“…as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring’.” – Acts 17:28
There is a contemporary praise song with these words that the Apostle Paul spoke to the Athenians during his second missionary journey. Surprisingly, Paul is not quoting the words of Jesus or from the Old Testament, but from a Greek poem about Zeus, the father of Greek gods.
I think it’s fair to say that Paul was familiar with Greek literature, and what they believed about God. So, does this mean we should do the same? Should we, for example, study the Quran in order to better witness to the Muslim?
The answer would depend on a few things. Are you having a serious conversation with a devout Muslim? Is this person willing to read your Bible (rather than just trying to convert you)? Do you have the time, the motivation and the ability to read portions of the Quran?
If the answer to all of these is yes, then I would say be careful, but give it a try. Read a few passages, assign a few Bible passages to your Muslim friend, and discuss it. When we show interest in someone else’s beliefs they are more likely to listen to ours.
If the answer to any of these is no, then I would strongly advise against picking up a copy of the Quran. All Christians are called to share the Gospel with everyone, including Muslims. Not everyone is called to engage Muslims at this level. In this case, trying to do this will not make you a more credible witness. In fact, this could harm your witness and your soul.
(Next Post: What Must We Know About Islam?)
I have pondered responding to this message and have prayed for several days in regards to my response. As you know I have studied Islam, Islamic Law and the Qur’an both in English and Arabic and with Islamic Imams, and jurisprudence instructors. I was fortunate enough to be able to study the Qur’an with my Bible and to compare the messages I was also fortunate enough to be able to travel with my Bible during my travels in the Middle East and Islamic regions. I have spent over 25 years teaching, studying and working within the Muslim culture. I never tried to force my beliefs on anyone and only offered my opinion and comparison when I was asked. I did find that I became stronger in my faith and walk with God then I had been before by actually responding to their questions and my studies. I believe I was saved not for a task that God wants me to perform but for a relationship with Him. Like any religious group including Christians I have found radicals and extremist who use their religious believes to instill and demand their beliefs on others not necessarily to promote God’s will but to promote their own. The Christian Identity group is a perfect example of this and a known extremist group who promotes and encourage terrorist acts among its followers. The KKK quotes passages from the Bible to support their actions as do the Skin Heads and other extremist and terrorist organizations..
The Qur’an is to a Muslim is what the Bible is to a Christian, and the Torah is to a Jew what the Bible is to a Christian – this is the manner in which I approached my studies. I can remember not too long ago when it was forbidden for us as Christians to read the Torah or to actually worship with a Jew or visit their synagogue. I can also remember that when I was marrying my late husband Larry K. Simmons at Hopewell church several members were upset because I had asked my Catholic friends to be part of the service. I was always curious in regards to other forms of worship and have always enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about how other people worship God. The God I worship is the same God that Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc. worshiped but it is also the same God that my Jewish friends worship and my Muslims friends worship. When you study the Jewish faith (which I have to a small degree) and the Islamic faith one learns that there are so many similarities that you become puzzled as to why there is so much friction between the believers.
In my courses which I teach on terrorism, Islam and Islamic Law and International Law and Human Rights, I start the class by having a list of Quotes for the students to determine if they are found in the Torah, Bible or Qur’an. I have always been fascinated that generally they have no idea. I also have a brief quiz which helps me to understand the level of teaching I must do in order to help my student’s progress in their studies in that particular course. I believe God uses our activities and circumstances to bring us to HIM. I can remember my mother telling me the following when I was working and teaching Islam and the Islamic law: “God will lead you into certain circumstances or activity to bring you closer to HIM.” This is exactly what has happened to me with my studies and area of concentration. I may not have converted any Muslims to Christianity which was not my purpose to begin with but I think I opened a door to understanding and the reality that as a Christian I am not really much different than they are. There is a great difference between living a Christian life and allowing Christ to life His life through you. It is not enough for me to learn about God and His word but I also must allow God to live His life through me. I believe that Jesus was resurrected and He lives in each of us if we allow Him to.
I quote from your message: “I think it’s fair to say that Paul was familiar with Greek literature, and what they believed about God. So, does this mean we should do the same? Should we, for example, study the Quran in order to better witness to the Muslim?” My response to your question: How can we be a witness if we do not understand and know what they have based their faith on? Many Christians do not know that the Muslims do believe in Jesus, but that He is the prophet above all prophets who sits at the right hand of God. Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Jacob etc. are all prophets noted in the Islamic faith. I have heard Christians make sarcastic remarks about Muslims praying to Mohammed instead of to Jesus. Number one, Muslims never pray to Mohammed for it is forbidden and considered sac-religious in their faith for they can only pray to God. But I have had many Muslims comment and question me that Christians pray to Mary and not to God. How do you answer that when it is true – in the Catholic faith they do pray to Mary, Jesus Mother? I have found there are just as many questionable things found with our Bible that are found within both the Torah and the Qur’an. But I also found that my studies in the Qur’an and Islamic law have forced me to study and understand the Bible and my own beliefs more. Remember, I have studied the Qur’an and the Islamic faith and laws not from American scholars and institutions and/or Christians but from the Islamic Imam’s and jurisprudence scholars. I sought to understand their faith and beliefs from actually becoming part of their studies, families etc. I have had many Muslims say to me, “That they had no idea what a Christen believed nor what an American was until I lived and worked with them.” I never sacrificed my Christen upbringing, my faith, my values, principles or integrity but I was able to be accepted and trusted to work and live with their families. Which was a true honor? My greatest reward was when I was invited to pray with my Muslim female companions. What a powerful moment when I was able to verbally voice my prayer for their families, my family and my living with them and to actually have them verbally voice their prayer for my family and my living with them. It was powerful to know that a Christian and a Muslim was praying at the same time for the same thing and together. I have never preached nor stood in a group of Muslims and voiced my opinion but I have voiced my faith and why God and Jesus are so implanted and important in my life.
I think I must state something very important here. My parents Myrtle and Russell Denbow were considered by my Muslim friend’s children as their American grandpa and grandma. Their children loved my parents and loved to be with them. Mom and Dad treated their children just like they treated their own grandchildren. I remember Abdulla saying how Hammad and Fisel had cried and cried when they heard that my father had died. They wanted to know where grandpa was and I remember me telling them with God and my answer satisfied them. My mother became a mother to my Muslim friends whom mothers were so far away. I always respected and admired my mother for having the ability and the heart to sense and realize what a small difference she could make in their lives. The fact that they were Muslim had no influence on my parents respect and love for them. My Mother became very close and good friends with one of Her Royal Highness – she sent mother a beautiful centerpiece and pearl broach for her 80th birthday celebration. My mother and HRH remained friends until her death. When my mother died Hammad, Fisel and Nora Ann sent flowers to be placed on her casket. I remember how upset some people were even in my own family to have flowers from them placed at my mother’s casket. However, to these children they were their American grandparents the only American grandparents they had ever known. They remembered how Mother always hugged them and kissed them they said and how they liked to sit on my father’s lap and he would explain things to them. My mother and father did exactly the same thing to my children and to their other grandchildren. Memories, that no one has the right to take away from a child.
The Qur’an is not a witchcraft book but a fellow human beings connection to God just as my Bible is my connection to God. As I stated in the beginning of this response I may not be the right person to respond to your question as I have led and been exposed to a different world and different circumstances then many of my fellow Christian worshipers at Chapel and Hopewell. I truly believe that my studies, work and concentration in Islam and Islamic law have been guided by God. Doors have opened for me that could never have been opened without God’s blessings and will. I have loved and grown so much because of my studies, work and experiences that I know I have followed the path that God wanted me to. Because of the experiences, circumstances and people I have met and who have been a part of my life, no matter how small it has been, I have grown and become a better person and my walk and personal relationship with God has become deeper and more meaningful. Who am I to ever question God?
I know I have not been understood by many even members of my own family but then neither was Jesus yet he was able by changing a small part of the world make a difference throughout the whole world. I am by no means comparing myself to Jesus but sometimes we can make a bigger difference then we think not by following other people opinions but by following our heart and what we believe God is calling us to do. I am not a missionary, not am I a preacher I am a scholar and a professor and a child of God formed and made by HIM in HIS image.
Have a blessed day and I hope in some small way I have met your request in the question. I wish I had the opportunity to actually sit down and have a personal conversation with you in reference to your question. I have had such a one-on-one conversation on this very topic with my Muslim friends and with the Islamic scholars I studied with.
Ann Denbow Simmons
One has only to observe what has happened in the Muslim world throughout its history, and especially in my lifetime, to shy away from opening oneself to the teachings of such a system.
Just as I feel no need to delve into the Book of Mormon or the “Bible” used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, I feel no need to spend one second reading the Koran.
Christians can better serve, one hopes, by becoming more educated in the Holy Scriptures
we recognize come from God Himself and are meant for all people everywhere.
If you substituted along with the Islamists, the “literature” of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Hindus, Buddhists, the followers of Jim Jones, Scientology, and numerous other “enlightened writings”, Corey, in your blog, and encouraged your readers to read those, it seems that this exercise would come down to a comparative study which for us who recognize Jesus as the Savior and try to follow Jesus, is a no-brainer, isn’t it?
The red flag should be this: any subsequent writing purporting to be a continuation of the Bible ….is not.
“It is because you and these individuals have committed themselves to pursue God until His presence is powerfully real in their lives. They have decided to settle for nothing less than a vibrant relationship with God, and He has honored their desire.” A statement made to me by one of my Islamic Jurisprudence instructors
I believe that much of my Christian life rests upon my response and my desire to experience God to the fullest. The Torah is found in the first five books of the Christian Bible, and both the Torah and the Bible are found through out the Qur’an. I saw my studies and my life as an opportunity to share my belief and trust in God with others.
The Muslims have both a heroic and beautiful part in history as well as a dark and black part of history but then so do the Jews and Christians. The Islamic Empire was the largest and longest running empire in the history of the world – it ran from 635 to the end of WWI. It is from Islam that the first hospital was ever started, the placing of ill people with certain disease in quarantine, the first eye Cataract surgery was performed by Muslim doctors in 724, our medicine, astrology etc. all originated and came to use from the Muslims and all during their “Golden Age” at the same time that Europe was in its “Dark Ages”. The saddest part is how in our desires to prove our faith and trust in God man has shed much blood and destroyed many lives. Just look at the Christian Crusades. Why do individuals – Jews, Christians, and/or Muslims need to kill using God as their reasoning? This is a question which man has strove to answer for centuries.
I was never afraid of loosing my faith and trust in God with my studies of Islam nor in my reading of the Qur’an. In fact, it expanded my faith and trust in God even more and It helped my develop a deeper understanding and faith in Jesus by having to answer their questions in reference to my Christian beliefs and studies. When you are asked by a room full of religious scholars and jurisprudence scholars to explain why you believe that Jesus is the son of God your true inner faith is revealed. Muslims believe that Jesus is the prophet above all prophets and that he assented into heaven and that he sits at the right hand of God and that in the second coming it is Jesus who will come back to earth – not Muhammad. Muslims believe in Jesus, and they believe that God set Jesus apart from the other prophets and made him the prophet above all prophets. Even above Muhammad, for Muhammad was the last prophet which God spoke to and gave his revelation to. .
When have you observed that the more you used a talent, the more talents God gives you? I have found this to be true throughout my life.
I pray Carol that you and your loved ones are in good health. How is your new grandchild?
Have a blessed day!
I have found that my words do not always do me justice in my explanations of my faith and walk with God. It is not my words that are important sometimes but rather my true relationship with Him that really counts.
Ann states: It is from Islam that the first hospital was ever started, the placing of ill people with certain disease in quarantine, the first eye Cataract surgery was performed by Muslim doctors in 724, our medicine, astrology etc. all originated and came to use from the Muslims and all during their “Golden Age” at the same time that Europe was in its “Dark Ages”.
On what do you base your statement? I say that it is not factual to say that ALL our medicine came from Muslim gifted ones, but sounds very much like what is coming down the media hype pike these days. Astrology, I concede, may be a different story, and may have some link to Islam. It’s not astonomy, the science, but astrology, the horoscope hokum which Christians do well to call it what it is.
It is not for nothing that we as Christians speak of Jesus as the Great Physician.
We—none of us—can heal ourselves of anything. The lepers were “quarantined” in the O and NTs; Jesus performed bloodless eye surgery, and numerous other miracles of healing spiritually, physically, and mentally. Muslims don’t believe in the Resurrection of Jesus by God, do they? Jews, unless they are Messianic Jews, don’t believe it either, but read on…
And one day Muslims, too, will bow the knee at the feet of King Jesus and confess that he is more, much more, than a prophet of God. Then what are they gonna do?
I do pray that your presence and testimony, Ann, opened and blessed the hearts of your Muslim contacts in your studies and work abroad. Ii know that Jean Blackburn’s son is a missionary to the Muslim community now here in America, I believe.
You may never know. But God knows.