-Schools of Islam:

Out of the more than one billion Muslims worldwide, by far the greatest number is the members of the Sunnite school. They accept the first four caliphs in direct succession from Muhammad and no others. Ninety percent of the Muslims in the Middle East and most parts of the Muslim world are Sunnis.


The second largest school of Islam is the Shi’ite school. The name Shi’ite refers to those early Muslims who chose to follow Ali, the son-in-law of the prophet and the heir to the leadership of Islam. For the Shi’ites, they followed a line of twelve Imams, or “spiritual heads,” who claimed “Ali” as an ancestor. Most of them were killed, and the twelfth and final Imam, Muhammad, disappeared as a child in A.D. 878. It is believed that eventually he will miraculously return to his people in a manner not altogether unlike the Judeo-Christian Messiah. They call him the “Mahdi.” He is the hidden Imam who will bring about a golden age before the end of the world.


If you remember, the Shi’ite Muslims gained incredible international attention when the Ayatollah Khomeini, the radical Shia leader, took control of Iran in 1979. Ninety-five per cent of Iran’s Muslims are Shi’ites, and today Iran is a Shi’ite Islamic Republic. Shi’ites are especially strong in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.


A third school of Islam known as the Ishmailites, or Sevener Shi’ites, who hold that Ishmail was the final Imam. The billionaire Aga Kahn is the current leader of the Ishmailites.


Another Muslim school of note is the Ahmdivan school, which was founded in the 1800’s by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Punjab, India. He claimed to be the Messiah and the very image of Muhammad. He taught that Jesus fainted and was received by medication and traveled to India, where he died in Kashmir. This small group has produced the bulk of Islamic apologetics against Christianity and Judaism over the last forty years. This Ahmdivan group is highly visible on American campuses and practice strong proselytizing on American students.



According to Scripture, the ancestors of modern Arabs can be traced back to Shem (Noah’s son). Shem’s descendant Eber gave rise to two lines, Peleg from which Abraham descended, and Joktan which contains the names of many Arab groups. However, many Arab tribes trace their ancestry to Ishmael, the firstborn son of Abraham with Hagar, Abraham’s Egyptian servant. (See Gen 16:1-16)


It is believed by some scholars that Allah can be traced to Ilah, the South Arabian moon god. Henotheism is the worship of only one god while not denying the existence of other gods and this practice may have existed in pre-Islamic society. The Qur’an speaks of Hanifs or pre-Islamic Arab monotheists who were neither Christian nor Jewish. Evidence shows that Allah meant “the one god” for the many Christians, Jews, and other groups who lived throughout the Arabian Peninsula.


-Muhammad was born in Mecca, near the Middle Western coastal region of Arabia, about A.D. 570 to Abdullah, who died two months after he was born, and Aminah, his mother, who died when he was six. Mecca was a large commercial city known for the Ka’aba or “cube”, a building famous for its 360 idols containing images of the moon god.


After the death of his mother, he was sent to live with his grandfather, who provided a Bedouin foster mother for him named Halimah. After the death of his grandfather at eight, he returned to Mecca to live with his uncle, Abu Talib. At twenty-five, Muhammad married a wealthy forty year old widow named Khadijah, after she proposed to him. Muhammad remained with Khadijah for twenty-five years and had two sons, who died in infancy, and four daughters.


After Khadijah died in 619, Muhammad married a widow of a disciple and a six year old named Ayisha. By the time of his death, Muhammad had twelve wives and two concubines. Interestingly, Sura 4:3 limits the number of wives to four, and in Sura 4:31, marriage to one’s daughter-in-law was prohibited, which Muhammad also did. But in Sura 33:36-40, Muhammad was conveniently given a new revelation from God that ordered Zaid, Muhammad’s adopted son, to divorce his wife so Muhammad could marry her by God’s command. This is called abrogation.


According to extra Qur’anic sources, Muhammad’s first mystical experience was allegedly being attacked by two men who cut his belly open in search of something. His foster mother thought he was demon-possessed after finding him standing and not having appeared to be the victim of any violence. He later claimed that his non-existent attackers were angels who cleansed his heart. In A.D. 610 he claimed to have received his first in a series of revelations of the Qur’an from God through the angel Gabriel.



After his uncle Abu Talib died, the leaders of various Meccan tribes and clans vowed to assassinate him. The angel Gabriel supposedly warned him of this, and he and his friend Abu Bakr fled to Yathrib, renamed Medina. This migration is known as the Hijra and marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Yathrib was a town dominated by Jewish groups but was at that time without a stable government, primarily consisting of feuding Arab factions and mediating Jewish tribes. Muhammad soon established the Umma, a theocracy (dictatorship) under his authority, and held complete control of the town. In A.D. 630 Muhammad and his army conquered Mecca and on June 8, 632, Muhammad died.


Muhammad’s successors soon wrestled Palestine and Syria away from the Byzantines from A.D. 629-641, then conquered Iraq, Persia, Egypt, Tripoli, Spain, Western India, Crete, Sicily and Ghana, Africa. Arab domination of conquered lands did not last forever, and soon many Muslim states declared their independence. In the early 1000’s, the Seljuk Turks, who had only recently embraced Islam, began taking over territory previously held by Arab Muslims. Eventually the Ottoman Turks supplanted the Seljuk Turks went far into Europe, conquering Serbia, Greece, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Hungary and Poland. Many of these Middle Eastern areas held by these Turkish Muslims were lost under Napoleon Bonaparte and later held by the British and French.


-Islamic Beliefs:

At first glance, Islamic beliefs appear to be almost compatible with Christianity and/or Judaism. Often people claim that the Muslims believe in the same God as Christians, “They just don’t accept Jesus Christ.” However, as we shall see, the Muslim God is not like the Christian God. Islam rejects the biblical doctrines of the Trinity and the deity of Christ.


For the Muslim, Allah is the only true God. There is no such blasphemous thing as the “trinity.” The Muslim God is unapproachable by sinful man, and the Muslim’s desire is to submit to the point where he can hold back the judging arm of Allah and inherit eternal life in a heavenly paradise, often pictured in terms of food, wine, and women.


Unlike Christians, Muslims do not emphasize a personal relationship with God. To Muslims, God has no likeness, is transcendent, and unknowable apart from revelation. He is neither physical nor spirit. According to the orthodox school, God is said to have a “face, hands, and soul, but it is not legitimate to inquire how God has no body.” They believe that God is a totally unique being that has no similarity in any sense to any other being.


To the Muslim, Jesus Christ is merely one of the many prophets of Allah (Sura 4:171; 5:74). According to Islam, the prophet Muhammad supersedes Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not the Son of God or a part of any trinity (Sura 5:17; 5:116; 19:35). We are told that He was nothing but a slave on whom God showed favor (Sura 43:59). 

Various Muslim traditions say that Jesus was miraculously substituted by Judas Iscariot on the cross, or that God miraculously delivered him from the hands of the Romans and Jews before He could be crucified. Most Muslims believe that Jesus Christ was taken bodily into Heaven without having died (Sura 4:157).


Every Muslim who hopes to escape the judgment of Allah MUST fulfill the WORKS of the Five Pillars of the Faith (Sura 10:109). They are,

          1-The recitation of the Shahada or “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet.”

          2-Five daily prescribed prayers (Salat or Namaz) in Arabic. These prayers include genuflection (Kneeling) and prostration (on your face) in the direction of the holy city, Mecca.

          3-Almsgiving (Zakat), which involves the duty to give a certain percentage of one’s total income to help others. This is not considered charity but an obligation arising out of the realities of a world where there is poverty, inequality, injustice, and suffering. Generally, performing Zakat is to be done privately, unless there is a pressing reason for giving to be made known publicly.

          4-Fasting (Saum or Ruzeh) during the entire month of Ramadan, when Muslims are supposed to fast from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset in atonement for their own sins over the previous year.

          5-A pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca, the holy city, at least once in a Muslim’s lifetime. The Hajj takes place after Ramadan. The Muslim pilgrims engage in elaborate rituals both at the famous mosque in Mecca that holds the Kaba and in areas surrounding their most sacred city.


Jihad is sometimes referred to as a sixth pillar of Islam. Since September 11, 2001, there has been a constant debate about the meaning of the term. Many Muslims and some secular experts on Islam have tried to say that Jihad is only referring to a personal struggle. Jihad can and often does mean one’s individual efforts to be righteous, but it is often used by Muslims both past and present to refer to actual military struggle or “holy war.” Saying that Jihad is simply a spiritual struggle ignores Islamic history and the actions of contemporary Muslims, including militants like Osama bin Laden, who used it to refer to acts of killing in the name of Allah.


-Sharing the gospel with a Muslim:

The three main topics of discussion between a Christian and a Muslim should be the nature of God, the identity and deity of Jesus Christ, and salvation by grace alone apart from works. Christians can share with Muslims that the Christian God transcends man’s finiteness and sinfulness because He cares about and loves people individually.


Sometimes the Muslim will argue that the seemingly rapid spread of Islam shows the truth of the religion, but several empires have spread faster than Islam such as the empires of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan.

Finally, the Christian should love the Muslim. Muslims have a definite zeal for God. They desire to follow God and express their worship of God through their lives. The Christian should respect the Muslims sincere intentions and share with them the life-changing gospel of Christ. The Christian should also share the fact that he believes God is great also. When a Christian can demonstrate the power of the Word of God through the Holy Spirit and use his own life as an example of the joy and peace possible to those who love Jesus Christ, he becomes an effective example to the Muslim of the opportunity to know and worship the true God rather than Muhammad’s distorted concepts about God. May the Lord use us to reach this generation of Muslims for Christ?


Let’s pray.