A discussion on Muslims, Islam and Christianity
Editors note: In light of current events, three Arab believers
in Jesus Christ, all living in the United States, were asked to share
their understanding of the Islamic faith. Yousef has a Palestinian-Christian
background, David has an Arab-Muslim heritage, and George comes from
an Arab Orthodox family. This discussion is not designed to answer political
questions, nor is it an official Assemblies of God position. The primary
goal is to assist the church in communicating the truth of the gospel
of Jesus Christ to Muslims in a loving and effective manner. Moderator
Stephen Tourville is director of Intercultural Ministries for U.S. Assemblies
of God Home Missions.
Tourville: Is Islam a peaceful religion? And if Islam is warlike, why
are Muslims often peaceful?
Yousef: Most Muslims would not support the killing of innocent
people. They would say, "Allah of the Holy Quran never advocated killing.
The World Trade Center destruction was the work of misguided individuals
at the fringes of society. Real Islam is sanctified from violence. We
denounce all violence. Islam means submission. Islam means tolerance."
But is this true? Does Islam really preach peace? Muslims who have
committed crimes, such as the events of September 11, think otherwise.
They believe what they do is jihad (holy war). They believe true Muslims
are obligated to do this. They would cite references from the Quran
such as the following:
Fighting is prescribed upon you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible
that ye dislike a thing which is good for you (2:216).
But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans
wherever ye find them (9:5).
Fight those who believe not in Allah, nor the Last Day, nor hold that
forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and his Messenger, nor
acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book,
until they pay the jizyah [tax] with willing submission and feel themselves
Some Muslim theologians have appealed to their Doctrine of Abrogation
in understanding these verses. They would say that the peaceful verses
have been abrogated by the sword verse (Quran 9:5).
Muslims may be perceived as peaceful because many Muslims emphasize
those aspects of their religion that promote peace. Yet, they cannot
deny the fact that Islam as a religion embraces jihad.
George: In my opinion, Islam is not a religion of peace because
both Islamic theology (the interpretation of the Quran) and history
defy it. Some Muslims do not practice jihad and appear to be peaceful.
But many who dont physically participate in it would still believe
it is right and good.
Tourville: Why are Muslims often seen as peaceful?
Yousef: Many of them have escaped oppression and persecution
in their home countries and have come to the United States to better
their lives. While in their home countries they may have been liberal
in their practice of Islam and did not know what the Quran really teaches.
When fundamentalist Islam controls a country it changes the people.
"Peaceful Islam" quotes the Quran chapter 2:256, "Let there be no compulsion
in religion." Or, Quran 5:82, "Nearest among them in love to the believers
wilt thou find those who say We are Christians." To a Muslim,
peace comes and is maintained when people submit to the rule of Allah
and obey his apostle, Muhammad.
Tourville: How political is Islam?
George: Islam is not a religion in the way most people think
of religion. It is a legal system, a form of government. You cannot
separate the religion from the politics in Muslim-majority countries.
Tourville: What is the Islamic view of Jesus?
George: Muslims respect Jesus as a prophet. They believe in
His virgin birth, but deny His deity. They deny the Crucifixion, but
believe Jesus is returning.
David: Jesus is seen as a great prophet.
Yousef: Jesus is mentioned 93 times in the Quran. Muslims believe
that He performed many miracles, and that He was a great prophet. However,
Muslims fail to honor Jesus by not believing in His divinity, death
or resurrection. When Jesus returns to earth, they believe He will tell
Christians it was wrong to worship Him.
Tourville: Do Muslims view Jesus Christ spiritually or from a purely
human point of view (2 Corinthians 5:16)?
Yousef: According to Islamic teaching, Jesus was only human,
but He was one of the great prophets. He, however, was not as great
as Muhammad because it was Muhammad who received the final and complete
revelation from Allah for man.
Tourville: Are men like Osama bin Laden terrorists or fundamentalists?
Why do fundamentalist Muslims dislike or despise America?
David: First, let us explain what a fundamentalist Muslim is.
A fundamentalist Muslim believes in the basic or fundamental teachings
of Islam, as brought forth in the Quran and the Hadith (traditions).
Osama bin Laden is more than just a fundamentalist; he is a radical
terrorist. In fact, many fundamentalists have turned against him.
George: Yes, he is a terrorist. Fundamentalists dislike America
because they see it as the purveyor of most of the moral filth that
goes out to the rest of the world. Furthermore, Americas foreign
policy, specifically our unqualified support of Israel, deepens the
dislike they have for this country.
Tourville: Why do some people believe that Muslims take a superior
attitude toward non-Muslims?
George: A Muslim believes that Islam is the correct and perfect
religion and that Islam must conquer and rule those of ignorance and
David: Muslims see themselves as holding up a high standard
of morality. Thus, they believe they have a greater respect for God.
They see the rest of the world as needing Allah.
Tourville: How have religious minorities been treated under the rule
of Islamic authorities?
Yousef: In the Middle Ages, Islamic governments were more tolerant
of Jews and Christians than Christian governments were of Jews and Muslims.
Today, however, many Christians are being persecuted and killed for
their faith at the hands of Muslims.
George: In some moderate Middle Eastern countries, the government
allows churches for Arab Christians. However, many Muslim governments
would say they practice religious freedom, but it isnt the kind
of freedom we would describe. Remember that "once a Muslim, always a
Muslim" is the rule. The Law of Apostasy prevents any Muslim from changing
his religion. You can convert and become a Muslim, but you cannot "unconvert"
without dire consequences.
Tourville: Does the history of Islam reveal growth by the sword?
Yousef: During the first 100 years as a religion, Islam was
involved in constant fighting. Today, people in Egypt, for example,
convert to Islam just to survive. Muslims are given better grades and
better jobs. In one country, Christians are being kidnapped and forced
to convert to and fight for Islam.
Tourville: Is lying in order to spread Islam acceptable?
Yousef: The Islamic concept of lying is different than that
taught in the Bible. For some Muslims, it is acceptable to lie to save
face, to prevent hurting someones feelings or to keep out of trouble.
Religious leaders will give a fatwa (a law) to justify the lie. Some
Muslims in America are told that it is all right to lie to the government
because America is not an Islamic nation. However, if America were an
Islamic nation it would not be right to lie to the government.
Tourville: What is Islams vision for America?
George: America is a mission field from a Muslim perspective.
Islamic countries are pouring millions of dollars into this country.
They are building mosques, creating self-improvement programs and sending
Islamic professors to local universities in order to influence this
country toward Islam.
Yousef: Ayatollah Khomeini was quoted as saying that Islam would
be focused on invading the West in this century. Muslims believe their
religion should be universal and that it is the solution to the worlds
problems. They "owe it to the world" to somehow bring America into the
House of Islam.
Tourville: Why is Islam growing so rapidly?
David: Besides the high birthrate among Muslims, Islam is growing
rapidly because of the commitment of Muslims to spread their faith throughout
the world. They believe Muhammad came to bring Islam to the whole world,
not just one specific people group. Because of this, they strive to
reach all non-Muslims, from societys lowest to its highest. It
is their duty to do this. Witnessing is a part of their everyday lives.
They get involved in a community, build a mosque, teach people how to
read and write, if necessary, and teach them about Islam. They also
contribute to the community by developing companies that provide jobs
Islam is growing rapidly because it is simple to become a Muslim. One
only has to believe in one God and that Muhammad is his prophet. Further,
good works are done so as to help you earn your way to heaven. This
appeals to those who prefer to change the outward things in their lives,
but not necessarily the inward, as Jesus directs us to do.
Tourville: What is an appropriate response of the church to Islam?
David: Love, acceptance and forgiveness. No one is ever won
to Christ by being attacked or condemned. In John 3:17 it says that
Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the
world might be saved. We must realize Muslims are people that Jesus
died for, even before they accept Him as Savior. Jesus came to seek
and save the lost and we must too if we are to follow Him.
Yousef: We need to recognize that many sincere people practice
the religion of Islam. It is important to separate in our minds the
religion of Islam and the Muslim who practices it. Islam is an anti-Christ
religion in the sense that it denies His deity. We need to speak out
boldly [regarding our uncompromising position on Christ], but at the
same time convey the love of Jesus to Muslims.
Years ago Egyptian President Sadat made a comment that he loved Jesus
and believed in Jesus. After hearing his statement, American preachers
expressed to us that President Sadat was a Christian. What they did
not understand was President Sadats mistaken concept of Jesus.
It is a critical time not only in America, but in our churches as well.
When Muslim leaders are being invited to stand in Christian pulpits
and tell the body of Christ that we all serve the same God, we have
allowed deception to come into our churches. Before 9/11, many Muslims
were calling Christians polytheists.
We need to ask Jehovah God to give us His eyes and heart, and love
for Muslim people. They are people walking in darkness. It is time for
our lights to shine and for us to once again be the salt of the earth.
George: Yes, we must love them, establish relationships with
them, understand their religion and pray for them. Then, with wisdom
we will be able to witness Christs love for them in Gods
Tourville: How can we reach Muslims for Christ? What mistakes are made
in evangelistic endeavors to reach Muslims?
Yousef: We have shared our culture more than the real Jesus.
We have also been easily intimidated because Muslims tend to be very
vocal in their discussions.
David: We must begin to show the truth in love to Muslims. We
must show them by the way we live our godly example that
we walk with the Lord. We must build true friendships with Muslims.
We need to intercede for them, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit
to show them Jesus as the Messiah. We need to pray for them when they
are sick. Many Muslims do not believe that God performs miracles of
healing anymore. It can be a life-changing experience when Christians
pray for them and God touches them. Most importantly, we must share
our testimony telling them what Jesus Christ has done in our
lives. This is something that they cannot refute.
Let us not forget that at the same time we are trying to reach them
for Christ, they are trying to reach us for Islam. Many Muslims are
zealous in their commitment to God, praying five times a day and sharing
their faith. They are truly the greatest challenge to Christianity in
the world today.