The Arabian Peninsula is one of the hottest and driest regions in the world and
is the birth place of Islam. Founded in Mecca, Arabia by Muhammad (AD 570-632),
considered by the Muslim world as the greatest man who ever lived and the last of
more than 124,000 messengers sent by Allah. Mecca became a part of Saudi Arabia
in 1925. Today, more than 13 million Muslims visit Mecca annually, including several
million who visit during the few days of Hajj. This has resulted in Mecca becoming
one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse cities in the Muslim world, although non-Muslims
remain formally prohibited from the entering the city.
It was in Mecca that Muhammad began to receive visions through the angel Gabriel
in a cave near Mecca in the year A.D. 610. The Holy Qur’an (Koran) was a result
of the visions revealed to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. The Qur’an is considered
by Muslims to be the main revelation to mankind. It is considered by Muslims to
be flawless, immutable and the final revelation of God. Muslims believe that the
Bible and the Torah may have been misinterpreted or distorted by their followers.
Consequently, the Muslims believe the Qur’an as corrective to Jewish and Christian
scriptures. They believe that Allah is One and absolutely unique. He cannot be known.
The greatest sin in Islam is shirk, or associating anything with Allah. Many Muslims
think that Christians believe in three Gods and are therefore guilty of shirk. As
far as the Muslims are concerned, Jesus was not the Son of God. His virgin birth
is likened to Adam’s creation. He was sinless, a worker of miracles, and one of
the most respected prophets sent by Allah. He was not crucified or resurrected.
He, not Muhammad, will return to play a special role before the future judgment
day, perhaps turning Christians to Islam.
Islam is made up of three main types: Sunni (“people of the tradition”), Shi’a (“party
of Ali”), and Sufi (mystics). The Sunni comprise over 1 billion of those belonging
to the Muslim faith. The Shi’a claims over 170 million followers of Islam, located
primarily in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain.
The Five Pillars of Islam are the foundation of the Islamic religion. The Sunni
of the Islamic faith practice the Five Pillars or duties as follows: Profession
of Faith (shahadah); Prayers (salat); Almsgiving (zakat); Fasting during Ramadan
(sawm); and Pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj). These Five Pillars are the framework of
Muslim life. Muslims contend that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah
and Muhammad is his messenger. This declaration of faith is called the Shahadah,
a simple formula which all faithful Muslims pronounce. Salat is the name for the
obligatory prayers which are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between
the worshipper and Allah. The Islamic faith does not recognize a hierarchical authority
and no priests. The prayers are led by a learned person of the Quran, chosen by
the congregation. Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall.
The rhythm of the day is centered on the times of Prayer. Although a Muslim may
prefer to pray in a Mosque together, they may pray in any location such as a field,
offices, universities, or factories. Almsgiving (Zakat) is one of the most important
principles of Islam in that it teaches that all things belong to Allah, and that
all wealth is held by human beings in trust. Each Muslim calculates his or her zakat
individually. A Muslim pays two and a half percent of annual income each year. Fasting
during Ramadan (sawm) is observed from first light until sundown abstaining from
food, drink, and sexual relations. Those who are unable to comply with this ritual
during Ramadan are permitted to deviate from the fast and make it up on other days
in the year. The annual Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) is an obligation only to those
who can afford the trip both physically and financially. About two million people
go to Mecca each year.
Generally speaking, there are two methods of salvation in all the religions of the
world: grace and works. Christianity is a religion of salvation of grace alone.
In Ephesians 2:8-9, it is written, “For by grace through faith you have been saved,
not of works.” All other systems rely totally or in part on the works of the believer
to attain salvation. Mormons, for example, say that you are saved by grace through
faith after all you can do. In Roman Catholicism, God’s grace is infused into a
believer that enables him to do good works by which he is judged for salvation.
In Islam, forgiveness is based on a combination of Allah’s grace and the Muslim’s
works. On the Day of Judgment, if a Muslim’s good works outweighs his bad ones,
and if Allah wills it, he may be forgiven of all his sins and then enter into Paradise.
Therefore, Islam is a religion of salvation by works because it combines man’s works
with Allah’s grace. Christianity clearly teaches that all are saved by grace through
faith and that salvation is a FREE gift from God.
In world news today we often hear of Islamic expressions such as: Sunni, who make
up the majority of the Islamic world; the Shi’a who oppose the Sunni from a political
standpoint; the Sufi’s who have always been considered a part of Islam but they
have always had a troubled relationship with the Sunni’s and Shia’s. The Sufi’s
follow books that other Muslims do not. The Sufi’s have always been on the mystical
side from the very beginning of their existence within the Muslim world. The Sufi’s
have been persecuted by the Sunni for their beliefs and mysticism in regard to Allah.
Other expressions heard sometimes include: Folk Islam – a term used to describe
a set of (folk) beliefs, superstitions, and cultural practices handed down from
generation to generation in Islamic countries. Many of these folk practices have
become integrated into the daily lives of many Muslims. Jihadism is an Islamic term
often mentioned in the media today. It is a term to describe the renewed focus on
armed warfare in radical Islamic fundamentalism. Jihadism emerged in the 1960’s,
with roots dating back to the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The rise of Jihadism was re-enforced by the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet invasion
of Afghanistan in 1979, and has been propagated in various armed conflicts throughout
the 1990s and 2000s.
The Nation of Islam is another term often seen in the media. It is mainly a new
African-American religious movement with headquarters in Chicago, IL. The Nation
of Islam does not publish its membership numbers but it is believed to number from
between 20,000 to 50,000, with most of these members being from the United States.
They teach black pride and principles of Islam. This movement was founded in Detroit,
MI in July 1930 by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad. Today this movement is lead by Louis
Islam appeals to many who find it easier to accept another’s beliefs rather than
to question those beliefs while trying to belong or to gain acceptance. The simplicity
of Islam and the requirements to become a part of it appeals to many people. Islam
is not so much a religious system as it is a tool of social organization. It is
more concerned with what people do as opposed to what they might believe. Islam
offers a new unity and identity for those seeking higher principles. The Islamists
have a simple set of rules for how Muslims and non-Muslims must behave, for how
women must act and how men should act. In a multicultural society, Islam promises
absolute unity to those seeking a way out of fractured divisions of society. Islam
was created precisely to supplant a diversity of religions and beliefs by people
who wanted to find unity through one supreme system. Muslims think that the final
benefit of Islam, of course, is that it makes the Muslim in the West immediately
superior to the Westerner from the highest to the lowest member of a multicultural
society. Islam promises unity of the true believers which is a common promise by
all cult leaders, and has a timeless appeal to the disenchanted looking for a higher
principle and a new identity.
In approaching Muslims, one must be knowledgeable about Islam and Christianity.
Give your testimony as to how and why you became a Christian. Talk about how God
has revealed Himself to you before and since you became a Christian. This may very
well take the Muslim by surprise since, according to their belief; God has not spoken
to a single human being since Muhammad died (AD 632). Witnessing to a Muslim is
thoroughly a Biblical approach as stated in 1 John 1:3, “What we have seen and heard
we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our
fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” There is no argument
against a testimony.
In witnessing to a Muslim find a common ground or mutual understanding and work
from this standpoint. Muslims continually and genuinely strive to please Allah.
Compliment them on their practices in confessing Allah, praying five times daily,
giving to the poor, keeping a month-long fast, etc. There are points of variance
between Islamic and Christian doctrine, to be sure, but the point is to find a common
starting place. The Qur’an bears surprising witness to Jesus. It affirms His virgin
birth, His ability to heal and raise the dead, that He is both a word from God and
a spirit from God, that He is the Messiah, an all-righteous one (sinless), among
those nearest to God, that He is alive in heaven now and will return to judge the
world. Muslims often are convinced that Christ is greater than Muhammad just by
reading the Qur’an. The preceding points would serve as excellent starting places
in witnessing to a Muslim. Remember to be culturally sensitive and emphasize that
Christianity is a personal relationship with God.
It has been estimated that the total number of Muslims range from 7 million to 1.8
billion worldwide and 1.1 million to 7 million in the United States. About 23% of
all people on Earth follow Islam. The religion of Islam is currently in a rapid
state of growth. Christianity is currently the largest religion in the world. Christianity
is followed by about 33% of all people – a figure that has remained stable for decades.
If current trends continue, Islam will become the most popular world religion sometime
in the mid 21st century.