Is Allah the One True God?

My city, outside of Afghanistan and refugee camps in Pakistan, hosts the third largest Afghan population in the world (30,000 – 40,000 depending on who you ask).  My home is a ½ mile from Little Kabul – an area of kabob restaurants and Afghan owned businesses.  Four doors down from the church is the Ibrahim Khalilallah (Abraham the Friend of God) Mosque.  The Lord has led CC Fremont into the ministry of Muslim evangelism.

Being involved in Muslim evangelism brings one face-to-face with certain questions.  One question I have always answered in the negative is: Is the God of Islam the one true God?  I have always thought myself justified in my negative response because some of the character descriptions of Allah in the Qur’an, its Unitarianism as opposed to Trinitarianism, and its lack of incarnational mission paint Allah in much different colors than Yahweh in His full Biblical portrayal.  But I think I am changing my mind – and here’s why.

Many who argue that the God of Islam is not the one true God go on to assert that the God of Judaism is the one true God.  And yet the God of Judaism seems closer to the God of Islam than to the God of Christianity.

  • Both Judaism and Islam are Unitarian, not Trinitarian.
  • Both deny that Jesus is the Son of God (and if our theology has a Christological lens, this is devastating).
  • Both deny the atonement.  Islam denies the crucifixion of Jesus whereas Judaism denies the resurrection of Jesus.  (Interestingly enough, Jesus holds a much higher pace within Islam than He does within Judaism).
  • Both deny justification by faith and assert salvation by self-effort.

I don’t see how the denial of Islam’s’ God would not force denial of Judaism’s God.  And if one asserts that Judaism worships the one true God, I don’t know how you could deny Muslims the same status.

Consider also Paul’s sermon to the Athenians on Mars Hill (Acts 17:23).  Upon noting the plurality of their gods, he says,

For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. NASB

Implicit in Paul’s announcement is that they worship the one true God!  They worship Him in ignorance, but He is the object of their worship.  Yet –

  • this does not mean that God is pleased with their worship.
  • this does not mean that this worship rightly relates them to the God they worship.
  • this does not mean that the worship of the one true God saves them.
  • this does not mean that their worship ennobles them.

In speaking with the Samaritan woman, Jesus says:

You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  John 4:22

Grammatical note: in both Acts 17:23 and John 4:22 the relative pronoun HOS is used.  It can be mean who or what depending on context.  It is interesting that, in the KJV, the translators used the word whom in Acts 17:23 and what in John 4:22, both referring to God.  I think it is safe to say that both rabbis, Jesus and Paul, think of God as a who and not a what.  Jesus doesn’t tell the Samaritan woman that she has the wrong God, but that she has a misguided worship.  Paul tells the Athenians that they worship the one true God in ignorance.  Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that she, and by implication the Samaritans, worship the one true God in ignorance.

Jesus said that no one comes to the Father but by Him.

  • Muslims fail to come to the Father for they do not come through the Son.
  • Jews fail to come to the Father for they do not some through the Son.
  • Worshippers of the unknown god fail to come to the Father for they do not come through the Son.
  • The Samaritans fail to come to the Father for they do not come through the Son.

The problem for the Athenians, the Jews, the Samaritans, and the Muslims isn’t the God they worship, but their worship of that God – it is an ignorant worship – not a false God.  Ultimately, their problem isn’t with the Father, but with the Son.

Coming to the provisional conclusion that Allah is the one true God has relieved me of a burden I didn’t know I was laboring under.  There has been in me a desire to speak with Muslims in a way that communicates (ever so subtly) that I have a profound disrespect for Allah.  To compare Allah of the Qur’an and Yahweh of the Bible will yield some interesting results, but will not result in a Muslim being impressed, let alone converted.  I see now that I don’t need to speak with a  Muslim about the misguided notions they hold about God, I just need to speak to them about Jesus!  Through Christ, God comes into focus.  Wow!  What a burden lifted.  When they look at God through a Christological lens, He will come into proper focus.  Any kind of apologetic or polemic that attempts to equate Allah with the Moon-God or any other derivation gets about as much traction as someone trying to convince us that Jesus is the mythical lovechild of Semiramis and Tammuz.  Since Islam knows nothing of God as Father, the focus on Christ is paramount because in and through Christ the Father is known.

That Muslims worship the one true God, albeit imperfectly, is a thesis that is making more and more sense to me.  What do you think?  If you disagree, just don’t write and tell me so, tell me why.  Who knows, you may win me over.  I welcome irenic discussion of this.  I am willing to yield to wisdom and good reason.

Finally, please pray for our outreach to Muslims.  So far, I don’t feel that we’re doing a good job.  Pray that the love of Christ would be seen in us and the power of the Holy Spirit would flow through us.

And please, always remember –  Muslims are not the enemy, they are victims of the enemy.

19 replies
  1. Tommy O'Keefe
    Tommy O'Keefe says:

    Thanks Tim! It is very encouraging and refreshing to hear another Calvary Chapel Pastor articulate this perspective. Thanks fro taking the time!

    Reply
  2. Trip Kimball
    Trip Kimball says:

    Hey Tim, good post! I’m blessed to hear your church is actively reaching out to muslims!
    The Allah issue I got answered before through my dear friends who do ministry to muslims in Mindanao (Philippines) & in Pakistan. But you did a great job breaking it down with the comparison with Judaism.
    Thanks…it’s even clearer now!

    Reply
  3. Darren Colwell
    Darren Colwell says:

    Thanks Tim for providing some food for thought here. Would Paul’s declaration in 1 Cor. that those who worship idols are actually worshipping demons change your thinking on this? Also, when muslims worship Allah they aren’t worshipping what they do not know, they know Allah through the Quran and that would lead me to think that they were worshipping an object of demonic creation, much like the Mormons in my culture (I live in Utah). Just some thoughts. I would love to hear what you think about it.

    Reply
  4. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Hi, Darren – thanks for your question. Actually, I had to think through the 1 Cor. passage in wrestling with this issue. Consider this – we think of the word ‘idol’ in its connotations and implications. The NT uniformly uses the word ‘idol’ in its denotation. Meaning this – in the NT, idols never refer to the imaginations of men’s hearts, but to actual physical objects. Paul would not think that a wrong view of God was idolatry. An idol has to have physical substance. An idol isn’t an understanding of God, but a physical object of worship.

    Further, idolatry is always utilized in the context of polytheism. Islam is fiercely monotheistic and rabidly antagonistic to idols and images. I was on the Temple Mount four weeks ago – not an image or statue in sight. The El-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are covered in geometric patterns but no images of any kind. Contrast this with the various sites of Christian pilgrimmage. There you will find images/statues of Elijah, etc., pictures of Christ praying, etc. So, if we are applying NT categories to Islam, there are no idols in Islam and your critique goes wide. Their problem lies in another realm.

    Too, applying your critique, Paul could never refer to God by using the idol of the Unknown God because of the demonic reality behind it. But he says to the people, “Whom you worship in ignorance, I make known to you.” Paul doesn’t criticize the false god behind the idol, he criticizes their false worship, their uninformed worship.

    You write, “They know Allah through the Qur’an…” If Allah is a false god, then he doesn’t exist and no one can know someone who doesn’t exist. If one claims to know another who doesn’t exist, the problem isn’t with the one who doesn’t exist, but with the one who makes the claim. Please note that I didn’t ask the question, “Is the Qur’an a true revelation from God?” If that were the title of this blog I would have a much different answer than the one I arrived at with Allah. If Allah is the one true God, the problem isn’t with him, it is with those who worship him in ignorance. And if the Qur’an is creating that ignorance, keeping them in the dark about the one true God, then the problem isn’t with God/Allah, but with the Qur’an and with those it has deceived.

    So again, my thesis is not that Allah is false, but that their worship is false. And it is false because it is not through Christ. In applying this to Mormons, possibly much the same conclusion can be arrived at. The God they worship isn’t of demonic creation, but their worship of that God is of demonic creation because it is not rooted in the Son. Also, how would Judaism escape the same critique you apply to Islam? Is the God of the Jews a demonic creation?

    You raise some provocative questions that truly have a bearing on this subject. Where do you think I’m missing it?

    Reply
    • Darren Colwell
      Darren Colwell says:

      Thanks for your reply Tim, it really clears things up for me. I think what I’m struggling with is that I equate Allah with the worship of Allah. This means to me that the qualities worshipped and admired my muslims in Allah are Allah’s true qualities, thus making him a false god. But your reply really helps with this. The problem isn’t with Allah himself, but the demonically inspired worship of him. Satan doesn’t always work by creating false gods and idols but by wickedly distorting the worship of the one true God such that Christ is denigrated and the gospel lost. I’m curious then how you reach out to muslims. I would have approached it before as needing to destroy their god but it seems like maybe the better way (and biblical way) would be to approach it like Paul and Jesus and give true knowledge of the God they worship and lead them in the better way of worship. Is this how you approach reaching out to muslims? And when you do, do you tell them that you worship Allah as well and then share the gospel through that?

      Reply
      • Tim Brown
        Tim Brown says:

        CC Fremont has a program that runs in the SF east bay area of Alameda County (Fremont, Newark, Union City, Hayward, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Alameda, and parts of Castro Valley). It is on every Thursday night @ 8PM. (We were just given Tuesday evening in addition to Thursday!) It is entitled, “God Loves You My Muslim Friend.” I teach verse-by-verse through the gospel of John. We offer free Bibles in Arabic, Urdu, Pashtun, Hindi, Farsi, and a few other languages. (So far, no takers). In the program I do not denigrate Islam, Allah, Mohammad, or the Qur’an. I lift up Jesus and emphasize the life we have in Christ with the life they don’t have in Islam. I speak often of forgiveness freely given, assurance of eternal life, the joy of fellowship with God, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Fatherhood of God – Islam knows nothing of these things.

        Only recently have I been referring to God as Allah. I will say something like, “Allah sent His Son to bear your sin and die in your place.” I take the name Allah and use it in some very un-Islamic associations. This is somewhat jarring for me and I am sure it is to any Muslim who listens in. But actually, the name of God in the Arabic Bible is Allah (for Yahweh) and has been since there has been translation of the Bible into Arabic.

        I don’t need to destroy their false notions of who God is. I love the story of the ark spending the night in Dagon’s temple. As I lift up Christ and speak of Christ, the imaginations of their heart are assaulted and begin to be broken. I take a ‘cross the bridge’ approach to Muslim evangelism rather than a ‘smash the wall’ approach. There are many walls between Islam and Christianity. But what is interesting, is that in the Qur’an, Jesus is virgin born, Mohammad is not; Jesus is sinless, Mohammad is not; Jesus works miracles, Mohammad does not; Jesus is taken to heaven, Mohammad is not; Jesus is coming again, Mohammad is not. Now, of course, they deny His deity and the atonement – but look at the bridge that is there! Jesus is a more exalted figure in the Qur’an than is Mohammad! Instead of trying to scale or smash walls, let’s cross bridges of mutual understanding.

        Instead of deconstructing their God, let’s bring them to the place where they can view Him through Christ. Through Christ, God comes into focus.

        Reply
  5. Terry
    Terry says:

    Tim, I agree with Tommy. Thank you for thinking, considering and letting us in on the process. Thank you Tim for exalting Jesus, and for putting forth the need for the Gospel that must be proclaimed. And Tim, thank you my friend for loving Muslims, and not just saying you love Muslims.

    Reply
  6. Kyle Burson
    Kyle Burson says:

    Tim. Thanks for the article. It certainly helped me to focus. I’ve been focused on Allah being the Moon god and not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The focus should be on Jesus. BTW, I noticed something very, very interesting. When I went to the Cross Connections site, in the ad tracker on the lower right hand was an Ad for Islamic Home Financing. I wonder if others found that too. I guess the app picked out that the discussion was around Islam and Allah and decided to entice me into seeking Islamic Home financing.

    Reply
    • Tim Brown
      Tim Brown says:

      Hi, Kyle – I had never seen those ads before. Very interesting. Yeah, the Moon God thing is just a non-starter. It may be interesting from a philological point of view and even from a historical perspective it may have some technical validity, but in terms of its usage and context within Islam, the Moon God angle is a waste of time.

      Reply
  7. Bill Walden
    Bill Walden says:

    Tim….I am blessed.
    I am blessed by your love for Muslims, and your efforts to understand them and reach them for Jesus.
    I am blessed by the efforts of your church.
    I am blessed by the insights that God has given you re. this topic.

    Question: Re. the comparison between the Jews skewed view of Jehovah (my words), and the Muslims skewed view of Allah, how do you unpack the salvation of the those Jews who are listed in Hebrews 11?

    I don’t think I am stating it well, and this might be a poorly worded question, or just a dumb question, but maybe you can read between the lines a bit.

    How did some of the Jews “get it” while the Muslims don’t?

    Just a spark to ignite the conversation a bit more.

    Thanks for this article.

    Reply
  8. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Hi, Bill –

    Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

    What did he believe? Did he believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God? No – we try to pack evangelical meaning into this, but it’s not there. Abraham believed what God gave him to believe – that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars of the sky. Or, he just believed God – not necessarily a promise, but just believed God, period.

    I would apply this same logic to all the worthies of Heb. 11 – they obeyed what God told them to do and believed Him for what He said He would do. The terminus of Heb. 11 indicates that God has provided something better for us, that apart from us they would not be perfect. And the terminus of Hebrews 11 points to Christ – even as Heb. 1 states: in these last days he has spoken to us in His Son. Before Christ, God spoke in may portions and many ways. Now, since the cross and resurrection, He speaks in and through Christ.

    All of Hebrews 11 is before the cross. All of Islam is after the cross (beginning in the 7th century AD). So, for me, comparing some Jews ‘getting it’ in Heb. 11 to Muslims who don’t is comparing apples and oranges. An apple to apple comparison is Judaism to Islam today – both reject Christ. Jews and Muslims fail to come to the Father for they don’t come through the Son. They try to climb up some other way.

    More directly to your question about the skewed view – the Jews before Christ weren’t provided with the Christological lens that both Judaism and Islam are presented with and reject today. And so the skewing comes from again, not a false God, but the improper lens through and in which He is to be seen.

    Have I sufficiently muddied the waters?

    Reply
  9. Jon Langley
    Jon Langley says:

    Tim — great article and dialogue thus far. You answered Bill’s question with exactly what I was thinking.

    In regards to the OP… having spent the last five years in a mostly Muslim community in Africa my antennae always go up when I hear a topic regarding Islam and/or Allah. I normally have a bad habit of reiterating what a post said with my own words and insights. I admit it. Bad, bad habit. In this case I’m not even tempted. I think you’ve not only exposed accurately the “non-starter” of the “moon god” argument and the simple fact of the usage of “Allah” in Arabic as the word for “God”, but you’ve taken the time to lay out (IMHO) a theologically sound schema to guide our thoughts (and actions) in regards to Muslim worship of Allah.

    These are men and women many of whom worship with a fervor and dedication that puts American believers to shame. They have faith in Allah, but NOT, as you’ve written, through the Son, and therefore it never reaches Him and they never know true fellowship and sonship.

    I literally just finished a conversation with a Sunni that I went to Jr High and High School with. I haven’t seen him in over 20 years but reconnected via Facebook and saw him for the first time in person just a couple of hours ago. He is a kind and generous man. He’s a truly loving and moral man, husband, and father. He’s a volunteer coach in youth sports. He’s a successful and honest businessman. He’s a former soldier and Pentagon employee who served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and unnamed places in Africa and around the world. He likes Christians. He has not an ounce of hatred for Jews. He’s the kind of guy you WANT as a friend. He loves Allah and takes his faith seriously, keeping all five pillars of Islam just as faithfully as “good” Catholics go to mass and confession and take communions and just as faithfully as “good” Calvary Chapelites or Baptists or Methodists teach Sunday School, attend Bible Studies, and evangelize.

    BUT… though he’s arguably more sincere and faithful than many Christians are about their faith, all of his “goodness” falls short. All of his kindness, generosity, volunteerism, service to his country and countrymen, friendliness towards other faiths… all of his SINCERE FAITH AND MORALITY falls short for THE VERY REASON YOU’VE STATED: it’s NOT through the Son.

    It causes me to weep. Ask Bill Walden if I’m kidding – he knows what I’m like. I’m literally holding back tears in my eyes right now so the other patrons of Starbucks aren’t horrified by the giant bearded fellow sobbing in the corner.

    So much sincerity, so much faith, so much kindness, so much “moral goodness” and friendliness… AND IT’S NOT ENOUGH. The deception they’re under breaks my heart!

    This is exactly what I’ve shared with Muslims I’ve been blessed to spend time with and evangelize in Africa. I normally talk about their good works in keeping the five pillars and congratulate them for those good things. I then go on to compare those works with those who call themselves Christians and do similarly good deeds: giving to the poor, proclaiming their faith, prayer, fasting, and religious pilgrimages of faith. Then I drop the bomb with all love and humility: whether you call yourself Christian, Muslim, or anything else, those good things aren’t enough to appease a God as holy as Allah. (The holiness of Allah is a major doctrine for them). We just cannot do enough. Praying five times a day or 24 hours a day wouldn’t be enough. Giving to the poor on Fridays or giving everything you own away wouldn’t be enough. Proclaiming the name of Allah and his prophet is not enough. Making pilgrimage to a holy site one time in your life or every day of your life is not enough. Fasting for Ramadan or fasting every day of your life is not enough. There is no amount of doing good that can live up to the holiness of Allah and therefore we are without hope of ever pleasing Him or being in His presence. (They already know this because the Q’ran doesn’t offer assurance only a “maybe” if you’ve done “good enough”).

    This clear declaration that it isn’t a competition between the good works of the Muslim vs. the good works of the Christian, but rather a matter of any person of any faith being able to please a righteous and holy God like Allah, normally disarms the average Muslim and enables them to listen all the way through to solution of the problem… the good news of Jesus Christ. Now when Christ comes up then I truly find out if the Spirit has prepared them for this time or not, because the normal reaction is to immediately deny Jesus as God and literally plug their ears if I begin to say otherwise. If they DON’T do this, then likely the Spirit has gotten through and further ministry can take place. I’ve seen Muslims come to faith in Christ. It’s not normally easy or in large Pentecost-like droves, but through loving faithfulness to cross the bridge you spoke of and humbly point out what’s missing.

    Reply
  10. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Thanks, Jon – it is encouraging to hear a positive note in these controversial issues from someone who has been on the front lines. Wrestling with this issue and coming to the understanding I have today has been extremely liberating. Any wisdom/counsel you can give me/CC Fremont as we pursue bringing Christ to Muslims would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Tim Brown
      Tim Brown says:

      We changed the name to “God Loves You My Muslim Friend” (with Samy Tanagho’s permission) because we have very few Arabic speakers among local Muslims. And, as you know, Isa and the Injil means Jesus and the Gospel. But it probably sounded more like ‘Iisou and the Evangelion’ to American ears. We thought the ‘Muslim Friend’ title would have a wider appeal and be more easily recognized and understood.

      Reply
      • Jon Langley
        Jon Langley says:

        Probably a good call. I hadn’t thought about the American Muslim population not being predominantly Arabic-speaking. Here in San Diego most immigrant Muslims are from Arabic speaking countries like Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. But I suppose with Afghanis it’s predominantly Farsi or Pashto.

        Reply
  11. Robert Dornaus
    Robert Dornaus says:

    When they translated the Bible into Arabic why did they use the name “Allah”. Are you saying it is alright to worship ” Allah”. Also doesnt the Koran define who Allah is? Not sure I agree with you or your arguments about Abrahams faith. Jesus quote was “Abraham rejoiced to see my Day” By faith the jews looked forward to the Savation that came though faith. That Jehovah or Yaweh is Salvation.It is never profitable to demean any one or their beliefs. We have to remember that there is a veil both on the jews and the muslims. As in Luke 24, Jesus told them all the things concerning the Christ starting from Moses,the Prophets, and the psalms how he would have to suffer , die, and resurrect on the third day.It was only when Jesus opened their minds that they understood, even though they walked with Christ for over three years!We are in a spiritual battle and we must show the love of Jesus not “ALLAH”. It is the Spirit of Jesus that leads men to repentance and draws them to the savior. Allah does not beget nor is he begotten.

    Reply
  12. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Hi, Robert – thanks for your comment. It is very easy to fall prey to semantics and etymology. In Hebrew, one of the words for God is Yahweh. In Arabic, the word for God is Allah. In English, the word for God is God. Your post seems to focus on the Qur’anic descriptions of God, solely. The Qur’an is not a trustworthy guide to who God is. I’m not sure what you are referencing in writing about demeaning other’s beliefs. But I am all with you concerning the fact that we must show the love of Jesus. Through Jesus, God comes into focus.

    Reply

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