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Does Saying an Islamic Creed Deny Our Christian Faith?

African and Arab theologians assess the choice between martyrdom and survival.
Does Saying an Islamic Creed Deny Our Christian Faith?

During the 2013 terror attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, al Shabaab gunmen paused for a moment and made an announcement in Swahili: All Muslims could come forward and leave.

Among those trying to escape was Joshua Hakim, who covered up the Christian name on his ID as he showed it to the gunmen.

“They told me to go,” Hakim later told The Guardian. “Then an Indian man came forward, and they said, ‘What is the name of Muhammad’s mother?’ When he couldn’t answer, they just shot him.”

Other terror attacks by al Shabaab, a Somali terrorist group with ties to al Qaeda, have followed a similar pattern. Those who could prove they were Muslim—by reciting a prayer in Arabic or answering questions about Islam—were allowed to go free. Those who couldn’t were killed.

As a result, some Kenyans have begun to share tips online about how to pretend to be Muslim, just in case. This includes learning to recite the shahada—Islam’s main creed—in Arabic.

This pragmatic response to terror attacks is understandable. But is it biblically sound? Kenyan Christian leaders are divided on the issue.

No, says David Oginde, head of Christ is the Answer Ministries, one of Kenya’s largest parachurch organizations with 45,000 members. “A true Christian must be ready to live and to die for the faith,” he said.

But two professors at St. Paul’s University, a conservative Anglican institution in Nairobi, say the answer isn’t that clear-cut. Reciting the shahada doesn’t amount to denying Christ, says Samuel Githinji, a theology lecturer.

“Christians are obligated to save their lives and others’ lives as much as possible,” ...

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