God loves Muslims and desires to save them from their sin. As Christians, it is important that we understand basic facts about who Muslims are so that we can effectively share the Gospel with them. Below, I offer five answers to questions a Christian should ask when preparing to evangelize a Muslim.
What is the Qur’an?
Most Muslims believe that the Qur’an is eternal and uncreated. In addition, they claim that the Qur’an was given to Muhammad by literal dictation from God. As well as, that one can only read the Qur’an properly in Arabic. It is shorter than the New Testament containing only 114 chapters (surahs), which are arranged by length instead of topic or chronology. According to Islamic tradition, Muhammad received the Qur’an over a 23 year period. The major themes of the Qur’an focus upon the strict monotheistic nature of God, human beings and their responsibilities to God, the nature of prophethood and revelation, Satan and angelic beings, and the necessity of building a religious society.
Is there Diversity in Islam?
The footprint of Islam stretches from the Southeast Asian archipelagos to the West African coastal city of Dakar. Many people assume that Islam stays the same wherever it is, but this is not true. The Sunni and Shia divisions are an example of this. The conflict lies in who should lead the Islamic community. After Muhammad’s death, some Muslims believed that Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law, should take leadership. Others believed that the most capable should have leadership. They believed that Muhammad’s successor need not be a relative.
Sunnis make up approximately 85% of the global Muslim population and they follow the succession of authority that is traced back to Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s successor. Shiites make up 13% of the remaining 15% of the global Muslim population and they look to the line of Ali as their religious authority. Other groups consisting of 2% include Sufi, Ahmadi, and others. Further diversity exists because Islam crosses so many cultural and ethnic barriers. As a result, many Muslims are unable to read Arabic and do not understand the meaning behind their memorized prayers. Christians working with Muslims should remember that Islam is not always the same in every context.
What are the Five Pillars of Islam?
Islamic tradition requires Muslims to perform five rites. They call them the Five Pillars of Islam. In order to become a Muslim, he or she must confess (shahada) that there is only one God and Muhammad is his prophet. This is the first Pillar. Secondly, Muslims are required to pray (salat) facing Mecca five times every day. The third pillar, fasting (sawm), is required during the celebration of Ramadan which demands Muslim fast from food during the day. Muslims are also required to give money (zakat) to the poor in their community. This encourages solidarity within Muslim communities and provides for those who are in need. The final pillar calls upon all Muslims, who are physically able, to make a pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca one time during their lives.
Are Muslims Dangerous?
It is easy to assume that all Muslims are dangerous when we watch grisly news stories of jihadist brutality, whether in Paris, Mosul, or San Bernardino. However, the vast majority of Muslims are not violent. Of the 1.6 billion Muslims, the slightest percentage affirm the violent activities of groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda. In fact, Muslims are some of the kindest people. They are hospitable and love building relationships with their neighbors. Just because a Muslim woman wears her veil in public or a Muslim man wears a jalabiya prayer cap, doesn’t mean that they are dangerous. It may mean they have serious religious convictions. As Christians, strong religious beliefs can be a useful bridge when sharing the gospel.
How can I be an Effective Witness to Muslims?
Sharing the gospel with a Muslim happens best in a relationship. We should always be prepared to give a witness sitting in the back of a taxi cab or next to a window on an airplane. With that being said, strategically developing a long-term friendship with a Muslim is the best context for evangelism. Ask questions and listen for the answers. Invite your friend into your home for a meal and allow them to interact with your family. Remember that Islamic culture is different from Western culture. They may eat different kinds of food and separate men and women in social situations. Respecting cultural differences will often gain you a hearing from your friend. Above all, love your Muslim neighbor as you love yourself. Pray that the gospel of Jesus will open their eyes.