Teaching the Differences between Christianity and Islam

February 22, 2024 Phil Rigdon

In a society like ours, which is replete with different belief systems, it can be challenging to present the beliefs of Christianity as they differ from other religions. This blog marks the first in a series that seeks to equip teachers of all ages to address differences between Christianity and other major world religions.

The Differences in View of Higher Power

Islam means “submission to God” or simply “submission.” Those who espouse Islam are called Muslims. Muslims are strict monotheists, meaning they believe in one god, whom they refer to as Allah, the Arabic word for “god.” The Qur’an contains the prophet Muhammad’s teachings, based on a series of revelations he claims to have received from the angel Gabriel in the first half of the AD 600s. Muslims consider it to be the word of Allah, that it teaches that Allah is the creator and protector of all things and that he is compassionate and forgiving. Muslims consider Muhammad to be the last and most significant prophet. Muslims also consider Moses, Abraham, and Jesus to be prophets.

While it may be tempting to draw a connection between Christianity and Islam concerning “submission,” keep in mind that Islam views submission as a work, that is, something that man does to earn favor with Allah. Christian submission is empowered by the Holy Spirit and modeled after the submission of Jesus Christ. I can submit to the one true God only because God came to me first in His Holy Spirit and created saving faith. Christians submit to God through faith in Jesus. Our Savior submitted to His Father perfectly in our place, going to the cross to suffer and die for our sins. So, where Muslims submit out of fear of Allah, Christians submit out of love, recognizing that God loves and forgives for the sake of Jesus’ perfect submission.

The nature of the person of Jesus Christ is the lynchpin difference between Islam and Christianity. However much Muslims may honor Jesus as a prophet, for them, He is nothing more than a great man. Christians recognize Jesus as fully God, the Son of the Father, the Savior of the world. Whatever accomplishments Muhammad may have had in life, he was just a sinful man. It is important to stress the person of Jesus Christ. He is what sets Christianity apart from all religions. In Christ, we have grace. Where all other religions are based on works, only Christianity teaches salvation at God’s expense. He is the one acting for our good.  

The Differences in Basic Beliefs

To be able to effectively respond to Muslims or those who have questions regarding Islam, it is vital to have at least a cursory knowledge of the religion. Below is a brief listing of Islam’s basic beliefs and how Christianity is different. When comparing the two, pay particular attention to how Christianity points always to the work of Christ.

1. Oneness of God

Allah is one, uncreated, having no children. The Bible also speaks of God as one, yet as also being three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s also important to note that within the Christian Godhead, each person is attributed with certain tasks. God the Father is our Creator, Jesus is our Redeemer and Lord, and the Holy Spirit creates and nurtures saving faith in Jesus Christ.

2. Angels

Muslims believe that angels are created by Allah to serve him alone. Christians  believe and teach that God created angels for His purposes, which include being messengers and servants, protecting God’s people, and worshiping Him continually. What is more, the Bible teaches that Satan is one of God’s created angels who turned to evil. It is important to stress that while Satan is powerful, he is no more than an angel. He is not a god. Therefore, Satan does nothing outside of God’s control. Additionally, the reality is that Jesus defeated Satan through His perfect life and all-availing death on the cross.

3. Prophets

Muslims believe that prophets are human beings sent by Allah to teach about faith and holy living. What’s important to remember about the Christian understanding of prophets is that prophets are always working toward God’s agenda of salvation in Jesus Christ. Through the Old Testament prophets, God worked to turn the people from sin and promised the coming Savior, Jesus Christ. Even as the Lord chastised the people through the prophets, He did so to preserve the people from whom would come the Messiah. John the Baptist, considered the last prophet of the Old Testament, called for repentance and served as Jesus’ herald.

4. Qur’an

The Qur’an is written in Arabic by the prophet Muhammad. It contains information on the nature of Allah, history, guidance for holy living, and warnings to unbelievers. When comparing the Bible and the Qur’an, point out that the Bible is far older than the Qur’an. What is more, the books of the Bible span a much broader time in history and were written by many people who were guided by the Holy Spirit. This, and the fact that Scripture does not contradict itself, gives it credibility.

5. Day of Reckoning

Muhammad taught that this is the day when Allah will judge all human beings. Muslims hope for a place in heaven. Those who reject Islam and do evil will spend eternity in hell. Heaven is a place of beauty and peace, while hell is one of suffering and shame. The Bible also teaches that there is a day of reckoning, but it will be quite different from that of Islam. When Jesus returns, He will judge us on works, but on His works, rather than our own. Through faith, created by the Holy Spirit, Christians receive the benefits of Christ’s work: His fulfillment of the Law on our behalf, His innocent death on the cross as payment for sin, and His victorious resurrection from the dead, demonstrating the sufficiency of His sacrifice.

The Differences in Practices

Muslims teach five practices or “pillars” of faith.

1. Declaration of Faith

There are two fundamental statements of Muslim faith: Allah is one and Muhammad is his prophet. Christians have different and more elaborate statements of faith in the words of the three creeds: the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian. There are two salient points here. First, while reciting and memorizing the creeds is indeed worthwhile and healthful for Christians, doing so is not necessary for salvation, nor does it produce favor with God. Instead, studying the creeds and using them in worship serve to reinforce these basic truths in our minds and prepare us to share and defend the Christian faith. Second, the stress in the Christian creeds lies on Jesus Christ. This is appropriate, as we have access to the Father only through the Son, and the Holy Spirit serves to introduce us to the Son.

2. Prayer

Muslims are to pray to Allah five times daily, facing toward Mecca, the location of Muhammad’s birth. Christians have a fundamentally different view of prayer. Rather than another means to satisfy a demanding God, Christian prayer is a gift from God to Christians. The centrality of Christ in Christian prayer cannot be overemphasized. It is only through faith in Jesus, the one who by His death and resurrection opened the gates of heaven, are we able to talk to the one true God. God hears the cries of all people, but only Christians can be assured of God’s answer because of Jesus Christ, who sends His Christians out with the Law and Gospel to answer the cries of all people. Second, whereas Islam is directive and pedantic regarding the content, posture, location, and frequency of prayer, Christians are free to pray to God as a child would speak to a loving father. Our prayers are acceptable to God for the sake of Christ’s perfection.

3. Almsgiving

Almsgiving is financial giving to help those less fortunate. Almsgiving is certainly a fine practice within Christianity, but the purpose is different than in Islam. Christians serve as stewards of the Lord’s gifts for the benefit of those less fortunate. Where Muslims share with others in a way that is ultimately self-serving, Christians do so out of love for God and their neighbor, always with the understanding that salvation is a gift of God’s grace through faith in Christ.

4. Fasting

Fasting occurs during the daylight hours of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The Bible does speak of fasting, but always in reference to the edification of faith, prayer, or repentance, not toward the goal of currying favor with God. For example, it is common for Christians to abstain from certain foods during the season of Lent to reflect on the deprivation that Jesus suffered in His ministry and Passion. Such practice is certainly commendable and prudent and may help us better understand Christ's sufferings, but God will not pull away from us if we do not fast.

5. Pilgrimage

All able Muslims are required to visit Mecca at least once in their lifetime. The word “required” is central to the difference between the Islamic pilgrimage and the Christian appreciation for traveling to the Holy Land. While I have not myself traveled to the Holy Land, my understanding from those who have is that the experience greatly enhanced their walk of faith and understanding of the Bible. It is important to recognize that God’s love and salvation in Jesus Christ are for both the traveler and the one who never leaves his or her hometown.

The Differences in Worship

The practice of the five pillars is part of Islamic worship. Muslims worship in a mosque and take part in prayer led by the imam.

Christians also worship God in buildings (called churches), but the design of Christian worship spaces is different from mosques in purpose. Christian worship spaces centralize Christ, what He has done, and the gifts that He offers in worship. This is why a Christian church is replete with crosses of various sizes, shapes, and designs, why the baptismal font is (or should be) located prominently, and why the altar dominates the front of the worship space. Christian worship is fundamentally different from that of other faiths, including Islam, in that Christians come to God’s house not primarily to do for Him but rather to receive His gifts to us. These include most notably the means of grace, which are the Word and Sacraments.

Additionally, while receiving God’s gifts in worship is indeed a blessing within beautiful church buildings complete with stained glass windows, a large pipe organ, and endless pews, we are mindful that we can receive these gifts in even the simplest of places.

Christians define church in two distinct ways: (1) to refer to the building itself wherein we praise God and receive His gifts and (2) to refer to the body of Christ, that is, all Christians through space and time. For the Christian, it is of great comfort to know that he or she is part of a larger family, one that stretches not only all over the world but even through time.


While there are several differences in theology between Christianity and Islam, two stand out and should be highlighted. The first is the certainty of salvation. Where Islam teaches that Allah will judge all people on the day of reckoning, based on their record of submission to Allah and adherence to the five pillars, Christianity teaches salvation by grace, through faith, in Christ. Islam is ultimately a religion of works. But the Bible is clear: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). There is no certainty in Islam, there is only works. On the other hand,  through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God offers certain salvation based on what Jesus has done in our place.

The second salient difference is the action of God. In Islam, Allah sets forth a standard of behavior and expects Muslims to reach it. With Christianity, God does all the work. While both Christianity and Islam present God as creator, it is the one true God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who redeemed the world of sin at His own expense in His Son, Jesus Christ, and who brings that salvation to sinners through the work of the Holy Spirit.

A Biblical Response to Islam (Pack of 20)To face both the challenge and the opportunity of Islam, Christians must know enough about the Islamic faith and their own faith to communicate lovingly. 

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