As a Christian, we are told to love our neighbors and not judge others. With the news of this world, though, it can be much easier said than done. All Christians, most without even realizing it, walk around with a set of biases already constructed about those around them. Whether it is about someone’s gender, skin color or religion, we as Christians have to acknowledge our prejudices so we can overcome them.
One group of people in particular, Muslims, have been under scrutiny by society as of recently. Due to the constant negative press they receive in the news, it's no wonder many Christians are starting to judge them. However Jesus teaches us to love others, and respect them. One way we can do this is by taking the time to learn the facts about their culture. Ignorance is not an excuse.
Here are some of the things that Muslims wish you knew about their religion, and you might be surprised how much if it relates back to Christianity.
The Muslim community is much larger than you might realize.
Many Christians are unaware of just how big Islam is in the world. The community is incredibly diverse, and spans many countries with over 1.5 billion followers. Christianity is only slightly bigger with 2 billion followers. You might think of many Middle Eastern countries when you think about where those who study Islam live, however the country with the largest population is actually Indonesia.
The major division within Islam is between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims. Although there are some doctrinal differences between the branches, the division stems from struggles early on over the legitimate successor to Muhammad. About 85 percent of Muslims today are Sunni, and roughly 15 percent are Shi’ite. Indeed, Islam faces significant internal tensions as various factions struggle to define what it means to be Muslim in the 21st century. In addition to the tensions between Shi’ites and Sunnis, there are divisions between traditionalists (who resist accommodations to modernity) and progressives (who maintain that Islam is fully compatible with modern, democratic societies), as well as between various ethnic groups.
Muslims love Jesus, too.
Muslims don’t believe Jesus was the son of God, but they do revere him as a holy prophet. There are many similar stories in the Bible that are similar to those found in the Quran. Here is a list of some of those similar beliefs, via Vox news.
- Jesus, Mary, and the angel Gabriel are all in the Quran (as are Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and a bunch of other Bible characters).
- Muslims believe that Jesus (called "Isa" in Arabic) was a prophet of God, was born to a virgin (Mary), and will return to Earth before the Day of Judgment to restore justice and to defeat al-Masih ad-Dajjal ("the false messiah"), also known as the Antichrist. All of which may sound pretty familiar to many Christians.
- Mary (called "Maryam" in Arabic) has an entire chapter in the Quran named for her — the only chapter in the Quran named for a female figure. In fact, Mary is the only woman to be mentioned by name in the entire Quran: As noted in the Study Quran, "other female figures are identified only by their relation to others, such as the wife of Adam and the mother of Moses, or by their title, such as the Queen of Sheba." Mary is mentioned more times in the Quran than in the entire New Testament.
- Just as with all the other prophets, including Mohammed, Muslims recite, "Peace be upon him" every time they refer to Jesus.
- Muslims believe that Jesus performed miracles: The Quran discusses several of Jesus's miracles, including giving sight to the blind, healing lepers, raising the dead, and breathing life into clay birds.
- The story of Jesus's birth as told in the Quran is also the story of his first miracle, when he spoke as an infant in the cradle and declared himself to be a prophet of God.
Muslims in America are scared for their place in society.
It's clear that many American's are worried about Muslims being in their country, due to the fact that radicals have given the religion a bad name. The Muslims that live in America, specifically, are incredibly worried about their place in society as they believe they are being discriminated against, and feel their fellow Americans do not see them as being part of the country. In a 2017 Pew Research study, it was found that 50 percent of Muslim Americans believed that being a Muslim in the U.S. has become more difficult in recent years. Despite all of this, the study also found that overwhelmingly they are actually proud to be American.
Muslims are also concerned about extremism.
Also found in the Pew Research study was that overall, 82 percent of Muslims say they are very concerned or somewhat concerned about extremism in the name of Islam around the world. This is similar to the percentage of the U.S. general public that shares these concerns (83%). Only 6 percent found that there was a great deal of support for extremism within the U.S. Muslim community. Christians tend to latch on to the idea that Muslim are all extremist, that are only out to hurt others. The truth is, the Muslim living down the street from you is afraid of those extremist too. Muslims in the United States are overwhelmingly against the use of violence against citizens, as it goes against their core values.
While we may serve a different holy text, the truth is there is a lot of similarities between Christians and Muslims. As a Christian, it’s important to stay educated about other religions so that we can build bridges with other communities, rather than barriers that shut people off. We should always be trying to live out the Bible, and that means showing respect, love and kindness towards all of God’s children.