1. Jonah or Jesus
2. The Beginning of Islam
3. The Early Development of Islam
4. “There is No God But God…” A Closer Look at the Islamic View of God
5. “And Muhammad is the Messenger of God” A Closer Look at the Islamic View of Muhammad
6. The Quran
9. Jurisprudence and Mysticism
12. Why Muslims Reject Christianity
13. Why Muslims Accept Christianity
Below is the introduction:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” This simple commission is the reason for this book. Jesus wants His followers to teach and baptize people from all nations because His authority extends over all nations. This includes the approximately 1.5 billion people in our world who are Muslims. My hope is that the information in this book can help Christians understand Islam, and be more effective as disciples of Jesus Christ in sharing the gospel with Muslims.
The greatest challenge to a genuine study of Islam as it compares to Christianity is (to use an over-worn phrase) political correctness. There is on the hand the political correctness of the left, which prizes relativism above all else. Since it denies the existence of objective truth, liberal political correctness sees all religions as equally valid (or invalid), and consequently there is no meaningful sense in which the truth claims of Islam and Christianity may be evaluated. Indeed the very enterprise of open and respectful debate between Muslims and Christians is (ironically for those who treat tolerance as virtually sacred) intolerable. This left-leaning political correctness is so extreme it even refuses to acknowledge that any Muslims are terrorists.
But there is also a political correctness of the right. Generated by hyper-patriotism, those in the grip of conservative political correctness think all Muslims are terrorists (or would be if they actually followed the Quran). As one Christian posted on my Facebook page, “I learned everything I need to know about Islam on 9/11.” Blinded by such hate and ignorance, this right-leaning political correctness is simply incapable of understanding genuine Muslim beliefs, much less engaging in informed dialogue.
The pluralism of the left and the prejudice of the right paralyze evangelism. The former makes it unnecessary, and the latter makes it unthinkable. If we are to carry out the mission Christ has given us, though, we cannot afford to be manipulated by the political correctness of the left or the right. Both mindsets reflect worldly philosophies rather than the renewal created by the transforming work of the Spirit. We cannot allow our worldview to be shaped by political ideologies; we must be loyal to our King and adopt His mind and His mission as our own.
Perhaps the best way to begin our study is by dispelling common misunderstandings Christians have about Muslims. For instance:
- Muslims believe Muhammad was only a man, not divine or semi-divine, and certainly not a savior.
- Most Muslims are not Arab (who account for only a fifth of the world’s Islamic adherents), but instead are more likely to be Asian or African. The largest Muslim country in the world is Indonesia.
- Muslims claim to believe in the same God that appeared to Abraham, and frequently mention characters and stories with which Christians are very familiar, such as Moses, David, and Mary.
- Muslims believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, performed miracles, was a true prophet, and will some day return.
We will spend more time looking at each of these points in detail, but hopefully you are getting a sense that you already know more about Islam – or at least have more in common with Muslims – than you may have realized. Understanding these points of common ground is crucial to engaging Muslims with the gospel intelligently.
Part of the reason Islam seems so foreign to Christians is because it was born in a culture much different from our own. Seventh century Arabia was tribal and patriarchal, while modern America is increasingly integrated and egalitarian. There is a definite language barrier as well. The key names and ideas associated with Islam reflect the Arabic language, which looks and sounds very different than English.
But there is a culture and a language that Christians are familiar with that is very parallel to that of Islam – the world of the Old Testament. Israel’s tribal and patriarchal society closely resembles that of Muhammad’s world, and the Hebrew language of the Israelites is far closer to Arabic than it is to English. Of course, since many Christians are not as familiar with the Old Testament as they could be, these points of similarity are often overlooked. But what I will do in the course of explaining various Muslim beliefs and practices is show how similar they are to Israelite beliefs and practices in the Old Testament. Then we will be better positioned to compare and contrast Islam with Christianity.
Since Arabic looks and sounds so unusual to Americans (and visa-versa of course), I am going to use English words in place of the Arabic for much of our study (indicating this with bold print). Then at the end of each chapter, I will include a glossary of the Arabic words I have referenced (transliterated in a very simplified way into English). So, for example, in chapter two I will discuss the confession of Islam. At the end of the chapter, I will explain that shahadah is the Arabic word for confession. By minimizing the use of Arabic terms, my goal is to make Islam seem less foreign and exotic.
One of the biggest challenges I have faced in studying Islam is admitting my own ignorance and prejudice. And so before we look at the basic creed of Islam, we will first review some biblical principles about reaching out to others, principles that I know I need to be constantly reminded of as I think about teaching the gospel to Muslims.