Category: Islam


What is Islamism?

Islamism is different from Islam. Islam is a religion with several branches, while Islamism is a religious and political movement within Islam, based on certain literal interpretations of the Quran. In particular, Islamism seeks to conform society to Sharia, the moral and religious system of law that comes from the Quran. Sharia defines a strict moral code for almost every aspect of societal and personal life—everything from trade regulations to personal hygiene—and it interprets the word islam (which means “submission”) quite literally, requiring that every person either submit to Sharia or die.

Not every Muslim is an Islamist, in the same way that not every Christian is a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. Islamism is largely political in nature—Islamists are interested in conquering. Some Islamists believe that the best way to do this is by revolution or invasion, conforming the world to Islamism through terror and state power. Others believe it is better to achieve their goals through reformation of society from the ground up.

Because of the terrorism that Islamism has spawned, there is a great deal of fear directed toward Muslims. Some of this fear is deserved. Conversion or death is a very real and terrifying aspect of Islamism. But Christians should try to remember that, while every Islamist is a Muslim, not every Muslim is an Islamist. In fact, many Muslim people are persecuted by Islamists because they do not want to conform to Sharia law or because they come from the wrong sect of Islam or live in the wrong community.

What is a biblical response to Islamism? Believers in Jesus Christ should think of their enemies as people who are lost and facing a Christless eternity. Islamists are trapped by a dark and desperate religion, doing Satan’s will while they think they’re doing God’s will. Jesus foretold of people like the Islamists: “The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God” (John 16:2).

Christians should take comfort in the fact that this world is not our ultimate home. Whether or not we “win” the war against terrorism and Islamism is not the Christian’s ultimate concern. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). When faced with death at the hand of His enemies, Jesus reminded everyone that His people are not here as conquerors but as rescuers—we are ambassadors of Christ’s love and forgiveness (2 Corinthians 5:20).

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43–45). The Islamists, following the Quran literally, are filled with hatred and ruthlessness toward those who do not submit to Sharia; they know nothing of the love and forgiveness of God. We must pray for those trapped in Islamism, that they would see the truth about Jesus Christ. It was while Paul “was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1) that he encountered the Lord and was born again. May the same happen to the leaders of Islamism.

I am curious if there are Muslims who can answer this one simple question; “Where in the Qur’an does it say Allah loves me unconditionally?”

In spite of my current religious world view where in the Qur’an does it say “Allah loves me”? In the Qur’an where Allah specifically says “I Love You just as you are (unconditionally) .”

In Islam, what is the greatest act of love Allah has ever accomplished? I asked this question of several Muslims, and I got similar answers: he forgave us of our sins, he gave us families and provisions, he showed us mercy, he gave us the Qur’an. The answers didn’t vary much beyond these responses. I found them lacking.

Most Muslims believe that the Bible is not trustworthy, it has been corrupted, the Injeel (gospel) of Jesus has been lost, and the Qur’an restores God’s truth to mankind. But, that is another subject to be debated.

In John 15:13, Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay his life down for his friend.” I have the Nestle Aland Greek New Testament with the textual apparatus included in it. The textual apparatus is the complete listing (per verse) of any textual variants that occur in any of the ancient New Testament manuscripts. Therefore, it is a very easy thing to go to John 15:13 and look at the textual evidence to see if there are any manuscripts at all–anywhere that have any variation on that verse. There are none. In other words, there is not a single manuscript of the more than 25,000 manuscripts of the NT that have a different translation on that verse. Every single one of them says the exact same thing. I will, therefore, conclude that it is an authentic and reliable saying of Jesus.

Again, Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay his life down for his friend.” According to Jesus, the greatest act of love is to sacrifice one’s life for another. This means that giving one’s life for another is a greater act of love than providing food for him, giving him a family, being nice to him or being honest, helpful, or whatever. Self-sacrifice, to the point of death, is the very greatest act of love.

Has Allah performed the greatest act of love? The answer is no. Allah has not sacrificed himself at all. Allah has not died for another. Allah has not loved us to the point of death. In Christianity, Jesus, who is God in flesh (John 1:1, 14), laid His life down for us. Jesus performed the greatest act of love.

If Islam is true . . .

If Islam is true and Allah is the true God, then Jesus, a creation (according to Islam) has performed a greater act of love than Allah (according to the Bible). A mere man has outdone Allah in love and sacrifice. But, of course, Islam denies that Jesus ever died. They then say that Jesus has not done the greatest act of love. Their denial does not change the fact that Jesus died on the cross as is amply attested to by the eyewitnesses who wrote the gospel. Besides, whether or not the Muslim believes Jesus died on the cross does not change the fact that Jesus told us what the greatest act of love was–and Allah has not done it. Yet, according to Christianity He has. Since Muslims want Christians to adopt Islam, they are asking Christians to give up their Lord who has performed the greatest act of love on their behalf. Why would they want to do that?

If Christianity is true, then God has performed the greatest act of love. If Islam is true, then God hasn’t. Which “god” then is more loving: the one who speaks of love or the one who acts out love?

I have found nowhere in the Qur’an where it says that Allah is love. The Qur’an says that Allah loves people, but it never says that Allah is love. By contrast, the Bible clearly tells us that God is love.  “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him,” (1 John 4:16).

Who does God love?

Does God love all? In Islam, the answer is no. In Christianity, the answer is yes. Consider the following verses from the Qur’an.

  • “Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and messengers, to Gabriel and Michael,- Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject Faith,” (2:98, Trans. Yusuf Ali)
  • “Say: Obey Allah and the Messenger; but if they turn back, then surely Allah does not love the unbelievers,” 3:32, Trans. Shakir).

Consider the following verses from the Bible

  • “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:16).
  • “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47 “And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matt. 5:43-48).

We can easily see the huge difference between the God of Islam and the God of the Bible. In Islam, God does not love all people. In the Bible, God does love all people. In Islam, Allah did not die for the sins of those who were not his. In the Bible, God did do that. In Islam, Allah has not performed the greatest act of love. In the Bible, God did exactly that.

My question to the Muslims is: “What makes you think that I want to give up my Lord, who loves me so much that He would die for me and did die for me, for a god who has not and cannot perform the greatest act of love?

 

 

What is Chrislam?

Chrislam is an attempt to syncretize Christianity with Islam. While it began in Nigeria in the 1980s, Chrislamic ideas have spread throughout much of the world. The essential concept of Chrislam is that Christianity and Islam are compatible, that one can be a Christian and a Muslim at the same time. Chrislam is not an actual religion of its own, but a blurring of the differences and distinctions between Christianity and Islam.

Advocates of Chrislam point to facts such as Jesus being mentioned 25 times in the Qur’an, or Christianity and Islam having similar teachings on morals and ethics, or the need for the two largest monotheistic religions to unite to fight against the rise of atheism and alternative spirituality. Chrislam is viewed by some as the solution for the ongoing conflict between the Western world, which is predominantly Christian, and the Middle East, which is predominantly Muslim.

While it is undeniable that there are many similarities between Christianity and Islam (and Judaism, for that matter), Chrislam ultimately fails because Christianity and Islam are diametrically opposed on the most important of issues – the identity of Jesus Christ. True Christianity declares Jesus to be God incarnate. For Christians, the deity of Christ is a non-negotiable, for without His deity, Jesus’ death on the cross would not have been sufficient to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the entire world (1 John 2:2).

Islam adamantly rejects the deity of Christ. The Qur’an declares the idea that Jesus is God to be blasphemy (5:17). Belief in the deity of Christ is considered shirk (“filth”) to Muslims. Further, Islam denies the death of Christ on the cross (4:157-158). The most crucial doctrine of the Christian faith is rejected in Islam. As a result, the two religions are absolutely not compatible, making Chrislam a concept both Christians and Muslims should reject.

Who was Muhammad?

Muhammad, or Mohammed, is the founder of Islam and is considered a prophet by Muslims and Baha’is. In fact, in order to convert to Islam, one only has to say, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet [or messenger].”

Muhammad (c. AD 570—632) was from Mecca, a city near the Red Sea in what is now Saudi Arabia. An orphan from childhood, Muhammad was raised by an uncle, a man named Abu Talib, and became a merchant. Muhammad was a religious man, often going on retreats to the mountains where he would pray. During one of these retreats, he reported being visited by the angel Gabriel, who supposedly gave Muhammad a revelation from Allah, the Muslim name for God. Muhammad reported having several other revelations from Allah as well, and Muslims regard him as Allah’s last and greatest prophet to mankind.

Muhammad proclaimed that “God is One,” that is, there is no Trinity and Jesus was simply another prophet, along with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and, of course, Muhammad himself. He also taught that complete surrender (the word islam means “surrender” or “total submission”) is the only way to please Allah. Muslims credit Muhammad with restoring the “true” religion of Islam to a world that had corrupted it.

Early on in his endeavors, Muhammad did not win many followers; many of the Meccan tribes were hostile to him and opposed his message. Muhammad moved north to the city of Medina for protection. After eight years of conflict with the Meccan tribes, Muhammad gathered 10,000 converts, took up arms, and marched against Mecca. He and his followers took over Mecca and destroyed all the pagan idols there. There was very little bloodshed or resistance from Mecca, and the city fell to Muhammad relatively easily.

From Mecca, Muhammad and his followers set out to destroy all the other pagan temples in western Arabia, and they succeeded. The rest of Muhammad’s life was given to the promotion and growth of Islam throughout the Arabic world. Sometimes Muhammad used his great wealth (from plundering) to bribe people into Islam. Other times, he used terrorism and conquest. Muslims swept through the Arabian Peninsula, conquering tribe after tribe. When approaching a city, Muhammad would offer terms of peace: accept Islam, the only true religion, and submit to Muhammad, and all would be well. If a city rejected these terms, Muhammad’s forces would proceed to sack the city. According to Abdullah ibn Umar, a companion of Muhammad, “Allah’s Apostle [Muhammad] said: ‘I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform all that, then they save their lives and property from me’” (Bukhari: vol. 1, bk. 2, no. 24).

Muhammad claimed to have continued to receive revelations from Allah until his death, and Muhammad’s revelations were compiled after his death and canonized into what is now called the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book. Other respected writings in Islam include the Hadith, which is a collection of teachings, deeds, and sayings of Muhammad; and the Tafsir, which is a commentary of sorts on the Qur’an.

Because of the content of Muhammad’s revelations, in particular the denial of God’s triune nature, the teaching that salvation must be earned by works, and the denial of the deity of Jesus Christ, Christians regard Muhammad’s revelations as false, coming from a source other than the One True God. Indeed, the differences between the God of the Bible and the Allah of Islam are too great to consider them the same deity, despite Muhammad’s proclamations that his revelations came from the God of Adam, Abraham, Jesus, et al. Allah’s “mercy” is dependent upon the right actions of his followers. The God of the Bible, in contrast, has always given His followers the promise of forgiveness dependent on His grace through faith, rather than on the ability of men (Genesis 15:6; Exodus 34:6–9; Psalm 130:3).

What is the origin of belief in Allah?

Allah is an Arabic word that means “God” or, more accurately, “the God.” In Western culture, it is commonly believed that the word Allah is used exclusively by Muslims to describe their God, but this is not actually true. The word Allah is used by Arabic speakers of all Abrahamic faiths (including Christianity and Judaism) as meaning “God.” However, according to Islam, Allah is God’s proper name, while Christians and Jews know Him as YHWH or Yahweh. When Arabic-speaking Christians use the word Allah, it is usually used in combination with the word al-Ab. Allah al-Ab means “God the Father,” and this usage is one way Arab Christians distinguish themselves from Muslims.

Before the inception of Islam, most Arabs were polytheistic pagans, believing in an unfeeling, powerful fate that could not be controlled or altered or influenced by human beings. Muslims regard Muhammad as the last and greatest prophet, and they credit him with restoring to the Arabs the monotheistic faith of their ancestors. Islam and Judaism both trace their spiritual lineage to Abraham, but the God-concept of Islam is different from that of Judaism and Christianity in some significant ways. Yahweh and Allah are both seen as omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and merciful. However, in both Judaism and Islam, God’s mercy is dependent, at least partly and many times fully, on man’s actions. The Islamic concept of Allah and the Jewish concept of Yahweh both deny the triune nature of God. They eliminate God’s Son, Jesus, and they also eliminate the Holy Spirit as a distinct Person of the Godhead.

Without Jesus, there is no provisionary salvation—that is, salvation is based on man’s effort rather than God’s grace. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no sanctification, no peace, no freedom (Romans 8:6; 2 Corinthians 3:17). Christians trust that by Jesus’ death and resurrection, along with the indwelling of His Spirit, sin is forgiven, the conscience is cleansed, and the human soul is freed to pursue God and goodness without the fear of punishment (Hebrews 10:22).

A Muslim may love Allah and wish to please Allah, but the question in his mind will invariably be “is it enough? Are my works enough to merit salvation?” Christians believe that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to provide an answer to the question “is my work enough?” The answer is, no, our work is not enough (Matthew 5:48). This is shocking to anyone who has been trying on his own to appease God. But this was the point of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1–48). The Jews that Jesus spoke to, just like the Muslims who follow Allah, were trapped by the knowledge that nothing they did would ever meet God’s perfect standard. But Christ’s perfect life, atoning death, and resurrection did meet God’s standard (Hebrews 10:10; Romans 8:1–8). Jesus’ message to the Jews and His message now, to Muslims and everyone else, is “repent and believe” (Mark 1:15). This does not mean “stop sinning” and “believe that God exists.” It means “turn from sin and stop trying to please God by your own ability” and “believe that Christ has accomplished everything for you.” The promise to those who trust Christ is that they will become the children of God (John 1:12).

Allah offers no such promise. Muslims believe Allah will be merciful to them based on his evaluation of their performance. But salvation is never sure; it is never a promise. When the Western world looks with horror on things like jihad and acts of Islamic terrorism, they get a glimpse of the powerful fear that Allah instills in his many of his followers. Faithful Muslims are faced with a terrible choice: obey the violent commands of an omnipotent deity whose mercy is given only to the most passionate and devoted followers (and perhaps not even then), or give themselves up as hopelessly lost and headed for punishment.

Christians should not regard Muslims with hatred, but instead with compassion. Their god, Allah, is a false god, and their eyes are blinded to the truth (see 2 Corinthians 4:4). We should be praying for Muslims and asking God to show them the truth, revealing His promise of mercy and freedom in Christ (2 Timothy 2:24–26).

 

Though Muslims often argue for the divine origin of the Qur’an on grounds that  “no error, alteration, or variation” has touched its copies since its inception,  such a view does not accurately represent the facts. While it is indeed correct  to say that the Qur’an of today is a nearly perfect copy of its seventh-century  counterpart, the notion that these copies reflect the exact words as handed down  by Muhammad is becoming increasingly problematic.

Historical sources  prove that there were several different texts circulating in Syria, Iraq and  Armenia prior to the final revision produced by Uthman. Zaid, Muhammad’s  long-time secretary, was called in by Uthman to oversee the final and definitive  authorized version of the Qur’an. All other copies of the Qur’an were then  burned so that there could be no challenge to the authorized text. It remains to  be answered why Uthman would have had to produce an authorized version of the  Qur’an, if indeed the Qur’an had been perfectly preserved from the  beginning!

To quote Alfred Guillaume, one of the best-known non-Muslim  scholars on Islam:

“Only the men of Kufa refused the new edition, and  their version was certainly extant as late as A.D. 1000. Uthman’s edition to  this day remains the authoritative word of God to Muslims. Nevertheless, even  now variant readings, involving not only different readings of the vowels but  also occasionally a different consonantal text, are recognized as of equal  authority one with another!”

When one compares the different transmitted  versions of the Qur’an, it becomes evident that there are, in fact, variants  among them. While these variants usually involve differences in individual  letters, vowels or diacritical marks, the Muslim claim of perfect unity in the  copies of the Qur’an is incorrect.

Moreover, since part of the Islamic  claim is that God has been giving revelations to mankind throughout history,  including the Psalms of David and the four Gospels, one wonders why it is  claimed that Allah miraculously preserved the Qur’an in infallible copies,  whereas Allah was apparently singularly incapable of accomplishing the same feat  with the previous revelations.

Let us weigh the validity of the claim at  hand. Just how excellent is the literary quality? In his book, Jesus Among  Other Gods, well-known Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias  argues:

“Let us consider just one troublesome aspect, the grammatical  flaws that have been demonstrated. Ali Dashti, an Iranian author and a committed  Muslim, commented that the errors in the Qur’an were so many that the  grammatical rules had to be altered in order to fit the claim that the Qur’an  was flawless. He gives numerous examples of these in his book, Twenty-three  years: The Life of the Prophet Mohammed. (The only precaution he took before  publishing this book was to direct that it be published  posthumously.)”

In the book which Zacharias cites above, Dashti  writes:

“The Qur’an contains sentences which are incomplete and not fully  intelligible without the aid of commentaries; foreign words, unfamiliar Arabic  words, and words used with other than the normal meaning; adjectives and verbs  inflected without observance of the concord of gender and number; illogical and  ungrammatically applied pronouns which in rhymed passages are often remote from  the subjects. These and other such aberrations in the language have given scope  to critics who deny the Qur’an’s eloquence…To sum up, more than 100 Qur’anic  aberrations from the normal rules and structure of Arabic have been  noted.”

Are there errors in the Qur’an? – What about fulfilled  prophecy?
Islamic apologists make the claim that the Qur’an  predicts Muslims would be victorious at home and abroad (Surah 30:1-5). But this  can hardly be utilized as an argument for a divine origin. The prediction that  Muslims would be militarily victorious (especially when one considers Muhammad’s  overwhelming military force) is not very impressive.

Not only is the  time between these predictions and their subsequent fulfillment almost nil, but  some argue the prediction of Islamic victory is better understood as a  pre-battle victory speech from Muhammad to boost the morale of his  troops.

Islamic prophecy does not even come close to the level of the  prophecies in the Bible, many of which were written hundreds of years in  advance, such as the prediction that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

Are there errors in the  Qur’an? – What about scientific insights?
In A Brief Illustrated  Guide to Understanding Islam, Islamic apologist I. A. Ibrahim  argues:

“The Qur’an, which was revealed fourteen centuries ago, mentioned  facts only recently discovered or proven by scientists. This proves without  doubt that the Qur’an must be the literal word of God, revealed by him to the  Prophet Muhammad, and that the Qur’an was not authored by Muhammad or by any  other human being.”

How valid is this claim? First, conformity to science  is not proof of divine inspiration. As modern scientists will admit, scientific  models are constantly changing, so they are not an absolute gauge for what is  true or false. Second, there are some highly suspect scientific statements in  the Qur’an which are ignored by modern Islamic apologists. For example, Surah  23:14 makes the claim that human beings are formed from a clot of blood. Surah  18:86 claims that the sun sets in a spring of murky water. Clearly, even if the  claims with respect to scientific insights were valid, the above statements  would immediately falsify any such notion of divine  inspiration.

Are there errors in the Qur’an? – Are there  historical inaccuracies?
While the list of historical inaccuracies  and anachronisms is vast, one has been selected for discussion here. Surah 20  relays the incident of the golden calf. In Surah 20:85-88, 95 we  read:

“He [Allah] said, ‘We have tempted thy people since thou didist  leave them. The Samaratin has led them into error.’ Then Moses returned…and we  cast them [(gold) ornaments], as the Samaritan also threw them, into the fire.’  (Then he brought out for them a Calf, a mere body that lowed; and they said,  ‘This is your god, and the god of Moses, whom he has forgotten.’)…Moses said,  ‘And thou, Samaritan, what was thy business?’”

Now, let us consider this  for just a moment. How can a Samaritan have led the Israelites astray at the  time of Moses (approx 1400 B.C.) when the city of Samaria was founded by King  Omri about 870 B.C.? The Samaritans did not exist until after the exile of the  Northern Kingdom of Israel and the resettlement of the area under King Sargon II  in 722 B.C. with non-Israelites who then adopted a syncretism (mixture) between  the religion of the Jews and their own polytheistic background. The Samaritans  did not exist until 530 years after Moses. By this mistake alone, the Qur’an can  be rendered unreliable and certainly not an inerrant work of  God.

Are there errors in the Qur’an? – Conclusion
Having outlined just a handful of many problems and difficulties pertaining to  the Qur’an as a divinely inspired work, we are all but forced to reject the  Islamic claim that the Qur’an represents an error-free word of God to humanity.  When a similar standard is applied to the Bible, the result is self-vindicating,  for the Bible emerges flawless.

With the increasing tensions in the Middle East in recent years, and  particularly the statements by Shiite Muslim extremists regarding the Twelfth  Imam, many people have begun to ask how this relates to Bible prophecies. To  answer, we must first find out who the Twelfth Imam is and what he is expected  to do for Islam. Second, we must examine the statements by Shiite Muslims in  relation to those hopes, and, third, we need to look to the Bible to shed light  on the whole issue.

Within the Shiite branch of Islam, there have been  twelve imams, or spiritual leaders appointed by Allah. These began with Imam  Ali, cousin to Muhammad, who claimed the prophetic succession after Muhammad’s  death. Around A.D. 868, the Twelfth Imam, Abu al-Qasim Muhammad (or Muhammad al  Mahdi), was born to the Eleventh Imam. Because his father was under intense  persecution, the Mahdi was sent into hiding for his protection. About the age of  6, he briefly came out of hiding when his father was killed, but then went back  into hiding. It is said that he has been hiding in caves ever since and will  supernaturally return just before the day of judgment to eradicate all tyranny  and oppression, bringing harmony and peace to the earth. He is the savior of the  world in Shiite theology. According to one writer, the Mahdi will combine the  dignity of Moses, the grace of Jesus, and the patience of Job in one perfect  person.

The predictions about the Twelfth Imam have a striking  similarity to Bible prophecies of the end times. According to Islamic prophecy,  the Mahdi’s return will be preceded by a number of events during three years of  horrendous world chaos, and he will rule over the Arabs and the world for seven  years. His appearance will be accompanied by two resurrections, one of the  wicked and one of the righteous. According to Shiite teachings, the Mahdi’s  leadership will be accepted by Jesus, and the two great branches of Abraham’s  family will be reunited forever.

How do the statements of Shiite  Muslims, such as the former President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, tie into  this? Ahmadinejad is a deeply committed Shiite and has claimed that he is to  personally prepare the world for the coming Mahdi. In order for the world to be  saved, it must be in a state of chaos and subjugation, and Ahmadinejad feels he  was directed by Allah to pave the way for that. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly made  statements about destroying the enemies of Islam. The former President and his  cabinet supposedly signed a contract with al Mahdi in which they pledge  themselves to his work. When asked directly by ABC reporter Ann Curry in  September 2009 about his apocalyptic statements, Ahmadinejad said, “Imam…will  come with logic, with culture, with science. He will come so that there is no  more war. No more enmity, hatred. No more conflict. He will call on everyone to  enter a brotherly love. Of course, he will return with Jesus Christ. The two  will come back together. And working together, they would fill this world with  love.”

What does all this have to do with the Antichrist? According to  2  Thessalonians 2:3-4, there will be a “man of sin” revealed in the last days  who will oppose and exalt himself above all that is called God. In Daniel 7 we  read of Daniel’s vision of four beasts which represent kingdoms which play major  roles in God’s prophetic plan. The fourth beast is described (v. 7-8) as being  dreadful, terrible, exceedingly strong, and different from those which came  before it. It is also described as having a “little horn” which uproots other  horns. This little horn is often identified as the Antichrist. In verse 25 he is  described as speaking “great words against the most High, and shall wear out the  saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be  given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time” (3 ½  years). In Daniel 8, the vision of the ram and the goat identifies a king who  will arise in the last days (v. 23-25), destroy many people, and stand up  against Christ, but this king will be broken. In Daniel 9:27 it is prophesied that the “prince that shall come” would make a 7-year covenant  with many people and then bring in much desolation. Who will this Antichrist be?  No one knows for certain, but many theories have been given, including the  possibility that he will be an Arab.

Regardless of the various theories,  there are a few parallels between the Bible and Shiite theology that we should  note. First, the Bible says that the Antichrist’s kingdom will rule the world  for seven years, and Islam claims that the Twelfth Imam will rule the world for  seven years. Second, Muslims anticipate three years of chaos before the  revealing of the Twelfth Imam, and the Bible speaks of 3 ½ years of Tribulation  before the Antichrist reveals himself by desecrating the Jewish temple. Third,  the Antichrist is described as a deceiver who claims to bring peace, but who  actually brings widespread war; the anticipation of the Twelfth Imam is that he  will bring peace through massive war with the rest of the world.

Will  the Antichrist be a Muslim? Only God knows. Are there connections between  Islamic eschatology and Christian eschatology? There certainly seem to be direct  correlations, though they are like reading the descriptions of a great battle,  first from the perspective of the loser, trying to save face, and then from the  perspective of the victor. Until we see the fulfillment of these things, we need  to heed the words of 1 John  4:1-4, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to  see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into  the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that  acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every  spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of  the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the  world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one  who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

Immediately following the horrific terrorist attacks on 9/11, many Westerners began to take notice of Islam for the first time. Many were shocked to find out that Islam’s holy book (the Koran) provides specific injunctions to engage in acts of violence as part of the “holy war” (jihad) in the cause of their religion. Soon many secular thinkers began to draw comparisons between Islamic terrorist attacks and the violence found in the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. But are these comparisons valid? Are the commands of Yahweh to the Israelites in the Old Testament the same as jihad as prescribed in the Koran? What is the difference between the violence found in the Bible and Islamic Jihad?

To answer this question we must define what we mean by jihad. The word jihad means “striving” or “struggle.” Within Islam, there are several categories of jihad. The word can be used to describe various types of struggles such as “jihad of the pen” (which would involve persuasion or instruction in the promotion of Islam), or “jihad of the heart” (a battle against one’s own sin). However, the most well-known form of jihad is that which involves physical violence or warfare in the cause of Islam. While the Koran does contain passages that encourage Muslims to engage unbelievers with grace and persuasion (Sura 16:125), the Koran contains other verses that appear to command Muslims to engage in offensive physical warfare against non-Muslims.

In Sura 9 we read, “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful” (Sura 9:5). Also in Sura 9, “Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book (Christians and Jews), until they pay the jizya [tribute] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued” (Sura 9:29).

In addition to the teachings of the Koran, Muslims also follow the Hadith, an inspired record of Muhammad’s words and actions. This widely accepted Hadith explains how Muhammad instructed his commander when sent out on an expedition, “When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to [accept] Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them…If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them” (Sahih Muslim, Book 19, Number 4294).

But what about the violence commanded by God in the Old Testament? Is that any different? The most often discussed episodes of violence in the Old Testament were Yahweh’s command for the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites and return to the land that He had promised to them. When assessing these incidents we must understand the context in which these events took place. The Canaanites were a brutal and wicked culture that frequently engaged in incredibly decadent behavior. As Christian author Norman Geisler put it, “This was a thoroughly evil culture, so much so that the Bible says it nauseated God. They were into brutality, cruelty, incest, bestiality, cultic prostitution, and even child sacrifice by fire. They were an aggressive culture that wanted to annihilate the Israelites.”

By ordering the destruction of the Canaanites, God enacted a form of corporate capital punishment on a people that were deserving of God’s judgment for some time. God had given the Canaanite people over 400 years to repent (Genesis 15:13-16). When they did not, the Lord used the Israelites as an instrument of judgment on an evil and deeply depraved society. The Canaanites were not ignorant as news of God’s awesome power had reached them (Joshua 2:10-11; 9:9). Such awareness should have driven them to repentance. The example of Rahab and her family is a sure proof that the Canaanites could have avoided their destruction if they had repented before Israel’s God (Joshua 2). No person had to die. God’s desire is that the wicked turn from their sin rather than perish (Ezekiel 18:31-32, 33:11). We must also remember that Yahweh did not sanction all of the wars recorded in the Old Testament, and that all of the wars that were specifically commissioned by Him beyond the time of Joshua were defensive in nature. A number of the battles that Israel fought on the way to and within Canaan were also defensive in nature (Exodus 17:8; Numbers 21:21-32; Deuteronomy 2:26-37; Joshua 10:4).

The more difficult question, however, has to do with Yahweh’s command to kill all of the Canaanites, including the women and children. In response to this, two points need to be kept in mind. First, while the Bible reads that such a command was given, it may well be the case that no women or children were actually killed. All of the battles would probably have involved only soldiers where women and children would likely have fled. As Jeremiah 4 indicates, “At the noise of horseman and archer every city takes to flight; they enter thickets; they climb among rocks; all the cities are forsaken, and no man dwells in them” (Jeremiah 4:29).

Moreover, Deuteronomy 7:2-5 uses the words “utterly destroy” immediately followed by “you shall not intermarry among them,” highlighting the fact that, at least in some instances, the biblical authors employed rhetorical exaggeration (e.g., “all that breaths”, “utterly destroy”, etc.) common to ancient Near East military accounts. This leaves open the possibility that these phrases may express some degree of hyperbolic language, and thus, that no non-combatants were actually killed. The text nowhere explicitly narrates any women or children actually being killed in these battles.

Second, even if we interpret the text to mean that children were killed, this may have been God’s way of ensuring that these children would be saved and immediately brought into His eternal kingdom. The Scripture implies that all children who die before an age of moral accountability will enter heaven (2 Samuel 12:23; Matthew 19:14). Had God allowed these children to grow up in such a vile and heinous culture, these children would likely have grown up into something like their parents and been condemned to hell after they died. God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and we are simply not in a position to question God as to what is best. Since God is the Giver of life, only He has the right to take it.

In conclusion, we have seen that there is a radical difference between the violence in the Old Testament and Islamic Jihad. First, the violence prescribed by God in the Old Testament was intended for a particular time and limited to a particular people group. There was no precedent set to continue this practice beyond what God had commanded. In contrast, the Koran actually prescribes and condones military jihad in the promotion of Islam. At no time in the Bible do we see God commanding His people to kill unbelievers in the promotion of biblical faith. Second, it is beyond dispute that, in its earliest years, Islam was promoted by the sword. It is exactly the opposite for early Christianity. Many of the early Christians were severely persecuted and martyred for their commitment to Christ. As one Christian philosopher put it, “Both Islam and Christianity were spread by the sword, but the swords were pointing in opposite directions!”

Finally, for the Christian, the final and complete revelation of God is in Jesus Christ, who was remarkably non-violent in His approach. If a Christian engages in violence in the name of Christ, he is doing so in direct disobedience of His Master. Jesus taught that all who live by the sword will die by it (Matthew 26:52). The teachings and example of Muhammad are very different. A Muslim who desires to commit violence in the name of Islam can find ample justification for his action both in the Koran and in the words and actions of the prophet Muhammad.

Islam is a religious system begun in the seventh century by Muhammad. Muslims  follow the teachings of the Qur’an and strive to keep the Five  Pillars.

The History of Islam
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, the  angel purportedly revealed to Muhammad the words of Allah (the Arabic word for  “God” used by Muslims). These dictated revelations compose the Qur’an, Islam’s  holy book. Islam means “submission,” deriving from a root word that means  “peace.” The word Muslim means “one who submits to  Allah.”

The Doctrine of Islam
Muslims summarize  their doctrine in six articles of faith:
1. Belief in one Allah: Muslims  believe Allah is one, eternal, creator, and sovereign.
2. Belief in the  angels
3. Belief in the prophets: The prophets include the biblical prophets  but end with Muhammad as Allah’s final prophet.
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 hereafter: 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.”

The Five Pillars of  Islam
These five tenets compose the framework of obedience for  Muslims:
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.
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 hinges on 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).

An Evaluation of Islam
Compared to Christianity, Islam has some similarities but significant  differences. Like Christianity, Islam is monotheistic. However, Muslims reject  the Trinity—that God has revealed Himself as one in three Persons: the Father,  Son, and Holy Spirit.

Muslims claim that Jesus was a mere prophet—not  God’s Son. Islam asserts that Jesus, though born of a virgin, was created like  Adam. Many Muslims do not believe Jesus died on the cross. They do not  understand why Allah would allow His prophet Isa (the Islamic word for “Jesus”)  to die a torturous death. Yet the Bible shows how the death of the perfect Son  of God was essential to pay for the sins of believers (Isaiah 53:5-6; John 3:16; 14:6; 1 Peter 2:24).

Islam teaches that the Qur’an is the final authority and the last revelation of  Allah. The Bible, however, was completed in the first century with the Book of  Revelation. The Bible warns against anyone adding to or subtracting from God’s  Word (Deuteronomy  4:2; Proverbs  30:6; Galatians  1:6-12; Revelation  22:18). The Qur’an, as a claimed addition to God’s Word, directly disobeys  God’s command.

Muslims believe that paradise can be earned through  keeping the Five Pillars. The Bible, in contrast, reveals that sinful man can  never measure up to the holy God (Romans 3:236:23). Only by God’s grace  may sinners be saved through repentant faith in Jesus (Acts 20:21; Ephesians  2:8-9).

Because of these essential differences and contradictions,  Islam and Christianity cannot both be true. The Bible and Qur’an cannot both be  God’s Word. The truth has eternal consequences.

“Beloved, do not believe  every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because  many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of  God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from  God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the  spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it  is already in the world” (1 John  4:1-4; see also John  3:35-36).

People often follow the religion of their parents or culture,  whether Muslim, Buddhist, or Catholic. But when we stand before God on Judgment  Day, each person must give account for himself—whether he believed in God’s  truth. But among so many religions, what is the truth? “Jesus answered, ‘I am  the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through  me’” (John  14:6).

True Christians are followers of Jesus. How could Jesus claim  to be the one and only way to God the Father? Let’s find out in the Scripture,  the Bible.

Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection

The Bible records how Jesus fulfilled prophecy when He was born to the virgin  Mary. He grew up unique from any other human because He never sinned (1 Peter 2:22). Crowds  flocked to hear His teaching and marvel at His miracles. Jesus healed the sick,  raised the dead, and walked on water.

Of all people, Jesus did not  deserve to die. Yet Jesus prophesied that He would be crucified and raised from  the dead (Matthew  20:18-19). His words came to pass. Soldiers beat Jesus and put a crown of  thorns on His head; people mocked and spit on Him; nails pierced His hands and  feet into a wooden cross. Jesus had the power to save Himself, but He gave  Himself, willingly dying on the cross (John 19:30).  Three days later, Jesus rose from the grave!

Why the  cross?
As a Muslim, you may ask, “Why would Allah allow His Prophet  Isa to be mistreated and killed?” Jesus’ death was essential because . .  .

• Every person is a sinner: “For all have sinned and fall short of the  glory of God” (Romans  3:23). Whether dishonoring parents, telling a lie, failing to love God best,  or disbelieving God’s Word, we each have sinned against the holy God.

•  The punishment for sin is death: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). God pours  out His wrath against unbelieving sinners by separating them forever in hell (2  Thessalonians 1:8, 9).  As the just Judge, God will not overlook sin.

• We cannot save ourselves  by good works: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this  not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can  boast” (Ephesians  2:8-9). This is a key difference between Christianity and Islam. Islam  teaches that a person can earn paradise by keeping the Five Pillars. Even if  possible to outweigh bad deeds with good deeds, the Bible teaches that “all our  righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah  64:6b). Even one single sin makes a person guilty of breaking all God’s law  (James 2:10). Sinful humans  can do nothing to merit heaven.

• God sacrificed His Son for sinners:  “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” (John 3:16). God knew mankind’s sin kept them from heaven.  God knew the only way the sin debt could be paid was by a perfect One paying the  price of death. God knew He alone could pay such an infinite price. So God’s  eternal plan was to send His Son Jesus to die in the believing sinner’s place.