What is the Muslim Worldview?
Perhaps you, like me, have found it difficult to understand what
makes the Muslim tick. Despite all the similarities between Islam
and Christianity, Muslims seem to operate on a different wavelength.
Beneath the surface we are poles apart. The explanation, I believe,
lies in the Muslim worldview.
The key to the Muslim worldview is the word "Islam" itself. It
is an Arabic word, a kind of verbal noun which Muslims love to
tell you means "submission" (similarly, "Muslim" means "one who
submits"). Its importance lies in the fact that it defines how
Muslims understand the relationship that God intends should exist
between Himself and man. The verb form is typically used of a
person laying down his arms in defeat; he "makes peace" or "submits."
This same idea comes out in the principal synonyms for God and
man used in the Qur'an: Rabb ("Lord") and 'abd ("slave"). Five
times a day Muslims must address God in prayer as "Lord of the
worlds," in the words of the first Sura of the Qur'an, and prostrate
themselves to the earth as His "slaves."
Christians will note that the Bible also has something important
to say about "submission" to God (cf. James 4:7); indeed, it is
at the heart of Jesus' teaching on discipleship and the Kingdom
of God. And yet we must also say that the Bible's idea of submission
is quite different from that of the Qur'an. That is because it
is based on radically different presuppositions.
To just highlight some of the differences, Islam holds that mankind's
present separation from God is due to God's transcendence, not
human sinfulness. God is "Wholly Other" and essentially unknowable;
He does not "reveal Himself" to human beings. In other words,
our present condition is normal. People are essentially "good"
and "pure," albeit "weak" and "forgetful" (in the garden Adam
simply "forgot" God's command). Human beings do sin, but they
have the moral power not to sin, and to do the Good. All they
need is "guidance." And God has provided that guidance in the
Qur'an and the Muslim Traditions, held to be the very "Law of
God." The objective in all this was the creation of a new social
order, one based on Divine Law. To Muslims, this new order came
into existence in 722 A.D., when Muhammad founded the first Muslim
To be sure, a host of other factors, both historical and ideological,
would have to be mentioned to complete the picture. But it is
clear that at the heart of Islam's disagreement with Christianity
is its utopic view of human nature; this is its "Achilles heel."
How utterly realistic, by contrast, is the Bible, for which the
problem lies not in God's transcendence but in sinful human nature.
Far from having moral power, mankind is a slave of sin. "Guidance"
alone cannot transform man into a submissive being. The message
of the Bible is that God alone can accomplish that kind of transformation!
He has already done it through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:3-4).
Arab World Ministries
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