What You Need to Know About World Religions
Islam is the second-largest religion in the world (after Christianity), claiming one billion followers, called Muslims. The religion hangs on the phrase, "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet." Allah (Arabic for "God") is alone to be worshiped. So it's a big mistake to think Muslims view Muhammad the same way Christians view Jesus. Muhammad was not a deity to be worshiped, but the last and greatest prophet—someone who brought a perfect message from God.
Muslims aren't concerned as much about the right beliefs as they are about the right actions. In "submitting to the will of God" (that's the meaning of the word "Islam"), they stick to the Five Pillars, a set of important requirements that includes regular charity, praying five times a day, and making at least one hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca (Islam's holy city). In addition to this, most Muslims devoutly refrain from alcohol, drugs, gambling and certain foods such as pork. The Qur'an (or Koran), which Muslims believe is the written recollection of the visions Muhammad received, is the most important text, although our Old and New Testaments are also significant in Islam.
Any common ground?
Christians and Muslims share a lot of similar beliefs. For instance, Moses, Jacob and David are influential in both faiths. And Muslims have enormous respect for Jesus, seeing him as the second-greatest prophet. Muslims also believe in Jesus' virgin birth and his miracles, even saying he's the Messiah.
What sets us apart?
Muslims don't believe in Jesus' death and resurrection, and they consider the Christian claim of Jesus' divinity blasphemous. In Islam, Muhammad is the greatest and most authentic prophet. While they think highly of the Bible, Muslims think the Qur'an is the true Word of God. Most significantly, the Christian concept of grace is completely absent in Islam. Allah is relatively cold and removed, and the principles of right and wrong, do's and don'ts, form the foundation of the faith.
Now that you know something about world religions, you might think you're ready to convince others to follow Jesus. But people rarely make life-changing decisions based on facts alone. If Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Muslims are looking for spiritual truth, they won't be satisfied with polished "right answers."
Think about your own faith. When you first became a Christian, you didn't have every fact straight and every doubt figured out. If you're honest with yourself, you probably still don't. And that's OK! Being a Christian isn't just about having all the right answers. It's about having a relationship with Jesus and lovingly inviting others to join in.
The best way to tell people of other religions about your faith isn't to blast them with airtight proofs or tell them they're wrong. Instead, by showing them long-lasting love—no strings attached—you'll prove you're more interested in being friends than winning arguments. And you'll earn the right to be heard.
Thanks to Dr. James Lewis, Associate Professor of World Religions at Wheaton College (IL), who helped with this article.
For a more in-depth look at these and other religions, we recommend Neighboring Faiths by Winfried Corduan, published by InterVarsity Press.