Talking about our faith
Talking about our faith with those who haven’t heard or understood the gospel can feel pretty intimidating, especially when we don’t know what kind of reaction we’ll get. When it comes to engaging with Muslims, there can be the added concern of navigating the cultural differences that we may not understand in a respectful way. So, what are some of the things that might be helpful to keep in mind when speaking to Muslims about the gospel?
What can I do?
1. Invest time and get to know people
Many Muslims hold different beliefs and will be from different cultures and backgrounds. Spend time with them, ask questions and listen, with the aim to understand them and build a relationship, rather than to win arguments.
2. Always speak respectfully of Islam, Muhammad and the Qur’an
If you don’t, it will feel like you are personally attacking them. Steer away from circular debates and use personal testimony and biblical stories to explain the grace we freely have in Jesus. Emphasise the full assurance we have of our salvation through Jesus. Muslims know that Islam doesn’t offer this, but many are seeking it.
3. Be committed in praying for your friends
We know that ultimately it is Jesus who changes hearts. Pray that Jesus would make himself known to them, and be patient. Often the consequences and implications of accepting Jesus can be enormous, so give people time to work through this.
4. Talk about the fact that you pray
Because Christians don’t pray in a ritualised way like Muslims, your Muslim friend might think that you don’t pray at all. Talking about your prayer life can lead to more general spiritual conversations.
If you’d like to read more, Engaging with Muslims by John Klaassen is a simple, practical guide (available from www.thegoodbook.co.uk), and A Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison talks about what God has been doing in the Muslim world (available from www.10ofthose.com). Friendship First has a 6 week interactive DVD course, designed to equip you with the skills and resources needed to confidently approach your Muslim friends and be an effective witness to Jesus Christ. See friendshipfirst.org for more.
It can be helpful to define what you mean when you speak of ‘God’, as connotations will differ. Although in Islam one of the attributes of God is ‘all-loving’, this love is not unconditional. The Qur’an makes it clear that God is not seen as a ‘father’, he is all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere and to be submitted to. His oneness is very important – he can’t be divided. Although Jesus is honoured in Islam, a Muslim must never worship him because they only worship God. This means that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity can be a big stumbling block, as well as Jesus being the Son of God.
In Islam, sins are categorised into major and minor sins. If you avoid major sins, your minor sins are more likely to be forgiven. Islam doesn’t teach that we were born sinful, so sin is a specific act. On the Day of Judgment your sins will be weighed against your good deeds. Professing Islam is not enough to escape punishment – you must be genuine before God for your lifetime. But he is forgiving, so he can forgive those most devout of their sins. This can mean that the idea that we need a saviour is difficult to accept.
Honour and shame are important concepts in Eastern thought, in contrast to the innocence and guilt culture in the West. Western thought assumes reason as the highest authority, whereas in many Eastern cultures it will be a person of high status. This means that a person’s actions are assessed socially, in terms of their impact on the wider community, rather than individually, as our legal notion does. Shame is more of a defining factor than guilt because it is experienced collectively – your actions bring shame on those connected with you. This means that guilt (experienced individually and internally) might seem like an alien concept to a Muslim.