Yesterday: Islamic Fundamentals | Christians have a responsibility to understand our Muslim neighbors and their beliefs
Monday:Islam, U.S.A. | Are Christians prepared for Muslims in the mainstream?
God-fearing Muslims from every corner of the earth are moving into American neighborhoods. Are we ready to welcome them and tell them the truth about Jesus? This week at ChristianityToday.com, we take a look at the basics of Islam, how Muslims view Christianity, helpful models for relating to Muslims, and how to engage our Muslim neighbors boldly and lovingly.The driving principle behind Islam, recited in the call to prayer, is La ilaha illa Allah—"There is no god but Allah." This is the lens through which Muslims interpret all other religious confessions, and it explains why many Muslims do not understand Christianity.
THE CHALLENGE TO THE CHURCH
This sense of religious duty and measurable human effort is, surprisingly, what attracts many Western converts to Islam. "I wanted a discipline to pattern my life by," writes one young woman, formerly a Christian, on a Web site that posts testimonies about conversions to Islam. "I did not just want to believe someone was my savior and through this I held the ticket to Heaven. I wanted to know how to act to receive the approval of God."Another former Christian who converted to Islam wrote: "As with many other Christians too, I had become disillusioned with the hypocrisy of the Church. … My attention was drawn towards the beliefs and practices of Islam."But this works-oriented theology can cut the other way. Says Roy Oksnevad, director of the Institute of Muslim Studies at Wheaton College: "[O]ne former Muslim has said Islam had the rules and discipline she wanted in her life, but lacked the power to live the life the rules stipulated: 'As a system of personal discipline, Islam has few equals. As a means of earning God's favor, it's a spiritual treadmill.' "Another Web site posts testimonies by Muslim converts to Christianity. A man who identifies himself only as "a brother from Saudi Arabia" writes:
As a teenager I went to the mosque five times a day in obedience to my parents. … One night while was asleep I had this horrible dream of me being taken into hell. What I saw there brought me real fear and these dreams kept coming to me almost every night. … Suddenly one day Jesus appeared to me and said, "Son, I am the way, the truth, and the life. And if you would give your life to Me and follow Me, I would save you from the hell that you have seen." … Christianity is totally banned in Saudi Arabia. … [After I converted] I was taken into custody and tortured. They told me I would be beheaded if I did not turn back to Islam. … I told the authorities I'm willing to die for Jesus and that I would never come back to Islam. … The appointed day came for my execution and I was waiting with much anticipation, yet very strong in my faith . …One hour lapsed, two hours went by, then it became three hours and then the day passed by. No one turned up. Then two days later the authorities turned and opened the doors and told me, "You demon! Get out from this place!"
In the course of writing this article, I kept confronting a contradiction. Many who are intimately acquainted with Muslims expressed concern about the missionary mandate of some to conquer the world for Islam. At the same time, people expressed genuine fondness, compassion, and good will for their Muslim friends and neighbors. David Echols of the South Asian Friendship Center says to look at it this way: there is the Islamic system, which is aggressive and intentional about its missiological work, and then there are Muslims—the people who work in Wal-Mart or live down the street. The latter are the people you will meet in the grocery store. They long to get close to God and to live as good Muslims. Many are lonely for friendships.It is on this human level that Christians will overcome the stereotypes about Muslims—and where Muslims will overcome their stereotypes about Christians. Only on the personal level will authentic witness be born between the two.
Wendy Murray Zoba is Associate Editor of Christianity Today.
Muslim perspectives on Jesus and Christianity are ubiquitous online. They include
Answering Christianity, and
WhatIsIslam.comChristian sites discussing Muslim beliefs about Jesus and Christianity are available at
Campus Crusade for Christ, and
Copyright © 2000 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.