By: Jael Sierra. Jael can be found on her Twitter here.
With the increased amount of negative attention being directed towards Islam, many individuals from various religious backgrounds have felt the need to defend the Muslim faith. In their attempt to defend Islam, these individuals often equate the religion to Christianity in an effort to normalize the Islamic faith in the Western world.
Although there are many historical similarities between the Abrahamic faiths, the claim that God (as mentioned in the Torah and New Testament) and Allah (as mentioned in the Quran and other Islamic texts) are the same being couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Both the Quran and the Christian Bible acknowledge the sovereignty of God. As a matter of fact, each chapter of the Quran begins the same way, “In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.” However, God’s sovereignty, and the necessity to trust God because of His position as Creator of the Universe, is the point at which the two texts go their separate ways.
First and foremost, the God of the Bible is described as three persons in one being, commonly referred to as the Holy Trinity. The Father, God, his only begotten son, Jesus (John 3:16), and the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17).
According to the Quran, Muslims are called to “Know therefore that there is no god but Allah” (Muhammad 47:19). Allah encompasses a single being and person, and is not a Father, nor a Father figure, nor a guiding Spirit, to believers of the Islamic faith.
In Al-Ma’Idah 4:171, there is a section addressed directly to “People of the Book,” namely Christians and Jews, warning them to “commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not “trinity:” desist: it will be better for you,” speaking directly against foundational Christian beliefs.
The Quran describes Allah as “Most Gracious” and “Most Merciful” but does not grant him the title of Father. Contrastingly, the Bible says, “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live.” (1 Corinth 8:6)
Romans 8:16-17 furthers the characterization of God as the Father, and describes followers of Christ as God’s children, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”
This puts Christians in a position to receive the grace of God. In Romans 5:1 says, the Bible says that “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Thus, believers are judged not on performance, but on their inherent position a heirs to God’s kingdom once they willingly accept God’s grace.
The Bible does say that no one can fathom God’s greatness (Psalm 145:3), but if there is no promise of new mercy or everlasting love to stand on, an arbitrarily merciful sovereign is not very reassuring. As a matter of fact, waking up every day, uncertain of your adequacy and worthiness as an individual, is one of the many factors that lead Muslims down the path of violent jihad.
Al-Ma’Idah 5:54 says, “[…] soon will Allah produce a people whom He will love as they will love Him- lowly with the believers, mighty against the Rejectors, committing jihad in the way of Allah, and never afraid of he reproaches of such as find fault,” offering a path for Muslims that would at least imply the probability of assurance in their worthiness to God.
Since there is no reassurance of God’s grace in the Quran, some Muslims feel that they must do all they can in order to hopefully be justified by their actions in the end.
The grace that Allah has to offer is, according to Al-Ma’Idah 5:54, “bestowed upon only whom He pleases.” Allah’s grace is not free, and not guaranteed. The common phrase “In sha allah” translated to “if God wills it,” or “God-willing,” underscores the fickle nature of Allah, as never being certain of what He will do.
Contrastingly, in the Christian Bible, John 3:16 describes God, essentially committing his own jihad for the sake of world, in his sacrifice of his only begotten son, so that “everyone who believes in [Him] would not perish, but have eternal life.” Christ waged a struggle against sin, “a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood,” (Romans 3:25), so that the rest of the world wouldn’t have to.
The Bible says that “everyone has sinned and falls short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) answering the question of worthiness, but goes on to say that they are “justified freely by his grace through redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24).
The starkest, yet most simple contrast between the Islamic Allah and Christian God, is found in 1 John 4:8 where the Bible declares that “God is love.”
The Bible makes it very clear that God is love. It characterizes God as a Father, a Friend, a Counselor, a Redeemer, a Savior; among many things, God is love.
Allah is not love. According to the opening statement of the Quran, Al-Fatihah, Allah is the Most Gracious, Most Merciful, the Sustainer of the Worlds and Master of the Universe – Allah is an all-knowing Judge, but Allah is not love. God is love. This is the ultimate difference.