Ramadan is approaching and Muslims will be fasting and spiritually searching. As Christians, we should be ready to give a reason for the hope within us with meekness and fear. We should consider how we can share the gospel in a way that is understood and, at the same time, make an effort to comprehend where those from the Islamic faith are coming from.
Building bridges rather than walls is a good place to start since many essential differences will inevitably arise concerning the Bible and Quran, Yahweh and Allah, the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ and His crucifixion, the Trinity and salvation.
Part of the work involved in building bridges initially requires removing obstacles. Many Muslims equate much of western civilization and its apparent shameless immorality with Christianity. It would be most helpful to sincerely express equal concern regarding the same and appeal on the grounds of a holy God and the authority of Scripture.
As a rule of thumb it is wise for a Christian to engage in witnessing to those only of the same sex, to dress modestly, avoid touching the opposite sex unless a handshake is initiated, and to be careful with the way one treats the Bible and Quran. This is most important and illustrates how you value your holy book. Avoid using a Bible that you have marked and be careful where you place it; never on the floor and elevated as high as possible, within reason.
There are similarities (and also important differences within the similarities) in terms of biblical characters that are also respected in the Quran such as Adam, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Job, David, Solomon, John the Baptist, Mary and Jesus. Unlike some of the eastern religions, Islam, like Christianity, has a linear view of history with the concept of creation and an expectation of the end times, including the second coming of Christ, a day of judgement, heaven and hell.
Muslims and Assurance
A Christian can have assurance of salvation by trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross and grace through faith alone. A Muslim hopes that on the day of judgement that when their deeds are weighed, that their works will be weighty enough to gain entry to Paradise. A good question to ask is ‘how good do you have to be to enter into Heaven?’ This can initiate discussion about how someone can be made righteous through Christ’s imputed righteousness and works salvation versus grace. Muslims affirm that Jesus was sinless and performed miracles and this can be a useful springboard in considering the biblical claim that Jesus is the Son of God.
Muslims and The Trinity
Muslims usually consider Christians to be worshipping three gods rather than One God in three Persons; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Furthermore, their understanding of the Christian Godhead is that of God, Jesus and Mary (Surah 5:116). However, Mary magnified the Lord and rejoiced in the salvation given to her, by her Saviour (Luke 1:46-47). Also in Islam, the Holy Spirit is equated with the angel Gabriel.
In the Shema, some use this to argue that God is singular, see Deuteronomy 6:4 ‘Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One!’ However this ‘one’ is ‘echad’ and is a compound one meaning ‘united’ and is the same word used in Genesis 2:24 where a man leaves his mother and father and joins his wife and they shall become ‘one’ flesh.
Muslims, Yahweh, and Allah
Even some Christians will claim that Yahweh and Allah are the same and argue on the basis of semantics that Allah is simply another name for God and compare the names Allah and Eloah etc. However El, Eloah and Elohim, whilst used of God in a descriptive sense, are not His actual name. In the Old Testament, Yahweh is rendered as ‘The LORD’ and Isaiah 42:8 says ‘I am the LORD, that is My name and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images.’
Also Yahweh and Allah have different attributes and characters. We have already looked at the Godhead. Allah is described as not having a Son (Surah 6:101), while in the Bible ‘God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ (John 3:16). Allah is unknowable whilst Yahweh can be known and wants His followers to glory in knowing and understanding Him (Jer. 9:23-24; 1 John 2:3-4).
Muslims and The Crucifixion
1 Corinthians 15 is known as ‘The Resurrection Chapter’ and explains that if Christ is not risen then our faith is futile, we are still in our sins and that we are of all men the most pitiable (Verses 17-19). The crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord is critical to our faith. Nonetheless there is a single verse in the Quran that denies that Jesus was crucified on the cross.
‘And because of their saying: “We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s Messenger.” They slew him not, nor crucified him, but it appeared so to them; and those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge of it except the pursuit of a conjecture; (but) certainly they slew him not.’ (Surah 4:157)’.
It is worthwhile considering that the Jewish historian Josephus, the Roman Historian Tacitus, the Talmud and Lucian, a Greek historian, all independent accounts from outside the Bible, affirm that Jesus was in fact crucified.
Muhammad in the Bible?
Some Muslim scholars state that in Deuteronomy 18:15-19 where a new prophet like Moses is mentioned this is referring to Muhammed, not Jesus. Ahmed Deedat argued that for Jesus to be like Moses He would have needed to have been a military or governmental leader and that since the Arabs are related to the Jews through Abraham, they are ‘brothers’.i
However in John 1:45, ‘Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Also Peter preached in Solomon’s Portico concerning the Prophet like Moses (Acts 3:19-22).
Ada Habershon was a friend of Moody and Sankey, Spurgeon and others, and in her ‘Study of the Types’, she lists four pages of parallels between Moses and Jesus and explains exactly how Moses was a type of Jesus. To mention a shortlist of those examples, they were both referred to as servant, chosen, prophet, priest, judge, shepherd, leader, intercessor, deliverer and ruler, were betrayed, falsely accused and went to Egypt.ii
Some Muslim scholars also equate the Holy Spirit described as the Helper or Comforter through John 14-16 with Muhammad. The Bible clearly affirms this relates to the Holy Spirit, compare John14:26 with 1 Corinthians 2:13. The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. Logically it doesn’t fit that the disciples would have to wait 600 years for the ‘helper’ to arrive.
Is the Bible Corrupted?
This is one objection often raised, so it is helpful to consider the following. When scrolls were copied by trained scribes, they were checked horizontally and vertically and if an error was discovered on a scroll it would be discarded. Also the sheer number of copies which vastly outnumbers any other ancient historical document, in addition to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 discovered in the Qumran caves points to the incredible accuracy of the Scriptures. The sheer quantity of historical and archaeological evidence which can be viewed at the British Museum in London and the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem also demonstrates that the Bible is rooted in historical fact.
The way we share the gospel, conversing with respect and reverence and recognizing the needs of the person you are witnessing to is vital. This also needs to be accompanied with prayer. Ultimately only God can save though he chooses to use us to share the good news with others. The closing quote is from Patrick Sookhdeo…
‘Most Muslims who come to Christ are not won over by intellectual arguments which disprove the validity of Islam. Rather they have a personal encounter with Christ. Often this happens by reading the New Testament. Others have testified to the power of the love of Christ working through their Christian friends. Sometimes the Lord will call a Muslim to Himself through dreams and visions.’iii
i James R White What Every Christian Needs To Know About the Qur’an (Bethany House Publishers; Minneapolis, 2013), 203.
ii Ada Habershon The Study of the Types (Kregel; Grand Rapids, 1985), 165-168
iii Patrick Sookhdeo A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Islam (Christian Focus Publications and Isaac Publishing; Ross-shire & Pewsey, 2001), 73