The Muslim World

Your Muslim Neighbor

Bassam and Shirley Madany

Perhaps you haven't got a Muslim neighbor, but that day is closer than you imagine. One of your neighbor's children may bring home a Muslim husband or wife for a visit, and you will hear that their child has accepted the spouse's religion. If they are very serious in their conversion the woman will indicate it by her conservative dress and her head covering and you will know without even asking. You are stunned because you thought they were strongly evangelical. You wonder how they are handling this novel situation. They tell you that at least it is a religion and they believe in God. It occurs to you then that you hardly know what to say or how to react.

This pattern has been developing for some years in Western Europe and Britain but it is just beginning to assume a higher profile here in the U.S.A. Spearheaded by retired missionaries from the Muslim fields, a variety of groups are springing up to concentrate on just how to present the Gospel of Christ to Muslims. 

Meanwhile, the new Muslim Americans are rapidly and vocally making their presence known in our schools and universities, as guests on radio talk shows and in government. Those of us who have been involved in missions to Muslims realize the tremendous challenge of Islam because of its distinctive beliefs, and specific views of Christianity. Islam is the only religion, among the world religions, which came into existence after the birth of Christ. One of their distinctive views is that they charge us with falsifying the Word of God. They also deny the deity of Christ and His redemptive work on the Cross. Another way in which they differ from such groups as Hindus and Buddhists is that their faith is not just simply centered in a religious view of man and his needs; but rather has been allied from the very beginning, to a specific view of the role of the state. This explains why their spread into the world was primarily through military conquest.

Any attempt to ignore these fundamental doctrinal and historical facts can only add confusion to our missionary task among them. This is especially so when millions of them have left the shelter of the "household of Islam" in Asia and Africa, and have immigrated to western Europe and North America. In other words there are certain fundamental considerations which must be taken into account when we embark on bringing the gospel to Muslims living among us-to Muslims who claim the same citizenship as ourselves, but who have preconceived ideas of what that involves. 

Certainly Muslims, like other people, are created in the image of God and after His likeness. They participate in the fall of Adam and Eve into sin and are therefore in need of redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ, just as we are. We base this analysis on the Bible. While they perceive themselves as creatures made by God-they would never accept the Biblical doctrine of man being made in the image of God! They do acknowledge sins but they believe that they can win the favor of God through their efforts as prescribed in their holy law. In this instance they are not unlike other non-Christian people who must be convinced of the Biblical doctrines of the fall and of salvation.

The Muslim, however, is not just simply a person who views himself as a member of a particular world religion. It goes much further. It used to be said that when missionaries went to the foreign field they carried with them a certain "baggage". This can also be said of the Muslim who is coming to us as a missionary also. His baggage is a political one. He considers himself as part of a universal community, the "Umma" and he will always have primary allegiance to it. This may not be enunciated openly or verbalized in our contacts with them as fellow residents of the United States and Canada but it is always there. It just needs some major world event like the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Uganda for it to surface. It may sound rather harsh to say it but most Muslims continue to have two allegiances: one to the land they have adopted and the other to this Islamic community which they refer to as the "Umma".

To illustrate we would remark on a couple of instances that we observed shortly after the August 7th, 1998 bombings of the embassies and the subsequent discovery of threats from a terrorist group and the United States' decision to retaliate. A Palestinian Professor, a Muslim, teaching at a college in Chicago-land, was adamant in condemning the American attack on the terrorist bases in Afghanistan. Likewise leader of an Islamic organization in America admitted that his group had contacted the White House in order to request President Clinton to make sure that he prepared his speech in such a way that there were conciliatory remarks about Islam and its "peace-loving" nature. He deplored their lack of influence in high places even in the face of such success!

At the same time, this Islamic spokesman made a lengthy commentary on the meaning of the Arabic word "jihad." He insisted that it had nothing to do with warfare! That it was simply to be explained according to its root meaning from the Arabic word which suggests that one "exerts great effort". Both the professor and this leader, one presumes are American citizens. We can only say that such remarks about the obvious meaning of the word jihad as it has been used down through the centuries, cannot be classified in any other way than that of "dis-information". We have fourteen hundred years of historical instances which prove that its primary meaning is "holy war."

In studying the history of Islam it becomes extremely clear that the phenomenal spread of this world religion in the space of one hundred years; to an area larger than the Roman Empire at the time of Christ, was achieved by conquest in many cases. How could such a conquest, in the name of God, be separated from the word "jihad."

As recently as the 80's of this century we had the example of the 8 year war between Iran and Iraq when the Ayatollah Khomeini sent many of his youth into battle arming them with a wooden key which represented their sure entry into paradise should they die as martyrs in that holy war against Iraq. This is part of the Islamic tradition and cannot be relegated to a "terrorist" element.

In relating these historical facts for the benefit of someone whose heart has been guided specifically towards "bringing the Gospel to Muslims" we should make it plain that no one is wanting to foster a negative campaign "vis-a-vis" Muslims. But to ignore the complex nature of Islam is to fall victim to the increasing propaganda which is being spread throughout the west. There is a concerted effort to paint Islam as purely a religion on par with Christianity, Buddhism or Hinduism. If we are to be kept silent about the lessons of history then we are taking the first step towards our own "dhimmitude". This was the name given to the conquered peoples who refused to Islamize. They became second-class citizens in the large Islamic world.

Another factor which could be mentioned is the lavish expenditure of Saudi and Kuwaiti funds as they seek to strengthen Islam around the world. Central Asia's Islamic background is being revived. Many of the countries south of the equator in Africa, are being offered enticements of schools, hospitals and gifts of money to persuade them to accept the religion of Islam. In fact we are seeing major building of mosques right here in the U.S.A. where the latest mosque to be dedicated was in Los Angeles; a mosque which was built with $8.l million Saudi dollars. It was described as lavish in architectural design, having twin domes; one made of glass, and a 79-foot tall minaret. The whole complex covered 63,000 square feet with underground parking, restaurant, two floors of offices, classrooms and worship space. It joins the other spectacular American mosques to be found in New York City, Washington, Cincinnati and Toledo, Ohio. The press release was careful to insist that no comparisons should be made between the tight rules against any expression of Christianity in Saudi Arabia and the relative freedom of America. The 60,000 strong army of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia must enter that country knowing full well that "there is only one religion there and they cannot exercise their religion in churches or in public."

However, the complexity of this subject of missions to Muslims should not make us lose hope. Muslims are turning to Christ. The Holy Spirit continues to touch hearts and many Muslims are being brought into Christian fellowship. Unfortunately, the need for low profile continues the world over because of persecution from friends and family.

It has been a great source of our own personal encouragement to observe that Muslim converts are making use of the internet to share their testimonies with a degree of anonymity. And from Europe we are joyfully receiving newsletters from Muslim convert groups who are sacrificing extremely to bring the gospel back to their lands of origin-specially in North Africa. We are hearing of Christian fathers and mothers, something which did not exist when we began our work forty years ago, who have come out of the "umma" and found fellowship with other Christians.

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