Quiz on World Religions

1)      Which religion has no official god?

a)      Buddhism

b)      Hinduism

c)       Islam

d)      Judaism

e)      Christianity

2)      Which religion has an estimated 330 million gods?

a)      Buddhism

b)      Hinduism

c)       Islam

d)      Judaism

e)      Christianity

3)      Which religion has no clear founder?

a)      Buddhism

b)      Hinduism

c)       Islam

d)      Judaism

e)      Christianity

4)      Nirvana in Buddhism is

a)      A place like the Christian Heaven

b)      Escape from suffering and desire

c)       A state of extreme bliss

d)      Annihilation of self

5)      In Islam, Jesus is considered to be

a)      A great prophet

b)      The Son of God

c)       A heretic

d)      A good teacher who taught some truth but also some falsehoods

6)      What percent of American Christians believe that there is salvation in other religions?

a)      8%

b)      17%

c)       52%

d)      79%

7)      Circle the religion(s) that believe that Jesus was born of a virgin.

a)      Christianity

b)      Islam

c)       Hinduism

d)      Buddhism

What does everyone believe – Comparative Religion

World Religions Overview








2.1 billion




1.5 billion




1 billion



Chinese Traditional Religion

394 million




375 million




300 million



African Traditional

100 million



Judaism with 14 million adherents at 0.2% is ranked 12th.

In this course we are going to study Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.

Expected Growth


Here is expected growth of the world’s religions from 2010 to 2050. Global population rate is predicted to be 35%.

Islam would be the only major religion that would exceed the overall population growth rate.


Growth Rate Percentage

Expected Adherents (billions)

Percent Global Population























Why study other religions?


26% of Protestant churchgoers believe that there is salvation in other religions.


Look at 1 John 4:1, 4-6

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Out in the world there is a spirit of truth (one spirit of truth) and a spirit of error (many spirits of error actually). God wants us to know and to be able to test both.

Some benefits/reasons to know other religions.

1)      It allows us to better share the Gospel with them.

Acts 17:22-23 we read, “So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.’”

Paul first examined their gods and beliefs and then he used their very weaknesses and vulnerabilities as a launching point to proclaim the Gospel. This indicates that he did not use the exact same method for everyone but that he understood from where they were coming from and started from there.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

This does not mean that we should become a Buddhist to win Buddhists or a Muslim to win Muslims, but, I believe, that it does mean that we should understand as much as possible about the people that we are sharing the Gospel with. Paul’s equation is basically:

Relating to them = Winning the more of them

2)      It will strengthen our own Christian faith. There are numerous ways to view the universe, life, and the divine. Which one is correct? Which one is the most reasonable and consistent, the most historically verifiable, the most prophetically accurate, the most experientially valid? As we compare Christianity to other religions, I believe that we will see that Christianity is far and away the one that meets all of these criteria. I believe that we will come away confident that we, as Christians, made the right choice.

3)       God tells us in 2 Corinthians 2:11, “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” One is one of Satan’s greatest schemes? Probably to present a false alternative that looks appealing and will pull many over to it from the true Gospel. We should not be ignorant of these schemes.

4)      Ephesians 5:11 says, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” Expose them with the truth. But can you expose what you know nothing about?

5)      When you show the person that you know something about their beliefs then it shows to them that you care about them and that you made an effort to understand them before trying to win them over to your side. It is not so much, “Even though I don’t know anything about your beliefs I do know that they are wrong” but more “I do know something about what you believe and I’d like to share something that I think you might find interesting and helpful.”

6)      It prepares you to explain why Christianity is more viable. Suppose your friend comes to you and says, “I am going to convert to Buddhism because they are a peaceful people and I want peace in my life.” If you do not know anything about Buddhism then what will you say?—“Christianity gives you peace also.” He might respond, “That’s nice, but I’m picking Buddhism.” Your answer, “But Christianity is true.” “Why?” Then what do you say? But if you know even a little about Buddhism then you might be able to reply, “Buddhists meditate and seek peace because their lives are an endless cycle of rebirth, death, rebirth, death, rebirth, dead forever. And in all of those lives there is suffering. If that what you really want? But if you really want peace, Jesus says in John 14:27, ‘Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.’ Jesus offers peace apart from endless cycles of suffering. Doesn’t that sound better?”

Is it necessary to know something about Buddhism to win a Buddhist to Christ? No, but I believe that it helps.

Do all Religions Ultimately lead to God?


A Pew Research Center survey in 2008 found that 52% of American Christians think that at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life.

If you ask the all Americans who are affiliated with a religion (i.e. atheists, agonists, and non-religious people are not included) who can achieve eternal life this is the results:

My religion is the one, true faith leading to eternal life:  29%

Many religions can lead to eternal life:   65%

Don’t know/refused:     6%

When asked what determines eternal life, here are the results:

One’s belief:      30%

One’s actions:   29%

Combination of actions/belief:  10%

Don’t believe in eternal life:        7%

Don’t know/refused:     14%

More Americans believe that at least some other religions than their own religion are true enough to obtain eternal life. Therefore, this is a serious issue.

There is an analogy that many use to demonstrate that all religions are valid. There are four blind men who discover an elephant. Since the men have never encountered an elephant, they grope about, seeking to understand and describe this new phenomenon.

One grasps the trunk and concludes it is a snake. Another explores one of the elephant’s legs and describes it as a tree. A third finds the elephant’s tail and announces that it is a rope. And the fourth blind man, after discovering the elephant’s side, concludes that it is, after all, a wall.

Each in his blindness is describing the same thing: an elephant. Yet each describes the same thing in a radically different way.

This illustrates how different religions are describing the same spiritual reality but in radically different ways. God is the elephant. Christianity may describe it as its legs, Islam may describe it as the trunk, Hinduism may describe it as the tail but ultimately they are all truthfully describing a part of the greater whole and so all of their viewpoints are correct even though they differ. The conclusion is that all religions are equally valid and are merely ways of describing the same thing.

Here is what some have said about all religions leading to the same truth.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The soul of religion is one, but it is encased in a multitude of forms.”

The Bahá'í religion claims, “In reality, there is only one religion, the religion of God. This one religion is continually evolving, and each particular religious system represents a stage in the evolution of the whole.”

Unitarian Universalist Church, “We believe there is wisdom in most, if not all, of the world's religions. We feel each is valuable for what it can tell us about ourselves and our world, and how its members find religious meaning and direction.” Also, “We believe that people are punished by their sins, not for them, and that the evil people do lives with them. We also believe that we are enriched by our virtues and that the good we do lives with us and helps make the world better. You could attend a UU church for years and seldom hear the word sin.”

 One problem with the elephant analogy is that all four blind men are drawing their conclusions from very limited data. And because of that all of their conclusions are wrong. Yes, one aspect of an elephant is like a tree, but to say that the entire elephant is like a tree is wrong. If they all felt the elephant from every spot and angle then they would in fact draw the same conclusion: an elephant is a large animal with large ears, a trunk, four thick legs, and a long thin tail.

This leads to the first reason as to why all religions are not valid or in their own way lead to ultimate truth.

1)      In comparing religions you cannot pick and choose what you want just to prove your point. You must consider all aspects of the religions that you are comparing.

You cannot take limited parts of religions that are in agreement and draw the conclusion that they all the same. Yes, all religions believe in many of the same moral principles. But to draw the conclusion that they are pointing to the same thing you must use all of the data. And for religions, unlike the elephant, they will point to very different conclusions.

When you try to dilute all religions so as to get to a common denominator then you wind up ignoring huge parts of each religion, which is wrong and deceitful.

2)      When comparing any two religions, they will explicitly contradict each other in major areas.

Another problem is that all of their conclusions are not contradictory. It is not that one is saying that an elephant is covered in feathers and another is saying that it is covered in scales. The parts of an elephant are indeed just like each described.

In contrast, religions explicitly contradict each other. The fundamental law of non-contradiction states that A and Not-A cannot exist simultaneously.

Christianity says that Jesus Himself literally died on a cross. Islam says that Jesus was instead taken up into Heaven and a substitute died in His place. Can those twos views be at all reconciled without terribly distorting them?

To Christians, Jesus is God. To Hindus, He is not god and is merely a prophet. Can both be true? Are these not as contradictory as can be?

Christianity affirms the Trinity; Islam explicitly denies the Trinity. These are not two ways of viewing the same thing. One is saying feathers and the other is saying scales.

3)      When you try to make all religions valid you end up denying or contradicting major aspects of each religion that indeed does make it unique.

In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” If all religions are valid then Jesus lied because then people can come to the Father through other means.

In Acts 4:12 Peter said, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Again, if Christianity is not the only way to God then Peter lied or was at least very wrong. If that is the case then how can we believe anything else that he said? And then, a good portion of the New Testament is out the window.

Of the five pillars of Islam the very first one states that you must believe, "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger." For all religions to be valid then this statement must be false and so you have now lost perhaps the most key tenet of Islam.

4)      In order to make all religions valid you are making this goal the ultimate determining factor rather than truth or logic

The goal for the pluralist is to make all religions just different paths that lead to the top of the same mountain. Therefore, anything that contradicts this goal is discarded or twisted in order to explain it away. Truth and facts are not as important as the theory being right. Peace, love, and tolerance are more important than the nature of God and the means of salvation.

So in the end, all religions cannot be valid. They are all not equal paths to the top of the same mountain. There is not a Christian path and a Jewish path, and a Hindu path.

There is only truth about who God is and it is vital that we believe that truth. I, of course, believe that Christianity has that one truth but that is for another study.





There are around 1 billion Hindus in the world today which is 15% of the population. This makes it the third largest religion behind Christianity and Islam.

The country with the most Hindus by far is India with about 98% of the world’s Hindu population at 960,000,000. Nepal is second with 21,000,000 and Bangladesh is third with 14,000,000.

Of the top eleven classical world religions based on internal cohesiveness and unity Hinduism ranked as the most diverse (http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html). This makes it more difficult to study.



Hinduism is unique among the world’s major religions in that it has no founder and no clear time of origin. It is also the most diverse in that it was formed from many different beliefs , traditions, and philosophies and even today holds many viewpoints that may appear contradictory. However, the Hindu insight claims that the Oneness simply expresses itself in many different forms and ways.

Because Hinduism is so diverse, it makes it difficult to determine what all Hindus believe.

Hinduism has no governing, authoritative body and no one book that claims supreme truth.

Hinduism started in the Indus Valley which was located in the basin of the river Indus which flows through Pakistan. The name “Hindu” is derived from the Indus River. The religion in this area prior to Hinduism—we’re talking around 2,000 BC--emphasized ritual bathing, sacrifice, and goddess worship.

The currently dominant theory is that around 1,500 BC the Aryans—whose name means “noble”—either migrated or invaded the Indus Basin. The Aryans came from central Asia.

As a side note, the Aryans used the symbol of the swastika. Swastika means “good fortune” or “well-being.” In the late 1800’s a German archeologist speculated that the Aryans were Germany’s remote ancestors. Thus Nazism adopted the name “Aryan” to imply a noble or superior race and the swastika as their most recognizable symbol even appearing on the Nazi flag.

The Aryans developed the caste system which ranked society into four groups called varnas (pronounced var-nahs):

1.       the Brahmins: priests, teachers and preachers -> Those engaged in scriptural knowledge, teaching, and knowledge.

2.       the Kshatriyas (pronounced kah-shah-tree-ahs): kings, governors, warriors and soldiers -> Public service, maintenance, and defense.

3.       the Vaishyas (pronounced vice-yahs): cattle herders, agriculturists, businessmen, artisans, and merchants -> Commercial and business activity.

4.       the Shudras (pronounced shoo-drahs): laborers and service providers -> semi-skilled and unskilled workers.

 Another group known as the “Dalits” were excluded from the varna system because they were ostracized as the untouchables.

Today the caste system is illegal in India.

Back to history.

Between 1,500 and 1,000 BC a collection of hymns and religious texts were composed. There are called The Vedas (pronounced Vay-dahs). These ritual hymns that were passed down orally for centuries are were gathered in several collections with the most well-known of these being the Rigveda (pronounced Rig-vay-dah) which is the earliest of all Hindu texts. The Rigveda includes 1028 hymns with half of them devoted to their three main gods: Indri, Agni, and Soma.

1)      Indra was a war god and the slayer of demons and animals.

2)      Agni was the god of fire.

3)      Soma was the god of a drink. This drink, also called Soma, played a prominent role in priestly rituals and also for warriors. It was probably hallucinogenic.

In this period, known as the Vedic times, religion primarily focused on ritual sacrifice. It was believed that rituals and ceremonies maintained the order of the universe and keep it running smoothly. Rituals and ceremonies were, in a way, seen as a deal between humans and the gods. Humans would honor gods through their sacrifices and the gods would then provide protection and prosperity.

However, when events would go awry then the priests would be blamed. The priests, of course, would claim that the problem was that the sacrifices were of poor quality and so the gods were displeased. The priests’ solution was to create literature which detailed how the rituals were to be performed and the exact quality and quantity of the materials to be used. These new texts written around 600 BC called the Brahmanas, named after the Brahman priests, claimed that if done exactly as stated would force the gods to respond favorably. Of course, these new rituals did not prove to be any more efficacious than the old ones. The result was that society began to reject a religion centered on ritual and sacrifice. Instead people more sacrificed flowers, prayers, incense, fruit, and music.

Some others believed that asceticism was the right path. Asceticism is the practice of denial. Many would live as hermits. Some practices that developed during this new spiritual philosophy were meditation, fasting, and celibacy.

During this time (between 800 and 200 BC) some of the foundations of the Hindu faith were developed. These included reincarnation, karma, and "personal enlightenment and transformation"

There was a key change in the purpose of religion. It went from maintaining the cosmos to improving the self. The individual becomes more important. The emphasis went from good weather and crops to personal goodness.

Around 300 BC these gods began to fade and two other gods became more prominent. These were Vishnu and Shiva. Vishnu is associated with creation and Shiva with destruction. These gods may seem to be the opposite of each other but in the Hindu eternal cycle of creation (rebirth) and destruction (death) they both play a crucial and, in a way, complementary role.

Then around 100 BC a third god came to play a prominent role and that is Brahma. Brahma became the creator, Vishnu became the maintainer, and Shiva remained the destroyer. These three gods are the supreme deities and are called “The Hindu Triad” or the “Great Trinity.”

Hindus have not engaged much in territorial conquest or empire building. But starting around the 3rd century BC for the next 800 years Hinduism spread throughout the countries around India. Vietnam was one of the first countries followed by Indonesia, Bali, and Java. By 500 AD Hinduism had spread as far south as Sri Lanka. Even today, by far the greatest percentage of Hindus is in India and its surrounding regions.

Now we’ll take a look at some key Hindu beliefs.

Is Hinduism monotheistic, polytheistic, or pantheistic?

Though it appears that Hinduism has around 330 million gods, most Hindus will actually claim to be monotheistic. This is because they believe that there is really only one supreme god who goes by different names but is usually known as Brahman. The 330 million gods are divine creations of that one supreme god. The Veda says, “Great indeed are the Gods who have sprung out of Brahman."

How do they come up with 330 million gods? The Rigveda and Upanishad each speak of 11 gods in heaven, 11 on the earth, and 11 in mid-air. Each one of these gods is the equivalent of 1 crore. Therefore there are 33 crore deities. A crore is equal to 10 million. Therefore 33 times 10 million equals 330 million.

There are four main sects in Hinduism each one defined by the god that they worship.

These four are:

1.       Shiva

2.       Vishnu

3.       Shakti (pronounced Shuck-tee)

4.       The fourth sees all deities as reflections of the one god. Therefore, the choice of which deity to worship is left to each individual.

God is not viewed as being far away but is inside of each soul in the heart and consciousness waiting to be discovered. But god is both in the world and beyond it.

Hindus do not usually see themselves as devoted to Hinduism as much as they see themselves devoted to a specific god such as Shiva or Vishnu.

Here are some of the most well-known of the Hindu gods.

Vishnu’s name means “all pervading” and is the protector of the world and the restorer of moral order which is the dharma. Vishnu has had many incarnations or avatars but the most popular of these is Krishna. He is usually depicted as being the color blue with four arms. He is holding an object in each hand. He is quoted as saying, “The world rests as the lotus in the palm of my hand, the cosmos revolves around my finger like a discus. I blow the music of life through my conch and wield my mace to protect all creatures."

Shiva’s name means “Auspicious One.” Shiva is defined as “both the destroyer and the restorer, the great ascetic and the symbol of sensuality, the benevolent herdsman of souls and the wrathful avenger.” In one myth there is poison that is churned up by the waters and which threatens to destroy mankind. Shiva holds this poison in his throat and saves the world. This is why many pictures of Shiva show him with a blue throat.

Ganesha (pronounced Guh-nay-shuh)  is one of Hindu’s most worshipped and well known of all of the deities. Ganesha is easily recognized because he has the head of an elephant and is usually riding a mouse. He is Lord or Remover of Obstacles both spiritual and material. He is also worshipped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth.

Durga (pronounced Door-a-gah) is the mother of the universe and the power behind the work of creation, preservation, and destruction of the world. One meaning of her name is “fort” meaning a place that is hard to overrun. Another meaning translates as “the one who eliminates suffering.”  She protects her devotees from the evils of the world and removes their sufferings. She is depicted as having either eight or ten arms thus protecting her devotees from all directions. She has three eyes. The left eye represents desire (the moon), the right eye represents action (the sun), and the central eye represents knowledge (fire). She is riding a lion. The lion represents power, will, and determination. By riding the lion this shows that she has mastery over all of these.

Hinduism views existence as composed of three worlds.

The First World is the physical universe

The Second World is the subtle astral or mental plane of existence in which the devas (pronounced day-vahs), angels and spirits live

The Third World is the spiritual universe of the Mahadevas (pronounced muh-hah-day-vahs), "great shining beings," which is the Hindu Gods.

Hinduism is the harmonious working together of these three worlds and it is in the Hindu temple where these three worlds meet. The temple is the home of the gods. This god is an intelligent being who is greater and more evolved then the worshippers. The god is aware of the approaching worshipper, knows his every thought, safeguards him, and is capable of dealing with any situation that the worshipper may bring to the god. The physical image of the god in the temple is where the god resides.

The worshipper will perform a religious ritual that establishes communication with the god. The god will produce a vibration that is called Shakti (pronounced Shuck-tee). It begins as a simple physical glimpse of the form of the god which becomes a clairvoyant vision. It is through this vision that a message is received. This message is usually not conscious but is considered more real than the everyday language that you speak. This is how the mahadevas converse with us.

Shakti can change the effects of bad karma that dated back many past lives. This karma might not have had any effect on these previous lives but are seeds waiting to affect our future. Shakti can clean out this karma and remove it., clearing and clarifying conditions that were created hundreds of years ago and are but seeds now, waiting to manifest in the future.

The ultimate communication with god is the Hindu science of meditation called yoga. Yoga leads to the union and merging of the worshipper with the One. True yoga is not easily attained. It requires years of devotion and service. While in yoga, the gods act as sentries guarding the gates of the various states of consciousness.


Nine Beliefs of Hinduism

Hindus are very diverse in their beliefs; however, the below are nine core beliefs that most Hindus would agree on.

  1. Hindus believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both indwelling and transcendent.

Upanishad 4.14-15 states, “He is the God of forms infinite in whose glory all things are--smaller than the smallest atom, and yet the Creator of all, ever living in the mystery of His creation. In the vision of this God of love there is everlasting peace. He is the Lord of all who, hidden in the heart of things, watches over the world of time.”

  1. Hindus believe in the divinity of the four Vedas, which they consider to be the world's most ancient scripture.

The sacred texts of Hinduism consist of a vast array of written and oral scriptures which include poems, rituals, devotions, histories, myths, and philosophies. There are two basic categories of these texts: 1) Shruti (pronounced Shru-tee) which are the revealed texts and 2) Smriti (pronounced smrit-ee) which are the remembered texts.

The Shruti consist of four main texts:

a)      Vedas (pronounced Vay-dahs)

b)      Brahmanas (pronounced Brah-muh-nuh)

c)       Upanishads (pronounced Oo-pah-nuh-shahds)

d)      Bhagavadgita (pronounced buhg-uh-vuhd-gee-tah)

The Vedas are the primary authority of Hinduism. They were composed around 1,500 BC and committed to writing after 300 BC. Veda means wisdom, knowledge, or vision. The laws of the Vedas inform the social, legal, religious, and domestic aspects of Hindu culture. It is believed that the Vedas were revealed to the sages by god and were handed down by word of mouth.

The Brahmanas are commentaries on rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices.

The Upanishads were written between 800 and 400 B.C. They are a continuation of the Vedas. They instruct on how the soul (Atman) can be united with the ultimate truth (Brahman) through mediation. They also discuss philosophy and spiritual knowledge.

The Bhagavadgita is a 700-verse epic story. It is a dialogue between Pandava prince Arjuna and his guide and charioteer Krishna. Krishna counsels the prince to fulfil his warrior duty and establish Dharma. A key theme is selfless action and was the inspiration for Mahatma Gandhi. Many consider this to be the most influential text in Hinduism.

Smriti means “that which is remembered.” They were composed around 500 BC. Smriti comments and interprets the Vedas. It is generally considered less authoritative than the Shrutis. Whereas the Shruti is considered to have divine origins, the Smriti is not. 

  1. Hindus believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution or ending.
  2. Hindus believe in karma which is the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds.

Upanishad 4.4.5 states, “According as one acts, so does he become. One becomes virtuous by virtuous action, bad by bad action.”

Karma means “deed or act.” The one who sows goodness will reap goodness and the one who sows evil will reap evil. It is karma that determines what we will be reborn as. Good karma means that we will be reborn in a better state. If we had bad karma then we will return in a worse state.

  1. Hindus believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha, liberation from the cycle of rebirth, is attained. Not a single soul will be deprived of this destiny.

Upanishad 4.4.6 states, “After death, the soul goes to the next world, bearing in mind the subtle impressions of its deeds, and after reaping their harvest returns again to this world of action. Thus, he who has desires continues subject to rebirth.”

When we die we leave the physical body and enter into the inner, unseen worlds where we will either enjoy or suffer the results of our karma until it is time for yet another physical birth.

We are not the body in which we live but we are the immortal soul which inhabits many bodies as we journey through samara.

Reincarnation ceases when karma is resolved, God is realized and moksha (pronounced Mok-sha) which is liberation is attained.

  1. Hindus believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals, sacraments and personal devotionals create a communion with these devas (pronounced Day-Vahs) and gods.
  2. Hindus believe that an enlightened master, or satguru, is essential to know the Transcendent Absolute, as are personal discipline, good conduct, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry, meditation and surrender in God.

The ultimate goal of the Hindu is to achieve moksha (pronounced Mohk-sha), or union with the eternal soul, Brahman.

The soul is compared to a drop of water and liberation to its merging into the vast ocean which represents the Supreme Soul (God).


  1. Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa (pronounced Ah-him-sah) which is noninjury in thought, word and deed.

It is believed that violent actions of our conflictions and war is only a manifestation of the war raging within ourselves. Therefore, only by stopping the war within can we then stop the war on the outside. This violence is usually in the forms of disappointment, resentment, guilt, and shame.

One of the key purposes of yoga is to learn to practice non-violence in ourselves. This is accomplished by becoming aware of our inner violence. Once we recognize this violence then we do not have to push it, we can just watch it leave. It is by repeating violent thoughts that they become violent actions. Instead by not reacting to them will they then disappear.

  1. Hindus believe that no religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others, but that all genuine paths are facets of God's Light, deserving tolerance and understanding.



Tirukural 31-32 reads, “Dharma yields Heaven's honor and Earth's wealth. What is there then that is more fruitful for a man? There is nothing more rewarding than dharma, nor anything more ruinous than its neglect.”

Dharma is God’s law. It instructs us in the behavior that is most conducive to spiritual development. It is what leads us on the righteous path. It teaches us right duty and obligation. By following Dharma we are in conformity with Truth and are close to god. Dharma combines moral law with spiritual discipline. If you live according to Dharma then you will have good karma. If you go against Dharma then you will have bad karma.

Differences between Christianity and Hinduism





Means of salvation

By the free gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ

By practicing Dharma and achieving moksha


Many prophets in the Bible

No prophets

Humanity’s problem

Sin (rebellion against God)


The solution to humanity’s problem

Receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior

Practicing dharma to liberate oneself from suffering and bad karma

The result of the solution

Complete forgiveness, eternal life, justification, reconciliation, and much more

Moksha which is union with the eternal soul, Brahman


One God expresses by the Trinity

One overall god with 330 million deities

Scared books

The Bible

Vedas, Brahmanas, Upanishads, Bhagavadgita

Time related to a soul

Linear with one birth, life, and death

Cyclical with infinite rebirths, lives, and deaths

How destiny is determined

Being born-again (Salvation through Jesus Christ as Savior) or not being born-again (Eternal punishment in Hell)


View of Jesus


Jesus was one of the incarnations (avatars) of God


How to share the Gospel with a Hindu


1)      Always show respect for their religious beliefs. In Acts 17:16-34 when Paul was at Areopagus and delivered what we call the “Sermon on Mars Hill” we see that while Paul commended their religious fervor, he pointed out the shortcomings in their beliefs. But in no way did he mock or belittle them or their beliefs. Two key words are used in verses 17 and 18: “reasoning” and “conversing.” This means that Paul listened to them and discussed Christianity with them. The result in verse 20 is that they wanted to know more. Paul did not stand there and preach AT them; rather, he discussed with them and presented Jesus. It takes more humility and confidence to discuss the Gospel then to simply preach it. We must respect that many Hindus are trying to do what is right according to their scriptures. We must show them that there is a better way.

2)      Use stories. Many of the Hindu scriptures are stories. See the Bhagavadgita. They relate to the divine through story. Therefore, share many of the Bible’s stories to illustrate points. For example, the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). In this story we see selfishness, sin, and bad choices. This would equate to bad karma. But we also see a personal, caring Father who receives back his son and forgives him without any need for the son to make restitution or suffer punishment.

Another example is the paralytic in Luke 5:17-26. Here we see a man who is suffering but instead of dying in his pain and possibly being reincarnated into a lesser state, we see him being healed by Jesus and being set free, not by any works on his own but by the grace of God.

3)      Emphasize forgiveness. In the Hindu system of Karma and Samsara there is no grace and forgiveness. Hindus are basically on their own to “get it right.” Yes, there are masters who can help them, but it is their own discipline, meditation, and adherence to Dharma that will bring them to Moksha. Discuss how God forgives us of all of our sins not because we are good but because He paid for all of our punishment on the cross.

You can share the Passion in Matthew 26:36 to Matthew 28:10. Maybe even meet several times and go over this section paragraph by paragraph explaining what went on and why.

Or you can use the story of the adulterous woman in John 8:1-12. Verse 12 is a key connection to the story because it shows that Jesus is the answer; Jesus is the light of the world. The woman was publically caught in adultery. This was obviously bad karma. Yet at the end she left without condemnation. She did nothing in the interim to reverse this. It was all Jesus. The release came from Jesus’ loving and forgiving heart. 

4)      The ultimate goal of a Hindu’s soul is to reunite with the one absolute god. Though the Hindu concept of this is different than Christianity’s you can still emphasize that we both have as our greatest desire a union with God. Then discuss how the Bible is primarily a story about God pursuing us so that we might be reconciled with Him.

There are stories such as Luke 15:3-7 about the man (God) searching diligently for his one lost sheep (each person) and then when he has found this sheep he embraces it and carries it home where everyone rejoices greatly. This is a wonderful picture of a personal, caring God.

1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” This verse tells us that we can be God’s children. Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” It is through Christ Jesus that we are brought near. 1 Corinthians 1:9, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is God’s perfect and absolute faithfulness that brings us into a relationship with Him and not our own efforts.

5)      Share your testimony. Your own experience with God is crucial. It shows that God is personal and cares about each one of us. Show them Scriptures such as Jeremiah 29:11-12, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” Also, Jeremiah 23:23, “’Am I a God who is near,’” declares the Lord, ‘And not a God far off?’”




Buddhism has around 360,000,000 adherents which is 6 - 7% of the world’s population.

The countries with the largest Buddhist populations are in order: China, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.  India, where Buddhism started, comes in tenth with 7 million adherents.

The Buddha - Siddhārtha Gautama


Buddhism started with Siddhārtha Gautama  (pronounced Si-dar-tah Gow-tah-mah) who was born in Lumbini, Nepal which is in the Himalayan foothills. Siddhārtha Gautama was born in the Brahmin class as a warrior prince in 624 BC. His actual birth date is in dispute. Some put it as 563 BC. His parents were the king and queen. It is believed that his mother died within a few days of his birth. Legend has it that at his birth celebrations a soothsayer (oracle or seer) named Asita predicted that he would become a renouncer which means that he would withdraw from temporal life, i.e. that he would become an ascetic. To prevent this, his father filled his life with many pleasures and luxuries and restricted him to the castle. He was shielded from seeing human suffering and from religious teachings and was surrounded by only young, healthy people. His father felt that he needed to keep his son sheltered until his son wholly completed to being king.

At 16 years old his father arranged for him to marry his cousin. They had a son.

But at 29, despite his father’s efforts to keep him protected from seeing suffering, Siddhārtha insisted on going on a chariot ride to meet his subjects. The king acquiesced but carefully planned out the route so that his son would only see young, healthy people. But he saw an old man that wandered onto the parade route. His charioteer explained that people do grow old and then die. This was a shock to Siddhārtha.

 He went out on more trips where he witnessed sickness and then death (as a corpse). Finally he saw an ascetic renouncer. These are referred to as “The Four Sights.” The first three sights depressed him and caused him great distress. His illusions were shattered. He concluded that pleasure could only mask human suffering. However the ascetic renouncer, who had given up everything seemed to be the only one who was truly happy. He left his wife and son, took several teachers with him, and went out into the forest to practice severe renunciation. For six years he practiced self-denial. Five other ascetics joined him. The problem was that his renunciation was so severe that he nearly starved to death. He basically restricted his diet to a leaf or a nut a day.

Here is a quote from the Buddha about this time. “Through feeding on a single kola-fruit a day, my body reached a state of extreme emaciation. Because of eating so little my limbs became like the jointed segments of vine stems or bamboo stems. Because of eating so little my backside became like a camel's hoof. Because of eating so little the projections on my spine stood forth like corded beads. Because of eating so little my ribs jutted out as gaunt as the crazy rafters of an old roofless barn. Because of eating so little the gleam of my eyes sank far down in their sockets, looking like a gleam of water which has sunk far down in a deep well. Because of eating so little my scalp shrivelled and withered as a green bitter gourd shrivels and withers in the wind and sun. Because of eating so little my belly skin adhered to my backbone; thus if I touched my belly skin I encountered my backbone, and if I touched my backbone I encountered my belly skin. Because of eating so little, if I tried to ease my body by rubbing my limbs with my hands, the hair, rotted at its roots, fell from my body as I rubbed.”

While bathing in a river he collapsed and nearly drowned. A peasant girl took pity on him and gave him some rice-milk. When the five ascetics saw him eating this food they assumed that he had given up on the ascetic life and promptly left him.

Siddhārtha realized that these severe practices were not accomplishing anything. Needless to say, he had to reconsider his path and decided to follow the Middle Way. That night he sat under a Bodhi (pronounced Bow-dee) tree determined to meditate until he found the answers to suffering. He sat there for several days. It is said that he first cleared his mind of everything and then opened his mind up to the truth. He saw his life and recalled his 100,000 previous lives and then the entire universe. But a demon named Mara (pronounced Mar-ah) came and attacked him. Mara brought vast armies of demons but Siddhārtha remained still. Then Mara’s beautiful daughter came and tried to seduce him but this also failed. Finally Mara claimed that the seat of enlightenment was his alone. Mara’s demons backed him up by shouting, “I am his witness!” Mara then challenged Siddhārtha by asking him, “Who will speak for you?” Siddhārtha responded by touching the earth with his right hand. The earth roared out, “I bear you witness” at which point Mara fled. As the morning sun rose Siddhārtha gained enlightenment and the answer to suffering. It was then that he became the Buddha. Buddha literally means the "Awakened" or "Enlightened One."

At first the Buddha was reluctant to teach what he had learned because he feared that people would misunderstand. But Brahma, the king of the gods, came to Buddha and convinced him to go out and teach.

About 100 miles from where he gained enlightenment he met the five ascetics who had previously abandoned him. To them and some others he preached his first sermon. This became known as “The Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Dharma” in which he explained the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path which became the pillars of Buddhism. Instead of teaching doctrine, the Buddhism taught a path of practice by which people can find enlightenment themselves. These people became his first disciples and formed a community of monks called the Sangha.

He was later reunited with his father, wife, and son all of whom became his disciples. Even though in his culture women were ranked far below men, he allowed women in the Sangha. He said that no matter what a person’s status, wealth, gender, or nationality was they were all capable of enlightenment and were welcome into the Sangha. The first ordained Buddhist monk had been a barber.

For the remaining 45 years of his life the Buddha traveled throughout northern India teaching people about enlightenment. At 80 years old he ate some spoiled food and died. His last words are said to be the following:

"Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation."

Spread of Buddhism


After Siddhārtha’s death his followers established communities of monks throughout northern India. They would wander through villages with their begging bowls teaching others the way of enlightenment.

However, sectarian fragmentations and schisms occurred due to differences in language and doctrine, loyalties to different teachers, and to the fact that there was no overall governing authority either as an individual or an organizational, unifying structure.

A few months after the Buddha’s death the first council was held in 486 BC. Its purpose was to determine and write down the teachings of the Buddha (sutra). However, they were not written down but were preserved as oral teachings.

The second council was held 100 years later in 386 BC. By this time there were around 25 different schools of Buddhism. This counsel was convened to settle a dispute. One of the schools taught that the Buddha had the attributes of a god and also were lax in applying certain disciplines. These disciplines were the “Ten Points.” The key issue was the tenth point: “Using gold and silver” which means using any kind of money. The monks were not supposed to collect money, only food and other necessities. Some of the other points were “Eating after midday,” “Using a rug which was not the proper size,” “Eating sour milk after one had his midday meal,” and “Storing salt in a horn.” The result was that this school was expelled.

Buddhism began a rapid spread around 261 BC. The Mauryan emperor Asoka conquered several territories in a bloody war. Appalled by the violence and suffering caused by this war he converted to Buddhism and declared Buddhism the state religion of India. This is similar to Constantine and Christianity. He encouraged Buddhist missionary activity sending emissaries as far south as Sri Lanka and as far west as to the Mediterranean.  How great this influence was is seen by the fact that between the Buddha’s death and the time of Asoka there is very little archeological evidence of Buddhism but after Asoka there is abundant evidence.

What do Buddhists believe?


The Buddha’s primary focus was not to reach God but to end or at least minimize suffering. The Buddha himself said that he was only interested in suffering and the end of suffering.

The Four Noble Truths


The first sermon that the Buddha taught after his enlightenment was on the Four Noble Truths which became the foundation of Buddhism.

These truths are:

1.       The truth of suffering (dukkha (pronounced Duke-kah))

  1. The truth of the cause of suffering (samudaya)
  2. The truth of the end of suffering (nirhodha)
  3. The truth of the path that frees us from suffering (magga)

The Truth of Suffering


The Buddha taught that all people have one thing in common and that is suffering.

Life is full of suffering.  Suffering is a fact of life. There are four unavoidable physical sufferings; birth, old age, sickness and death.

Any suffering must be borne alone. When you have a cold that cold is yours alone and only you can experience it. When someone else has that cold you cannot bear that cold.

There are also three forms of mental suffering; separation from the people we love; contact with people we dislike, and frustration of desires. These can lead to sadness, confusion, and loneliness.

Happiness is real and comes in many ways, but happiness does not last forever and does not stop suffering. Many people try to use happiness to cover up their real feelings of sorrow. But eventually that happiness wears out and once again that person is left with their suffering.

Buddhists believe that the way to end suffering is to first accept the fact that suffering is actually a fact of life.

But it is important that we not say “I suffer” but rather “There is suffering.” You must not personalize the suffering. You should not identify with the problem but to simply acknowledge that there is a problem.

The Truth of the Cause of Suffering


There are two causes to suffering: craving or desire and ignorance.

There are three types of craving.

1)      Craving for sense pleasures. This could be anything that appeals to our senses: chocolate, sex, comfort, etc.

2)      Craving to be. This is a desire to be something. That something can be dominance, popularity, famous, etc.

3)      Craving not to be. This is a desire to be separated from that which causes pain.

The problem is not so much that we desire since desire is a natural function. The problem is that desire becomes craving, attachment, and addition.

If we do not satisfy our cravings then we are disappointed and unhappy. But when we do get our cravings we find that they are temporal and so then we must struggle to find new pleasures. It is an unceasing cycle that ultimately does not remove the suffering.

There are also three types of ignorance or disturbing emotions. These are called the three poisons.

1)      Ignorance itself. This is misunderstanding reality, not seeing the truth of the things that are around you.

2)      Attachment. This is developing an attachment or addition to pleasure.

3)      Aversion. This is a fear of not getting what we want or a fear of getting what we don’t want.

When we do not see reality as it truly is then we live with illusions about life and our fears and our hopes.

The Truth about the End of Suffering


The way to end suffering is to follow the “Noble Eightfold Path.” The Eightfold Path is divided into three sections: Wisdom, Morality, and Concentration.

Wisdom has two paths:

1)      Right Understanding

This is understanding how reality really works. It is to see life, nature, and the world as they really are. This path give direction to the other seven paths. It is to have a correct knowledge of suffering.

2)      Right Aspiration

This can also be translated as right thought or right intention. It is to aspire to rid yourself of everything that is wrong and immoral. Rather, it is to aspire to truth, beauty, and goodness.

Morality has three paths:

3)      Right Speech

The Pali Canon says, “And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter: This is called right speech.”

4)      Right Action

This is to not steal, destroy any life, or commit adultery.

5)      Right Livelihood

Avoiding an occupation that might cause harm to others. This would include avoiding occupations involving weapons, slaves, prostitution, intoxicating drinks, addictive drugs, poisons, and raising animals for slaughter.

Concentration has three paths:

6)      Right Effort

Persist in doing good with regard to deeds, thoughts, and words.

The four phases of right effort are:

2.       Prevent the unwholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself.

3.       Let go of the unwholesome that has arisen in oneself.

4.       Bring up the wholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself.

5.       Maintain the wholesome that has arisen in oneself.

7)      Right Mindfulness

This is also translated “Right Awareness.” There is where one remains focused on the body in and of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. It means always being aware and attentive.

8)      Right Concentration

This is where one concentrates on an object until reaching full concentration and a state of meditative absorption. This can be developed through mindfulness of breathing, through visual objects, and through repetition of phrases. The latter is referred to as mantra. These methods are used to suppress the five hindrances which are:

a)      Desire

b)      Ill will

c)       Sloth

d)      Worry

e)      Doubt

The final result will be inner tranquility and unity.

A Brief Explanation of Some Concepts


Buddhist Scriptures or bible

There is no authoritative Buddhist bible Buddhism has a vast number of scriptures, but few texts are accepted as authentic and authoritative by every school of Buddhism.

Also, though many religions consider their scriptures to be the revealed word of God or gods, in Buddhism it is understood that the scriptures are teachings of the historical Buddha who was not a god.


Dharma is the teachings of the Buddha (recorded in collected writings) regarding the causes of suffering and also what needs to be done to undo these causes.


Samsara (pronounced sam-sar-ah) means "continuous movement" and is commonly translated as "cyclic existence" or "cycle of existence."

Samsara is the process of cycling through one rebirth after another within the six realms of existence. A person is born in one of the realms, then dies, and then is reborn either in the same realm or in a different realm. It is likened to a fly in a jar. In some lives the fly is at the top of the jar and in some lives it is at the bottom of the jar, but ultimately it just flies around and around and never escapes from the jar.

The six realms are:

1)      God Realm. The gods spend their lives in complete pleasure and when they die they are necessarily reborn in one of the lower realms.

2)      Demi-god Realm. The demi-gods spend their lives warring on each other and on the gods.

3)      Human Realm. This is the realm that we are most familiar with.  It is the most suitable to practicing the Dharma since the beings are not distracted by the pleasures of the upper realms nor by the suffering of the lower realms.

4)      Animal Realm. Animals suffer because of the constant fear of being eaten or abused.

5)      Hungry Ghost Realm. Hungry ghosts suffer from constant hunger and thirst. They rarely find any satisfaction but when they are able to eat some food or drink some water it burns them and causes great agony.

6)      Hell Realm. These beings endure unimaginable suffering. There are 18 different kinds of hell each with its own type of pain.

No one can judge anyone in the lower realms because at some point in each one of our many rebirths we will live in each of the realms.

However, beings can liberate themselves from samsara by following the Buddhist path.

Buddhism, though, does not teach reincarnation as we understand it. Reincarnation is generally thought of as the passing of the soul from one body at death to another body at rebirth. However in Buddhism there is no soul or even self. When a being dies the energies do not die with it, but continue to take some other shape or form, which we call another life. But, despite all that, many Buddhists do believe in reincarnation.


Nirvana means “to blow out” and is generally interpreted as blowing out the “three fires” or “three poisons” of passion, aversion, and ignorance. It is thought to culminate in the absence of the activity of the mind. By practicing the Noble Eightfold Path one comes to Nirvana which is release from samsara.

Buddhism teaching states, “The extinction of greed, the extinction of hate, the extinction of delusion: this indeed is called Nirvana.”

Nirvana is liberation from the cycles of suffering.


Karma is the law that every cause has an effect. These effects can be good or bad. Our karma in our previous life determines what realm we will be born into in this life and the karma in this life determines what realm we will be born into in the next life.

Do Buddhists believe in God?


From BuddhaNet.net

“No, we do not.”

From Urbandhrama.org

There is also nothing in the teachings of the Buddha that suggest how to find God or worship the god's of India, although the Buddha himself was a theist (believed in gods), his teachings are non-theistic. The Buddha was more concerned with the human condition: Birth, Sickness, Old age, and Death. The Buddhist path is about coming to a place of acceptance with these painful aspects of life, and not suffering through them.

When the Buddha was asked how the world started, he kept silent. In the religion of Buddhism we don’t have a first cause, instead we have a never ending circle of birth and death. In this world and in all worlds, there are many beginnings and ends. The model of life used in Buddhism has no starting place... It just keeps going and going.

Now having said that... If you’re a Buddhist it’s OK to believe God was the first cause... It really doesn't go against the teachings of the Buddha, his focus was on suffering... It's also OK to believe science has the answer… Like the big bang theory, etc... Some Buddhist’s don’t even care how it all started, and that’s fine too. Knowing how the world started is not going to end your suffering, it’s just going to give you more stuff to think about.

I hope you can see that God is not what Buddhism is about... Suffering is... And if you want to believe in God, as some Buddhists do, I suppose it's OK. But, Buddhist's don't believe God can end suffering. Only the teaching's of the Buddha can help us end suffering through wisdom and the activity of compassion.

From letusreason.org

Buddha did not claim to have a special relationship with God in fact Buddha did not consider the existence of God to be important.

Karma (cause-and-effect ethics), Maya (the illusory nature of the world), and Samsara (the cycle of reincarnation). Buddhists believe that the ultimate goal in life is to achieve “enlightenment” as they perceive it.

Differences between Christianity and Buddhism






One God in the form of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

No god


A free gift from God to all who believe and receive Jesus Christ as Savior. One’s own works are not a factor

A person has to work for their own salvation (freedom from samsara) and cannot rely on or blame anyone else

The world’s creation

God created the world from nothing as told in Genesis

Is silent on the creation of the world


To love,  obey, and glorify God and to be born-again to eternal life

To attain enlightenment (Nirvana) and be released from samsara.

Primary human failing

Sin is anything against the will and nature of God; all people sin

People are ignorant and desirous


Jesus Christ who is God incarnate

Buddha who is the enlightened one

Other religions

Jesus is the only way

Does not condemn any other religions but believes that other teachings will never be true or perfect

Primary writings

Bible: Old and New Testament

Teachings of Buddha

Trajectory of life

Linear: we are born, live, die, and go to either Heaven or Hell

Circular: born, live, die, reborn, live, die, reborn, etc.


A permanent, eternal Hell

No permanent, eternal hell but the lower realms of samsara have great suffering

Main symbol

The cross

The wheel of the Eightfold Path


How to Share the Gospel with a Buddhist


Barriers to Buddhists’ Believing the Gospel

1)      Buddhists’ entire philosophy is that we save ourselves. There is no grace, no divine intervention.

2)      Jesus suffered in the Gospels and on the cross. Buddhists see this as indicating that Jesus had bad karma in His previous life.

3)      Buddhists see Jesus as only a good man although some will see Him as another Buddha. But they will not identify Jesus as God.

Keys to Winning Buddhists

1)      Lead a Christ-like life. Many Buddhists believe that they live more righteous lives than do Christians.

2)      Reveal Jesus progressively if you have the time. Start with Jesus’ holy character, His miracles, and His teachings. Then show Jesus’ God-like attributes such as Creator, One who raises others from the dead, His eternity. Finally show how He voluntarily died on the cross for our sins and then rose again and so is alive in glory forevermore.

3)      The theme of peace has a significant place in Buddhism. Show Jesus as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4:35-41).

4)      Buddhists are forced to find Nirvana through their own efforts. Show them that Jesus is the One who gives us the victory. Talk about God’s grace and how it empowers us. God is the One who raises us up. Ephesians 2:1-9 is a good passage of Scripture.

5)      Talk about forgiveness. Everyone knows that they have done wrong. Jesus is the only One who can free us from the bondage and guilt of sin.

6)      Be careful about using the phrase “born-again” since, to a Buddhist, that simply points to their cycle of death and rebirth. You will have to explain that this new birth is a spiritual one and not a physical one. A better phrase that the Buddhist can relate to might be “an endless life in Heaven of freedom from guilt , pain, and suffering.”

7)      The Buddhist will see the Cross as a failure because it is the epitome of suffering which is what they are trying to avoid. If Jesus could not avoid suffering then how can He show us the way? Emphasize that Jesus resurrected, conquered death, and is alive forevermore. He is not a defeated god but, rather, is the King who reigns sovereign over the entire universe.

8)      Tell stories. Buddhists relate better to stories than to doctrinal principles. Share your testimony of how Jesus saved you. Tell stories of what Jesus means to you.

Extra Material

The Five Skandhas


The Buddha taught that an individual is a combination of five aggregates of existence, also called the Five Skandhas or the five heaps. These are:

1.       Form -> matter or physical form

2.       Sensation -> our feelings, emotional and physical, and our senses -- seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling

3.       Perception -> perception, takes in most of what we call thinking -- conceptualization, cognition, reasoning

4.       Mental formations -> habits, prejudices and predispositions and our willfulness (volition)

5.       Consciousness -> consciousness, is awareness of or sensitivity to an object, but without conceptualization



 Islam is the world’s second largest religion behind only Christianity. Islam has 1.2 billion adherents which is 19.6% of the population.

Here are the top eight countries with the largest Muslim population and what percent of their population is Muslim.

1)      Indonesia 204,847,000 (87.2%)

2)      Pakistan 178,097,000 (96.4%)

3)      India 177,286,000 (14.6%)

4)      Bangladesh 145,312,000 (90.4%)

5)      Nigeria 75,728,000 (47.9%)

6)      Iran 74,819,000 (99.6%)

7)      Turkey 74,660,000 (98.6%)

8)       Egypt 73,746,000 (90%)

The great majority of Muslims live in western Asia and northern Africa.

The word “Islam” means “submission to God” and the peace that comes from following His will. It is closely related to the Arabic word for peace, salaam.

“Muslim” means “one who submits” to God’s will or ones who make peace.

The common Islamic greeting “Assalamu Alaykum” means “peace be upon you.”


Islam’s start in the Bible


In a way, Islam starts in the Bible. In Genesis 15 God promises a son to Abram and Sarai. The problem was that Sarai was 75 years old and Abram was 85. Not believing God’s promise, Sarai decided to take matters into her own hands and offered her Egyptian handmaiden Hagar to Abram, so that they could have a child by her. Abram consented and went into Hagar and she conceived. But while she was pregnant she despised Sarai and Sarai demanded that Abram judge between the two of them. Abram put Hagar under Sarai’s power. So Sarai treated Hagar harshly and Hagar fled into the wilderness.

Here we see the strife between these two peoples already having started with the matriarchs of the two tribes.

But the angel of the Lord found her by a spring and told her to return and submit to her mistress.

In Genesis 16:11-12 the angel gives her this promise.

“Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son;
And you shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction.
12 “He will be a wild donkey of a man,
His hand will be against everyone,
And everyone’s hand will be against him;
And he will live to the east of all his brothers.”

She returned and gave birth to son who was named Ishmael. “Ishmael” means “God listens.”

Notice that it is God who names the child. This is significant. Ishmael was not a reject or outcast. Rather, he was one who would be proof that God sees and hears the afflicted. This was not only an assurance to Hagar but also a rebuke to Abraham and Sarah. Sarah was barren, God gave her a promise of a son, but instead of trusting in the God who listens she took matters into her own hands which turned out poorly for her.

Then in Genesis 17, which was thirteen years later, God told Abraham that He would give him a son. But Abraham laughed and he said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” God instead promises a son who shall be called Isaac. But God then says, “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.”

In Genesis 21 Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac during a celebration on the day when Isaac was weaned. This enraged Sarah and, with Abraham’s consent, both Hagar and Ishmael were sent into the wilderness.

Here we see the first strife between Isaac and Ishmael and further strife between Sarah and Hagar.

When they were about to die God once again heard Hagar’s anguish and provided for them. Ishmael lived in the desert and became an archer.

In Genesis 25:9 Abraham died and Isaac and Ishmael buried him.

In Genesis 25:17-18 we read:

17 These are the years of the life of Ishmael, one hundred and thirty-seven years; and he breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people. 18 They settled from Havilah to Shur which is [j]east of Egypt as one goes toward Assyria; he settled in defiance of all his relatives.

Notice that they lived in defiance or hostility of their relatives. We already see the enmity between the descendants of Isaac (the Jews) and those of Ishmael (the Arabs and those who would eventually become the Muslims).

Genesis 28:8-9a, “ So Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan displeased his father Isaac; and Esau went to Ishmael, and married.”

Esau who was not of the chosen line of Jacob wound up marrying a descendant of Ishmael who was not of the chosen line of Abraham.

Ishmael had twelve sons. Muslim scholars trace the ancestry of Muhammad back to either Ishmael’s first son or to his second son.

How do Muslims get around the Bible’s teaching that Isaac was the promised son and that the covenant was sealed when Isaac was the one nearly sacrificed? They teach that instead of Isaac being the one nearly sacrificed that it was Ishmael. The Islamic version states that on the same day, Abraham, Ishmael, and all of the men of Abraham’s household were circumcised. Then on that very same day God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son. At that time Isaac was not born yet and so, therefore, Ishmael was the only son. After Isaac was born Abraham had two sons. The covenant was sealed when Ishmael was to be sacrificed.

So why in Genesis 22 does it always mention Isaac as the one to be sacrificed? They claim that because of jealousy, the name of Ishmael was changed to Isaac in every place in this chapter. But God preserved the word "only" to prove to us what the situation really was.



Muslims believe that Muhammad to be the last in a long line of prophets that included Moses and Jesus.

Muhammad was born around 570 AD into the most powerful tribe in Mecca, the Quraish. The Quraish were merchants. Several trade routes intersected at Mecca which allowed the Quraish to control trade along the west coast of Arabia.

Muhammad’s father died before he was born. He went to live with his paternal grandfather who then sent him as a baby to live with a nomadic tribe. It was considered that in the desert one learned the qualities of self-discipline, nobility, and freedom. It was during this time in the desert that, according to tradition, two angels appeared to Muhammad although they appeared to be men. Muhammad wrote, “There came unto me two men, clothed in white, with a gold basin full of snow. Then they laid upon me, and, splitting open my breast, they brought forth my heart. This likewise they split open and took from it a black clot which they cast away. Then they washed my heart and my breast with the snow.” It is from this incident that Muslims believe that God purified his prophet and protected him from sin.

His mother died when he was six and when he was eight he went to live with his uncle, Abu Talib with whom he later went on trading expeditions to Syria.

While in Mecca, Muhammad had a great sense of fairness and justice. The people of Mecca came to him for arbitration and he was called “The trusted one.”

Muhammad worked as a merchant for several years and then he was hired by a wealthy widow who was impressed with his honesty to manage her caravan business. He eventually married her when he was 25 years old. They reminded married for 24 years in a monogamous marriage and had seven children. Four daughters lived into adulthood and three sons who all died in infancy.

When he was around 40 he began to have visions and to hear voices. According to tradition, Muhammad was on Mount Hira when the angel Gabriel told him to repeat the words of God. Muhammad fled the cave thinking that he had been possessed by demons. But then he heard the words, “Thou art the messenger of God and I am Gabriel” and when he looked up he saw the angel against a green sky. Green is the official color of Islam because of this. This was the start of Muhammad’s revelation of the Quran and which lasted over the next 23 years.

Three years after receiving the initial revelation, Muhammad began preaching his message publically. His first followers were his family and friends. Then the group expanded to include a number of prominent Meccans. However, many remained opposed to him because they feared that his monotheism would alienate many of the Arabic cults that did commerce with them and so they would lose business. As the opposition grew some of his followers were tortured and one was killed.

In 619 when Muhammad was 49 years old his wife and uncle, Abu Talib, both died. It was during this extremely difficult time that he received the supreme spiritual experience of his life. He fell asleep in a sanctuary  and experienced the Nocturnal Ascent (Isrāʾ). This is where Muhammad was taken by Gabriel on a winged steed to Jerusalem. He then ascended from the rock upon which Abraham offered to sacrifice his son Ishmael. This site is now the “Dome of the Rock” on which stands one of Islam’s greatest mosques. With Gabriel, he ascended through all the higher states of being even up to the Divine Presence. While going through these states Muhammad met earlier prophets such as Moses and Jesus. At one point Gabriel could ascend no more otherwise his wings would be burned. Therefore, Muhammad reached a state even higher than that of the archangels. He then received the supreme treasury of knowledge and Islamic daily prayers while he prostrated himself before God’s throne. This is known as the Miʿrāj (pronounced Meer-ahj).

Then in 621 a delegation from the city of Medina came to Muhammad having heard of his justice and leadership and asked him to be their leader. So in 622 Muhammad signed an agreement with the city and started sending his followers there in small groups so as not to attract attention. Then one night Muhammad and Abū Bakr departed but had another person sleep in his bed. The rulers of Mecca decided to kill the prophet and attacked the house but found only this other person at the house. So they pursued Muhammad. The story as mentioned in the Quran chapter 9 is that they hid in a cave. Spiders spun webs over the mouth of the cave and birds placed nests in front of the cave so that when the pursuers arrived at the cave they saw the unbroken spider webs and undisturbed nests and concluded that no one was in there and so passed on.

On September 26, 622 Muhammad reached Medina. This journey is called the Hijrah (pronounced Hij-rah) which means “migration” and is regarded as the start of the Islamic era. It is also the start point of the Islamic calendar.

When Muhammad arrived on the outskirts of Medina great numbers of people came out to greet him each one wanting him to stay at their home. To solve this dilemma he allowed his camel to wander wherever it wanted and wherever it stopped then that was where he would stay. In the courtyard of this same house is where a mosque known as the Mosque of the Prophet was built. Muhammad’s tomb is in this mosque.

In the beginning of his time in Medina, Muhammad’s main disciples were those who followed him from Mecca, but eventually most of Medina embraced Islam. However there were some wealthy tribes in the north that enjoyed the support of the Jewish community. These tribes resisted Islam and in fact there developed enmity between these tribes and the Muslims.

In his second year at Medina Muhammad changed the direction of the daily prayers from Jerusalem to Medina. This established Islam as its own monotheistic religion. At this same time, Muhammad created the Constitution of Medina which still today is considered by Muslims to be the blueprint for an ideal Islamic society. He was the ruler of the Muslims.

The leaders from Mecca still persecuted the Muslims and seized their property. But Muhammad did not fight back. Then in 624 an army of 1,000 from Mecca assembled to march on Medina. Muhammad received this verse now in the Quran, “Permission to fight is granted to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged, and God indeed has the power to help them. They are those who have been driven out of their homes unjustly only because they affirmed: Our Lord is God” (22:39–40). An army of 313 Muslims met the Meccan army at a place called Badr (pronounced Badder). Despite being overwhelmed, the Muslims won. Many Muslims believe victory came because they were helped by angels. This battle, though small, changed world history. Had the Meccan army won then Islam would probably have been wiped out.

Several more times the Meccans attacked the Muslims but were unsuccessful. During one battle the Jewish community aided the Meccans and when they lost Muhammad killed the men and enslaved the women and children. This event cast a pall over these two groups of people for centuries.

In 628-629 the Muslims made their first conquest which is when they overtook the city of Khaybar. The Jews and Christians were allowed to live in peace but they had to pay a religious tax. This became the model for how Jews and Christians should be treated in the future.

Muhammad and his followers entered Mecca triumphantly when the leaders there asked for amnesty. Muhammad directed his followers not to seek revenge despite the persecution, hardship, and exile that they had all endured. Eventually all of Mecca embraced Islam.

Islam continued to spread throughout Arabia.  In 630-631 many embassies came from all over Arabia to accept Islam. Only the north held out. Muhammad led a large army to the north whereupon the Jews and Christians submitted to his authority without engaging in battle. Muhammad guaranteed their freedom and safety.

By 631 all of Arabia all of Arabia followed Islam. Muslims call this the close of “the age of ignorance” which was the time before Islam arrived. Muhammad united for the first time in history all of the tribes of Arabia.

In 632 Muhammad made the first pilgrimage to Mecca. He delivered his farewell sermon and revealed the final verse in the Quran: “This day have I perfected for you your religion and fulfilled My favour unto you, and it hath been My good pleasure to choose Islam for you as your religion” (5:3). This pilgrimage is called the hajj (pronounced Haa-j) and is imitated by millions of Muslims every year.

On June 8, 632 Muhammad died from a short illness and was buried in the mosque that he built in Medina. It is the second holiest place in Islam.

Islam after Muhammad

In its first thousand years, Islam spread to nearly every part of the globe. One reason is because Islam allowed an array of varying opinions and practices. Though there were some Islamic sects that were very strict, most Muslims including the Sunni and Shi’a Muslims adopted a highly tolerant stance that not only accepted deviation from strict Islamic norms but made a positive effort to accommodate differences. A Muslim was simply anyone who sincerely confessed "There is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet."

Another reason why it spread so quickly is because there was a power vacuum created by the long war between the Byzantine and Persian empires. Arab armies conquered huge areas of land including Syria, Egypt, north Africa, Afghanistan, Iran, and Spain. Their advance was stopped in France by King Charles "The Hammer" Martel.

Muslim traders, merchants, and missionaries brought Islam to many ports and distant cities including China, India, and south-east Asia. Today the country with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia.

The peoples of the conquered lands had many different responses. Many voluntarily converted to Islam. This gave them full citizenship in the new kingdom. Christians and Jews, who were considered “people of the Book,” were given full legal protection with no requirement to convert. However, they were required to pay special taxes. Those who worshipped local gods were forced to convert under threat of death.


The Names of Muhammad


Muslims count 99 names for Muhammad.

The most common is “the Messenger of God.” When this name is spoken among Muslims it is always followed by the phrase “may God’s blessings and peace be upon him.”

Other names for Muhammad are:

·         The Most Glorified

·         Prophet

·         The Perfect Man

·         The One Chosen

·         The Perfect Servant of God

·         The Trusted One

·         The Torch Lighting the True Path

·         The Illuminator of the Universe

·         The Guide to the Truth


The word “Quran” means “recitation.” This is because it was most often heard in sermons and public readings. It is believed to be the divine, eternal, and literal word of God. Only the Arabic version of the Quran is considered authoritative. All of the other versions are considered to be interpretative. The most devote Muslims, regardless of their primary language and country, will memorize and recite the Quran in Arabic.

The Quran contains a record of the revelations recited by the prophet Muhammad over a period of approximately twenty-two years in piecemeal, from 610 to 632.

Muhammad commissioned scribes to record the revelations in writing, and at the time of his death, a number of his followers had memorized the entire text. As Muhammad's followers began to die, the community became concerned that variations on the revelations would proliferate, and the original, authentic revelation would become obscured. Work began on producing an authoritative version, starting with the time-consuming task of gathering all the revelations from both written and oral sources. Muhammad's wives, companions, and scribes all owned partial versions. The challenge was to correlate all the partial versions, decide between variations, and produce an authoritative version. Under Uthman, the third caliph, a team of scholars led by one of Muhammad's companions completed the task by around 650.

The Quran is approximately the same length as the Christian New Testament. It has 114 chapters, called surahs, which range in length from 3 to 286 verses. Each surah is named after an image or topic mentioned in it, and many of the names are memorable and appealing, such as "The Elephant," "Light," "Dawn," "Thunder," "The Cave," "The Moon," or "Smoke."

The second most important source of guidance for Muslims is the Sunna, the custom of the Prophet, which is recorded in the hadith. The hadith do not have the status of scripture, but they are deemed as canonical and are an important source for culture and guidance. Along with the Quran, they are the basis for shariah (political and religious law). In contrast to the Quran, which is the record of God's speech to Muhammad, the hadith contain sacred history, reports of the words and deeds of Muhammad and other early Muslims. After Muhammad's death, his companions compiled a record of all his teachings and actions. They passed these on so that the study of the Prophet's life and work would influence the community. Muhammad is the model Muslim, and the hadith are studied for their insight into understanding ideal Muslim behavior.


Six Articles of Belief (Faith)


1. Belief in God (Allah)

There is on unique God who is the creator of all things. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. He has no offspring (hence the problem with Jesus being the Son of God), no gender, and no body. He should be worshipped and obeyed.

2. Belief in Mala-eka (Angels)

Muslims believe that Allah created unseen beings called angels who carry out God’s orders. The angel Gabriel is the one who brought the divine revelation to the prophets.

3. Belief in the Books of Allah

Muslims believe that at several times in history Allah revealed holy books to God’s messengers. The five prominent divine books are: 1) Abraham's Scrolls, 2) Psalms as revealed to Prophet David, 3) Torah as revealed to Prophet Moses, 4) Gospel as revealed to Prophet Jesus, and 5) Quran as revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Muslims believe that these earlier scriptures in their original form were divinely revealed, but that only the Quran remains as it was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad.

4. Belief in the Prophets of Allah

Muslims believe that Allah sent prophets or messengers to all humankind. These prophets are not divine because divinity only belongs to Allah; however, they are righteous, truthful, and pious men. They were sent because God will never take a people to task unless He has made clear to them what His expectations are.

Quran 16:36 states, “For We assuredly sent amongst every People a Messenger, (with the command): ‘Serve God, and eschew Evil;’ of the people were some whom God guided, and some on whom Error became inevitably (established). So travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who denied (the Truth).”

There are 25 prophets mentioned in the Quran. These are:

Idris (Enoch)
Nuh (Noah)
Hud (Heber)
Salih (Methusaleh)
Lut (Lot)
Ibrahim (Abraham)
Ismail (Ishmael)
Ishaq (Isaac)
Yaqub (Jacob)
Yusuf (Joseph)
Shu’aib (Jethro)
Ayyub (Job)
Dhulkifl (Ezekiel)
Musa (Moses)
Harun (Aaron)
Dawud (David)
Sulayman (Solomon)
Ilias (Elias)
Alyasa (Elisha)
Yunus (Jonah)
Zakariya (Zachariah)
Yahya (John the Baptist)
Isa (Jesus)

Of course, Muhammad is the last prophet and the one sent by God to spread Islam throughout the world.


5. Belief in Yawm al-Qiyama (Day of Judgement)

Muslims believe that all life of this world will come to an end on an appointed day. This day will resurrect all the dead; Allah will judge with perfect justice each person individually according to his good or bad actions that he did during his life, and every victim will have his/ her rights. Allah will reward those who lead a righteous life and did good deeds by sending them to Paradise (Jannah). Allah forgives whom He pleases of those who disobeyed His Command, or punish them in the Hellfire (Jahannam).

This also is called:

·         The Resurrection,

·         The Day of Judgment,

·         Day of Gathering, and

·         The Great Announcement


The Quran speaks of this theme more times than any other topic other than monotheism.

There will be a number of major signs that the day is near. Some of these are:

  1. Appearance of the Mahdi (pronounced Mah-dee). The Mahdi, or “guided one” will be a descendent of Muhammad through his daughter. The Mahdi will kill the false messiah. He will also prepare for the reign of Jesus who will rule for a time after. The Mahdi will similarly kill all enemies of the Prophet and fulfill the prophetic mission as a vision of justice and peace before following Jesus’ rule.
  2. The false messiah, Masih ad-Dajjal, shall appear with huge powers as a one eyed man with the other eye blind and deformed like a grape. He will claim to be God and to hold keys to heaven and hell and lead many astray, although believers will not be deceived.
  3. Medina will be deserted, with true believers going to follow Mahdi and sinners following the false prophet.
  4. The return of Jesus (Isa), from the second sky.
  5. Gog and Magog, two tribes of vicious beings which had been imprisoned will break out. They will ravage the earth, drink all the water of Lake Tiberias, and kill all believers in their way (or see). Allah will eventually send disease and worms to wipe them out.

6.       Mecca will be attacked and the Kaaba will be destroyed.

  1. A pleasant breeze will blow from the south that shall cause all believers to die peacefully.
  2. Quran will be forgotten and no one will recall its verses.
  3. All Islamic knowledge will be lost.
  4. The Beast that will come out of the ground to talk to people.
  5. A huge black smoke cloud will cover the earth.
  6. The sun will rise from the west.
  7. The first trumpet blow will be sounded, and all that is in heavens and earth will be stunned and die except what God wills, silence envelops everything for an undetermined period of time.
  8. The second trumpet blow will be sounded, the dead will return to life and a fire will start that shall gather all The Gathering for Judgment.

6. Qada wal-Qada (Destiny, Divine Decree)

Everything is governed by Allah’s divine decree from the very smallest to the greatest event. Muslims believe that Allah’s eternal Knowledge surrounds everything and nothing escapes It.  He knows all what has occurred before it occurs, all what will occur and all which has not occurred. This includes all his creation’s movement and stillness, deeds and sayings, and whatever they conceal and reveal.

Islam teaches that whatever happens in one's life is preordained, and that believers should respond to the good or bad that befalls them with thankfulness or patience. This concept does not negate the concept of "free will;" since humans do not have prior knowledge of God's decree, they do have freedom of choice.

Quran 2:155-156 states, "We shall surely test you with fear and hunger, and loss of property and lives and crops; but give glad tidings to those who have fortitude. Who when struck by misfortune, say: 'We belong to Allah, and surely to Him we shall return.' "


The Five Pillars of Islam

The most important Muslim practices are the Five Pillars of Islam. These are the obligations that every Muslim is expected to fulfill.

They are:

1)      Shahadah (pronounced Shah-hah-duh): sincerely reciting the Muslim profession of faith

2)      Salat (pronounced Suh-laht): performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day

3)      Zakat  (pronounced Zuh-kaht): paying an alms (or charity) tax to benefit the poor and the needy

4)      Sawm (pronounced Saw-m): fasting during the month of Ramadan

5)      Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca

A Muslim who fulfills the Five Pillars of Islam, remains in the faith of Islam, and sincerely repents of his sins will make it to paradise.



This is the first pillar of Islam. It is the phrase "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger." It is written on the flag of Saudi Arabia.

This is the basic statement of the Islamic faith: anyone who cannot recite this wholeheartedly is not a Muslim.

When a Muslim recites this they proclaim:



This is the second pillar of Islam. It is the obligatory prayers performed five times daily. These are the five times:

1)      Dawn, before sunrise

2)      Midday, after the sun passes its highest

3)      The late part of the afternoon

4)      Just after sunset

5)      Between sunset and midnight



This is the third pillar of Islam. It is the giving of 2.5% of one’s wealth to charity.

Zakat’s benefits are:

Helping the poor

·         Obeying God

·         Helping a person acknowledge that everything comes from God on loan and that we do not really own anything ourselves and since we cannot take anything with us when we die we need not cling to it

·         Acknowledging that whether we are rich or poor is God's choice so we should help those he has chosen to make poor

·         Learning self-discipline

·         Freeing oneself from the love of possessions and greed

·         Freeing oneself from the love of money

·         Freeing oneself from love of oneself

·         Behaving honestly



This is the fourth pillar of Islam which is fasting. Muslims are required to fast during Ramadan which is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

During the 29/30 days of Ramadan all adult Muslims must give up the following things during the hours of daylight:

During this fasting Muslims will usually eat a large meal just before dawn and then will eat again after the daylight hours.

It is not just a time to give up things but is a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practice self-sacrifice. It is a time when Muslims are called upon to re-evaluate their lives.

Chapter 2, Revelation 185, of the Quran states:

The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran; a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days. Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.

Muhammad received his first revelations of the Quran in the lunar month of Ramadan.



This is the fifth and final pillar of Islam and occurs in the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar.  Every adult Muslim is expected to take this journey at least once in their lifetime.

They are to go to Mecca and stand before the Kaaba praising Allah. The Kaaba is a cube-shaped building in Mecca and is the most sacred Muslim pilgrim shrine. Into it is built the black stone believed to have been given by Gabriel to Abraham. Everyone wears white to show that all are equal in the eyes of Allah regardless of social status and wealth.

About two million people go each year.

The rituals at Hajj include:

·         Circling the Kaaba seven times counterclockwise

·         Running seven times between the two hills that Hagar did when she was looking for water

·         Throwing 49 stones at a pillar that represents Satan

·         On the eighth day they go to the desert and live in tents where they pray and have the Feast of Sacrifice

Islamic Lifestyles



In Islam, everything considered harmful either to the body, mind, soul or society is prohibited (haram), while whatever is beneficial is permissible (halal).

Some prohibitions are:

·         Eating pork

·         Drinking alcohol

·         Gambling

·         Taking interest

·         Fortune-telling

·         Killing

·         Immorality

·         Oppressing or abusing others

Additionally, Muslims are required to eat meat that is butchered and blessed in an Islamic way. This meat is called "halal."


For both males and females, Islam requires that they wear proper, decent, modest, and clean clothes.

Muslim women are instructed by Allah in the Quran to wear as a minimum Hijab (head covering).


There is no hierarchy of clergy in Islam, nor do Muslim religious leaders have the power to forgive people of their sins. No one has special access to sacraments. Every individual has a direct relationship with God without any intermediary. There are religious leaders or scholars who have studied and are experts in different aspects of Islam. Any Muslim with sufficient knowledge may lead prayers or perform rituals such as weddings or funerals. An Imam (pronounced ih-mahm) is simply a more learned member of a mosque. Imam means “leader,” “guide,” or “one who stands in front.” He would be the one who leads the prayers, officiates at weddings and funerals, and leads the Friday sermon. Today, larger mosques might have a full-time Imam.


Male circumcision is an important religious duty in Islam and required by believers to perform on their newborn sons.


Death is the most important event in a person’s path to God. The dying person is surrounded by family and friends who read prayers and other passages from the Quran. If possible, the dying person repents of sins and rituals of purification are performed. Just before the moment of death the Shahadah ("There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.") is whispered into the dying person’s ear and Surah 36 from the Quran is read which discusses God’s raising of the dead on the Day of Judgement. The body must then be buried as quickly as possible preferably by sunset on the day of the death. The body is buried a plain, white shroud. If the person went on pilgrimage to Mecca then the body would be clothed in the pilgrimage garments. The face of the corpse is turned toward Mecca and supported with a stone. Graves are marked with simple stone markers to emphasize that all people are equal in death. The deceased stays in an intermediary state until the day when Allah resurrects all of the dead on the Day of Judgement.

Islam’s View of Jesus


Muslims venerate Jesus and consider Him to be one of God’s greatest prophets. Whenever Jesus’ name is spoken it should be followed by the phrase, “peace be upon Him.”

They believe in Jesus’ miraculous birth and consider Mary to be one of the most pure and exalted of all women.  Quran 3:42 states, “Behold! the angel said: ‘God has chosen you and purified you and has chosen you above the women of all nations. O Mary! God gives you the good news of a word from Him, whose name shall be Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honored in this world and the hereafter, and one of those brought near to God’.”

Another verse stating this is Quran, 3:45-47, “(Remember) when the angels said, “O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him (God), whose name is the Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, revered in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (to God).  He will speak to the people from his cradle and as a man, and he is of the righteous.” She said, “My Lord, how can I have a child when no mortal has touched me?” He said, “So (it will be).  God creates what He wills.  If He decrees a thing, He says to it only, ‘Be!’ and it is.”

Muslims believe that Jesus performed miracles. Quran, 3:49, “I have come to you with a sign from your Lord.  I make for you the shape of a bird out of clay, I breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by God’s permission.  I heal the blind from birth and the leper.  And I bring the dead to life by God’s permission.  And I tell you what you eat and what you store in your houses....”

Muslims believe that Jesus will return on the Day of Judgment. Quran 43:61, “And indeed, Jesus will be [a sign for] knowledge of the Hour, so be not in doubt of it, and follow Me. This is a straight path.”

Muslims do not believe that Jesus was crucified.  It was the plan of Jesus’ enemies to crucify him, but God saved him and raised him up to Him.  The likeness of Jesus was put onto another man.  Jesus’ enemies then took this man and crucified him, thinking that he was Jesus.  Quran 4:157 tells us, “ ...They said, ‘We killed the Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of God.’ They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but the likeness of him was put on another man (and they killed that man).”

God is not Jesus, and Jesus is not God. Even Jesus himself rejected this. Quran 5:72: “Indeed, they have disbelieved who have said, “God is the Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary.”  The Messiah said, “Children of Israel, worship God, my Lord and your Lord.  Whoever associates partners in worship with God, then God has forbidden Paradise for him, and his home is the Fire (Hell).  For the wrongdoers,3 there will be no helpers.”

God is not a trinity.  Quran 5:73-75, “Indeed, they disbelieve who say, ‘God is the third of three (in a trinity),’ when there is no god but one God.  If they desist not from what they say, truly, a painful punishment will befall the disbelievers among them. Would they not rather repent to God and ask His forgiveness?  For God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.  The Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary, was no more than a messenger...”

Jesus’ name in Islam is Isa.

Islamic Sects


There are a number of sects within Islam but three of them are the most prominent. These are Sunni, Shai, and Sufism.


The largest sect in Islam is the Sunnis which make up around 90%. The word “Sunni” means “tradition.” They regard themselves as the ones who most closely follow the traditions of Muhammad and the first two generations of Muslims afterward. They believe that Abu Bakr was Muhammad’s successor.

Some Sunni movements include the Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood.

For Sunni Muslims, since there's no real central authority, decisions about proper Islamic practice take place at a local level.

Shia or Sh’ite or Shiite

Around 10% of all Muslims are Shiites. They are the party of “Ali” and believe that Muhammad’s son-in-law, Ali, was the designated successor. Ali was Muhammad’s closest relative.

The major school of thought among the Shiites is the Twelvers although there are also the Seveners and the Fivers. These numeric names refer to the number of imams they recognize after the death of Muhammad.

The distinctive dogma and institution of the Shiites is the Imamate (pronounced Ih-mah-mayt). The successor of Muhammad should be both a political and a spiritual leader. He must be able to interpret the inner mysteries of the Quran and the Sharia (pronounce Shah-ree-ah).  The Twelvers believe that the Twelve Imams (pronounced ih-mams) were sinless and free from error and had been chosen by Allah through Muhammad.

The first Imam was Ali. The line continued through Ali’s sons until the Twelfth Imam who is believed to have ascended into a supernatural state to return to earth on judgment day.

Shiite Muslims have a top-down approach. They spend a lot of time training religious scholars, who go through rigorous years of instruction in law and theology.


The Sufis are Islamic mystics. They place greater emphases on meditation and spiritual growth. Sufism has been defined as "mystical Islamic belief and practice in which Muslims seek to find the truth of divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God." The word “Sufi” is derived from the word “wool” probably because the early Islamic ascetics wore woolen garments. The Persian term is “darvish” from which you have probably heard of “whirling dervishes.”

Sufis seek to purify the self from all selfishness. A fundamental philosophy is “Little sleep, little talk, little food.” Fasting and poverty are key aspects to the path to the divine experience of God. A central method on the Sufi path is a ritual prayer which consists of a repetition of the names of Allah. Sometimes a rosary of beads is used to keep track. The ulimate goal of the Sufi path is to fight the true Holy War against the lower self, which is often represented as a black dog. The final goal is annihilation (fana'), primarily of one's own qualities but sometimes of one's entire personality. This is often accompanied by spiritual ecstasy or "intoxication."

Back to the “Whirling Dervishes.” They are members of an order of Turkish Sufis. The practice of spinning around is a form of meditation in which they seek to abandon the self and contemplate God while hoping to achieve an ecstatic state. The clothing worn for the ritual and the positions of the body during the spinning are highly symbolic: for instance, the tall camel-hair hat represents the tomb of the ego, the white cloak represents the ego's shroud, and the uplifted right hand indicates readiness to receive grace from God.

Suffering and the Problem of Evil


Muslims see suffering as either the painful result of sin or it is a test.

Sin is the result of unbelief. When people fail to listen to Allah or to the prophets then they are in a state of unbelief. They become preoccupied with their own particular needs and passions which then enslave them. When enslaved by passions and lusts they crave for wealth and pleasure and do evil and destructive things. Once people realize their unbelief they can repent and be forgiven and return to a sinless state. However, unbelief is always lurking and anyone can fall into it. The great struggle of human life is the struggle to perfect one's heart and live in total submission to God.

Regarding the latter, suffering opens up the soul and reveals it to God. God uses suffering to look within humans and test their characters and also to correct unbelievers.

In the Islamic view, righteous individuals are revealed not only through patient acceptance of their own suffering but through their good works for others.

Afterlife and Salvation


Muslims believe in the Day of Judgment. The world will end on some future unknown day. This day goes by several names: the Day of Reckoning, the Day of Distress, the Day of the Gathering, the Great Announcement, and the Hour. At this moment, Allah will resurrect the dead and each person will be judged according to their intentions and deed and as to how well they followed the instructions given by Allah in his revelations. The result will be either reward or punishment. Muslims believe in Heaven and Hell. Each person will receive a book that contains an account of their life. If the book is placed into the person’s right hand then they are destined for Heaven. If it is placed into their left hand then they are destined for Hell.

Hell is a terrible inferno with roaring flames, scorching hot winds, and thick, black smoke. The burning skin is continually regrown so that there will be constant pain with no relief or annihilation. Boiling water will be poured over their heads. If they try to get away then iron hooks will drag them back.

Heaven is a peaceful garden where everyone is content. Everyone is dressed in silk robes and relax on beautiful couches while servants attend to their every need. Food is abundant and yet no one gets full. Choirs of angels sing in Arabic. Every abundant thing is enjoyed endlessly.

Comparing Christianity to Islam





Date founded

30 AD

622 AD

Place founded


Arabian Peninsula

Founders and early leaders

Jesus, Peter, Paul


Major branches/sects

Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox

Sunni, Shiite

Sacred texts

Bible (Old and New Testaments)


Additional traditions

The writings of the early church fathers although not inspired and authoritative are, nonetheless, considered very important

The Hadith which is a collection of traditions/sayings of the Prophet Mohammed and functions as a supplement to the Quran giving guidance to Muslims for daily living.




Belief in Trinity

Yes, one God, three persons


Supernatural beings

Angels and demons

Angels, demons, and jinn

Who is Jesus

Son of God and God the Son

A great prophet

Birth of Jesus

Virgin birth

Virgin birth

Jesus’ death


Did not die but was taken up into Heaven

Jesus’ resurrection

Jesus rose from the dead

Jesus did not rise from the dead since He did not die

Jesus’ Second Coming



Holy Spirit

Third person of the Trinity and is God

Identical with the angel Gabriel who appeared to Muhammad and gave him the Quran

Human nature

All are sinners

People have the equal ability to do good or evil

Original sin

We all inherited a sinful nature from Adam

There is no original sin and so we are all born sinless but because of human weakness become sinners


Saved through faith and grace and not as a result of works

Correct belief and good deeds

Assurance of salvation

A person can know that they are saved and going to Heaven

There is no assurance

Destinations in afterlife

Heaven or Hell

Heaven or Hell

House of worship



Day of worship



Religious leaders

Pastors, priests, ministers



A fallen angel who opposes God at every turn and who is destined for Hell

Iblis, a fallen jinn. Jinn are not angels nor men, but created beings with free wills. Jinn were created from fire

View of Mary

Chosen mother of Jesus and blessed among women

Mary receives significant admiration from Muslims. She is said by the Prophet Muhammad to be the best woman God created. She is free of sin as the mother of Jesus.

View of the Bible

Is literally the authoritative word of God and is without error

The Bible has been corrupted because of human intervention. The Quran is the only uncorrupted spiritual authority.


How to Share the Gospel with a Muslim


1)      We must realize that the great, great majority of Muslims are not terrorists nor do they want to see all non-Muslims killed. Many simply want to serve their God in the best way that they can and want to live happy, fulfilled lives.

2)      Realize that both religions have many similar core beliefs: Heaven and Hell, leading a morally pure and holy life, God is the sovereign Creator and Sustainer, all people are sinners. Start with the similarities to build common ground.

3)      Be willing to listen to them. Listening the them does not mean that you agree with them. But if you are not willing to listen to them then why should they be willing to listen to you? Be respectful. Do not demean their beliefs.

4)      Show love. Invite them over. Perhaps invite them to participate in your Christian holidays at your house. For example, have them over to an Easter dinner.

5)      Lead a holy life especially when they are around. Do not curse, drink, wear skimpy clothing, gossip, serve pork, etc. Try as much as possible to have men talk to men and women talk to women. Do not put your Bible on the floor as this appears to be disrespectful to it.

6)      Know what you are talking about. Do not be fuzzy in your beliefs. Be confident and back up what you are telling them from the Bible. Do not apologize even if what you are sharing contradicts what they believe but do not be arrogant either.

7)      Share the Gospel in simple, understandable terms. Muslims understand themes such as forgiveness, eternal life, Heaven, Hell, assurance. Avoid phrases such as “the new birth,” “being filled with the Holy Spirit,” “justification,” “regeneration” and other more theological phrases.

8)      Throughout, emphasize Jesus. Muslims consider Jesus to be a great prophet and they love to hear what the prophets had to say. Talk about how the Old Testament prophets foretold the coming of Jesus. Discuss His birth, crucifixion, resurrection, and second coming. Talk about how Jesus died to pay for our sins so that we can have total assurance of salvation.

9)      Ask them key questions such as, “Do you expect to go to Heaven?” “What does the Quran teach about forgiveness?”

10)   Use a verse such as Surah 57:27, “And thereupon we caused [other of] Our apostles to follow in their footsteps; and [in the course of time] We caused them to be followed by Jesus, the son of Mary, upon whom We bestowed the Gospel.” Use this to show them that Jesus was given the Gospel (good news).

11)   Give them a Bible and maybe suggest that they start reading in Matthew. But do not pester them about reading it. Give them time. Perhaps even ask them if they would like to get together once a week and study a chapter together, preferably going through one of the Gospels.

12)   If you use the name Mohammed, refer to him as “the prophet Mohammed” or just “the prophet”. No religious Muslim will say his name without a blessing on him. Otherwise, you might offend them and close the door.

13)   Ask them if there is anything that you can pray for them.

How to Answer some Questions


Question: “What do you think of the prophet Mohammed?”

Answer: The prophet Mohammed had a great desire to know and worship the one true God in contrast to the multitude of pagan gods around him. I can respect that goal and have the same one myself.

Question: “What do you think of Muslims? Do you think that we are all terrorists or violent people?”

Answer: The very great majority of Muslims are peaceful people whose primary desire is to know and obey the one true God. As a Christian, I admire and respect that belief. We share many of the same core beliefs such as one God, Jesus’ virgin birth, that all people sin and need salvation.

Question: “What do you think of the Quran?”

Answer: The Quran affirms Jesus and many great sacred books such as the Christian Bible. It contains some great truths. Would you be interested in seeing some truths about the greatness of God and how to gain eternal life in Heaven in my Bible?

Question: “Why does the United States support Israel and allow them to kill Palestinians?”

Answer: I really can’t answer questions about diplomacy and politics because they are just too complex. But what interests me the most is glorifying God and what the prophets, such as Jesus, had to say. Can we talk about that instead? It is much more interesting.


Chart Comparing Religions







Land of origin






Time of origin

32 AD

622 AD

586 AD

1500 BC

500 BC


Jesus Christ




Siddhartha Gotama


Many prophets in the Bible

25 prophets mentioned in the Quran with Muhammad being the last one

48 male and 7 female prophets

No prophets

No prophets





One overall god with 330 million deities


Humanity’s problem

Sin (rebellion against God)

People have the equal ability to do good or evil

Everyone is born innocent (no original sin); sin is going against our natural inclinations


People are ignorant and desirous


Saved through faith and grace and not as a result of works

Correct belief and good deeds

Prayer & study; true repentance brings forgiveness for that sin. Yom Kipper (Day of Atonement) is Judaism’s most holy day. 

Practicing dharma to liberate oneself from suffering and bad karma

Enlightenment; A person has to work for their own salvation (freedom from samsara) and cannot rely on or blame anyone else

The result of redemption

Complete forgiveness, eternal life, justification, reconciliation, and much more


Not clear; some believe in Heaven, some that there is nothing

Moksha which is union with the eternal soul, Brahman

To attain enlightenment (Nirvana) and be released from samsara.

Place of worship






Sacred texts




Bhagavad Gita























The cross

The crescent moon

Star of David

Om or Aum: Symbol of the Absolute

The wheel of the Eightfold Path

Trajectory of life

Linear with one birth, life, and death

Linear with one birth, life, and death

Linear with one birth, life, and death

Cyclical with infinite rebirths, lives, and deaths

Cyclical with infinite rebirths, lives, and deaths

View of Jesus


A great prophet

He was an ordinary Jewish man and preacher

Jesus was one of the incarnations (avatars) of Vishnu

He was influential but is not God

Birth of Jesus

Virgin birth

Virgin birth

Normal birth

Normal birth

Normal birth

Death of Jesus

Died to pay for our sins

Was not crucified; ascended to Heaven and a substitute took His place

Normal death

Normal death

Do not see it as important


A permanent, eternal Hell

A permanent, eternal Hell

Hell is temporary; a person is cleansed until they are then released to Heaven

The concept of heaven and hell as worlds of eternal glory or damnation do not exist

No permanent, eternal hell but the lower realms of samsara have great suffering