The big picture of world history seems to be the same in the Koran and the Bible: God is there as creator at the beginning of history and he will also be there as judge at the end (at the threshold of eternity). Similarly, Christianity and Islam teach that God intervened in history time and again and spoke to mankind through prophets. But are these similarities sufficient to conclude that Christianity and Islam have the same view of history?
The Central Theme
At the centre of the biblical view of history is God’s rescue operation. He sent Jesus Christ to take away the guilt of all mankind and free them from the power of sin through his vicarious suffering and death on the cross. According to the New Testament, by this means, God’s judgment of sin has already taken place. On this basis God offers the human race forgiveness, reconciliation, and adoption into his family as his children, through faith in Jesus Christ – so the biblical meaning of history is “the story of God’s plan of salvation”. God has acted so that everything can be restored.
There is no comparable central salvation event in the Koran. The cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the heart of biblical salvation history, are denied. Ultimately Islam does not recognise any history of salvation.
The Beginning of Human History
This is also in line with what the Koran has to say about the beginnings of history: There is a lot about the creation of man, but the Koran says nothing about a purpose for man to be in “the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27) and to enjoy a personal relationship to God. The story of the fall is told in a variety of different ways. Adam’s sin, as is the case of all sins, was a single isolated event (cf. Johan Bouman, German, “Christentum und Islam im Vergleich, Das Leben gestalten – den Tod überwinden”, Brunnen Verlag, Gießen 1982, s.45 f), and not a fall in the biblical sense. Nowhere do we read in the Koran that sin destroyed the relationship between God and man in such a way that reconciliation was required. Islam also says nothing about Adam himself and his offspring coming under the power of sin. There is no original sin in Islam. Each individual with all strengths and weaknesses is Allah’s creation, and has to continually decide between the will of Allah and the promptings of Satan. Man is not a “slave of sin” (Rom. 7:14 NIV) and so not in need of God’s redeeming intervention.
The central biblical theme of God’s plan of salvation is missing in Islam. The knowledge of mankind’s need of salvation is also absent, and as a consequence man sees no need for a “history of God’s salvation plan” – God’s saving intervention.
The History of Prophets
According to biblical accounts, different periods of the salvation plan follow each other. Such an idea is essentially foreign to Islam. In the time between creation and judgement day everything actually stays the same. Each individual and each time period remain in a static state facing the almighty God. Islam does not recognise “a history …that unfolds and develops, but rather one that simply repeats itself.” (Translated from German: CIBEDO Texts Nr.5 p. 2)
Most probably we could refer to a “history of prophets” in Islam: Because of man’s repeated departure from the original revelation, God in his mercy periodically sent prophets. The mission of these prophets was always the same; to call people back to their faith in the only God, and to proclaim the one divine law. “With every prophetic declaration the history of mankind, so to speak, begins anew …” (Translation from the German book: Bouman, Christentum und Islam im Vergleich, page 47)
In Islam there is, however, a climax in this history of prophets: Muhammad as “seal of the prophets” received God’s perfect and final revelation, the Koran. All previous books (e.g. the Old and New Testaments) were replaced. That’s why the present and the future now belong to the Islamic community: “You are the best community that has arisen among mankind. You call for what is right and forbid what is corrupt, and believe in God. If the ‘People of the Book’ also believed it would be better for them. There are believers among them but most of them evildoers.”(Sura 3:110)
Due to this understanding of history, the Islamic community claims, at least in part, the main role in the salvation plan in history, which according to the Bible belongs to the people of Israel and Jesus’ church. This also explains to some extent the rivalry and the claim to power of the Islamic Umma against Jews and Christians.
The End of History
In all Islamic ideas about the future, essential elements are the coming Day of Judgement and the return of Jesus as an important sign. What we don’t find in these end time expectations are the rapture of the church and the coming of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. In Islam, the returning Jesus is not the one to whom the Father has committed all judgement (Jn. 5:22; Acts 17:31).
Biblical Salvation: the Historical Plan and Mission
Even if Islam contradicts the biblical view of history, the biblical salvation plan includes Muslims: God sent his Son for them and for us “when we were God’s enemies”. (Rom. 5:10 NIV)
The biblical history of the plan of salvation must spur us on to share the message of salvation with Muslims as well. In God’s eyes – with all their religiosity – they are sinful, lost people that God wants to save through Jesus Christ. As ambassadors for Christ we can implore them: “Be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor. 5:20 NIV) and ask the God who is Lord of history to open the hearts and minds of Muslims for the Good News of redemption through Jesus Christ.
You can quote or use this essay on the condition that you do not change the content and acknowledge the author: www.orientierung-m.de