Muslims and Christians About God and Jesus

Most Christians where I live don’t know very much about Islam. In fact, they are often surprised when they learn how many things we agree upon.

Here are things both Muslims and Christians agree about, concerning God:

God created the world, and the entire universe.

God is merciful and forgives those who come to Him in repentance.

God revealed Himself to Abraham, the Patriarchs, Moses, David, the Prophets and Jesus.

God wants widows and orphans and the poor looked after.

God is all-powerful, holy, and good.

God is our Maker, and deserves our complete fidelity, love, awe and obedience.

God does not love aggressive violence.

God wants humans to exhibit integrity, truthfulness, a just society, and mercy.

God will hold humans accountable for how they have lived.

 Here are things both  Muslims and Christians agree about, concerning  Jesus:

Jesus was sent from God.

Jesus performed miracles, and was sinless.

Jesus was miraculously born of the Virgin Mary.

Jesus was “sign for all nations.”

Jesus is the Messiah, the Word of God, the Truth of God, the Spirit from God.

Jesus was taken to heaven and is alive now.

Jesus is returning to judge and rule the world as its king, doing away with all evil.

I think the agreements within these two lists provide a strong foundation for Christians and Muslims to be friends and dialogue partners. There have been many close friendships between Muslims and Christians down through the centuries, including in Muhammad’s generation.

Jesus once said: “Blessed be the peacemakers”

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5 Things About Islam

There are five really common mis-understandings Americans have about Islam.

  1. Muslims have always been at war with Jews. Not true. The Qur’an makes clear Jews are People of the Book, following the same God as Muslims (Sura 2: 62,3: 84, 5: 47, 42:13, 29:46 and many more). Muhammad was allied with Jewish tribes in Arabia. In Spain, Muslims, Jews and Christians flourished together for 700 years in a Muslim empire, a brilliant, scientific civilization where Jewish people rose to the highest ranks of society. When El Cid re-took Spain in 1492 and pushed the Muslim kingdoms out, the Jews fled with the Muslims. Jews in Spain called Islam “a merciful act of God” and were far safer in most Muslim countries than in most Christian countries. The “tax” Christians and Jews were expected to pay in some countries was a small amount compared to what Muslims were expected to voluntarily give to the poor. We have many records of close friendships between Jews, Christians and Muslims of that era.
  1. The Qur’an says to kill Christians and Jews. In fact, it says nothing of the kind. Jews and Christians are described throughout the Qur’an as people of the Book, people God revealed Himself to, people who should follow the Torah and the Gospel. The oft-quoted verse about “fight them everywhere” refers to idol-worshipping pagan tribes who were attacking the Muslims. Context, people. (Sura 2: 190-193).
  1. All Islam is the same. Don’t be absurd. There are as many groups and denominations in Islam as there are in Christianity, with huge diversity. Looking at the actions of one group and saying it represents all Muslims is completely ludicrous. My sons have Muslim friends who have no interest in violence at all.
  1. Islam is a religion of the sword. If we look at history, we could conclude the exact same thing about Christianity. Here’s the fact: governments do what governments do. Rulers attack other nations. They use their nation’s religion to baptize and justify their wars. World War One was fought exclusively by Christian nations. How about the Rwandan genocide? It was the most Christian evangelized nation in Africa. Vigorous empires within the Muslim world expanded, as empires do. It isn’t an issue with Islam. The Qur’an forbids forcing Islam onto someone (Sura 2: 256).
  1. Islam is inherently violent. Then why have hundreds of millions of Muslims led peaceful lives? In fact, Muhammad forbade fighting except in self-defense (Sura 2: 191). Islam, in many parts of the world, is struggling within itself. It may even be undergoing its Reformation – Christianity’s Reformation was full of bloodshed and war over theology as well. Among the things we should pray is that peaceful Muslims will prevail. They want to raise their children in peace, just like us. But many of them do not feel that Western foreign policy is on their side.

Speaking Up for Muslims

Most Americans don’t seem to know much about Islam. The pithy T shirt “I learned everything I need  to know about Islam on 9/11” is the same as saying “I learned everything I need to know about Christianity from the Crusades”.

Large numbers of Muslims are ordinary, peace-loving people who simply want their families to have a decent future. Many of these people understand the Qur’an’s declaration that Christians are Peoples of the Book, and spiritual cousins to Muslims. When a Muslim family enrolled their child into our church’s preschool and my wife said “now, we are an explicitly Christian preschool with Christian prayers, bible stories and songs” (which she says to every person enrolling their child),  the Muslim family replied “Of course! That is why we chose you!”  When another Muslim family came to our church’s children’s Easter program, they said to us “We are very excited, this is our child’s first Easter.” An African (Liberian, if I recall) Christian who grew up with a Muslim father  once said to me “My father’s people would never have dreamed of this kind of violence. He married my Christian mother and nobody ever thought twice about it. He sent me to Catholic school because it was the best school around.”

Islam has as many splinter groups as Christianity, and many practices we assume are Islamic are simply cultural practices in a particular area, which have been woven into Islam locally. The fact that there is a tragically violent version of Islam raging in the world right now does not mean that this is how Islam has always been, nor is intrinsically. Many of the most radical versions of Islam today were virtually unheard of forty years ago. In fact, it is the vast amounts of money from the West purchasing oil from the Middle East which has funded the spread of some of the most violent Islam we see today.

Many Muslims have been inspired by their faith to accomplish great good in our world for humanity (say, for example, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for the destitute poor).

Defending what history actually shows us about Islam down through the centuries is not to say there have never been evils committed by leaders or nations or troops who were Muslim. Of course there have been – all of the world’s religions have done that, including Christian nations. But ignorant, inaccurate portrayals of the past, present, or beliefs, of Muslims is to do what Martin Luther is credited with saying: “to mis-characterize my opponents’ theology is to fail to obey the commandment to love my neighbor.” There are about 5 really common lies about Islam that American Christians ignorantly and absurdly keep repeating publicly. It’s counter to our faith to repeat lies as if they are true. And Christian publishers and broadcasters have a responsibility to check their facts. These distortions have grown to ridiculous proportions. When we repeat these 5, we are simply propagating the violent version of Islam – doing the work of the radical mullahs for them. I discuss those 5 things here:  https://toddrisser.com/2015/03/17/5-things-about-islam/