For Americans and much of the world, September 11, 2001 is a day never to be forgotten. As no previous event, including the attack on Pearl Harbor, 9-11 brought home the reality that terrorism can—and, indeed, has—come to mainland America. It has also thrust into national consciousness the reality of a world religion that in the past has often been ignored and overlooked by much of the Western world. That religion is Islam.
It may surprise many to learn that Islam has a long-standing relationship with lands where Christianity flourishes. In fact, for almost fourteen centuries, the Christian-Muslim encounter has formed the center of much of world history. The “war on terrorism” may ebb and flow, but the presence of Islam remains an ongoing challenge to Christians.
At the heart of the Christian faith is the Bible, God’s revelation, which in the Old Testament prophesies the coming of the Messiah and then in the New relates how those prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. At the heart of Islam is the book known as the Qur’an. The Arabic word Qur’an means “reading” or “reciting,” a reference to the command said to have been given to Muhammad to read or recite.
Unlike the Bible, which consists of 66 books written by several dozen inspired writers over 1500 centuries—from 1400 B. C. to A.D. 100—the Qur’an is the product of one man, Muhammad, between the years 610 and 632. Moreover, while the Bible is arranged chronologically and by subject matter, the Qur’an follows no such arrangement. Rather, it is simply a collection of chapters, called suras, which are divided into verses, called ayat.
Going back to Muhammad, the two basic doctrines of Christian faith that Muslims attack most sharply are the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ. These doctrines are the core of Christian faith, and every non-Christian religion or philosophy seeks to overthrow them. Islam seems to pride itself on being a simple religion without the mysteries of the Christian faith.
The Five Basic Beliefs of Islam
The Qur’an states, “It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the Prophets . . .” (Sura 2:177).