Christians are exhorted to love others because God loves them. Muslims are reminded that we are to be as merciful and compassionate as God is, but we are to love others because God wants us to. Christians emphasize gratitude; Muslims obedience.
This is one thing that attracted me to Islam. Gratitude to God wasn’t enough to motivate me to be a better person. I needed to know that His nature demanded it and that I wasn’t let off the hook by an intermediary who took all my sins away. I could never figure out how I could still be considered sinful if my sins had been eradicated. And if they had been eradicated, then why should I try to improve my behavior? I could just be who I am and God would forgive me and save a place for me in Heaven as long as I believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Christianity is a “feel good” religion. No matter what you do there is a way out. That doesn’t mean that some Christians don’t heap guilt on themselves or others. But those are Christians who don’t understand the basic tenets of their faith. In Christianity, you can be the worst person in the world and as long as you profess faith in Christ and accept that he died for your sins and conquered death for all time by his resurrection, you will go to Paradise. On the other hand, you can be the best person in the world and if you do not believe that Jesus is God, you are condemned to Hell.
This didn’t make sense to me. Christians think that Muslims see God as arbitrary because our salvation is up to the God’s discretion. But God judges us all by the same principle: whether or not we’re truly submitted to Him and obedient to His will. After all, God knows our hearts, He knows that a person who looks good on the outside can be evil and corrupt inside. And He also knows that a person who seems bad on the outside can actually love Him deeply. If God knows that as far as Muslims are concerned He also knows it as far as Christians (and all other believers) are concerned.
For this reason, I find Islam to be far more pragmatic about human nature as well as far more inclusive about and cognizant of God’s true nature. It is also more universal. There are some Muslims who think you are condemned to Hell if you don’t convert to Islam, but I believe that God’s standards are the same for all people: we are to be submissive to Him and obedient to His will (which means that we treat others with the same compassion and mercy that God shows to us). Anyone who does that is a Muslim. Abraham was a Muslim, Jesus was a Muslim. You might be a Muslim.
When I converted to Islam, it was a relief, really, to put away the Christian concept of original sin and to accept the Islamic belief that God created us just the way we are for His purposes. He knew that only creatures that were capable of sinning could also be obedient. How could our obedience mean anything to God if we were made to always be obedient? Our free will makes it all that more pleasing to God when we exercise it to do good.