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Islam Beliefs

Islam Beliefs

In addition to the Five Pillars (see chapter 15), Muslims are obliged to hold other beliefs. First among these is that, unlike Judaism, wherein a person can be an atheist and still be considered Jewish, a Muslim must believe in God.

For other monotheistic faiths, and especially Judaism and Christianity, a common question is whether Muslims worship the same God. For American Christians, the frequent question “Is Allah God?” creates confusion. Because Islam is so closely tied to Arabic language and culture, many people think Allah is a special Muslim name for God or refers specifically to the God of Islam.

Islam Beliefs
Islam Beliefs

Again, however, Allah is the generic Arabic word for God (like the Greek Theos, Spanish Dios, or Hebrew Elohim) and also is used in the Arabic Bible (there are millions of Arabic-speaking Christians in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, and elsewhere).

The wording of the question likewise assumes that the English word God refers exclusively to the God of the Bible, but English-speaking followers of any religion use that word to refer to their deity.

So the question should be “Is the God revealed in the Qur’an the same God revealed in the Bible?” Muslims believe they worship the God of Abraham, and thus, the same God as Jews and Christians. While there is a real historical connection, along with some similarities in beliefs about God’s attributes, there are many significant theological differences as to God’s nature and relationship to humans. In the Bible, God reveals himself to Moses as YHWH; in Islam, God’s name is unknown. Muslims refer to the ninety-nine names of God, but the actual or correct name is a mystery.

Muslims sometimes finger a string of beads resembling a rosary. The thirty-three beads in the usual string are utilized as a memory device for reciting the ninety-nine names, since it is believed that prayers offered to God using the correct name will be heard. Key attributes revealed in the Bible that differ from the Qur’an include God’s triune nature (Father, Son, and Spirit), his love for humankind, and his provision of salvation by grace.

Some Muslim and Christian beliefs are very similar but not identical. Both believe angels are created, supernatural beings that serve God. However, where Christians believe Satan and the demonic realm are angels who have rebelled against God, Muslims believe they are a different type of spiritual being, created from fire. Both believe God sent prophets with messages for humankind.

Islam Beliefs
Islam Beliefs

Some prophets named in the Qur’an are also found in the Bible, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, John the Baptist, and Jesus, but according to the biblical record, not all in that group held the role of prophet. Muslims also are taught that the prophets lived near-perfect lives, free from at least any major sin, and were protected from all harm.

The Bible is frank in revealing the prophets’ human failings and records that many were persecuted and even killed for their faithfulness in proclaiming God’s message.

Muslims believe that some prophets were given books; the books named are the Torah (Pentateuch) of Moses, the Zabur (Psalms) of David, the Injil (gospel) of Jesus, and the Qur’an (Recitation) of Muhammad. The Qur’an claims that the messages of all these books are the same. Since Muhammad was nonliterate, and books were rare prior to the printing press, he never read the Bible and genuinely believed this was true.

When the differences were discovered some time after his death, the Muslim explanation was that the Jews and Christians had changed their books, which now are “corrupted.” While this might have seemed plausible in the eighth century, Muslims still are taught that the Bible we have today is a corrupted book, even though modern textual research and the hundreds of discovered ancient manuscripts prove there were no such changes.

Another core belief for Muslims is the Day of Judgment, when the dead will be raised, stand before God, and be sent either to heaven or hell. While it is hoped that one’s good deeds and submission to God will earn his favor, there is no way to know in advance the outcome.

Traditionally this decision was considered permanent, but a more recent teaching is that everyone will go to hell first, to be punished for their sins, and then go to heaven. Some believe this applies to everyone, while others are taught that only Muslims eventually will go to heaven.

Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad died and awaits the Judgment Day. Early writings indicate that Jesus, whom Muslims believe was taken into heaven without dying, will return to raise the dead on Judgment Day. More recently, the teaching has been altered to say that Jesus will raise Muhammad and then turn the task over to him to finish.

Most controversial among Muslim beliefs is Jihad (an Arabic word meaning “struggle”). The translation “holy war,” somewhat misleading, is disliked by most Muslims. The Qur’an clearly limits Jihad to defending Islam and Muslims against attack. For moderate Muslims, this means struggling to live a life that’s a good testimony for Islam.

For fundamentalists, the defense includes physical war as well. From their perspective, the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are invasions of Muslim lands by nonbelievers, so they are obligated to help defend their fellow Muslims. Extremists even try to legitimize terrorism as a defense against Western (i.e., non-Muslim) cultural, economic, and political encroachment.

For Muslims, everything in life is either haram (forbidden) or halal (permitted). The forbidden includes eating pork, drinking alcohol, using drugs, gambling, and adultery. It is generally accepted that an action is permitted if not specifically forbidden; specifically permitted are men marrying up to four wives (if they are treated equally) and divorce.

Halal also refers to the proper slaughtering of animals and the preparation of meat. The procedure is similar to kosher preparation and, in fact, Muslims can eat kosher meat. Jews, however, will not eat halal meat.

Islam Beliefs
Islam Beliefs

An Extra Minute

Many of the hot-dog carts in Manhattan’s financial district are run by Muslims from the Middle East or North Africa. The hot dogs they sell are kosher rather than halal, so anyone, Christian, Jew, Muslim, or otherwise, can enjoy lunch with a clear conscience.

Morgan, G.R. (2012) Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, pp. 74–77.

Islam Beliefs

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