One night, in the year A.D. 610, a vision came to Muhammad: “0 Muhammad, thou art the Messenger of God.” Thus the religion of Islam was born.
The word “Islam” means “submission,” and “Muslim” means “one who is submitted to God (Allah).” To be a Muslim, one must say with conviction at some point in his life the creed “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his Prophet.” Upholding the five “pillars of Islam” is also expected. These are:
Recite the creed. Pray five times daily at specified times. Fast for the lunar month of Ramadan. (The fast includes abstaining from food and drink during the day. After sundown one is able to eat and drink.) Give alms. (Alms constitute 2.5% of one’s income and are given for the upkeep of the mosque and to help the needy.) Make the hajj, the holy pilgrimage to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, at least once in one’s life. (The more times one makes the hajj, the more spiritual he is considered.)
Muslims consider their religion to be an extension of Christianity and Judaism, but they believe the Christian Trinity to be blasphemous and they deny the deity of Jesus. Although the Qur’an instructs Muslims to “listen to the people of the Book,” (referring to the Bible), Muslims believe that Christians have corrupted the Holy Injil (the Gospels of the New Testament), so the Bible today is not accurate.
Whenever a crowd of Western Christians is asked whether they’ve heard that Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world, hands shoot up to acknowledge this awareness. It is true that Islam is the fastest-growing major religion in the world, growing at 2.9% annually-beating Christianity as a whole, whose growth is 2.3% Yet if we were to break down Christianity into various groups, the evangelicals and Pentecostals are the fastest-growing major religious grouping in the world-evangelicals growing at 5.4% and Pentecostals at 8.1% annually.
Although Islam is a growing religion, a high birthrate among Muslims is responsible for most of the growth. Nevertheless, says Chicago-area writer Deb Conklin, Islam is claiming many new converts because:
Islam is an uncomplicated religion. The only thing one needs to do to convert to Islam is to wholeheartedly recite the creed. There are only six major doctrines: belief in one God; in angels; in the Holy Books-including parts of both Testaments as well as the Qur’an; in the prophets-among whom are Jesus and Muhammad; in a day of judgment; and in predestination. The five practices (pillars) of islam are external and equally simple to learn.
Islam is an adaptable religion. It has contextualized itself into hundreds of cultures. Since there is nothing in Islam contradicting the existence of a spirit world, it easily absorbs the animistic worldviews and practices of peoples to whom it is brought. In fact, even today, the vast majority of Muslims embrace such “folk Islam.”
Islam is a zealously “evangelistic” religion. The purpose of Muslims is to win the Western world to Islam. If you think that can’t happen, think again. Some areas evangelized by Paul are now firmly under the sway of Islam. So are the cities of Istanbul (once Constantinople) and Alexandria, both once thriving centers of Christianity.
One out of every five persons living on the earth is a Muslim. Perhaps more significantly, about 35% of all unreached people groups are dominantly Muslim.
With evangelistic zeal backed by oil dollars, Muslims are willing to go anywhere and spend whatever it takes to win the world to Islam. In North Africa, the governments of Muslim countries in one recent year spent more to promote missionary activity in eight North African countries than the total Western missionary expenditure for the entire world. In countries with a Christian population, plans are to exterminate Christianity.
To best learn how to approach Muslims, we recommend the following training programs and books:
C. R. Marsh, Sharing Your Faith With a Muslim (Moody Press). Phil Parshall, New Paths in Muslim Evangelism (Baker Book House). Phil Parshall, The Cross and the Crescent: Understanding the Muslim Mind and Heart (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.).
For more indepth information, check out the Islam Religion Profile