Radical Arab terrorists, flying commercial airplanes into American
landmarks, killing thousands of innocent citizens.
9 largest Muslim populations
Sound like Islam to you? If youre an American, that stereotype may
be your image of this rapidly growing faith. But, in truth, very few Muslims
are terrorists or even have sympathy for terrorists. Many have expressed horror
and outrage at the events of recent weeks. In fact, analysis and commentary
suggest that some Muslims may be questioning their faith, presenting
opportunities for sharing Christ with Muslim neighbors whomore attuned than
ever to nuances of perception and treatmentmay be open to the gospel for the
first time in their lives.
Why? And why now? Muslims must deal with the unflattering picture of
Islam that these violent acts insinuate about their religion as the world
watches. They may begin questioning their faith, wondering why some Islamic
leaders hold to such views. They also may be struggling with fear that violence
will be initiated against them because they are followers of Islam or because
they are of Middle Eastern or Asian heritage.
Will we respond to our Muslim neighbors with hatred or love, fear or
trust, indifference or hope? Will on mission Christians recognize that our
first stepeven our first responsibilityto bridging the gap is
Most Americans dont know much about Islam or misunderstand its
What creates those kinds of misconceptions? It can happen in any religion.
Consider fanatics who claim that their attitudes are based on the Christian
faith: white-supremacist groups, cults like Branch Davidians and
Misconception 1 about Islam: All Muslims are
Arabs.Truth: The largest Muslim country in the world is
Indonesia, followed by Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. Arabic is the language
of the Quran, the Islamic scriptures, but most Muslims in the world are Asian,
rather than of Arab descent.
Misconception 2 about Islam: All Muslims hate Jews and
Christians.Truth: Sunni Islam, the largest branch, believes
that Jews and Christians are dhimmis or people of the book. Dhimmis are
protected by Islamic law and can practice their religion freely.
Misconception 3 about Islam: All Muslims are radical
fundamentalists who are dangerous terrorists.Truth:
Although some Muslims are radicals who practice violence and tolerate hate, the
word Islam means submission to God. The Quran teaches peaceful tolerance of the
opponents of Islam.
We as Christians believe in submitting ourselves to the power and love of
God. If Muslims truly value submitting to God, then once they see how Christ
has changed our lives, they will be in a truth-seeking frame of mind when the
Holy Spirit draws them to recognize Christ as the only answer.
What Muslims believe
Islam, the religion of more than six million Americans and almost one billion
people worldwide, was conceived as the true way to follow God (Allah) by
Muhammad, who claimed he transcribed the exact words of Allahs angel into
scriptures that Muslims call the Quran. Muhammad, who lived in the seventh
century A.D., claimed to be the last and greatest in a series of prophets who
included Abraham, Moses and Jesus. While Muslims believe that Jesus was a great
man and even virgin-born, they dont believe He is the messiah or God
Muslims trust in the teaching of the Quran which details five principles (or
pillars) that form the basis for living as a true Muslim with the hope of
paradise (heaven). The five pillars are: 1) the confession of faith (There is
no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet); 2) prayer (five times a day
facing toward Mecca); 3) fasting during the month of Ramadan, a celebration of
holy days in November; 4) almsgiving; and 5) pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi
Arabia at least once during a lifetime. Muslims believe they will be judged at
the end of time by God based on their observance of the five pillars and the
teachings of the Quran. Muslims reject the idea of the Trinity and hold to a
strong belief in the oneness of God.
Dos and donts as you build bridges to Muslims
Listen. Listen to learn as your foundation for friendship and to build
credibility so you can share your faith to a receptive audience.
Recognize the importance of family in Islamic culture. Muslims who convert
to Christianity often face persecution and being outcast from their families
and communities in some Islamic countries.
Know your Bible. You may face a Muslim who is well versed in the Bible. Be
sure you know what you are talking about, but admit it when you are
Live your faith. Let them see Christ in you. Arguments and debates alone
wont cut it.
Emphasize the importance of Jesus. Good works as a path to salvation misses
the truth of Christs sacrifice for them and Gods will for their lives.
Call them Moslems or Moham-medans. The correct term is followers of Islam,
or simply Muslims.
Become emotional, hostile or offended! Theres enough hostility and
misunderstanding between Christian and Islamic cultures already.
Make assumptions about their loyalties. Many Muslims have moved to the
United States, become citizens and are proud Americans. Most condemn violence
and reject terrorism.
Comparison of beliefs
God the Father. God is eternal, the personal, infinite creator of the
universe who desires to have a relationship with us. He is the only God
(Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 28:19).
God the Father. Allah is the one and only God. Muslims believe in the
oneness of God and reject the idea of the Trinity or Father, Son and Holy
Jesus. Jesus is Gods only virgin-born Son, the incarnation of God (John
1:1-18; Colossians 1:13-22).
Jesus. Jesus was virgin-born and a great man. Abraham, Moses and Jesus were
all great prophets but Muhammed is the last and greatest of these prophets.
Problem of humanity. We have rebelled against God and are sinful by nature
and choice (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10).
Problem of humanity. Man is sinful and must work hard to live up to the
standards set forth in the Quran in order to gain the reward of paradise.
Solution to problem. Christ died for our sins, saving all who choose to come
to Him (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-10).
Solution to problem. At the end of time Muslims will be judged based on
their performance in keeping the five pillars of faith (confession of faith,
prayer, fasting, almsgiving, pilgrimage to Mecca).
Right and wrong. Gods laws decide ethics, and the Bible is the final guide
for doctrine and practice. God alone is the arbiter of right and wrong (2
Timothy 3:16; Exodus 20:1-17).
Right and wrong. Right and wrong is based on the five pillars of faith and
the teachings of the Quran.
Holy scripture. The Bible is the entirety of Gods Word (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2
Holy scripture. The Quran is believed to be the exact words of an angel of
God, transcribed by Muhammed.
Resources:The Cross or the
Crescent: Understanding Islam, a resource kit including a 75-minute
videotape, instructional guide and teachers manual, offers an eye-opening look
at a rapidly-growing religion that is suddenly under much scrutiny: the history
of Islam, Islam in North America, the faith and practices of Islam and valuable
insights on sharing Christ in lovingly appropriate ways. The Cross or the
Crescent is available at LifeWay Christian Stores or may be ordered by phone
800-448-8032, fax 615-251-5983 or www.lifewaystores.com.
For an informative Belief Bulletin about Islam, check out NAMBs Interfaith
Evangelism Team Web site: www.namb.net/evangelism/iev.
William G. Wells is an editor, Mission Education Team, at NAMB.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC