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How to Present Islam to Christian Audience?

20 October, 2016
Q I am a Nigerian living abroad and there is a monthly meeting of Nigerians in that community which is predominantly Christian. As the only Muslim, I am hosting next. Could you kindly advise on the topic I should discuss in the forum and give me the necessary Quranic references as well as the hadith. As the host I will conduct the meeting in my doctrine as well as deliver a short lecture. Also, I am expected to pray for the well being of the people of the nation in general. All has to be done in English for better understanding. I am semi-literate in the Quran. Please help me to make it a glorious day.


Salam Dear Abdulrazzaq,

Thank you for your challenging question, it is not an easy task that you will endeavor to take on and we pray that all will go well.

In order to avoid prejudices, especially with the Christian-Muslim conflicts in Nigeria, it would be profitable to share what is common between the two religions, highlighting continuation, and fellowship, through your introduction to Islam and to demonstrate that the conflicts are more to do with people than the religions themselves.

In one’s mind, one needs to be reminded of the obvious, i.e. that Allah is the Creator of us all and that He created everything in the beginning. This means historically that Allah has always been ever present and is the source behind all the heavenly sent books of guidance, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Islam came to remind us, not to replace the words that Allah has sent down before. In this respect, Islam has given a common name for practicing Jews, Christians and Muslims; the People of the Book. Islam is the last in that tradition and Prophet Muhammad is the final proof because man has failed to adhere to the previous messages as sent down in the form of the Torah, and the Gospels or Bible.

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If we look at history one can note that each time man has descended into barbarism and chaos, a prophet was sent to deliver words of guidance, and so it was with the Old Testament, the Gospels and the Quran. The Quran is a continuation of the message, but with a clearer form of guidance to remind us of our purpose in this life. Different verses and hadiths serve a purpose for differing situations and are not to be taken into conflict with one another.

In fact, the Quran is the sum total of what has been before and the Arabic word ‘Islam’ means ‘submission to the Will of God’, leaving no room for doubt as to its purpose and was as in the beginning if we look at the meaning of the word ‘Islam’. The Quran excludes no one as we can be reminded in the verse which gives the meaning of:

{Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.} (Al-Baqarah 2:62)

This is because Islam did not come to a particular set of people, but as a mercy to mankind as a whole. Allah Almighty says in the following verse what means:

{Say: O followers of the Book! you follow no good till you keep up the Taurat and the Injeel and that which is revealed to you from your Lord; and surely that which has been revealed to you from your Lord shall make many of them increase in inordinacy and unbelief; grieve not therefore for the unbelieving people.} (Al-Maida 5:68)

Hence it is for practicing Christians and Muslims to be of guidance to others, overriding the differences which only serve as a means to learn from each other, not denying each other as Jews have denied the Christians in the verse which gives the meaning of:

{And the Jews say: The Christians do not follow anything (good) and the Christians say: The Jews do not follow anything (good) while they recite the (same) Book. Even thus say those who have no knowledge, like to what they say; so Allah shall judge between them on the day of resurrection in what they differ.} (Al-Baqarah 2:113)

Instead, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“Your example and the example of the people of the two Scriptures (i.e. Jews and Christians) is like the example of a man who employed some laborers and asked them, ‘Who will work for me from morning till midday for one Qirat?’ The Jews accepted and carried out the work. He then asked, Who will work for me from midday up to the `Asr prayer for one Qirat?’

The Christians accepted and fulfilled the work. He then said, ‘Who will work for me from the `Asr till sunset for two Qirats?’ You, Muslims, have accepted the offer. The Jews and the Christians got angry and said, ‘Why should we work more and get lesser wages?’ (Allah) said, ‘Have I with-held part of your right?’ They replied in the negative. He said, ‘It is My Blessing, I bestow upon whomever I wish.’ (Bukhari 3:36 #468).

In this we can see the kind of co-operation that can occur when we judge each other rightly. We all have our place, but we forget and become jealous when a sense of ownership becomes too great.

If we look at history, we can see how this has been demonstrated by the persecution of the Christians by the Romans, because the Romans feared the loss of power and greed. If Muslims are being persecuted today, it is for this reason and this reason only. It is for us to not be confused by the other reasons given.

Islam respects all the prophets before Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Isa (Jesus) still has his place in Islam:

“By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, surely (Jesus,) the son of Mary will soon descend amongst you and will judge mankind justly (as a Just Ruler); he will break the Cross and kill the pigs and there will be no jizyah (tribute). Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it, and a single prostration to Allah (in prayer) will be better than the whole world and whatever is in it.” Abu Huraira added “If you wish, you can recite (this verse of the Holy Book): — ‘And there is none of the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) But must believe in him (i.e. Jesus as an Apostle of Allah and a human being) before his death. And on the Day of Judgment he will be a witness against them.” (Bukhari 4:55 #657).

In Islam, the Laws of Allah are intuitive in man. They are fulfilled by the natural inclinations of the soul, and not desire. Therefore, man has the capacity to fulfill those Laws. Besides the laws of nature, those laws are divided into two: ethics and the legal precepts. The fundamentals are: :

  • The belief in one God.
  • The belief in the principles of justice.
  • Belief in the institution of prophethood.
  • Belief in the Hereafter.

Looking at this one-by-one, in the Christian Gospel of St. Matthews (22: 37-38) it states: “….Thou shalt love the Lord thy Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment”. And so it is in Islam, whereby belief alone is not sufficient but must be actualized in our thoughts and deeds. We are reminded of this every time we recite Surat Al-Ikhlas, which translates as:

{Say: He, Allah, is One. Allah is He on Whom all depend. He begets not, nor is He begotten. And none is like Him.} (Al-Ikhlas 112:1-4)

The only difference here is that in Islam there is emphasis on the Oneness of Allah, for He cannot be divided and nor can He be begotten. There is no descendent or inheritor and His attributes cannot be attributable to man. Oneness of Allah in the Arabic sense tawheed, also means that whatever attributes man has, he has received through Allah’s Will, and as the Creator of all life, we are dependent on Him.

By the term principles of justice we mean Divine Justice, the only form of justice that is not subject to the whims of man. God is perfect and therefore balanced. To question this or to seek this elsewhere is shirk (associating other beings/gods with Allah), and therefore leaving one liable to go astray. In terms of His mercy to mankind, this can be illustrated in the hadith when Proprehet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“… that his Lord, the Exalted and Glorious, thus said. A servant committed a sin and he said: O Allah, forgive me my sins, and Allah (the Exalted and Glorious) said: My servant committed a sin and then he came to realize that he has a Lord Who forgives the sins and takes to account (the sinner) for the sin. He then again committed a sin and said: My Lord, forgive me my sin, and Allah, the Exalted and High, said: My servant committed a sin and then came to realize that he has a Lord Who would forgive his sin or would take (him) to account for the sin. He again committed a sin and said: My Lord, forgive me for my sin, and Allah (the Exalted and High) said: My servant has committed a sin and then came to realize that he has a Lord Who forgives the sins or takes (him) to account for sin. Oh My servant, do what you like. I have granted you forgiveness” (Muslim 37: 6642).

In Islam, man has a choice. Within Divine Justice, men’s will must meet Allah’s Will. As it is said in the Christian prayer ‘Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. When we walk away from His Will that respects the right of all life and go astray, we break away from those laws and subject ourselves to our own laws, causing misery and usurpation of the rights of others.

This is summarized in the Gospels of Roman:

[And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedience to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them]. (Romans 1:28 – 32).

Pertaining to the institution of prophethood, it is accepting that God’s law has always been passed down through a messenger from Prophet Adam to Prophet Muhammad. Prophets Nuh (Noah), Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), `Isa (Jesus) and Muhammad represent those who brought new aspects to the law. This is mentioned in the verse that means:

{And when We made a covenant with the prophets and with you, and with Nuh and Ibrahim and Musa and Isa, son of Mariam, and We made with them a strong covenant} (Al-Ahzab 33:7)

Therefore, we are to believe in all the Prophets.

Belief in the Hereafter is to accept the ultimate accountability of man. If life came to an end with death, then there is no reason to accept anything except one’s own desires. It has been well established that our souls do no die with our bodies, but are held accountable for our deeds in this life. Allah says in the verses that mean:

{And what will make you realize what the Day of Judgment is? Again, what will make you realize what the Day of Judgment is? The day on which no soul shall control anything for (another) soul; and the command on that day shall be entirely Allah’s.} (Al-Infitar 82:17-19)

In Islam, man is guided through upholding acts of duty, the basics of which are the Pillars of Islam:

  • Shahadah (Testimony of Faith).
  • Salah (ritual Prayer).
  • Zakah (obligatory alms).
  • Sawm (fasting).
  • Hajj (Pilgrimage to the Kaabah)

The shahadah is to give testament that there is only One God and that God has no partner. When becoming a Muslim, this becomes a sworn testament that is renewed five times a day and is therefore not to be taken for granted.

Although in the Gospels it does not seem to specify the number of prayers one should do, the basic prayers in Islam are five times daily. This takes into consideration a Muslim’s daily circumstance and how easily man can become distracted. Therefore, prayer in Islam offers the opportunity to reconnect to one’s Creator and remain in touch, so to speak. However, as in Islam, prayers are both private and collective and include supplications as additional, albeit personal, prayers.

The purpose of fasting is common in both Christian and Islamic traditions as a means of humbling the soul. This is heightened with prayers and supplications and seeking forgiveness for the sins that have been committed on one’s soul and the souls of others. The fasting from sunrise to sunset in Islam helps to ensure that the nutritional needs of the body are provided for and by preventing hardship by acknowledging the need of husband and wife to come together during the evenings.

It is also a time to be reminded that there are those who do not have and to give in charity. The holy month of Ramadhan serves as a reminder for what we should do throughout the year. A man asked Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):

“What is the position of one who fasts one day and breaks it for two days? He replied: I wish I were given the power to observe that. Then the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

The observance of three days’ fast every month and of one Ramadan to the other (i.e. the fast of Ramadan every year) is (equivalent to) a perpetual fast. I seek from Allah that fasting on the day ofArafah may atone for the sins of the preceding and the coming year, and I seek from Allah that fasting on the day of Ashuraa may atone for the sins of the preceding year” (Abu Dawud 13 # 2419).

The lifetime ritual of pilgrimage is commemorative of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and his family’s devotion to God. Pilgrimage or Hajj has taken place to Makkah around the Ka`bah from this time onwards.

From beginning to end, the process of hajj is an act of disassociation with the material world, bringing Muslims together in one act of devotion. The whole process tends to have the effect of putting things into perspective for many hajjis, and many return to the world with a different focus on life:

{In it are clear signs, the standing place of Ibrahim, and whoever enters it shall be secure, and pilgrimage to the House is incumbent upon men for the sake of Allah, (upon) everyone who is able to undertake the journey to it; and whoever disbelieves, then surely Allah is Self-sufficient, above any need of the worlds.} (Aal-Imran 3:97)

There may be other issues that might concern the audience that you hope to address, especially those often misrepresented by the media:

Of halal (permitted by Allah) and haram (prohibited by Allah) in the Book of Leviticus it states:

[And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven footed, yet he cheweth not the cud, he is unclean to you] (Leviticus 11: 7).

So, the concept is not peculiar to Judaism and Islam. There are things that are good for us and there are things that we like are bad for us. We all like sweet things, but no one wants diabetes, God Knows best.

Another issue that has been ridiculed about in Islam is that of hijab; yet in the Torah Rebekkah asks her servant:

[What man is this that walketh in the fields to meet us? And the servant said, It is my master: therefore she took a veil, and covered herself] (Genesis 1: 65)

And in the Gospels

[But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonereth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered] (1 Corinthians 5-6).

Last, but not least, are the mingling of the sexes. In contemporary societies, we can see the consequences of familiarity between men and women not tied by bonds of kinship. Rape, unwanted children and AIDS are but only symptoms of this problem.

In Islam, women are to be honored and respected and not to be discussed and abused by reputation or deed. This is protected in Islam, but encouraging young men and women to marry as soon as possible:

“O young people! Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty (i.e. his private parts from committing illegal sexual intercourse etc.), and whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual power” (Bukhari 7: 62 #4).

This is even highlighted in the Gospels:

[Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband… The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also, the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency] (1 Corinthians 6:2-5).

We pray that this answer is sufficient for your needs and that all goes well – God Willing.

Salam and please keep in touch.