From Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White: “There will be no persons in heaven who have not personally accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. No Jews, no Hindus, no Muslims will be in heaven.” That’s roughly 2,616,000,000 people [two billion, six hundred and sixteen million].
Of that number, one billion six hundred million dedicate themselves to Islam. The Islamic faith is the second largest religion in the world, behind Christianity.
In the next posts, I will attempt to explain some basic ideas about this faith and as I explain, I will be in constant prayer that my words create understanding of these people. With recent violent events from a small minority of Muslim extremists, they have fostered a lot of misunderstanding and to be truthful, just plain hatred. As Christians I don’t think we want to have the word hate associated with us.
Today we will begin with how the Islamic faith originated and how it is related to Christianity scripturally. Some Christians know the Bible better than others; at the risk of telling you something you might already know, I am going to cover basic ground.
Although the Muslim faith is not directly mentioned in the Bible as the “Muslim Faith” or “Islam”, there is an outline of the origin of the Arabic people as the Children of Abraham who inhabited the “eastern country”. The history of the Muslim people begins in the Christian Bible with the prophet Abraham and his descendants through Ishmael, his firstborn son by the servant Hagar.
In Genesis 16: 15 it says “And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.” Abraham was promised by God that the descendants of Ishmael would become a great nation: “I will bless him and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.”
Ishmael’s name came directly from God: “The angel of the Lord found her [Hagar] by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, maid of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’ She said, ‘I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.’ The angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit to her.’ The angel of the Lord also said to her, ‘I will so greatly multiply your descendants that they cannot be numbered for multitude.’ And the angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son; you shall call his name Ishmael; because the Lord has given heed to your affliction’” [Genesis 16: 7-11].
Again when Hagar and Ishmael were moving to Arabia the angel appeared to her. “And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. And God was with the lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; [northern Arabia] and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.” Genesis 21:17-21 the descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maid, bore to Abraham.
Of course Ishmael had descendents; in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the first-born of Ishmael; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. Ishmael lived to the age of one hundred and thirty-seven.
The connections go far beyond the birth of Ishmael to Hagar. For you that read your Bible closely, who buried Abraham? It was Isaac and Ishmael. Who rescued Joseph from the pit where his brothers tossed him? It was the Ishmaelites. After they rescued Joseph, they took him to Egypt, which was God’s plan as Joseph thrived no matter what his circumstances and in his high position, he prepared stores for a famine which kept the Israelites alive. God’s remnant was preserved.
Other “eastern men” or Arabs play parts in the Bible. Jethro [a Midianite “eastern” child of Abraham] provides refuge for Moses as he escapes for his life. Job [an “eastern” man] provides an example of patient submission to God as he endured his great sufferings. Caleb [an “eastern” man] partners with Joshua as they lead the Hebrews into the Promised Land. The Prophet Jeremiah praises the Rechabites for the steadfastness of their faith when the Hebrew people were in a backslide.
Finally, we must remember those wise men from the east [from Persia] who brought gifts for the Baby Jesus.*
Amer Aziz is a Muslim who has dedicated his writings to building bridges between Muslims and Christians. Of course there are many differences between the faiths, but we have several Scriptural connections. He points to two major connections that need to be acknowledged: both Christianity and Islam have the same patriarch—Abraham. God promised to make a great nation from the descendants of Ishmael and that certainly has come about. Aziz writes “if there were a world rivalry of religions, few would hesitate to point to Islam versus Christianity. These religions, the two largest in the world, have a long history of locking swords — whether on the battlefield, through proselytizing, or during heated debates. What tends to get buried under the dust, though, are some remarkable bonds shared by the two religions.”
What gets lost in today’s world are the actions by extremists that get attributed to a religion that has one billion six hundred million adherents. That’s hardly fair.
But that’s what has happened…in the minds of some Christians.
For much more detail on the Muslim connections to the Bible see the Bibleinfo.com website: