Because of the increasing religious pluralism of the United States, civic literacy includes knowing about the religious beliefs of others. But most Americans have only the vaguest notions about the beliefs of religions other than their own and the ideas they do have are often wrong. To see if this generalization applies to you, take the following True/False test about the beliefs and teachings of Islam. The answers are at the end.
1. True or False – The Quran teaches that God created the heavens and the earth in six days.
2. True or False – Muslims believe that God rested after creating the universe.
3. True or False – Muslims reject the Jewish claim that God parted the sea to allow the Israelites under Moses to pass through.
4. True or False – Muslims reject the Christian claim that Jesus was born of a virgin.
5. True or False – The Quran teaches that Jesus raised people from the dead.
6. True or False – Muslims believe that Jesus died on the cross, but was not resurrected.
7. True or False – Muslims believe that Muhammad and not Jesus will return at the end of time.
8. True or False – The Quran teaches that Jesus is the Messiah.
9. True or False – Muslims believe that Jesus is the son of God.
10. True or False – Muhammad is the person mentioned most frequently in the Quran.
11. True or False – Muslims were the first to claim that Abraham’s son Ishmael is the father of the Arabs.
12. True or False – Muhammad considered himself God’s greatest messenger.
13. True or False – The worship of “Allah” is unique to Islam.
14. True or False – Christians must renounce all their beliefs in Jesus before they can become a Muslim.
15 True or False – Muslims believe that people will go to heaven when they die only if they accept Muhammad as their savior.
1. True. See Quran 50:38
2. False. Muslims believe that attributing to God a need to rest improperly attributes human needs to a transcendent God. As a result, Muslims believe that God did not rest after creating the universe and have no day of rest comparable to the Jewish Sabbath. See Quran 50:38
3. False. The Quran expressly adopts the story of the miraculous escape of the Israelites from Egypt. See Quran 2:50. The Quran also talks about Noah and the flood (Quran 21:76), David slaying Goliath (Quran 2:51), the trials of Job (Quran 38:41) and many other Biblical stories familiar to Jews and Christians.
4. False. The Quran expressly adopts the Christian view that Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary. Quran 3:47.
5. True. Quran 3:49.
6. False. The Quran teaches that Jesus did not die on the cross and that someone resembling him took his place. Quran 4:157. Muslims believe that God would not have allowed someone as holy as Jesus to be executed as a criminal. The Quran teaches that Jesus was raised heaven having never died. Quran 4:158.
7. False. Muslims believe Muhammad died a natural death, never to return. On the other hand, the Quran teaches that God took Jesus to heaven directly (Quran 4:158), where he now resides and awaits his return to earth at the time of the final judgment (Quran 4:159; 43:61).
9. False. Although Muslims believe that Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary, they (like Jews) reject as pagan and sexual the concept of a son of God. Quran 9:30. This passage from the Quran is typical: “[He is] Originator of the heavens and the earth. How could He have a son when He does not have a companion and He created all things?” Quran 6:101. The Quran teaches that God decreed that Jesus be born (Quran 3:47) in the same way that God decreed that Adam be born (Quran 3:59), without a father. The Muslim disagreement with the Christian claim that Jesus is the son of God is the fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity.
11. False. During the first century, the Jewish historian Josephus wrote that Ishmael was the father of “an Arab nation.” Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 1.12.4.
12. False. “From the beginning of his ministry, Muhammad revered Jesus as the greatest of God’s messengers.” Prothero, Stephen, God is Not One (HarperOne 2010) at 101. Muslims regard Muhammad as a human being chosen by God to be his final messenger.
13. False. The word “Allah” is Arabic for God and Arabic-speaking Christians both before and after Muhammad refer to the God of the Bible as “Allah.” There has been speculation that Muhammad first learned of Allah from Arabic-speaking Christians in Syria.
14. False. To become a Muslim, converts must reject the orthodox Christian claim that Jesus is God, but need not reject other Christian beliefs about Jesus, including his birth to a virgin and his expected return. Not all Christians today accept the orthodox view that Jesus is God and disagreements over the nature of Jesus and God led to early divisions among Christians.
15. False. Muslims see no need for a savior, believing that a person’s fate at death is entirely a function of his or her actions while on earth. Quran 21:47. Muslims reject as illogical both the idea of original sin and the idea that even the most egregious sins can be forgiven.
Donald E. Knebel is a partner in Barnes & Thornburg LLP, resident in the Indianapolis, Indiana office. He is a member of the firm’s Intellectual Property Law Department. Mr. Knebel serves as adjunct professor and senior advisor to the Center for Intellectual Property Research at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. He frequently posts his observations here at Civic Blog. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Barnes & Thornburg LLP or the IU Maurer School of Law.