This is the second in a series of articles contrasting Allah and Yahweh.
Muslims and Christians agree that God is one but understand oneness differently.
The Islamic doctrine of tawhid, or absolute oneness, is more than strict monotheism. Tawhid celebrates Allah as singular, indivisible, and monolithic.
Muslims insist that Allah has no “partners.” To say that Jesus is the Son of God, or that God exists as a Trinity, is to commit the unpardonable sin of shirk.
But the Qur’an does not exclude the possibility of Allah existing in tri-unity, according to the late Christian apologist Nabeel Qureshi. Rather, Islam’s most holy book rails against polytheism — the worship of multiple gods.
Qureshi writes: “Throughout the Quran, Allah regularly says that there is only one God (e.g., 16.51; 47.19; 112.1), but always as a rejection of polytheism. The Quran never rejects the possibility of one God subsisting in three persons. The omission is noteworthy, as this had been the orthodox doctrine of Christianity for centuries before Muhammad and the advent of the Quran.”
This is the first in a series of articles contrasting Allah and Yahweh.
Muslims and Christians agree there is one God but disagree as to His name, nature, and attributes.
The god of Islam is Allah, meaning “the god” in Arabic. In the days of Islam’s founder, Muhammad, this meant that of all the tribal gods worshiped on the Arabian Peninsula, Allah was the only true deity.
Key to the Islamic concept of God is the doctrine of tawhid, or absolute oneness. It’s more than strict monotheism. Tawhid celebrates Allah as singular, indivisible, and monolithic.
Muslims insist that Allah has no “partners.” To ascribe partners to Allah — for example, to say that Jesus is the Son of God, or that God exists as a Trinity — is to commit the unpardonable sin of shirk, which damns a soul to hell.
The Qur’an makes it clear that Allah stands apart from his creation and does not engage in personal relationships. For example, Surah 17:111 reads: “Praise be to Allah, who begets no son, and has no partner in (His) dominion …”
In addition, the Qur’an instructs its readers to reject any notion that God exists as more than one person. It wrongly implies that Christians worship a Trinity consisting of God, Jesus, and Mary (Surah 4:171; 5:73, 116).
Further, Islam understands these to be three separate gods, and the Qur’an strongly warns Muslims against worshiping anyone but Allah. Here, Muslims and Christians may find some common ground, for Christians both reject the notion of Mary as a god, as well as the idea that three separate gods make up the Trinity.
In No God But One, Nabeel Qureshi points out that the Qur’an clearly denounces polytheism but does not exclude the possibility of Allah existing in tri-unity. Put another way, Qureshi says the Qur’an does not explicitly say Allah cannot exist as one God in three persons, even though Muslims strongly reject the biblical doctrine of the Trinity.
So, how do Christian missionaries teach Muslims about Jesus when Islam denies His deity and death on the cross? And how do new converts from Islam to Christianity worship Jesus without inviting severe persecution?
One answer is Chrislam, the bringing together of Christianity and Islam. Proponents of Chrislam say that because the Qur’an mentions Jesus and affirms certain biblical teachings about Him, Christianity and Islam share at least some common ground.
They further argue that if Christians avoid the offensive term “Son of God” when referring to Jesus, and emphasize His role as prophet rather than divine Savior, Muslims are more open to the gospel. Once they come to faith in Christ, Muslims may continue to worship at a mosque, pray Muslim prayers, and even partake in a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Rev. 12:3 – Then another sign appeared in heaven: There was a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and 10 horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 4His tail swept away a third of the stars in heaven and hurled them to the earth. And the dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she did give birth he might devour her child. (HCSB)
A fiery red dragon
In verse 3 John records another sign appearing in heaven: “a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and 10 horns.” On his heads are seven diadems. There is widespread agreement among Bible scholars that John is gazing at Satan. Any reasonable doubt is erased in verse 9, where the dragon is called “the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world.” More than merely identify the dragon, John gives us important clues as to his character and purpose. Let’s look more closely.
First, we must ask why he is depicted as a fiery red dragon. The Jewish reader in John’s day would be quite familiar with this beast. In the Old Testament world, the dragon or sea monster is one of several closely related symbols representing the chaos and evil threatening God’s creation. Specifically, Old Testament writers speak of Leviathan, Rahab, and the dragon or sea monster, with an emphasis on God’s power to conquer him.
Several years ago, El Arabiya TV asked President George W. Bush whether he was anti-Islam. He responded: “Well, I believe in an almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God.”
While the president’s comments no doubt were intended to soothe the minds of Muslim viewers, they had just the opposite effect on me. The god of Islam (Allah) and the God of the Bible (Yahweh) clearly are different. We can see this by asking three personal questions:
1. Does God know me?
Allah. The Qur’an teaches that Allah is the transcendent creator. He knows who you are; in fact, he has fatalistically determined your thoughts, words and deeds – and even your eternal destiny, which is why Muslims so often say, “If Allah wills it.” So, Allah does indeed know you.
But Allah is neither knowable nor approachable. The Qur’an depicts him as a singular being with no “partners.” To call Jesus the Son of God is to commit shirk, the unpardonable sin. Of the 99 names for God in the Qur’an, none is intimate. Allah reveals his will, not himself.
Yahweh also is depicted as the transcendent Creator. He knows us; but more than that, He is knowable and approachable. He created us in His image – with personality, thought, and will – for the purpose of enjoying an everlasting, intimate relationship with Him. He exists as a Trinity in eternal relationship as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In fact, God is so knowable, He came in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth. As the apostle John writes, “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Does God know me? Allah and Yahweh are depicted as supreme beings that know everything and everyone. But … only the God of the Bible is truly personal and knowable.
2. Does God love me?
Allah. The Qur’an teaches that Allah loves those he chooses to love and hates those he chooses to hate. “Allah loves not those that do wrong,” says the Qur’an (Surah 3:140), neither does he love “him who is treacherous, sinful” (Surah 4:107). “Those who reject faith and do wrong – Allah will not forgive them nor guide them to any way – Except the way of Hell, to dwell therein for ever. And this to Allah is easy” (4:168-169). Other types of people Allah hates include the arrogant and vainglorious (4:36; 16:23; 31:18; 57:23); those given to excess (5:87); and the ungrateful (22:38).
Yahweh, on the other hand, loves all people (John 3:16). He demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). John writes, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sin” (1 John 4:10). Even though God hates sin, He loves sinners and takes no pleasure in punishing them (Eze. 18:23).
Does God love me? Only the God of the Bible loves all people.
3. Did God die for me?
Allah. The Qur’an teaches that Allah did not and would not die for you, nor would he send anyone to die for you. In fact, Islam claims that Jesus did not die on the cross but was taken up into heaven, and Judas, or someone who looked like Judas, was crucified in His place.
Further, the Qur’an states that there is no need for Allah to provide a sacrifice for sin because ignorance of Islam, not sin, is man’s problem. (The possible exceptions are apostasy from Islam and refusal to convert to Islam.) Staying away from major sins (whatever those are) will automatically result in one’s “small” sins being overlooked by Allah (4:31).
Yahweh, on the other hand, loves us so much He sent His Son to die for us. This was determined in eternity past; Jesus is declared to be the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ not only died for us; He rose from the dead, conquering sin and death. And He offers us forgiveness of sins and eternal life by grace through faith in Him.
Did God die for us? Only the God of the Bible sent His Son to die for us, securing eternal life for those who trust in Him.
So, are Allah and Yahweh just two different names for the same God?
- Allah is distant and unknowable. The God of the Bible is close and personal.
- Allah does not love every person. Yahweh does.
- Allah did not and would not die for you, nor would he send anyone to do so. But the God of the Bible loves you so much He sent His one and only Son to die for you. And He stands ready to grant you everlasting life if you will receive Him by faith.
This column appeared July 21, 2012, in The Pathway of the Missouri Baptist Convention.