|"What really determines the credibility of any one religion or belief system is the underlying foundation upon which it is built."
The World's Religions
How did the world's major religions come into being?
- Arabia encompassed a variety of religions before the advent
of Islam. In Southern Arabia, an astral cult known as
Sabaeanism prevailed. In other regions, there were Jews and
Christians. But the great majority of Arabs worshiped local
gods and goddesses, and believed in angels, fairies, and demonic
- The year A.D. 570 marked the beginning of a whole new
set of beliefs for the Arab people, when Muhammad, the
founder of Islam, was born.
- Growing up, Muhammad became disturbed by continuous
quarreling over matters of religion and honor among the
religious chiefs. Muhammad felt a great need to resolve his
religious doubts, and would spend days at a time alone in a
cave near the base of Mount Hira.
- Suddenly one night (Muslims call it “The Night of Power
and Excellence”), there rose in a vision before him an angel
who claimed to be Gabriel, the messenger of God. Muhammad
rushed home afterward in great excitement, half-doubting and
half-believing. At first Muhammad had fears for his own sanity, but after a period of self-questioning and discouragement lasting for several months, he came to look upon himself as a true prophet and messenger of Allah (Allah is the Arabic word for God).
- Thus marked the beginning of the Koran, Muhammad’s
complete revelation in writing. Muslims (those who adhere
to the Islamic faith) recognize both the Koran and much of
the Christian Bible as inspired revelations from God. Both
books agree that God has spoken through a long series of
prophets, from Abraham to Jesus, and all those in between.
But the Koran adds Muhammad to the end of the list, making
him God’s final and most important prophet in the series.
- In likeness to the Christian Bible, the Koran describes
Jesus as a virgin-born, miracle-working Messiah, and also identifies
Him as “holy” or “faultless.” Unlike the Christian Bible,
however, the Koran forbids worshiping Jesus as God. Muhammad
taught that Jesus was no more than God’s messenger,
and that God does not have a Son. As well, Jesus did not die
on a cross, most Muslims believe, but rather, prior to His scheduled
crucifixion, God raised Him to heaven so that He could
not be seized. Approved Muslim commentaries suggest that
perhaps Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, was actually the one who
was crucified. Judas would have been supernaturally disguised
so well that even Mary (Jesus’ mother) and Jesus’ followers
- These new teachings at the time successfully converted
only about 40 people in the first four years of the religion, but
by A.D. 630, Muhammad had the company of close to ten
thousand people by his side. Following his sudden death two
years later, the religion of Islam spread rapidly, due largely to victory in battle and military conquest, in what is called the
jihad (“holy war” or “holy struggle”).
- As the second largest religion in the world today, devout
Muslims strictly adhere to the Koran’s prescribed five religious
acts of obedience that will help ensure one’s entry into heaven. Known as Islam’s “Five Pillars,” these acts are:
- Repetition of the Creed: “There is no god but Allah;
and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah.”
- Almsgiving. In the early days of Islam this was a
yearly tax, used as charity for the poor and repairs
and administrative expenses for mosques [Muslim
places of worship].
- The fast during the sacred month of Ramadan,
during which Muslims must abstain from food.
- The pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime.