Wherever I go people are trying to understand Islam and learn how reach out to Muslims.
Send me your questions about anything from Islamic faith, history, current issues, etc., or about Christian ministry to Muslims, and I’ll do my best to answer them here on my blog.
Here are a couple sample questions I’ve recently heard:
“I’ve heard that those claiming Islam is a peaceful religion are those who don’t really read the Koran, while the deeper religious Muslims dig into the Koran, the more radical they become. Is that your experience?”
JIM: I would disagree. Like most Holy Books in most religions, people will read into it what they want to believe. Those who have a desire for violence and hatred will find Koranic verses to support it, and those who desire peace will find equally valid support in the Koran. Some of the best peacemakers alive today are true Muslim scholars who explain the jihad verses as being confined to specific contexts, much as Christians would confine the Old Testament genocide of the Canaanites at the hands of the Jews as a judgment of God in that context which we shouldn’t apply to ethnic tensions between peoples today.
Christians have done much the same thing with the Bible over the years, using it to support the Crusades, slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, and a host of other evil beliefs. That’s why it is essential that we look at Jesus as our most perfect theology, and look to the Holy Spirit to be our teacher of the written Word. Then instead of using the Bible to justify our opinions, we’ll be able to read it and find the heart of God.
“A prominent radio personality is warning of a Muslim takeover of America and the institution of syariah law—do you think this could happen in America?”
JIM: I think this is sensationalism at its worst, stirring up irrational fear of Muslims who move to America resulting in a reluctance to reach out and love them. First of all, there is nothing Americans love more than individual freedom, and Islam is based on submission to God’s law, or giving up personal rights to follow God. Syariah law is highly restrictive on individual freedom—Saudi women can’t drive cars; Afghan Taliban women can’t become doctors or teachers. Americans would fight to the death before giving up such freedoms. Muslim countries such as Indonesia can’t even get syariah law passed because although 80% of the voters are Muslims, they don’t want to give up such freedoms either.
Secondly, this ugly fear-mongering plays right into Satan’s hand to keep the walls high between Christians and Muslims. Instead of mobilizing churches to protest a mosque that wants to move into our neighborhood, Christians should be bringing their new neighbors fruit baskets and welcoming them to our communities! Why do you think God moved these precious people out of Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, northern Sudan, or some other place where they had almost 0% chance to hear the Gospel and planted them in American communities surrounded by Christians? This is a divine setup! While it may be hard to get visas to enter several Muslim nations, God circumnavigates Satan’s walls by bringing Muslims to us! We have far more in common with the average Muslim than we think. It’s time to stop relating to them out of fear, and build bridges based on love.
“Is the Anti-Christ coming from within Islam, building to an Armageddon where all the Arab nations are against Israel?”
JIM: Some see no redemptive plan for the Arab nations, but I do! There is plenty of Scripture to support God’s heart for Israel’s neighbors, and His plan to bring them into their destinies before the final day.
This morning I was reading through Isaiah 21, where in verses 13-15 God shows us Saudi Arabia’s future. Everyone knows the desert Arabs are famous for their hospitality. I believe this is both a spiritual gift and a primary redemptive gift of several nations in that region. God has blessed the region with wealth in order to fulfill their destinies. Isaiah 21:14 says the Arabs will take care of refugees. It will take a major shift in heart (from hoarding their wealth for power and pleasure) which may have to come from a drying up of their natural resources and humbly returning to reliance on God’s supernatural resources, but God is calling them to a higher place and we can join our prayers with His plans and see it come to pass!
Egypt and Assyria (modern day Iraq & Syria region) also have wonderful prophetic words about their destinies. In Isaiah 19: 18-25 we read that in the last days there will be a powerful prayer movement in Egypt that brings entire cities to faith, and this prayer movement will be relationally connected with similar worship from the region of Iraq and Syria. We already see signs of this prayer movement emerging in Egypt, and I believe they will be a shining light in the region spiritually in their prayer and worship of God. God ends this passage with these hopeful blessings: “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”
It’s interesting to me that God ties these three nations together for an end times blessing. Israel, we know, has rejected their true Messiah, Jesus, now for 2000 years, but the day will come when they receive Him. Romans 9-11 talks about this acceptance of the Christ, including a process of Israel being “provoked” by those they despise. Romans 10:19 says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” (NIV) Here we have two groups that provoke Israel to jealousy: “those who are not a nation” and “by a nation that has no understanding.” I interpret these to be the Christian Palestinians within Israel and Israel’s neighbor nations who turn to God. When a mighty move of God sweeps these peoples who are currently Muslims, causing the end of suicide-bombers and the launching of Arab laid-down lovers willing to give their lives to love Jews into encounter with Jesus, I believe finally the Jews will be so overwhelmed by God’s love demonstrated by the “Good Samaritans” that they will see Jesus as their Redeemer too. This wonderful destiny on Palestinians and I believe, Jordanians, will have a major impact on Israel’s salvation in the last days.
Just those three Bible passages give us plenty to hope and pray for! The Middle East is not a lost cause. These are nations loved by God, gifted with redemptive destinies and a glorious part to play in the last days of causing “the knowledge of the glory of the Lord to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab. 2:14) Like Joseph, God will give those who seek Him in this hour supernatural insights that go beyond saving individual souls–we will transform nations!
“Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?”
JIM: I would say absolutely, YES! Although we see God through different lenses, when a Muslim talks about “Allah” (by the way, this is also what millions of Christians in the Middle East call God, and the name used for Him in several translations of the Bible), he’s talking about the Creator of Genesis, the God of the prophets Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, even Jesus, the Giver of the Holy Books (the Torah to Moses, the Psalms to David, and the Gospels to Jesus), the Righteous Judge who separates people in the afterlife to heaven and hell–we’re talking about the same Monotheistic Being.
But, some would counter, Muslims don’t honor Jesus’ deity or the concept of Trinity. Would you then say that Jews also worship a false god? I’ve heard no one claim Jews worship a false god because they haven’t yet embraced Jesus’ deity or the Trinity–most Christians would say a Jew’s view of God is incomplete without embracing Jesus. Yet most Muslims have a very comparable God-concept to the Jews’, AND honor Jesus much more highly than a Jew does!
In my opinion, Muhammad did not originally intend to start a new religion–the Qur’an frequently states that he was called by God as a “Warner”, to call the polytheistic Arabs back to the worship of Abraham, to the monotheistic faith of his father (and ours). So when “a Muslim, a Christian and a Jew walk into a bar…” and talk about God, they’re all talking about the God of their common father, Abraham, now seen from different vantage points because of our divergent histories with Him.
The Qur’an teaches Muslims that they worship the same God Jews and Christians do in Sura 29 – Al-Ankaboot (MAKKA) : Verse 46
And dispute ye not with the People of the Book [Jews or Christians with the earlier Holy Books], except with means better (than mere disputation) unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say “We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our God and your God is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).” [Translation : Eng-Yusuf Ali]
I’ve heard some Christians describe “the Muslim Allah” as harsh and unloving. Actually, many Christians see God that way, too! This is a personal experience, not a Muslim teaching. The most common names for Allah repeated several times a day in prayer are “Ar-rahman, ar-rohiim”–the Most Merciful, Most Compassionate. Christians experience God’s love through Jesus’ life and death on the cross. When Muslims embrace Jesus ultimate sacrifice for mankind, I believe they will encounter God’s mercy and compassion at such a deeper level that it will change them forever.
We all see God through our own base of knowledge and experience, through our own cultural lenses. Christians have many different views of God, because He’s much too great for any of us to see all of Him at once. Muslims see Him from a different angle, and there is plenty of common ground for us to approach Him together and get to know Him better.
NEW QUESTION: “But how can we welcome Muslims into our communities when we know they have a hidden agenda?”
JIM: Friends, it’s high time we quit throwing around this phrase, “The Muslim Agenda”! If Christians in Northern Ireland, or Nigeria, or Sudan, or Bosnia, or Armenia, or India, or Indonesia bomb their non-Christian neighbors, does that mean we also are complicit in their “Christian Agenda”? That’s ridiculous! It’s time we quit believing that all homosexuals have a “Gay Agenda” to take over our schools, all movie stars are part of a “Hollywood Agenda” to corrupt our morals, and all Muslims support a “Muslim Agenda” to take over the world and impose syariah law everywhere. This is stereotyping and prejudice at its worst, dehumanizing individuals and judging the majority of the group by a few extreme people on the fringe, causing us to avoid knowing individuals’ beliefs and dreams that are potentially one heart with our own.
The vast majority of homosexuals, Hollywood workers and Muslims (or whatever group you have a hard time loving) are just regular folks who spend most of their lives trying to make a living, raise their kids to have opportunities they didn’t, and many still find extra time and energy to contribute positively to their communities. They have no evil agenda. In fact, many resent those extremists from their group because of the indirect suffering their group has to endure because of the extremists. I know countless Muslims who are fed up with terrorists and wish they’d all move to Antarctica!
But let me remind us all, that God’s love is big enough for everyone, the victims and the victimizers. Instead of punishing the innocent because of “guilt by association”, or even focusing our punishment on the truly guilty, as followers of Jesus we’re called to reach out in love to both.
So whatever group it is hardest for you to love, ask God to allow you to meet someone from that group, swallow your fear and judgments, and see if you can’t make a friend. And you’ll find that God’s agenda (“For God so loved the world…”) still trumps them all!
If YOU would like to express your opinion about any of my answers, please feel free!