What Is Islam and How Should Christians Respond?

by | Jan 17, 2023 | Poimenas

In the early seventh century, Muhammad—a Saudi Arabian tradesman with wealth and prominence—first announced that he had received a message from the angel Gabriel and was called to be the next prophet of God. Few could have imagined the international significance Muhammad’s prophecies would have today.

As of 2015, 1.8 billion people worldwide identify with the religion of Islam—the fastest growing religion in the world. And while most Muslims live in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa, believers of Islam are not as far away as you might think.

One percent of Americans today are Muslim (3.5 million people). And like the rest of the world, Islam is continuing to grow at a rapid rate right here in the United States. In fact, several research centers suggest that as early as 2040, Islam will be the second-largest religion in America.

Here’s the good news: you don’t need to be a full-time missionary to the Middle East to witness to Muslims. Today, they serve in your workplace, study with your children in school and live in your neighborhood. To reach them, you must love them, listen to them, and share the gospel with them. In order to do that effectively, we need to know more about what they believe, and why they believe it.


Islam was founded by Muhammad, who had grown up in poverty. At an early age, he lost both of his parents and spent his developmental years being shuttled between relatives. Finally, he was adopted by a poor uncle.

After being mentored by his uncle, a tradesman, Muhammad took up the same occupation and became quite successful. He traveled the region around a prosperous city called Mecca, buying goods to sell to the wealthiest members of the city.

On his 40th birthday, Muhammad received what he believed to be a vision from the angel Gabriel, who told him that he had been chosen by Allah (Arabic for “god”) to be his next prophet and apostle.


Islam means “surrender,” and the Islamic faith is characterized by total surrender to their god, Allah. Islam is built on the foundation of five pillars—five action steps that symbolize a Muslims total surrender to god.

These pillars include sole worship to Allah and recognition of Muhammad as his prophet, a daily series of prayers, tithing, fasting, and a pilgrimage to Islam’s sacred site, Mecca, where Muhammad received his vision.

The teachings of Islam do not merely impact the heart and mind of its followers, but every aspect of a person’s life. Islam impacts a follower’s lifestyle, including diet, dress, and work life. And it certainly impacts their political beliefs.

The Pact of Umar, considered a sacred Islamic text, illustrates the relationship between Islam as a belief system and Islam as a political system. In this pact, unbelievers are required to submit to Islamic government in Islamic territories, including the payment of taxes. Unbelievers are not allowed to marry Muslim women, but they must allow their daughters to marry Muslim men. Furthermore, Christians are not allowed to attempt converting a Muslim, but must allow their own family members to convert to Islam. As you can see, Islam is a one-way street. In Islamic republics to this day, nonbelievers are treated as second-class, inferior inhabitants.


At first, Muhammad attempted to convince Jews that he was simply a continuation of their long lineage of prophets. He adopted the Jewish diet, respected Sabbath-day worship, and told his followers to pray toward Jerusalem.

However, once he realized that Jewish leaders would never recognize his authority, Muhammad rejected all Jewish customs and began waging war against Jews—plundering their villages and homes. Inherent in the teachings of Islam is the belief that all unbelievers must be subjugated by Islam. During his life, Muhammad warred against various nations, taking their land, and subjugating their people. Following his death, his followers continued that same strategy of domination and expansion.


Globally, Islam is the second largest religion in the world. Beyond that, the number of Islamic nation-states continue to display a significant amount of political power in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

Many Islamic States in the Middle East sit on vast oil reserves, which can be processed and sold to the rest of the world at profitable prices. Thus, while these nations may be small geographically, and far less developed technologically and educationally, they have become immensely wealthy, with vast resources and financial ability. Much of that money is dedicated to the spread of Islam around the world, especially in the western world.

A new mosque (a place of worship for Muslims) is built in America every single month. Through vast online social networks and internet platforms, Western converts to Islam share their stories of conversions, a powerful witness for more potential converts.

While Islam claims to be a continuation of established religions, and not a new faith itself, this religion is an obvious distortion of the Jewish faith, and certainly opposed to the teachings of Jesus. While Islam claims Jesus Christ as one of its prophets, they reject His deity, His crucifixion, salvation by faith in Christ alone, and more essential doctrines of Christianity.


While the rapid, exponential growth of Islam is a fascinating subject both historically and geopolitically, it is a tragedy spiritually.

Followers of Islam are characterized by passion, zeal, and total devotion to their god, but their god offers them no assurance of salvation or forgiveness of sin. The only type of Muslim who is guaranteed a place in paradise is a jihadist, someone who dies in a holy war against the enemies of Allah. Even Muhammad, the founding prophet of this faith, said “Although I am an apostle of Allah, I do not know what Allah will do to me.”

What a hopeless faith this is.

As Islam continues to grow across the world—and especially in America—our opportunities to befriend, love and share the gospel with Muslims are growing as well.

As we conclude, let’s look at three important reminders to help us navigate interactions with Muslims, as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission.

The Christian is characterized by respect for all people of all religions.

When God made humanity in His own image, He put no religious requirement on that image-bearer status. All people—Christian, Muslim, atheist—are made in the image of God, and as His image-bearers, are deserving of respect.

When we have opportunity to meet a follower of Islam, care and compassion should motivate us to show love to them as individuals. There is a common misconception taught in Western Christianity that all Muslims are our enemies, that they all hate us and want to destroy us as enemies of Allah. But many Muslims, especially in America, love our country, our culture and want to befriend people of various religions. Even for those who are not so kind, we need to keep in mind: Muslims are not our enemies; they are our mission field.

The Christian clearly recognizes what sets Christianity apart from any other religion.

While respect is the basis of a friendship, we cannot compromise on the gospel. At some point, we must help them recognize where their religion falls short and why Christianity is the only way to Heaven.

Thankfully, followers of Islam have more common ground with Christians than many other belief systems. Unlike the atheist, Muslims believe in the existence of God; unlike the Hindu, Muslims believe in one God; unlike the Buddhist, Muslims recognize Abraham and Jesus as true historical figures who served as prophets of the one true God.

Beginning with this common ground, we can show Muslims from the Bible where their ‘sacred’ text falls short.

Allah is not the same God as Jehovah. While Muslims worship only one god, he is a false god. The Jesus of Muslim faith—a good teacher and prophet of God—is not the true Jesus. The true Jesus, the Son of God, is the Savior of the world, fully divine and equal with God the Father.

One of the most clarifying distinctions between Islam and Christianity is that a Muslim does not have any assurance of salvation. What a privilege to introduce them to a Savior who promises them eternal life in Heaven, freely offered through the death and resurrection of our Lord.

As I mentioned above, Islam is a religion of works, without hope. While its followers may work as hard as they can to be right with God, their souls will never be at peace. They know nothing of resting their eternal future on the work Christ has accomplished already on their behalf. Instead, they are consumed with prayers, fasting and rituals in a never-ending effort to earn Allah’s favor.

Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). What an oasis of refreshment the gospel of Jesus Christ is to those who are striving to earn God’s favor through their own efforts. To the restless soul, the promise and assurance of salvation by faith in Christ alone is a sweetest gift they will ever be offered.

The Christian learns from the spiritual dedication of Muslims.

While they worship the wrong god, Muslims worship their god with a discipline that unfortunately seems missing among many professing Christians. If you meet a Muslim, or read about the lifestyle of most Muslims, you will find that they are in many ways a model of devotion and worship—even though their worship is directed to a false god.

When I visited some Christian missionaries to Muslims in Africa, they gave me a Muslim prayer mat, and told me that five times every day, every Muslim unrolls that mat, bows down on the ground, and prays to Allah. That behavior so convicted me that for some time after my visit, I used that prayer mat to pray to Yahweh—the true and living God—in my private study.

Every Islamic believer takes five different times out of their day to pray. How often do we pray?

Every Muslim regularly fasts every year, devoting the time they would be eating to prayer and meditation. How often do we skip a meal to focus on God and meet Him in prayer and in His Word?

Every time two Muslims greet each other, they say in Arabic “Allah is great!” They revere the name of their god and use it as their greeting. Do you talk about the Lord in your conversations with others?

The Christian response to Islam—respect, recognition, and rededication—will not only help us in our own spiritual growth but will enable us to accomplish the Great Commission. The mission field is not only thousands of miles away; it happens to be in your front yard, your office, your town. Let’s reach them with the good news—the saving gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord!


Stephen Davey has served as the president of Shepherds Theological Seminary since its inception in 2003. Stephen also serves as the pastor/teacher of The Shepherd’s Church (www.shepherdschurch.com) as well as the principal Bible teacher for Wisdom International (www.wisdomonline.org).

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