I received this email from a Muslim who was responding to the articles on Islam:
Since these articles appeared in The Forerunner, they have stimulated a lively debate between Christians and Muslims:
Subject: "What Muslims Believe"
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 00:44:32 +0100
Peace be upon you. I pray that you are keeping well and that this email finds your in good health.
I came across your website recently whilst google-ing "sin" "separation" and "eternal" as they were words my Christian work colleague had used when describing the view of man in Christianity and God's Justice & Mercy etc....
I was trying to understand more about her faith and to see how God's Justice and Mercy works in the Christian viewpoint.
Anyway, I came across your website and saw your article titled "What Muslims Believe". As a Muslim it concerned me that you haven't been given an accurate description of what submission to God (Islam) is about:
"accept the Bible as a divinely inspired book". Yes, there is the concept of the "Gospel of Jesus" in Islam, this is considered to be a Book containing God's Words as revealed through Jesus. The Muslim viewpoint is that today's Bible is not the same as that but does contain some of the original teachings of Prophet Jesus. Where Christianity differs from Islam, we believe, is in the interpretation and the use of 'eye witness' accounts rather than God's Words themselves.
"the God of Islam is far removed" Actually God is considered to be "closer to us than our own jugular vein" it is said, so far removed is probably not the correct interpretation. However at the same time He is considered to be the most superior and more high. So to say He is far removed or separate isn't correct.
"impersonal". God isn't considered to be a "being" or a "person"...if something is personable, then that thing must have limits and boundaries for us to comprehend it, and because we are creations, we can't comprehend our Creator, we can only try to understand Him through His creation, because the limits of our own minds is to what is created.
"no father-child relationship" The Islamic view is more of a Creator-created relationship. To us the Father-Child relationship suggests that both the Father and the Child share common attributes....however since God is so High and Superior my attributes simply don't compare.
"blind surrender of a helpless slave to the tyranny of a ruthless despot" I can't see God with my eyes so in that sense I am blind to Him. However I can see the miracle of His creation and I can read the miracle of His Word. As for "surrender", well yes I do surrender to God, He's the reason I'm on earth and to do as He commands is the purpose of my life, so yes I do surrender to His Will and Way. As for "tyranny of a ruthless despot" - perhaps you could elaborate as I'm unsure what you mean by that. You see "tyranny" suggests an usurper of rightful power....however we believe that God IS that rightful power, so I don't see how He'd be considered tyrannical. "ruthless" suggests non-Merciful, however God is believed to have infinite Mercy"the Most Merciful" to all those who believe in Him. So perhaps you could clarify....
"Allah, Islam's unpredictable, arbitrary God" God is unpredictable in the sense I don't know what He is going to send my way in the next minute or the next hour because I can't predict the immediate future, but I don't think anyone can except God who Himself knows what that future is going to be. My free choice allows me to shape my future, but God still knows what is going to happen as He is not bound by the space-time continuum like I am.. "arbitrary" suggests that God is accidental or random. I believe God has a Will of what is to happen, and there is nothing I can do (as a mere creation) to stop that. Because I can't predict the future, the Will of God to me seems unexpected rather than random, but if it's His Will, then it was what was meant to happen. However I do know for certain that my time on Earth is limited. And there is going to be a Judgement's Day and that God has told me that if I believe in Him and do good deeds then I will enter the Garden of Eden. As that is God's promise to me (& mankind in fact) I don't see that as unpredictable or random in any way....in fact its pretty clear as to what His plan is.
"Muslims deserve to hear that God loves them". God does love us. He loves all those who believe in Him, so as Muslims we (and all those who believe in Him like the Jews and the Christians as mentioned in the Quran) are loved by God. He loves us so much that he offers us heaven and gives us the opportunity to earn it and the clear signs and means in which to do it.
What a Christian calls a sin, a Muslim calls a "mistake." God gives man the free choice to either obey his laws or disobey them. If man disobeys the laws (on purpose) that is a defiance of God's law and so that is considered a sin. However all sin is considered to be committed in ignorance because if man truly understood how awful that defiance of God was, then man wouldn't ever have committed the sin in the first place. Sins can be forgiven through God's Mercy to accept man's repentance and prayer (but only if God wills to do so) and forgive sin. If the repentance and prayer is not acceptable to God (either because there was none, or it wasn't genuine), then man is punished for the sin (God's Justice) either on Earth or in the hereafter (hell is not considered eternal for believers in God that have sinned). There's no conflict between God's Justice and Mercy (from my viewpoint anyway :)) Lets not also forget that God's Justice also includes rewards for belief and good deeds. God refuses to deny us the reward for a good deed that even as small as a "date stone".
"Unless Muslims realize that no one is "basically good," In Islam we don't inherit sin from other people. Its considered unfair and unjust. Along the same lines if we have done something to deserve punishment, then its unfair and unjust for someone else to be punished in our place. So people are born sinless. We have a hard time accepting that children and babies and mentally disabled people or people that are too ill to function in society are "sinful". In actual fact one of the reasons there is sickness and poverty in the world is so that we can be charitable and helpful towards them thereby pleasing God. Its an opportunity for us to earn good deeds. Those children/babies/disabled go to heaven because they have no sins that need to be forgiven/punished for in the first place.
" realizes that he possesses a sinful nature" Since our natures are given to us by God, they are not considered sinful. The consequences of our choice to disobey His laws are what are considered as sinful. There is no concept of "slavery to sin" as we have the choice whether to sin or not. If something is done unintentionally, it is not covered by the free choice of man to do it, and so isn't considered a sin. If a man realises he's done something wrong and stops (repents) & does good deeds & asks for forgiveness, then it can be forgiven even if it was considered a sin by God.
"does not really need a Savoir". Correct, since God told us not to have other gods before him, it means we can't turn to anyone else except God in order to be saved.
"death of Jesus is not only misunderstood but rejected as unnecessary". It is rejected primarily because we're told in the Quran that God "made it appear" to those trying to kill him that he was killed, and that he didn't die. I also suppose that it is rejected because, even if it did happen, his death is inconsequential to the Justice and Mercy we will face on the Day of Judgement. However from your website it appears that the Christian viewpoint is that it is entirely consequential.
"It depicts the Almighty Allah as weak and incapable of protecting His "prophet." Actually, its more a case of the death of Jesus not fitting in with God's plan to save Jesus from death on the cross, since "He (God) is the best of planners" and wouldn't let those who falsely accused Jesus of actually succeeding in killing him..
"inability to save themselves and the conviction that Jesus is the only redeemer. " Due to God's superiority, at the end of the Day He is the only one we can turn to. No one (including Prophet Jesus) can step in on our behalf on the Day of Judgement.
"then he must have either been crazy or had evil intentions". Are those the only two options available? Unfortunately you may have missed a third option which is that you might have misinterpreted what he was trying to say. The words quoted from John are from an English translation of a Greek account that claims to be a Greek translation of Jesus' actual words but written not at the same time as they were spoken. But of course that is just my opinion, and the Christians have theirs. Islam accepts and praises Jesus for being one of the most praiseworthy messengers of God (virgin birth, Messiah to the Jews, spoke God's Word, did as God commanded: healed the sick, raised the dead, preached belief in God, was/will be raised up, will return, will kill the antichrist) without accepting the New Testament claim that he was God Himself. It seems that the Jews denied him completely, the Ancient Christians accepted him and benefit from his death, Trinitarian Christians accept him as part of the Trinity and are saved by his death, and Muslims split it down the middle. (You will of course have to correct me if I've made a mistake on what the Christians believe.....I, as a non-Christian, cannot say with authority that I actually know what Christians believe - I can only go on what they/you tell me).
"The Qur'an makes numerous references to the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The Bible is considered by Muslims to be divinely inspired" Once again the Quran is referring to the Injil: The Gospel of Jesus...if Jesus spoke God's Word, then the Injil is God's Word. The Bible we have today may contain some of the Injil but is not considered to be Injil in its entirety. If the Injil and Jesus were sent to the Jews, it would not be written in Greek. That's the opinion at least, but not the only reason why today's Bible is not recognised as the complete Injil. Every race in mankind is promised its own messenger(s) from God to preach belief in one Lord....the Greeks, it is assumed, will have had their own, just like the people of Eastern Asia and the people of the Americas Since I am not familiar with Greek history, I don't know who, but if God says He did, then I believe He did. Whether or not they chose of accept or reject their messengers was their choice.
"The very concept of salvation is nonexistent in Islam" - belief in God and good deeds lead to heaven, but belief and good deeds aren't carried out only because they lead to heaven, they are carried out primarily because that's what God has asked us to do. Submission comes first....heaven is the reward for that submission.
"This decision is made arbitrarily and there is no guarantee that anyone will get to heaven. " Again arbitrarily suggests randomness. As God is Just, those who deserve heaven will get to heaven, but only God can decide that as only He can see into our hearts as to the state of our belief....so it isn't random at all....the guarantee is the we (all humans) will get what we deserve, and we will be treated in a Just and Merciful manner by God. So if we deserve heaven, then we are guaranteed heaven....nothing random at all about that. It is all according to his Will and is based on Justice and Mercy...If a person believes and does good deeds then they'll get to heaven. Its not random. If a believer has committed so many sins that he doesn't earn heaven on the scales of Justice, then yes he goes to hell until the punishment is over, then he goes to heaven. There's no eternal separation for those who believe in Him.
In my opinion the biggest differences between Islam and Christianity is this, and you should correct me if I'm wrong on the Christianity part....
Islam says that the one unforgivable sin is "shirk"...that is to associate others with God. A Muslim can never accept Trinitarian Christianity because it means he has to commit shirk. If God hadn't said in the Quran that Jesus died, and the Bible (even today's Bible) said he did....then I don't think it would be a problem for Muslim to accept that he died. However, his death still remains inconsequential to the Justice and Mercy we receive from God...just like Abraham's and Moses's deaths are inconsequentional to what happens to us on Judgement's Day. And the Muslim still couldn't accept Jesus as God because of shirk.
Christianity (and correct me if I'm wrong) considers the biggest sin is to reject that Jesus died on the cross. Because to reject that means a person isn't offered salvation because he needs to go to Hell to atone for his own sins...and that punishment is eternal. Since Islam doesn't offer them the sacrificial lamb they so seek, they're never going to be able to accept it because it leaves them with no one to pay for their sins except themselves. Also the fact that they believe that sin must be paid with punishment alone and that prayers&repentance&God's forgiveness aren't sufficient enough (although the Jews and the Muslims consider them to be).
I hope you don't mind that I wrote all that....it's just when you write a web page and title it "What the Muslims Believe", it might be more appropriate to title it "This is What I consider The Muslims To Believe".
If you came across a Jewish, Islamic or any other religious (or non-religious website) that told it's readers "This is What Christians Believe" and you felt mis-represented in that website, then you might also feel moved to correct the misconception. And I hope that the author of that website would be happy to consider the views of the person he's trying to write about.
The purpose of this email was not to argue or debate your beliefs, its clear that you have great faith in them and are trying to encourage others to share in what you so firmly believe to be the gift of God in Jesus' death, however I just wished to clarify your understanding of what you presume to be the Muslims (dis)belief. I hope you are not offended by my attempts to do that.
Thank you for your time,