According to a 2012 Pew Research Study, roughly 1.6 billion Muslims populate the world today, making Islam the second largest religion on Earth.
While Islam is a very popular religion, many people are unclear as to what Muslims believe.
The Basics of Islam
According to the Muslim faith, Muhammad (AD 570-632) was the final prophet of Allah (God). In 33:40, we read, “Muhammad is… the Messenger of God, and the seal of the prophets.” Muslims revere Muhammad as the greatest prophet in human history—sometimes simply calling him the Prophet.
But who was Muhammad?
According to tradition, Muhammad was born in Mecca in AD 570, being almost immediately orphaned as a very young boy. Some scholars believe he was orphaned in infancy; others believe he was orphaned at age six. His uncle Abu Talib took him into his house, and he included him in his business: caravan trade from Syria to Persia. At the age of 25, Muhammad married a 40 year old woman named Khadijah, and he was married to her for another 15 years until his first vision of the angel Gabriel. The rest of Muhammad’s basic biographical timeline can be explained as follows:
(AD 610) Muhammad is 40. He claims that he was visited by an angel named Gabriel in the Ka’aba (Surah 96:1). The angel emphatically told him to “Recite!” Muhammad did not receive the Qur’an all in one night. White writes, “Muhammad himself received it piecemeal over twenty-two years.” This angel spoke to him from AD 610 to 632. As Muhammad taught, the Meccans became increasing hostile to him. Rahman writes, “The Prophet’s preaching evoked strong opposition from the Meccans, especially from the oligarchy that controlled the very life of the city. The Meccans not only feared Muhammad’s challenge to their traditional religion based on poly theism but they felt that the very structure of their society, commercially vested interests, was being directly threatened by the new teaching with its emphasis on social justice which, as time went on, became more and more specific in its condemnation of usury and its insistence on the zakat or poor-rate.”
(AD 620) Muhammad’s uncle (Abu Talib) and wife (Khadijah) die. While his influential uncle was alive, Muhammad was protected from his enemies. However, once Abu Talib died, the Meccans hatched several plots to kill Muhammad.
(AD 622) Soon after, he goes under persecution, travelling from Mecca to Medina to the north (which was then called Yathrib). Three major battles occur after this point: the battle of Badr (AD 624), Uhud (AD 625), and Trench (AD 627).
(AD 624) The battle of Badr was a victory for Muhammad over the Meccans (Persians). The Muslims were outnumbered three to one, but still managed to win this battle. They viewed this as divine intervention (8:17; 8:65).
(AD 625) During the battle of Uhud, Muslim archers left their post to sack the city, and they were defeated.
(AD 627) In the battle of Trench, there was a big trench around the Muslim fort. This kept the Meccan cavalry away. White writes, “Following the Meccan withdrawal, Muhammad turned against the Jewish tribe of the Banu Qurayza, who allegedly had entered into negations with the Meccans, betraying their allegiance to him and the city. After a few weeks’ siege, the tribe surrendered. According to the earliest sources (disputed by later writers for obvious reasons), all but a few men (who converted to Islam) were beheaded, and all women and children were enslaved. Normally, his role in this event is explained as a purely political, but again the intermixture of state and religion, General and Prophet, is troubling.”
(AD 630) Muhammad conquers Mecca, and he conquers the Ka’aba. According to Medearis, “The Kaaba is a haven for a series of sacred stones, the most important of which is the Black Stone, believed to have come from heaven. The Black Stone is built into the eastern corner of the Kaaba, and annual pilgrimages require the sojourners to come before it and perform various rituals. At the time, though, as many as three hundred deities may have been worshiped at the Kaaba.”
(AD 632) Muhammad dies June 8, 632. Sunni Muslims say that he died of pneumonia; Shiite Muslims say he was poisoned.
The Aftermath of Muhammad’s death
After the prophet Muhammad died, there was a major question as to who should take over after him. Ali was Muhammad’s first cousin. One faction of Islam (Shiites) argued that the successive leader after Muhammad should be one of his blood relatives. This would place Ali as the likely candidate. Another faction of Islam (Sunnis) claimed that a blood relative wasn’t important for a successor. Instead, they were in favor of voting in the most credible candidate.
Differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims
87-90% of Muslims
10-13% of Muslims
The leader of Islam should be appointed.
The leader of Islam should be related to Muhammad. This began with Ali—Muhammad’s cousin.
Believe that Muhammad did not appoint a successor.
Believe that Muhammad did appoint a successor: Ali.
Spread throughout the world in Muslim countries.
Primarily in Iran, Iraq, and Yemen.
Qur’an means “to recite.” A surah is a chapter in the Qur’an. An ayah is a verse. The surat (plural for surah) of the Qur’an are not arranged chronologically or topically, but according to size. The Qur’an is just over half of the size of the NT. The Qur’an is equivalent to the “word of God.” Yusuf K. Ibish writes, “It is not a book in the ordinary sense, nor is it comparable to the Bible, either the Old or New Testaments. It is an expression of Divine Will. If you want to compare it with anything in Christianity, you must compare it with Christ Himself.”
The Five Pillars of Islam
Muslims adhere to five central pillars of the faith:
1. The Testimony (Shahadah): This is the worship of one God, and Muhammad is his final prophet. Medearis writes, “To many Muslims, this alone makes you a Muslim.”
2. The Fast (Sawm): The fast occurs primarily during Ramadan, which is the ninth month of the lunar calendar. This is why Ramadan changes on our solar calendar. Muslims perform this fast in order to commemorate God’s revelation to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. This fast occurs from dawn until dusk, when Muslims pray for forgiveness and break the fast.
3. Giving (Zakat): While giving varies between country, class, and income, most Muslims agree to give 2.5% to the poor.
4. Prayer (Salat): Muslims pray five times a day. Medearis writes, “At sunrise, shortly after noon, midafternoon, after sundown, and after nightfall.”
5. Pilgrimage (Hajj): Muslims (who are able) should make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least one time in their lifetime.
Articles on Islam
Evidence for Islam What is the evidence for Islam? How does it compare with the evidence for the Bible? We explore those issues here.
Similarities with Christianity What is the common ground between Islam and Christianity? Are there similar concepts inherent in both faiths?
Theological Differences with Christianity While Christianity and Islam have similarities, they also have serious differences. We carefully define these two different perspectives.
Moral Differences with Christianity How does Islam compare with Christianity in regards to its view of women, war, and the life of its founder, Muhammad?
Communication Guidelines What are some important keys to dialoguing with our Muslim friends and family? What are some crucial errors that should be avoided?
Further Reading This is our bibliography of material for further study and exploration into the Muslim religion.
 Rahman writes, “His father had predeceased his birth and he lost his mother in infancy.” Rahman, Fazlur. Islam. Second Edition. Chicago, IL. University of Chicago Press. 1979. 11.
 Medearis, Carl. Muslims, Christians, and Jesus. Bloomington, Minnesota. Bethany House Publishers. 2008. 21.
 White, James R. What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2013. 24.
 Rahman, Fazlur. Islam. Second Edition. Chicago, IL. University of Chicago Press. 1979. 14-15.
 White, James R. What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2013. 36.
 Medearis, Carl. Muslims, Christians, and Jesus. Bloomington, Minnesota. Bethany House Publishers. 2008. 22-23.
 Waddy, Charis. The Muslim Mind. London. New York. Longman. 1976. 14. Geisler, Norman L., and Abdul Saleeb. Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1993. 184.
 See Medearis, Carl. Muslims, Christians, and Jesus. Bloomington, Minnesota. Bethany House Publishers. 2008. 58-62.
 Medearis, Carl. Muslims, Christians, and Jesus. Bloomington, Minnesota. Bethany House Publishers. 2008. 58.
 Medearis, Carl. Muslims, Christians, and Jesus. Bloomington, Minnesota. Bethany House Publishers. 2008. 59.