Islam and Christianity: Are They the Same?

Don't Muslims and Christians believe basically the same things? Since 9/11 some Christian groups have been spreading what I consider slander about our friends in the Muslim community. I find this deeply troubling since there are a couple of fine, upstanding Muslim families living in my neighborhood. As I understand it, Islam is a religion of peace and is just another path to God. Why can't we all just get along?

Let’s begin by focusing on your relationship with your neighbors. You’re absolutely right to be concerned about the spread of misinformation. We certainly don’t want to encourage prejudice, discrimination, or unfair treatment of Muslim families in our communities. As Christians, we have a responsibility to reach out to all of our neighbors with the message of God’s love in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they believe. Slander of any kind has no place in our relations with the people God has placed around us.

Dr. Mark Hartwig addressed this issue in an article that appeared in the February 2002 issue of Focus on the Family’s Citizen magazine. In the context of a discussion of the Islamic doctrine of jihad, Dr. Hartwig said,

Christians should not accept the sweeping claim that Islam is a religion of peace. There’s just too much contrary evidence. On the other hand, Christians shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that their Muslim neighbors are bomb-toting fanatics: even Muslims who believe in militant jihad don’t necessarily like violence. Instead of fearing or hating Muslims, Christians should view them in light of our duty to preach the gospel. For as 2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

This strikes us as a very fair, balanced, and biblical way of viewing the matter.

So far so good. But it’s important to be aware that there are some very important distinctions between Christian and Muslim beliefs. As a matter of fact, we have a strong feeling that Muslims themselves would be the first to disagree with your claim that “Muslims and Christians believe basically the same things.” The Qur’an puts it this way: “Say, ‘O you disbelievers, I do not worship what you worship. Nor do you worship what I worship. Nor will I ever worship what you worship. Nor will you ever worship what I worship. To you is your religion, and to me is my religion'” (Surah 109, “The Disbelievers”).

What a Jew or Christian pictures in his mind when he says ‘elohim or ‘adonai differs in some significant ways from what a Muslim imagines when he says ‘Allah. ‘Allah was originally an Arab tribal god. He was one member of a polytheistic pantheon. Eventually he supplanted all other gods as the one-and-only deity of Muhammad. YHWH, on the other hand, has always been the unrivaled Creator and Lord in the minds of monotheistic Jews.

The distinction becomes even sharper when we compare the Islamic God with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Christians down through the ages have always believed that the Scriptures bear witness to one God who exists in three persons subsisting within a single essence. But Muslims are strongly opposed to the Christian concept of the Trinity. They refer to it as blasphemy and describe it as “tritheism” (a belief in three gods). It’s here that the Christian and Muslim ideas of God diverge most sharply. We cannot say that Muslims and Christians worship the same God when in fact Islam denies the existence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This is not just an academic point. “Blasphemy” and “heresy” are issues that Muslims take seriously. In the Hadith (Islam’s second most sacred text, a collection of authoritative sayings and biographical sketches from the life of the Prophet), Muhammad says that Trinitarian Christians are guilty of putting Jesus “in a position not rightly his”(the Qur’an represents Jesus as a mere prophet). From the Muslim perspective, this is the same thing as idolatry. This idea is reflected in the following verse of the Qur’an, which contains a clear reference to the Christian teaching that Jesus Christ is God incarnate: “Say, ‘O followers of the scripture [i.e., Jews and Christians], let us come to a logical agreement between us and you: that we shall not worship any except ALLAH; that we never set up any idols besides Him, nor set up any human beings as lords beside ALLAH‘” (Surah 3:64).

Naturally, this is a vast and complex subject. There’s no way we can do it justice in a brief summary. If you have additional questions or concerns, call our staff of pastoral counselors.They’d love to speak with you over the phone.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

What Every Christian Ought to Know Day by Day: Essential Truths for Growing Your Faith

The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters

Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know

Mere Christianity

Books about Islam


Christian Research Institute

Insight for Living

Christian Worldview

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