There are multiple reasons why one cannot speak about “A Christian View of Islam.” Both religions have billions of followers so that terms such as “Christianity” and “Islam” should be understood as merely “emaciating abstracts.”
In 2020, there were 2.382 billion, or 31.1 percent of the world’s population, who identified as Christians. Correspondingly, 1.907 billion Muslims, or 24.9 percent of the world’s population, adhered to Islam in 2020. This means that well over 50 percent of folks around the world adhered to these two religions.
Imagine what would happen if we had a real dialogue today between the major religious leaders of Islam and Christianity. Unfortunately, in the U.S. evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham see Jesus and Muhammad as representing two different gods. See https://www.juancole.com/2021/02/evangelical-worshiped-authoritarianism.html)
I would argue that Islam and Christianity share the same God, though they use different terms to define/describe the deity. As a Hindu proverb states: God is One, though sages call God by various names. Unfortunately, many pastors, Protestant or Catholic, only studied Christian theology during their seminary days, hence they lacked having a course on the world religions.
In this article I can only give my own “take” on Christianity and Islam. Others may rightfully and politely disagree with me based on a cogent rationale, since no one person has a monopoly on the truth when it comes to religious matters. Why is this the case? We feel strongly about religions since they deal with “what counts most in life.”
There exists a family resemblance among the Abrahamic or desert religions. They all claim Abraham as their patriarch. Scholars in religious studies also refer to Muslims, Jews, and Christians as “people of the Book.”
The Abrahamic religions share many things or doctrines in common: monotheism or belief in one God, a scripture or sacred book such as the Hebrew Scriptures for Jews, the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament for Christians, and the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament and the Qur’an for Muslims. Yet each of these religions interprets the same sacred text or verse differently.
All three religions emphasize liturgical prayer in synagogue, mosque or church, plus private prayer done by individual believers and fasting such as Lent for Christians, Yom Kippur for Jews, and fasting during the month of Ramadan for Muslims.
The Abrahamic religions share a similar ethical system, e.g., they all believe in the Golden Rule, love of God and love of neighbor. As Martin Bauschke notes “Both the Gospel and the Qur’an are part of the ethical tradition found in the ten commandments of Jewish law or (Torah). See M. Bauschke, “A Christian View of Islam,” in: Islam and Inter-Faith Relations, ed. by P. Schmidt-Leukel & L. Ridgeon, (London: SCM Press, 2007), p. 153).
During their long history, there have been times of peaceful coexistence, but also times of confrontation, similar to a family conflict. And conflicts among family members can be very intense and even brutal, since siblings know each other’s weak points, just as there have been devastating wars inside the same country, e.g., the Civil War in the U.S. from April 12, 1861-May 9, 1865.
There are several interreligious principles found in the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an. First, in the Qur’an 2:256 we read “there shall be no compulsion in matters of faith.” This means that Islam does not impose on non-Muslims an either-or choice between conversion and the sword. When radical Muslim groups like ISIS fail to adhere to what the Qur’an says, they totally violate what Islam teaches and are not really Muslims.
Second, after 9/11, I visited some church groups in Auburn and Columbus, Georgia along with two Muslim friends, Yasser Gowayed and his wife, Nadia, who taught me Arabic at the mosque in town. We spoke to these Christians about the basics of Islam and answered their questions about Muslims. Yasser pointed out what the Qur’an in chapter (or sura) 5:39 says, viz., “Compete with one another in good works, for to God you will all return, and He will inform you about that wherein you differ.”
Third, a religion that enjoins its adherents to pray publicly five times a day must have something going for it. As a student in Munich, Germany, I saw a Muslim take out a towel from his knapsack at noon and prostrate himself on the ground. He began to pray in the main railroad station in Munich where thousands of passersby could see him praying.
This man was entirely oblivious to the people passing by and this public witness to the Muslim faith spoke volumes to me. “Wow, a religion that demands this of its followers must come from above! This man’s testimony to the Muslim faith completely changed my perception of Islam.
Richard Penaskovic is an Emeritus Professor at Auburn University. His writings have appeared in the Birmingham News, Columbus- Ledger Enquirer, Montgomery Advertiser and online by Informed Comment and Politurco.