If you’re reading this post, then I would assume it’s because you’ve found Jesus. Or perhaps, more accurately, Jesus found you, and you came to recognize that. He has changed your life.
Part of what happens when you discover that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son” is that you want everyone to know exactly what it is that you have found. And if you’ve been around for a while, sharing your faith, you’ll probably know well by now that there are a lot of Muslims out there too. And many of them are passionate about their faith. You know what you have that you want so desperately to share with them.
But if you’ve spent any time at all witnessing to Muslims, you’ll realize that they’re not all easily convinced. It’s interesting how we come to this new revelation about how much God really loves us, and when we go to share that truth with others, we sometimes get discouraged that they have a whole other way of looking at things.
If you truly love and care about the Muslim next door, you need to try to understand some things about their beliefs. Compassion is a powerful force in winning people to Jesus – learning how someone else thinks and feels is vital to being able to build bridges to connect with them and to help them to find this loving God they are probably already really looking for anyway.
I’ve put together a list here of some important truths that it would help very much to remember when you’re trying to share your faith with a follower of Islam.
1 – They believe in absolutes, too
One advantage you have in discussing what is “true” with a Muslim is that like pretty much most Christians, they believe there is set of facts and ideas that are true, and that these truths are “absolute.” That the sky is blue is an absolute – in other words, it is blue, even if you meet some guy who says it is always yellow.
It is frustrating dealing with a lot of people these days, because they have this soft, squishy notion that somehow, something can be true for you and not for me – like there might be a hell if you believe there is one, but if I don’t believe in hell, then there won’t be one for me. Most Christians do get the idea that things are right or wrong, whether we want to believe them or not. Now, some Christians believe there is a hell, some believe in annihilation.
But whatever you believe, you believe your position is the right one, regardless of whether people believe it or not. And both you and the person who disagrees with you on that point both recognize you can’t both be right. Truth is truth, and you both agree that there is something that is true, though you might disagree on what it is.
Muslims believe in absolutes, too. In witnessing to a Muslim, this has a great advantage as compared to dealing with many other people these days. You and the Muslim believe much different things are true; but you both agree there is an objective, external “reality” that exists apart from your perception of it. It does give you a good jumping off point.
So be aware of this fact. You’re going to have differences about what you believe. But, like you, this Muslim you are trying to reach is concerned that you both come to terms with “truth.”
2 – They have a common understanding of “sacred texts”
Like the devout orthodox Jew with the Torah, or the devout Christian with the bible, the Muslim believes there are certain texts which were given by God through inspiration. Since they believe these to be the word of God, they have a tendency to view all they see and do in the world through a lens of using their texts to determine what is right and wrong, what is true and untrue, what is holy and unholy. The devout Muslim believes the Quran (and the hadith) are given for us to model our understanding of truth and our conduct in the world.
The point you need to remember is this: you “know” your bible is right. But he or she “knows” his or her Quran is “right,” too. And if you’re going to communicate with them – if you’re going to TRULY communicate the love of God to them, you’re going to have to be aware of their feeling about the Quran being right and the Bible being wrong. They might not be able to do the same for you. But your understanding of that is vital if you want to respect where they are coming from.
You will need to be willing to take some time to learn what is in their book if you’re expecting them to take the time to learn what is in yours. (And don’t worry. Your heavenly Father will protect your heart and mind if you ask Him too.) But if you want to truly know these people, and know their hearts, you’re going to have to hear where they’re coming from and what is in their book that shapes their belief.
3 – Half of their Quran is about what is wrong with Christianity
If you meet a muslim who is being friendly, or is perhaps trying to convert you to Islam, there is a pattern in the conversation that will sometimes occur. I’ve had it often in my dealings with Muslims (and there are a whole bunch of them were I live). They will discover that I am a Christian. And their response will often be, “oh, we believe in Jesus, too. We believe he was a prophet of God.” It is a common approach they take. I’m not sure if it is their way of trying to find common ground with Christians or if it is something else. But it sure feels like they are trying to find a way to connect with the Christian (of course, to straighten them out and bring them to a belief in Islam, but they’re trying).
If they say this to you, please remember that they have been taught what they believe from the Quran, and this is what the Quran tells them – that Jesus was a prophet – and ONLY a prophet. Always try to give room for the motives and the sincere beliefs of that Muslim on the other side of that conversation. THEY are trying to help YOU, too.
Of course you realize they are mistaken. But don’t forget that they think you are, too. Love the fact that they are concerned enough for you that they are trying to “help you” and that they are open enough to talk with you.
4 – They have been taught certain wrong things about your belief
What you may or may not know (depending how long and how deeply you have studied Islam) is that it is not unreasonable to say that half of the Quran concerns itself with what it believes are flaws, weaknesses and sinful (pagan – polytheistic) practices and beliefs in Christianity and Judaism. The Quran, in many spots, feels like it is one long diatribe against Christians and their beliefs.
So, unlike Christianity, where your bible is more of an instruction about who Jesus is and who he wants to be in your life, the Quran is a book that spends a lot of time talking about who Jesus is not – much of the Quran is written to correct what it’s author believed were errors and misunderstandings about Jesus that crept into the church and brought paganism and corruption into the church.
The Quran talks about the immaculate conception, about the fact that Jesus did miracles and much of what the bible teaches about Jesus; but the Quran goes to great lengths to make the point that Jesus is NOT the son of God. So, if they believe the Quran, they don’t believe in “the same Jesus” that you and I do.
5 – They do not all believe the same thing
You have probably been around enough to know that each Christian’s beliefs are as unique as a fingerprint. None of us see things exactly the same way. What unites us in our faith (or, at least, should unite us in our faith) is our relationship with God through Jesus, with the scriptures as the baseline for measuring what is true. But our beliefs on various aspects of Christian theology will vary widely – hell vs. annihilation; fundamentalist vs. charismatic, different views on the finer points of salvation, eschatology and the like.
There are AT LEAST as many differences betweem the various sects and denominations in Islam. To say that they all believe the same is a very simplistic and quite unhelpful view.
It is an unfortunate reality that we tend to paint people with big, broad brushes. But the different ideas and patterns of thought in the Muslim community are vast and wide. And, like you, their experience in their lives will shape their faith and their beliefs, too.
Where they DO pretty much believe the same thing is in how they disagree with Christianity. They believe that there is one God, Allah; that he has NO SON; and that Muhammad is his greatest and final prophet. And you need to focus on helping them to understand who Jesus really is – with patience and compassion.
6 – Muslims, like everyone else, are people
Because of what is happening in the world today – in parts of the Middle East and in Europe, we can be scared that every Muslim we encounter is a closet-terrorist. But what you do need to keep in mind is that the vast majority of Muslims who have come to the west have come to escape sharia and the extremes of their previous countries. Muslims fought the Jews with Hitler in World War Two. And there were a great many Muslims who fought on our side against Hitler, against totalitarianism, against evil.
They are people first – people, who (like every other lost person you run into out there) need Jesus.
In spite of what you think, there are a great many among them who are sometimes quite unsure about what they believe; quite unsure if they are secure on their destination of heaven vs hell; unsure at all whether God really loves them. They are open to what is true, and many of them are rather disenchanted with their Islamic frame of reference because they recognize that it paints the picture of a God whom we must fear but cannot always trust.
As you are speaking to these people, recognize that they have hopes and fears like everyone else; that they are in need of a savior like everyone else; that so many of them are looking for that God-shaped vacuum to be filled with a God who is REAL.
7- God is even more interested than you are in them finding Jesus
We sometimes forget, as we go about our business in witnessing to these people about Jesus, that He is even more interested than we are in them discovering God for who he really is. Thomas Aquainas said, “our hearts are restless, and they do not rest until they find their rest in thee.” There is a hole in each human heart where God is longing to dwell, and until the Holy Spirit takes up residence there, the human heart will be hungering for what is real and what is true for anyone who is open to the truth. And there are many among these people who really want God, no matter the cost.
But even more than that, never forget that God so loved the world that He gave His only son so that people could be saved. If you have compassion in your heart for this Muslim to find Jesus, know that God is a lot more interested in it than you are. You are not alone. God’s GOT this.
8 – for a Muslim, believing in Jesus comes at a much higher price than it likely did for you
You must also remember that for a Muslim, this cost is extremely high. Many of us, when we came to Jesus, faced a little ridicule by our family and friends for ”joining a cult” or getting “whacky” on religion. But you must understand that for the majority of the people who grew up in this Muslim culture, they come from a background where it is common for the family to totally disown them and disavow any relationship or connection with them.
In fact, in most Middle Eastern countries, there is a high percentage of Muslims who, when interviewed, would agree that the penalty for apostasy should be death. So while it might have been difficult for you to leave some illicit fun and some bad habits behind, for many of these people, they are literally toying with the reality that inviting Jesus into their lives is tantamount to signing on for a death sentence.
So you have to be very patient with them, very prayerful for them and very kind to them when they wrestle with the huge price tag that may well be involved for them to commit their lives to Jesus. Do not underestimate how difficult this could be to them as a real cost in their life, or how much it will require you to be a part of their life if they embrace this God who loves them so much – because those who embrace them now may no longer do so once they give their lives to Jesus.
9- You have the Holy Spirit on your side
And this is probably the biggest point you must remember. When you are speaking the truth about Jesus in love, you don’t need to be afraid of them. You need to remember who you are in Christ, who they are without Christ and how much they need the truth that you are wanting so much to share with them.
The majority of them do not have any concept of a kind, compassionate God who is like a Father, who is slow to anger, but whose compassions are new every morning. And for those who are seeking truth, you can rest in the reality that Jesus loves them more than you do; that as you speak, God is able to use your words to quicken His truth to their hearts. Never forget that you are carrying water to those who are dying and thirsty; but if they are rejecting your thirst-quenching truth, it might be because they have been drinking from a briny sea for so long that they feel what you have is merely more of the same.
So be kind. Be patient. Be loving. And do not forget that in the end, you’ll not win them over by mere persuasive arguments. Those are important so that they can see the difference between the real you offer and the counterfeit they have believed.
But ultimately, they will be won over by the Holy Spirit flowing through the truth you speak in love.
The battle is the Lord’s.