This chapter is perhaps the most needed
but difficult to achieve of all of the material in this book. It is
needed because Islam is militantly evangelistic. It is growing rapidly
throughout the world. And it is needed because more than 1 billion Muslims
in the world either do not know Christ or refuse to confess Him as Lord.
It is difficult because we know so little of their worldview or religious/political
philosophy. We know so little about how to share our faith with them.
And at the heart of the matter, we fear contact with them.
These barriers can be overcome, however. They are being overcome to
a small extent in such places as Malawi, Indonesia, northern Ghana,
and to a lesser extent in Israel, Egypt, Pakistan, Mali, Chad, Burkina
Faso, Albania, and other Muslim countries.
It is my hope that at least some suggestions for approaching Muslims
and sharing Christ with them will come out of this chapter.
Direct Confrontation and Discussion
This is the most aggressive of the approaches and is fraught with danger,
because its smacks of a debative mentality. Yet it can be used judiciously.
Dr. Jack Evans, president of Southwestern Christian College, Terrell,
Texas, has conducted two debates, one with a Muslim scholar and the
other with a Black Muslim leader. In an analysis of the first debate,
his opponent, Jamal Badawi, was overwhelmed by the careful preparation
Evans had made (The Christian Chronicle, July 1966, p.1). Following
the second debate his opponent, Jeremiah Muhammad, left the Black Muslim
faith and embraced Christianity (The Christian Chronicle, September
Other debates on Islam have been held in recent years, among these
some between Islamic leaders and former leaders who have converted to
Christ. One of these was a debate conducted by Michael Nazir-Ali (recorded
in Frontiers in Muslim-Christian Encounter, Oxford: Regnum Books,
1987). Another was Christian-Muslim Dialogue, published by the
Kingdom of Saudi Aabia (Maramar, 1984).
Geisler and Saleeb have several chapters devoted to the defense of
Christianity and a Christian response to Islam (1993:205-286). These
can be applied to each of the distinctive Islamic doctrines.
For any kind of meaningful dialogue with a Muslim, we must know the
Islamic faith well. Errors in understanding or word usage will make
our discussion hopeless.
Hospitality and Friendship
As has already been pointed out, hospitality and friendship are essential
to any relationship with Muslims. They have the idea that Westerners,
and especially Americans, are superficial in their friendships and not
particularly willing to open their hearts, homes, and kitchens to foreigners.
Conversation is vital to them. Kershaw (1971:3) suggests that we may
not agree with what they say, and may even argue, but we should not
feel compelled to win every argument. "In the Arab world,"
he says, "disagreements are often a way friendships are tested"
In extending hospitality we must be careful to offer only food and
drink that is acceptable to our guest. We must also be discreet, Kershaw
says, in our male-female relationships in our guest's presence (Kershaw
1971:23). Among most Muslims, friendships are formed between those of
the same sex. They misinterpret the openness of American women, thinking
that it means a possible intimate relationship with them.
Another way in which to show hospitality is to invite a Muslim friend
to events in which you are involved and especially, Christian events.
Demonstrate in a group setting vital Christian faith and practice. Those
present can draw out the Muslim with sincere questions and share with
him or her what Jesus means in their lives.
Aid in Times of Need or Distress
In northern Ghana American Christians have opened many Islamic areas
to the gospel by drilling wells for villages that had no safe and dependable
water supply. This is something that Muslim leaders there had never
done. It so impressed the villagers that they listened to what the drillers
had to say about Christ.
Dropping food, blankets, and medicines to refugees in Afghanistan is
meant to indicate that our battle with terrorists and their supporters
is not be construed as hatred for Muslims in general. It isn't yet known
how this will play out. Is it enough to counterbalance the military
strikes? Are warlords confiscating much of this, preferring to confiscate
it than to see it placed in the hands of starving people?
Of course, aid should never be extended with strings attached. Loving
care offered in a time of great need can have an impact on others that
may cause them to seek a reason for this kindness.
The Contextualized Use of Honor
In his dissertation, A Contextualized Theology of Honor, Evertt
W. Huffard presents a case for using the Biblical concepts of kabod,
doxa, and time, all expressions understandable to Muslims
as a means of successful dialogue with them (Huffard 1985:iv).
Kabod is a Hebrew word meaning honor, both in the physical and
ethical realms. Its physical characteristics can be expressed in such
terms as greatness, respect, praise, power, fear and worship. Related
concepts are loyalty, blamelessness, righteousness, holiness, faithfulness,
and a good name-all indications of a correct community relationship.
The Greek word doxa means glory and the Greek word time
means inner worth or social approval. When the Torah was translated
into Greek, notes Huffard, "kabod inherited a split personality
between doxa and time" (Huffard 1985:228). As used
by the early church, doxa took on such meanings as opinion, the
Christian tradition, reputation, a name for God, the nature of God,
Christ, the Holy Spirit, angels, praise, worship, honor given to God,
honor of men, final reward, popularity, and a desire for fame.
In applying these terms to dialogue with Muslims, Huffard argues that
what God has done through Christ is for His doxa. Christians
are to share the redemptive message because God's honor is at stake.
Peter indicates this when he says that God's call to all humanity is
based on His divine glory or doxa (2 Peter 1:3).
Paul defended his going to Gentiles with the message of Christ by arguing
that God's honor required it (Romans 9:22-23). It is God's honor and
glory that is revealed in Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3).
In a structured society, as are Muslim communities, it is essential
to maintain God's honor, which Islamic peoples can appreciate. The argument
can then be made successfully that God, who can do all things He wishes
to do, in the manner in which He chooses to do them, chose to show to
mankind His doxa in sending Himself, in the person of His Son
Christ, to die for our sins.
Huffard affirms that "a theology of honor [is] a necessity in
reconciling Muslims to God through Christ. With a theology of honor
we create new models for communication cross-culturally (Huffard 1985:283).
Incidentally, it might also strengthen our rationale for evangelism,
since God's honor is at stake. God's will for humanity was not imposed
through a unilateral book. He met us in Christ, a person as well as
a manifestation of God, and through Him, we were able to know God and
be reconciled to Him (John 8:48-55; 10:30; 14:8-14; Romans 5:10).
Utilizing Muslim Practices in a Christian Context
By way of review, worldview is defined as the collective assumptions,
values, and allegiances that for the core of a person's or group's way
of perceiving how everything in the world functions, a people's way
of looking at reality (Kearney 1984:41). Our worldview is at the center
of all of our understandings, culture, attitudes, and habits.
Basic Islamic worldview assumptions include that of an all-powerful
God, Allah, who arbitrarily laid down rules and practices to follow.
Although merciful, He is not necessarily all that loving or forgiving.
Salvation consists of living up to a strict code and doing all of the
right things in the right way. Allah is one only, so there can be no
manifestations of Him in any form, such as Jesus. Muhammad must be honored
above all men as Allah's final and greatest messenger and apostle. The
Qur'an is Allah's final revelation to mankind. No other religion can
be tolerated, because they are all pagan. Family and community solidarity
are all-important and are based on a common Islamic faith.
Now, with this set of assumptions, it is not surprising that Muslims
value highly the Qur'an, Muhammad, the Ahadith, the Five Pillars of
the Faith, and community solidarity. Their allegiance is focused on
all of these principles above. Any threat or perceived threat against
any of these is considered extremely dangerous and must be destroyed
at all costs.
There is much that is commendable in all of this. Who among us Christians
could not learn from Muslims about more dedication to prayer, a more
submissive life, more dedication to our beliefs? Who could not profit
from fasting? Who could not give more generously to alleviate the needs
of others? Who could not learn to honor and worship God more intensely?
Who could not learn more about zeal for His cause? If we understand
thoroughly Islamic worldview, we will be better prepared to use it for
drawing Muslims to Christ.
Cragg, Kenneth. The Call of the Minaret. New York: Oxford University
Geisler, Norman L., and Abdul Saleeb. Answering Islam: The Crescent
in the Light of the Cross. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.
Huffard, Evertt W. Thematic Dissonance in the Muslim-Christian Encounter:
A Contextualized Theology of Honor. Pasadena, CA: Fuller Theological
Kearney, Michael. World View. Novato, CA: Chandler & Sharp Publishers,
Kershaw, R. Max. How to Share the Good News with your Muslim Friend.
Colorado Springs: International Students, Inc., 1978.
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.