Islam is considered one of the three Abrahamic faiths (along with Judaism and Christianity), is the world's second-largest religion, and was founded in the seventh century by Muhammad. More than one billion people around the world are considered Muslim.
What do Muslims believe? What is Islam?
Islam's origin is told as follows: In the seventh century, Muhammad claimed the angel Gabriel visited him. During these angelic visitations, which continued for about 23 years until Muhammad's death, this angel purportedly revealed to Muhammad the words of Allah (the Arabic word for "God" used by Muslims). These dictated revelations were collected in the Muslim holy book, called the Qur'an, that consists of 114 suras (or surahs, meaning chapters).
While there are many subgroups within Islam, the three major groups include Shia (or Shiite), Sunni, and Sufi Muslims. Each practices Islam somewhat differently, yet all hold to the five pillars of Islam, the Qur'an as its holy book, and six key doctrines of Islam.
These five pillars include:
1. The testimony of faith (shahada): "la ilaha illa allah. Muhammad rasul Allah." This means, "There is no deity but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah." A person can convert to Islam by stating this creed. The shahada shows that a Muslim believes in Allah alone as deity and believes that Muhammad reveals Allah.
2. Prayer (salat): Five ritual prayers must be performed every day.
3. Giving (zakat): This almsgiving is a certain percentage given once a year (2.5 percent of one's income).
4. Fasting (sawm): Muslims fast during Ramadan in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. They must not eat or drink from dawn until sunset.
5. Pilgrimage (hajj): If physically and financially possible, a Muslim must make the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least once. The hajj is performed in the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar.
A Muslim's entrance into paradise is based on one's level of obedience to these five pillars. Still, Allah may reject them. Even Muhammad was not sure whether Allah would admit him to paradise (Surah 46:9; Hadith 5.266).
The six key teachings in the doctrine of Islam include:
1. Belief in one Allah: Muslims believe Allah is one, eternal, creator, and sovereign.
2. Belief in the angels: Both good and bad angels exist.
3. Belief in the prophets: The prophets include the biblical prophets but end with Muhammad as Allah's final prophet (Jesus is considered one of many prophets.).
4. Belief in the revelations of Allah: Muslims accept certain portions of the Bible, such as the Torah and the Gospels. They believe the Qur'an is the preexistent, perfect word of Allah.
5. Belief in the last day of judgment and the afterlife: Everyone will be resurrected for judgment into either paradise or hell.
6. Belief in predestination: Muslims believe Allah has decreed everything that will happen. Muslims testify to Allah's sovereignty with their frequent phrase, inshallah, meaning "if God wills."
In comparison with the Bible's teachings, Islam shares some similarities but also major differences. Among the major differences, four can be easily demonstrated:
View of God: Muslims believe in one God named Allah and reject the concept of the Trinity that includes God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit as God.
Holy Books: Muslims accept the Qur'an and the Hadith (commentaries on the Qur'an) as inspired. They teach that the Bible is a good book that has been corrupted. This stands in strong contrast with the Christian belief of the Bible as the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).
Jesus Christ: Jesus is considered a prophet in the Qur'an, but not God's Son or divine. Many Muslims also believe Jesus did not die on the cross (Some suggest Judas died in His place on the cross.). In Islam Jesus was one of many prophets, but is not considered the way, the truth, and the life (as in John 14:6) and is not considered the Messiah.
Salvation and the Afterlife: In Islam, salvation is based on good works, primarily obedience to the five pillars, along with the Qur'an's other teaching. Through obedience, a Muslim can earn eternity in paradise with Allah. This is much different than salvation as presented in the Bible that is based on God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone apart from human works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Further, the Bible teaches the only way to spend eternity with God is through Jesus, not through other gods.
Because of these essential differences and contradictions, Islam and Christianity cannot both be true. Each religion holds vast differences on major areas of belief. As a result, Muslims are compelled to evaluate the claims of Jesus as presented in the Bible while Christians are urged and commanded to share Jesus with Muslims whenever possible (Matthew 28:18-20).
Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?
How can a Muslim be assured of paradise?
Will keeping the Five Pillars of Islam get me to heaven/Paradise?
Should a Muslim read the Bible? Does the Qur'an reject the Bible?
Does the Qur'an replace the Bible?
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