Islam is the second largest religion in the world (after Christianity) and will soon be the second largest religion in America.
Muslims are and will increasingly be our neighbors, colleagues at work, and fellow citizens.
Although Islam is similar in many ways to Judaism and Christianity, most Americans and Europeans think of Muslims as strange, foreign, and frightening, inevitably linked to headline terrorist events. This state of affairs needs to change – and can change with better information and deeper understanding.
We must put an end to the spiral of fear, hatred, and violence, spawned by ignorance, that no longer only afflicts other countries but has come home to America.
Like Jews and Christians, Muslims are monotheists. They believe in one God, the creator, sustainer, ruler, and judge of the universe. Muslims believe in prophets, not just the Prophet Muhammad but the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, including Abraham and Moses, and of the New Testament, Jesus and John the Baptist. They also believe in angels, heaven, hell, and the Day of Judgment. Islam acknowledges that God’s revelation was received in the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospels, and the Quran:
“We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Torah that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel in which is guidance and light, and confirmation of the Torah that had come before him, a guidance and an admonition to those who fear God” (Quran 5:46).
Thus Muslims view Jews and Christians as “People of the Book,” a community of believers who received revelations, through prophets, in the form of scriptures or revealed books from God.
As Christians view their revelation as both fulfilling and completing the revelation of the Old Testament, Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad received his revelations from God through the angel Gabriel to correct human error that had made its way into the scriptures and belief systems of Judaism and Christianity. Therefore, Muslims believe that Islam is not a new religion with a new scripture. Far from being the youngest of the major monotheistic world religions, from a Muslim point of view Islam is the oldest because it represents the original as well as the final revelation of the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad:
“He established for you the same religion as that which He established for Noah, that which We have sent to you as inspiration through Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, namely that you should remain steadfast in religion and make no divisions within it” (Quran 42:13).