Both Christianity and Islam believe sin is real and deadly, incurring the wrath of a deity who punishes it. Both demand repentance and look to a merciful deity for forgiveness.
Murder, theft, adultery, apostasy, and witchcraft are considered pernicious sins in Islam, but the worst sin is idolatry. Thus, “idolater” is the worst name you could call a Muslim. All the above are sins for Christians too, but considering Jesus’ teaching on love as God’s greatest commandment, the worst thing you could call a Christian is: “hater.” That’s why non-Christians with a sinful agenda often pull the label, “hater,” as a trump card to discredit serious Christians.
In his book, What Went Wrong?, Bernard Lewis wrote, “In the Muslim perception, there is no human legislative power, and there is only one law for believers—the Holy Law of God.” While various Islamic laws are subject to the interpretations of religious lawyers, the Muslim mindset remains theocratic. All legitimate laws are Allah’s laws. There are no separate standards of practice for the mosque and the state. In contrast, Jesus made a distinction between the things we render to God and to Caesar. Thus, Christians can distinguish between our eternal devotion to God (which comes first) and our temporal obligations to the state.
Polygamy and slavery are not against Islamic law, so they are not seen as sins. In contrast, Jesus negated polygamy with His definition of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6 as two (male and female) becoming one. Of course, slavery violates Jesus’ golden rule in Matthew 7:12 and has been abolished in all major Christian cultures.
The Muslim Solution:
For Muslims, redemption comes to believers who wise up and follow Allah’s guidance in the Qur’an to distinguish good from evil. There is no blood sacrifice for sin in Islam. Rather, sincerity and good works bring salvation. The Qur’an says; “We shall set up just scales on the Day of Resurrection… Actions as small as a grain of mustard seed shall be weighed out. Our reckoning shall suffice.” (Sura 21:47). The idea of priestly mediation between Allah and man is foreign to Muslims.
According to one tradition, Muhammad personally took part in the stoning of Ghamdiyah, a confessed adulterer. He ordered that a waist-deep hole be dug in which she was buried to preserve decency during the stoning. Then he threw the first stone and she soon perished. (Source, Paul Fregosi, Jihad, 1998). Jesus had a similar opportunity to rule on an adulterous woman (John 8:1ff). His response sums up a big difference between Christianity and Islam. Jesus forgave her and let her live. He told her to go and “sin no more.” (John 8:11).
The Christian Solution:
Christians believe the only solution for sin is found in Jesus who laid down his life accepting the punishment for sin that we, like the adulterous woman, personally deserved. Muslims respect Jesus as one of 25 prophets of Allah, but they do not believe he really died at the crucifixion nor was He God’s son, much less God in the flesh.
Both Islam and Christianity call for repentance (a 180 turn) and obedience. But for Christians, all the repenting and obeying in our power is insufficient to gain forgiveness and salvation. For this, we needed Jesus to personally lay down His life as a sacrificial lamb once and for all on behalf of repentant sinners.
Adoption into God’s Family!
Christian salvation involves adoption into God’s family, beginning now and extending into eternity. Like Jesus, we call God our Father. It’s personal. In Islam, believers can be Allah’s servants–but not his children. A Qur’anic inscription at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem reads, “Praise be to God, who begets no son… He does not beget, He is not begotten, and He has no peer.” The idea of God as a Father is denounced severely in Islam as the principle Christian error. Muslims cannot relate to a God with a son who suffers and is pierced for our transgressions.
So, Christians find salvation not in the “scales” of judgment but in the nails driven into the hands and feet of God’s Son who willingly died to reconcile us to His heavenly Father. The Qur’an often refers to Allah as merciful but the Bible speaks of God Himself demonstrating His mercy in the flesh, in our midst, and on our behalf to welcome us into His family. The difference is quite personal.