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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Christianity and the Five Pillars of Islam

I am a pastor, and recently, I challenged my church to respect Islam, know about Isalm, and become friends with a Muslim person. I don't know nearly enough about this religion that has over 1 billion adherents. So, I need to meet my own challenge.

I began by visiting a Muslim center near where I lived. I just showed up and asked someone to tell me more about the faith. I am still unsure if I will develop any further friendship out of that visit. But, I have in mind the faces of people I can pray for. And that's a good place to be.

One element of Islam is an understanding of the five pillars. I am going to share those five pillars here and offer comments on how those five pillars are relevant to Christians. The information I offer here on the five pillars of Islam comes from the following website

1) To bear witness that there is none worthy of worship save Allah and that Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is the messenger of Allah.

My understanding is that 'Allah' is the Arabic word for God. If Christianity were expressed in the Arabic language, then we would call God 'Allah' (just as we would call God 'Dios' if were speaking Spanish). So, I see this as a Christian value - declaring that God is worthy of worship, and God alone.

I do not believe that Muhammad is the messenger of God. On this point, Christians and Muslims would have respectful disagreement. Similarly, I do believe Jesus is God in human flesh and is to be worshiped. Muslims do not believe Jesus is God. So, again, on this
Christians and Muslims would have respectful disagreement.

The potential for great offense is here. Muslims do not accept the divinity of Christ. Christians do not recognize Muhammad as a prophet. I think this first pillar is important because we can agree on monotheism. And we can peacefully accept that there are profound, irreconcilable differences between the faiths. Christians must pray that our Muslim friends would see the truth about Jesus.

2) To observe prayer (Salat).
Prayer is clearly a Christian value. I think we have much to learn about diligence and commitment from our Muslim friends. The devout Muslim prays five times a day, facing Mecca. Christians would do well to adopt such rigorous spirituality. Occasionally pre-written prayers are helpful. Praying the Psalms or praying a prayer-book is good. This might be part of a Christian's prayer - life.

However, we really believe that in Christ, we have a personal relationship with God. A big part of our prayers must be personal - personal confession, praise to a God we truly know, thanks for specific blessings, and request (not just for stuff, but that God's will be done in our lives). I don't know if Muslim prayers are this personal and individualized. Sometimes American Christians will make their faith too individualistic. We are a part of the body of Christ. But we also each have to work our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

3) To pray Zakat (alms giving).
I definitely do not know the intricacies of Muslim theology of giving to the needy. Clearly it is a central part of Muslim faith, the third of the five pillars.

For Christians, giving is not a "payment" and we would never frame it that way. We give as a Spiritual discipline, as a way of acknowledging that all we have is from God. The benchmark or starting point is the 10% tithe. We structure our lives so that 10% of what we take is given to our church.

From there, we operate under the principle of generosity. This is a defining value of the church in the New Testament. Christians are not called to give 10%. Christians are called to far exceed that amount, so that the needy are fed, the orphans are cared for, the poor have a fair chance, and most importantly, the Gospel is advanced in the world.

It seems that Muslims give out of duty, although I don't to misrepresent. The wording from the website to "pay Zakat." Christians give from the heart's generosity, and as a spiritual discipline.

4) To perform the pilgrimage to the house of Allah (Hajj).
In response to a woman who was concerned about where proper worship should happen, Jesus said, "The hour is coming and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship Him." It's not where we worship, for Christians, it is how.

My understanding is that the Muslim pilgrimage is for the purpose of worship. Christians may go to worship in special places - the National Cathedral; historic places in Europe; the places of the Bible times (Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Greece); and, maybe famous international churches (Like Saddleback in California or HillSong in Australia). However, it is not necessary to go to these places.

The more important Christian journey is to go on trips of evangelism or compassion - mission trips. I firmly believe every Christian should go on missions, even if it is a short-term. Every Christian, if possible, should go on a mission trip in his or her life. Most Christians should go on some kind of mission trip every year. Where the purpose of the Muslim pilgrimage is for worship, the Christian mission trip is for service, works of compassion, and evangelism.

5) To observe fasting during Ramadan (Bukhari)
Much like the second pillar, prayer, this practice in Islam is an admirable demonstration of spiritual discipline. Americans in general have a serious obesity problem because we are addicted to excess (the 1 lb hamburger or the all-you-can-eat foot buffet). Spiritual discipline in the area of food is a serious issue for Christians and especially for Christians in an affluent society. Gluttony is a sin.

Jesus fasted. Jesus also feasted. Many Christians take up various sorts of fasts during Lent (the seven-week period leading up to Easter). I have done this and found it to be a valuable spiritual exercise helping me refocus on my walk with Christ by way of my rumbling stomach. However, nothing in Christianity suggests that this spiritual discipline needs to be reserved for Lent. Fasting can happen at different times during the year.

As a way of being evangelistic and combining the 2nd and 5th pillars of Islam, Christians might consider doing this. During Ramadan, Christians can fast and pray for Muslims to come into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. If the opportunity is there Christians can share their faith with Muslim friends during this time. This exercise would be demanding, but it would respect at strong Muslim tradition, it would show our hearts for God and for our Muslim neighbors, and at the same time the fasting would draw us closer in our own walk with God.

I hope what I have done here is help Christians see the five pillars, respect them and respect the noble tradition of spiritual discipline in Islam, and at the same time to appropriate these traditions into Christian practice.


  1. both Islam and Christianity are wastes of time

  2. And yet you take the time to read blogs about topics you describe as a waste of time.

  3. Hi Rob. Thanks for sharing and apperciating the five pillars of Islam. However, by stating to Christains to adopt the five pillars into Christanity, do you not think this is an innovation to Christainty (adding something new to Christainty- altering word of bible??)?

    The reason Muslims has to fulfill these specifics five acts of worship is because Allah The Almighty have made those acts obligatory upon Muslims, where as in the Bible/Old and New Testaments it is not mentioned at all, all in one go.

    "Narrated Ibn Umar: Allah's Messenger said: Islam is based on (the following) five (principles):

    1. To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah's Messenger.
    2. To offer the (compulsory congregational) prayers dutifully and perfectly.
    3. To pay Zakat (i.e. obligatory charity).
    4. To perform Hajj (i.e. Pilgrimage to Mecca).
    5. To observe fast during the month of Ramadan. " (Bukhari)

    at the end of the day there is only one God and it is very crucial that as mankind we follow what He/God truly and actually instructed the mankind to follow.

    anyhow, I am Muslim myself, so I thought to share this also with you:

  4. it is important to question who was Muhammad? because history says that this man existed, lived life. Facts are available about him. This man was illitrate and lived in Mecca. He knew nothing about Christainty yet he knew about the previous prophets.

    May Allah (swt) guide us all to His true straight path- aameen.

    Your Muslim Sister.

  5. The only way Christians and Muslims can exist in friendship is to (1) honestly acknowledge differences, and (2) be kind in how we express our differences.

    I have watched about 1/2 of the Deen show episode - "10 Reasons Why Jesus Cannot be God." I will try to watch the rest of it.

    I find the guest, the former Christian youth minister who is now a Muslim, to be underdeveloped and unconvincing in his apologetic argument. He displays a limited understanding of how ideas were conveyed in the 1st century. For instance, he says that Jesus never explicitly says, "I am God." But his disciples certainly understood him to be saying that at the resurrection. The Jewish authorities who tried him for blasphemy certainly took him to be claiming divinity. In Revelation 1:17-18, he calls himself the Alpha and the Omega, a clear, overt statement of divinity. Thomas worshiped him as Lord, and Jesus accepted that worship. Paul blessed and baptized in Jesus' name.

    The Muslim convert along with the show host go to great lengths to point out that the phrase "trinity" is not in the New Testament. That is correct. That doesn't mean the trinity is not a reality. God is Father, God is Son (Jesus - God in human flesh), and God is Holy Spirit. God exists in each of these ways. The New Testament is repeatedly unequivocal on this.

    (More in a moment)

    1. (continued from previous comment)
      Finally, the guest, the Christian youth pastor-turned Muslim apologist says people take verses (like Revelation 1:17-18 numerous references in John's gospel) and they manipulate them to make it sound like they say Jesus is God when really these verse don't do that. He says you make the Bible say anything by pulling verses out of context. Respectfully, I have to disagree. I don't think you can cobble together unrelated verses to support any point you come up with. True, some passages are polyvalent, meaning they have layers of meaning. But I heartily disagree with any argument that says the New Testament does not say Jesus is God. Mark implies. John says it explicitly. So doee Paul (author of over 10 NT books). The author of Revelation quotes Jesus calling himself the eternal one - the first and the last. And the narrative in the synoptics (Matthew, Mark, Luke) shows that everyone around Jesus heard him to be calling himself both Messiah and God.

      Finally, I take umbrage with logic or philosophical method in his presentation. Just one example will suffice. He says that the NT says Jesus is born and that God cannot be born, therefore, Jesus cannot be God. My question for him is this: who says God cannot be born? Where does that assumption come from? He just makes the statement like "Well we all know this." But, the NT makes clear that Jesus was eternal (John 1:1 ff) and that when God decided to do so, by the Holy Spirit, he impregnated a woman, and she delivered a son who was God in human flesh.

      Christianity contains two supreme mysteries - the incarnation, Jesus as fully God and fully human; and the second myster is the trinity, God as one yet existing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The incarnation and the trinity, I believe are thoroughly difficult to grasp. I understand especially why Jews and Muslims would struggle and would be tempted to reject Christianity because of these doctrines. I am fully committed to the 100% truth and accuracy of both doctrines. I think Jesus is God and is to be worshiped and that if one does not worship him that person is rejecting the greatest gift God has sent, the gift of eternal life and salvation from sin.

      I do not find the guest on the Deen show to be convincing or to be well-supported (philosophically or hermeneutically) in his thought.

      By the way, readers probably know this, but "apologetic" means defense or argument, not "to apologize." When I describe "apologetic," I don't mean the guy is "sorry." By his "apologetic" I mean his argument or his defense of his ideas.

      "Hermeneutic" is an interpretation of scripture. When I say that I do not find his hermeneutic convincing, it means I think he's completely misreading the NT.

      I am grateful for the reference to this show. I am trying to learn more about Islam because there are what, 1 billion Muslims in the world? I want to be respectful and even enter into friendship. But it can only be real when our differences are honestly, respectfully acknowledged.

  6. Hi this blog still on?

  7. why are the five pillars of islam so important to islamic believers? so if you have same question, then check out the complete article on it. You will thank me later.