The Koran defines true faith as follows. "It is not piety, that you turn your faces to the East and to the West. True piety is this: to believe in God, and the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the Prophets, to give of one's substance, however cherished, to kinsmen, and orphans, the needy, the traveller, beggars, and to ransom the slave, to perform the prayer, to pay the alms. And they who fulfil their covenant when they have engaged in a covenant, and endure with fortitude misfortune, hardship and peril, these are they who are true in their faith, these are the truly godfearing." (Koran 2:173) While I agree with the importance of prayer and in charity and benevolence to all, I do not believe in it as a stipulation for righteousness. Paul warns us not to "subject yourselves to regulations — 'Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,' which all concern things which perish with the using — according to the commandments and doctrines of men?" (Colossians 2:20-22 NKJV) Yet the Koran restores such regulations, including strict dietary laws. "Say: 'I do not find, in what is revealed to me, aught forbidden to him who eats thereof except it be carrion [died of itself], or blood outpoured, or the flesh of swine -- that is an abomination [unclean or profane] -- or an ungodly thing that has been hallowed to other than God." (Koran 6:146) The Koran is more of a restoration of Old Testament laws than a refinement of New Testament mercy and grace.
Beyond this, and many other differences in faith and practices, remains the central difference between Christianity and Islam, and that difference centers around the question of Muhammad and the Koran. One could hold Muhammad to be a reformer of ancient religions, allowing one to accept what was good in what he said and reject the rest. However, Muhammad claimed to be a prophet and an apostle from God; bringing a message dictated directly to him by God. As such, not only is Muhammad to be received as a prophet but also his book as divine.Apart from faith in the prophet and duty to his book, one can in no way be a Muslim or a follower of Islam.
The Koran equates faith and obedience to Muhammad as faith and obedience to God. "Whosoever obeys the Messenger [Apostle], thereby obeys God; and whosoever turns his back -- We have not sent thee to be a watcher over them [to be their keeper]." (Koran 4:82). Similarly, judgment is pronounced on those who disbelieves the word that was send down unto Muhammad, the words of the Koran. "Then what ails them [hath come to them], that they believe not, and when the Koran is recited to them they do not bow [adore]? Nay, but the unbelievers are crying lies, and God knows very well what they are secreting [their secret hatreds]. So give them good tidings [Let their only tidings be those]of a painful chastisement [punishment]." (Koran 84:20) Muhammad and the Koran stand as impenetrable bearers to any reconciliation between Christianity and Islam. It is in this revelation that I can in no way call myself Muslim for, while I am surrendered to God, I am not a follower of Muhammad or his Koran.
In the posts to follow, we will dig deeper, and in greater detail, into this central issue, the issue of who is Muhammad and is the Koran really the word of God.