In our world, Islam is not only one of the most popular world religions, but according to Zane Pratt, it is also “a fast-growing religion, especially in the Western world.” And with the reverberations of 9/11 still looming in America coupled with the War on Terrorism in the Middle East that the United States has been involved in, the perspective of the religion of Islam in general and Islamic peoples in particular is highly negative and sadly misinformed. Granted, most post-modern America is aware of this and is rapidly becoming politically correct with Islamic adherents. Even with this there is no guarantee of genuine tolerance (traditional usage).
Among Christians the misunderstandings and misinformation is even greater. There is high sensitivity as Muslims are so often viewed as dangerous, evil, and unclean (in the sense that they should be avoided). The sad truth is that many Christians spout off at the mouth about many topics about which they know very little. Islam is definitely one of them. Of course, misunderstandings will inevitably exist between Christians and Muslims simply due to the fact that very few to none will ardently give themselves to two religions in order to properly understand every aspect of each. In fact, I think that both Christians and Muslims would agree that it is due to sin and the brokenness of our minds that we cannot with perfect clarity understand either religion in their entirety. However, Christians need to have at least a basic understanding of Islam–what it teaches and what it does not teach; what it advocates for and what it does not. Also, if we as believers in the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ are to be effective and faithful witnesses of the truth of the gospel to those of other religions, such as Islam, we must strive to understand what they believe and love them as creatures with equal dignity as us before God his image-bearers. Muslims are in need of Christ just as every human is and as those who have had our eyes opened to the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, we must share this gloriously joyous gospel with them.
First, let us speak wisely and correctly concerning the religion of Islam and its adherents.
Zane Pratt, who is associate professor of Christian missions at Southern Seminary, served as a missionary for twenty years in a Muslim-majority country and has outlined ten things that every Christian should know about Islam. I found this to be very helpful. And though it is obviously not comprehensive and may even leave out some things out (I do not believe he has left out any fundamental feature of Islam of Muslims and if so, not intentionally), this article set up in a visibly attractive chart, is very helpful and much-needed in many evangelical circles. If you are a Christian, this article is directed at you so that you may become less ignorant and a little more prepared when speaking about Islam or interacting with Muslims. If for no other reason, this article should keep you from babbling like a proverbial “fool.”
Below are Pratt’s “Ten Things” and I highly recommend the full article which is a short, yet excellent read.
1. “Muslim” and “Arab” are not the same thing.
2. The word “Islam” means submission.
3. There are two major denominations of Muslims (Sunni and Shi’a).
4. Islamic theology could be summarized as belief in one God, his prophets, his books, his angels, his decrees, and the final judgment.
5. Islam teaches that Jesus was a great prophet.
6. Islamic practice can be summarized by the Five Pillars of Islam.
7. The vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists.
8. Muslims can be some of the friendliest, most hospitable people on earth.
9. Muslims need salvation through Jesus Christ.
10. God loves Muslims, and so should we–even those few who are our enemies.
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. – 2 Corinthians 4:4