Question: "What is Islam, and what do Muslims believe?"
Answer: Let’s briefly examine the history of Islam and the beliefs of Muslims.
The history of Islam
The religion of Islam was begun early in the 7th century by a man named Muhammad. He claimed to have been visited by the angel Gabriel. During these angelic visitations, which continued for about 23 years until Muhammad's death, the angel purportedly revealed to Muhammad the words of God (called “Allah” in Arabic and by Muslims). These dictated revelations comprise the Qur'an, Islam's holy book.
The beliefs of Muslims
Muslims, the followers of Islam, believe the Qur'an to be the preexistent and perfect word of Allah. Further, many Muslims reject an English, or any other language, version of the Qur'an. These are translations of the meaning of the Qur'an, which only exists in Arabic.
Although the Qur'an is the main holy book, the sunnah is considered the second source of religious instruction. The sunnah was written by Muhammad's companions about what Muhammad said, did, or approved.
The key beliefs of Islam are that Allah is the only true God and that Muhammad was Allah's prophet. By simply stating these beliefs, a person can convert to Islam. The word Muslim means "one who submits to Allah." Islam purports to be the one true religion of which all other religions have derived themselves from or been created in a mockery of (including Judaism and Christianity).
Muslims base their lives on the Five Pillars:
1. The testimony of faith: "There is no true god but God (Allah), and Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God."
2. Prayer: five prayers must be performed every day.
3. Giving: one must give to the needy, as all comes from Allah.
4. Fasting: besides occasional fasting, all Muslims must fast during the celebration of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamic calendar).
5. Hajj: the pilgrimage to Makkah should be performed at least once (in the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar).
These five tenets, the framework of obedience for Muslims, are taken seriously and literally. A Muslim's entrance into paradise hinges on obedience to these Five Pillars.
Islam compared to Christianity
In relation to Christianity, Islam has several similarities but significant differences. Like Christianity, Islam is monotheistic, but it rejects the concept of the Trinity. Islam accepts certain portions of the Bible, such as the Law and the Gospels, but rejects the majority of it as slanderous and uninspired.
Islam claims that Jesus was a mere prophet – not God’s Son (only Allah is God, Muslims believe, and how could He have a Son?). Rather, Islam asserts that Jesus, though born of a virgin, was created just as Adam – from the dust of the earth. Muslims believe Jesus did not die on the cross. Although denied by Islam, the Trinity and Christ’s redemption on the cross are central to Christianity.
Islam teaches that the Qur'an is the final authority and the last revelation of Allah. The Bible, however, was completed in the 1st century with the Book of Revelation. The Lord warned against anyone adding to His finished Word (Revelation 22:18). The Qur’an, as a claimed addition to God’s Word, directly disobeys God’s command.
Finally, Islam teaches that paradise is gained through good works and obedience to the Qur'an. The Bible, in contrast, reveals that man cannot measure up to the holy God. Only because of His mercy and love can sinners be saved through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Therefore, Islam and Christianity cannot both be true. One is God’s Word and one is not. The truth has eternal consequences.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (1 John 4:1-4).