Islam Where to Start? An Introduction to the Muslim Faith By Joe Harper. Reformed Truther Ministries
Updated: Sep 30, 2022
Islam is spreading all over the world at incredible speed. Islam is not only the world’s second largest religion after Christianity (Professing Christianity) but is the fastest growing religion in the world. Islam is no longer contained to just the Middle East or the traditional Muslim world. Today there are 1.8 Billion Muslims living all over the World. In fact, the nation with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia and next two countries being Pakistan and India. Only 20 percent of Muslims live in Arab countries while 62 percent live in the Asia-Pacific region. This shows that Islam is truly a global religion.
The Islamic faith is entering the west at incredible speed. Largely through the means of Immigration Muslims have been entering both Europe and the United States. Many nations in Europe including Great Britain, France, Germany and the Scandinavian countries all have significant Muslim populations. The migrant crisis in Europe has accelerated this process with larger groups of Muslims crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Syria hoping to find refuge in Europe. Islam has also grown in the U.S. with over three and a half million Muslims living in the United States ranking at about one percent of the population. While this number is still small it still represents significant growth for a religion which historically has not had any significant presence in the United States.
What Islam’s growth means practically for Christians living in the west is that interactions with Muslims is now a likely possibility in a way that it has not been historically. No longer will Missionaries serving overseas be the only ones trying to reach Muslims with the gospel. Christians will now be called to witness to their Muslim neighbors much closer to home. Islam is a religion that is significantly different from Christianity. These differences are not merely doctrinal in nature but also reflect a different way of thinking than is found in Christian thought. As a result, Christians trying to get a basic understanding of Islam can find it to be a daunting task. Islam is a vast religion with a number of different Schools of thought. This means that it can be a struggle to figure out where to start in the study of Islam. This article is intended to give a basic overview of Islamic beliefs which will give Christians a foundation for further study of Islam.
Islam which is the Arabic word for submission means submission to the will of Allah. The word Muslim is a synonym of Islam which means one who submits. Therefore, Muslims are those who submit to Allah. Islam can be succinctly defined by the Shahada which is the Muslim confession. The Shahada says there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet. Muslims believe that Mohammed is the final of God’s prophets and the Quran is God’s authoritative revelation that was given to the Prophet Mohammed. Sunni Islam which accounts for around 90 percent of Muslims has six articles of faith.
1. Tawhid: Belief in one God (Allah)
2. Malaikah:Belief in Angels
3. Kutub: Belief in holy books
4. Nubuwwah: Belief in Prophets
5. Akhirah: Belief in the day of judgement and the afterlife
6. Al-Qadr: Belief in predestination
These articles of faith are derived from the Quran as can be shown in Surah 4:136
“O you who have believed, believe in Allah and His Messenger and the Book that He sent down upon His Messenger and the Scripture which He sent down before. And whoever disbelieves in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day has certainly gone far astray.”
In addition to the six articles of faith there are five pillars of Islam which every Muslim is to practice.
1. Shahada: Declaration of faith. Muslims are to recite daily the declaration There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet.
2. Salat: Prayers. Muslims are to pray five times a day facing Mecca. Noon Prayers on Friday are held in the Mosque.
3. Zakat: Alms. Muslims are to give a portion of their income each year for the advancement of the Muslim community.
4. Sawm: Fasting. The ninth month of the year on the Muslim calendar is the Month of Ramadan. Muslims are to abstain from all food and drink including water from sunrise to sunset. Due to the fact that the Muslim calendar is a lunar calendar the time of the year when Ramadan occurs changes each year.
5. Hajj: Pilgrimage. All Muslims who are have the ability are to make the Hajj to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least one time in their lifetimes. Hajj takes place during a five day period in the final month of the Muslim calendar. During Hajj pilgrims circle the Kaaba located in Mecca seven times counterclockwise. Muslims believe the Kaaba to be the house of God and was built by Abraham.
According to the traditional historical narrative Mohammed was born in Mecca in 570 AD. His parents died when he was only six years old so Mohammed was raised by uncle Abu Talib. In his earlier years he worked as a trader where he traveled with the trading caravans that moved across the Arabian Peninsula. This brought the future Prophet into contact with Jews and various Christian groups. Mohammed’s first wife was a widow named Khadija who was fifteen years his senior. Khadija played an important role in encouraging Mohammed early on in his work as a Prophet of Allah. Mohammed first began to receive revelations from Allah in 610 AD. Mohammed’s first revelation occurred when he was visited by the angel Gibreel (Gabriel) who told him that he had been chosen by Allah to be his prophet. Gibreel said to Mohammed Mohammed’s initial encounter with the angel startled him, so much so that he thought that he had been possessed by a Jinn (spirit). It was Khadija who convinced by Mohammed that he had truly been favored by Allah and was being called to be a prophet. After his first revelation Mohammed would over the coming years receive revelations at various times by Allah. Mohammed also began to preach against the idolatrous practices of his fellow Arabs. He stated that Allah was the only God and that he needed to be worship purely. Much of this Idolatry was centered around the Kaaba in Mecca which was sacred to the Arabs. Mohammed’s preaching made him many enemies who ferociously opposed him which led him to eventually flee the city of Mecca in 622 A.D. Mohammed and his followers then settled in the city of Medina. In Medina Mohammed’s followers grew and so did his influence and authority until he became the ruler of the city of Medina. The Prophet continued to receive revelations in Medina. These revelations are usually called his Medinan revelations in contrast to his earlier Meccan revelations. In 630 A.D. Mohammed and his followers returned to Mecca with an army and took control of the city. They then purged the Kaaba of all the idols and established Islamic rule. The Prophet died two years later in 632 A.D. but the religion of Islam expanded at a rapid rate. Islam through the means of religious proselytization and military conquest spread across the Middle East and into Asia and across North Africa and into Spain. The first Islamic Caliphate ruled from Spain to Persia (Iran) from 661 A.D. to 751 A.D.
The question for Christians is how should we view Mohammed’s claims to be a Prophet of God? Mohammed’s own doubts about his first visit from the angel Gabriel provide us with important information. The fact that Mohammed thought he was possibly being deceived by an evil spirit is significant in evaluating the Prophet’s life. In 1 John 4:1 we are told to test the spirits to see whether they are of God.
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)
It seems likely that Mohammed indeed was deceived by demons. Scripture tells us that Satan can transform himself into an angel of light. (2 Cor 11:14) in order to deceive mankind. In addition to Mohammed’s early doubts of his first visit from Gabriel we have other evidence that Mohammad was under Satanic deception. Prominent Muslim historians including Ibn Ishaq and Al Taburi wrote that Mohammed was deceived by Satan and spoke false revelation received by Satan when in Mecca. These false revelations by Satan are called the “Satanic verses” and are referenced in both the Quran and the Hadith. On one occasion for example Mohammed spoke falsely that it was alright for the pagan Arabs to worship idols.
“Satan cast on his tongue, because of his inner debates and what he desired to bring to his people, the words: These are the high-flying cranes; verily their intercession is accepted with approval.”
Mohammed would then realize his mistake and repent of it. This historical narrative is referenced in the Quran. Surah 22:52 shows this most clearly.
“And We did not send before you any messenger or prophet except that when he spoke [or recited], Satan threw into it [some misunderstanding]. But Allah abolishes that which Satan throws in; then Allah makes precise His verses. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.”
We see that the Quran clearly teaches that the Prophets of God can be deceived by Satan and speak falsely. This is very different from the Biblical standard that a Prophet cannot speak falsely even a single time. This is seen in Deuteronomy 18:20,
“20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.” (Deut. 18:20)
The Bible teaches that a true Prophet of God can never speak falsely. The standard for the revelation of the true Prophet is perfection. The Quran teaches that the Prophet can be deceived by Satan. We see that Mohammed’s claim to be a prophet of God do not meet the standard of the Bible.
Authoritative Texts: Quran and Hadith
The holy book of Islam is the Quran. The Quran according to Muslims is the final revelation of Allah that was given through the Prophet Mohammed. Therefore, the Quran is the final authority on matters of belief and practice. Interestingly, Muslims do believe that the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and also the additional Christian Scriptures (New Testament) were revelations by God when they were originally given. However, Muslims believe that these Scriptures have been corrupted by the “people of the book” (Jews and Christians) and therefore the message in these Scriptures are no longer trustworthy. As a result, anything that is said in either the Old Testament Scriptures or the New Testament Scriptures must be taken in light of what is said in the Quran.
The Quran is divided into 114 sections called Surahs. The Surahs are organized for the most part by length with the longest Surahs in the front of the Quran and the shorter ones in the back of it. The fact that the Surahs are not organized chronologically or topically have made the book difficult for Christians to approach since they do not understand the structure of the book. The Quran is written in Arabic. Muslim theologians believe that the Quran that was given through the Prophet Mohammed in Arabic is the inspired word of Allah. All translations of the Quran are considered only earthly transliterations and not the actual word of God. Only the Arabic original is thought to be inspired.
In addition to the Quran are the Hadith. The Hadith are the sayings of Mohammed. These sayings of Mohammed have been written down and are considered tradition that are used alongside the Quran by various Muslims sects. There are six collections of Hadith widely accepted by Muslims. Some Muslim groups use all of the collections of Hadith while other sects use none of them. The different ways of using and interpreting the Hadith shows the vastly different forms of thought in different Muslims groups.
Islam is a large religion with many different groups and schools of thought. These vastness shows that the study of Islam is a vast undertaking that requires diligent study. Christian Scholars wishing to study Islam must recognize its differences in thought from Christianity and try to understand the Muslim way of thinking. Hopefully this article can provide a good starting point for Christians wishing to study Islam.
1. What every Christian Needs to Know About the Quran by James R. White
2. Understanding the Quran: A Quick Christian Guide to the Muslim Holy Book by Mateen Elass
3. 2000 Years of Christ’s Power. Part Two: The Middle Ages by N.R. Needham. Chapter one Islam and the Church.
End Notes  Al-Tabari (838? – 923 A.D.), The History of al-Tabari (Ta’rikh al-rusul wa’l-muluk), Vol. VI: Muhammad at Mecca, Translated by W. M. Watt and M.V. McDonald, State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, 1988, ISBN: 0-88706-707-7, pp. 107-112.