Since September 11, the Muslim communities have been under siege by the media and the entire world. We have seen how the miss conceptions of Muslims have spread all over the media. As a Christian I begin to think that they should be treated as normal people. “When a radical fundamentalist, start a sect with ideas that differ from what the Muslim religion stands for, we begin to stereotype all the Muslims as the same. But when a Christian begins a killing spree a cross the nation, know one stereotypes all the Christians as one.”
As a Seventh Day Adventists Christian, I believe that we as a church body, we have to reach this people with compassion and understanding, because not all of them are evil like they are shown to be. I believe that ignorance is the root of hatred, an as Christians, we should be like Jesus, understand them, and cater to their needs.
To be able to understand the Muslim mind we have to learn their background and how their religion was develop. Is hard to learn when you already have preconceived prejudices about Muslims, but that’s when we have to pray to God for wisdom, understanding, and an open mind.
Islam originated in the seventh century A.D. During this time, Islamic scholars were very fluent in the areas of physics, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, geography and medicine. Muhammed (570-632 A.D.) was the founder of Islam. He became an orphaned at the age of six, when he became a teenager he decided to join the merchants who traded goods from town to town along the caravan routes. He became a master trader for a businesswoman, then married the woman who was a widow.
Muhammed was a man with a lot of spiritual insight, but he became depressed by the commercial greed and the excess of polytheism around him, he spent most of the time in seclusion and meditation. Muslims believe that while Muhammed was meditating in a cave, the archangel Gabriel appeared to him. The vision came to him first in 610 A.D. and thereafter at intervals over the next 22 years, revealing the word of Allah. Muhammed is believed to have been illiterate, for that reasons he dictated the visions to his companions who wrote them down. Then 30n years later the writings were compiled in the Koran. The Koran is the Muslims most holy book.
Muhammed’s insights were rejected by the leaders of Mecca, and after severe persecution he fled to Medina in 622 A.D., 250 miles to the north. This flight of Muhammed is called Hijra and is the starting point for Islamic history. In the town of Medina, Muhammed was well received by the people, and soon he had a large group of followers. In this town he was not only the prophet and the lawgiver; but he also became their political leader and commander of all the military in Medina. These Medina Muslims later return to fight the Meccans, which lost the war. At this time Muhammed started the cleansing of the city by getting rid of all the idols and the false worship. He proclaims the city of Mecca as the center of Islamic worship.
Muhammed based the Islamic faith in Five pillars, the main points of the creed. The first pillar is the testimony of faith (Shahada): “I bear witness there is no god but Allah.” The second is a prayer five times a day at specific hours (noon prayers on Fridays being the most important). The third pillar is fasting during Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamic calendar). The fourth pillar is (Zakah), alms giving, varying according to income and kind of property. This is the equivalent of tithe. And the fifth pillar is the pilgrimage to Mecca, which is the most holy place for a Muslim. To this last pillar some Muslims add (Jihad) which means holy war, and the defense of Islam. This is a part of Muslim beliefs that is taken out of proportion, because in reality moderate Muslims interpret the concept of Jihad as any struggle against under development and injustice.
In addition to the five pillars, Islam has one more article of faith. They include the Doctrines of Allah, Angels, Revealed Book, Prophets, Last Things, and the Doctrine of Predestination. Other significant traits about Islam apart from the pillars are, the allowance of polygamy (up to four wives) is allowed, and consumption of alcohol and pork are not allowed. In Islam the identity of priesthood is none existent, there is no sacrifices, saints or relics to invoke for protection or healing.
If we were to compare Christianity with Islam, we would find out that on the surface both of them seem to worship the same God, Allah. Also there are more similarities, about these two religions, that can be use as a good meeting points. It is very important not overlook the differences in the concepts of the Christian God and the Islamic Allah.
Islam is based on the belief that there is only one all-powerful god, Allah, to whom every living thing should submit. Allah is self-sufficient, and he cannot be affected by the actions of His creatures. Allah is the source of good and evil. Allah is supreme, not limited by laws or principles. In addition, God in Muslim thought is not unknowable. Christians in contrast believe that Christ has made His Father God known. He has been able to reveal Himself to his people, which in turn created man to His own image. This Christian view is totally different from the Islamic concept of Allah. There is another crucial difference between Christians and Muslims. I Muslim thought Allah’s power is shown by a way of exaltation, in political and in military supremacy. In Christianity God who is Almighty, sometimes reveals His power through weakness, humility and suffering. The cross is the supreme revelation of God’s love for human kind through Jesus Christ. This contrast is so graphic between both religions. Muhammed the Muslim prophet fled from the holy city of Mecca when his life was in danger. Christ in the other hand, savior of the world made His way into the holy city of Jerusalem to die for the human race.
Christianity and Islam are similar in another comparison. Both have holy books, the Christians have the Bible, and Muslims have the Koran. The Koran is believed to be perfect in it is writing, it is considered a perfect revelation from Allah. Is also believed that the Koran is a perfect replica from the one in heaven. Some Muslims think of the book, as so holy and pure, those believe that the book has miraculous qualities. Because of these believes it is impossible even dangerous to criticize the Koran or to be involved in a critical study of the book.
Christians, who want to witness to the Muslim community, should take these views of the Koran very seriously. Therefore, they don’t be drawn into a discussion of the books. For the Christian is an unfair comparison, because even though the Bible shows the divine guide to God, the Bible does not claim perfection. The supreme revelation from God is not in the book but in Jesus Christ. In Islam, the word of God became a book; in Christianity, the Word of God became flesh.
There are four main reasons why Muslims resist Christianity. There are doctrinal differences; in addition, some minor dissimilarities, which have cause a divisive effect. Second, there is been many confrontation at different levels military, political, and historical. They have a 1300-year history of struggle for supremacy in the area of the Mediterranean. Third, we must add the fact that radical and aggressive Christian missionaries were in to expand Christianity, while forgetting the people. Last reason for lack of Muslim evangelism is that Christians in their outreach to Muslims manage to deal only with Islamic theology and doctrinal points of disagreements.
Christians should take in account that Islam has been influence by many cultures and attitudes and religious concepts, that differ from place to place. There are approximately 3500 different Muslims cultures in the world, and each having their own pattern of beliefs. Islam is not just a religion is a way of life. The Muslim culture incorporates the secular way of living with the religious part, and both of them intertwine in such a way, that makes their culture run smooth and without chaos. In the Muslim culture, the institution of family life is very strong. Extended family is usually referred as immediate family without distinction. In addition, elderly are looked at as the center for decision making in the family. The segregation of sexes is enforced to avoid immoral acts.
Personal evangelism is the method in which witnessing is carried out on an individual basis. The fact is that we can bring the Gospel to people as individuals. A Muslim is a type of person that is so deep in their culture and religion that he will not want to speak to a Christian about religion. The Muslim people regard friends as almost part of their family, in that sense a Christian should try to be a friend before trying to convert them. After a Christian has befriended a Muslim, they should try to learn about their culture. A Christian also should relate to a Muslim as person, not just a prospect to conversation. It is imperative that both parties have mutual trust from each other, before any religious discussion should take place. A trusting relationship should be a goal in itself and not a means for evangelism.
Sometimes people see Muslims as aliens; we treat them as if they are out of space. We should keep in mind that Muslims are people like Christians. They have sorrows, joys, burdens, fears, hopes and failures, just as we do. Ignorance of Islamic themes on your part will not encourage a Muslim to take your own convictions seriously. A Christian should take in consideration that hospitality is vital for an efficient contact point. In Islamic cultures, hospitality is of extreme importance. A genuine gesture of friendship and hospitality is the most efficient tool in breaking down prejudices.
Unlike most Christians, Muslims are not ashamed to talk about their religion. It is wise to keep away from major points of disagreements until you feel that you have achieved a relationship of mutual trust. Be a listener and not a talker, learn how to listen, and let them express their ideas towards Christianity. You will find that they have more problems with the way Christians live, then you with the way they live. Do not be a critical listener; let them vent their ways of thinking on you. When they are done you can tell them that is not the teachings about Christianity that are wrong, but is the actions of the followers that do not reflect Christianity.
When a Christian has established a trustful friendship with a Muslim personal sharing is important to the development of a dialogue. It would be a great idea to share what Christ has done in you life. This tool in dialogue can be more powerful, then trying to argue a theological point with a Muslim. As the time spent with a Muslim friend progresses, then you can share more deeper beliefs like, sharing your feelings about death, judgement and prayer.
The location of an encounter in the beginning stages, can be done spontaneous, it can be anywhere. When a Bible study is the next step, you should take in consideration, where you meet. The meeting place should, should be where the Muslim friend feels comfortable. The reason for this is that, the Muslims have a great sense of community, and everyone is aware of each other’s social life. Another reason is that, in a Muslim community, they are very suspicious of non-Muslim activities, which can cause trouble.
Friendship between sexes is a very touchy subject for Muslims. A Friendly relation between a Muslim woman and a Christian man or any man for that fact can be seen as a wrongful doing. Is wise, to be friends with people of their own sex.
When a Christian has become a friend to a Muslim, and they are ready for a Bible study, a big question arises. Should the Koran be use to support Christian beliefs? It is recommended that the Koran should not be used, because that would show that the bible is an inspired book, which the Muslims do not believe. The Koran should never be used against itself to prove its faults, because the Koran is viewed as perfect.
There is one aspect that SDAs and Muslims have in common, and can be use to relate in things that both religions have in common. In the field of health, the Muslims have a very strict health and dietary laws. They both have laws that define clean unclean foods; they both abstain themselves from tobacco and alcohol.
Another way, in which a Christian can become a vital part in the Muslim community, is in the area of knowing what there needs are. It is very important to know that it is very hard to reach anyone if they have needs. These needs could be food, clothing, medicine or shelter. Before we can minister to anyone, is suggested that you do some research and find out what are the needs of the people.
There are other cultural procedures, which a Christian should follow. First in a relationship with a Muslim, dressing modestly is a most. Most of the body should be covered to avoid insult. Second when entering a conversation, the seating position should be in front of the person. If in there home, and mats are present sit on the mat, and remove your shoes. Third, if you are conducting a Bible study, do not exceed in time, 15-20 minutes maximum. Make sure to treat Bible with the same respect that they treat the Koran. Fourth, It has been mentioned that Adventist and Muslims share some common beliefs when it comes to religious concepts of Allah, angels, day of judgement health and diet. These can be great starter topics to use when approaching a Muslim. The down side of this is that they could turn it around and say, that if we believe the same things, why do not we change our religion. As you can see it can be double edge sword. That is why you should take your time when approaching these issues. Ministering should be a gradual achievement not an overnighter
After converting a Muslim, we should keep in mind that the work has just started. By them changing religion means moving away from what they have know all their lives. It is important that a support group should be put in place, people that can be there for the newly converted. A sense of Community is such a part of their lives, that it is imperative that they feel the same about belonging to a SDA church family.
There are some points that I will like to recap. First start your approaches to Muslim people with a single person choose one that you know or have an acquaintance. Pray that your encounter would be fruitful. Second, be well aware of their history and their beliefs. Make sure that you understand their friendship do not use it just to evangelize. Be aware of all the cultural and religious differences between your Muslim friend and yourself. Third, Witness one on one, and let your Muslim friend dictate where to meet and who will be present. Fourth, do not spend a lot of time teaching, be briefs and right to the point. Always approach the situation from the things that they know to the ones that they do not know. Fifth, be patient when ministering, it would take a while but the outcome will be worth while, bringing another soul to Jesus Christ.
Since humans have a sinful nature, we begin to emphasize on the differences between cultures, races, and religions of the world. Is sad to say but most emphasis are from a negative point of view. As true Christians, we have to take Jesus command, to take His Gospel to all the people in the world. We have to pray so that God will send His Holy Spirit upon us, so that we can oversee those prejudices that plague our society. As Christians, we tend to turn away not wanting to expose our selves to new challenges. God did not promise that His work was going to be easy. Nevertheless, we should follow along and keep searching for those souls that need to be rescued. After, September 11, 2001, the lives of Millions of people were change from one single act. We should not blame the Muslims for it, but blame the devil, who is the one trying to stop the Three Angels Message. Is our duty as SDAs to take the challenge before us and become a Good Samaritan to the Muslim people. Now is the time, to cater to their needs, and showed them the real love of Jesus Christ.