Islam: General Overview

This is a favorite study of mine. I have not gone in depth here, as my main purpose is to briefly outline the beliefs of Islam. If you have any specific questions that I have not addressed, feel free to email me and I will do my best to answer them or to point you in the direction of someone who can.

SSpecial thanks to my friend Rich, whose notes helped me put this page together, and to my friend Walid for reviewing this for accuracy. A link to Walid’s website and testimony is at the bottom of this article – a highly recommended read for those interested.


Allah – Arabic name for ‘the God’ (Al-Ilah in Arabic)

Qur’an – the Islamic holy book.  Arabic for recitations or revelations.  Also spelled Koran.

Sunnah – Islamic recorded traditions – held in high esteem but inferior to the Qur’an

Hadiths – The recorded sayings and deeds of Mohammed.  Also held in high esteem but inferior to the Qur’an.

Sura(s) – The 114 chapters of the Qur’an.  Where I have quoted the Qur’an in this writeup, I have used the suras from the Pickthall translation.

History of Islam

Islam’s final prophet, Mohammed, was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in the year 570 Ad. In 622, Mohammed was visited by an angel, reportedly the angel Gabriel, who gave him the word of Allah. Although Mohammed was considered illiterate in Islamic records, he recorded the work now known as the Qur’an and the Islamic religion was born.  (I personally do not question this event itself – I do believe it to be a supernatural revelation, but based upon Galatians 1:8-9, I question the claim to the source of it.)

There was much division among his fellow Bedouins at the time because they did not grasp the concept of one God. They worshipped more than 360 pagan gods at that time, Allah the moon god being but one of them. As the first pillar of Islam was the unity of Allah, this was not well received. Mohammed basically declared that Allah was the only god to be worshipped, and the others had to go.

Mohammed and his followers moved from Mecca to Medina but returned in 627 to try again to bring this religion to the people. They fought a nasty war that lasted three years and left many dead. In 630, Mohammed and his people were victorious and Islam had its home. Mohammed died in 632 and following his death, there was a division in the camp over who was to be his successor. One group believed that Mohammed had chosen his successor prior to his death and the other felt that he had not. These groups are known today as the Shi’ites and Sunnis and they remain divided over this issue as well as over many other religious doctrines.

Many people think that Islamics revere their prophet, Mohammed, as their messiah. This is not the case. Islam teaches that Mohammed was the final prophet in a successive line of prophets dating back to Noah. Jesus (Isa in Arabic) is considered a prophet in Islam as well – the precursor to Mohammed. They do consider Him the Messiah of the Jews. They believe that Moses brought the law, Jesus confirmed the law and Mohammed was given the clarification of all. All prophets are considered sinless via forgiveness; Jesus is the only one said to have led a completely sin-free life.

Traditional Islamic thought is that the Qur’an replaced the Bible because it had been corrupted by Jewish and Christian scholars (suras 003:78, 005:14).  The Qur’an itself does not support this logic, however. Mohammed claims to be revealed in the Bible. It would not therefore, have been in his best interest to declare it a corrupt document.  That doctrine came many years later when inconsistencies between the two works were found.

The Qur’an confirms several sections of the Jewish TaNaCH (the Christian Old Testament) and the Christian New Testament, namely the Torah, which is the first five books of the Bible, the Psalms and the Gospels. Where they conflict with each other, the Qur’an is considered the authority.

Other Islamic works include the Sunnah and the Hadiths. These works do not supplant the Qur’an; they are in addition to it and albeit important, they are considered inferior to the Qur’an itself.

The religion has grown and today boasts 1.2 billion members.

Theological Differences

The biblical account of the blessing of Abraham is that his blessing was passed down to his son, Isaac. Islamic scholars claim that this was an error on the part of the Jewish scribes in recording this event, as the passing of a blessing is to the first born. They claim that the blessing really was given to Ishmael. This sibling rivalry exists even today as seen in the Middle East – the descendants of Isaac being the Jews and the descendants of Ishmael being the Arabs. Ironically, the Qur’an denies this Ishmaelite claim, as seen in sura 037:109-113.

Islam teaches that Jesus was not killed but that, with the help of Allah, He escaped (sura 004:157). Tradition holds that Judas was crucified in His place. Unlike Moses and later Mohammed, Jesus is said to have never died, but to have been taken to Paradise by Allah (sura 003:055). I find this interesting given that the account of John the Baptist’s death is accepted (sura 019:015), yet the same wording is used for the death of Jesus (sura 019:033) and is rejected.

Not only does Islam teach that Jesus WAS the awaited Messiah of the Jews, it also holds that Jesus will be the one to return at the end of days, defeat the Antichrist and gather the faithful for Allah.  This is recorded in the Hadiths.

The denial of the deity of Jesus is very important to Islam. Believing that Jesus is God is considered blasphemy against Allah, as Allah is considered God and there is no other (sura 005:72-74, 019:88-92).

Mohammed Foretold in the Bible?

According to Islamic teachings, there are two key references to the prophecy of Mohammed in the Bible. One was spoken by the Lord to Moses and the other was spoken by Jesus:

Deuteronomy 18:18: I will raise them up aProphet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.

John 15:26: But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, [even] the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
This account of the words of Jesus contradicts another verse in the book of John:

John 14:26 But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Islam claims that this is one of the issues of corruption in the Scriptures. They hold that the Holy Spirit is, in essence, the angel Gabriel who brings revelation. I have never heard a good explanation for the issue of baptism in the Holy Spirit, however.

The Five Pillars of Faith

1.  Shahadatan (declarations) “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet”.  These two testimonies are the decrees necessary to make a person a Muslim.

2.  Prayer five times daily, always facing Mecca.

3.  Alms to the poor – 2% of one’s salary

4.  Making a hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca at least once in a lifetime.

5.  Fasting during the month of Ramadan, which usually corresponds with the month of December. The fasting takes place from sun up to sun down, and the month culminates in a huge feast.

Salvation in Islam

There is no guarantee of salvation in Islam. Mohammed himself taught that he had no way of knowing his own eternal destiny (sura 046:009). Islam teaches that there will be a Judgment Day when a man’s good works will be weighed against his bad works. If the outcome is deemed positive, he will be allowed to enter Paradise.

Depending on how good a man’s deeds are judged to be, he is to be rewarded in Paradise.  These rewards include riches and a harem of virgins for sexual satisfaction.

Many people question the mentality of the suicide bombers who seem to be in unending supply. The only way to guarantee entry into Paradise is to die in the name of Allah; that is considered the greatest deed one can ever accomplish (Sahih Bukhari 1.35). By dying in this manner, one is not only guaranteed entry into Paradise with no worry about the weighing of deeds, but one is also rewarded with the highest honors that Paradise has to give: namely, the riches and the harem.

The Question of Jerusalem

Many people have heard the phrase ” the third most holy site in Islam,” when referring to Jerusalem, specifically the Temple Mount where the Al Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques stand.

Ironically, the Qur’an doesn’t even mention Jerusalem. The city is, however, mentioned in the Bible 811 times.

Given that, how and where did the connection come from?

Tradition holds that during his “night journey,” Mohammed was said to have been transported in a dream to the “far distant place of worship.” This unnamed place was reported to be Jerusalem.

This dream is not recorded as such in the Qur’an.

Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far distant place of worship the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He, only He, is the Hearer, the Seer. (sura 017:001).
The oddity of this passage is its timing. The Jewish Temple had been destroyed some 550 years before the time of Mohammed. The Al Aqsa mosque had not been built until 60 years later in the year 691. What place of worship is he then describing?

Either this sura had not been written (revealed to) Mohammed by Allah as he claimed, or Jerusalem being the location for this event is a misnomer.

One of the tenets of Islam is that any land conquered in the name of Allah will remain Allah’s forever.  Any land lost must be regained, through whatever means possible as soon as the faithful to Allah are again strong enough and in a position to do so.  Understanding this mindset sheds new light on the battle for control of Jerusalem raging yet today.

Women in Islam

Islam is very clear on issues concerning the role of women. Islam teaches that women are inferior to men in all aspects of life and that women are to be submissive to men to the extent that they become property (sura 004:034). The testimony of one Islamic man carries the weight equal to that of two women. Wife beatings are permissible and in some cases required.

By Islamic law, a woman is considered a citizen of the country to which her husband belongs, by virtue of marriage alone. This automatically places women under the laws of that country—even if they are there only for a visit. The Betty Mahmoody story, immortalized in the film Not Without My Daughter, is an expose of one woman’s struggles with this culture when she and her daughter were held hostage from 1984-6 in Iran by her Iranian-born husband after what was to be a two-week vacation.

Women automatically lose all rights to their children under Islamic law. The fathers gain custody by default under religious edict. Interestingly, the Hague Convention regarding abducted children does not include Islamic states, as it interferes with religious governing laws.

In many Islamic nations, the practice of female circumcision is alive and well. The purpose of circumcision is to make sexual relations less pleasurable for the woman as a means of promoting faithfulness to her husband. The Hadiths do not make this mandatory for women as they do for men, but the optional practice is designed to preserve honor.

Mercy killing is another common occurrence in many Islamic countries. The Islamic position on this is that killing is a form of mercy, as it is the only way to rectify the person. This includes the legal action of a family murdering one of its own if a woman is found to not be a virgin on her wedding night.

Treatment of female prisoners is horrific once they are condemned to die.  For example, according to an Iranian religious decree, virgin women prisoners must as a rule be raped before their execution, “lest they go to Paradise.” The night before execution, a guard rapes the condemned woman so that she does not die a virgin.  After her execution, the religious judge at the prison writes out a marriage certificate and sends it to the victim’s family, along with a box of sweets.  This was documented by Human Rights groups to have been common  practice in Iran as recently as the 1990s.

A woman’s salvation in Islamic thought is the same unknown, “good works vs. bad works” formula as a man’s, but the Qur’an is strangely silent on the women’s rewards (if any) in Paradise (033:035). The Hadiths suggest rather strongly that women who are ungrateful to their husbands are hell bound. Additionally, out of 99 women, only one is said not to have that doomed fate (Kanz al-`ummal, 22:10).

Religious Law

Muslims adhere to the dietary laws similar to those given to Moses.  They do not drink alcohol or eat pork.  The dietary laws vary somewhat but hold many similarities to the Mosaic laws given the Jews.

Muslims are to pray facing Mecca five times daily. Prior to handling the Qur’an or entering a mosque, they must do a ritual face, hand, and foot washing.  Shoes are not allowed in the mosques – for Muslims or visitors alike.

Most Arabic countries are governed based on religious law as well. The adage, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” is alive and well in many of these countries in the Middle East. It is not uncommon to hear stories of thieves having their hands cut off or liars losing their tongues. In some Muslim countries, if a person is caught drinking alcohol for the fourth time, they can be sentenced to death.


I commented to a friend that the study of Islam as a religion is interesting, but the study of Islamic culture is a shock. I told him, “I am finding that learning about Islam is a vicious cycle for me – I want to know, but the more I know, the less I wish I knew, which makes me wonder what else I don’t know, so I want to know more.”

He ever so patiently replied to this westerner, “But you need to know, more and beyond the social aspects of Islam. Islam is the next coming ‘Nazism’ upon Israel and the world.  Assume that you lived in the ’40’s during the rise of Hitler, and knowing what you know now, what difference would you have made then to defend Jewish existence? Curiosity about Islam can be tormenting. But again, watching footage on the Holocaust is tormenting as well. We feel for the suffering, but we also need to take a stand and expose.”

What can I say – that was well stated indeed.

Sites I recommend on this topic – their Index to Islam section is extremely robust. – an excellent site.  This is maintained by Walid, a former Muslim, born and raised in Bethlehem, Israel, who is now a born-again Christian and practicing Messianic.  Here is his testimony – it is an amazing read.