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BUILDING BRIDGES TO THE MUSLIM WORLD


Introduction

Our topic is, obviously, an exercise in Christian understanding for more effective Christian witness among Muslims. It correctly suggests that communicating the Christian faith involves the Christian in understanding not only his Christian faith but also the Islamic faith of Muslims and their understanding of Christianity. The brevity of this article compels us to assume the Christian’s adequate understanding of the content and intent of the Christian Gospel, apart from which an adequate Christian witness, at least in the Biblical sense of the term, is virtually impossible. We will therefore focus on Islam and Christianity as Muslims might view them.

Understanding Muslims’ Understanding of Islam

Simply to acknowledge the Christian contribution to the strained relations between Muslims and Christians which have existed from the beginning of Islamic history (about 600 A.D.) is a step in the right direction (here the Muslim contribution to these strained relations is beside the point). Muslims see the centuries-old Christian animosity towards Islam highlighted especially in the Crusades and the more recent centuries of imperialism. They feel that Islam is the most misunderstood of all religions. Their publications continue to lament insensitive Western portrayals and caricatures of Islam and Muslims, and plead for a fairer estimate of them in the past and present based on Islamic sources and responsible Muslim interpretations of Islamic religion and culture. Indeed it is incumbent upon all Christians who are seriously concerned with Christian witness among Muslims to understand Islam as its sources present it and as its Muslim expositors interpret it, however differing their interpretations of it may be.

To initiate Christians into a truer picture of Islam Muslims might cite from the Qur’an such verses as the following:

And verily We (God) have raised in every nation a messenger,

(proclaiming): Serve Allah and shun false gods…(16:36)

Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the Prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered (2:136)

It is not righteousness that you turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the Prophets: and giveth his wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observeth proper worship and payeth the poor-due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are they who are sincere, such are the God-fearing (2:177).

From the beginning, the Muslim might comment, God has used nature and history to show mankind that He is sole sovereign of the universe, the Creator, the Merciful, the Judge. Through prophets He has guided every nation to the straight path. All the prophets have proclaimed essentially the same message (though rites and practices might vary): the message of Islam, submission to God alone. Thus, Noah, A