Worldviews-Islam

by Matt Lefebvre

If you are wondering what a worldview is, you might want to read the introduction to this series before reading this article.

What do Muslims believe?Islam-image1a

Islam was founded by Muhammad in the 7th century in the city of Mecca.  In drastic contrast to the polytheistic peoples around him, Muhammad preached the absolute oneness of God.  This is the greatest of five basic beliefs.  Second, belief in angels, higher spiritual beings that record either good or bad deeds for each person, and jinn, lower spiritual beings than angels, which are usually bad, able to possess people.  Third, belief in the prophets of God, with many being also found in the Bible, including Jesus, but Muhammad is considered the seal of the prophets, giving the final revelation.  Fourth, belief in holy books: the Law, the Psalms, the Gospel, and the Qur’an.  Of these four, only the last is considered to be uncorrupted.  Fifth, belief in the day of judgement, at which point a person’s good and bad deeds will be weighed in the balance.  A person has no assurance of salvation, as only God knows their destiny.  The five pillars of Islam are reciting the shahadah (confessing that there is one God and that Muhammad is His messenger), praying (five times per day), fasting (during daylight hours in the lunar month of Ramadan), giving alms (1/40th), and making the pilgrimage (making a trip to Mecca for those who are able) (based on Dean Halverson, The Compact Guide To World Religions, p.104-107).

  1. Origin-Sura 10:3 summarizes the creation of the heavens and the earth in much the same way as the Bible, in that God did it in six days.  Sura 55:3-7 explains more of the details, that the sun and moon, herbs and trees, the firmament, and also man were created by God, also similar to Genesis 1-2.  There are minor differences, but in general, that the one God created the heavens and the earth is something that the three great monotheistic religions (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity) can agree on.
  2. Meaning-When this monotheistic worldview begins to diverge is on the question of human nature.  According to Badru Kateregga, “The Christian witness, that man is created in the ‘image and likeness of God,’ is not the same as the Muslim witness.  Although God breathed into man His spirit…for Islam the only Divine quality that was entrusted to man as a result of God’s breath was the faculty of knowledge, will, and power of action.  If man uses these Divine qualities rightly in understanding God and following His law strictly, then he has nothing to fear in the present or in the future, and no sorrow for the past.” (Islam and Christianity: A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue, p.100-101).  This reveals not only a break with the biblical picture of man’s creation, but it also hints at man’s purpose in the world.  In Sura 51:56 we also see insight into the purpose of man’s creation, “I have only created…men that They may serve Me.”  More recent concepts involve man being considered God’s steward on earth, but traditionally, man is the slave and God is the sovereign (W. Montgomery Watt, Islam and Christianity Today, p.125, 127).  The purpose of man is to do what God decrees, and in fact, the word Islam means “submission” and a Muslim is “one who submits” (Dean Halverson, The Compact Guide To World Religions, p.105).
  3. Morality-“Islam does not hold out the possibility of salvation through the work of God on the behalf of the people, but invites people to accept God’s guidance as to what people should do.” (John Ankerberg and Dillon Burroughs, How is Christianity Different From Other Religions?, p.34).  As noted above, the purpose of man is to do what God wants, but not doing that is not a fundamental orientation of human nature.  “Human beings were created innocent and free but chose to sin against God.  Sin, however, is not an irradicable [sic] part of human nature.” (Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam, p.42).  So while God is still the standard of morality, humans can choose good over evil without any predisposition to do evil.  Adam and Eve chose to disobey, but were forgiven and there was no further effect.  Thus, the nature of man is basically good.  In the words of Kateregga, “He is good, but imperfect.  Being imperfect, he needs constant reminding.  That is why God sent His prophets and messengers to help man achieve perfection.” (Islam and Christianity: A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue, p.16)
  4. Destiny-On that note, it is really this goodness that will save a person in the day of judgement.  Sura 23:102-103 describes judgement by means of a scale balancing the good deeds against the bad deeds: “Then those whose balance is heavy-They will attain salvation:  But those whose balance Is light will be those Who have lost their souls; In Hell will they abide.”  There are vivid descriptions of Hell as a place of wailing (Sura 11:106), where scorched skins are exchanged for new ones to feel the torment anew (Sura 4:45).  Heaven, on the other hand, “is a place where believers find whatever their hearts desire.” (Abdullah Muhammad Khouj, The End of the Journey, p.82) and even spiritual joy as well, for “…the greatest bliss Is the Good Pleasure of God: That is the supreme felicity.” (Sura 9:72).  Indeed, “To those who believe And do deeds of righteousness Hath God promised forgiveness And a great reward.” (Sura 5:10).  There is, however, no assurance of this salvation in Islam, with the exception being one who fights in a Jihad or Holy War (Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam, p.128).  On the other side, there is room for people of other religions to be accepted into heaven, depending on the Qur’anic definition. Sura 2:112 says “Nay.-whoever submits His whole self to God And is a doer of good,-He will get his reward With his Lord; On such shall be no fear, Nor shall they grieve.” while Sura 4:150-151 proclaims that “those who deny God And His apostles, and wish to separate God from His apostles, Saying: ‘We believe in some But reject others;’ And wish To take a course midway,-They are in truth Unbelievers; And We have prepared For Unbelievers a humiliating Punishment.”  Later Suras seem to restrict earlier provision for people of the Book, Jews and Christians (Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam, p.129).

How coherent is the Islamic worldview?

  1. Logical consistency-Muslims assert that God is absolutely one in an inflexible way, not making room for a knowable essence or nature, for God is absolute will and that must be absolutely one.  However, as Geisler and Saleeb point out, “Muslim scholars insist the Qur’an is uncreated and perfectly expresses the mind of God.  Yet they acknowledge that the Qur’an is not identical to the essence of God.  Some Muslim scholars even liken the Qur’an to the Divine Logos view of Christ held by orthodox Christians.” (Answering Islam, p.139).  So they can allow for something to be not God, but still be uncreated like God and express perfectly what God thinks.  Another problem with God being Absolute Will is that this is not necessarily an adequate basis for morality, by which all are to be judged, because He does not do things because they are right, but rather they are right because He does them.  God is described in various wonderful ways, but these names and descriptions cannot really describe Him, for He could have chosen to be otherwise.  Thomas Aquinas also pointed out that “you cannot give what you have not got.” (Quoted in Answering Islam, p.144), so if God causes goodness, He must be goodness.  Furthermore, if everything is as God wills it (Sura 7:178-179, 9:51), God makes both good and evil happen, in this extreme determinism, but still holds individuals responsible for their deeds in the final judgement.  Indeed, God could have saved everyone, but chose not to (Sura 32:13), in stark contrast to the God of Christianity (1 Timothy 2:3-4).  In fact, Islamic determinism can even go so far as to be close to pantheism (see link to the Hinduism article below), saying that there is no one who acts but God (Geisler and Saleeb, Answering Islam, p.149-150).  Even within the Qur’an itself, there are changes, though Sura 10:64 says “no change there can be in the Words of God.”  This is based on the doctrine of abrogation, later revelations cancelling previous ones: “revelations…We abrogate or cause to be forgotten.” (Sura 2:106).  These are referring to the very verses of the Qur’an, which are supposed to be uncreated and thus eternal, and yet in a span of twenty years, revelations changed.
  2. Factuality-Sura 23:14 describes a human being formed out of a blood clot, which is hardly an accurate scientific description consistent with what we know of the human body.  Another example, in Sura 18:86 describes going west until reaching the place of the setting sun, setting in a muddy spring, which seems to imply an unscientific view of the world in relation to the sun.  Such a reference to the setting of the sun could be understood poetically, as we still say today, but the question is, what is the intention of the author in narrating the muddy spring?  Then there is also the resurrection of Jesus, which the Qur’an seems to deny, though it does affirm His ascension (Sura 4:157-158).  Of course, the resurrection is only denied by implication, for the Qur’an says the Jews did not kill Jesus.  I have already written about evidence surrounding the resurrection of Jesus (for more on that read here), but even if you do not want to go that far, there is still ample evidence that Jesus was crucified when the Bible claims He was.
  3. Viability-In reference to Islam, Winfried Corduan asks “How can a religion espouse the highest monotheistic and ethical ideals while many of its adherents live in a state close to animism?” (Neighboring Faiths, p.77).  Every religion has those who do not follow orthodox beliefs, but some have suggested that it is in fact the rigid monotheism that is a problem.  Indeed, this has been seen by some critics to lead to the deifying of Muhammad among some Muslim sects, because relationship with God is so distant (Geisler and Saleeb, Answering Islam, p.145).  Muslims are unconditionally serving a God they do not really know and even what they do know seems to make God appear arbitrary and maybe even the author of evil.  As devoted as so many Muslims are, it is my opinion that all of us long for God, to have relationship with Him, but for the Muslim, that is out of the question and maybe even disrespectful.  A more controversial aspect of Islam is Jihad (Holy War).  Though this is not necessarily representative of all Muslims, it is what people around the world tend to see, so it is worth mentioning.  The issue I raise is not that all Muslims are Jihadists and not even that the majority of them are, but that it is arguably an integral part of Islam and that those who engage in Holy War can find ample justification in the Qur’an and sayings of the prophet (Geisler and Saleeb, Answering Islam, p.319).  Of course, with Christianity, examples are often brought up such as the Crusades or the KKK, but in spite of what they would say about themselves, their violence is in radical discontinuity with the message of Jesus.  Muslims, however, can find more than just permission, but at times, commands to fight (Sura 2:190-193, 216, 224/3:157-158, 169, 195/4:74-75, 89, 95, 101/5:36, 54/8:12-17, 59-60, 65/9:5, 14, 29/47:4/61:4).  The vast majority of Muslims are peace-loving individuals, but if radical factions made up only 1% of the Muslim population, it would still be 120 million militant Muslims.

There is much in Islam that I appreciate and I am thankful for the Muslim devotion to one God in a world where all sorts of things are considered gods which are no gods.  I also appreciate how they defend the authority of what they hold to be the Word of God.  That being said, the questions expressed above lead me to question the validity of the Islamic worldview and to suggest that perhaps there could be some revision needed in the view of God and how to live.

For more on Christianity, click here.

Based on this Christian perspective I have also evaluated three other worldviews:

Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism

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