Several years before 9/11 I developed a deep interest in Islam and in Islamic studies. By 2001 I was reading everything I could get my hands on about Islam, the Sunnah (the example of Muhammad), the Hadith (the traditions of early Muslims esp. Al-Bukhari), and of course the Quran. There was a period of my life when for several months I was studying Islam more than Christian theology— thankfully that did not last too long. Before 9/11 talking about Islam was not in vogue, it seemed that only a few in the church were really interested in the subject. Before 9/11 we could watch television, check the headlines and listen to talk radio without necessarily hearing anything about Islam. After 9/11 that all changed! Today, we can scarcely turn on the television, watch the evening news or surf the web for long before being reminded about the Muslim challenge.
The political, international and cultural climate is saturated with Islamic trends. The latest emergence of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in Syria and Iraq is but the latest reminder of Islam’s reach in our social consciousness and media dialogue. Simply put, Islam’s relevance is everywhere. The demographics of Islam are staggering, the Islamic associations and organizations in the West are too numerous to count, Mosque building in the US alone is up almost 75% from2001 to 2010 numbering well over 2000 to date, virtually every major university in the US has some expression of Dawa (propagating Islam) on campus, major US cities are becoming increasingly Islamic (e.g. Dearborn MI. is approx. 30% Muslim), terrorist camps on US soil is already a well established fact. What is more amazing is that people still no so little about Islam and for evangelicals few know enough about Islam to become conversant. In order to approach Muslims and engage in evangelistic encounters there are some critical points that believers will need to know. Here are a few:
1. Never surrender the Word of God
Muslims know that in order for the conversation to go their way they must erode the Christian’s confidence in the Bible. They will often use outdated arguments and fallacious historical claims to attempt to accomplish their task of undermining Scripture. Ultimately, Muslims are committed to the idea that the Christian Scriptures have been corrupted over time. The Problem with this of course is that Christians possess the same documents that Muslims had during the time of Muhammad. Nothing has changed since pre-Islamic Arabia let alone post Muhammad times. This is important because, the Quran itself prescribes that Muslims can go to Jews and Christian to find spiritual guidance (Q. 5.44ff.). Thus, we can never set aside the authority of Scripture. We can never question God’s word, even for a moment. We have to show a total unflinching commitment to the Word of God and insist that our God would never allow His word to be corrupted under any circumstances. This of course posses a great dilemma for Muslims since they believe that part of what God revealed has been corrupted from its original state.
2. Understand what Islam is
The reason why there is so much disconnect between Christians and Muslims is because many fail to understand that Islam is as much of a culture as a religion. The way Muslims use the restroom, greet each other, their view of women and their dietary rituals, Ramadan, are all part of Islamic culture (much of which goes back to pre-Islamic Arabia e.g. the pilgrimage to the Kaba in Mecca precedes Islam and Muhammad). Muslims follow the Sunnah (the example of Muhammad) and often Hadith literature which makes their worldview much more complicated than people are aware of. Because of their cultural milieu, devoted Muslims hate the West, they hate American life, they despise American spirituality because they deem it devoid of external expressions of religion. In the mind of many Muslims, Christianity is equated with being American. This is how it works in Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia— being born in a Arabic Muslim home makes you Muslim automatically. Of course the same is not true for Biblical Christianity. But it is important to note that American culture is incompatible with Islamic cultural norms.
3. The forbidden truth Muslims can never embrace
The most crucial thing in our encounter with Muslims is not presuppositional apologetics, it is not to point out the inherent problems with the Quran, it is not jihad or terrorism; the greatest objective is the cross. Muslims must be made aware that without the cross there is no atonement for sin. The thought of Jesus being the Son of God who died on the cross for sinners is religious pornography for Muslims; its totally forbidden knowledge. I make it my aim to tell Muslims that this forbidden doctrine is actually true and that it is their only hope. I have heard the testimony of several converts from Islam who will tell you that as God was drawing them to salvation they knew the Bible was true and that Jesus died on the cross for their sin. We know Muslims are in denial with regards to apologetics (Rom. 1.18), what they need is the clear proclamation of the life saving message of the cross.
4. The fatal flaw in Islam
With regards to apologetics, it is the historical precedence of the Bible that we can easily focus on to show our Muslim neighbors the inconsistency of Islam. Without the Bible the Quran simply makes no sense. If you simply pick up the Quran, there is no explanation of who its historical characters are. People like Moses, Miriam, Aaron, Judas, Solomon, David and Abraham are given no historical context. The Quran assumes that the reader would be familiar with such historical figures because of the Bible. This is just one example of how Islam must borrow from the Biblical Worldview in order to makes its own message coherent.
Below will be some essential resources to help you grow in your knowledge of Islam and how to face the Muslim challenge.
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.