Christianity, Judaism, and Islam share a common heritage through the prophet Abraham. Christians sometimes forget that Ishmael, Abraham’s son through his wife’s handmaiden, was also given great promises by God. He was promised that God would make him a great nation, that he would dwell in Canaan in the presence of his brethren, and that his descendants, like those of Abraham’s other son Isaac, would be a blessing to the world. Today, Islam is the second largest religion in the world, and while a few extremists have attempted to soil the reputation of this faith, mainstream Muslims have done much good in the world. Every religion has its extremists, but they never represent the beliefs of the majority of practitioners and should not bring judgment on those who live the true teachings of their faith.
Mormons (a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) are Christians, and Muslims do not consider themselves Christian, so there are significant differences between Mormons and Islam, but there are also interesting parallels. Mormons are taught to respect and honor the faiths of others, including the Islamic faith:
Mormons Teach Respect for Other Faiths
Based upon ancient and modern revelation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gladly teaches and declares the Christian doctrine that all men and women are brothers and sisters, not only by blood relationship from mortal progenitors, but also as literal spirit children of an Eternal Father.
The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.
The Hebrew prophets prepared the way for the coming of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, who should provide salvation for all mankind who believe in the gospel.
Consistent with these truths, we believe that God has given and will give to all people sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation, either in this life or in the life to come” (First Presidency statement, 15 Feb. 1978).
Who is Muhammad?
Muhammad, born in Mecca in about A.D. 570, was raised by his uncle after his parents died. He was very interested in religion and studied both the Jewish and Christian faiths, particularly as they related to Abraham’s teachings. However, he felt they had fallen away from Abraham’s teachings and had lost sight of the completeness of the gospel. He taught that when he was forty years old, he received a visit from the angel Gabriel, who called him to be a prophet. By then, most religions had decided there would be no further prophets.
This is one area in which Mormonism and Islam agree—that there were prophets after Jesus and the apostles were gone. However, Muslims believe that Muhammad was the final prophet, while Mormons believe that when prophets were restored in 1830, God planned that they would continue until the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Muslims honor Jesus as a prophet, while Mormons honor Him as the Savior of the world. Muslims, like Mormons, accept that God is the same God as is taught in the Bible. One of the early tasks of the Islamic faith was to attempt to end idolatry in what is now the Muslim world. Early Mormon leaders, recognizing that Muslims faced the same difficulty in getting people to tell the truth about them, spoke out in defense of the faith, which even then was persecuted as being anti-Christ.
Mormon prophet George A. Smith (1817–75) taught that it was likely God who sent Muhammad to fight against idolatry at a time when few were doing so in that region of the world. Parley P. Pratt (1807–57) said that he admired the Islamic faith and suggested that on the whole, they had better morals than many of the Christians of the time.
Muhammad also set out to improve the behavior and morality of the people in ways often supported by Mormons as well:
Like the apostle Paul, Muhammad recognized the existence of slavery, but unlike Paul, was able to do much to mitigate it. He forbade the separation of captive mothers, children, and brothers. He commended the freeing of slaves as an act of pity which God will reward. Muhammad also abolished infanticide, made kindness to animals an integral part of his religion, insisted upon honest weights and measures, forbade the exaction of usury, and in other ways alleviated the condition of debtors. He forbade gambling and the use of intoxicating liquors; and if he did not succeed in freeing the Islamic world altogether from intemperance in either of these respects, he at least made such vices rarer than they had previously been in the Arab community.” (See James B. Mayfield, “Ishmael, Our Brother,” Ensign, June, 1979.)
Mayfield, a Mormon who lived among the Muslims for many years, finds that prejudices against Muslims are largely the result of inaccurate translations of the Koran, their sacred book, or misrepresentations of their beliefs, much as Mormons often face prejudice because people misunderstand their beliefs. Mormons have long coped with people telling them they believe things they never did believe, and rumor has often become better known than the truth in both faiths.
Mormons and Muslims: God and Jesus
Both Mormons and Muslims believe in God and Jesus, but there are some differences between the two religions in this area. As mentioned earlier, Muslims believe Jesus was just a prophet, on a level with the Old Testament prophets. Mormons believe Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and God’s only begotten Son.
Muslims believe in God, whom they call Allah. They reject the trinity, as do Mormons, but for different reasons. Muslims reject the Trinity because they do not accept Jesus as the Son of God.
Mormons reject Trinitarianism, because although they believe in God, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost, they believe that each is an entirely separate being, part of the Godhead, that is one in purpose, doctrine, and love. God is the Father and Jesus Christ is His literal Son. Religion Facts.com feels Muslims consider the Trinity to consist of God, Jesus, and Mary. They accept that Jesus was born to Mary and that she was a virgin, but do not believe this made Him the Son of God, only a prophet with a miraculous beginning. They do not believe He was crucified. Instead, they teach that He escaped and went directly to Heaven. They do not believe He was resurrected.
Muslims believe that God is the only God and that He has no children, parents, or spouse. They teach that God does not reveal Himself to anyone and that He is mysterious, transcendent, and unknowable. However, they teach that God does know us. “It was We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than his jugular vein” (Qur’an 50:16). According to ReligionFacts.com, many Muslim websites state that God does not exist in anything and nothing exists in Him. Everything He decrees will come to pass and no one can change his decision or resist his command. They believe that God responds to the needs of His followers and answers their requests and that He is completely fair. They do not, contrary to beliefs adopted by extremists, believe that religion should be forced on a person. While they consider themselves to be the only true faith, they believe that Jews, whom they especially admire, and Christians, can also be given God’s ultimate reward if they live a valiant life and that Jews and Christians will be judged by God according to the books each considers to be scripture.
Mormons believe that God is the literal Father of our spirits. They refer to God as their Father and themselves as His children. In addition, of course, Mormons also believe that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God whose mother was the mortal woman Mary. They teach that God is the creator of the universe (as do Muslims), but Mormons believe this creation was done through Jesus Christ under God’s direction.
Mormons believe that God is the author of the Plan of Salvation. This plan allows us to be saved through the atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ. Mormons teach that Jesus voluntarily came to earth to carry out this atonement. He lived without sin, but through the divine heritage He had as both God’s Son and the son of a mortal mother, was able to take our sins on ourselves and then to die for us. He was resurrected, breaking the bonds of death. This allows all of us to be saved. Some aspects of salvation are given to all, regardless of the choices they make in life, including the ability to rise from the dead and to live forever. Everyone has the ability to repent, but of course, we must choose to repent. Unless we choose to activate the full measure of the atonement through repentance and through ordinances such as baptism and the receiving of the Holy Spirit, we will not receive the full measure of what God has offered us.
As children of God, we have a special relationship with Him, setting us apart from all His other creations. We should seek to know our Father in Heaven. He loves us, and He has given us the precious opportunity to draw near to Him as we pray. Our prayers, offered in humility and sincerity, are heard and answered.
We can also come to know our Father by learning about His Beloved Son and applying the gospel in our lives. The Savior taught His disciples: “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also. . . . He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:7, 9).
We draw near to God the Father as we study the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets and as we give service. When we follow God’s will and live as He would have us live, we become more like Him and His Son. We prepare ourselves to return to live in Their presence.
For Mormons, this personal family relationship with God creates a sense of comfort and purpose in life. It is more satisfying to serve a God who loves us and who is part of our eternal family. The addition of the Holy Ghost to the process allows for two-way communication between God and us. Not only can we talk to God through prayer, but He can respond to our prayers through the Holy Ghost. We can receive not just physical types of help (having a lost item show up or receiving the money needed to pay a bill) but we can also receive advice on how to handle the problems we face in everyday life and we can understand what is true by asking God. I was unable to find information how Muslims view personal communication between God and man, so I do not know how this compares. Individual prayers are encouraged for Muslims, but not required as are the formal prayers that have strict rituals. For Mormons, family and individual prayers—conversations with God—are an expected part of religious practice.
Mormons and Muslims Partner in Humanitarian Aid
The Muslim requirements for humanitarian work give Mormons and Muslims a common ground. In fact, Mormons have often partnered with Islamic organizations, including the International Islamic Relief Organization. During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, Mormons donated more than two million dollars’ worth of humanitarian supplies, which were then distributed to Lebanese refugees in partnership with International Islamic Relief Organization. Mormons donated to aid the needy on both sides of the conflict evenly, since they do not take sides in battles between God’s children. Mormons joined with Islamic Relief USA to bring aid to Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquakes. They also partnered to assist in the October 2009 Pacific Rim earthquakes. Frequently, Mormons provide the supplies from their humanitarian aid warehouses, and the Islamic groups cover the cost of transportation and assist with distribution.
James A. Toronto, a Mormon, wrote:
My family and I were invited by a Muslim friend, Nabil, to participate in his family’s evening meal in which they broke their fast. As we entered their modest apartment in one of the most impoverished quarters of Cairo, I noticed that one of the rooms was occupied by numerous peasant women (distinguishable by their black clothing) and their children. They were all sitting on the floor with food spread out before them on a cloth, quietly waiting for the call to prayer that marks the end of fasting each day. When I asked if they were his relatives, he replied: “No, I don’t know any of them. It is our habit to invite strangers off the street who cannot afford good food to share our Ramadan meal. We do this because it was one of the customs of our prophet, Muhammad.” (See James A. Toronto, “A Latter-day Saint Perspective on Muhammad,” Ensign, August 2000.)
Mormons teach their members to fast once a month, going entirely without any food or drink, and then to donate the cost of the food they did not eat or drink to a special fund that is used to care for the poor. Like Muslims, Mormons believe that fasting and compassion for the poor are linked together and that fasting voluntarily helps us to understand the suffering of those who are poor involuntarily.
A cabinet minister of Egypt once told me that if a bridge is ever built between Christianity and Islam it must be built by the Mormon Church. In making inquiry as to the reason for his statement I was impressed by his recitation of the similarities and the common bonds of brotherhood.
Both the Jews and the Arabs are children of our Father. They are both children of promise, and as a church we do not take sides. We have love for and an interest in each. The purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to bring about love, unity, and brotherhood of the highest order.” (Howard W. Hunter, “All Are Alike Unto God,” fireside address was given at Brigham Young University on 4 February 1979.)
Although Mormons and Muslims have some religious differences, there are also commonalities we can celebrate, and this is why Mormons and Muslims are able to work together to bring about God’s purposes in humanitarian areas.
In a recent meeting with Muslim dignitaries, Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles focused on the common spiritual heritage of Mormons and Muslims. After quoting a verse from the Qur’an, he observed:
“God is the source of light in heaven and on earth. We share the belief with you. We resist the secular world. We believe with you that life has meaning and purpose. … We revere the institution of the family. … We salute you for your concern for the institution of the family. … Mutual respect, friendship, and love are precious things in today’s world. We feel those emotions for our Islamic brothers and sisters. Love never needs a visa. It crosses over all borders and links generations and cultures.” (See James A. Toronto, “A Latter-day Saint Perspective on Muhammad,” Ensign, August 2000.)
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.