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.
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).
Among the most important subjects drawn from the hadith are the five pillars of Islam, upon which Muslim life rests. Like the five basic beliefs, the five pillars are not difficult to understand. They show how Islam is a legalistic religion of works. This contrasts with Christianity, in which we are saved by trusting in Jesus, and good works are but the outward evidence of a living faith.
The Creed (Shahada)
The Muslim word for profession of faith or creed is shahada. When compared with the three creeds used throughout Christendom—the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian—the Muslim creed is simple: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”