Grace and Truth
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Conversation with Muslims about Christ -- Booklet 2
NOT EVERY MUSLIM BELIEVES AND THINKS THE SAME!
In reaching out to Muslims it is helpful to be conscious of the fact that Muslims can significantly differ from each other. An overview of some important kinds of Muslims you may encounter helps you be prepared to address the right person at the right time.
Not Every Muslim Believes And Thinks The Same!
Historical developments and practical realities
Whoever wants to understand Muslim thoughts should be aware of the historical developments in the Jewish settlements and the Christian churches on the Arabian Peninsula and in the Mediterranean countries. Islam has not emerged out of the blue, but has developed from on-going contacts with animists, Jews and Christians.
Jews and Christians in the times before Muhammad
The Jews were scattered in all directions by the Roman occupying forces in Greater Syria or sold into slavery after the suppression of their revolts (70 A.D.; 132/135 A.D.). Jewish colonies were established in Asia Minor, in Iraq, on the Arabian Peninsula, in Egypt and in Rome itself.
In continuing waves of wars between Mediterranean states and forces storming out of Asia, the Jews living east of the Syrian desert fought on the side of the Sassanids against the Romans. With the help of their allies they established a Jewish kingdom in southern Yemen, where myrrh and incense grow, as a bulwark against the Christian influence of the Byzantine empire.
After the Romans had shattered the Jewish revolts between Jerusalem and Damascus, the Christian churches were concentrated in the cities of Alexandria, Antioch, Ephesus, Rome, Edessa and later Constantinople. They evangelized Mesopotamia, Ethiopia, North Africa and Central Asia. The Ethiopian Copts started to evangelize in northern Yemen and built a Christian kingdom for some decades with an episcopate in Wadi Nadjran. Fierce wars broke out between the Jewish kingdom in southern Yemen and the Coptic kingdom in northern Yemen. Christian slaves from Syria were also sold in the Hedjaz. A house-church in Mecca gathered around Waraqa b. Nawfal. About this time the bishop of the city of Sohat, in today's Sultanate of Oman, was a participant in the Council of Nicea.
Muhammad and the ”People of the book”
Muhammad (575-632 A.D.) was impressed by Jews and Christians because they possessed a book that revealed to them the secrets of the past, back to creation, and ordered their present life through laws and offered them future perspectives with the Day of Judgment. Muhammad honored Jews and Christians and called them ”People of the Book”. He wished to possess a book like theirs in the Arabic language. He tried to gather as much biblical information as possible out of which he hoped to develop his own religion.
Muhammad was impressed by Abraham, a Bedouin, who was willing to offer his only son as a sacrifice to Allah (Sura al-Saffat 37:99-113). Because of that, the Qur’an calls Abraham the first Muslim (Sura Al 'Imran 3:67).
The stories about the fathers of the faith and Solomon as well as various commandments from the Law of Moses fill 10 times as many verses in the Qur'an as reports about the gentle son of Mary, the miraculous healer and his followers. Whoever reads the Qur’an might sooner or later feel compelled to regard Islam as a Jewish sect, which is fervently denied by Muslims.
The influence of the Orthodox Church on the formation of Islam
The Orthodox Churches had a stronger influence on Islam than the Roman Catholic Church. However, Orthodox Christians did not convey a complete teaching about Christ to Muhammad. While the Copts emphasized the divinity of Jesus according to their school in Alexandria, the Christians who followed the Antiochene school concentrated on the human nature of Christ.
The worship patterns in Islam can be traced back to the Orthodox services in which believers prostrate themselves during the week before Easter to honor the Holy Trinity. The word qir’an in the Arabic-speaking Orthodox Church means: reciting the gospel during the holy mass. This term is probably the root for the word Qur’an and not vice-versa. In the Assyrian Bible the word for salvation is furqan, which appears in the Qur’an frequently as a decisive message.
Muhammad and the differences between Jews and Christians
Muhammad was aware of the hot disputes and arguments between Jews and Christians (Sura al-Baqara 2:113 etc). There had been fierce fighting between the Jewish and Christian Kingdoms in the southern and northern Yemen for several hundred years in which each side persecuted the subdued after having won a campaign of battle. Muhammad understood this division as Allah's determination, who stirred the fighting parties against each other in the Hedjaz, so that Islam could be spread successfully among these enemies, weakened by their battles. Muhammad appeared as the smiling spectator between others, but later he conquered all of them.
The Jews rejected Muhammad as a prophet, they recognized his mistakes in the Qur’an and mocked him publicly. So he cursed them ten times (Sura al-Baqara 2:65-66; al-Ma'ida 5:60; al-Araf 7:163-166 etc). He called them the most dangerous enemies of Islam (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:82). He forced the wealthy Jewish tribes to emigrate and in due course, he enslaved them or wiped them out with the sword.
The Orthodox Church - a long chain of suffering
At the beginning the Christians on the Arab Peninsula were considered to be the friendliest among the Muslims’ enemies (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:82). But when they continued to confess Jesus as the Son of God they were cursed like the Jews (Sura al-Tawba 9:29). A few years later they were expelled from the Arab Peninsula by Caliph Omar Ibn al-Kattab.
In a triumphant campaign (632–732 A.D.) Muslim troops conquered all important centers of early Christianity: Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch. These were followed by Constantinople and Ephesus in the second wave of Islamic extension. Most Christians in the West have forgotten, ignored or silently accepted this greatest catastrophe in church history.
The Orthodox Churches were often tested by suffering. They were suppressed, persecuted and constantly decimated by Islam for 1,370 years. During Muhammad's time most of the inhabitants of the southeastern and northeastern states around the Mediterranean Sea were Orthodox Christians, but Islam absorbed 90 percent of them by ruinous taxes, suppression and humiliation, converting them into Muslims. Only a remnant of 10 percent kept faithful to Jesus in spite of being considered second-class citizens! Muslims often exploited this obedient minority as ruling lords. They were never a real threat or a danger for Islam. From their behavior Muslims considered Christians to be meek and humble people, who could easily be subdued.
The powerful worship of the Holy Trinity in the Orthodox Church and its hierarchic system helped it to survive. In non-Islamic countries they submitted often to the ruling authorities but in their humility they were dragged repeatedly into the role of a state religion (Byzantium, Russia, Greece, Serbia etc). The Muslims in their states forced the Orthodox bishops and patriarchs to collect the minority taxes from their Christians for the Muslim rulers. In compensation they were granted limited executive power in their church parishes. The remaining Orthodox Churches with their 250 million members today comprise 14 percent of the world's Christians.
Islam and the Roman Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Church, despite its variety, is considered by many Muslims to be a fighting church. It appears to them to be a religious-political world power even after the decline of the western Roman Empire and the turmoil of the counter-reformation in Europe.
The armies of the Catholic Charles Martell repulsed the first attack of the Muslims at Tours, near Paris, France (A.D. 732). The Catholic Crusades however weakened the Orthodox Church with their conquest of Constantinople (A.D. 1204) to the extent that this bulwark of eastern Christianity against Islam fell into the hands of the Muslims in 1453. Shortly afterwards in 1529 the Turks stood at the gates of Vienna for the first time. When they besieged Vienna a second time in 1683 only a Polish-Catholic army was able to stop the advance of the Muslims who had intended to occupy all of Europe.
In the meantime, the Roman inquisition had expelled hundreds of thousands of Jews and Muslims from Spain and Europe. The Roman Catholic Church with their crusades also inspired a dangerous picture of the Christians into the Islamic subconscious. The Muslim concept of a religious state faced a rival opponent in the Catholic Church, which put a limit to their expansion.
Since then Muslims assume that all Christian missionary activities are aimed at establishing Christian states. They mistrust the embracing attempts of the Catholic Church since the second Vatican Council decided to open the Catholic Church for good elements from all world religions. The appeals of Pope John Paul II’s for worldwide cooperation between Muslims and Christians is met with skepticism because Muslims believe that the Catholic Church secretly intends to establish the Kingdom of Christ on earth. The authority of the popes, however, has kept the Catholic Church in an organized unity under the motto: "Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven", covering about half of world Christianity with its 950 million members.
Islam and the Protestant Churches
The Protestant Churches were originally ”critical churches” who tried to reform the Catholic Church. They had chosen the Holy Bible without traditions as their foundation, believed in salvation by grace alone, without justifying works and trusted only in Christ as mediator, not in his mother Mary.
Most of the Protestant Churches in Europe in the first centuries after the Reformation were local churches of regional rulers. Strong revival movements after rigidity and schism resulted in strong missionary movements in the USA, Europe and Korea. Rationalistic theology without control by a central church authority, however, caused many liberal Protestants to fall into an ungodly freedom. Their independent churches with about 600 million members cover one-third of world Christianity.
The Protestants, who only appeared 450 years ago, started a worldwide outreach in the 18th and 19th century. They shipped the first printing press into the Near East and printed the translations of the Bible in many Islamic languages. They made it possible to copy the Bible, the Qur’an, tracts and posters. Charities and Protestant schools supplemented their evangelistic efforts based on the printed word of God. Unfortunately, Protestant activities touched mainly Orthodox Christians, which resulted in a constant opposition of their clergy to the Protestants.
Muslims look at the Protestant Churches with suspicion, because many of their members consider the State of Israel to be the chosen people of the Lord. Protestant missionaries are therefore often considered to be spies or helpers of the Old Testament people.
Liberal Muslims however have a different view of Protestants. An Islamic Sheikh asked: ”Why were the Protestants the first ones on the moon?” He himself gave the answer to his question and said: ”We Muslims are inhibited in our thinking and are unable to develop modern techniques. The Catholics always have to confess their sins and have a broken attitude. Only the Protestants developed a 'free' spirit and are encouraged to try the impossible.” All efforts to refute his concept were in vain. Even pointing to the devastating boomerang of technical progress did not change his mind. He had his own ideas about motives and goals in today's religions.
The division of the churches and the division of Islam
These three main churches have split into many small churches. The number of autonomous churches, synods or organizations with their own doctrines and administration exceeds 22,000, a number that leads us to repent if we remember the prayer of Jesus Christ: ”That they all may be one, as we are one.” (John 17:21-22)
The common denominator which still unites all these churches are the three basic elements of the Catechism: The Lord's Prayer, the Nicene Creed and the Ten Commandments and their explanation according to the New Testament. Our confession to God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is regarded as polytheism and as an unforgivable blasphemy by Muslims. They do not accept a triune God but only Allah, the one and only. They also deny the crucifixion of Christ, the foundation of our faith (Sura al-Nisa 4:157). Islam proves itself to be a world-wide anti-Christian power (1 John 2:22-24; 4:1-5). Such thoughts are deeply rooted in all Muslims, even if they do not declare them openly. The whole culture of the Muslims is infiltrated by this anti-Christian attitude.
Whoever recognizes the division of the churches in the Near East and in the whole world will not be surprised to hear that Islam is not united either. Just as the churches have been divided a thousand times so Islam resembles a kaleidoscope of colorful splinters. Two main streams have developed during the emergence of Islam.
The Sunnites - the main stream in Islam
The Sunnites see themselves as the faithful keepers of original Islam because they not only follow the Qur’an but imitate the lifestyle of their prophet (Sunna) as well. After the final overthrow of an intellectual infiltration (of the Mu’tazilites) the pendulum started swinging in the opposite direction. Islam became a stiff, legalistic religion on the basis of the Shari'a. Out of the Qur’an, the Sunna, their analogous reasoning and the consensus of the five schools of law they formed their Shari'a. They developed a law that molded every area of life more deeply than the Islamic principles of faith. The Sunnites cover about 84 percent of all Muslims, nearly one billion of the followers of Muhammad, a number similar to the membership of the Catholic Church.
The Shiites - the first Islamic Sect
During the development of Islam, the followers of Ali - an adopted son of Muhammad who also was his nephew and son-in-law - split from the Sunnites together with the two sons of Ali: Hassan and Hussein. The reason for this division was not a dogmatic argument about faith but the dynastic claim for ruling power in the Islamic empire. The Shiites demanded that Ali and his sons should have taken over the leadership of Islam after Muhammad’s death. This shows that Islam understands itself first to be a state and not only a religion. The Shiites continued to glorify Ali and his two sons, nearly adoring them as gods and developing their own hierarchy of imams - seven for one group, twelve for the others - whom they obey without question. Their ayatollahs claim to receive direct inspiration from the last imam. The Shiites cover 14 to 16 percent of world Islam, with 200 million members.
Besides the Shiites there are many other Muslim sects, ways, orders, communities, covenants and leagues who are not ready to unite, but work hard at keeping their independence.
The third wave of Islamization
After the first two waves of Islam towards Europe had failed (A.D. 732 and 1683) because of the Catholic armies, a third wave started in 1973 after the sudden increase of oil prices. The oil-producing Islamic countries became relatively wealthy. Since a regular percentage of their net profit has to be paid for the Islamic renaissance many ideas of fundamentalist Muslims could be financed. Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim brotherhood, preached: ”A Muslim who is praying, fasting and paying his religious tax is not yet a true Muslim. Only if the Shari’a controls the state in which he is living has Islam come to its perfection.” His Muslim brotherhood split into more than 50 groups in most Islamic countries. They try to reform Islam and to bring liberal Islamic countries under the control of the Shari'a.
At the same time Muslim fundamentalists started a well-planned campaign to spread Islam in all five continents. Mosques are shooting up everywhere like mushrooms. Naive Christians welcome Muslims into their multi-cultural society. They do not want to recognize that never before did so many Muslims live in predominantly Protestant countries as today! We live in the midst of their holy war - and do not realize it!
What kinds of Muslims do we meet?
Muslims do not live or think alike. Every one is an individual. All categorization is insufficient or false. A specific type of Muslim does not exist. Different talents, traditions, education and convictions are compounded in each one. It would be wrong to talk about ”the Muslim”. Whoever wants to understand Muslims needs time. We should ask each one where he comes from, what he is thinking or feeling and what his problems are. All stereotypical answers would be defective. In order to become friends with Muslims we need patience to understand them. This is also true vice-versa! Prefabricated opinions must be adapted to reality. A Muslim can quickly feel and understand that we respect him and are not trying to exploit him, but accept him as he is. The gospel can work as the power of God after trust has been built. Constant prayer is the secret of a lasting blessing.
Despite the fact that every single Muslim is an individual, some kinds of categories can be singled out - with reservations - as common or unifying aspects, so that we may speak of different groups of Muslims.
1. The conservative and fundamentalist Allah-fearing Muslims
In rural areas and at universities, in mosques and in each profession you can find Muslims who want to live according to the Qur’an and their traditions. Not only a few have learnt the Arabic Qur’an by heart completely or in part during their childhood. They wear ”Qur'anic spectacles” through which they understand their world. Apart from the culture of the Qur’an and the rules of the Shari'a no other lifestyle is acceptable to them. Servants of cults, other religions and all idol-worshippers are regarded as unclean and cursed by Allah. Forbidden and allowed food divide their world into pork-eaters and pure people. To buy meat in the market on which the Basmallah was not spoken at the slaughter is a sacrilege for conservative Muslims. However, if they are obliged to eat of it, it would be no offense for them.
Those devoted to their religion are not allowed to ”think or speak critically” about the Qur’an. If you would question only one verse the whole building of their worldview would collapse. Therefore, they have to defend the truth of their faith whenever a different opinion is given. The Qur'an is their life. You can only explain the gospel to them with the help of Qur’anic terms, and fill them with the meaning of the Gospel.
Astonishingly, even students are numerous among these conservatives. If they come from their village to the great cities and see the liberal, sinful life, they feel ashamed of their people, and turn back to the roots of their culture and become more fanatic Muslims than they had been before. They try to confirm what has been the basis of their life and defend the universal validity of the Qur’an in a fanatical way.
When such fundamentalists rank as intellectuals they try to reform their people by peaceful or violent means. Not a few of these believers are ready to kill liberal Muslims or to engage in violent gangs to enforce the principles of Islam on their country.
The number of fundamentalists among Muslims differs from country to country. They reach between 15 and 35 percent. According to political elections in their states they gain only about 10 to 20 percent of all votes. The majority of Muslims are not radical. But the Qur’an commands them to implement the Shari'a in their own Islamic country whatever it costs!
2. Liberal Muslims
As in so-called Christian countries the majority of Muslims in the Islamic states are liberal, soft and peace-loving. With not too much labour they work to earn enough income to feed their families. They are not interested in many activities. They hope to own a freezer, a big TV set and, if possible, a car or a motorcycle. For the majority, religion is a secondary matter or a means to do business.
In daily life, liberal Muslims act pious because he who does not live according to the culture of Islam cannot buy or sell for long. Many use religious phrases in their speech, defend Islam publicly for their traditions and support the ruling customs. If just one member of a family becomes a Christian he will create turmoil. For the sake of the good name of his clan the convert will be hated, threatened or sent abroad. Under no circumstance shall the smell of shaky loyalty to Islam besmirch their name. Apart from that the members of such a clan seldom attend the official prayer or only do so to be seen. They hardly open the Qur'an to contemplate it. A kind of indifference towards religion has fallen on the majority of Muslims. They make up 50 to 70 percent of the population, depending on the regions or countries where they live.
Occasionally nationalism and Islam can join together. Then religion will support national feelings and vice-versa. However, after the country has reached Islamic independence a materialistic attitude will dominate. Work, bread and family soon become more vital than religion.
Liberal Muslims highlight humanistic statements in the Qur’an and in the traditions. The prohibition of meals, the commandments concerning Holy War (Jihad), the status of women in the Qur’an or the cruel punishments are ignored with the remark that such rules were necessary for the Bedouins in the days of Muhammad. Nowadays, in times of progress, these laws are no longer relevant. The liberals live according to an amputated Islam.
Most Islamic governments travel on a similar path. They allow the leaders of the mosques to supervise the personal duties of the Shari’a. All principles regarding Holy War or the severe punishments remain in the hands of the government. They try to compromise between the Shari’a and international human rights, and oppose the fundamentalists in their own country. The terrorist attacks in Egypt or Algeria are nothing else than a battle for the implementation of the whole Shari’a. This is exactly what liberal Muslims in their governments want to prevent at all costs.
3. Muslim Women
Half of all Muslims are women! We should not think only of men when we talk about Muslims. Women play an important role in Islam. They often influence children in their families more than their husbands. \\ However, the Qur’an clearly writes:
And the male is not like the female (Sura Al 'Imran 3:36).
This truism in Islam has a legal background. The Qur’an states:
In court the testemony of one Muslim man counts equal to the testimonies of two Muslim women (Sura al-Baqara 2:282). In inheritance cases a woman receives only half as much as the man or as her son, the sister half as much as her brother or a girl half as much as a boy (Sura al-Nisa 4:11,176). Legally a woman is only worth half as much as a man.
A man is allowed to marry up to four wives (Sura al-Nisa 4:3) if he can love all of them equally. Since most men today do not earn enough to provide for four women and their children, monogamy prevails. The wives of one husband, however, suffer from misery and jealousy more than we can imagine.
In an Islamic family a man has the right to ”educate” his wife. If she is rebellious he can address her in a ”sermon”. If she continues to be stubborn he can deny her conjugal rights and if she remains obstinate, he has the right to beat her until she submits, but he is not allowed to break her bones (Sura al-Nisa 4:34).
According to the Qur’an (not in the laws of Turkey, Egypt or Tunisia and some other Islamic states) a man has the right to divorce his wife for any reason. After a waiting period of three to four months he can marry her again, divorce her again and marry her another time. After having divorced her for the third time she must be married to another man. If this man, too, dismisses her the first husband is allowed to marry her again (Sura al-Baqara 2:229-230). The continuous suffering of women in some Islamic countries is more deeply ingrained than we can conceive. Who has a divine call to speak to Muslim women and to bring them the gospel of spiritual freedom on the basis of complete forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit?
Christian men should not talk alone with Muslim women, but only in the presence of their own wife. So, Christian women should take over this neglected service and speak with women and girls about Christ and testify about their experiences with their holy Savior. Muslim mothers are the ones who bring up their children. For this reason the evangelization of Muslim women, especially mothers, plays a decisive role in outreach among Muslims at all times. TV programs for women and books for women written by mothers in Christ are urgently needed. A generation ago fewer than 25 percent of Muslim women and girls could attend school! Today the number of educated girls and women lies between 40 and 70 percent of the population. Who of you recognizes this new opportunity and seizes it with the Gospel?
Women in Islam are sometimes more pious and religious than men. Muhammad is supposed to have said that he had seen hell and 90 percent of its inhabitants were women, because they did not always obey their husbands. Muhammad claimed to have also seen paradise. Only 10 percent of its inhabitants were women because only a few men attested that their wives had been god-fearing and always obedient. Such discrimination spurs women to observe the laws of Islam more than their husbands do, in the hope of gaining one of the rare places for women in paradise.
Who will show mercy to Muslim women and will try faithfully to find ways to relieve their misery in this world and the next in the name of Jesus?
4. Muslim Teenagers
Half of all Muslims are under 18 years old. In some Islamic countries this invisible line stands at 16 years. Whoever has had experience in evangelistic youth work should be alerted by this fact! Children, teenagers and young adults need programs different from those for adults. This statistical reality demands rethinking and restructuring for some mission strategies and even for prayer partners.
Youth all over the world love football and car races. Whoever travels in Islamic countries will enthusiastically be asked about Beckenbauer, Rummenigge and Schumacher. Becker and Graf were also well-known names among young Muslims.
Islamic youth learn to read and to write today. They search for interesting reading material. They are eager for knowledge. They want to learn everything. They believe in science and think they could conquer the world with good grade reports. By offering tracts, books and magazines that fit the mindset of youth, a Bible school course by correspondence can easily be set up, in which tens of thousands will take part within a short time.
Most young folk do not search for forgiveness of sin. They do not think about repentance or faith. They want to investigate everything: Jesus, Paul and John are as interesting for them as Marx, Lenin and Mao. This thirst for knowledge is an open gate through which we can offer the gospel without great obstacles. Many of such seekers for knowledge will be touched and changed by the love of Jesus Christ, his meekness, humility and peace.
An increasing number of high school and university students own a computer or find access to the internet in tearooms or at their friends' homes. Much filth, disagreements between Muslim groups and seductive flute music from sects are pouring out of this medium. But whoever offers helpful spiritual programs for young adults will soon register thousands of visitors on their homepages even from closed Islamic countries. Particularly in demand are substantial comparisons between the gospel and Islam and positive answers on delicate questions.
Supplying good Christian songs with native melodies also belongs to this category. Boring German chorales or romantic American church hymns do not attract young Muslims much. Wherever the gospel is presented in moderate rhythmic melodies in a local system of five or twelve-tone music, one will find that even those who are not familiar with the Bible start singing the new songs. Deep respect of the creator and fear of the judge of the world are not yet obsolete in the world of Islam, despite modernism.
Rarely before has the opportunity for an evangelistic outreach among Muslims been as great as today, because the younger half of Islam is learning to read, write and think and many of them are enthusiastically looking up to the heroes in sports and technology. A Bedouin girl of Hadramaut, living at the rim of the great desert Rub al-Khali, when asked in a questionnaire what kind of music she liked answered: ”The songs of ABBA from Sweden.”
5. Frustrated Muslims
Since the present generation of Muslims are learning to think, they are starting to question their culture and religion objectively. The apparent weaknesses of Islam no longer remain hidden from them.
Some irritated Muslims ask: ”Why have the armies of 250 million Arabs not been able to crush the soldiers of the five million Israelis in the last 50 years? Something is wrong here. Something is wrong with us!”
Others claim: ”The term Islam has significant meanings. One of these is: Making peace! Why then are half of all wars in our world connected with Islamic countries? Why do we export terrorism, civil-wars, bloodshed and not peace or development?”
An Indian driver of an Islamic oil sheikh in Saudi Arabia was asked whether he has become a devout Muslim during the eleven years of service for one of the guardians of the two holy places. The Muslim driver burst out: ”Shut up! I don’t want to hear anything about Islam! I do not want to have anything to do with it anymore. If you knew what they talk, drink, and do when they are alone you would not believe me.” When he was asked what consequences he would like to draw from this knowledge he answered: ”I will study communism and the Christian faith to evaluate which one of the two offers the better basis for my life. That one I will follow.”
An Islamic graduate of Al-Azhar University in Cairo wanted to perfect and polish his Arabic pronunciation among the Saudi Arabian tribes. He taught Islamic literature at the University of Riad. The majority of students opposed him because he offered modern thoughts in lectures, and instead of a white robe he wore western style trousers. When their opposition increased and some students threw tiny stones at him during lectures he became furious, ran away from the lecture hall, rushed to the nearby teachers’ hostel into his room, took his Qur’an and tried to calm his frayed nerves with loud recitations of the suras. Suddenly he stopped and confessed later: ”At this moment I realized that it was this book that acted like a brake on the brains of the Muslims and inhibited their reasoning and morals.” He took the Qur’an and tore it up in anger, rushed into the garden of the hostel and tried to burn the pages.
Some teachers who had heard the doors slamming and his loud recitations of the Qur’an, hurried after him to calm him down. But then all stood silent and shocked around the smoldering Qur’an. Everyone knew: this crime demands the instant burning of the offender. No one said a word. The teacher came to his senses, rushed to his room, took his money and passport, called a taxi, raced to the airport and fled away from the deadly trap before it closed on him.
These men had no connection with Christians. They realized the weaknesses of Islam in the backwardness of their countries and tried to escape from the imprisonment of their spirit. Medical students, princesses, sheikhs and ordinary Muslims clearly identify the obvious contradictions in the Qur’an and search eagerly for answers and better philosophies of life. We should pray to find such frustrated Muslims before they fall into the hands of sectarians. Probably about five percent of all Muslims are no longer satisfied with their own religion and long for somebody to enlighten them.
6. Atheists among the Muslims
In a TV-program a Muslim film star was asked which religion he belonged to. He spontaneously answered: ”To the best religion in the world, Islam!” (Suras Al 'Imran 3:19,110; al-Fath 48:28; al-Saff 61:9; etc.).
Further asked whether he believed in the existence of Allah, he said: ”No! Surely not! Such a faith is right for old people before they die and for small children, but we belong to a generation that acts!” The shocked reporter continued to ask how he would react if Muslims were attacked. The film star replied immediately: ”Then I would be the first one to take a Kalazhnikov and defend Islam.” He still considered himself to be a Muslim even though he did not believe in the existence of Allah, nor did he pray! Islam is not only a religion, but also a culture, a state and a society.
During a lecture on the relationship between Islam and Christianity a young Turk fervently opposed the speaker: Islam is much gentler, nicer, more humanistic and more modern than what he heard in that lecture. When the young Turk was invited to explain his opinion at the microphone in front of the listeners, he spoke emotionally to make his own point of view clear. The speaker soon noticed his background, interrupted him and asked: ”Have you ever in your life opened the Qur’an?” ”No,” the Turk said astonished. When he was asked how often he participated in prayer in the mosque, he answered that he never prayed! But he defended his religion fervently. Islam is more than Qur’an and prayer. He was one of the modern Muslims who lost their faith - but still defended an Islam that they did not understand.
The Bengali gynecologist Dr. Nasrin called for an editorial correction of the Qur’an with regard to the position of women and the cruel treatment of adolescent girls in marriage. She had to flee to Sweden because Muslim men were jealous of their rights and - because she had dared to question the Qur’an! This doctor still regards herself a Muslim, however, she had lost faith in the divine inspiration of the Qur’an through her practical experiences.
Islamic politicians and university graduates who have lived abroad are sometimes more critical of Islam. They live an empty life and have lost their unconditional faith in Allah. For their family’s sake, however, they participate in prayer when they come home to their native lands. They apparently fast during the month of Ramadan and donate their religious taxes openly. Inwardly, they have distanced themselves from the law of Islam and are searching for new horizons in an age of rockets and space stations. Their increasing rejection of conservative Islam was confirmed by meeting excellent scientists, technicians and public personalities from East and West, since they recognize that a great number of these personalities were not Muslims, but live an honorable life.
The number of Islamic atheists is not large, about one percent, maybe more in countries in which communism has found a strong foothold. They can be recognized, like the socialists in Turkey, by their sharp attacks in newspapers and books on Muhammad and his Islam.
7. The Mystics of Islam
The inner void of Muslims swings like a pendulum between militant fundamentalism and hidden atheism. It creates dissatisfaction, frustration and a seeking for new reliable paths. One of these trends can be seen in the mystics of Islam (often called Sufis with their Tariqas) who contemptuously turn away from the juristic hair-splittings of Islamic Muftis and jurists. These seekers of truth in religious experiences have separated themselves from the stereotypical mosque activities with their prescribed ablutions and soul-destroying repetitions of ritual prayers. They do not find anything there that satisfies their soul or spirit. They depart from official Islam, and unite in orders and try to create a personal religiosity and honest piety from the Qur’an and non-Islamic writings.
You can find Sufis and their different Tariqas in Morocco, in Sudan, in Turkey and in Pakistan. Even in China and Indonesia Islam is divided into a mystic and a legalistic branch. In Morocco one can see whitewashed tombs of venerated mystics on hills along the main roads. Women who cannot have children sometimes rub their bellies against the grave of a saint in order to become fertile. In Sudan the dervishes skip, jump and roll around in the dust to demonstrate their enthusiasm for Allah and their spirituality.
In Egypt Sufis sometimes sit or stand in circles and repeat the name of Allah or one of his attribute: ”huwa, huwa, huwa...” countless times until one of them falls into trance or starts to speak in foreign tongues. In Turkey a student of such groups observed: ”We are guided to call the spirits and to send them away after they have served us.” One girl confessed that Satan would visit her every Friday. Friends tried to tell her that she was dreaming, but she explained that when she was seriously ill as a child her father took her to a Sufi sheikh who healed her with spiritual influences. Since then she was troubled weekly by visits of the evil one.
In Pakistan a group practiced communal contemplation. After one of them became a Christian, the father of the convert brought a leader from the mosque to convert his lost son back to Islam. But when this sheikh imputed sexual motives on the apostate, his father threw the teacher of the Qur'an out of his house because such deviations were unthinkable in his family.
Sufis try to make Allah take residence in them and fill them with his presence. Others even try to enter Allah himself through their meditations. A third party aims at penetrating into the world of angels and demons ”behind” Allah. They are bound in increasing levels of occult possession.
Since Allah in Islam is infinitely far away from his creation nobody should wonder that honorable Muslims try to bridge this distance by religious exercises. Unfortunately anti-Christian spirits pour into this great vacuum. The number of Sufis in Islam is increasing. In some countries they make up 10 to 20 percent of the Islamic population divided in various groups.
Some Catholic theologians claim that Sufis would be the best bridge between Christianity and Islam. However, they overlook the fact that the religious-minded mystics believe in their own righteousness and think that they do not need to repent. The crucified Son of God remains a stumbling block for them. Their kindness separates them from His salvation, which was completed for them as well as for us.
8. The Redeemers in Islam
The Sufis can be described as the doves among frustrated Muslims. The Muslim terrorists could be called the hawks among them. They complain: ”All praying, fasting and paying is good for nothing. We must do something ourselves. We have to sacrifice our life and blood in order to wash away the shame from Islam and overcome injustice in Islamic society with just violence!”
Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim brotherhood, taught that praying and fasting is not enough to live a full Islam. He insisted that a true Muslim should overcome his inhibitions until he is ready to kill the enemies of Islam. One hundred commandments in the Qur’an call Muslims to participate in armed fighting as proof of their obedient faith.
The Muslim brothers, severely persecuted by the Egyptian government, have split into more than 50 active terrorist organizations. Ayatollah Khomeini on the Shiite side took up the torch of Holy War (Jihad) and sent his suicide fighters into different countries as assassins, like the Assassins at the time of the crusaders who kept the world on alert.
Hisbollah, Hamaas, al-Djihad and other groups train their followers for unconditional suicidal attacks. The Qur’an reveals that Allah himself would write Islamic faith into their hearts and that Allah would strengthen them for such missions with spirit from himself (Sura al-Mujadila 58:22). This is the only verse in the Qur’an that speaks about a relationship between the Muslims and the spirit from Allah! Martyrs in the Holy Wars are promised a splendid place in paradise (Sura al-Baqara 2:154; Al 'Imran 3:157-158,161-171,193-195; al-Nisa 4:74; Muhammad 47:4-6; etc). It would be unfair to call these fighters, who die in suicide missions, terrorists, because they see themselves as redeemers who sacrifice their lives for the victory of Islam. They are told that it is not they who kill the enemies of Islam, but Allah himself. He will shoot in their shooting to eliminate the opponents of Islam (Sura al-Anfal 8:17).
Some journalists and humanists call these fanatics a minor group of lost extremists in Islam. They are mistaken! For these redeemers are the only ones who literally fulfill the Qur’an and carry out the commands of Allah at any cost (Sura al-Baqara 2:191-193; al-Anfal 8:39; al-Tawba 9:11; etc). Humanistic and kind Muslims are called cowards and traitors by the Qur’an. Peace with non-Muslims is deplored, except as a truce if they do not have enough money and weapons or if circumstances are unfavorable.
What happened in the last 50 years in and around Israel in the unholy war of the Muslims could fill volumes. Hijacking planes, bombs in hotels, tanks destroyed by suicide missions and permanent threats in a war of nerves are features of that movement.
When Swiss tourists were murdered, dismembered and their women raped near the kings' tombs at Luxor the would-be redeemers cried: ”Allahu akbar!” (Allah is greater!). The same shouts were heard in Indonesia when crowds set hundreds of churches on fire and raped Chinese girls. On the island of Mindanao in the Philippines more than 50,000 Christians were killed during the liberation wars of Muslim redeemers there since World War II. The same number or even more had to die in northern Nigeria, because the Christians were not willing to submit to the Islamic law, the Shari’a.
In the Federal Republic of Germany 32,000 Islamic fundamentalists found asylum because most of them are wanted by their liberal Islamic governments. They are under constant surveillance of German intelligence. A massacre, like the one that occurred during the Olympic Games 1972 in Munich, is quite possible any time. In the Qur’an Allah challenges all loyal believers to fight and kill the enemies of Islam (Sura al-Baqara 2:191-193; al-Nisa 4:89,91; al-Anfal 8:39; al-Tawba 9:5 etc). Jews and Christians should be attacked according to the Sura of Repentance (Sura al-Tawba 9:28-29), because they do not believe in the true God, do not follow the Shari'a and belong to the wrong religion! Islam, according to the Qur’an, is a destructive spirit.
To make a long story short
Whoever wants to offer the gospel of Christ to Muslims should overcome the idea that all Muslims believe and think alike! Whoever wants to serve them must listen first and ask where they are coming from and what they think about politics, religion and their future.
Whoever lacks wisdom in such conversations should ask Jesus for His guidance to find those Muslims whose hearts have been prepared by the Spirit of God. Faithful love remains the best language that all human beings understand. He who helps foreign citizens to sort out their problems with the authorities will at the same time guide them to respect and understand Christians.
We should not fear the spirit of Islam, because the blessing of Jesus Christ is stronger than the curses of Muhammad. ”Greater is he, that is in you, than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:14) We should also not stumble unprepared into talks with Muslims but prepare ourselves. Several organizations are ready to support those willing to serve in this ministry with books and training courses.
You can find helpful answers for the different groups of Muslims in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, in secular sources, in the Qur’an and in your personal experience. The Lord can open the door to a Muslim heart and give you the right word for a specific person at the right moment through the guidance of His Spirit.
Q U I Z
If you have studied this booklet carfully, you can easily answer the following questions. Whoever answers 90 percent of all questions in the eight booklets of this series correctly, can obtain a certificate from our center on
Advanced Studies in helpful ways for conducting conversations with Muslims about Jesus Christ
as an encouragement for his/her future services for Christ.
1. Which were the three main religions that heralded and influenced the rise of Islam?
Every participant in this quiz is allowed to use any book at his/her disposition and to ask any trustworthy person known to him/her when answering these questions. We wait for your written answers including your full address on the papers or in your e-mail. We pray for you to Jesus, the living Lord, that He will call, send, guide, strengthen, protect and be with you every day of your life!
Yours in His service,
Abd al-Masih and his brothers in the Lord
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GRACE AND TRUTH