Islam seems like an indecipherable puzzle to many Christians, and Christianity is likewise perplexing to many Muslims. Christians and Muslims sometimes experience an element of fear or uncertainty when encountering those of the other faith. This article will explore the essential similarities and differences between the two religions, so we can build bridges of friendship and meaningfully share our faith.
History of Christianity
Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3), which brought sin and death into the world. From this point on, all people sinned against God (Romans 3:23).
However, God had already planned a remedy. God sent His own Son Jesus, born of the virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38) to take the sins of the entire world on His body and die. Jesus was crucified by the Romans at the urging of the Jewish leaders (Mathew 27). His death was verified by the Roman soldiers who killed Him (John 19:31-34, Mark 15:22-47).
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23).
“Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
Three days after Jesus died, He rose back to life (Matthew 28). His resurrection brings the assurance that all who believe in Him will also rise from the dead. (1 Corinthians 6:14).
After Jesus resurrected, He was seen by 500 of His followers (I Corinthians 6:3-6). Jesus appeared to His disciples multiple times over a period of 40 days (Acts 1:3). He told them to stay in Jerusalem to wait for what the Father had promised: “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5)
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.
And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were watching, and a cloud took Him up, out of their sight.
And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, then behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them, and they said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:8-11)
After Jesus ascended to heaven, His disciples (about 120) devoted themselves to prayer. Ten days later, when they were all together in one place:
“Suddenly a noise like a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And tongues that looked like fire appeared to them, distributing themselves, and a tongue rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with different tongues, as the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak out.” (Acts 2:2-4)
Filled with the Holy Spirit, the disciple preached to the people, and about 3000 became believers that day. They continued teaching about Jesus, and thousands more believed in Jesus. This is how God’s Church was established, and from Jerusalem, it continued to grow and spread throughout the world.
History of Islam
Islam began in Saudi Arabia in the 7th century under the teaching of Muhammad, who Muslims believe was God’s final prophet. (The name of the religion is Islam and the people who follow it are Muslims; the Muslim’s god is Allah).
Muhammad claimed that a supernatural being visited him in a cave while he was meditating, and told him, “Read!”
But Muhammad told the spirit-being he couldn’t read, yet two more times he told Muhammad to read. Finally, he told Muhammad to recite, and gave him some verses to memorize.
When this first encounter was over, Muhammad thought he’d been visited by a demon, and became depressed and suicidal. But his wife and her cousin convinced him he’d been visited by the angel Gabriel and that he was a prophet. Muhammad continued to have these visitations throughout his lifetime.
Three years later, Muhammad began preaching in the city of Mecca that there was no god but Allah. Most people in Mecca, who worshipped idols of multiple god scoffed at his message, but he gathered a few disciples, some of whom were persecuted.
In 622, Muhammad and his followers moved to Medina, which had a large Jewish population and were more receptive to monotheism (belief in one god). This journey is called “Hijra.” After seven years in Medina, Muhammad’s followers had grown, and they were strong enough to return and conquer Mecca, where Muhammad preached until he died in 632.
Islam spread rapidly after Muhammad’s death as his disciples grew increasingly powerful, with successful military conquests of most of the Middle East, North Africa, parts of Asia, and southern Europe. The people conquered by the Muslims had a choice: convert to Islam or pay a large fee. If they couldn’t pay the fee, they would be enslaved or executed. Islam became the dominant religion of most of the Middle East and North Africa.
Are Muslims Christians?
No. A Christian believes Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). A Christian believes Jesus died to take the punishment for our sins.
Muslims don’t believe Jesus is Lord or that He died on the cross for our sins. They don’t believe they need a Savior. They believe salvation depends on God’s mercy and He decides who He will forgive, so they have no assurance of salvation.
Similarities between Christianity and Islam
Christians and Muslims both worship only one God.
The Quran recognizes some of the Biblical prophets, including Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Joseph, and John the Baptist. They believe Jesus was a prophet.
The Quran teaches that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, that He performed miracles – healing the sick and raising the dead, and that He will return from heaven on the Day of Judgement and destroy the antichrist.
Both Christianity and Islam believe Satan is evil and tries to deceive people and lure them away from God.
Prophet Muhammad vs Jesus Christ
The Quran teaches that Muhammad was a man, not God, that he was God’s last prophet, thus he had the final say on theology. Muhammad’s revelations conflicted with the Bible, so Muslims say the Bible was corrupted and changed over time. Muhammad died a natural death and stayed dead. Muslims believe he will be the first to rise from the dead on the day of judgement. Muslims believe Muhammad never willfully sinned, but he did make unintentional “mistakes.” The Quran teaches that Muhammad was God’s messenger, but not the Messiah or Savior.
The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is God: He existed from infinity, and He is the Creator (Hebrews 1:10). The Trinity is one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (John 1:1-3, 10:30, 14:9-11, 15:5, 16:13-15, 17:21). Jesus existed as God, then emptied Himself and became a man and died on the cross. Then God highly exalted Him (Philippians 2:5-11). The Bible teaches that Jesus is the exact representation of God’s nature, and after He died to purify us from our sins and rose from the dead, He is now sitting at the Father’s right hand, interceding for us (Hebrews 1:1-3).
Christianity: about 2.38 billion people (1/3 of the world’s population) identify as Christians. About 1 in 4 consider themselves Evangelical Christians, believing in salvation by faith alone through Jesus’ atonement and in the Bible’s authority.
Islam has almost 2 billion followers, making it the world’s 2nd largest religion.
Islamic and Christian views of sin
Christian view of sin
Because of Adam’s sin, all people are sinners. We cannot earn God’s favor. The wages of sin is death – eternity in Hell. Jesus did what we could not do for ourselves: Jesus the eternal Son of God kept God’s Law perfectly – He was fully holy and righteous. He took the place of people on the cross, bearing the sins of the entire world, and taking sin’s punishment and curse. God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through faith in Christ. Those who belong to Christ are freed from the power of sin and from the condemnation of Hell. When we believe in Jesus, the Spirit of God comes to live in us, giving us power to resist sin.
Islam’s view of sin
Muslims believe sin is disobeying Allah’s commands. They believe Allah’s mercy is great and he will overlook many unintentional minor sins if people avoid major sins. Allah forgives any sin (of a Muslim) if the person repents and asks him for forgiveness.
The Message of Islam vs The Gospel of Jesus
Christianity and the Good News of Jesus Christ
The central message of Christianity is that forgiveness of sins and relationship with God is found in Jesus alone, on the basis of His death and resurrection. As Christians, our chief purpose in life is to share the message that one can be reconciled with God through faith. God desires to be reconciled to sinners. Jesus’ last command before He ascended to heaven was, “Go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19-20).
What is the message of Islam?
Muslims believe that the Quran is God’s final revelation to mankind. Their central purpose is to restore mankind back to what they consider to be the only true revelation and to accepting the Muslim faith. Their goal is to bring all to world into Islam, which will usher in God’s kingdom on earth.
Muslims have some respect for Jews and Christian as “people of the book” – sharing some of the same prophets. However, they think the Trinity is 3 gods: God the Father, Mary, and Jesus.
The Divinity of Jesus Christ
Christianity and the divinity of Jesus
The Bible teaches that Jesus is God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him. . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-3, 14).
Islam and the deity of Jesus Christ
Muslims think Jesus is not the Son of God. They think it is contradictory to have a father and son be the same person and thus one can’t believe in the Trinity and also believe in one god.
Without the resurrection, there is no Christianity. “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) Jesus rose back to life, both body and spirit, so we could as well.
Muslims don’t believe Jesus was really crucified, but that someone who resembled Him was crucified. Muslims believe someone else died in Jesus’ place. Muslims do believe Jesus ascended into heaven. The Quran says that God “took Jesus up to Himself.”
Christianity’s scripture is the Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments. The Bible is “God-breathed” or inspired by God and the only authority for belief and practice.
Islam’s scripture is the Quran (Koran), believed by Muslims to be the final revelation from God. Since Muhammad could not read or write, he would remember what the spirit-being (who he said was the angel Gabriel) told him, then his followers would memorize or write it down. The full Quran was written after Muhammad died, based on his disciple’s memory and portions they had previously written down.
Muslims accept the Bible as a “holy book,” giving special reverence to the Pentateuch (first five books), Psalms, and the Gospels. However, in places where the Bible conflicts with the Quran, they stick with the Quran, as they believe Muhammad was the final prophet.
View of God – Christian vs Muslim
Christianity: God is perfectly holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, present everywhere. God is uncreated, self-existing, and the Creator of all things. There is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4, 1Timothy 2:6), but God exists in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14, Luke 1:35, Matthew 28:19, Matthew 3:16-17). God desires intimate relationship with humans; however, sin bars relationship between a perfectly-righteous God and sinful humans. In His great love, God sent His Son Jesus to die for the world, so humans can walk with God in relationship and be saved from their sins (John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:19-21).
Islam: Muslims believe strongly in one god: this is Islam’s chief concept. They believe Allah created all things, is all-powerful, and exalted above all created things. God is the only being worthy of worship and all creation must submit to Allah. Muslims believe Allah is loving and merciful. Muslims believe they can pray directly to Allah (instead of through a priest), but they don’t have the concept of a personal relationship with God. Allah is not their Father; he is to be served and worshiped.
Christianity: God is repeatedly clear that His people must not worship idols. “Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it.” (Leviticus 26:1) Sacrificing to idols is sacrificing to demons (1 Corinthians 10:19-20).
Islam: The Quran teaches against idolatry (shirk), saying that Muslims must fight idolators and shun them.
Although Muslims say they don’t worship idols, the Kaaba shrine is in the center of Islamic worship. Saudi Arabia. Muslims pray facing the Kaaba, and they must circle the Kaaba seven times in the required Hajj pilgrimage. Within the Kaaba shrine is the Black Stone, which is often kissed and touched by pilgrims, who believe it brings forgiveness of sins. Before Islam, the Kaaba shrine was a center of pagan worship with many idols. Muhammad removed the idols but kept the Black Stone and its rituals: the Hajj pilgrimage and circling and kissing the stone. They say the Black Stone was part of Adam altar, which Abraham later found and built the Kaaba shrine with Ishmael. Yet, a rock cannot bring forgiveness of sin, only God. And God forbade setting up sacred stones (Leviticus 26:1).
Christianity: The Bible teaches that when a Christian dies, his or her spirit is immediately with God (2 Corinthians 5:1-6). Unbelievers go to Hades, a place of torment and flames (Luke 16:19-31). When Christ returns, we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:7, Matthew 16:27). The dead whose names are not found in the Book of Life will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15).
Islam: Muslims believe Allah will weigh sins against good deeds on the Day of Judgement. If the sins outweigh virtuous deeds, the person will be punished. Jahannam (Hell) is the punishment for unbelievers (anyone not a Muslim) and for Muslims who commit major sins without repentance and confession to God. Most Muslims believe sinful Muslims go to Hell for a while to be punished for their sins, but later go to Paradise – something like the Catholic belief in purgatory.
Prayer comparison between Christianity and Islam
Christianity: Christians have a relationship with God and that involves daily prayer (throughout the day but with no set times) prayers of worship and praise, confession and repentance, and petitions for ourselves and others. We pray “in the name of Jesus,” because Jesus is the mediator between God and people (1 Timothy 2:5).
Islam: Prayer is one of the five Pillars of Islam and must be offered five times a day. Men are required to pray with other men in the mosque on Fridays, but ideally on the other days as well. Women can pray in the mosque (in a separate room) or at home. The prayers follow a certain ritual of bowing actions and recitations of prayers from the Quran.
How many Muslims convert to Christianity every year?
In the past decade, the number of Muslims converting to Christianity has intensified, which is remarkable, considering that if a Muslim leaves Islam, it can mean losing his or her family and even life itself. In Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, dreams and visions of Jesus are propelling Muslims to find someone to study the Bible with. As they read the Bible, they are changed, overwhelmed with its message of love.
Iran has the fastest-growing Christian population in the world. It is hard to get precise numbers because most Christians secretly meet in small groups of ten or less, but a conservative estimate in Iran is 50,000 a year. Satellite programming and digital church meetings are also growing exponentially in the Muslim world. One satellite ministry reported 22,000 Iranian Muslims converted to Christianity in 2021 in their ministry alone! Algeria in Northern Africa has seen a fifty percent increase in Christians in the past decade.
Missionary David Garrison believes 2 to 7 million Muslims worldwide converted to Christianity between 1995 and 2015, presenting research in: “A Wind in the House of Islam.”  About 20,000 Muslims convert to Christianity each year in the United States.
How can a Muslim convert to Christianity?
It they confess with their mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” repent of their sins, and believe in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, they will be saved (Romans 10:9, Acts 2:37-38). Whoever puts their faith in Jesus and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16).
If you are sharing your faith with a Muslim friend, avoid criticizing their beliefs or getting into debate. Simply share straight from the Scriptures (such as the verses listed above) and let God’s Word speak for itself. Better yet, give them a New Testament, a Bible-study course, and/or a copy of the Jesus film (all available for free in Arabic here). You can assist them with accessing a free online Bible (Bible Gateway) has the online Bible in Arabic, Persian, Sorani, Gujarati, and more).