“Islam” might just have become one of the scariest words in our modern vocabulary. Radical Islamic groups have become household names as they appear on the news daily, aggressively proclaiming their unyielding quest to destroy all things infidel (a term used to describe non-followers of Islam).
What are Christians, specifically American Christians, to do in the face of this very blatant threat from members of one of the largest religions in the world?
Islam is the second largest world religion, after Christianity, and boasts 1.6 billion members worldwide. Adherents to Islam are referred to as Muslims and belong to two main groups: Sunni (80-90%) and Shia (10-20%). Most scholars agree that the religion of Islam began with the prophet Muhammed in the 6th century in Mecca, modern day Saudi Arabia. It is a monotheistic faith that centers around the teachings of the prophet Muhammed, who claimed to have received divine revelations from God through the archangel Gabriel. These revelations were written down in the Quran, the holy book of the Islamic faith.
It’s important to note that while Islam is heavily centered in the Middle East, Muslims are not all Arabs, and Arabs are not all Muslims. In fact, only 20% of Muslims are Arabs. All Muslims are required to recite the Quran in Arabic and attempt to learn the language.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when attempting to interact with your Muslim friends, coworkers, and neighbors.
Be aware of misconceptions. This is a two-way street. While most Americans probably have a lot of the same misconceptions about Muslims (all are terrorists, etc.), many Muslims carry around strong misconceptions about Americans (all are completely immoral, etc.). Understanding how both groups may view one another can help lay a foundation for beneficial conversation.
Separate Islam and Muslims. In other words, see Muslims for what they are: human beings. Created in the image of God, loved by Him, and in need of the Gospel. We like to tout John 3:16, but do we truly understand the significance of “For God so loved the world….”? The world includes Muslims!
Be confident. It can be very difficult to remain confident in our faith when confronted with questions and accusations. But one thing that many religious Muslims value is confidence. They have an appreciation of people of faith and generally respect others who are strong in their beliefs.
Get past the fear. This is probably one of the most important things. It’s easy to get swept up in the panic, to want to run to safety and let someone else deal with “them” Fear is natural and part of being human, but living and acting in a state of fear is not from God and goes directly against what His Word tells us. He has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Pray with a purpose. If you personally know a Muslim, pray specifically for that person by name. If you don’t know one, pray that you would meet one! Ask God to soften your heart, remove the fear, and allow you to see through His eyes.
There are 99 names for Allah in the Islamic faith, and not a single one of those is close to love. Our God is love. Love should be our defining characteristic (John 13:35) and the perfect love of God casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Are we willing to truly, faithfully love God and our Muslim neighbors?