What Do Muslims Believe?/Program 3

By: Dr. Ergun Caner, Dr. Emir Caner; ©2003
What Do Muslims Believe About Allah?



What evidence could cause devout Muslims today to leave Islam and embrace Christianity? Today on The John Ankerberg Show, two former Muslims tell why they turned away from Allah and placed their faith in Jesus Christ as God, knowing that their decision would cost them the love and acceptance of their family?

Dr. Emir Caner: And so I told my father, necessarily Allah and Jehovah are not the same gods. I worship Jesus Christ now. And he told us to make a decision between our religion and him, or better said, between our Heavenly Father and our earthly father. So I got up and I left. He disowned us.

These two brothers went on to get their Ph.D.s, and now, Dr. Ergun Caner, is Associate Professor of Theology and Church History at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, and Dr. Emir Caner is Assistant Professor of Church History at Southeastern Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. In countries outside of America, if a Muslim leaves Islam and embraces Christianity, what consequences does he or she face?

Emir: In many of the countries, what happens is, on a Friday day, the Jumaa prayer, they will take you to the city square, they will bury you up to your waist in your burial cloth. The indictment is read that you have converted to Christianity, and then everyone picks up the stones and you are stoned to death in the city square – for the sole indictment of being a believer in Jesus Christ.

Everyone in the world should understand what the religion of Islam teaches 1.6 billion Muslims of what they must do to have any hope of going to Heaven; of how they are to treat Christians, Jews, and other unbelievers in Islamic countries; how women are to be treated; the role of Islamic leaders in government, and when jihad, or holy war, is justifiable.

Dr. Ergun Caner: If the numbers hold up right – and 16 percent of the Muslims worldwide believe that the bombing of the World Trade Towers was morally justifiable – if those numbers continue out, we’re talking about somewhere in the vicinity of 100 million Muslims who believe that jihadic acts are morally justified. And so you see that there is this divergence of opinion about jihad, but what we hear here in America, we have never heard anywhere else in the world. We’ve never heard certainly in our background that you would say jihad was only an internal struggle.

Today, we invite you to join us to hear two former Muslims talk about Islamic belief and practice on this edition of The John Ankerberg Show.

Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’ve got an exciting program for you today, people I want you to hear, and I’m just so glad they’re here. They’re former Muslims who came to know Christ, their family disowned them. They went on in their education to get their doctorates. They are professors in Christian seminaries today. They’ve written two best-selling books, and we’re talking about, is Islam a peaceful religion? And we’ve covered a lot of topics so far, but we’re to the topic of: What do Muslims believe, guys, in terms of the Five Pillars of Islam? I found this absolutely fascinating of what you had to do in order to please Allah and to have a hope – not a guarantee – but a hope of getting to heaven someday. I was absolutely amazed.
Let’s start with number one: the Creed. What is it and how does it operate?
Emir: The Creed is Sha’hada, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah.” That’s why Islam is a religion from the cradle to the grave, that you whisper it to your son when he is born. You whisper it every day to yourself. It is your motto for your entire life.
Ankerberg: Did your dad do that to you? Do you remember him talking about that?
Ergun: Of course.
Emir: Being devout as a good Muslim, he would. Yes.
Ankerberg: So every Muslim did that – when the baby was born, you whispered right into his ear, first thing, the Creed.
Emir: Because it’s a key. No one is born carte blanche, as John Locke would say. No one is born a blank slate. No one is born a Christian, or a Buddhist, anything else. Everyone is born a Muslim. And when someone perverts them over to another religion, then there is where the problem lies. I had a Muslim come up to me and he asked the question, not regarding the Creed but regarding Islam in general and Christianity in combination. He said, “Well, you Christians think you can get away with anything.”
I said, “Well, what do you mean?”
He said, “Well, you have someone on death row, he accepts Jesus Christ as Savior, does he go to heaven?”
I said, “Absolutely.”
He said, “See. You got away with something.”
I said, “No. Every other religion, which is based on works, gets away with sin. Not Christianity. If you’re 50.1 percent good, what about that 49.9 that’s bad? What happens to that?”
“Well, Allah, in his mercy, removes it.”
But there’s no punishment. Whereas, in Christianity, either the lost person who sits at the Great White Throne Judgment and stands before God and says, “I have no excuse,” he must pay for his sin on his own behalf. He must go to hell because of his rejection of Jesus Christ, not because of any bad work: because he rejected Jesus. But for the person who is saved, every sin – past, present and future – is paid for on the cross. No one, no one in Christianity gets away with any sin, by thought or by deed.
Ankerberg: Yeah. I think that Muslims, even the ones that we’ve had in debate, do not understand that at all. They really see like it “magically” disappears but they cannot see that that then talks about the holiness of God. It corrupts God. God can’t just say, “Well, boys will be boys. I’ll let those guys get off.” That would be like having a judge say, “Well, you broke all these laws, but for some reason, I’ll just say you can go free.” Okay? That wouldn’t be upholding the law. And if your character is the law, if your holiness is what happens in the universe, God can’t do that. And the message of the Bible is that God can’t do that, but He made a way by punishing Jesus for what we’ve done and we can take advantage of that if we place our faith in Him.
Ergun: That’s exactly why Islam rejects the crucifixion. You’ve hit it. That’s the whole reason. And what’s interesting is that, we find this ironic, that as former Muslims we see that Islam believes more about Jesus than liberals do. Islam believes in a virgin birth; Islam believes in miracles – have no problem with Jesus working miracles; Islam believes in a historical Jesus, whereas, liberals have a search going on all over the place and vote with marbles. In Islam you have a belief in a historical, virgin-born prophet. But, that is not far enough. If Jesus Christ on the cross actually died for man’s sin, that substantially, fundamentally changes the message of what my brother just explained.
Islam teaches that you are pardoned of your sin, but that’s not what happens with sin in Christianity. Sin is not pardoned. We are not simply cleansed. It’s not a commuted sentence. It’s not time off for time served. On the cross, Jesus paid the penalty, the capital offense for sin. He paid the debt. If I could suffer for my sins, that would be double jeopardy. What took place on the cross was nothing short of cosmic judgment. And that’s why in Islam there’s a rejection of the cross, because the idea of the penalty being paid for sin goes against everything we have in Islam on the scales.
Ankerberg: Yes. Let me come back to this: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” That’s the Creed. Now, that is said into the ear of every little boy, every little girl. You hear that every day.
Ergun: Yes.
Ankerberg: And I found it interesting that you said that simple statement is actually comprehensive in its scope. Tell me what you meant.
Ergun: Well, it is the summation, do you not agree, Emir? It’s a summation of all the confessions.
Emir: And it is within that realm, that very brief sentence, everything which was given to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel through Allah is then agreed upon: that Muhammad is the final revelation, the final prophet, the Rasul. He is the very way to understand that “straight path.” And so what he says is not his own words, instead, they are the very words of Allah dictated to mankind. And so there you have the overlying umbrella, the parameters, so that the Qur’an is right, perfect. Surah 15:9: It will be guarded from corruption, while the scriptures, the Old Testament and New Testament, are only right when they agree with the Qur’an or, as we would put it, when they agree with Muhammad.
Ankerberg: So, when you accept that one little statement, it brings the whole religious system of Islam with it. You now accept the Qur’an as authoritative, Muhammad in the Hadith, and so on, this becomes your authority, which encompasses your entire belief system.
Emir: And so he says, with the other five pillars, that you must pray five times daily, and so you do so. That you pray at dawn, that you pray at midday, and then millions across the world, when you hear Allah hu Akbar. Allah hu akbar. God is great. God is great. Come to prayer. Come to prayer – thousands stream into the mosques, every Friday, every day, to do these prayers and to tithe 2.5 percent of their income. To finally do the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. To do the five pillars of Islam that they believe is necessary, including the fasting, that lunar calendar year where for a full month, from sunrise to sunset, there are no physical activities.
Ankerberg: If a Jew or a Christian, let’s say he’s 25 years old and he’s not been a Muslim, how does he become a Muslim?
Ergun: By the confession.
Emir: By the Sha’hada.
Ankerberg: So he says that and he’s in and he’s started….
Ergun: You have to say that in the presence of other Muslims. You have to make it known to your imam that you are one who is wanting to become a believer. Actually they would say they don’t believe in conversion, they believe in reversion. You have reverted back, because again, as my brother cited, you are born a Muslim. Everyone on the planet, everyone in the world is born a Muslim in their belief in the ubiquity of Allah. And so they would say you reverted, you’ve come back. You’re 25 years old. There are a number of things you must do. You must adhere to a certain mosque and you must make the confession. You must pay the zakats. You have things to catch up on.
Ankerberg: Okay. Well, let’s take number two: the fact is, now let’s say that you’re in. You’ve said the Creed in front of witnesses, and you start the system, and you’re hoping to gain entrance into heaven. What’s number two? Prayer.
Emir: Prayer. The life line. This really is what they say – their entire life surrounds prayer. Five times daily from the sunrise to sunset, they pray. And that this is not God speaking to them, but them speaking to God; and that’s absolutely key. When you speak to a Muslim and you say, “Did you speak to God this morning?,” they say, “Absolutely.” But on a different realm, “Did God speak to you personally?” is a wholly different question. That is, that God cares for me enough that He’ll never leave me nor forsake me [Deut. 31:6; that He speaks to me; that that still, small voice inside of me is not my conscience but is the Holy Spirit of God speaking to me personally and directly.
Ankerberg: So you’ve said in your book, it’s “an external practice, not a personal conversation.” Explain that a little bit more.
Ergun: Absolutely. You are repeating the first Surah of the Qur’an. Of the 114 chapters, Surah 1, the very first one, is a type of confession before Allah. You face Mecca, you face East, you’re on the prayer rug. You basically stop, drop and roll. You stop five times a day and you repeat that Surah over and over and over based on devotion, with a right mind, but you must be explicit in your confession of the first Surah of the Qur’an.
Ankerberg: Alright, what if you don’t say your prayers five times a day?
Ergun: There are some times they are forgiven; for instance, those who are on flights where the time is not calculable. Those who at war, they’re allowed to miss or they’re allowed to say a shorter one or take an ablution.
Before you begin the prayer time you must absolve, you must wash, ceremonial washing, cleansing of the nostrils, cleaning out of the mouth, and washing the feet. But there are times when this is forgiven.
Emir: But, if you don’t do it on a regular basis, there is little, if any, hope of heaven, outside of being killed as a martyr. If you are a bad Muslim for most of your life and you’re 60 years old and you know the scales are outweighed, what hope do you have, for you didn’t live a life of a Muslim and thereby you can’t even have a chance at 50.1 percent. But we know as Christians that couldn’t happen anyway.
James says that if you’ve had one sin in your life, you’re guilty of them all [Jas. 2:10]. One sin is enough to leave a barrier between us and God. To the Muslim who is 60 years old who knows he hasn’t been a faithful Muslim….
Ankerberg: So you’re saying, as you get older, it starts stacking up against you. And let’s say that you realize you’re at the 30 percent level and you’ve got no way of ever getting to 51 percent, okay? So what’s your hope?
Emir: The only thing they can do that they say may give it is hajj. Why do two million people congregate in Mecca every year? Many of them die going through the small walkways. You have between two dozen and two hundred killed a year just performing the hajj, which is a very strenuous activity of going to Muhammad’s last sermon, circling the Ka’aba seven times, going up and down the hill, and doing all of these things. And they hope that maybe this hajj, maybe this strenuous activity can remove the blemishes of the past. How in the world can you ever know what the percentage is in the first place, much less recognize that you can be good enough for God?
Ankerberg: We also have to throw in here that the person that truly is sincere about wanting to get to heaven and this weighs heavily on their mind, as it did you guys, if you came to that predicament that you were nowhere close the 51 percent, am I right in saying that the only sure thing is becoming a martyr?
Ergun: Yes; jihad. Well, that explains a lot about those….
Ankerberg: Explain that, because people might not have heard that in some of the other programs, so exactly what are we talking about?
Ergun: The only eternal security that a Muslim has, the only absolute, without question, assurance that a Muslim has that he is going to paradise is if he dies as a martyr in an act of declared fatwa, signed fatwa, a legal opinion.
Ankerberg: What is a fatwa?
Ergun: Fatwa is a declaration of war. It’s a legal opinion, so a declaration of war, jihad. If you die as a martyr in jihad, it is clear in the Qur’an, it is clear in the Hadith that you are protected and that you will be “saved” to use the term evangelicals would understand. But in their case it’s that your blood has purchased your paradise.
Ankerberg: Recently we’ve seen women committing suicide bombings. Okay? I found that really interesting in what you said. What are some of the promises connected to women who do that?
Ergun: Well, what’s interesting is we were never raised believing that women could fight jihad. The Hadith is very clear: women do not fight jihad. But the Wahhabi have a doctrine of the female suicide bomber. The Wahhabi teach it this way: if a man dies, he dies for himself. If a woman dies, she…because, you know, think about it. If a man is given the hundredth degree of paradise, and he’s got vestal virgins, perpetual virgins waiting for him, this is his heaven. But if you tell a woman that you die and you’re going to the hundredth degree of paradise and there are 70 virgin men waiting for you, that’s not heaven to her. That’s annoying to her because she will spend eternity, you know, “Leave me alone.” What does the woman get? The woman is given the opportunity to pick those who will go with her to paradise. And so what she does is, she, because of her nurturing, picks the ones that she thinks wouldn’t make it without her. Maybe family members, maybe loved ones. A man dies for himself; a woman dies for her friends.
Ankerberg: What a motivation.
Ergun: But Jesus dies for the world. And to me, it’s a great picture of the atonement. If someone is willing to believe in the Wahhabi doctrine of the female suicide bomber, I think they could be willing to believe in Jesus Christ on Calvary, what you could actually explain to them as, cosmic jihad.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’re through the first two: the Creed and Prayer. We’ve got to get to the next three and it’s just absolutely fascinating. So we’re going to talk about Almsgiving and what that actually means in Islam when we come right back. Stick with us.

Ankerberg: Alright we’re back, and if you’ve just joined us, we’re talking with former Muslims who have become Christians. They were ostracized by their family. They’ve gone on in their education to become professors at Christian seminaries. They’ve written two best-selling books. Guys, we’re talking about the Five Pillars of Islam. We’ve talked about the Creed. We’ve talked about the Prayer. Talk about Almsgiving. What is it?
Emir: Almsgiving is the requirement that to go to heaven you must give one-fortieth of your income to the poor and needy, or 2.5 percent. And if you do so, then it’s part of those requirements to get to heaven. But not only that, it is the promise of community. Muslims see the Almsgiving as they’re one body. Each state or the entire Dar al-Islam, the entire house of Islam is one state that they give to each other to insure their survival and their prosperity, so that those who are wealthy give to those who are not; and they share with the poor and needy, so to lift up not just an individual, but more importantly, lift up the community of Islam. To make sure that it is financially and spiritually, to them, tenable and prosperous and victorious for the next millennium, if you wish.
Ankerberg: But the key thing is, if you are a Muslim and you did not give your 2.5, or whatever it was, the thing is, could you get to heaven?
Emir: No. I mean, the whole point that, if you don’t give that fiqh, then you are ensured that you will be in hell-fire.
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s go to the next one, and that is, Ramadan.
Ergun: Yeah, well, sawn, fasting, during Ramadan. Fasting is the denial of that which is essential, and so, just like in American Christianity, we talk about fasting, but in Islam they actually act on it. During the month of Ramadan, you fast from sunrise to sunset, and you eat before, you eat the suhoor afterwards, the evening feast. But that you do not eat and in most places, you do not even drink anything from sunrise to sunset. And this is an unbelievably Lentian time, you know, the idea that we are denying ourselves. But it is also celebration time in that you celebrate the break of the fast with a feast.
Ankerberg: Compare Ramadan with Christmas.
Ergun: It’s the antithesis to it.
Ankerberg: Why?
Ergun: Because it is work-centered. Whereas Christmas is the celebration of the Incarnation, God for us, God with us; Ramadan is the celebration of me sacrificing for my God.
Ankerberg: Christians could have Muslims over for Christmas, but Muslims wouldn’t come because of the theological differences.
Emir: No.
Ankerberg: Sometimes, Christians mistakenly have gone to the end of Ramadan. Okay? But that’s ridiculous, too. Why?
Ergun: Number one, because Muslims are the equivalent of closed communion. Okay? One, because you do not celebrate with the akafir in such a holy time. But number two, because it is a celebration of our works garnering our salvation, and for them, this is the celebration of their fasting which earns them eternity, which is part of the good scales, part of the good celebration.
Ankerberg: They also open with prayer to Allah.
Ergun: To Allah, exactly. And they open and close with prayer to Allah, which is not the God of the Bible, in any stretch of the imagination.
Ankerberg: Okay. What if you don’t do the fasting?
Ergun: Well, fasting is prescribed for you. It’s the same word that is used for jihad, called Fard ayn.
Ankerberg: Is there a Surah or are there Hadith that say that specifically, that you won’t be in heaven?
Ergun: The fasting. Yes, of course.
Ankerberg: Okay. How about the fifth pillar, the hajj.
Emir: The hajj is the epiphany of the experience. I mean, what you do daily with the prayers and with the tithes and so forth is one thing; the hajj is the finale, it’s the final scene. It’s you going, unless somehow you cannot go physically and then you hire a substitute to go for you, you must go to Mecca. Only Muslims are allowed into the city of Mecca. You must put on that white robe, that simple robe. You must circle that Ka’aba seven times, reciting Surah 1, reciting that which Allah dictated to you. You must go to the last place Muhammad preached. You must go and go up a hill and down a hill as the story of Abraham and his wife Hagar goes looking for water for her son Ishmael. You must do these things which are strenuous. It’s an activity. It takes hours on hours to do this. This is not something where Christians picture it on the television where they’re just praying in front of the Ka’aba, that 30 foot by 50 foot stone which is representative of that strict monotheism. That is just the beginning, and that is just the end. What happens in the middle is so much more complicated and strenuous than that, that you really would have to take a video camera and see that. But of course, no one is allowed into Mecca unless you have a signed document from your imam that you are a good Muslim.
Ankerberg: Alright, you do all those things. You’ve got to do all those things, right?
Ergun: Yes.
Ankerberg: And if you don’t do those things, you’re not going to make heaven.
Ergun: That’s right.
Ankerberg: Alright. Even if you do all those things, do you have the guarantee you will make heaven?
Emir: Absolutely not. Surah 14:4, “Allah leads astray whomever he pleases.” The undercurrent of fatalism is everywhere in Islam. In fact, the number one word we heard in Islam is always, Insha Allah: “If God wills.” The representative of a good Muslim is someone who falls down the stairs and gets up and says, “Thank God it’s over.” He is the cause of everything ultimately in the universe. Now, Muslims disagree with it. They disagree whether free will plays a part or not, but fatalism, in its final premise, means that Allah causes what goes on in this world.
Ergun: You have the Islamic equivalent to hyper-Calvinism, because the kismet, we’ve heard this before, this reprobation: “Allah will lead astray the infidel.” “Allah chooses the one who is to be in righteousness, who will be in heaven.” Allah chooses those who go to heaven and Allah chooses those who go to hell. Again, Surah 14:4. And so we’ve heard this, this American Christian issue is not new to us. We’ve heard of this before: it’s called fatalism, predeterminism.
Ankerberg: Compare that with what you found in Christianity.
Emir: Well, that is that Jesus Christ died not only for our sin, but He is a propitiation for the entire world. He’s “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” [2 Pet. 3:9] That He is the Savior of the world. [1 Tim. 2:4] That He is “our God and Savior” but not ours alone, but on anyone who will believe in Him, “for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” [Rom. 10:13] It is God already given us His grace to such a point that we, as dead people [Eph. 2], can see Him for who He is and choose. Because God will never force anyone, coerce anyone to love Him. In fact, it would not be love if He coerced us. Instead, we choose to love Him, not because of who we are or what we’ve done, but because of that one word in Greek, that three words in English, “It is finished.”
Ergun: I couldn’t improve upon that. If I could explain what grace meant to me, living by works my entire life, living by my scales, terrified of my scales, terrified of my thoughts, terrified of my inclinations and my desires, terrified that Allah could read my mind. And then to turn around and see that the God of the Bible, Jehovah God of the Bible, was not just the One who provided salvation, He became my salvation.
Ankerberg: Guys, I just marvel at the fact of what Muslims try to do to please Allah, and to realize that you were doing all of that and still, you didn’t have any assurance that you were going to make it. For the Muslim that may be watching, maybe even secretly watching right now, speak to that person.
Ergun: I would simply say this. Don’t look at Christians. Muslims will look at Christians and say, “Yeah, but they’re such hypocrites. We work so hard and you tell us we are wrong? You’ve got the truth but you don’t live by it?” Don’t look at Christians, look at Christ. Salvation is not found in the Baptists or the Episcopalians or in my church or in your church. Salvation is found only in the name of Jesus Christ. He was not a hypocrite. He was Savior, Messiah, God.
Ankerberg: Yeah. To the question, “How good do you have to be to get into heaven?,” according to Christianity, you’ve got to be as perfect as God. [cf. Matt. 5:20] We can’t be that perfect. The Bible says “This righteousness from God comes through Jesus Christ to all who believe.” [Rom. 3:22] And that is the marvel, that is the joy of Christianity: the righteousness of Christ becomes ours, and He also pays for our sins. There’s an imputation, there’s a crediting to our account. It’s nothing that we do, it’s what Christ has done. And that’s the most marvelous message, once a person understands that.
Next week, we’re going to go further. We’re going to talk about: What is salvation in Islam? And I hope that you’ll join us. It’s absolutely fascinating information.

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