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This question is somewhat triggered by this question. I felt a plethora of emotions when I thought about the right way to approach answering it, and I felt it would be better to express these sentiments in another question rather than as an answer to that question.

The sentiments are as follows: Judaism and Islam are two religions whose devotees display (quite frankly) an incredible and exceptional level of devotion to God, a level of devotion which I could not personally dare to imagine myself undergoing. When I think of the number of commandments which adherents of Judaism have to follow, and think of the common image of adherents of Islam bowing to God in humble submission, I feel nothing but utter respect. From the point of view of Christianity, this level of devotion might appear misguided, as salvation is through Jesus Christ and nothing else. Agreed.

But with all the above mentioned factors in play, how does one go about even thinking about this issue? How does one go about approaching it? Is there a balance that can be sought in discussions on the topic? How can one aptly say, "yes, salvation is through Jesus Christ, but the amount of devotion to God which adherents of Judaism and Islam display is frankly admirable, even to (certain) Christian eyes"?

Apologies if the presentation of the question is a little unclear, but I hope you get what I mean. Thanks.

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@Affable: Thanks for the edit! –  user1539 Jul 9 '12 at 9:35
    
Scripture answers it directly in Romans 10 - read that. Their zeal is not according to knowledge. –  Matt Jun 11 '13 at 10:30
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Find the most dedicated Jew or Muslim and you probably won’t find anyone more dedicated to God under his moral Laws than the Apostle Paul before he became a Christian. Paul said he was blamelessly devoted to God before knowing Christ but after becoming a Christian he counted all that devotion as mere rubbish:

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ (NIV Philippians 3:4-9 Bold mine)

Pharisees in the Bible were precisely known for the ‘incredible and exceptional level of devotion to God’, a level of devotion which most could not personally dare to imagine or undergo.

We sometime forget how dedicated they were and how much respect they obtained from the general population for that 'holy behaviour'. We forget this wisely, because Jesus said doing holy things for God for the respect that man will provide is evil. This respect you have is what a self-righteous person works for, so they would be very happy to hear you speak this way. However, Jesus looked at it quit differently. If good works are not done by faith in Messiah, they are not done by faith in God. Also anything that is not done by faith is sin, therefore all good deeds done in unbelief is not good at all -- it is sin -- and the deadliest kind -- for it makes a person self-righteous.

everything that does not come from faith is sin. (NIV Romans 14:23)

And without faith it is impossible to please God (NIV Hebrews 11:6)

Jesus took a different view to those 'committed to God', but were not committed to faith in Him, for the forgiveness of their terrible and huge sins.

Religious people without faith in Christ can be very dedicated in converting others to their zeal for God:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. (NIV Mathew 23:15)

Religious people without faith in Christ can sacrifice many material things in their devotion to God:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. (NIV Mathew 23:23)

Religious people without faith in Christ can sacrifice impress others by outwards commitments to God, but their unrepentant hearts by rejecting Christ shows the true state of their inwards perversity:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. (NIV Mathew 23:25)

Religious people without faith in Christ seem like very good people and its sometime hard to tell what is going on inside but Christ shocked everyone by having a fiery discernment:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. (NIV Mathew 23:27)

I could keep going and going but I think you get the point.

Some of these highly impressive people who were extremely dedicated to God at the times of the Apostles had doubts whether Jesus was the Messiah, or not. Some had converted to Christianity but not with real sincere faith yet. Their religious convictions and how they perceived the faith of their holy forefathers made them seriously doubt the gospel. There were struggling with a deadly poison - unbelief. It was a heaven, or hell, tuype of decicision.

The Epistle to the Hebrews (Jewish people) was written to them, to ensure they do not get confused. In that Epistle we find some of the most severe warnings in all of scripture, because turning away from Christ to Judaism is exposing your soul to the danger of hell – with a sort of 'fast track' direction. For having been exposed to the truth anf grace of Christ and then rejecting it! and turning to another religion is possibly the greatest sin a man can commit.

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth (i.e. turn away from faith in Christ and return to Judaism), no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them (i.e. disrespecting the blood that brought them into an external knowledge of the gospel, offering them eternal life which they were about to possibly reject!!), and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people. ”It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (NIV Hebrews 10:26-31 Italics mine)

So you see there is nothing here but a disappointing answer. The Bible does not just sprinkle sugar on all our fears and worries. Sometimes it says something pretty tough, and I know this can be very hard at times. The Bible has knocked me down many times, but God’s love pulls me back up! The Bible wants us to 'hang in there' and 'do not get discouraged' about all this. Gods grace is much bigger than our sins, whether they are ‘white’ sins of self-righteousness like those in religion, or those lesser evils, those ‘black’ sins of sexual perversity, drunkenness, greed for money, etc.

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At first, I thought this answer was harsh. But upon further reflection, I believe that you only endeavoured to convey the words of God with sincerity. Thanks and God bless you. –  user1539 Jul 10 '12 at 13:26
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@user1539 - I really winced worrying about how this answer was going to be recieved. I find your acceptance unusually encouraging. Thanks and God bless you also. Cheers :) –  Mike Jul 10 '12 at 13:58
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Let me say something, Noah was the prophet, his religion was the only one accepted by God at that time so that at those times salvation was just through Noah, this was the case then for Abraham, also for Moses for the sons of Isreal, and then for Christ, PBUT. This was always the case for all prophets of God, if a prophet of God was there in public leading people to God and people were leaving him alone fighting against him you think any chance for them to survive? Certainly not. Now the problem is this, if Jesus is the last prophet then his religion is the last divine one, so salvation would certainly be trough him, but what if he is not the last one? I see Christians believe in Christ not as a prophet for him to be the last one or one before the last one, but they saw him as God himself, this is something that I just cannot understand, but to us now salvation is just through Muhammad, however, it is written in Quran that this will not be true unless we believe in all the prophets of God, not even rejecting a single one of them.

The Messenger believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in Allah, His angels, His books, and His messengers. "We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His messengers." And they say: "We hear, and we obey: (We seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys." [Abdullah Yusuf Ali] (2:285)

and the last part of this Ayah is what makes a Muslim a real muslim, as the word "muslim" means yielder to the will of God: we hear, and we obey.

But about what Mike said in his answers I should have some clarifications. We just believe the same thing:

Jesus said doing holy things for God for the respect that man will provide is evil. This respect you have is what a self-righteous person works for, so they would be very happy to hear you speak this way. However, Jesus looked at it quit differently. If good works are not done by faith in Messiah, they are not done by faith in God. Also anything that is not done by faith is sin, therefore all good deeds done in unbelief is not good at all -- it is sin -- and the deadliest kind -- for it makes a person self-righteous.

actually, if my memory helps I saw a Hadith wherein an old letter was found and brought to the one of the 14 saints of Shia Islam, he looked at it and announced that the letter is a piece of writing from saint Peter, the succeeder of Jesus, which reads: the best person is a stealth pious, and the worse is one famous pharisee! (maybe not a good translation due to my lame English but hope that it would give you the message). But a point of bifurcation between us is that Mike said: "by faith in Messiah" and certainly it was true for that time but we believe not also after the last prophet came as well, unless faith in Jesus is accompanied by faith in also Muhammad, PBUT.

Also, note that the faith is God is the one single requirement and everything beside it is just a prerequisite of that on its own. So again back to the original question, every worship dedicated only to God is respected by God as he says in Quran, the prayer be Muslim or not:

Not all of them are alike: Of the People of the Book are a portion that stand (For the right): They rehearse the Signs of Allah all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration. (3:113)

and

Ye are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah. If only the People of the Book had faith, it were best for them: among them are some who have faith, but most of them are perverted transgressors. (3:110)

and

And there are, certainly, among the People of the Book, those who believe in Allah, in the revelation to you, and in the revelation to them, bowing in humility to Allah: They will not sell the Signs of Allah for a miserable gain! For them is a reward with their Lord, and Allah is swift in account. (3:199)

There are many people in Shia Islams that are known to public as a holy person just after their death, so to speek not all muslims worship God in the sense of the self-righteous people, there are many who do their best to hide their position in front of God as much as possible, behaving just as others, a stranger would never even suspect he may be a holy man, however, there are also people who are discovered before their death, among them is Ayatollah Bahjat, this is the link to a movie showing a prayer of him in a mosque, don't you feel God in his front?

Godspeed

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Hi! Thank you for your answer and the link to the video, and sorry about the downvotes on the answer. =( Thank you so much for sharing your Muslim perspective. –  user1539 Sep 17 '12 at 3:41
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