This article was originally posted on TGC-Africa and written by David Fugoyo Baime
In my previous article on Islam, I wrote about Islam’s many faces in Africa. In this article, I will outline the basic beliefs of Islam. These beliefs are foundational, and one cannot be a Muslim if you do not recognise them. The Islamic religion cannot exist without these beliefs. My aim for this article is neither critique nor comparison with my own Christian faith. Rather, I hope to equip Christians with a greater understanding for engaging and loving their Muslim neighbours.
The six beliefs of Islam below are also known as articles of faith. Five of these beliefs are mentioned in the Quran, in Surah 2:177.
1. Allah (God)
Muslims believe in the existence of Allah. Allah is the Arabic word for ‘God.’ In fact, the Arabic Bible uses the same word to refer to the Triune God of the Bible. Key to this belief, and a Muslim understanding of Allah is his oneness and uniqueness (or Tawheed). Allah is one and there are no other gods compared to him. This Allah is said to have life (he is alive), knowledge, power, will, ability to hear and ability to see. Allah created everything and is omnipotent, omniscient, transcendent, eternal, and sovereign. He has 99 wonderful names which denote who he is.
There are an unknown number of angels. They are Allah’s servants. There are four archangels: Gabriel (Surahs 2:97, 98; 66:4); Michael (Surah 2:9); Israfil, who is known from Hadith; and Azrael, who is alluded to in Surah 32:11. Each of these archangels has got specific duties. Allah also particularly assigns two angels to each person. The angel on the left records the bad deeds of the person. Another, on the right, records a person’s good deeds. These records are kept for the judgment day.
Satan is a fallen angel. Jinn are creatures, not fully angels and not fully human. They can be either good or bad.
3. The Books of Allah
There are a number of books Muslims consider holy, belonging to Allah. These books are the Books of the Law of Moses (Torah), the Psalms of David, the Gospels, and the Quran. They believe each book to be revelations, sent by Allah through various prophets throughout history.
According to Muslims, the Quran is the final revealed message or word of Allah. It is superior to the rest of the revealed books. You might have heard a Muslim not willing to read or believe in the authenticity of the Law, Psalms, or the Gospels (along with other books from the Bible). This is because they believe that the copies the Christians have today are corrupted—they are not the original copies of the past.
Muslims believe that Allah has sent more than 124 000 prophets to different communities. There are two types of prophets. The first is a Nabi, a prophet who receives a revelation. The second is a Rasul, an emissary who receives a book from Allah to pass onto specific people. Prophets are messengers sent by Allah with messages intended for the people. To Muslims, Muhammad was both a Nabi and a Rasul (Surah 33:40). He was the last and greatest prophet sent by Allah. But Muhammad wasn’t merely a prophet. He was also a community and political leader.
Islam teaches that Allah ordained predestination of all events in the world (Surah 87:2-3). Those who submit to the will of Allah do not argue with what Allah has predestined. Rather, they submit to his will. That is why the expression In Sha’ Allah (if God wills) is so important in Islam. Allah is free to do what he wants and is not accountable to anything in his creation. It is the duty of all Muslims to submit to the will of Allah. Whatever happens—good or evil—is predestined by Allah. This is called Qadar, in Arabic.
6. The Last Day
To all Muslims, the last day is the day of judgement and resurrection. Death is inescapable (Surah 3:185). Based on one’s deeds, one is sent to paradise or hell.
Understanding Precedes Evangelism
The beliefs explained above are not only basic but fundamental to Islam. Thus ministers of the gospel need to know them, so that they know how to engage with Muslims. When I know what you believe, I can easily relate to you, understand you and even reach out to you. Christians should not ignore Islam, particularly in light of Christ’s call to love our neighbours.
As my title suggests, I’ve only dealt with the basics beliefs of Islam. There is obviously much more to the topic. Therefore, I urge Christians to inform themselves about Islam. There are credible websites, books, and courses that teach Islam beliefs, even for non-Muslims. In my next article I will write about the practices required of all Muslims.