Light for our path: Islam

Light for our path

“Why does Islam have so many followers, and why doesn’t God stop the spread of that false religion?”

James F. Pope

You’re right, Islam does have a very large following. While hard numbers are difficult to obtain, current estimates suggest that Islam accounts for approximately 20 percent of the world’s present population, or about 1.3 billion people.

Global growth

Islam is the invention of Muhammad, who lived in the sixth and seventh centuries A.D. Initially, his message met resistance, but it did not take long before people began submitting to Allah, Muhammad’s false god. (Islam means “submission,” and Muslim refers to one who “submits.”)

There were early converts to Islam for numerous reasons. At a time when Christians were debating the nature of Jesus Christ and other doctrines, Islam came along with a “simple faith,” one that had no complicated creeds or mysterious sacraments. Islam proposed five “pillars” or duties for its adherents: a confession of Allah as god, daily prayer at appointed times, fasting during Ramadan, alms-giving, and pilgrimage. Other reasons for the numerical growth of Islam in its infancy were militaristic expansion and “tax advantages” for non-Muslims, who could forego tax payments by converting.

The growth of Islam today can be attributed, among other reasons, to a higher birth rate of its followers, the illusion of being a peaceful religion, and policies of numerous countries that promote and tolerate only Islam.

Not to be lost in all this is the fact that Islam is a religion of work-righteousness. Unfortunately, that means it naturally appeals to people who think there must be something they can do to be at peace with a higher power of some kind. Any religion like Islam that focuses attention on people’s actions instead of God’s saving actions will naturally—and sadly—attract followers.

Divine direction

So where is God in all this, you wonder. He is “seated on his holy throne” (Psalm 47:8), ruling over the nations. He is in heaven, doing “whatever pleases him” (Psalm

115:3). More than that, he is in our world guiding everything for the good of the members of his church (Romans 8:28).

God is certainly not pleased when people reject his truth and accept falsehood. God’s desire is clear. He does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). And yet, consider how God leads people to repentance and convinces them of his truth. Is it by sheer might and force? No, it is through his Word, by the sweet call of the gospel. Slowly but surely God opens the eyes of spiritually blind people and shows them the Savior they have in Jesus his Son. Since the fall into sin, God has changed the hearts of millions of people, but throughout time God has referred to his people as a “remnant” and a “little flock.”

That is because as God does his work, so does Satan. As God sows the seed of his life-giving word, Satan scatters his life-destroying lies (Matthew 13:24-30,36-43). God, in his wisdom, allows Satan to carry out his work. That allowance calls for you and me to bow in humility to God’s wisdom (Romans 11:33-36). God knows what he is doing, and in the end everything will redound to his glory and praise (Philippians 2:9-11).

Your questions underscore the need to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with Muslims and all who live apart from the kingdom of God.

Contributing editor James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota, is a member at St. John, New Ulm.

Learn more about Islam and reaching out to Muslims at

James Pope also answers questions online. Submit your questions there or to


Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.


Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.


Author: James F. Pope
Volume 102, Number 6
Issue: June 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us