The reason for this study can be summed up by something a Christian said on my Facebook page: “I learned all I needed to know about Islam on 9/11/2001.” That combination of ignorance, prejudice, and indifference is unbecoming of Christians. We are called to make disciples of all nations – including Muslims – and the only way we can do this is if we understand those we are trying to reach.
I. Why Study About Islam?
Islam is the second largest religion in the world (after Christianity) and will soon be the second largest religion in America.
A. In the world:
1. The world's Muslim population is expected to increase by about 35% in the next 20 years, rising from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030. (Pew Research)
2. Muslims represent the majority population in fifty-six countries worldwide, including Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Nigeria.
3. In addition, significant Muslim populations can be found in India, China, the Central Asian Republics, and Russia as well as Europe and America.
4. Contrary to popular assumption, the majority of Muslims are not Arab. In fact only 20 percent originate from Arab countries. The largest Muslim communities are to be found in Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India.
B. In America:
1. Population projections show the number of Muslims more than doubling over the next two decades, rising from 2.6 million in 2010 to 6.2 million in 2030, in large part because of immigration and higher-than-average fertility among Muslims. The Muslim share of the U.S. population (adults and children) is projected to grow from 0.8% in 2010 to 1.7% in 2030, making Muslims roughly as numerous as Jews or Episcopalians are in the United States today. (Pew Research)
2. Muslims are and will increasingly be our neighbors, colleagues at work, and fellow citizens.
C. Yet most Americans admit to knowing little if anything about Islam.
1. Gallup January 2010: 43% of Americans admit to feeling at least "a little" prejudice toward Muslims.
2. Pew Research August 2010: 55% of Americans said they know little or nothing about Islam.
II. How We Should Approach the Study of Islam
A. In our society there are two extremes: pluralism and prejudice.
1. Pluralism: all religions are basically the same - good
2. Prejudice: All Muslims are the same - evil
B. We can see examples of Jesus and the apostles dealing with others from various religious backgrounds. Their approach was to:
1. Show kindness and speak the truth (John 4).
2. Face your prejudices and speak the truth (Acts 10).
3. Establish common ground and speak the truth (Acts 17).
C. Our guiding principle in how we go about this study is the golden rule – to treat Muslims the way we would wish to be treated.
1. Muslims can have prejudiced and uninformed view of Christians, especially Americans.
2. We will approach Islam the way we wish Muslims would learn about us:
a. Consult original sources as much as possible.
b. Discriminate between the original understanding of the religion and the later versions of the religion.
c. Recognize that the actions of a radical fringe do not identify the entire group.
d. Acknowledge the truth that is held in common so that the points of disagreement can be clearly focused.
e. Practice intellectual honesty and empathy.
Good Online Resources for Information
Pew Research. Up-to-date polling on attitudes and beliefs of Muslims. pewresearch.org
Oxford Islamic Studies Online. The most comprehensive scholarly website on the study of Islam.
Muslim West Facts. Gallup organization’s polling data on Muslim attitudes and beliefs.
Altafsir. Original Arabic texts of over 100 books of Quranic commentary, interpretation and explanation, recitation tutorials, and hadith collections. altafsir.com