Pillars and Prophets
Helping Western Christians Understand and Love Muslims
Carl Medearis with Phillip Strople
Copyright 2006 Carl Medearis, 100 pp., No ISBN number
Carl Medearis is an internationally known speaker and author on Muslim-Christian relations and bridge-building between the Arab and Western world.
"Since 9/11 the whole world wants to know what Muslims believe. Who they are? What's their agenda? And how can we bridge this terrible chasm that has developed between the Christian West and the Muslim East. This book seeks to answer those questions for the average American church-goer." (back cover)
The first part of each chapter deals with something Muslims believe and the second half recommends a response that Jesus would approve. (8)
The name Muhammad is synonymous with the modern personality of Islam. He was a leader, having been involved with commerce from an early age. Mecca was a major intersection of trade routes from as far away as Africa and India. Already, by Muhammad's birth, Christians and Jews had settled in many places in Arabia. "The Arabs of the period were largely pantheistic, and many were outright idolatrous, worshipping a variety of deities and idols." Mecca was a religious center. The Qur'an shows that Jews and Christians had a religious impact on the Arabs. (10)
In the beginning Muhammad was a religious seeker and learned all he could about Judaism and Christianity. According to tradition he was given a series of messages he believed were from God. They were complied some time after his death in the Qur'an. (11-12)
"At first, both Christians and Jews were quite receptive to the message of Muhammad, mainly because he was adamant about the sovereignty of one true God…" "Muhammad never had any intention of starting a new religion. …he considered Islam to be the call to return to the one true God - the God of Abraham - to submit to Allah." (12-13)
"Allah is Arabic for 'God.'" "The word Allah was used by Arab Christians during Muhammad's time. In fact, Christians in the Arab world, even as you read this, pray to Allah every day. They're praying to God." "In fact, every translation of the Bible into Arabic uses the word Allah for God." (13-14)
"The most important thing we can do as followers of Jesus is to do just that. Follow him." "The message that we carry is Jesus. Not church, not capitalism, not democracy, not doctrine, not the religion of Christianity, not Calvin, not Luther, not democrat, not republican." (14)
"Jesus had compassion for people, and he valued the same quality in his disciples, even above personal sacrifice." (15)
"Don't insult Muhammad, and don't be flippant with religious phrases or with God or your Bible. Show respect, and you may well be respected for it." (15)
"Do everything you can to keep it from becoming a me-versus-you debate. That's not what Jesus was about, we would do well to follow his example." (15)
"Show interest in your Muslim friends' faith. Not as a means of deception, but because they are your friend, and because you are interested in them and what they think about God." (15)
"Be genuine, and be patient." "We are not even there to 'build the kingdom,' but rather to obey the king! Kings build their own kingdoms…." (16) [Is this a new perspective for you? How do you feel about it? dlm]
"In a side-by-side comparison with the Bible, the Muslim statement of faith is missing one primary thing. Jesus. The primary thing that we have to offer to our Muslim friends is Jesus. That's who we need. That's who they need. Having said that; Muslims already believe in Jesus. He's considered the holiest prophet of Islam, born of a virgin, and now alive in heaven, waiting to return for the day of judgment. More on that later." (18)
There is one God. "The Muslim believes that the oneness of God is of primary importance." "Many Muslims believe that the Christian idea of the trinity 'lessens' God, and that it is an offense against him to believe that he is divided in any way." (19)
"[Christians] are often tempted to begin introducing the 'Christian God.' I believe this is an unnecessary step - even a mistake. Why? God is who he is. There are various misunderstanding and lies about God, but none of them change the reality of who he is." (19)
"…Faith in Jesus comes by seeing him, being touched by him, being led by the Spirit, and not through intellectual argument." (20)
"Muslims treat their holy book with extreme reverence." Be sure to respect both the Bible and the Qur'an. Use a clean Bible, treat it with respect, and do not put it on the floor." (21)
"Of all the prophets, there are six which are considered to be what we could call major prophets. These are: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Because Muhammad is the final prophet, he is regarded as the 'seal of the prophets,' the last one, who has rendered all prophecy complete and final." (22)
"Jesus (Isa in the Qur'an) is regarded as a holy prophet, without sin, born of a virgin, and interestingly enough, called the 'word of God.' (Q 4:171) and also a 'word from God' (Q 3:55)." (22)
"Because we believe, as do Muslims, that there is only one God, we have an opportunity to enjoy much shared ground. Notice I said enjoy. I did not say exploit. It is very critical that you keep in mind how sacred the faith of the Muslim is to him. Do not treat it with disregard." (23)
Think before you speak. Because God is holy and he is One, do not start trying to explain the Trinity. There will be time for that later. At the beginning stick with things about the scripture, God and Jesus." (24)
"When Jesus becomes an object of centrality in anyone, a polarizing effect takes place: the people with whom you are involved will either be uncomfortable, or they will be interested." (24)
Feel free to discuss the prophets. Don't be irreverent and don't be defensive. "I've tried to make it a personal goal to never argue with my Muslim friends." (25)
Read some of the Qur'an. You can download it from the web.
Democracy is difficult. "The entire concept of representative government does not gel with strong religious leadership, much of which comes directly from the Muslim concept of God. God is not elected…." "The ideology of individualism, which we so value in the West…is virtually non-existent in the Islamic world." (27)
"The structure of Islam is based upon five pillars of religion." "They are guidelines for faith, and in Islamic States, they are law…." "Islam is a solidly works-based religion." "But we have a key: grace. Like Muslims, we have prophets of law, and that law can guide us to the grace and truth of Jesus Christ." (28)
Know the five pillars. "Don't attempt to argue with the testimony. In truth, the testimony is correct, in that there is only one God, and his name, in Arabic, is Allah." Be careful about Muhammad. (33) "It's not up to me to disprove their beliefs, but to show them the Father through Christ which comes by a revelation of the Spirit of God and my clear testimony." (34)
Be careful not to walk in front of a praying Muslim. Go around, or wait. Respect the almsving. Participate when you can. Be quick to regard what is virtuous and don't point out what is not. (34)
The Qur'an can be helpful. Much of it is confusing and contradictory. Some verses condone killing. Yet it may be the best inroad to reach the heart of Muslims. Even though it says he was not crucified, the goldmine in the Qur'an is Jesus. (37)
Note that Muslims do not associate the Qur'an and its writings with any human authors as we do with the Bible. (40) [A list of Qur'an verses that refer to Jesus is given. It occupies five full pages. dlm]
To befriend a Muslim it is important to know about the religious, political and cultural barriers. It is a vastly different culture. The East and West have always been greatly different.
"Honor and courage are among the chief virtues of any Arab. Conversely, shame is an issue which cuts deep into the heart, and even the historical failures of the Arab people bring a sharp stab of pain if flippantly addressed." (47)
In Islam God is vast and unknowable. He is known by his wrath vs. his love. He is untouchable and aloof. The idea of him coming to earth is unthinkable. Avoid phrases like "son of God" or "Shared godhead." Do not try to explain Christian beliefs and show their truth and superiority. Don't try to argue that Jesus is the son of God. Don't deny it either.
The most important question in history is the one Jesus asked Peter, "Who do you say that I am?" "If we can introduce people to Jesus, he will take the responsibility of asking each person the same question." (48)
Be honest, be real. Confess your faults. Respect your friends' religion. Assume they are more holy than you and treat them like it. Be the servant. Be interested in them. (49)
"Honor is a very important issue to Muslim families, and it is within a woman's reach to bring dishonor on her whole family. As a result of this, women are 'protected' from impurity and dishonor…." (51) "The Qur'an is explicit about how women should dress." (52)
"Muslim men traditionally fear western influence and corruption: keep that in mind if you intend to help 'modernize' the beliefs of your Muslim friend." (53)
"In Islamic states, the legal evaluation of women is approximately half that of a man." "A woman is assumed to be of the religion of her husband." (53)
"A way to build rapport with a Muslim woman is to talk about her life, her heart, her experiences, and her beliefs." "Be real, but don't let the conversation turn into 'how the West is better for women' because that isn't the point. The point is that Jesus loves women as much as he does men. Use the stories of Jesus to point this out…." (60)
"…there is nothing conclusive gained by accusing the religion itself of brokering the violence committed by a handful of its followers." (61)
"The party of Ali (Shi'a Ali) became known as the Shi'a, or Shi'ite sect, and today they comprise only about ten percent of the Muslim world, primarily in Iran, as well as a growing demographic of Shia Islam in Iraq. The primary difference between Sunni and Shi'a is that the Shi'ites believe that Ali was the first actually rightful caliph. Today, the word Imam is used." (68)
"Less than five percent of Islamic adherents practice extremism, or even believe in it. This faction of Islam is what constitutes the members of such groups as the Taliban, The Muslim Brotherhood, and the Wahhabi sect of Saudi Arabia." (69)
Every Muslim believes his religion is directly connected to Abraham. Why argue this point? Abraham is not the issue. (70)
"Muslims are wounded people, injured by the stigma attached to them because of radical movements. They have the same fear of Christians that Christians do of them." (71)
"Forget evangelism as a methodology. You know how it feels when somebody approaches you with a religious angle. You don't like having evangelism 'done' to you, so I don't advise 'doing evangelism' to others. Make it about building a true friendship and let Christ change the heart. Simply present Jesus. Be interested, participate, ask questions, and above all, love and respect your friend. This method is called discipleship or mentoring." (71-2)
The top five questions that my Muslim friends ask me:
1. Do you believe the Qur'an is God's inspired book?
2. Do you believe Muhammad is a true prophet of God?
3. Has the Bible been changed?
4. How can God have a son?
5. Was he crucified?
[The author suggests how to respond on pp. 73-77. dlm]
Embrace the questions. Drop the arguments. Take the questions seriously. Ask questions yourself but don't pry. (78-9)
"The most serious heresy in Islam is to leave Islam." The author suggests avoiding the "gospel of terminology." (80) "There are a growing number of Muslims … who maintain their cultural identity as 'Muslim', but choose to align themselves with the spiritual and moral teachings of Jesus, becoming his disciples while becoming what 'Muslim' truly means: submitted to God. I know that there is quite a bit of controversy over this issue." (81) [He follows with his rationale, based on scripture and logic. You will want to read this and come to your own conclusion. dlm]
"[Christian] is, after all, a word, and for that matter a loaded word, filled with hidden meanings and historical grievances." (84)
"Most American Christians…are simply not connected to the issue in a primary sense. On the one hand, they know what they read in the Gospels to be true, but at the same time…they do live in a nation which has color-coded terror alerts…." "They feel as if it is irrelevant what they feel or believe towards Muslims." (88-9)
"It becomes very difficult to 'love the sinner and hate the sin,' when you believe you are the target." "That's like loving the bomb and hating the explosion." (90)
The Europeans defeated the proud Islamic Ottoman Empire, the last singular collection of Islamic nation-states, giving control to Catholic/Protestant Christians. The rope of Islamic unity unraveled into warring nations, tribes, and colonies owned by European monarchies. The "God, Gold, and Glory" of Christendom struck into the heart of Islam, controlling, conniving, and exploiting - often doing the opposite of what Jesus preached. Contemporary international policies of the U.S., while reasonable to us, look similar in their eyes. (90-94)
"By choosing an attitude of love and compassion toward people we don't understand, and toward an intimidatingly unknown religion, we can not only see fear and suspicion diminish, we can begin to build bridges. Bridges which lead to Jesus, the Prince of peace." (96)
The appendix consists of statistics, facts, and glossary of terms.
· Arab countries include 380+ million Muslims
· Sub-Saharan Africa - 250+ million
· Pakistan and Bangladesh - 230 million each
· Indonesia - 195 mission
· India and China - 130 million each
· Iran - 65 million (Shia)
· Southeast Asia 0 100 million.
· Soviet Central Asia and Azerbaijan - almost 50 million
· Russia - almost 30 million
* * * * *
Your comments and book recommendations are welcome.
To discontinue receiving book notes, hit Reply and put Discontinue in the text.