Summary: An analysis of Islam from a Christian perspective, highlighting the doctrinal contrast between rules-keeping and seeking mercy.
Having participated in Desert Storm, I received training from the Dept of Defense in Arab culture and Muslim thought. I’ve read the Koran and have spoken with Muslims serving in the military, to include the US Army’s first Muslim Chaplain.
From the start, I want to contrast Islam with the Christian concept of grace. The word Islam means “submission”, which means keeping the rules. Our Judaic-Christian heritage includes rules as well, the most well-known being the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament and the Golden Rule from the New. But here’s the difference: Getting to heaven under Judaism and Christianity involve redemption, through an atoning sacrifice for sin. We believe God’s promise and accept His gift of forgiveness. Under Islam, salvation comes through strict adherence and obedience to the directives given in the Koran.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer grace. Under grace, God gives us what we don’t deserve—Heaven; and He doesn’t give us what we do deserve—Hell. God’s grace forgives what it cannot excuse. The Bible is clear that we can’t save ourselves. We’re sinners, and we’re far from perfect, so we clearly need God’s mercy. We are not saved by good works but by God’s work. Thanks to the Cross, we are declared “not guilty.” The Gospel message declares that we can know for certain we are citizens of Heaven; and so we enjoy assurance of salvation. God is a relational being Who has chosen to reach out to us in love. Under Islam, it’s a whole different matter. According to the Koran, God is characterized primarily as a Judge, whose primary attribute is justice. Not surprisingly, the Koran harshly condemns all who reject the teachings of Islam. Under Islam, God is not seen at all as a loving Father; in fact such a concept is considered blasphemous by Muslims.
In speaking with Chaplain Mohammed at Fort Bliss, I posed a hypothetical question: What if a soldier breaks the required fast during Ramadan? This is a monthly period in which Muslims are to abstain from food from daybreak to sunset. I asked, “Can such a violation be forgiven?” The firm answer was No—that soldier has broken Islamic law, and his action will be a black mark against him for all eternity.
Christian ministers are sometimes labeled as “fire & brimstone” preachers. The OT mentions Hell 31 times, the NT 74 times…but the Koran warns of hell 783 times, and anyone who questions the divine inspiration of the Koran can expect to go there.
By now we all know that Islam is a strict religion. It divides people into two categories: “those who have submitted/the house of Islam”, and “those who are resisting/the house of war.” Non-Muslims are regarded as infidels, under God’s curse. The Koran states, “Those that deny our revelations will burn in fire” (Al-Nisa). The Koran repeatedly dictates aggression against non-Muslims, e.g. “Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell among you” (9:123). Islam claims to be a religion of peace…but only for those who convert.