Daughters of Ishmael
By Jan Krieger
Books:Reaching Muslims for Christ by William
Saal, Moody Press, 1991
Daughters of Islam; Building Bridges with Muslim Women by Miriam
Adeney, InterVarsity Press, 2002
Lifting the Veil: The World of Muslim Women by Phil Parshall,
Gabriel Publishing, 2003
Out of the Crescent Shadow: Leading Muslim Women into the Light of Christ by
Ergun Mehmet Caner & Emir Fehti Caner, New Hope Publishing, 2003
Voices Beyond the Veil: The World of Islam Through the Eyes of Women by
Ergun Mehmet Caner, Kriegel Publishing, 2004
The Cross and the Crescent, North American Mission Board, www.namb.net/catalog
Apologetics website with belief bulletins on most religions including
Muslim Ministry Department, Billy Graham Center, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL
Similarly, Alicia has noticed a few Muslim women who take their children to
the school her daughter attends. She would like to invite the mothers to a "get
acquainted" lunch but is unsure how to approach them.
Sharon has yet to have a personal conversation with Ishti, her new colleague
on the consulting project, although they've been working together for weeks.
Ishti is a Turkish Muslim; she seems friendly but Sharon is wary of
unintentionally offending her so she keeps the conversation strictly
As Muslim families continue to arrive in the U.S. and Canada, the above
scenarios become increasingly familiar. Allowing for statistical variances
between U.S. and Islamic groups' estimates, there are between 800,000 and 3.5
million Muslim women in the U.S. Many Americans are curious but hesitant to
connect with female co-workers and neighbors who follow Islam. Unfortunately,
the mystery surrounding the Muslim woman and our lack of understanding of her
cultural world have hindered our willingness to offer friendship.
How do we unmask the mystery of these women so we feel more assured and
comfortable in connecting with them and understanding their world?
The keys to connecting with Muslim women begin with awareness of who the
Muslim women are in your circle of influence and building trust among them, say
Nashaat and Gihan Ibrahim, North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries to
Muslims in Alexandria, Virginia.
We also must realize that many Muslim women have formed stereotypes of
American women as evil and immoral, based on their own cultural propaganda and
American TV programs. This distorted picture of the American woman can be
overcome through a loving and concerned approach to building a bridge of
friendship with ?the Muslim woman.
Here are some general guidelines in taking that initial step to reach out to
a Muslim woman.
Offer friendship and
helpMost Muslim women are very open to friendship with
American women. Initiating a conversation with a new acquaintance is as simple
as asking questions about her family, where she's from and how her transition
to her new home is going.
Then each time you see that person, continue to follow up on the
After initial conversation and formalities have been exchanged several
times, it's appropriate to offer your help in any areas that are a struggle for
her, such as learning English, advice on schools, finding a physician or
dentist or where to shop. Even arranging a playtime for your children to play
together will show you're interested in her and her family. "If I can show a
Muslim woman that I'm sincere, then she'll be more likely to open her heart and
life to me," says Gihan.
Offer to visit
In general, people from Middle Eastern Muslim countries such as Turkey, Iran,
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are more people-oriented than Westerners.
Their primary enjoyment is to spend time with people.
Their culture works a bit differently from Western culture. In the U.S., if
you want to honor someone you would invite her to your home for dinner. In the
Middle East Muslim culture, you visit them if you want to show them honor.
Hospitality is a Muslim woman's first priority. "It's shameful for her not to
offer hospitality," says Darla Oksnevad who with her husband, Roy, directs the
Muslim Ministries at the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois.
The Muslim woman will expect you to make a long visit, at least an hour or two,
and longer for a meal. If you leave too quickly, she'll be offended.
If a Muslim woman declines your offer to visit her, do not be offended or
give up on the friendship. There may be situations in her home to prevent her
from having non-Muslim visitors. Instead open your home to her by inviting her
to lunch or tea.
Politely inquire whether there are certain foods she does not eat.
Obviously, she will not eat pork, but there are other foodstuffs that are also
not acceptable. For instance, Muslims will not eat gelatin because it's made
from bone marrow and considered unclean. Chicken is a safe choice, and rice,
potatoes or pasta make acceptable side dishes. Also, leave your pet outside as
having a pet in the home is considered unclean.
You may need to extend the invitation to the husband, if she is married.
Often, Muslim women cannot attend events alone. Also, many can't drive, because
they aren't allowed to obtain licenses in most Middle Eastern countries.
If you're involved in a couple's group or women's ministry, consider having
an international dessert night. Decorate the tables with items from various
countries. Invite a Muslim acquaintance to bring a favorite dessert and talk
about her country and customs.
Sarah Lee, who serves with her husband, Jason, as a NAMB missionary among
Somalian Muslims in Louisville, Kentucky, says perseverance is sometimes the
only solution to closed doors. "It's important not to become discourage," she
says. "God often does great things through patience."
extremely meaningful to a Muslim woman if you're with her in
celebrations-things like cultural holidays, births and marriages. Unconditional
friendship is a rarity because most of her relationships are arranged, ordained
and controlled by others. "If you share some celebrations with her, it's easier
to win her heart in friendship," says Darla.
Asking pointed, yet nonthreatening questions and participating in
celebrations offer opportunities to connect and befriend a Muslim woman.
Visiting a new mother and her newborn, offering condolences following a loved
one's passing or congratulations and a gift for a family member's wedding are
all ways to offer unconditional love. Roy Oksnevad cautions women to read about
the Muslim culture in advance so they are knowledgeable about customs
surrounding these celebrations. For instance, visiting a new mother and saying
to her "What a beautiful baby!" can be an evil omen according to folk
Christian books about Muslims who've come to Christ such as I Dared to Call Him
Father by Bilquis Lohse and The Torn Veil by Esther Gulshan, are excellent
evangelistic and conversational tools.
The Oksnevads have found films like Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ"
to be powerful in building a spiritual connection. The film is in Aramaic which
many Muslims understand. "Muslims who have seen The Passion are very moved,"
says Roy. "Since they don't believe Christ was crucified and died, they are
captivated by the film's crucifixion scene."
Inviting a Muslim woman or couple to your home to view a Christian film,
such as the Jesus video by Campus Crusade for Christ, or a section of it
particularly around a holiday such as Christmas or Easter, can provide a venue
to discuss your Christian beliefs.
Generally, Muslims are not knowledgeable about our holidays. Look for an
opportunity to invite a Muslim woman and her family to your home for
Thanksgiving or Easter dinner (you may have to adjust the menu slightly). Or,
have a Christmas party and explain various customs that are part of the
Reaching out to the Muslim woman can be intimidating. But the joys of building
a relationship far outweigh any awkwardness we may feel in bridging the
cultural gap to friendship. If you prove that you're someone who can love her
unconditionally, the door to the Muslim woman's heart may be opened to you and
1 Numerical estimates based on: Witham, L.
(2002, September 19). Number of Muslims in U.S. below ?estimates. Washington
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC