An Examination of the World's
Second Largest Religion
Lecture Notes by CHARLIE H. CAMPBELL
Director of The Always Be Ready Apologetics Ministry
© Copyright 2000–2017
In this teaching I will talk about...
I. The Origin of Islam
In 620 Muslims believe the angel Gabriel brought Muhammad by night to Jerusalem on the back of a heavenly horse (Quran 17:1). In Jerusalem, it’s said that Muhammad conversed with Jesus, Moses and Abraham, before being taken by a ladder to Heaven for a night.
The Dome of the Rock, completed in A.D. 691, was built at the spot in Jerusalem where Muslims believe Muhammad ascended into Heaven for a night.
By the end of the first decade of Muhammad's preaching, several hundred families were convinced that he was a prophet of God. Having converted to monotheism (belief in one God, Allah), Muhammad and his followers were a minority and persecuted by those who would not convert.
To stamp out this newly invented religion, a plan was devised to assassinate Muhammad. So what did Muhammad do? He did what many people would do if they found out there were plans for an assassination. He got out of town!
So in 622, Muhammad and his followers fled from Mecca. They went 250 miles north to the friendlier city of Medina.
Eight years later, in the year 630, after winning a series of bloody military battles, Muhammad and his army of 10,000 men went back to and conquered Mecca. Muhammad proceeded to the main sanctuary in Mecca, known as the Ka’bah, and ordered that all the idols be destroyed and that it be dedicated to Allah. I tell you about that building, that sanctuary, because the Ka’bah in Mecca, is the holiest site in the world to Muslims.
The Quran requires that all who are physically and financially able make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime (Quran 2:196). And every year approximately two million Muslims make the pilgrimage
In 632, at the age of 63, Muhammad died a sudden but natural death in the arms of Aisha, one of his twelve wives, in the city of Medina, where his tomb is today. The Quran limits the number of wives a man can marry to four (Quran 4:3). Joseph Smith–I mean Muhammad (I get those two confused sometimes)–believed that Allah made a special allowance for him, which accounts for him marrying twelve women. The Quran also states that a young girl cannot get married “until they reach the age of puberty” (Quran 4:6). Apparently Muhammad believed an exception was available for him in this area as well. Aisha, the wife in whose arms he died, was only six years old when Muhammad took her to be his wife (Sahih al-Bukhari Hadith 7.62.64).
Disagreements concerning who was to succeed Muhammad as the new political and religious leader of Islam caused a division in Islam between two groups, the Sunnis and the Shi’ites. Sunnis believe the successors to Muhammad were to be elected democratically from among Muhammad's closest followers. Shi’ites believe that Muhammad's successors were to be related to Muhammad.
The disagreements between the two groups continue to this day. The disagreements and the fighting between the two groups continue to this day.
In an attempt to paint Islam as a superior religion to Christianity, it is not uncommon to hear Muslims boast about how unified they are. But that is often just an attempt to play on our ignorance. There are approximately 150 sects in Islam. One of the better-known sects is the ultra-conservative, legalistic, and often terrorism friendly Wahhabi sect, to which Osama Bin Laden belongs.
Wahhabism began in the 18th century under the teachings of ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1792), who called on Muslims to return to the “pure” form of Islam as preached by Muhammad.
Now, what happened following Muhammad’s death in 632 still amazes historians to this day. By 638—only six years after Muhammad’s death—Muslims seized the Holy Land by force.
Within the course of that first century, Muslim armies spread the Islamic Empire into Central Asia, into the confines of China, across North Africa, and all the way to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Southern France and Spain.
Were it not for a man by the name of Charles Martel in 732 at a battle in Tours, France, we might all be speaking Arabic and kneeling toward Mecca five times a day to pray! It was there in France, in 732, that Martel, a ruler of the Franks (a tribe of Germany) defeated the advancing Muslim armies and ended their advance into Europe. Many historians believe that if it were not for that successful battle, all of Europe may have fallen to Islam.
So Islam spread far and wide, but its growth happened much differently than the spread of Christianity.
Christianity, as you know, spread over the first three centuries through the simple preaching of the gospel. In fact, it was the Christians who were often persecuted and put to death. The spread of Islam happened much differently.
Like I.S.I.S. is doing today in northern Iraq, Muslims forced Islam upon tens of millions by military conquest (jihad). It is an undeniable fact of history that Islam spread by the sword.
RESPONSE: That is a good question. First, the Crusades were not carried out to spread the Christian faith. The initial rationale for the Crusades—first launched in 1095, a thousand years after Jesus—was to take back the land Muslims had seized by military conquest from the Christians. The destruction and threat to sacred places in Jerusalem, the murder, torture, enslavement, robbery, and harassment of Christian pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land all served to provoke the Europeans to participate in the Crusades.
What did the United States and other countries do when Saddam Hussein was harassing Kuwait and stealing land? We went and sought to put a stop to it. If we felt justified with that intervention, you can understand how the Europeans felt justified launching the Crusades. (To read more on the Crusades, see historian Rodney Stark's book: God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades).
Unlike the spread of Islam, the Crusades were not launched to force Christianity upon people. So that is important to note. And it’s also worth pointing out that any evil committed during the Crusades—and there were atrocities—contradicted the teachings of Christ. Of course, you’ll remember that at His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus rebuked Peter for striking a man with his sword, and said...
At His interrogation before Pontius Pilate, Jesus said...
Jesus’s teachings were never to be furthered with violence. But the violence carried out during the spread of Islam was carried out in obedience to the teachings of Muhammad (as I will show). So that is a big difference between the spread of Islam and the spread of Christianity.
That is a very concise overview of the origin of Islam. Secondly, let's talk about...
In 1982, there were 450 million Muslims in the world. Today there are approximately 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. This religion has more than doubled in size over the past thirty years.
That means today that one out of every four people alive is a Muslim. And Islam is not only growing in places like Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and India. It's growing here in America as well. According to an article in the New York Times, in 1990 there were only thirty mosques in the United States. Today there more than 3,000! [Ron Rhodes, The Ten Things You Should Know About Islam, p. 9] There are more practicing Muslims in the United States than Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses combined.
Well friends, these numbers will continue to grow—unless Christians reach Muslim countries and communities with the gospel.
Now, many Muslims like to point to the size and growth of Islam as evidence that Islam is the one true religion. Well, the size and growth of a particular religion is hardly a reliable means of testing a religion for truth. There were only eight people on Noah’s ark.
The number of adherents a religion has does not have any bearing on whether or not its teachings are true. And if size was indicative of truth, Christianity would be the winner anyway. Christianity has more adherents than Islam.
Now, statistics like the ones I mentioned a moment ago regarding the growth of Islam raise a question...
How is this religion growing so quickly?
Well, much of the growth is biological rather than through proselytizing. By that I mean the explosion in these numbers is largely related to Muslims having large families, rather than them winning the hearts and minds of outsiders—especially here in the West.
Another factor involved in the large number of Islam's adherents is...
Many Muslims who would consider abandoning Islam are afraid to do so. Why? Well, you see, not only did Islam spread by the sword, Islam maintains itself today in many countries today (e.g., Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan) by threatening death (for males) or life imprisonment (for females) for any Muslim converts to another religion. There are about 36 countries in the world today where a person can legally be put to death for leaving Islam. Why would these countries put people to death for leaving Islam? Because Muhammad said:
“If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him."
And so not only do Muslims lose their lives for converting, so do those who seek to evangelize Muslims. This too is based on the teachings of Muhammad. According to the Quran, people of other faiths who seek to evangelize Muslims ("spreading mishief in the land" 5:32) are subject to one of four punishments:
"...execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands, and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter." (Quran 5:33)
We need to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters who are risking their lives seeking to bring the gospel to people inside Muslim nations. Sharing the gospel in these places is very challenging and dangerous. God help them!
Is Islam a Peaceful Religion?
THE QURAN ADVOCATES BOTH.
The earlier teachings of Muhammad (while he was in Mecca) when he was part of a religious minority have a moderate tone of peace and tolerance toward other religions (e.g., 2:190, 29:46).
But after Muhammad gained numerous followers and political power in Medina, he began to contradict himself by advocating a much more hostile attitude toward people of other faiths. For example (and please note that the chapters in the Quran are not arranged chronologically, but by size)...
And there are others verses similar to these.
Muslim terrorists believe that because these instructions came later in Muhammad’s life, these verses abrogate (i.e., repeal or supersede) previous revelation. And these are the kinds of verses in the Quran that Muslim terrorists and the I.S.I.S. barbarians have cited and do cite to justify their fight against Christians and Jews.
So, it’s kind of up to each Muslim to decide which verses he wants to put into practice. If a Muslim wants to live in peace with his neighbors and happily co-exist with others (as most Muslims do in the West) then he can find some verses in the Quran that support that. But if a Muslim wants to hate people of other faiths (including Jews and Christians) and wants to spread Islam around the world with violence, then he can find ample justification in the Quran to support that kind of belief.
To say that Islam is a "peaceful religion" that does not advocate violence, is incorrect. Such a statement contradicts the track record of history and the Quran itself.
To be able to explain to people some of the differences between Christianity and Islam, it’s important to know some of Islam’s basic beliefs and practices. First their beliefs. There are five main beliefs Muslims hold.
1. Belief in One God, Allah.
For example, here are a couple of the differences:
The Quran teaches that Allah is not triune in nature (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The Quran teaches that Allah has no Son. And in fact, to say that God has a Son, or is a Trinity of persons is an unforgivable sin known as shirk to Muslims (e.g., Quran 112:1-4, 4:48)
Not only does the Quran teach that Allah has no Son, it states over and over again that Allah does not love sinners. Here are just a couple of examples:
If you are a sinner, an unbeliever, proud, or extravagant, the Quran says that Allah does not love you.
Oh, how different the God of the Bible is!
The Bible says that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob loves the whole world, including sinners! Of course Jesus said in...
This is good news for those of us who realize we are sinners! The Bible also teaches that believers are adopted into God's family (Ephesians 1:5) and can personally address God as “Father" (Matthew 6:9, Romans 8:15).
The God of the Bible offers mankind a personal relationship of great intimacy. That is not the case in Islam. In Islam there is no fatherly concept of God. To most Muslims, Allah is understood more as a remote judge, who is not personally involved with mankind.
Islam is not about fellowship with God, but service, submission and allegiance to God. These are just some of the differences between the Quran’s portrayal of God and the Bible's.
The second main belief for Muslims is what they call…
2. The Belief in Prophets
Another belief common to Muslims concerns their prophets. Muhammad taught that Allah raised up 124,000 different prophets for mankind down through the ages.
Muhammad taught that some of Allah’s prophets included persons mentioned in the Bible more than a 1,000 years before Muhammad was even born. Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jesus, make Muhammad's list of Muslim prophets (Quran 6:84-86).
As outrageous as that may sound, this is what Muhammad taught—that these Biblical prophets (including Jesus) were actually prophets of Islam! But, if this is what Muslims believe to be the case (that these men were genuine prophets of God) why won’t they take heed to what these men in the Bible said?
Well, according to the Quran, the last and most respected of all Allah’s prophets, is Muhammad. Having come last, the Quran teaches that Muhammad’s teachings supersede the others’.
So, yes, it is interesting that the Quran does mention Jesus and even upholds Him as a prophet. But Muhammad sought to strip Jesus of His true identity by denying His deity and demoting Him to a mere human.
The Jesus of the Quran is an example of “another Jesus” that the apostle Paul warned some would come and preach (2 Corinthians 11:4).
3. Belief in Angels
Muslims believe angels function as guardians, recorders, and messengers for Allah.
Muslims believe that each person has two angels, one on his right who records his good deeds and one on his left who records the bad deeds (Quran 50:17).
A fourth belief of Muslims is what they call their…
4. Belief in the Holy Books
Muhammad taught that Allah has given 4 books to mankind:
1. The Law of Moses
Supreme of course among all these books for Muslims is the Quran. The reason Muslims believe the Quran has superseded all previous revelation is because Muhammad taught that these other books had been corrupted.
Of course, we disagree with them on this. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient manuscript copies of the Bible have totally disproved this charge. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that shows the Bible we have and use today is essentially the same Bible the early Christians had and used 2000 years ago.
5. Belief in the Final Judgment
The Quran teaches that all human beings will be physically resurrected on what it calls “the Last Day.” A person’s life will be examined and they will be permitted to spend eternity in Heaven (Quran 4:57) or Hell (Quran 4:56; 14:48-51).
Let’s consider fourthly…
To become a Muslim one must confess aloud and publicly the following words: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”
This declaration of faith is called the shahada and is repeated constantly by faithful Muslims.
Muslims are required to pray at five specific times every day (daybreak, noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset, early evening) facing the city of Mecca. Each time of prayer has set sequences of standing, bowing, kneeling, and prostrating while reciting specific verses from the Quran or other prayer formulas.
On Fridays the male community is required to be present at the mosque at noon to participate in prayer and to listen to a teaching from the Quran. The word mosque literally means: “a place for prostration before God.”
Women are allowed to attend but are required to be in the back separated by a curtain or in a side room. The community leader, the imam, is considered a teacher and prayer leader.
It is required that Muslims give one-fortieth (or 2.5%) of their finances to help the poor and for emergency situations.
Fasting is an annual, lifelong requirement for Muslims. In the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims fast from sunrise until sundown (Quran 2:183-185). Why?
Ramadan is the month Muslims believe Muhammad received his first revelation from Gabriel (revelation that went on to make up part of the Quran). During this time Muslims must abstain from food, drink, smoking, and sexual relations.
Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, as well as women who are pregnant or nursing, are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed.
As I mentioned above, it is required within Islam that all who are physically and financially able go to Mecca at least once in their lifetime (Quran 2:196). While in Mecca, Muslims are required to circle the Ka'bah seven times and run seven times between two hills, amongst other activities.
So, those are some of the basic beliefs and practices in Islam that I think are good to be familiar with. But this fourth practice, fasting during Ramadan, raises the obvious question: Could the Quran be from God? Well, you know my answer: No! Why? Why are Christians confident the Quran is not the Word of God? This brings us to the fourth issue I'd like to briefly examine...
Christians of course reject these claims. Why? Why are we confident the Quran is not the Word of God? I’ll give you five reasons.
1. The Quran Contradicts Authentic Scripture.
By authentic Scripture, of course I am referring to the Bible. Many teachings in the Quran directly contradict the Bible, a book that uniquely, among all other religious literature, provides hundreds of fulfilled prophecies as proof of its divine inspiration.
How does the Quran contradict the Bible? Well, we already noted how the Quran seeks to strip Jesus of His deity and denies the doctrine of the Trinity. Those teachings would certainly qualify. But, here is another example: The Quran teaches that salvation comes by works, not by God’s grace, as the Bible teaches. Notice what the Quran teaches:
Notice that. The Quran says if the balance of your good deeds is heavy, you will be saved.
If you want to be saved according to the Quran, you need to believe in Allah and Muhammad as his prophet and work righteous deeds!
The Quran’s teaching that salvation is earned by works is just one of many teachings that contradicts the Bible.
2. The Quran Contradicts Known Facts of Science.
The Quran, like other ancient religious writings, has made some serious errors when it comes to science—errors that prove it can not be the product of an omniscient, divine mind. For starters...
In 18:86 the Quran speaks of a man traveling until he actually finds the place the Sun descends down into the Earth. It says he traveled “till, when he reached the setting-place of the Sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring” (Quran 18:86).
This is an error of astronomical proportions. The Sun—as you know—is thousands of times bigger than the Earth and is 93 million miles away from the planet. But, you could get away with a statement like that in certain parts of the world in the seventh century. (See Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam, p. 200 for more on this error in the Quran).
Other scientific errors in the Quran include:
• A hard sky that can fall on the inhabitants of the Earth (22:65, 34:9)
• Stars that fly away when Abraham glances at them (37:88-90)
• A moon that is further away than the stars (67:3, 5 and 71:15-16)
• Mountains that were created to hold down the earth and prevent earthquakes (31:10-11)
• Meteors that are a form of divine retribution being hurled at devils who might try to spy on the heavenly council (37:6-10; 72:8-9)
3. The Quran Contradicts Known Facts of History.
One of the most well-attested facts of history is that Jesus of Nazareth was put to death on a cross. It is a fact of history so well confirmed by historical sources—even outside of the Bible—that even the most liberal of scholars—like those who are part of the Jesus Seminar—consider it an undisputable fact.
And yet, the Quran asserts that this historical event never occurred.
Quran 4:157 says...
What should we trust? The New Testament or the Quran? Hmmm. Let's see...
The New Testament was written down in the first century by eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life and their close associates. Numerous details in it have been corroborated by extrabiblical historical sources like the first century historian Flavius Josephus, Suetonius, Cornelius Tacitus and the Jewish Talmud, not to mention numerous archaeological discoveries.
The New Testament was written down within the first generation after the events surrounding Jesus’ life, while the eyewitnesses were still alive. It has been corroborated by a wealth of historical research, extrabiblical writings (e.g., the Jewish Talmud and first century historian Flavius Josephus) and numerous archaeological discoveries.
4. The Quran Has Many Internal Inconsistencies.
Here are just a couple of examples...
The Quran teaches that Noah and all of his family survived the flood in one place (Quran 21:76), but in another place it states that one of Noah’s sons drowned (Quran 11:42-43)
The Quran states that Pharaoh drowned while chasing the Israelites (Quran 28:40, 17:103, 43:55) but in another place it says he survived (10:90-92).
There are more than a hundred of these kinds of internal inconsistencies in the Quran. Click here for more.
5. There are No Particularly Good Reasons to Accept the Quran as Authoritative.
The most popular proof Muslims give for the truthfulness of the Quran is the Quran’s literary beauty and eloquence. Muslims believe it is unsurpassed. Muslims believe that the words of the Quran are so beautiful that they could have only come from God (Quran 10:37).
Well, this is a highly questionable means of determining whether a document is divinely authoritative. If beauty and eloquence is a means of proving divine inspiration and authority, what would stop us from believing Shakespeare’s writings are also divinely inspired? His writings are beautiful and eloquent, but we don’t believe they’re divinely authoritative. So, for these reasons and others, it's wise to conclude that...
The Quran is not a trustworthy revelation from God.
1 Timothy 2:3-4
2 Peter 3:9
So, what can we do to be more effective in reaching out to Muslims?
1. Genuinely befriend and love them (1 Corinthians 13:1-2).
1 Corinthians 13:1-2
Muslims (like most people) will be much more receptive to hearing the gospel when it is shared in the context of a loving friendship. Unfortunately, a prevailing mindset amongst Muslims is that Christians hate Muslims and love Jews. Well, the best way to overcome their preconceived ideas about Christians is to love and befriend them.
2. Be prepared to defend the faith.
Jude 1:3 tells us to contend for the faith. Well with Muslims, you will need to do that (when the time is right) for as I mentioned, Muslims…
• Believe the Bible is not trustworthy
In light of this, it will be immensely helpful if you’re prepared to reason with them regarding these three matters. And we have some resources on our website that can help you do that.
3. Respect gender distinctions.
Men should avoid speaking directly to a Muslim woman (even as neighbors across the backyard fence) and likewise for women speaking to men.
4. Be patient.
2 Timothy 2:24-25
It’s important for us to remember that peer pressure in Muslim communities to stay committed to Islam is enormous. For a Muslim to convert to another faith is a sin worthy of death in Islam, especially to Christianity. If his conversion doesn’t result in his death, it will most likely result in the loss of all of his friends and family members. So, you need to be patient and prayerful as your Muslim friend weighs the cost of following Jesus.
5. Stay away from peripheral issues.
Our goal is to introduce our Muslim neighbors and co-workers, to Jesus. We want to present the gospel to them. So, I encourage you to stay away from topics like our recent election, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, U.S. foreign policy, the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These geopolitical matters can be a can of worms not worth opening. I suggest asking Muslims questions like these...
• Do you expect to go to Heaven/Paradise?
Those are the important issues. Those are the kinds of questions I like to ask because they allow us to steer the conversation to Jesus.
6. Be candid about the sins of supposed Christians.
Many Muslims still remember the Crusades of a thousand years ago [they began 1095 A.D.] when people in the name of Christ did some terrible things to Muslims and others.
Agree with the Muslim that these things were horrible, but also let him or her know that these actions contradicted the teachings of Christ (Matthew 5:44, 26:52)
7. Emphasize God’s grace and His love.
Fuller Seminary did a survey of 600 former Muslims who had become Christians. One of the leading factors involved in the conversions of these former Muslims was the emphasis on the love of God and the intimacy that believers can have with God as their heavenly Father. Muslims found the love of God for them very attractive. [R.C. Sproul and Abdul Saleeb, The Dark Side of Islam, p. 33]
In Islam there is no fatherly concept of God. To most Muslims, Allah is seen more as a remote judge than a loving “Father” (Matthew 6:9). For most Muslims, Islam is not about fellowship with God, but service, submission and allegiance to God. Well, along came a Christian who said...
“No. God is different than that. He loves you! He created you so that you could have a relationship with Him now and throughout eternity. He’s made a way through Jesus’ death on the cross for your sins to be forgiven. If you’ll place your faith in Jesus, you can be completely forgiven, adopted into God’s family (Eph. 1:5), and can per-sonally address God as “Father” (Matt. 6:9; Rom. 8:15)!
Many Muslims (according to this survey) found that very attractive. Muslims never read anything like that in the Quran. So, in your conversations with Muslims, I encourage you to emphasize the love and grace of God.
8. Invite them to church.
Explain to them ahead of time some of the things that will be different...We leave our shoes on. People write in their Bibles, the women sit with the men, etc. (“Our God is not concerned about these matters. He’s interested in the cleanliness of our hearts, not our shoes. He’s wants to write His word on our hearts; He’s not concerned about us writing in our Bibles.”)
9. Give them a copy of the New Testament and pray for them.
Many Muslims have never read the New Testament and will be happy to receive a copy. Give them a copy and encourage them to read one of the Gospels. I recommend the Gospel of Luke. It starts with the account of Jesus' birth and it's easier for non Christians to understand than John's Gospel.
God’s Word is alive and powerful (Hebrews 4:12) and has opened the minds of many Muslims to reconsider the person and claims of Jesus Christ.
10. Prayerfully consider supporting a Christian ministry or missionary who is working to further the gospel in Muslim countries.
You may not have any Muslim friends or co-workers, but you can still be used by the Lord to reach them with the Gospel. Three great ministries I'm familiar with are:
• Gospel for Asia: gfa.org
All of these groups are doing a tremendous work in Muslim nations.
(Special thanks to Ergun and Emir Caner for their suggestions on reaching Muslims in their great book Unveiling Islam.)
Three excellent books on the topic of Islam, written by Christian apologists:
CHARLIE H. CAMPBELL (Twitter: @charlieabready)
• Scrolls & Stones: Compelling Evidence the Bible Can Be Trusted
His DVDs and books have been endorsed by Norman Geisler, Charles Colson, Chuck Smith, Ed Hindson, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Jeremy Camp, and many others.