The entirety of this blog is to focus on those items that distinguish Islam from Christianity and vice versa. Some of these articles are ironic and others thought-provoking. Yet perhaps none is more foundational than that of the relation between the Creator and His creation.
In both Christianity and Islam, adherents testify that they worship the creator of the heavens and the earth. This foundational concept is so basic that it needs little explanation. The Bible begins with God’s creation (Genesis 1:1), and He gives frequent and majestic testimony to His creative power in a number of places such as Isaiah 44:24 and Job 38:4-6. So too in the Qur’an, Allah claims to be the creator of the heavens and the earth,
[6.73] And He it is Who has created the heavens and the earth with truth, and on the day He says: Be, it is. His word is the truth, and His is the kingdom on the day when the trumpet shall be blown; the Knower of the unseen and the seen; and He is the Wise, the Aware.
Some people conclude that since both Christians and Muslims worship the creator, they must be directing that worship to one and the same God. However, a critical difference emerges when examining how the God of the Bible and Allah of the Qur’an interact with their creation.
In Islam, Allah is viewed as being completely above all of creation. Muslims believe that Allah cannot be seen, heard, or experienced by any of our five senses. While the Qur’an doesn’t directly address this question, verses such as 29:6 say that Allah is “above the creation” which is frequently interpreted to mean that Allah cannot exist within His creation. As one Islamic author states, “Allah Most High is transcendent above any quality of His creation, including existing within time or space, as that would entail being limited.” [i] Allah is considered too unique and too majestic to ever be contained in any way by the universe. This doesn’t just include the earth, but the heavens as well. As one Islamic author puts it,
We would like to point out that, in saying that Allah is in the heavens, we do not mean that He is present within the heavens. What we mean is that Allah is above the heavens. He is High above His creation, not connected to them, and that His Ascendancy is that of Being, Position, Honor, and Force; indeed, it is one of His Essential Attributes. [ii]
In other words, part of Allah’s very essence is that He exists beyond the physical realm of heavens or earth.
This brings us to the God of the Bible. As in Islam, God created all that is in existence. However, in Christianity, God does have the capacity to enter the created order. He appeared to Adam in the garden (Genesis 3:8), to Moses on the mountain (Exodus 19:3), and to all Israel at the dedication of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8:11). Yet most importantly, the pinnacle of God’s redeeming work was to enter our world as a human. He came in the most unusual of circumstances, (Matthew 1:18) and yet was born and grew up as any other child. Whereas Islam states that Allah cannot be sensed, the disciples make it clear that that is exactly what happened with respect to Jesus. God showed up in the midst of the universe that He Himself created. He interacted with His disciples who saw Him, heard Him, and experienced His entrance into our physical realm. In fact, Thomas wanted to make sure that he actually felt the wounds with his own hands (John 20:25). This idea is expounded upon in full detail in 1 John 1:1-2
1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—
Muslims would say that Allah is too powerful to be able to enter the creation which he created. However, this shows a limitation. If Allah is too powerful to enter creation, then this illustrates something that he cannot do, thus by definition, admitting a limitation. Being “too powerful” to accomplish something is equivalent to not being able to do it. Yet God is powerful enough to not be limited in such a way; He can do whatever He wants, including entering creation in a form that is able to interact with us. In Christianity, this is exactly what Jesus did.
Once again, the God of the Bible and Allah of the Qur’an show exactly opposite abilities.