While Muslims around the world are fasting and praying to Allah during Ramadan, Christians have the opportunity to pray for them to come to know Jesus Christ. The fasting is an act of Islamic worship, and Muslims believe that it will help erase their sins.
In light of this, the following is a brief overview of the distinction between Christianity and Islam:
What is Islam?
Islam is a religion that is based on the teachings of Muhammad, as found in the Qur’an. It is primarily a works-based religion, and Muslims believe that submission to Allah’s commands will help them go to heaven.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a month-long time of fasting and prayer for Muslims, based on lunar cycles and the Islamic calendar. Practicing Muslims will fast from both food and water from dawn until sunset until the new moon is spotted at the end of the Islamic month, which began on July 9 and is expected to run through August 7 of this year. They end the month of fasting with a day of celebration and feasting.
What distinguishes Islam from Christianity?
Jesus – Although Muslims believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and that He lived a sinless life, they believe that He was merely a prophet and they do not believe that He is the Son of God. The majority of Muslims reject the fact that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, which is of utmost importance for salvation (see 1 Corinthians 15:13-19). Islam’s main prophet is Muhammad, and they regard his teachings in the Qur’an.
Grace – God’s love for us is undeserved, as we cannot do anything to “earn” our way into His favor. But God showed His love for us in this – that while we were yet sinning against Him, Christ died for the ungodly (see Romans 5:6-8). God decided to come down to earth Himself to pay the penalty of our sin so that we might be forgiven - He didn’t have to do this, but because He is full of mercy and love, Jesus bore our penalty Himself on the cross.
Muslims eat their iftar (breaking fast) meal on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan in India at the Jama Masjid (Grand Mosque) in the old quarters of Delhi July 11, 2013. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood
Muslims believe that they must obey the teachings of Islam in order to be in right-standing with their god. They believe that they will be judged based on their deeds, whether good or bad, with certain deeds either forbidding or ensuring entrance into heaven. Their religion has five pillars– the confession of their faith, ritual prayer five times per day, fasting during Ramadan, giving alms, and taking a pilgrimage to Mecca. Some believe that jihad, or exerting force in the name of Allah, is a sixth pillar of the faith.
Justice – Jesus Christ fully paid the penalty for our sin, absorbing the wrath of God on the cross at Calvary. God does not simply offer forgiveness for our sins because He loves us, or because we have done good deeds. Even but one sin separates us from God, and the wages of sin is death (see Romans 6:23). God is perfectly just; He had to satisfy His righteous wrath for sin. Praise be to God, He mercifully poured out His wrath on Jesus in order to forgive our sin – “Christ either bears the curse for you, or you abide under the curse yourself. There is no other option,” says Geoff Ashley at The Village Church.
Muslims believe that Allah may forgive them for their sin if their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds. They do not believe that they are in need of a Savior, since they can try to obey the rules on their own (albeit imperfectly).
How Should Christians Relate to Muslims?
As Christians, we ought to love and to serve Muslims. We ought to try to meet their deepest need, that of a Savior, by sharing the Gospel with them. Although it may be helpful to study an overview of Islam so that we might have a better understanding of what Muslims believe, knowledge of the saving work of God in Christ Jesus is what we need most. “We don’t need to be experts in particular world religions and cults to engage their adherents,” says Ashley. “We need to know and believe the gospel in all its glory and fullness. We need to know and love the triune God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible.”
During this month of Ramadan, please pray that Muslims might know the mercy-filled, life-giving love of Jesus.