27). All things are decreed by Allah ( sura 85:16). He can decree both good and evil.

GOD HAS REVEALED HIMSELF IN JESUS

He has revealed Himself to mankind in the person of Jesus: “Jesus answered: ‘… Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’” (John 14:9).

ATTRIBUTES AND ACTIONS

Allah is best understood from his traditional 99 most beautiful names ( sura 7:180) although there are more than 99 found in the Quran. They reveal his attributes, for example: holy, eternal, compassionate, the one, the hidden, the manifest, the light, the most high, the omniscient, the living, the omnipotent, the seeing, the hearing, the wise, the dominator, the strong and the crafty one ( suras 3:54, 8:30). And they reveal his actions: the guide, the provider, the gentle, the just, the merciful, the harmer, the withholder, the avenger, the abaser and the one who leads astray ( sura 6:39).

Some of Allah’s actions and attributes are not consistent with the Biblical God.

ATTRIBUTES AND ACTIONS

God is described in the Bible as eternal, glorious, almighty, merciful, holy, righteous, forgiving, omnipotent, incomparable and omniscient. His actions are loving, just and wise.

JESUS (Isa)

In the Quran, Jesus’ name is “ Isa ”, and is often called “ Isa son of Mary”. In most places he is called “apostle of Allah” ( sura 3:49), but also “servant of Allah” ( sura 19:30), “al-Masih”(the “Messiah”, but not in the specific Biblical meaning) ( sura 3:45), “a sign for mankind” ( sura 19:21), a “word of Allah” ( sura 4:171) and “a spirit from him” ( sura 21:91).

JESUS

The Bible has many names for Jesus. Some are: Creator, Saviour, the Word, Holy One, Image of the Invisible God, Lord, Prince of Peace, Mediator and Messiah (Christ).

VIRGIN BIRTH

Isa was born of the virgin Mary, and was fully human
(
sura 3:42-47).

VIRGIN BIRTH

Jesus was born of the virgin Mary and was fully human: “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14).

JESUS IS NOT THE SON OF GOD

Isa is a created being and is only a man ( suras 3:59, 5:75). Isa is not the son of God or divine ( suras 9:30, 19:34-35).

JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD

Jesus is fully human and fully divine. He is the Son of God: “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:17. See also John 1:14, 18).

JESUS IS A PROPHET

Isa is a great prophet sent by Allah who is held in honour in this world and in the hereafter ( sura 3:45). He announces Muhammad as the next and last prophet ( sura 61:6).

JESUS IS THE FULFILMENT OF THE PROPHETS

Jesus is the fulfilment of the law and the prophets: “Do not think that I [Jesus] have come to abolish the Law of the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them” (Matthew 5:17).

JESUS PERFORMED MIRACLES

Isa was a miracle-worker. “With the permission of God” he made a clay bird come to life (the Arabic word khalaqa is used only for God’s creating work). He healed, raised the dead and knew the unknown ( sura 3:49).

JESUS PERFORMED MIRACLES

Jesus performed miracles during His earthly ministry to reveal His glory: “This, the first of His miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him” (John 2:11). This included bringing the dead to life: “… Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face” (John 11:43-44).

JESUS DID NOT DIE ON THE CROSS OR RISE FROM THE DEAD

Isa did not die on a cross and he did not rise from the dead. Another man died in the place of Isa on the cross. Muslims believe that Allah would not allow one of his prophets to die a death of disgrace ( sura 4:157).

JESUS DIED ON THE CROSS AND ROSE AGAIN

Jesus died on a cross because of the sin of mankind: “It was the third hour when they crucified Him”. “But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs” (Mark 15:25; John 19:33). He defeated death and was raised from the dead on the third day: “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared to Mary Magdalene …” (Mark 16:9. See also 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; Romans 4:25).

JESUS ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN

Muslims believe that Isa ascended to heaven, where he still lives and will one day return ( suras 3:55, 4:157-8).

JESUS ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN

He ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God the Father until the Second Coming: “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and He sat at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19).

JESUS WILL COME AGAIN BUT AS A MUSLIM

Isa will return to earth as a Muslim at the Second Coming, he will get married, have children, convert all Christians to Islam, some traditions say destroy the Jews, break all crosses, rule as king of the Muslims, kill all swine, die and be buried alongside Muhammad in Medina ( Sahih Muslim* 1:287,289; Al-Tirmidhi * 1522).

JESUS WILL COME AGAIN AS KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS

“They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31).

HOLY SPIRIT

The Quran speaks only very vaguely about a spirit, sometimes called “holy spirit” ( rul al-qudus ) ( sura 16:102). Muslims identify him with angel Gabriel.

HOLY SPIRIT

The Holy Spirit is part of the triune Godhead: “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be upon you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’. And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21-22).

CREATION

Allah created the heavens and the earth in six days
(
suras 29:44, 50:38).

CREATION

God created the universe in six days. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

CREATION OF MANKIND

Allah created man from either clay or a blood-clot to worship and obey him ( suras 32:7, 96:2, 51:56).

CREATION OF MANKIND

God created man in his own image: “So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

ADAM AND EVE CREATED WEAK

Adam was created “weak”, i.e. not perfect ( sura 4:28).

ADAM AND EVE CREATED SINLESS

God created Adam and Eve innocent and sinless.

THE FALL OF MAN

The story of mankind’s fall was actually an equal challenge between Allah and Satan ( sura 7:11-17, 24). Satan was disobedient to God because he did not prostrate before Adam. Adam and Eve got caught up in this challenge and were tempted by Satan in Paradise (heaven).

THE FALL OF MAN

Satan tempted Eve to sin. Eve then tempted Adam. They both disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food … she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it” (Genesis 3:6). In Christianity Adam and Eve were tempted on earth.

THE RESULT OF THE FALL

Adam and Eve repented and God accepted their repentance ( suras 2:37, 7:23). Adam and Eve were then cast down to earth without sin ( sura 2:36). Because their sin was a personal lapse it did not bring innate sin on the whole of mankind. Therefore there is no need for a Saviour to pay the ransom for sin.

THE RESULT OF THE FALL

This sin against God resulted in their expulsion from the earthly Garden of Eden and separation from God: “So the Lord God banished him [Adam] from the Garden of Eden …” (Genesis 3:23). Their actions had the consequence of bringing sin into the world, which brought death. Humans are sinners and completely lost (Romans 6:23).

Therefore to save mankind, there needed to be a second Adam (Jesus) who would be a blood sacrifice, breaking the power of sin and healing the divide between God and mankind.

AFTER DEATH

At death the angel Izra’il separates the soul from the body ( sura 32:11). In the grave there is an examination by the angels Munkar and Nakir, which sometimes involves torture. Prayer for the dead is beneficial ( sura 59:10).Between death and the Judgement Day the soul rests in purgatory ( barzakh ).

AFTER DEATH

Christ will come again to judge the world. Only God the Father knows this appointed time. Christ will come as the King of kings in power and splendour, heralded in by angels. The dead will be raised: “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens” (Mark 13:26-27).

JUDGEMENT DAY (Yaum ad-din Yaum al-hisab)

The angel Israf‘il will blow the trumpet ( sur ) to announce the last day. The dead will be raised ( sura 39:67-75). The balance of the good and bad deeds will be weighed ( suras 21:47, 23:102-3). There will be a sharp bridge for all humanity to cross (the bridge of sirat) over hell fire. Those whose good deeds exceed their bad deeds will pass over it. Heaven in Islam is through works, but there is no assurance and nothing can be guaranteed.

JUDGEMENT DAY

All must appear before the judgement seat of Christ. Those who did not put their faith in Christ will be judged with eternal punishment. For the Christian, it is only their works that will be judged: “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that everyone may receive what is due them for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10. See also John 3:18; Matthew 25:31-46).

SIGNS OF THE END TIMES

Only Allah and Jesus know when the Judgement Day will be. Jesus has knowledge of the hour ( sura 43:61). The signs of the last days include lesser signs and greater signs, The lesser signs are an increase of injustice, sin, faithlessness, shamelessness and tribulation. The greater signs will be the Antichrist ( Dajjal ), the Beast of the earth, the rising of the sun in the west, the return of Jesus, Gog and Magog and also the appearance of the Mahdi. On Judgement Day all creatures will die and the universe will be destroyed. There are many signs of the end times that are similar in both religions.

SIGNS OF THE END TIMES

The signs of the end times include: wars, natural disasters, false prophets and an increase of sin in the world: “… many will come in my [Jesus] name, claiming ‘I am the Christ’, and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation …There will be famines and earthquakes …’” (Matthew 24:5-7). There will be a new heaven and a new earth for the believers to dwell in: “… for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away …” (Revelation 21:1).

This table also appears in Rosemary Sookhdeo, Why Christian Women Convert to Islam, 2nd  US ed. McLean: Isaac Publishing, 2016, pp. 105-125.

* A hadith collection

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