Introducing World Religions

A Christian Engagement

Materials available for professors by request only


9. Islam

Discussion Questions

  1. Describe the social, cultural, and religious context of the life of Prophet Muhammad. How was the Prophet an ordinary and extraordinary person?
  2. Is Allah of Islam the same as God for Christians? What are the implications for affirming that they are the same God? For instance, do Christians and Muslims pray to and worship the same God? What are the issues that arise if Christians and Muslims do not affirm the same God? Can you identify the social impact of one’s theological concept of God?
  3. What is the relationship between Islam and territory? Some scholars argue that Islam necessarily requires a territory to possess, for instance, by the establishment of sharia (i.e., Islamic law). How have Muslims made sense of their presence in secular nation states with a secular constitution and jurisprudence?
  4. Discuss the origins and compilation of the Qur’an. Compare the Christian view of Jesus to the Muslim perspective on the Qur’an. What similarities and differences do you see in the descent of God’s Word (e.g., tanzil) in Islam and Christianity?
  5. For Muslims, the Qur’an is the untranslatable Word of God, in part because it was revealed in Arabic. Although there are translations of the Arabic Qur’an into non-Arabic languages (e.g., English), these translated editions are considered “interpretations” rather than carrying the full authority of the Qur’an. Christianity, on the other hand, seems to have expanded in part through the translation of the Bible. What are the implications of untranslatability vs. translatability for culture, society, history, and theology?
  6. Muslims affirm that Prophet Muhammad was the final prophet in a long line of prophets. How should Christians understand Prophet Muhammad? For instance, is Prophet Muhammad a prophet for the world or for just the Arab people, perhaps moving polytheistic Arab tribal groups toward a monotheistic view of God? What difference does it make today how Christians view Prophet Muhammad?
  7. In the last few decades, several terrorist groups have self-identified as being Islamic. The use of Islam to foment violence against Muslims and non-Muslims raises the question, is Islam an inherently violent religion? Vastly different perspectives are present in the media, from “Islam is an essentially violent religion” to “Islam is essentially a peaceful religion.” How do you respond?
  8. The Five Pillars in Islam permeate the entirety of Islamic life. What are the social, cultural, and religious functions of the Five Pillars? If you were to create Five Pillars of Christianity, what would they be?
  9. Discuss the role of purity in Islam. Remember that Islam teaches that at birth everyone is a Muslim, the implication being that human beings begin life in a state of purity (e.g., fitrah) rather than as “sinners.” What religious rituals do Muslims practice in order to seek purification? How would you compare Christianity to Islam on the notion of purity?
  10. Discuss the various contemporary expressions of Islam today (e.g., Traditionalists, Modernists). What sources are important for each Islamic perspective? Do you see a similar use of sources (e.g., reason, scripture, tradition) in Christian movements?