Periodically there is a kerfuffle about Muslims worshipping the same God we do

Periodically there is a kerfuffle about Muslims worshipping the same God we do July 9, 2013

Before 9/11/01, it wasn’t such a big deal. But after that, a lot of Catholics were shocked and offended to hear the Church teaches:

CCC 841 The Church’s relationship with Muslims. The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.

So every now and then it comes up and shocked and offended people, Catholic and non-Catholic declare this to be heresy or ignorable, or evidence that the Church totally went off the rails at Vatican II with this brand new teaching.

Problem is, it’s not brand new. Pope St. Gregory VII was saying the same thing in 1076 in a letter to the Sultan of Bougie when he wrote:

For there is nothing which Almighty God, who wishes that all men should be saved and that no man should perish, more approves in our conduct than that a man should first love God and then his fellow men … Most certainly you and we ought to love each other in this way more than other races of men, because we believe and confess one God, albeit in different ways, whom each day we praise and reverence as the creator of all ages and the governor of this world.

This is, at the end of the day, an affirmation of common sense and of the Church’s habit of affirming in common with non-Catholics what can be affirmed. If Paul could do it with pagans who worshipped the Unknown God, the Church can still do it today with Muslims who worship the Partly Known God.

For more information, see my articles “Monotheism 101” and “”Monotheism 102“.

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  • kirthigdon

    Catholic commentators from the early days of Islam have considered it to be a Christian heresy. This was the opinion of St. John of Damascus, who knew the early Moslems up close and personal as treasurer for the Caliph of Damascus, ruler of all Moslems in the world at that time. It was also the opinion of St. Thomas Aquinas and in contemporary times of Chesterton and Belloc. Belloc considered Islam the greatest of the great heresies and Chesterton referred to Moslems as “the real unitarians”.
    Mohammed could not have been a “formal heretic” since he was never a Baptized Christian, but he was a “material heretic”. He learned about Christianity from heretical, mostly Nestorian, sources and added his own embellishments.
    The devotion which Moslems have toward Mary is notable. Bishop Sheen urged Christians to “bring the Moslems to Mary and let her bring them to her Son”.
    Kirt Higdon

    • In addition to those Catholics you mention it should be noted that Dante placed Mohammed in hell. Just looked it up, he’s in the eigth circle, quite deep. The eigth circle is the circle of fraud.

      • Rachel

        Manny, Dante placed a ton of people in hell, including some popes and bishops. I wouldn’t cite Dante as evidence about the whereabouts of Mohammed.

        • Of course. I was adding to the list of famous and knowledgable Catholics who didn’t see Islam as similar to Christianity.

          • Stu

            Well, he was a fraud. But the best frauds all start with elements of the truth.

          • wlinden

            So now we have the magisterium of Dante?

            • No I was adding to the comments of St. John of Damascus, St. Thomas Aquinas, Chesterton, and Belloc. None of them are the magisterium either. But they are knowledgable Christians who weren’t just looking for a huggy-feally moment.

              • Rachel

                Why do you have a problem with fostering positive relationships and possible discussions with Muslims and others? You know there are about a billion Muslims in the world. Not all of them want to kill people who think differently from them. Have you ever met and perhaps got to know a Muslim before?

                • I have in no way brought up terrorism and sharia law. I’ve stuck to the theological differences, which are vast.

              • wlinden

                As I noted above, your “knowledgeable” Dante also asserted that St. Celestine was damned for resigning out of what he considered “cowardice”. Is dissent from this judgement “looking for a huggy-feally [sic] moment”?

        • wlinden

          And one of the people he placed in Hell was St. Celestine V. I doubt that anyone today will support THAT judgement.

    • Heather Irwin

      I’m sure it wouldn’t work for everyone, but that is basically what happened for/to me, to bring me from Islam: Mary brought me to Jesus.

      • kirthigdon

        A friend and work colleague of mine was a Shia Moslem and a bit irreverent except when it came to Mary, for whom he had great reverence. He converted to Christianity when he married a Christian Syrian/American woman. I don’t know how much his reverence for Mary had to do with that, but it could not have hurt.
        Kirt Higdon

  • Yes, I agree it is the same God in the sense of a single creator of all, but is it the same nature of God? We Christians believe in a God of love. Love moves the universe to borrow from Dante but that comes from deep Christian theology. Do the Muslims believe God is love and moves through love? Is God a father or an external force? Is God a family member or a dictator to which one must submitt? I don’t know enough about Islam to get a clear picture, but the more I delve into it the more the stark differences stand out.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Frankly, it doesn’t matter what Muslims believe. God is (that’s His name, after all).

      There’s a difference between saying “Muslims’ understanding of God, whom they worship, is greatly flawed” and “Muslims worship a different God.” You can say that to a lesser extent of all our Protestant brothers and sisters, too.

      Even the Greeks of Paul’s time worshiped an unknown god, and Paul explained to them that this was Christ. Their understanding doesn’t change the nature of God.

      • Well then by your logic anyone who is not an atheist pretty much believes in the same thing? Of course there is an objective reality, and we Christians believe we know it. The fullness of whether we worship the same understanding of God is to assess the differences as well as the simalarities.

        • Andy, Bad Person

          But we don’t worship an understanding of God. We worship God. Clearly we don’t all believe in the same thing, but believing in a thing doesn’t change what the thing is.

          None of this is to minimize the differences in belief between Catholics, Muslims, and Protestants. Muslims understanding of God is terribly flawed, and we should work and pray that they see the truth. Let’s not build up more difficult barriers by denying that they even worship the same God, though.

          • Stu

            I think your point is even more apparent when we speak of the Jews. The Jews deny the Trinity. Would anyone seriously claim the Jews worship a “different God?”

            (Though admittedly I did have one protestant answer in the affirmative on such a question but I think he did so because he felt trapped in saying so given the corner he had painted himself into.)

          • I’m just trying to be intellectually honest and explore the question. If you feel the need for a Kumbaya moment then perhaps it should be as a comment to a different type of question. If you’re interested, the Registerhas a book review of a book on the subject:


            • Andy, Bad Person

              You’re looking for an argument, and it’s not with me, it’s with the Catechism and Gregory VII, as Mark cites above. I’ve explicitly stated that there are deficiencies in non-Catholic understanding of God, so your accusations of a “Kumbaya” moment are nothing but a cheap shot. I’m not interested in that nonsense.

              • Cheap shot? intellectually honest and complete is not a cheap shot. The context of Mark’s blog is a sort of Kumbaya moment. The differences are vast. If you look at my original comment, you’ll see that I said Christians believe that God is love and moves through love. I see nothing in Islam that would suggest that. I also said that we perceive God as a family while I think Muslims perceive God as a sort of dictator. Perhaps they wouldn’t phrase it that way, but i’m trying to make a point. Those differences in the nature of God are significant and cannot be glossed over. The very nature of God between us and Muslims are so great that even to just say we believe in a “similar” God is hogwash.

                • chezami

                  No. The context of my blog is the teaching of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church and the refusal of certain western reactionaries to accept it due to ephemeral political conditions in the early 21st century.

                • Heather Irwin

                  Nothing in Islam that suggests that Muslims believe that God is loving, and is indeed love? Nothing? You haven’t looked very hard. Try this. This is the first chapter of the Qur’an, called the Mother of the Book, which Muslims recite frequently, as a part of each formal prayer and as a prayer itself.

                  “In the Name of God, the All Merciful, the All Compassionate; All praise and gratitude are for God, the Lord of the worlds; The All Merciful, the All Compassionate; The Master of the Day of Judgment; You Alone do we worship and from You alone do we seek help; Guide us to the Straight Path; The Path of those whom You have favored, not of those who have incurred Your wrath, nor of those who are astray.”

                  There’s much more I could quote, but this will do.

                  And as far as whether Muslims perceive God as a dictator or have a familial relationship with Him, certainly some Muslims do view God primarily as a distant Judge figure, but so do many Christians. It’s not a view that’s well supported by the Bible or the Qur’an. While Muslims wouldn’t call God “Father” (and neither would most Jews, remember), most do have a relationship with God based first on love, and only secondly on wanting to avoid Hell.

                  I’m not trying to say that there aren’t differences, very important differences. But you are making the differences greater than they are. And I say this not as the result of an intellectual inquiry into Islam; I was until recently a practicing Muslim. Islam, as other commenters have pointed out, is not monolithic. Don’t take the religion as viewed by one group of ultraconservative literalists as representative of the religion as a whole.

                  • jackryan

                    As Benedict XVI stated in Regensburg, it is far more than a matter of viewing Allah as a “distant Judge figure.” He is an irrational deity, more like a Genie than the loving God of Judeo-Christian tradition. He does not act within the bounds of rationality. That’s consistent with all the verses in the Koran that encourage muslims to kill non believers thinking they will get these fantastic, and usually sex-centered, rewards in the next life.

                    • chezami

                      Yes. I am aware of all this. And yet, the law of non-contradiction holds and where Muslims affirm what we affirm, they are right and so is CCC 841, as much as that upsets reactionaries.

                  • said she

                    Thank you, Heather! We hate it when atheists assume that all Christians are Westboro Baptists, so we should strive to avoid the same kind of broad brush where Isam is concerned.

                  • Compassionate and merciful is not the same as Christian understanding of Love. In fact compassionate and merciful reinforces the dictator nature of how Muslims view God.

                    • chezami

                      And yet, God is compassionate and merciful and Muslims are not wrong to say so. It’s incredible what lengths Christians will go to do deny simple and obvious facts just to irrationally denounce Muslims.

                    • Rosemarie


                      Like many aspects of Islam, calling God “compassionate and merciful” is derived from Judaism and Christianity:

                      “And when he passed before him, he said: O the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, patient and of much compassion, and true” – Exodus 34:6

                      “The Lord is compassionate and merciful: longsuffering and plenteous in mercy.” – Psalm 103(102):8

            • chezami

              If I never hear the word “kumbaya” trotted out as cover for some ignorant remark it will be too soon. The point made here is extremely minimal, as is CCC 841. We have a few things in common with Muslims. And, as in your case, even that minimal affirmation is way too much and you feel the need to denounce the teaching of Holy Church. Nobody is saying Christianity and Islam are remotely identical. What I’m saying is that in the fear and hatred of Islam, lots of reactionaries do what you do and deny both the teaching of the Church and the law of non-contradiction in their haste to hate on Muslims.

              • ” Nobody is saying Christianity and Islam are remotely identical.”

                That’s not true at all. If all one focuses on is the creator montheism similarity, then one is being intellectually dishonest to the vast differences.

                • chezami

                  No. One is simply correcting a simple misperception about a single passage from the Catechism. Only a complete illiterate idiot could read this blog and conclude that I am blind to the huge differences between Islam and Catholic faith. But in *this* case I am simply pointing out that Catholics who assert an absolute opposition between the two are rejecting the teaching of Holy Church.

              • jackryan

                “haste to hate on muslims”? lol. i think you have that backwards at this point. we’re not the ones decapitating imams, flying into buildings, and sexually abusing reporters, all in the name of “Allah.”

                The person who made the point about speaking to Bruce Wayne was correct. That is the only sense in which we are talking to, or being heard by, the “same” entity. though “worship” is quite a different thing really. But I’ve always thought it a mistake to minimize the Trinitarian aspect of God’s reality in order to placate other people whoever they may be. Why? Has it brought any converts into the Church? See any mass conversions over in the Middle East? It just skews toward indifferentism to me, which is a sin.

                • chezami

                  Always good when a combox warrior stoops down to correct the Magisterium on its heresies and false teachings.

                  • jackryan

                    oh i see we have a combox warrior name caller in the house. wonderful. there are about 4 false statements in that sentence of yours. good job!

                • Great point about converts. These peope should google how many Chritians (mostly Catholics) in Britain are coverting to Islam. Christians convert to Islam based on these vague interpretations of their religion, but you don’t see Muslims converting to Christiaity.

                  • Dan F.

                    then again, you’re not looking. There is a vast increase of converts to Christianity across the Middle East,

                    • Is there really? I thought Christians were disappearing from the middle east. If that’s true that’s a good thing.

                    • Dan F.

                      Traditional Christian communities are being persecuted out of existence (thanks to our efforts in Iraq and Syria) but at the same time many muslims are coming to believe in the Christ even though they have never been taught how.

                    • Thanks. May it continue. That is why we should be emphasizing the difference’s about Christ’s love and sacrifice over the Muslim view of God as dictator. The more we emphasize that, the more I believe will come to embrace Christianity.

  • Ben @ Two Catholic Men

    Yes, BUT many think it doesn’t matter what our concept of God is like or how vague it is. “We all worship the same God” has become a shrug of the shoulders, dismissing the responsibility of knowing God as he reveals himself.

  • Rachel

    I agree with this post. I have two Muslim friends and they have offered some insight into Islam that you won’t get anywhere else. I think what tends to get lost in the rhetoric is that Islam is not some monolithic religion. In fact, there are many forms of Islam that interpret the Koran in different ways. So, you might have some groups who interpret it in a more literal way (ie. Al-Quaeda types, etc) and you have others that interpret it in more nuanced ways. The fact is there is not one Islam but many because they do not have a centralized type of authority to decide doctrine like we do. There are many schools of thought. That in turn does create more conflict. Historically, Islam was not always completely hostile toward Christians or Jews. Its more complex than that. What is odd is how often I’ve read that people would switch religions (Jews becoming Muslim, Muslims becoming Christians, Christians becoming Muslim, etc). It happened more often than one supposes. We tend to think there is this inseparable wall between all three religions but there are distinctive similarities too. Have we forgotten that During the 90’s, the Holy See had allies in the Muslim countries who opposed some proposals to make it a universal right for women to have abortions, etc?

    • There is nothing in your comment that remotely addresses the question of whether Islam worships the same God. Whether a muslim literally interpets the Koran or not, the nature of their understanding of God seems pretty much universal within all of Islam. And I would venture to say that that understanding of the nature of God is very different than the Christian understanding of God.

      • Rachel

        Then explain why the Catechism acknowledges that they worship the same God, albeit in a limited way? Again, its not just the Catechism but also Mark quoted from a pope who acknowledged it too. This is about trying to find some common ground in which to build on. Acknowledging that is a start

        • Well there is common ground. I’m not denying that. But only looking at the common ground without looking at the differences distorts the issue. If you’re interested, the Register has a book review of a book on the subject:

          • Stu

            I don’t believe anyone here wants to downplay the differences.

            • I beg to differ. I think they are being minimized.

              • Stu

                Alright. How about an example?

                • Of them being minimized? Just look at Rachel’s comments. Even the Mark Shea’s blog entry frames the question in worshipping the same God and using CCC 841 as justification. However nothing in CCC841 says that we worship the SAME God. It speaks of one God. Shea’s blog does minimize, if not distort, the differences.

                  • Stu

                    What it say is, “and together with us they adore the one, merciful God.”

                    I read that as being the same.

                    But I don’t see people attempting to minimize the differences. Islam is verydifferent and a dangerous threat but that does not preclude them from worshiping the “same God” with a distorted understanding. It is that flawed understanding that makes it dangerous.

                  • Andy, Bad Person

                    However nothing in CCC841 says that we worship the SAME God. It speaks
                    of one God. Shea’s blog does minimize, if not distort, the differences.

                    No, CCC 841 says that we worship the one God, not simply one God (declaring monotheism). Basic literacy reveals this statement to be an affirmation of the same God.

                  • ivan_the_mad

                    Or you could refer to Nostra Aetate, noting that “the” is the definite, most assuredly not the indefinite, article, and paying special attention to the second paragraph:

                    3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

                    Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.

                    • That last paragraph tells me this is all a Kumbaya moment rather than an intellectually honest one.

                    • Stu

                      Not so.

                      How we approach Mohammedans will vary. I seen no problem leading with the positive while be realistic about the negative.

                    • A postive here for what? We are on a Catholic discussion panel trying to intellectually discuss a subject. We’re not trying to be diplomats in a euconemical forum. To be intellectually honest requires that we talk about the significant differences, differences which I claim differentiate more that synthesize the two religions. The differences outweigh the similarities.

                    • Stu

                      Being honest means starting from the base truth as well. I don’t see why this is such a dichotomy for you. One can easily recognize that we worship the same God all while being frank that Islam is a very dangerous heresy. It’s a both/and.

                    • I don’t know what it really means “to worship the same God.” That is such a vague term. That’s why i keep calling this a Kumbaya moment. Of course Christains and Muslims worship one God. That is a fact. But the nature of that God and mankind’s relationship to Him is so radcally different that it’s intellectually dishonest to not fully paint the whole picture.
                      That’s my bottom line post. I’m going to put it into its own coment box.

                    • Stu

                      I’m not sure what your objection is.

                    • chezami

                      Yes, it’s very intellectual to toss off slogans about kumbaya Catholicism when you encounter something in the Magisterium not to your taste. Why I can barely tell you apart from St. Thomas when you mouth talk radio level rhetoric like that.

                    • Ah, a second insult. How many more times should I turn my cheek? Seven times seventy?

                    • wlinden

                      So, you complain that Mark insulted you by pointing out that you are insulting people.

                    • ivan_the_mad

                      Ah, a denizen of the Age of Sentiments.

                    • chezami

                      Then you are illiterate as well as a cafeteria Catholic who values his own opinion above the teaching of holy Church.

                    • Thanks for the insult. I’ll turn the other cheek.

        • jackryan

          The Catechism, and Gregory VII for that matter, do not say that they worship the “same” God. They simply note that both religions are monotheistic, i.e., the “one” God. There is a significant difference. Inasmuch as Jesus is God, the second person of the Trinity, no, we don’t worship the “same” God in anything but a metaphysical sense.

          • chezami

            You do realize, don’t you, that you have just declared that Jews and Christians do not worship the same God. You comfortable with that heresy Marcion?

        • And no. CCC841 does NOT say we worship the SAME God. It says we both worship one God. Do you realize that Muslims because of our trinity believe we are pagans?

          • Stu

            What do the Jews believe regarding the Trinity?

            • I don’t know. I’ve never seen a jew say Christians are pagans. Perhaps they do. I have seen muslims say it.

              • Stu

                I’ve read accounts of Jews stoning Christians for their beliefs.

                • wlinden

                  And? That proves they don’t worship God?

                • Yes, it’s right there in Acts. So what’s the point? Yes we have differences. From a Jewish perspective it could be said that the natures of God are different. But from a Christian perspective we would claim that God the Father is exactly the same God. Christians cannot make that sort of claim on the nature of Islam’s God.

                  • Stu

                    We can conclude, as did Belloc, that the Mohammedans are mistaken about the true nature of God. The fact that Mohammedans may call us pagans is of no more concern than Jews stoning early Christians.

                    • True. My comment on Islam considering us pagans was off topic. Well then, if you agree that “Mohammedans are mistaken about the true nature of God” than we agree. They do not worship the same God.

                    • Stu

                      Are there other gods?

                    • Stop playing semantics. There is only one God. I’m referring to what we perceive as God’s nature.

                    • Stu

                      Good. Clarity on your part.

                      No one here is denying that we have differing viewpoints on the nature of God.

                      What is being asserted is that there is only One God and Jews, Christians and Mohammedans worship him.

                    • There is only one God that exists. By th your logic, Hindus worship him too.

                    • Stu

                      Anyone who professes a faith in THE ONE TRUE GOD is ultimately speaking of THE ONE TRUE GOD. Polytheists are much further off in this regard.

                    • wlinden

                      This is what is denied by the [expletive deleted] assertion one periodically hears that “Allah” is some other, false god (ignoring that this is name used by Arabic-speaking Christians).

                    • chezami

                      Yes. They do. This is the teaching of Holy Church. But as you demonstrate, the cafeteria is wide open among so-called “conservative Catholics” when the Church challenges their politics.

                • chezami

                  Exactly. Every argument put forward to deny that Muslims worship the one God has been put forward to deny that Jews do. Marcion would be pleased.

  • CarlosHelms

    …And the one he sent forth, Jesus Christ?

    Could I be mistaken – after all these years – that Jesus is not the Way, the Truth, and the Life? I think not.

    So we have a common connection. That may open doors. But it doesn’t negate the fact that 200 million of 1 billion Muslims associate with Shari’a Law sects and would have my conversion – or my head.

    • wlinden

      Sharia means Moslem religious law. Your reference makes as much sense as claiming that some peculiar group of Jews “associate with halakhah sects.”

    • chezami

      You do realize you just denied that Jews worship the God of Israel, right?

  • Stu

    I have never, never understood this debate. I just don’t see why the notion of the Mohammedans having a flawed conception of God to be challenging to the Catholic Faith.

    I would be willing to wager that Saint Thomas Aquinas has a more complete understanding of God than I but that certainly doesn’t equate into me having a “different God.”

    • Heather Irwin

      I’d suggest not referring to Muslims as Mohammedans in their hearing. They consider it rude. Just so you (and everyone) know(s) – I’m not saying you intended any insult.

      • Stu

        I am a follower of Christ…a Christian.
        They are followers of Mohammed….Mohammedans.

        • Imp the Vladaler

          Except that “Christ” is an honorific, one that I wouldn’t expect those who don’t recognize as the Nazarene known as Joshua, son of Joseph as the anointed one of God to use. You and I can say “Mohammed” because we think of him as just some guy, but one of his followers would be more reverent and call him “the prophet Mohammed.”

          If we’re going to expect others to use our honorific to refer to us, we should probably defer to their requests.

          • Stu

            When Mohemmedan calls me a Christian, do they think He is “some guy?” I believe they see Him as a prophet just like Mohammed. I don’t believe they see the name “Christ” as being anything more than His name.

            But I understand your point. Don’t agree with it, but understand it.

            • Imp the Vladaler

              I may be mistaken, but I don’t think Muslims refer to Jesus as “Christ,” despite holding Him in some esteem. If they don’t, then calling us “Christians” is a courtesy that they’re kind enough to extend, even though they don’t have to.

              • Stu

                Fair point.

              • Manfred Arcane

                Muslims do refer to Jesus as Christ. For them he is the promised Jewish messiah and in the Quran he is Jesus Son of Mary the Messiah. He is also a prophet of God (just not THE Prophet, Muhammad. They accept many things about Jesus, much more than Jews do. They do reject the two most important aspects of Jesus Christ – his divinity and his saving sacrifice on the cross. So they get a lot of things right but miss completely on the essential things.

                • Rosemarie


                  As I wrote above, I don’t know how much Muslims use terms like Christ or Masih for Jesus. It’s there in the Quran but I’m not sure about popular Muslim practice.

                  Side note: there’s a phony “gospel” called the “Gospel of Barnabas” which some Muslims like to promote because it mentions Mohammed. They claim it is a true account of Jesus’ life, more accurate than the Gospels in the New Testament which they believe that Christians changed. Oddly, though, the Gospel of Barnabas denies that Jesus is the Messiah and calls Mohammed the Messiah instead. This contradicts the Quran, of course, but Muslims who accept this “gospel” try to explain away this contradiction in various ways.

                  • wlinden

                    As far as I can make out, the Moslem-in-the-street regards “Masih” as “a title given to Jesus for some reason” without thinking more deeply about it.
                    He is also called “the Spirit of Allah”, but this does not mean they share your understanding of the Holy Spirit, much less that they are Psychopassians (or whatever the label for that heresy would be.)

              • Rosemarie


                The Quran calls Jesus the “Masih” (Messiah) which is related to the term “Christ.” Though I’m pretty sure Muslims prefer to call him the “Prophet Issa (PBUH).” I don’t know how much they call Him “Al Masih,” if at all, or what significance they might attach to that title, even though it is in the Quran.

                As for “Mohammedan,” Muslims generally consider it offensive. I know Wikipedia isn’t always accurate, but here’s what it has to say about that word:

                ‘Some modern Muslims have objected to the term, saying that the term was not used by Muhammad himself or his earlier followers, and that the religion teaches the worship of God alone (see shirk and tawhid) and not Muhammad or any other of God’s prophets, according to Muslim beliefs. Thus modern Muslims believe “Mohammedan” is a misnomer, “which seem to them to carry the implication of worship of Mohammed, as Christian and Christianity imply the worship of Christ.” Also, historically the term al-Muḥammadīya has been used in Islam to denote several sects that have been considered heretical by mainstream Islam.’

                I don’t use the term “Mohammedan” myself, for the same reason I wouldn’t want a Muslim (or anyone else) calling me a Romanist or papist or some other anti-Catholic slur. If I don’t want someone to do that to me, I figure I shouldn’t do something similar to them. Golden Rule and all….

        • wlinden

          I take it that you insist are referring to Buddhists as “Gautamaists”?

          • Stu

            No. But I do call those in the Lutheran church, Lutherans.

            • Heather Irwin

              And Lutherans call themselves that. Muslims do not, and never have, called themselves after Muhammad.

        • Heather Irwin

          My point is only that if you are trying to talk to Muslims about Christianity – or anything else for that matter – you’d do well to know that the designation Mohammedan irritates them. The religion has a name, and they rather prefer people use it. Which is reasonable enough.

          • Stu

            Understand and noted. Some people are sensitive. Others are not. I’m just one of the latter.

            • Newp Ort

              You sure seemed butthurt over the suggestion you don’t use an offensive term for Muslims. You know, for somebody who isn’t sensitive.

              • Stu

                Or not.

                But I have to confess, I don’t know what “butthurt” is. Must be something that you have lived.

  • Mariana Baca

    I think people are confused as to why this matters. I think it matters because how you talk to a pagan, hindu, etc. even if they only hold one God of the patheon as “their God” is going to be different than how you talk to an Abrahamic monotheist. It isn’t a matter of convincing a hindu that Shiva is really an image of the One true God (that is false), Shiva just isn’t God. Their conception of Gods is not transcendental, it is within the order of creation. It is not a different face of God or anything like that.

    If you talk to a muslim about God, however, you are talking to them about a Person, a person they *already know*, albeit partly. God is not some abstract concept where “Ok, you believe in one God, good enough”, but God is a person. If we know the person we are talking about is already acquainted with that person, we can build up on that, sort of like how you can talk about your best friend to someone who only knows them as an acquaintance.

  • wlinden

    Jimmy Akin has a nice analysis (

    One of his analogies points out that someone who is talking to Bruce Wayne is talking to Batman, even though he may not know or believe that Bruce Wayne is Batman.

    • Stu

      I’m Batman.

      • I hope you said that in a deep, husky voice.

      • wlinden

        “You arrrr a heedious oorgant-oootang.”

  • Part of the problem is that our language is not exactly precise.

    So, insofar as we both worship the One, True, Holy, Transcendent Creator of all, who revealed himself to Abraham and Moses, yes we worship “the same God.”

    For that matter, because God is the true and ultimate ground of all being, we can legitimately say that anyone who seeks to worship the true and ultimate ground of all being (including many pagans) worships the same God as we do.

    But because we have such different understandings of the One whom we worship, those differences limit our ability to worship in Spirit and in Truth. So those who deny Christ, or who deny the revelation to Abraham, or who deny the personhood of God altogether, place great limits on their ability to worship God. Insofar as they worship an illusion in place of the Truth, they worship a false god, a “different” god.

    The fact is, because God’s existence and many of his aspects are known through creation, we have much in common with every other human on the face of the earth, including the followers of Mohammed. That doesn’t discount the differences; it simply clarifies what is and is not a difference.

    • Mark S. (not for Shea)

      That is a very valid difference in the worshipers, not the object of worship.

      There is only One God, whom both Christians and Muslims worship. Our understandings of God certainly differ. But to say that Muslims worship “a different god” or “a false god” is not true. We can say that some Muslim doctrines are false, just as we can say that some Protestant doctrines are false, but God Himself is not false.

      • Stu

        I think he meant “false God” to mean “false understanding of God.” Note that he put “different” in quotes.

      • Mark S. (not for Shea), that’s an excellent distinction. The difference is in us and in our worship, not in God.

        I doubt there are very many who set out to worship something other than the true God. There are, however, very many who mistake God for one thing among many and worship something else; or who deny that there is a God and try not to worship anything at all.

        However, Muslims (as a rule) do not fall into either of these kinds of idolatry. Their intent is to worship the One True God, and indeed they have the benefit of revelation, even if seen through a darkened and distorted lens.

      • I guess you can say the same about Hindus. So what. Now we do have a big Kumbaya party going on.

        • Mark S. (not for Shea)

          Hindus do not worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Islam’s roots are Judeo-Christian. A heresy? Yes. But a lost and wounded horse is still a horse. An elephant is an entirely different animal.

          That being said, the Hindus are certainly closer to God than many modern Americans I know. To paraphrase and add a little to something I think C.S. Lewis once said:

          The Christian knows more than the Jew, who knows more than the Muslim, who knows more than the Hindu, who knows more than the pagan, who knows more than the atheist — all of whom know more than the mildly religious man.

          • Dr. Eric

            Hindus are pagans, are they not?

            • Mark S. (not for Shea)

              Depends on how you define it. If by pagan you mean any of the non-Judeo-Christian religions, then yeah, I guess. But I wouldn’t call Hinduism pagan.

  • Pavel Chichikov

    Convert by the example of your life. By who you are.

    Except that God converts. Don’t get in His way.

  • The Deuce

    Ed Feser had a recent article that is relevant to this I think:

  • bob

    I heard this Orthodox priest speak in Seattle some years ago, a convert from Islam.
    He said reading the Koran got him, a place (no idea where) that mentioned the Wordof Allah. He realized that a word exists before he says it, in his mind. If Allah has a word, it must exist forever (he expresses it much better) and must be part of Allah .He said then the opening verses of St John came to him and he realized to his surprise and unhappiness that the Christians were right.

  • kirthigdon

    Most Moslems do not consider Christians to be pagans, but rather people of the book. It’s true that the Al Qaida types consider Christians to be pagans, but then they consider most Moslems to be pagans as well. In certain respects, most Moslems are closer to Christianity than most Jews. Islam considers Christ to be a great prophet, born of a virgin, who will judge the human race at the end of the world. They just don’t consider him to be God and Savior. Within Judaism, Christ has no official status and is considered anything from a great rabbi to a false messiah to just an interesting historical figure.

    Many Moslems, especially Shia and Sufi, have a well developed cult of saints, and one such cult in Pakistan, declared John-Paul II to be a saint while he was still alive, beating the Catholic Church to the punch.

    Kirt Higdon

    • Dave G.

      Sounds like there’s hardly any differences worth mentioning. A few years ago, a woman in a parish bible study said she heard a priest on the radio talking about Islam. According to her, he said apart from a few doctrines here and there, Islam and Catholicism were virtually the same. I thought then she may have misunderstood the man. Now, I’m not so sure.

      • Rosemarie


        >>>he said apart from a few doctrines here and there, Islam and Catholicism were virtually the same.

        On the contrary, there are major, significant differences between Islam and Catholicism. Islam denies the Trinity, denies that God is Father and denies that Jesus is God or the Son of God. It teaches that Jesus never claimed any of these things about Himself and will disavow them before God on Judgment Day and be vindicated. It therefore also denies the Incarnation or that that Mary is the Mother of God.

        Though it affirms the virginal conception of Jesus, the Quran explicitly states that Mary experienced labor pains, which Catholic tradition denies. Also, though Muslims believe that Jesus and Mary were the only human beings never “touched by Satan” at their birth, Islam doesn’t believe in original sin so Muslims don’t quite believe that Mary is immaculately conceived the same way Catholics do. Moreover, though devotion to Mary occurs in popular Islam, the religion officially discourages this, along with any devotion to deceased prophets or sages, as false worship of creatures rather than the Creator.

        Islam also teaches that Jesus did not die at all but was taken into heaven while Judas was crucified in His place. Therefore Jesus never redeemed us from our sins so He is not a Savior; He was just a prophet who taught the Jews how to submit to God. Islam obviously doesn’t believe in the Resurrection if Jesus never died, though they say that He will return to earth at the end of time and die, either in battle or of natural causes after ruling the world for forty years, depending on which tradition you read.

        It also teaches that humans are all God’s slaves, not His sons, has no Baptism or other Sacraments, no Sacrifice of the Mass, is severely iconoclastic with no sacred imagery whatsoever… I could go on.

        None of this negates the fact that Muslims worship the one Creator (though their knowledge of Him is deficient), but it clearly shows that Islam and Catholicism are not “virtually the same.”

    • Newp Ort

      in fairness, “still alive” disqualifies one for declaration of sainthood in the catholic church 🙂

    • Zeke

      Kumbaya indeed – Islam denies the core claim of Christianity. Muhammad assures us that anyone who thinks Jesus was divine will spend eternity in hell, Qur’an 5:71-75; 19:30-38.

      • chezami

        Did you even read the links?

  • Imp the Vladaler

    Islam borrowed and adapted important elements of Judaism and Christianity, so I’m comfortable saying that they worship the same God. But I imagine that there has to be a limit to this. If I create a monotheistic religion from whole cloth and begin sacrificing stray cats to Cthulhu or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whom I acknowledge as creator of the universe and laud for his capriciousness, I don’t think Pope St. Gregory would tell me that I’m worshiping Yahweh.

    Or if we look at Matthew 6:24, Jesus tells us that we can’t serve both God and Mammon. He didn’t say that those who worship Mammon are imperfectly worshiping God, or have a flawed understanding of God… but good on them for trying.

    • Stu

      I think that is the essence. There is a historical link. There is traceability just as there is with the protestant heresies.

    • Edwin Woodruff Tait

      If you worship Cthulhu or the FSM, you aren’t a monotheist. You’re a henotheist at most. This is the same mistake atheists make. God isn’t just a god. Same with worshiping Mammon. Proponents of prosperity theology hold false views about God which practically identify God with Mammon. As a matter of polemic I might say something like “I don’t worship the god of Joel Osteen,” meaning “I reject some of the attributes that Joel Osteen ascribes to God.” But I don’t literally mean to deny that Joel Osteen intends to worship the true God. Joel Osteen doesn’t deliberately, knowingly worship Mammon or any other idol. Neither do Muslims.

      • Stu

        What about Jobu?

      • Imp the Vladaler

        If you worship Cthulhu or the FSM, you aren’t a monotheist. You’re a henotheist at most.

        Not if you honestly believe that Cthulhu/FSM/whatever is the sole creator god.

        As for Joel Osteen, he invokes the Name, and I am extremely reluctant to tell anyone who does so that he’s not worshiping Christ, even if his theology is heretical in places. I still think that at a certain point, your theology goes so far off the rails that you can’t credibly be claiming to be worshiping Yahweh anymore. I mean, I don’t think we can call someone who owns one of these things a worshiper of the God of Abraham.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    Scott Hahn has a very good talk, available from Lighthouse Catholic Media, called “Abba or Allah”; in it he discusses the profound differences in how Christians and Muslims view God and our/their relationship to Him.

    • Yes! I have it. That was what inspired me through most of this discussion.

      • Rebecca Fuentes

        It makes me profoundly sad for Muslims; how it must make God’s heart ache.

  • kirthigdon

    I’ll take this opportunity to recommend once more the book “Between Allah and Jesus: What Christians can learn from Moslems” by Peter Kreeft.
    Kirt Higdon

  • Dave G.

    I think that Paul’s reference to the altar to an unknown god is the best parallel. Clearly Paul saw this as the Greeks looking to the One God who Paul worshiped and followed and taught. But here’s the thing. He didn’t stop there. He went onto point out that ultimately there is only One God, revealed in Jesus Christ. And then went onto explain Jesus. I think the Catechism does that, too. Those who think Muslims cannot be thinking of the God of Christianity would do well to reread Paul’s exploits in Athens. Those trying to take the other way, however, and even unintentionally acting as if there’s just One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Islamic Faith, would do well to remember all that Paul said and did in Athens as well.

  • Hey since everyone is attacking me from all different directons (and I’m fully enjoying it!) I’m going to post what I consider the bottom line comment outside of a reply. Here:

    I don’t know what it really means “to worship the same God.” That is such a vague term. That’s why i keep calling this a Kumbaya moment. Of course Christains and Muslims worship one God. That is a fact. But the nature of that God and mankind’s relationship to Him is so radcally different that it’s intellectually dishonest to not fully paint the whole picture. You want to say we worship the same God, hey in that vague sort of way, perhaps less so but not much, so do the Hindus.

    • Rosemarie


      It means that they worship the Supreme Being, Creator of the universe, even though they misunderstand His nature. It does *not* mean that Islam is salvific or equal to Christianity. I *don’t* believe that and I’m sure no one who has argued with you on this thread believes that, either.

      When Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman, He told her “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” (St. John 4:22) He was admitting that Jews and Samaritans worship the same God, but saying that there is something deficient in the Samaritan understanding of Him. They worship Him though they do not know him. Similarly, Muslims worship what they do not know, but Christians worship what we do know, for salvation comes from Christ through the Church.

      Again, if Muslims worship the same God we do, it is in the same sense as the Athenians with their altar “to the unknown god,” as Dave G points out below. St. Paul didn’t tell them, “Well, you’re already worshiping the true God at this altar to the unknown god, so carry on, then. No need to become a Christian.” No, he still preached the Gospel to them. Even so, Muslims should still hear the Gospel so that they get the chance to know the fullness of truth about our Creator, whom they already worship but *do not know.*

      The question of Hinduism is complicated, because it is a very diverse religious tradition, not a single unified religion. But consider this: many Hindus worship idols, while Islam strongly shuns idolatry and strives to worship the Creator rather than the creature. So even though its conception of the Creator is deficient compared to Christian revelation, Islam is not in the same category as Hinduism or other forms of paganism. Rather, it is closer to Christianity and Judaism in this regard.

      There’s more I could say but it’s late and I’m tired. God bless you.

      • God bless you too. 🙂

    • wlinden

      I have a very good idea of what it does NOT mean. It does not mean “Moslems worship a different god”, or the periodic assertion “… the moon god Allah”. Or the RELIGULOUS assertion that Moslems “think Mohammed is God”. Or the Koran’s ludicrous assertion that the Jews worship “Ezra”.
      If to deny these propositions is to “call for a kumbaya moment”, make the most of it.

  • Will

    Nothing wrong with a Kumbaya moment.

    • It has its time and place. We do need to be kind to other religions, but let’s not gloss over the differences.

  • Dear Mark, you are taking an opinionated and overly strong stand about this, and not arguing responsibly.

    First, the Catechism is a summary of existing teaching and isn’t presented as a document with its own authority. So you should be quoting from Nostra Aetate para. 3, which the Catechism draws on.

    Second, you should be quoting it in Latin, because the Latin text is authoritative. It also allows for more than one interpretation: the Latin is noncommittal about certain points which you pound the table about.

    So here’s _Nostra aetate_ 3:

    Ecclesia cum aestimatione quoque Muslimos respicit qui unicum Deum
    adorant, viventem et subsistentem, misericordem et omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae, homines allocutum, cuius occultis etiam decretis toto animo se
    submittere student, sicut Deo se submisit Abraham ad quem fides islamica
    libenter sese refert.

    Now go to work making your arguments.

    Reading your rants on this subject — based so much on your private interpretation of Church documents — reminds me of dealing with Feeneyites, just from the opposite side of the same questions!

  • Here’s what has been running through my mind during this discussion.
    (1) Rebecca Fuentes below mentions Scott Hahn’s excellent Lighthouse Media talk titled “Abba or Allah” which compares the differences between the two religions.
    (2) The other thing was a conversation I had with a Muslim I work with on the nature of Christ. The conversation started on how much they revered Christ, but then he said something which was a sort of an epiphany for me. He said that Muslims could not understand how we would think that God would become man. That is interesting in itself, but the really startling thing was that he followed up on it with that Muslims could not believe that God would humiliate Himself by being crucified.
    That God would become man – a poor man, perhaps close to a slave – is core understanding of the Christian God, and that he humiliated Himself in the absolute worst ignoble death for a Jew (and i suspect all Semitic cultures), hung on a tree, for our slavation is the key Christian characteristic of God.
    Now even setting aside the theological differences of the Trinity, tell me we still worship the same God as we understand His nature?
    It doesn’t synthesize.

    • Stu

      Same God….flawed understanding on their part of his nature.

      Completely congruent.

      • LOL, OK. I think I’ve made my points. I wish no one here ill will, and that includes the Muslims that may have stopped by. Peace through merciful God to all.

    • Rosemarie


      They *don’t* understand His nature, but that doesn’t mean they can’t worship Him. Like the Samaritans, they worship what they do not know. Jesus Himself says that it is possible to worship God without fully knowing Him.

      St. Paul says in Romans 1:20 that something of God’s attributes is revealed in His creation, so all men, even non-Christians, can know at least something of God. The Church calls this natural revelation. Granted, it’s incomplete and so needs supernatural revelation (the Sacred Deposit of Faith) to supplement it for a fuller knowledge of the Creator. Yet it does mean that even pagans can have some knowledge of the one true God.

      I don’t have the time to look it up now, but St. Thomas Aquinas taught that worship of the Creator is required of all human beings. God would not require something that is impossible for them. So it must be possible for people with an imperfect understanding of God, perhaps derived only from natural revelation, to worship Him.

      Islam has a certain advantage over paganism since it derived elements of its beliefs from the two revealed religions: Judaism and Christianity. Granted, these elements were somewhat distorted, but it does mean that Islam contains some glints of supernatural revelation in it, unlike religions with only natural revelation.

      Still, it rejects many important elements of supernatural revelation, such as the Trinity and Incarnation. It focuses too much on the transcendence, power and reign of God to the detriment of understanding the profundity of His self-giving love which caused Him to become flesh and die so that we may become partakers in the divine nature. These are definite deficiencies, but they do not change the fact that Muslims intend to worship the one Creator above all things and can do so despite these deficiencies in their knowledge of Him.

      Scripture tells of righteous Gentiles like Job, Melchizedek and Jethro, who worshiped the Most High God even though they didn’t have Sacred Scripture to enlighten them. The ancient Hebrews themselves were ignorant of the Trinity yet were still able to worship the true God. Even we Christians who have the Sacred Deposit of Faith don’t understand the Supreme Being perfectly because He is ultimately incomprehensible. Even the angels and saints in Heaven, even Blessed Mother Herself who comprehends God better than any mere creature, cannot fully comprehend the depths of Infinite Divinity. Yet none of this prevents any of us, of them, from worshiping God. We’re not Gnostics, we don’t put such a high premium on knowledge. A little child can lisp the Lord’s Prayer without a full adult understanding of Catholic theology and yet will still be heard.

      Yes, Islam is wrong about many things re. the Divine Nature. But it’s right about there being one God, one Creator, who alone should be worshiped above all creation. That’s who they seek to worship and honor, though they don’t understand Him fully. “You worship what you do not know….”

      • chezami

        Like *anybody* “understands his nature”. Sheesh!

        • Stu

          But, can Jesus Christ hit a curveball?

  • oregon nurse

    Allah was revealed (made known) to Mohammed who in turn revealed Allah to men – assuming Mohammed wasn’t insane and hallucinating. Do we Catholics really think God and Allah are one and the same? How could that be? If Allah is God then He authored a religion that undermined His Son. If God did not do that, then the Allah that revealed himself to Mohammed couldn’t be God could he?

    • Your logic is overwhelmingly spot on!

    • Rosemarie


      First of all, let’s remember that Arabic-speaking Christians, like Maronites and Melkites, were calling God “Allah” before Mohammed was even born. “Allah” is a contraction of “Al Ilah,” which means “The God” – as in THE *only* God. Arabic-speaking Christians still call God “Allah;” in fact they call the First Person of the Trinity “Allah al-ab” (God the Father), the Second Person “Allah al-ibn” (God the Son), and the Third “Allah al-ruḥ al-quds” (God the Holy Spirit). So the name “Allah” is not exclusive to Islam.

      Second, Catholics do not believe that God revealed anything to Mohammed. The latter claimed to have received a revelation from God but did not, so his claims about God’s nature are his own, not revealed by the true God. Yet that doesn’t mean that Muslims don’t worship the one Creator of the universe, even if they don’t know Him as fully as Christians do.

      • oregon nurse

        Thanks for the clarification of the use of the name Allah. I will be more careful in the future to be specific.

        However, Muslim’s define Allah the way Mohammed defined him, however deluded, or misled he might have been. Having the same name and same montheistic nature doesn’t make the Muslim Allah the same One True God of Judaism and Christianity, imo. You might as well say the deist believes in the same creator god as a Christian.

        • I agree. It’s a matter of using the same language. But that doesn’t mean they are referring to the same exact God.

        • Rosemarie


          This has been rehashed over and over below. There is only one God and it is possible for all humanity to worship Him, even if some people’s understanding of Him is deficient. That is how Muslims worship the same God as Christians. This does not make Islam correct or salvific or equal to Christianity.

      • The Arabic Christians calling God Allah is irrelevant. That’s a linguistic pickup from living in the same culture. It’s not meant to be associated with the Muslim God. Both groups speak Arabic.

    • Stu

      Yes, I think God and Allah are the same.

      I also think Mohammed was either dishonest, not mentally “right” or deceived.