Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?
First of all, let’s be clear: this is a complex question. The answer depends on what a person very specifically means when asking the question. In some circumstances, the answer is “yes,” and in other circumstances, the answer is “no.”
So what are the circumstances where the question can be answered with “yes?” The first, deals with the type of God that both Christians and Muslims worship. Christianity and Islam are monotheistic religions, teaching that there is only one God. While monotheists may have different ideas about God, their concept of God being one is still the same. Therefore, Christians and Muslims worship the same type of God. Second, Christians and Muslims intend to worship the same God. Since both religions are monotheist, there is only one God to worship. In addition, both Christians and Muslims intend to worship, and believe that they do worship the God of Abraham. Third, the Quran teaches that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God. The Quran states in reference to those given the Book (Jews and Christians), “...our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender...” (29:46).
So what are the circumstances where the question can be answered with “no?” This is the most important part of the question because it deals with the attributes (or characteristics) of God as defined in the Bible and the Quran. Just because two monotheistic religions teach about the same type of God does not mean they are talking about the same God. For example, if a husband talks about his wife by name but gets many of her attributes wrong (tall when she's short, blond when she's brunet, white when she's hispanic), then he is really talking about a different woman. His description simply does not match the actual person who is his wife. Now the list of differences between the God of the Bible and the Quran is lengthy, but here are a few examples. In the Bible, God loves all people, including unbelievers: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). In the Quran, Allah does not love unbelievers: “...He does not love the unbelievers” (30:45). In the Bible, Jesus forgives sins: “If we confess our sins, He [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This verses associates Jesus with God because both Christians and Muslims understand that only God can forgive sins. In the Quran, Allah does not forgive those who associate Jesus with him: “Surely Allah does not forgive that anything should be associated with Him,...” (4:48). In the Bible, Jesus is the Son of God: “...This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” (Mark 9:7). In the Quran, Jesus is not the Son of God: “... Allah, Who has not taken a son...” (17:111). These contradictions clearly indicate that the God of Christianity and the God of Islam are not the same.
One thing Christianity and Islam have in common is the exclusivity of heaven. Both teach that people must confess key doctrines of their faith to go to heaven. Since the salvation doctrines of Christianity and Islam are contradictory, both cannot both be true.
There are three considerations for Muslims regarding heaven according to Islam. First, Muslims can go straight to heaven if they are martyred in jihad (meaning struggle or holy war).
“You who believe, shall I show you a bargain that will save you from painful punishment? Have faith in God and His Messenger and struggle [jihad] for His cause with your possessions and your persons—that is better for you, if only you knew - and He will forgive your sins, admit you into Gardens graced with flowing streams, into pleasant dwellings in the Gardens of Eternity. That is the supreme triumph” (61:10).
Second, Muslims who are not martyred in jihad can expect to spend time in hell.
“Not one of you but will pass over it [hell]: this is, with thy Lord, a Decree which must be accomplished. But We shall save those who guarded against evil, and We shall leave the wrong-doers therein, (humbled) to their knees” (Quran 19:71-72).
Third, even though the previous passage states “We [Allah] shall save those who guarded against evil,” there is no way for a Muslim to know they have done this to Allah's satisfaction. Even Muhammad was not sure of his salvation. Muhammad recited, “I do not know what will be done to me or to you” (46:9). Therefore, Muslim's have no certainity they will go to heaven.
The key consideration for Christians regarding heaven is faith in Christ. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
In Christianity, it is the martyrdom of Christ, not a believer, that assures heaven. “In Him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
In Christianity, believers are not condemned to hell for a time. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Instead, Christians are promised heaven. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Christians are saved by the effort of Christ, not their own. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Christians have the promise and assurance of salvation. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
Jesus knew where he was going and where believers will go as well. “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
While the Quran teaches that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, it also teaches they worship different gods. It is clear due to the differences in the attributes of God that Christians and Muslims do not worship the same Creator. Both faiths are in agreement that to worship a false god will prevent such people from entering heaven. Jesus stated, “...I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). This is because only Jesus paid the penalty for sins on the cross and overcame death through His resurrection. Based on Jesus' words, it is not possible to get to heaven through Islam.
Those who would like to read more on this topic are encouraged to check out:
Roland Clarke - Answeringislam.org
Alan Shlemon – Stand to Reason
Dr. William Lane Craig – Reasonablefaith.org
J.D. Greear – Breaking the Islam Code