The religion of Islam (whose believers are called “Muslims”) claims more than 1 out of 5 people on earth today. The word “Islam” simply means “submission.”
Muslims believe in Allah (their concept of God, an all-powerful Deity) and their primary source of spiritual information is their holy book, the Koran (Qur’an). And, while Muslims do not dismiss the importance of Biblical characters such as Jesus, Abraham, or David, they believe the complete revelation from God was given through Muhammad a few centuries after the completion of the Christian Bible.
Muslims are required to participate in five activities, referred to as the “Five Pillars of Islam.”
1.) Reciting of the Shahadah, which translates as, “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger.”
2.) Prayer. Muslims are required to go through “cycles” of prayer centered around five set-aside times each day. The minarets (similar to church steeples) announce these times in Muslim-dominated cities, interrupting all commerce and recreation for a moment of prayer and ritual.
3.) Fasting. One month every lunar year (Ramadan) Muslims are required to abstain from food during daylight hours.
4.) Giving of Alms. Muslims must give 2.5% of their income to the poor and needy.
5.) Making the Pilgrimage. In commemoration of the travels of Muhammad to the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, Muslims who are able must make this journey once during their lifetime.
A goal of Islam is to enter “Paradise” after death, and to achieve victories for the Muslim cause during this life. Some Muslims believe that dying for their cause (typically associated with “holy war” and “jihad”) will guarantee them a place in Paradise with many sensual pleasures for their eternal enjoyment.
What does the Bible say to Muslims?
1. Submission to the will of God is important, but the only way to wholly fulfill His will is to embrace the teachings and life of Jesus Christ. During His ministry on earth, Jesus made it clear that no one could approach God apart from Him.* Muslims are encouraged to read the New Testament Gospels for themselves and consider Jesus’ claims.
2. When we look honestly at God’s law, given by Moses, we see that it is impossible to “balance the scales” in our favor by involvement in holy rituals. We are too sinful to ever please a perfect and holy God. Our great need, then, is salvation and forgiveness of sins. The sacrificial work of Jesus was God’s loving way of accomplishing this (see Romans 1-5 in the Bible for an explanation).
3. The concept of pilgrimage is appropriate in Christianity as well, but not to a physical location. Jesus called each of us to follow Him, to “take up our cross daily.” He died on a Cross in order to make it possible for us to be right in God’s sight – He calls us to walk that same path in our daily lives, “putting to death” our old self and becoming a “new creation,” defined by humility, love, forgiveness and generosity. Not every Christian represents this ideal, but the objective of faithful Christians is to live the same kind of life that Jesus did (1 John 2:6).
Relevant Bible Passages: John 14:6, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Luke 9:23-24, Ephesians 2:8-10
* Many Muslims have misconceptions regarding the teachings of the Bible, particularly the New Testament. If you have questions about Christianity, be sure to read the story of Jesus for yourself. Access the Bible online; try starting with the book of Matthew. (English or Arabic)