Day 2: Understanding Islam, part 1 —Allah and his prophet
By Jordan Rowley
, spiritual coordinator, Climbing For Christ
Mosque in Moshi, Tanzania, declaring above the entrance: “None to be worshipped but Allah. Muhammad is his prophet.” Tanzania’s population of 52 million is 45.4 percent Christian, 37.3 percent Muslim, and 15.6 folk religion. (Photo by Gary Fallesen, Mission: Kilimanjaro 2007)
Islam’s most fundamentally essential concept is that of its god, Allah. He is the singular and sovereign god of all Muslims. The name “Allah” however, actually has its roots in pre-Muslim Arab culture. It is thought to have been a combination of the Arabic words “al
,” meaning “the,” and “ilah
,” meaning “god” or “deity.” In fact, in many of the polytheistic cultures (those who worship many gods) around Mecca (Islam’s birthplace) at the time of Muhammad, the name Allah simply referred to the chief god of a certain community’s many gods.
Second in importance to Allah is the belief in and reverence of Muhammad, the preeminent prophet of Allah. In fact, the phrase known as the shahadah
, or “the testimony,” is a foundational doctrine. Simply reciting it is one of the Five Pillars of the Faith.
This phrase — “there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet” — is held in such regard that it is often whispered into the ears of newborns as the first words they hear after being born. It’s spoken by dying Muslims as the very last words they utter on earth, and even incorporated on national flags, in art and architecture.
Born in the Arabian city of Mecca around 570 A.D., Muhammad is widely seen as the founder of Islam. He is believed to have been the restorer and final messenger of the true monotheistic religion shared with Adam, Abraham, Moses, and even Jesus. Muslims typically believe that although these other prophets once shared a message of truth from Allah, their writings had been corrupted over time and therefore the revelation given to Muhammad is the final word and only accurate, unaltered scripture that remains.
The names of Allah
In addition to the most basic name “Allah,” the god of Islam has 99 other names referred to in the Qur’an. Here are just a few:
- Al-Khaliq — the Creator
- Al-Alim — the All Knowing
- Al-Basir — the All Seeing
- Al-Qadir — the All Powerful
- Al-Hakam — the Judge
- Al-Salam — the Peace
- Al-Awwal — the First
- Al-Aakhir — the Last
There are many other names of Allah, but I’ve selected a handful that mirror several of the names and titles that our Lord Jesus holds. It’s not surprising that this list (and much of the Qur’an in general) has so many similarities to things found in the Bible, given the fact that Muhammad was influenced by the Jews and Christians of his time. In fact, he referred to these “People of the Book,” or ′Ahl al-Kitāb
numerous times in the Qur’an, often favorably.
People are people
In Nabeel Qureshi’s book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus
, he shares much of his journey from Islam to faith in Christ. In his prologue he writes:
“I lay prostrate in a large Muslim prayer hall, broken before God. The edifice of my worldview, all I had ever known, had slowly been dismantled over the past few years. On this day, my world came crashing down. I lay in ruin, seeking Allah.
“Fading footsteps echoed through the halls of the mosque as the humid summer evening drew to a close. The other worshipers were heading back to their homes and families for the night, but my thoughts were still racing. Every fiber of my being wrestled with itself. With my forehead pressed into the ground and heart pounding in my chest, my mind scrutinized each word my lips whispered into the musty carpet.
“…as my lips exercised their rote rituals, my mind questioned everything I thought I knew about God.
“Glorified is my Lord… Who is my Lord? Who are You, Lord? Are you Allah, the God of my father and forefathers? Are You the God I have always worshiped? The God my family has always worshiped? Surely You are the one who sent Muhammad as the final messenger for mankind and the Qur’an as our guide. You are Allah, the God of Islam, aren’t You? Or are You…’ I hesitated, fighting back the blasphemy I was about to propose. But what if the blasphemy was the truth?
“‘Or are You Jesus?’”
As we take the coming weeks to look into the religion of Islam, I pray that God would not only grant us knowledge about this religion, but a great burden for Muslim people! After all, people are people. We can easily forget that when we watch the news or read an article about Islam — particularly radical Islam.
It can seem like there is a great, insurmountable divide between “us” and “them.” Of course, there are many huge barriers to a follower of Islam becoming a follower of Christ, but people are people. There are many in the Muslim world who are searching. There are many who are struggling. There are many who the Holy Spirit is drawing out right now.
Nabeel Qureshi gives us a glimpse into the agony of even entertaining the thought that Jesus might be Lord. May the Lord grant us great grace and fresh insights into the hearts and minds of Muslim neighbors as we pray for them.
Please take a moment now and pray that God would open the hearts and minds of many Muslims and grant them the boldness to turn from Allah and his prophet to the One true God and His Son, Jesus!