This was originally a paper I wrote for a class at Liberty Theological Seminary.
Islam is the second-largest religion in the world, behind Christianity, and is growing rapidly. There has been a long history of ignorance, intolerance, and resentment of Muslims by Christians in the United States, which has increased greatly since the events of 9/11. Yet, Christians are commanded to preach to all nations (Matthew 28:19), which includes Muslims. In order to reach Muslims with the Gospel, Christians must better understand Islamic thought, and use appropriate apologetic methods. This paper will examine basic Islamic beliefs, analyze the flaws within the Islamic worldview, and suggest apologetic arguments that capitalize on these flaws in order to present the Biblical worldview.
A Summary of Islamic Beliefs
Islam, founded by Muhammad in Saudi Arabia in AD 610, teaches that Judaism and Christianity have become corrupted, and that Islam corrects these religions.
Absolute monotheism is the core axiom of Islam. The doctrine of tawhid states that Allah is utterly transcendent. He is not just monotheistic, but wholly distinct, a completely separate Being.1 The Islamic view of transcendence is more strict than the Christian view; it “implies that to all intents and purposes God is unknowable; Christians believe that God can be known (John 1:18; 14:7; 17:3, 6).” 2
The term Islam means “surrender.” The Muslim surrenders to Allah by following the Five Pillars of Islam: the creed (shahada), prayer (salat), almsgiving (zakat), fasting (sawm), and pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj).
In the Qur’an, “the greatest Islamic sin is that of shirk—the illicit ‘association’ of a creature in the honor and worship that belongs to God alone.”3 To the Muslim, the concept of Jesus as the Son of God is shirk.
Flaws within Islam
There are many flaws inherent within Islam. As Christians, we accept the premise that the Bible is the perfect, infallible, inerrant Word of God. Therefore, any worldview or religion that contradicts the Bible must logically be false and irrational.
The core doctrine of tawhid, the absolute transcendence of Allah, is self-refuting. Tawhid teaches that Allah is unknowable, yet the statement that Allah is unknowable is itself a statement of knowledge of Allah – we know that Allah is unknowable. How can one know anything about something that is unknowable? Islam also teaches that Allah has ninety-nine names. These names describe various aspects of Allah’s nature. If Allah is unknowable, then how can we have ninety-nine names describing his attributes?
Tawhid also teaches that nothing – no person or entity – can be compared to or analogous to Allah. Therefore, he can neither be a person, nor any other entity. He cannot be something. If he cannot be something, then he must be nothing. Therefore, Allah cannot exist.
The Qur’an teaches that the Bible is the word of God (Suras 34:31; 35:31; 48:29; 66:6, 12). The Qur’an affirms the Bible’s teaching, but the Bible contradicts the teaching of the Qur’an. Therefore, the Qur’an is self-refuting and cannot be true, because it contradicts the book that it cites as the word of God.
Islamic theology teaches that Allah is both just and merciful. William Vandoodewaard suggests,
The problem is that in order for Allah to remain perfectly just and righteous, sin must be punished. If all men are sinful and have committed sin, and Allah is infinite and perfect in his attributes, there can be no mercy. For mercy then would function as a negation of his justice. This leads to the inevitable conclusion that in order for Allah to be both merciful (in the Quranic sense of ignoring the sins of some) and just, he must be an arbitrary and changing being.5
Unlike the cross of Christ in Christianity, Islam has no mechanism for satisfying both the justice and the mercy of Allah.
Allah is indeed described in the Islamic theology as arbitrary. He is “a fickle, capricious, untrustworthy being that is inconsistent, irregular, and has a mutable will. He can tell falsehoods and hoodwink men.”6 If Allah is arbitrary and changing, then Islam cannot account for the laws of logic, physics, and mathematics, which are absolute and unchanging. If Allah can lie and change his mind, then how can the Muslim know that Allah was telling the truth when he gave Muhammad the Qur’an?
The Qur’an teaches a distorted view of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Islamic theology states that the God of the Bible is three gods: God the Father, Jesus, and Mary. The Qur’an states, “GOD will say, “O Jesus, son of Mary, did you say to the people, `Make me and my mother idols beside GOD?’”7 Islam also instructs that the Bible teaches that Jesus was the result of a physical relationship between God and Mary. Both of these claims are blatant misrepresentations of the Bible.
Nowhere in the Qur’an is Allah described as a god of love. The absolute oneness of Allah implies that Allah could not have loved before he created the world, because love requires an object. Since Allah was alone in his existence, there was nothing for him to love. If love is not an attribute of Allah, then from where does love come? If Allah is not a god of love, then he could not have created love. Why does love exist, if it did not come from Allah?
Sharing Christ with the Muslim
One of the first considerations when sharing the Gospel with a Muslim is his belief in greatest Islamic sin, shirk – the offensive, blasphemous placement of anything on par with Allah. Edward Challen believes that Christians should refrain from using the term “Son of God” when describing Jesus, stating, “it is not wise to use the term, for it immediately offends.”8 He further suggests that we must first explain what the Bible actually teaches about the Trinity – one God, in three Persons – and then refer to the Trinity and to Jesus as the Son of God.
Caner suggests several cultural principles that would be offensive to the Muslim, which Christians should avoid when witnessing. These include shaking the left hand, calling a Muslim “Brother,” refusing hospitality, serving alcohol, pork, or shellfish, interrupting worship, or speaking to a member of the opposite gender.9
A two-fold apologetic is an effective way to share the Gospel with a Muslim. One side of the argument is a polemic against Islam, capitalizing on the inherent flaws within Islam. Demonstrate that the absolute transcendence and unknowability of Allah are self-refuting concepts; that the Qur’an affirms the Bible, but the Bible contradicts the Qur’an; and that the arbitrariness and inconsistency of Allah means that Islam cannot account for the absolute laws of logic, physics, and mathematics. By pointing out these and other logical inconsistencies within Islam, the Christian can help the Muslim understand that Islam cannot be the truth.
The second side of the approach to reach the Muslim is a clear apologetic of the truth of Jesus Christ as the only atonement for sin. Islam provides no method for both justice and mercy; only the death of Jesus Christ on the cross can accomplish both. Since Islam is a works-based religion, the Muslim is acutely aware of his own sin. In order for him to understand God’s grace, he must understand that he cannot satisfy God’s justice on his own.
The Christian must emphasize the differences between Allah and the God of the Bible. Allah is unknowable and unlovable, but our God not only can be known and loved, but knowing and loving Him is the very reason he created us.
Christians must emphasize the differences between the Qur’an and the Bible. Daniel Shayesteh explains that
Muslims need to discover and know whether the Bible or the Qur’an is the Word of God. They need to know which one introduces the real justice of God. They need to ask which one truly cares for the world and provides salvation for humankind? Muslims need to be assured that Jesus can answer their desperate need for salvation and can erase any uncertainty about salvation in their lives. We can prove to them how we now have assurance of salvation in Him.10
Since Islam teaches that the Bible is the Word of God, it is extremely appropriate to use the Bible to show the differences between Christian and Islamic beliefs, and how Jesus is able to provide the eternal salvation that Islam cannot provide.
Due to space limitations, this paper did not explore all of the flaws within Islam. Further study of these flaws, and the logical and Biblical responses to them, is suggested.
Sharing the Gospel with a Muslim can be a difficult task in light of the mistrust and hysteria in the aftermath of 9/11, but with reliance on the Holy Spirit, God can use the Christian to reach the Muslim with the love of Jesus Christ. Every person is created in God’s image, and needs Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. By understanding the basic tenets and practices of Islam and the inherent weaknesses within those beliefs, and by giving reasoned responses to those inconsistencies, the Christian can be more effectively used by God to reach the Muslim.
Caner, Ergun. “Islam.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, edited by Ed Hinson and Ergun Caner, 277-281. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.
Caner, Ergun, and Emir Caner. Unveiling Islam. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 2009.
Challen, Edward. Love Your Muslim Neighbour. Leominster, England: Day One Publications, 2006.
Robinson, Mike L. One Way to God. Denver, Colorado: Outskirts Press, 2008.
Schlorff, Samuel P. “Muslim Ideology and Christian Apologetics.” Missiology 21, no. 2 (April 1993): 173-185. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000863905&site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed September 13, 2009).
Shayesteh, Daniel. The Difference is the Son. Castle Hill, New South Wales: Daniel Shayesteh, 2004.
Swanson, Mark N. “The Trinity in Christian-Muslim Conversation.” Dialog 44, no. 3 (Fall 2005): 256-263. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx? direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001495658&site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed September 13, 2009).
Vandoodewaard, William. “The Necessity of Theology and Practice in Islamic Studies.” Christian Higher Education 4, no. 3 (July 2005): 211-230. http://search.ebscohost .com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eoah&AN=7402365&site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed September 13, 2009).
1. Caner, Ergun, “Islam,” in The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, ed. Ed Hinson and Ergun Caner (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 280.
2. Schlorff, Samuel P., “Muslim Ideology and Christian Apologetics.” Missiology 21, no. 2 (April 1993): 175, http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh& AN=ATLA0000863905&site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed September 13, 2009).
3. Swanson, Mark N., “The Trinity in Christian-Muslim Conversation.” Dialog 44, no. 3 (Fall 2005): 256, http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh& AN=ATLA0001495658 &site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed September 13, 2009).
4. Ergun Caner and Emir Caner, Unveiling Islam, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 2009), 110.
5. Vandoodewaard, William, “The Necessity of Theology and Practice in Islamic Studies.” Christian Higher Education 4, no. 3 (July 2005): 217, http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ login.aspx?direct=true&db=eoah&AN=7402365&site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed September 13, 2009).
6 Robinson, Mike L., One Way to God, (Denver, Colorado: Outskirts Press, 2008), 89.
7. Surah 5:116 (translated by Dr. Rashad Khalifa).
8. Challen, Edward, Love Your Muslim Neighbour. (Leominster, England: Day One Publications, 2006), 200.
9. Caner and Caner, Unveiling Islam, 223-224.
10. Shayesteh, Daniel, The Difference is the Son (Castle Hill, New South Wales: Daniel Shayesteh, 2004), 294-295.