What is Islam and why is it different from Christianity?
The following is a general overview of Islam a few differences from Christianity. Soon to come will be an in-depth study so keep on the lookout for it.
Gaining a perspective of any religion, cult, or belief system requires an understanding of the one who founded their operation. When you can trace any study back to the founder, you gain insight that is necessary for forming your views and beliefs in or about the subject you are surveying. Islam was founded by Muhammad.
Around 570 A.D., Muhammad was born into a Quraysh family. The Quraysh was the ruling tribe of Mecca, a city in the northwest territory of Arabia in the Hijaz region. His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was just 6 years old. Muhammad was turned over to his grandfather to be raised. His grandfather then died, and he was eventually raised by his uncle. In his twenties, Muhammad was in business as a merchant actively trading with caravans. He married and had two sons and four daughters; the sons did not survive.
In his forties, he began to retire and would meditate in a cave outside Mecca. While meditating, he heard a voice he believes was the angel Gabriel. He received “revelations” and later compiled them into the Quran, the holy book of Islam. At first, he told only his wife and close friends of those “revelations”, but the movement grew; first to the poor, then to the prominent men in the region.
Because he preached his message to so many, there was a great opposition that sought to kill him. He and some of his followers fled and survived in a cave. Once the threat passed, Muhammad and those with him left the cave for Medina. This departure and flight to Medina are called the Hijrah; it ushers in the Islamic era.
On March 15, 624, Muhammad began what would become the trademark of Islam. He and his followers fought against the “pagans”. Medina was the first city they took over. After many battles and soldiers, the city was entirely in the hands of the Muslims.
At this point, the Constitution of Medina was put into play. Alliances and clans that accepted Muhammad as the prophet would join to enforce this constitution. While this constitution defined the roles of the Muslims, it also defined the roles of non-Muslims within the community. The jizyah tax was instituted for non-Muslims living in Muslim controlled areas. When paid, non-Muslims were treated as citizens and allowed “religious freedom”. However, it was clear that poly-theists would not be tolerated.
About this time in their history, Muhammad wrote letters to the King of Persia, the Emperor of Byzantium, the Negus of Abyssinia, and the Governor of Egypt, among others, “inviting them” to submit to Islam.
This brief history of Islam’s founder will give you a very good idea of the mindset of their “prophet”. His plan was to convert everyone to Islam; by force if necessary. He truly believed that the angel Gabriel gave him his mandate to do so and he was committed to seeing it through. Muhammad died on June 8, 632 A.D.
This is where the real crux of Islamic division originated. The followers of Muhammad were split on who his successor should be. There are two factions of Muslims; Shi’a and Sunni. Their modern-day rift goes all the way back to this point in their history. The successor to the role of leader of the Muslims was not appointed by Muhammad before his death, Because of this, there were two camps. The Shi’a, named for Ali, Muhammad’s cousin, believed the successor should be a family member. Shi’ite literally means, “the party of Ali”. The other group was the Sunni, named as “Ahl al-Sunnah” or “people of the tradition”. They believe the successor should be chosen for like qualities of Muhammad and not necessarily a family member.
In the world today, about 85-90% of Muslims are Sunni while only about 10-15% are Shi’a. This is VERY important as one studies the prophetic side of Islam. Keep in mind that in the Middle East, Sunni’s make up about 90% of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The interesting thing is that most of Iran’s population is Shi’a. The two factions of Muslims hate each other and while it seems like a civil war, it is played out every day in the news media with Iran against Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This rift between the Shi’a and the Sunni is the main reason why.
Understanding Islamic writings are necessary to further help evaluate the precepts taught in Islam. The Quran, of course, is supposed to reference the words of Muhammad. The Sunna also refers to what Muhammad said, as well as what he did, condoned or condemned. Lastly, there is the Hadith Literature. The hadith is a record of the sayings and deeds of Muhammad. Each hadith consists of two parts, the Isnad, and the Matn. The isnad is the chain of people who relay a memory of something Muhammad said or did. The matn contains the actual text of the hadith.
Islamic eschatology is divided into two parts, The Minor Signs and The Major Signs. The minor signs are those things that will precede the major signs. While many of the minor signs will take place concurrently with the major signs, they should be thought of as the lesser signs. The major signs speak of far more significant events than the minor signs. The three most important of the major signs are the coming of al-Mahdi, ad-Dajjal, and Isa al-Maseeh. In order, they are their messiah, their antichrist, and their Jesus. These three in Christianity would be our Antichrist, our Messiah, and our false prophet; respectfully.
To understand the mindset of a Muslim, one must understand their founder. Muhammad believed that he was called to change the landscape of religious thinking and he was committed to doing just that. The overall commitment still permeates through the followers of Muhammad today. In order to completely take over the world with a belief system, that group must have unity and harmony within the ranks. This is where al-Mahdi comes in. According to the Quran, al-Mahdi will come and bring peace to Islam. Al-Mahdi is their messiah. However, in Biblical prophecy, we know him as The Antichrist.
The Quran states there are five things a Muslim must believe in order to be a Muslim.
Shahadah - Belief in Allah and Muhammad his messenger
Salah - Daily prayer
Zakah - Sharing
Hajj – Pilgrimage to Mecca
While it may seem simple on the outside, a true Muslim takes these VERY seriously and will do anything in order to prove they are indeed a Muslim. With these tenants in place, how does the expected arrival of the three main players in their prophetic writings of Islam, apply?
Among the Major Signs, the first, as well as the most anticipated and central, is the coming of a man known as, “al-Mahdi”. In Arabic, al-Mahdi means, “The Guided One”. According to Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of America, “The coming of the Mahdi is established doctrine for both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, and indeed, for all humanity”.
Al-Mahdi is Islam’s messiah or savior. The “rising” of the Mahdi to Islam is equivalent to what the return of Jesus Christ is to Christianity. Islamic tradition states he will descend from the family of Muhammad and will have Muhammad’s name.
“The world will not come to pass until a man from among my family, whose name will be my name, rules over the Arabs. The Prophet said: The Mahdi will be of my family, of the descendants of Fatimah (Muhammad’s daughter)”
All of Islam waits for the restoration of the Islamic caliphate. The caliph or Khalifa in Islam is to the Muslims, as the Pope is to the Catholic Church. Also, similar to how the Pope is to represent God on the earth, Muslims view the caliph as the vice-regent for Allah on the earth. Islam awaits al-Mahdi to be the caliph or Khalifa.
“If you see him, go and give him your allegiance, even if you have to crawl over ice, because he is the Vice-Regent (Khalifa) of Allah, al-Mahdi. He will pave the way for and establish the government of the family (or community) of Muhammad… Every believer will be obligated to support him”.
According to Islam, al-Mahdi is a Muslim leader who will not only rule over the Islamic world but the non-Islamic world as well. He will lead a revolution that will bring Islamic world order throughout the entire earth.
“The Mahdi will establish right and justice in the world and eliminate evil and corruption. He will fight against the enemies of the Muslims who would be victorious”.
“He will re-appear on the appointed day, and then he will fight against the forces of evil, lead a world revolution, and set up a new world order based on justice, righteousness, and virtue… ultimately, the righteous will take the world administration in their hands and Islam will be victorious over all religions”.
“He is the precursor of the victory of the truth and the fall of all tyrants. He heralds the end of injustice and oppression and the beginning of the final rising of the sun of Islam which will never again set and which will ensure happiness and the elevation of mankind… The Mahdi is one of Allah’s clear signs which will soon be made evident to everyone”.
Most traditions picture the non-Muslim world coming to Islam as a result of conquest by al-Mahdi. Before al-Mahdi will come to power, an army from the east will be carrying black flags or banners of war.
“Hadith indicate that black flags coming from the are of Khorasan will signify the appearance of the Mahdi is nigh. Khorasan is in today’s Iran, and some scholars have said that this hadith means when the black flags appear from central Asia, i.e., in the direction of Khorasan, then the appearance of the Mahdi is imminent. The Messenger of Allah said: The black banners will come from the east and their hearts will be as firm as iron. Whoever hears of them should join them and give allegiance, even if it means crawling across snow”.
Islam waves two flags. One is white and one is black. Written across both flags, in Arabic, are the words, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger”. One flag is governmental and the other represents the military. The white flag is al-Liwaa and is the sign for the Muslim army leader. It is the flag of the Islamic state. The black flag is ar-Raya and is the flag of jihad. This flag is carried to war. Al-Mahdi will join the army of Muslim warriors carrying ar-Raya (black flags). Al-Mahdi then leads his army to Israel and conquers it for Islam.
“Rasulullah (Muhammad) said: Armies carrying black flags will come from Khurasan. No power will be able to stop them, and they will finally reach Eela (Baitul Maqdas in Jerusalem) where they will erect their flags”.
Baitul Maqdas in Arabic means “The Holy House”. This is the Dome of the Rock mosque located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. A translation of Islamic text speaks of al-Mahdi’s military campaign against Israel.
“The Prophet said… the last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him”.
According to Islamic traditions, al-Mahdi will have control over the wind, rain, and crops.
Under al-Mahdi’s rule, the world will live in prosperity. Islamic tradition relates that Muhammad once said,
“In the last days of my ummah (universal Islamic community), the Mahdi will appear. Allah will give him power over the wind and the rain and the earth will bring forth its foliage. He will give away wealth profusely, flocks will be in abundance, and the ummah will be large and honored...”
“In those years my community will enjoy a time of happiness such as they have never experienced before. Heaven will send rain upon them in torrents, the earth will not withhold any of its plants, and wealth will be available to all. A man will stand and say, give to me, Mahdi! And he will say, Take”.
The whole world will be swooned by al-Mahdi.
“Allah will sow love of him in the hearts of all people. Al Mahdi appears; everyone only talks about him, drinks the love of him, and never talks about anything other than him”.
The Tabarani hadith states the final peace agreement between the Arabs and the Romans is mediated through a descendant of Aaron and his priestly lineage. Romans, in Islamic texts, usually refers to Christians or the west. It is their belief that this peace agreement will be made for a period of seven years.
“Rasulullah (Muhammad) said: There will be four peace agreements between you and the Romans (Christians). The fourth agreement will be mediated through a person who will be from the progeny of Hadrat Haroon (Honorable Aaron- Moses’ brother) and will be upheld for seven years”.
Islamic tradition also states that al-Mahdi’s reign will be seven years.
“The Prophet said… the Mahdi will fill the earth with equity and justice as it was filled with oppression and tyranny, and he will rule for seven years”.
Ka’b al-Ahbar, as well as Isra’llyyat, believe the rider on the white horse in Revelation 6, is al-Mahdi. Two Egyptian authors; Muhammad ibn ZIzzat and Muhammad Arif quote Ka’b al Ahbar, in their book ‘Al Mahdi and the End of Time’ and are quoted as saying,
“I find the Mahdi recorded in the books of the prophets…. For instance, the Book of Revelation says: And I saw and beheld a white horse. He that sat on him… went forth conquering and to conquer. It is clear that this man is the Mahdi who will ride the white horse and judge by the Qur’an (with justice) and with whom will be men with marks of prostration on their foreheads (marks on their foreheads from bowing in prayer with their head to the ground five times daily)”.
Al-Mahdi will do various and sundry things to convert both Jews and Christians alike to Islam. A couple of Islamic traditions have al-Mahdi producing the Ark of the Covenant and finding more Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as other things to convince the world he is the awaited Messiah.
The second most important of the Major Signs is the return of Jesus Christ. What better way to have the world of “Christians” believe Muhammad than to have Jesus Himself, tell them they should. In Islamic beliefs, Jesus never died on the cross. The Quran denies His death, burial, and resurrection from the dead.
“That they said (in boast), We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise;”
Islam rejects the belief that Jesus is the Son of God. They believe that Jesus never experienced death but was raised by Allah to heaven. As well, Islam believes Jesus is eagerly awaiting to resume His life here and complete His work. Muslim writings have Jesus as just another prophet. This takes away His ability to be savior. The Quran also states that Jesus will come back near Damascus.
“At this very time Allah would send Christ, son of Mary, and he will descend at the white minaret in the eastern side of Damascus wearing two garments lightly dyed with saffron and placing his hands on the wings of two Angels. When he would lower his head, there would fall beads of perspiration from his head, and when he would raise it up, beads like pearls would scatter from it”.
While all of what is taught in Islam is damning, nothing may be as damning as the belief that Jesus will be subordinate and subservient to al-Mahdi.
“Muslims will still be preparing themselves for the battle drawing up the ranks. Certainly, the time of prayer shall come and then Jesus, son of Mary would descend”.
“The Messenger of Allah said: A section of my people will not cease fighting for the truth and will prevail until the Day of resurrection. He said: Jesus son of Mary would then descend and their [Muslims’] commander [the Mahdi] would invite him to come and lead them in prayer, but he would say: No, some amongst you are commanders over some”.
"Jesus Christ will decline the offer and invitation of Imam Mahdi to come and lead the Muslims in prayer, and say his prayer behind Imam Mahdi”
“Jesus (peace be upon him) will come and will perform the obligatory prayers behind the Mahdi and follow him”.
“(Jesus) will be following the Mahdi, the master of the time, and that is why he will be offering his prayers behind him”.
The point of these texts from the Quran indicates that Jesus shows His inferior ranking to al-Mahdi. Because He is a faithful Muslim, Jesus will make His pilgrimage to Mecca.
“The Prophet said: Verily Isa ibn Maryam shall descend as an equitable judge and fair ruler. He shall tread his path on the way to hajj (pilgrimage) and come to my grave to greet me, and I shall certainly answer him”!
According to the Islamic writings, Jesus will be placed over the enforcement of Shariah Law; the law of Islam.
“Ibn Qayyim mentioned in Manar al-munif that the leader… is the Mahdi who will request Jesus to lead the Muslims in prayer. Jesus will remain on the earth, not as a prophet, but as one of the Community (ummah) of Prophet Muhammad. Muslims will follow him as their leader. According to Shalabi, the Mahdi will lead the Muslims in prayer, and Jesus will rule the Muslims according to the Divine Law (Shari’ah)”.
“Jesus, the son of Mary will descend and will lead them judging amongst them according to the holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad”.
Islamic writings also believe that Jesus will lead many Christians and Jews to convert to Islam. He will do so by explaining the original Christian followers misunderstood His original message.
"There is not one of the People of the Scripture (Christians and Jews) but will believe in him before his death, and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them". - Surah 4:159
“…confirm that he is alive and has not died and he is not God or the Son of God but (merely) His (Allah’s) slave and Messenger, and Isa (Jesus) will testify against those who had called him son of God, the Christians, and those who had belied him, the Jews”.
“Like all prophets, Prophet Jesus came with the divine message of surrender to God Almighty, which is Islam. This verse shows that when Jesus returns he will personally correct the misrepresentations and misinterpretations about himself. He will affirm the true message that he brought in his time as a prophet, and that he never claimed to be the Son of God. Furthermore, he will reaffirm in his second coming what he prophesied in his first coming bearing witness to the seal of the Messengers, Prophet Muhammad. In his second coming many non-Muslims will accept Jesus as a servant of Allah Almighty, as a Muslim and a member of the Community of Muhammad”.
“Jesus will descend from heaven and espouse the cause of the Mahdi. The Christians and the Jews will see him and recognize his true status. The Christians will abandon their faith in his godhead (sic)”.
As one reads the purpose that Allah has for Jesus, it is clear that He will not just convert people to Islam, but that Jesus Himself will completely do away with Christianity.
“The Prophet said: There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Jesus. He will descent (sic) (to the earth)… He will break the cross, kill swine, and abolish jizyah. Allah will perish all religions except Islam”.
The only choice that true Christians will have will be to either convert to Islam or die. The jizyah tax will be removed. When living in Muslim dominated areas, remember that you must pay the jizyah tax or convert to Islam. According to Islam, Jesus will be the enforcer to make sure of the conversion, or the death of individuals who do not convert.
“Jesus, the son of Mary will soon descend among the Muslims as a just judge… Jesus will, therefore, judge according to the law of Islam… all people will be required to embrace Islam and there will be no other alternative”.
"... the time and the place for [the poll tax] is before the final descent of Jesus (upon whom be peace). After his final coming, nothing but Islam will be accepted from them, for taking the poll tax is only effective until Jesus' descent (upon him and our Prophet be peace) ..."
The most interesting portion of Islamic scripture is the duty of Muslims to kill the Dajjal. Remember that the Dajjal is the Islamic Antichrist. Islamic belief is that Jesus will kill the “Antichrist”. They also believe that Jesus will set the record straight concerning the Jews role in killing Him. The Antichrist will have followers, and according to Islamic traditions, they will be mainly Jews.
“The Yahudis (Jews) of Isfahaan will be his (The Dajjals) main followers”.
“His followers the Yahudis, will number 70,000… (Then) Hadrat Isa (honorable Jesus) kills the Dajjal at the Gate of Hudd, near an Israeli airport, in the valley of “Ifiq.” The final war between the Yahudi’s will ensue, and the Muslims will be victorious”.
With so many similarities with Christian prophecy, one plainly dominates the Islamic texts. He is al-Maseeh ad-Dajjal. The interpretation is The Messiah Deceiver/ Liar.
“The Prophet was warning us that in the last days there would be someone who would deceive all of humanity. The Dajjal will possess power over this world. Thus, Muslims must be careful not to have the love of the world in their hearts so they won’t leave their religion and follow him. He will be able to heal the sick by wiping his hand on them, like Jesus did, but with this deceit the Dajjal will lead people down the path to hell. Thus the Dajjal is the false Messiah, or Anti-Christ (Massih ad-Dajjal). He will pretend to be the Messiah, and deceive people by showing them amazing powers”.
“The Dajjal will have powers of the devil. He will terrorize the Muslims into following him, converting them into unbelief. He will conceal the truth and bring forth falsehood. The prophet said that the Dajjal will have the power to show the image of one’s dead ancestors on his hand, like a television screen. The relative will say, “Oh my son! This man is correct. I am in Paradise because I was good and I believed in him.” In reality that relative is in hell. If the relative says, “Believe in this man, I am in hell because I didn’t believe,” one must say to the Dajjal, “No, he is in Paradise. This is false.”
“The Prophet said: the Dajjal will say to a Bedouin Arab, “what will you think if I bring your father and mother back to life for you? Will you bear witness that I am your lord?" The Bedouin will say, “Yes.” So two devils will assume the appearance of his father and mother, and say, “O my son, follow him for he is your lord…”
The Dajjal will claim to be God. This is especially difficult for Muslims because according to their beliefs, there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet. Of course, Islamic tradition believes the Dajjal is Jewish.
"The Jews await the false Jewish messiah, while we await, with Allah's help… the Mahdi and Jesus, peace be upon him. Jesus's pure hands will murder the false Jewish messiah. Where? In the city of Lod, in Palestine. Palestine will be, as it was in the past, a graveyard for the invaders”.
Islam will usher in the Antichrist and they will call him al-Mahdi, their messiah. They will also welcome the false prophet, their Jesus. However, none are as eye-opening as their Antichrist. The call him the Dajjal. We call him Jesus our Savior. While it may seem like a mirror image of our eschatology and prophecies, keep in the back of your mind that Satan is the head of Islam and because he is not creative, he had to imitate. What better way than to imitate backward.
As the last days grow closer, we are saddled with the responsibility of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone; including Muslims. While the possibility is real that danger may be present when doing just that, it does not diminish the need for a savior for all; including the Muslim.