by Dr. Stephen M. Davis
Frequently when speaking on the subject of Islam, I’ve encountered opposition to the idea that Arab believers use the word “Allah” in referring to God. Most of the objections stem from a misunderstanding of the Arabic language and of the historical and cultural use and development of the word “Allah.” It is understandable that to untrained Western ears and in the midst of current world crises that the word “Allah” be almost exclusively associated with radical Islam. However, it is unacceptable for American Christians to insist that Arab Christians not use “Allah” and find another word for deity. How then should we respond to the question, “Is Allah the Father of Jesus?”
From my travels to the Middle East, I have seen and heard “Allah” used by Christians in their prayers, singing, and in reading Scripture. Whatever the origin of the word, it means “God” or “god” just like the English word. It is true that “Allah” does not specifically refer to the Christian God. Neither does our English word. Do we require more precision for Arab believers than we do for ourselves? Of course, as Christians we also use Jesus, Jehovah, Lord, etc. Arab believers do the same, but in no way does that negate the use of Allah. For example, John 1:1 in an Arabic translation reads “And the word was with Allah and the word was Allah.”
Note: See other articles in the Islam series: Islamic Paradise, Islamic Ideology and Islamic Infrastructure.
The typical Muslim estimation of Jesus of Nazareth is similar to the view of liberals or other nonbelievers generally but is also distinctive from most others. Mohammed could neither read nor write and probably had no direct contact with either the Old or the New Testament, only oral desert traditions. Yeshua is the Arabic name for Jesus; Isa is the name used in the Koran.
Note: See other articles in the Islam series: Islamic Ideology and Islamic Infrastructure.
Nearly all religions have views of some “happy hunting grounds” that lie beyond physical death. Most have but little correspondence to what Christians understand of heaven. That is particularly true of the “paradise” perceived by Muslims. Differences are great; similarities are few.
A first distinction to recognize is that Allah is just as totally removed from paradise as he is from this earth. He is totally apart from man, totally unapproachable, totally incomprehensible. Allah is pure will. He has no attributes. Fellowship with Allah is unthinkable. A Christian, in contrast, considers that in heaven we will enjoy blessed, eternal, unhindered, direct communion with our Creator, free from any sinful tendencies or influences of the world, the flesh, or the devil.
A former Muslim wisely observed, “Islam is not just a religion. It is a lifestyle imposed by force.: We in the western world need to comprehend some of the differences of daily life and conduct among those who were brought up as Muslims.
Instructions for Muslim social patterns are not set forth in the special “revelation” of the Koran. Most of what Muslim children are taught concerning how they should live is in attempted imitation of the lifestyle of the prophet Mohammed. His life preferences and decisions are considered a model for all Muslims. Written records of his actions and sayings were gathered two centuries after his death in the Hadith, and through the centuries those patterns have been interpreted and declared binding by recognized local religious leaders. The summation of teachings is called Sharia or Sharia law.
As a religious teacher, Mohammed had little success, assembling only 120 followers by the time he was 40. Only after Allah supposedly directed that previous revelations of the Koran, promoting peaceful coexistence with others, were no longer to be followed and that Christians, Jews, and all infidels (non-Muslims) could be killed in jihad (holy war) and that booty could be taken (Sura 9:29) was there real growth in the number of his followers. It appears to us in western culture that their life-model or social model is seriously flawed.
Americans are meeting Muslims around the world; Muslim communities are forming in several parts of the United States. It is important for Americans to recognize that the Muslim mindset is radically different from the mental patterns of the western world. Muslims think differently, they reason differently, they use words differently, and their world and life views are radically different. The desert tribal mentality of Mohammed is deeply instilled in early years, and advanced education does little to correct or improve their ideas. A few characteristic concepts are presented here and others in later posts, the Lord enabling.
Americans who fail to acknowledge God nonetheless accept an orderly, dependable universe. Christians consider that the attributes of God, including love, holiness, justice, right/wrong, etc., undergird the universe. Muslims posit Allah as indescribable, inscrutable, without attributes or personality, merely mind, eternally existent, absolute will, incapable of non-existence. They do not perceive of Allah as immutable, unchangeable, or wise but only as supremely volitional. There is no moral standard in the nature of Allah to direct him to act morally. He does not do what is right; what he does is right because he does it. What he might do tomorrow may not be the same as he does today.