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It was a rainy Sunday afternoon.  The mosque in Mission Viejo, California was hosting an open house, so with all the current interest in Islam we decided to pay a visit.  A well-groomed young Muslim boy walked out to our car with an umbrella and respectfully ushered us into a well appointed building.  A dozen or so smiling faces of Middle-Eastern descent greeted us — the men mostly in business casual attire, and the woman with head scarves.  It reminded us of attending an event at any local church.

We had many questions and they were eager to provide answers.  Book tables lined the entry.  Friendly people milled around us with a willingness to engage in conversation.  Then the announcement came that in a few minutes the head imam would make a presentation.  We went into the assembly hall with the forty or so folks who had similar suburbanite backgrounds to ourselves.

The imam was well dressed and brandished a huge smile telling us that he was from a small country in Northeast Africa.  He was a likeable fellow and a polished speaker.  He said that we were free to ask any questions and that nothing was off-limits.  He was my kind of person — I couldn’t wait to engage!

 The first 20 minutes or so was getting to know these new neighbors as friends: tolearn their history and the purpose of the mosque; how they serve the community and are faithful citizens.  He easily broke down any stereotypes I might have had that Muslims were somehow different.  No — they too were made in God’s image.  I was getting more comfortable with their different look, dress, language, and traditions.  However, in the following 20 minutes I started becoming uncomfortable as he addressed the tenants of Islam.

I have studied Islam to some degree.  I respect its differences with Christianity and can agree to disagree agreeably with Islam.  But what made me uncomfortable was the ease with which the imam smoothly glided over these differences, attempting to make Islam and Christianity seem like variations of the same religion.  For example, he and others later on misleadingly said:

  • We’re both monotheistic religions and both believe in the same God
  • The Bible was given by God and accepted by Muslims
  • All the OT prophets (Noah, Moses, Abraham, etc.) are indeed messengers of God and are respected as such by Muslims
  • Jesus was the greatest in the long-line of Hebrew prophets.  He had a miraculous birth,  performed many miracles and delivered “the gospel” (good news). 
  • Muhammad was the last of the prophets and the final revelation to mankind.
  • Each of these many Messengers spoke a different language and followed varied customs.  Yet the core faith taught by each was the same: surrender your imperfect and fickle will to your Creator.

The following Q&A was lively and engaging.  The imam has a regular TV program and was able to effortlessly handle the increasingly difficult questions coming his way:

  • What do you say about the Islamic terrorists?
  • Will there be the reward of 72 virgins in heaven?
  • Why don’t the moderate Muslims speak out against the radicals?
  • What’s your personal opinion about building the Mosque at Ground Zero?

Unfortunately my experience was becoming more like a Islamic PR campaign, and it started feeling like purposeful manipulation.  For example — Allah and YHWH are the same God. 

Allah is not the God of the Bible

They said that “Allah” is just the Arabic word for “God” and that Allah is the God of the Bible.  Not true –and it was deceptive how it was presented.  Yes — both Islam and Christianity are monotheistic (one God) religions, but their conception of God is fundamentally different even though they may have several similar attributes (e.g. God is the Creator). 

The Koran says:

“Allah is One, the Eternal God.  He begot none, nor was He begotten.  None is equal to Him” (Sura 112:1-4)

However, the God of the Bible says,

“I am the LORD (YHWH), that is My name; I will not give My glory to another” (Isaiah 42:8)

“I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me” (Isaiah 44:6)

“You are My witnesses,” declares YHWH … “I am the LORD: there is no savior besides Me” (Isaiah 43:10)

When there was an opportunity to discuss this with one of the leaders I said, “I respect your religion and how you are giving your children a good moral education” (we were impressed with what we saw in their School), “but let us not say that we worship the same God.  Our God is Triune, yours is not.  Our God was incarnate in Jesus Christ, yours was not.  In fact, you consider the incarnation blasphemous.  You do not worship YHWH and we do not worship Allah.  So either YHWH is God or Allah is God — or both of us are wrong.  I accept and respect those differences.  I can only hope you do too.”  After some discussion he sheepishly admitted that he attended a Catholic school when he was growing up in Pakistan; and that he knew the difference.  It appeared that he also knew (without admitting it) that Muslim evangelists say that Allah is just another name for the God of the Bible as propaganda to convert Westerners to Islam.

All in all it was a positive experience as I connected with those of a different culture and was able to see them as people for whom Christ died.  It increased my respect for Muslims as neighbors and American citizens.  At the same time it brought home that Christians need to understand the differences between the two religions, and not be swayed by attempts to eliminate or minimize those differences.  In this post-modern and politically correct age that is becoming increasingly difficult to do.

In future posts I will discuss the differences between the Koran and the Bible,  Jesus, the Prophets and Muhammad. 

Please Post a Comment and share with us your perspective, as well as any questions you may have.