The common ground between Islam and Christianity put forward by Muslim scholars and clerics in their letter to the Pope and other religious leaders has two major components, i.e. love of God and love for one’s neighbor. Relative to love of God Islam states:
“…when the entire phrase ‘He Alone, He hath no associate, His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all things…There is no god but God’ – it reminds Muslims that their hearts, their individual souls and all the faculties and powers of their souls must be totally devoted and attached to God.”
Relative to love for neighbor they site:
“…but righteous is he who believeth in God and the Last Day and angels and the Scripture and the prophets …who giveth wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observeth proper worship and payeth the poor-due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are they who are sincere. Such are the pious.” Koran 2:177
Islam contends the following Biblical passage says the same thing and thus the title of their letter ‘A Common Word between Us and You.’
“Then one of them, a lawyer (and Pharisee), asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’” Matthew 22:34-40
The above does not constitute Christianity as implied by Islam; but rather it expresses the totality of the Old Testament law. It represents heart felt obedience in appreciation for God’s gift of salvation which is not given for performance, whereas Islam is a religion based totally on performance, or achievement. Christianity is based on God’s grace; but man’s good deeds, i.e. love for neighbor follows as a natural result of that grace. Consider the following which is perhaps the most well known verse in the entire Bible and in fact defines one’s Christianity. This same verse is not recognized by Muslims because it acknowledges the deity of Christ and also that salvation is based on faith instead of works.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
It should be noted that while Islam acknowledges the validity of Matthew 22:34-40 as quoted previously, they do not accept the verses immediately following. For example, beginning with verse 41 Jesus confirms His deity, which Islam adamantly rejects.
“While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?’ They said to Him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How then does David in the Spirit call Him Lord, saying: The LORD said to my LORD, sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool? If David then calls Him Lord, how is He his Son?’ And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.” Matthew 22:41-46
It is virtually heretical for Christians to pick and choose which scripture passages to accept or reject because all scripture is the inspired word of God. It’s just as Muslims would accept the total Koran.
Other notable statements from Islam’s letter include:
“As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them – so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion…and drive them out of their homes…”
That statement is suspicious because the Christian population is decreasing rapidly in Muslim countries while the Muslim population is growing rapidly in America and several other countries around the world.
They further state:
“And to those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake…we say that our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony.”
This statement is also suspect to Christianity inasmuch as Christians do not pursue jihad as do their Muslim counterparts.
And lastly, their letter closes with the statement:
“So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us…Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill.”
All such proposals and insinuations should be weighed with reality by both Islam and Christianity. Jesus offered a straight forward test to apply to such statements:
“You will know them by their fruit.” Matthew 7:16
Next week we’ll examine how some mainstream churches are responding to the Islamic olive branch.