An American friend recently told me that he had discovered there were some Muslim families in his apartment complex. But he hesitated to approach them, not knowing how they would respond. He assumed if he understood what Muslims believe first, it would help him to make friends.
My friend’s desire is understandable, but may not be helpful. Although having general knowledge is generally a good thing, what Muslims actually believe may be so individualized it may be wiser to make friends first, then find out what your Muslim friend believes. This will save you from assumptions that may not be true.
I would encourage the same approach for Muslims who want to make a Christian friend. Many Muslims have been told that Christians believe in the Trinity—God the Father, God the Mother (Mary), and God the Son (Jesus). I don’t believe that, and I’d rather someone ask me what I believe than assume something false, wouldn’t you?
What an individual Muslim believes may have everything to do with what his parents or teachers taught him more than what the Qur’an actually teaches. Here in Indonesia, our adopted Muslim son was raised in a radical Islamic boarding school that taught him Allah approved of stealing from Christians, murdering Christians, and raping Christian girls. Living with us challenged those beliefs, and thank God he doesn’t believe that any more. Some Muslims we know believe that reading the Bible will cause the Christian “jinn” (genie) to jump on you and distort your thinking to the wrong path. Some Muslims we know believe that God gave His power to the witchdoctors to heal people, or kill people with curses. But many Muslims we know believe none of the above.
We also know Muslims who believe the Qur’an teaches they must also follow the Christians’ Holy Books. We know Muslims who see Jesus’ uniqueness in the Qur’an and embrace him as their Messiah too. In fact, we’ve never met a Muslim who says bad things about Jesus. Some know nothing about him, others honor him as a prophet, healer, and teacher, or even as the living Word and Spirit of God. When you make a new Muslim friend, don’t assume he or she is against Jesus—ask! You might be surprised at what they believe.
Perhaps the best example of this “surprise factor” is the Muslim artist Mo Sabri—check out what he believes about Jesus here (on youtube, search for “Mo Sabri I believe in Jesus” or click this link): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gDFFATGyh0 Amazing!!!
So whether you’re Christian or Muslim, I encourage you to make friends first—
along the way find out what your friend believes, and share what you believe in a respectful way. Don’t make beliefs a condition for friendship. Be a true friend. Love sincerely. The context of a loving relationship is the safest place for both you and your friend to take a fresh look at what you believe.