Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?
Posted in Transcript by Julie Roys
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The following is a transcript of the “Seeking Truth with Julie Roys” Episode 1: “Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?”
Julie Roys: Nabeel, Professor Hawkins expressed a view that I think many Christians and Muslims hold. After all, Muslims acknowledge the Old Testament God of Abraham, yet, they deny the Trinity and say Jesus was merely a prophet. What’s your perspective on this issue? Is it correct to say that Muslims and Christians worship the same god?
Nabeel Qureshi: It’s important to understand what we believe and yes, you’re absolutely right. The question on the Trinity, I think, makes all the difference here. If you ask a Muslim, “Do you worship the Trinity?” they will say no. In fact, they will say that the Trinity is blasphemy.
We worship a triune God, and I think the Trinity makes all the difference. We’re talking about a God who is a Father. The Bible says that over and over and over again that God is our Father. Now, we’re talking about a God who is love – 1 John 4. We’re talking about a God who’s willing to come into this world and, in fact, has come into this world many times both in theophanies in the Old Testament and then the incarnation in the New Testament.
None of these things is the Islamic god. He’s not willing to come into this world. He is not your father. Chapter five, verse 18, of the Quran makes that very clear – God is not the father – as does the whole chapter 112 of the Quran. And, he’s certainly not Triune.
The Quran says that the Trinity is blasphemy, or at least it sees the Trinity as blasphemy and polytheism. In what way do we worship the same god? We see Islam doing this with many terms. For example, the term “Messiah.” It takes the term, and then it gives it a totally different semantic meaning, but it pretends as if it’s the same word.
That’s what’s happening with this concept of God. It’ll say that it’s the same God, but the semantic content behind the idea of the Islamic god is very different from the Christian, and in fact the Judeo-Christian view.
Julie Roys: I’ve seen Muslims weigh in on this account on both sides of the issue. I know on social media, I’ve heard them say “Hey, listen. We do worship the same god whether or not you Christians want to acknowledge it.” Yet, at the same time, I saw Malaysia for example, it was in the news that they were telling Christian ministries, “Hey. Stop calling your god ‘Allah’. He’s not. This isn’t who God is.” I mean, how do Muslims feel about it when Christians say these sorts of things?
Nabeel Qureshi: Yes. That’s a whole another can of worms when we talk about the word “Allah” because it’s understood, and I don’t know how true this is, but it is understood that Christians in Arabia had been using the word “Allah” to describe the God of the Bible before Islam. And, therefore, the term has been co-opted, and even though when Arabic-speaking Christians used the word “Allah,” they’re not referring to the Islamic Allah. It’s just the Arabic word for God. There are Christians who do believe that we worship the same god as Muslims, but I think that’s a very surface-level understanding. I simply do not understand how anyone who gives weight to the import of Christian theology and its ramifications could say that we worship the same God as Muslims. It simply doesn’t make sense.
Julie Roys: Do you believe that this actually does damage to our efforts to build bridges with Muslims, and to reach them with the gospel of Christ, to say that we worship the same god?
Nabeel Qureshi: Not necessarily. Here’s why: Muslims already believe that we worship the same god. Now . . . when a Christian says that Muslims worship the same god as Christians, I understand that to be a form of capitulation to Islamic theology, because that is what Islam teaches. That’s what the Quran teaches, that we worship the same god.
Now, that’s not what the Bible teaches, and of course Islam wasn’t around when the New Testament was written. But, by the time the New Testament was written, we have pretty robust Trinitarian theology within. In anything that then denies the Trinity is obviously talking of a different god, and that’s why I think the Quran cannot talk about the same God. When Christians say “We worship the same God,” they are saying something that Muslims already agree with, so there is definitely bridge-building potential there, and so I understand why Christians would say it. But, I would ask them to be very careful. Because if we assume that Islam teaches that God is a Father, or if we assume that Islam teaches that God is love and that He loves people unconditionally, then we’re taking the beautiful things that are idiosyncratic to Christian theology. Just assuming that other religions believe them too, I think, that’s a form of western supremacy complex that our God is so good that other people must believe the same thing. No. It’s a western-centric view.
Other people do not believe that. The Quran very specifically denies those things, so we shouldn’t assume that belief.
Julie Roys: What about this professor’s comment that Christians and Muslims are people of the book? We’re people of two very different books, are we not?
Nabeel Qureshi: Yes. To say that we are people of the book, what Islam generally means by that, what the Quran says by that, is that we believe in Scripture, that God has revealed Scripture, and we see Scripture as an authority. Part of the reason why that’s very important is because in Islam, the revelation of God incarnate is the Quran. Muslims wouldn’t put it that way, but God’s knowledge is the Quran, or God’s speech is the Quran –at least classically understood by Muslims. And so, Scripture has a very high authority within the Islamic tradition and the Quran imputes that same understanding of Scripture to Jews and Christians, and so it calls Jews and Christians the “People of the book.”
Julie Roys: Beyond the theological issues, Christians are debating what’s appropriate when reaching out to Muslims. Actually, the Wheaton professor is not the first Christian to wear a hijab to show solidarity with Muslims. A Christian mother of two did the same thing this past spring. Do you think that these sorts of gestures are helpful or are they confusing?
Nabeel Qureshi: Yes. Excellent question. I have zero problem with someone wearing a Hijab. In fact, I have zero problem with someone saying that they are supporting Muslims or showing solidarity with Muslims as long as they clarify that they do not agree with their theology. They’re not saying that their theology is correct when they support them. They’re supporting them as people who deserve rights, who should be loved, whose voices should be heard, who should not be persecuted.
In those ways, I support Muslims all the time and I try to make it clear. I mean, my parents are Muslims. My sister is a Muslim. All my cousins are Muslim. I love Muslim people, and so I want to show solidarity with them.
During the month of Ramadan for example, I oftentimes do fast to show solidarity with my Muslim friends, but only after I let them know I am not fasting out of submission to Islam, or even saying Islam is true. I’m fasting to join hands with you to let you know that I love you and care for you because that’s what my God has called me to do. As long as we clarify that we’re not submitting to a foreign theology and we’re not endorsing that theology, but we’re uplifting the people, I think it’s fine to show this kind of solidarity.
Julie Roys: What about going and visiting Islamic centers or mosques as representatives. I know Wheaton College sent a group – they went to the Islamic center and delivered some flowers and apologized for what they thought were some anti-Muslim comments that were in the media. But, I know our church has even discussed, “Hey. There’s an imam that we’ve made friends with. Would it be appropriate for us to go as a church group and visit that mosque and be a part of just bridge-building?” How much of that is helpful, and then how much maybe goes too far?
Nabeel Qureshi: Yes. Excellent questions. When we talk about going to a mosque or allowing Muslims to come to a church, I think the main concern that people have is a theological one of sacred space essentially and space that has been dedicated to perhaps someone other than God, spiritual forces other than God. Is that something that’s okay to do? Now, that’s something that I think everyone will have to make their own determination on.
I personally see no problem with visiting mosques. I think it’s a good idea to build bridges, to build relationships and have conversations. So, I don’t think that that’s a problem, and I have no problem with Muslims coming to churches and having those kinds of conversations. Now, once again, I don’t think we should do anything that implies that we submit or agree with Islamic theology because that’s where it gets confusing. So, as long as it’s clear that we have our beliefs, you have yours, but we love you as people. We might not agree with what you believe, but we love you and we want to uphold your rights and we want to fight for your right to believe what you believe. The Bill of Rights is not just for Christians. It’s for everyone. As long as we stand up for people, while not necessarily confusing them as if we’re standing up for their beliefs, that’s perfectly fine in my opinion.
Julie Roys: I would guess that you draw the line in actually joining in with any prayers or religious activities, because I’ve known of groups that have done that, even school groups that have done that. That would be a bridge too far, wouldn’t it?
Nabeel Qureshi: It depends.
Julie Roys: Okay.
Nabeel Qureshi: For example, I invite Muslims to pray with me all the time. I will say that, “I’m about to pray. Would you like to join with me?” If they say yes, then I pray. Now, it’s a very American thing to pray in Jesus’ name by the way.
People in the rest of the world, Christians in the rest of the world, pray in Jesus’ name. But, they don’t actually end their prayers by saying that. It’s understood that they’re praying in Jesus’ name because they’re Christian. Most Christians in the world are completely fine with just praying and saying, “Amen,” at the end. And, I am fine with that too. When I invite Muslims to pray, I’ll ask them to pray with me just as I would any Christian. At the end, I’ll say, “And I pray this in Your name,” or “Pray this in the Father’s name.” That’s perfectly Christian. It’s perfectly fine. It’s not capitulating. Some people will see it as capitulating, so they won’t do it. That’s up to them. I think these are personal calls.
Now, what you don’t want to do, though, and I have seen some Christians doing this, is going to a mosque and pray one of the five Daily Prayers with Muslims. They just didn’t know what they were doing, so they were told “Stand here. Say these words,” and they did it. Doing that is essentially symbolic of being a Muslim. No one but Muslims pray those five Daily Prayers, and the words that are in those prayers are words of submission to Allah, to Muḥammad as his wise prophet. That is definitely a bridge too far.
Basic standing together and asking God, invoking the Father, that’s perfectly fine, and I highly suggest you do that. Actually, I do suggest Christians to start discipling Muslims while they’re still Muslim. There’s nothing un-Christian about that.
Julie Roys: They are open. That’s the one thing I got from reading your book is how open Muslims are to having these kind of spiritual discussions. And, they don’t mind if you disagree, do they? I mean, that’s okay in that kind of culture to disagree, and that’s not considered rude. It’s just considered wonderful conversation.
Nabeel Qureshi: Julie, they really expect us to talk about our faith, especially if they’re immigrants. If they’re raised in the West, they might have the normal Western hesitations of talking about faith. I didn’t. I was born and raised in the West. I love talking about religion as a Muslim. I was waiting for Christians to talk about it.
Some of my Muslim friends did not. They didn’t want to talk about religion. They have the same normal hesitation that most people do in the west.
When it comes to immigrants coming from the Middle East or other Muslim countries, they’re coming to America expecting America to be a Christian nation. And, when no Christian talks about their faith, they think Christians don’t actually believe their faith. That’s their takeaway: “Why aren’t Christians talking about it? They must not believe it. Okay. That’s why we’re proud to be Muslims.”
Have no hesitation I’d say especially with an immigrant to talk about your faith. Of course if they find it offensive, then stop. But, don’t hesitate to start talking about your faith. I think they’re waiting for it.
Julie Roys: Let’s talk a little bit about terrorism and its link to Islam. With the Paris and the San Bernardino terror attacks, Americans are understandably fearful and confused. On one hand, we hear President Obama saying that Islam is a religion of peace and that Islamic extremism represents only a tiny fraction of Muslims. On the other hand, I read a Pew poll that found that 63 million Muslims in 11 countries support ISIS. Now, that may be a small fraction of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, but that’s still a very sizable number. Then, if you take into account all of those who are undecided about ISIS, the number grows to about 224 million. I mean, is Islam a religion of peace – or does it in fact promote violence?
Nabeel Qureshi: That is a question that requires defining our terms. How do we define Islam? This is where a lot of people don’t realize it, but this is where a lot of disagreement happens. How do we define Islam? Do we define Islam how Muslims, people who self-proclaim as Muslims, how they practice Islam – the way Islam is practiced today by everyone who claims to be a Muslim? Is that what Islam is? Or, is Islam that which Muḥammad, the prophet of Islam, left before he died – that religion, that sociopolitical-religio system that Muhammad left? Is that Islam historically?
Now, people from more Protestant backgrounds tend to go back to the original. That’s what we do with our faith. We want to go to the New Testament. We want to see what Jesus said and what the disciples say in the New Testament. That’s Christianity. That’s how we understand it.
Catholics don’t understand Christianity that way. They see all the people, proclamations that are made ex cathedra. They see those as authoritative as well.
Those are interesting questions to ask yourselves. I think Islam should be defined – perhaps because I’m a protestant – I think Islam should be defined as that religion which Muhammad left, that system which Muhammad left. That is what Islam is.
If we understand that to be Islam, then there’s no question that Islam has violence in its original form. Muhammad used violence to accomplish his ends. Now, I don’t want to sound like this is Nabeel Qureshi making a judgment call. We can just quote the words of Muhammad. If we go to Sahih Bukhari, for example, this is the volume of Muhammad’s traditions that is understood to be the most trustworthy, so Muslims have many, many records of what Muhammad said. This is the most trustworthy of them all.
What he says is, “I have come to fight those who do not say, ‘La ilaha illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah.’” In other words, “I have come to fight those who do not proclaim Islam, and if they do not say this, their persons and their property are not safe from me.” Very clearly, in the most trustworthy collection of traditions, he has come to fight non-Muslims. Until they become Muslim, their persons and their property are not safe from him. In Sahih Muslim, the next most trustworthy book, this is hadith number 30, he says, “I will expel all the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslims.”
Wow. If we read the book of Jihad found in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, they have whole collections just on Jihad, we can see over and over and over again, Muhammad is using violence to accomplish his ends. Now, whether that’s justified or not is not the question you asked me. The question you asked me is, “Is Islam a religion of peace?” If Muhammad is, according to these traditions, using violence to accomplish his ends, I simply cannot see how we can call it a religion of peace.
It might be justified violence. That’s another question, but we can’t call it a ‘religion of peace – definitely not in its original form.
Julie Roys: How many Muslims around the world practice and actually believe Islam in the way you just described, in its original form as Muhammad passed it down?
Nabeel Qureshi: A very astute question, Julie. When I was a Muslim, I didn’t know any of this. I had been taught that Muhammad was the most peaceful man who ever lived. I had been taught that he would only defend the community. If he ever took to arms, it was just for self-defense – never offensively.
It wasn’t until 9/11 happened that I was forced to deal with a whole group of Muslims who disagree, and I had to see why. It was when I started looking into the sources that I realized what the evidence said. I think in the West at least, the vast majority of Muslims do understand Islam to be religion of peace. When they say, “Islam is a religion of peace,” they are simply saying what they’ve been taught, what they’ve understood, how they’ve known their religion from birth. And, so they believe it, just like I did. I’m not sure that’s the case for Muslims in the rest of the world.
Honestly, when I’ve talked to people from Saudi, when I’ve talked to people from the Levant, I’ve asked them how they’ve understood Islam. Generally speaking, Muslims from those countries are okay with violence. They don’t have the same issues that Westerners do, and they’ve understood that Islam has used violence. We have to nuance our understanding of Muslims because they do range from California all the way to Indonesia. Muslims have different sorts of different understandings. In the West, I think they think Islam is peaceful. In the rest of the world, I think they know better.
Julie Roys: That makes it really tricky when you’re talking about Muslims, when you’re talking about relating to them, when you’re talking about immigration. I mean, all of these issues just become incredibly complex, if in its original form, its most orthodox form, it is violent. That makes it challenging. There are a couple of questions that come to my mind as I’m thinking about this. One is, and this is a question I often hear – sort of the push back I often hear is, “You look at your Old Testament, and it’s got violent texts. So how can you say that Islam is violent if you don’t accept that Christianity is violent, because look at the Old Testament?” How do you respond to that?
Nabeel Qureshi: Yes. It’s a very good question. The first response that I give is that when it comes to … Now, when we’re talking about the Old Testament, we’re not talking about Jesus’s command. Right?
Julie Roys: Right.
Nabeel Qureshi: Again, we as Christians are called to follow Jesus. What is it that Jesus says? He says, “Turn the other cheek.” He says, “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.” The one time that would have been appropriate to fight in the gospels, the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus says “Do not fight.”
In fact, He rebukes Peter for fighting, and then He heals the guy whose ear he cut off – a very clear stance against violence in the New Testament. We, as Christians who follow Jesus as our exemplar, are not supposed to follow what Joshua did in the Old Testament. We don’t have to. That’s not our example. That’s point number one.
Point number two is that when we look at the Old Testament violence, a lot of people understand it in inflated terms. Generally speaking, the Old Testament says to drive people out. It doesn’t say, “Slaughter everyone.” There are of course the exceptions were there is killing involved. Those are the exceptions. It was something that was 400 years delayed, by the way.
I have a friend who says it very interestingly. He says, “If you want to follow the biblical model for genocide, the first thing you have to do is wait 400 years.” There’s simply nothing like that in Islam. Let’s turn our eyes briefly to what happened, the difference between the two. In the Islamic world view, Islam started out peacefully. What do I mean?
When Muhammad first started preaching, he was preaching a message of peace. He had no battles, no wars for 13 years of his 23-year ministry. Once that 13th year hit, he fought battles every single year. The battles only increased, and so it starts peaceful and becomes violent.
The last major chapter of the Quran to be revealed, chapter nine – now, hear me on this. The final marching orders of Islam, chapter nine of the Quran, is the most violent chapter of the Quran. When you see, “Slay the infidel where you find them, lay siege to them and take them captive,” that’s chapter nine verse five. When it says, “Fight the Jews and Christians until they pay the ransom and feel subdued,” that’s chapter nine verse 29. When you see it saying that, “Allah has bought your persons and your property for this, that you might slay in battle and be slain.” In other words, Allah makes you Muslims so that you can kill and be killed. That’s chapter nine verse 111.
The most violent passages in the Quran are in the last chapter of the Quran. What does that tell you? That tells you that Islam went from peaceful to violent during the time of Muhammad. The last marching orders he gave his people were to spread Islam by the sword.
Muslims, of course, will have a knee jerk reaction against this in the West. I did, too, until I actually studied the evidence and the records. That is not what happens in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, it’s a very specific location, a very specific people who had been given 400 years to repent. Very different scenario entirely, and it’s not our example as Christians either. It’s more of a historical record.
Julie Roys: Right. It is confined to a very specific time period and a very specific task of driving the Canaanites out of Canaan.
Nabeel Qureshi: Right. The way Islam is generally been understood, Julie, in the classical period is that in the classical period of Islam, you have two realms. The world is divided into two realms: ‘Dar al-harb,’ the house of war, and ‘Dar al-Islam,’ the house of Islam. In other words, you have where the Muslims live. That’s supposed to be the peaceful Islamic area – and everybody else is the house of war.
That’s how Islam has classically been understood by the scholars in between Muhammad and today, and they’re not pulling that out of thin air. They’re pulling that from what had been taught by the prophet of Islam. This is an important difference. When we look at the crusades, people will ask the question, “What about the crusades? Don’t they show that Christianity is violent?”
Look. Jesus never commanded anything like the crusades. It took 300 plus years after Jesus for people to start saying, “We can defend ourselves.” For 300 years, people were turning the other cheek and not defending themselves because they were listening to Jesus’s words. Augustine comes along – we have just theory. And, he says, “There are occasions when fighting can be a necessary evil and we have to do it.”
That took 300 years, but they still saw fighting is evil. It wasn’t until the crusades came a thousand years after Jesus when people saw war as a holy thing. Holy war, it took a thousand years to be removed from Jesus before Christians said, “Holy war exists.” In contrast, Muhammad himself taught his soldiers, “Those of you who take over Constantinople, your sins will be forgiven.” Muhammad himself taught that fighting can forgive people their sins, so he instituted holy war. Nothing like that at all from Jesus. These two systems are very, very different.
Julie Roys: A related question to talking about violence and holy war and Jihad . . . We have 60 million refugees in the world and the highest number of refugees since World War Two. Many of them are coming from Muslim countries, I think because of ISIS, because of this Jihadism. As Christians, our heart breaks for these refugees. Many of them are just really about the most pitiable people in the world. What has happened to them, and what they have lived through, unbelievable.
At the same time, we’re mothers and fathers. We have children. We think about our neighbors, and we want a degree of safety, as well. And, there’s valid concern I think about safety. I think the question is, “How do we as Christians, how we can respond to this refugee crisis in a way that’s wise and prudent, yet at the same way loving and gracious?”
Nabeel Qureshi: That is the challenge, isn’t it because we definitely want to love these refugees? I don’t care what perspective you have as a Christian. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re called to love even your enemies as Jesus tells us to because we need to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. Even if there are violent refugees, we have to love them. That’s what we’re called to do as Christians. But, I would agree with you.
I think almost all these people are fleeing from ISIS. They hate the violence. They hate the terrorism. Their homes have been taken from them. They have nothing.
I personally, Julie, wanted to fly out and help. I just saw these people walking hundreds of miles, and I’m just so – “Gosh, I just want to go and help.” Of course, it was a very natural, emotional response. Me going there wasn’t going to help anyone, so I decided to help organizations instead that are doing good work. That should be the Christian response. Let’s help these people again because Jesus died for us while we were yet His enemies: Romans 5:8. That’s how we ought to respond to people.
Now, when we consider people coming into America, there is the valid concern of safety. There’s one issue that I see, though, when people bring up this question – and that’s the issue of self-preservation. People start saying, “I am worried about my own safety. I’m worried about my household with these refugees coming in.” I see that as a non-Christian response, frankly. We aren’t called to be worried about our own safety or our own health. We’re supposed to love people, share the gospel, serve others, even if it kills us because to live as Christ, to die is gain. That’s the way we’re supposed to respond as Christians.
If we’re worried about the health and safety of people around us, in a sense around us, we don’t want to endanger the lives of those around us by having refugees who could potentially be terrorists. Okay. That’s a legitimate concern. How do we respond to that policy-wise? I don’t know.
I don’t think that this is a simple issue. We shouldn’t look for simple answers. Any one-liner answer such as, “Don’t let people in,” is oversimplifying the issue. It’s much more complicated than that. I will tell you this. I would much, much rather have a terrorist next door to a Christian, sharing the gospel with him than I would have a terrorist overseas plotting the destruction of America with no Christians around him.
Julie Roys: I think there are different levels of response depending on what your role is in society. I see my response little different than maybe somebody who has a government position. Their role is different.
Nabeel Qureshi: Exactly. We as Christ followers are supposed to be ready to share the gospel and to love people. If we are in the government, if we are in security, let’s answer those questions and address those issues. But, all of us who are Christians have to love primarily first and foremost.
Julie Roys: Amen to that. I would love for you to address what is increasingly becoming a problem, which isn’t terrorists coming in as terrorists, but our own homegrown terrorist right here on our own soil. We know that with the internet and everything else, Muslims are becoming radicalized. Muslims that probably grew up in a tradition like you did, Nabeel, where they were understood Islam as a very peaceful religion, as a loving religion and practiced it that way. Yet now, they are getting these messages from these people who interpreted differently – maybe more orthodox, maybe more in its original form. Is there anything that we can do as a church to reach out to those around us who are Muslim and are maybe at risk of becoming radicalized? What can we do to be part of the solution?
Nabeel Qureshi: It’s such a great question. I think part of the problem here is that we are more than willing to sit back and do nothing. As Christians, we just like to stay in our Christian bubble. We want to go to our church, maybe Bible study. If we do those things, we feel like we’re doing great as Christians, whereas Jesus told us not …
He didn’t tell us to do any of those things. He told us to live, eat, drink with those who are seen as the outcasts, with those who are seen as the sinners. That’s how He did it. Other people, religious people pointed their finger at Him and they said, “Do you know who you’re eating with? Do you know what you’re doing?” He says, “I know exactly what I’m doing and who I’m eating with.”
If we let people stay in their enclaves, their hearts are never going to be changed, and so I think we are supposed to reach out to the Muslims. We’re supposed to be a part of their circles. Yes, even go to their mosques – again, as long as they understand we’re not submitting. Go to their mosques. Have them over at our churches. Converse with them. That is the only way we’re going to reach these terrorists and stop them from what they’re doing.
I honestly think – call it cliché, call it old school, call it naivite, whatever you want: I think the gospel is the only answer.
Julie Roys: Amen. I think Jesus did too.
Nabeel Qureshi: Yes. Sharing love with them. Sharing God’s love, transformative love. The Holy Spirit works in people’s hearts. These three girls who are in the U.K., who are talking to their family about being Muslim and they left. They went to Turkey, then they went to Syria, became ISIS brides. The message that they left their family was, “You don’t understand, mom and dad. You don’t understand Islam. You think you do, but you don’t. This is the real Islam.” That’s what they said when they left to join ISIS.
What is happening, Julie, you’re absolutely right. People are reading the sources of Islam. In the past, we didn’t have access to these sources. On the internet now, we do. When they read the sources, one of two things happen. They either leave Islam like I did, or they become radicalized like these girls are. There is no middle ground here. People are becoming polarized because of the information era. They’re seeing what the original sources say. The only way to jump into the middle of that is what my friend did with me. He started talking to me about these issues as a Christian. He started showing me the Christian alternative.
I don’t know if you were watching a few days ago, but there was a Twitter hashtag called #ExMuslimBecause. Many people were tweeting #ExMuslimBecause, but most of them were atheists and agnostics. Why? Because they read these sources. They didn’t have a Christian interacting with them, and so they felt like they had to leave religion all together.
That might have happened with me – I don’t know – had my friend, David, not been there. But, because my friend, David, was there while I was reading these sources, he was able to show me that the gospel is not like that at all. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Both in terms of evidence, the gospel has much more. And, in terms of love and rejuvenation of this world and its heart, the gospel has much more.
I don’t want to be a doomsday kind of guy, but I think this is the new normal. I think this is going to continue to happen. And, the only thing that we can do as Christians is love the Muslims actually, reach out to them and share the gospel with them in relationship.
Julie Roys: What I’m hearing from you is that we’re at a critical moment, maybe even a watershed moment, where we have all these Muslims in the West, believing something about their religion, maybe about to find out that their religion in its purest form isn’t what they thought it was going to be. This is an opportunity for the church to say, “Hey, let me introduce you to the real Jesus. Let me show you who the real Jesus is. He was a man of peace.”
We have an opportunity to lead them to Christ maybe like we never have before. I mean, is this what you’re finding as you go and you speak and you reach out to the Muslim community?
Nabeel Qureshi: Unquestionably. That’s exactly what I’m finding. You have people who are asking questions. They’re beginning to be confronted with the reality of Islam, and during that period of crisis is when we need to be there for them to show them the truth about Jesus. At least in my lifetime, I saw it happening through Iranian refugees.
These were people who had left Iran, a clerical revolution in the ’70s, came in and said, “We are going to do Islam right. We’re going to correct all the wrongs.” Up until then, to be married as a girl in Iran, you had to be 17 years old. It turns out, Islam teaches that you don’t have to be 17 years old. Muhammad himself married a nine-year-old girl. In fact, he married her when she was six, consummated the relationship when she was nine.
Again, this isn’t me. This isn’t Nabeel speaking. This is me quoting what the Iranian clergy have said. They said, “Because Muhammad married a girl who was that young, we can marry a girl who is that young.” That was a kind of clerical revolution that happened in Iran.
Muslims who were there who saw that and escaped from that said, “We have encountered Islam. We don’t want to believe it. Do you have anything better or do we have to become secular atheist and agnostics?” In Australia, a country that took in many of those Iranian refugees, so many young pastors now are Iranian because they left. That’s how they’re dealing with it.
I’m telling you, that’s what’s happening in Egypt now after the Muslim brotherhood in the Arab Spring. I saw the Pew Forum survey that showed that just before the Arab Spring, well over 90% of people believed that God existed. Now, after the Arab Spring, around 70% of people there believed that God exists. If we catch them in the middle of that turmoil, we can share the gospel, the hope of the gospel with them. In fact, that’s the exact same thing that happened to me. Bottom line, when people are confronted with the reality of Islam, it’s polarizing. They’re either leaving or becoming more radical. We need to be there for them as that’s happening.
Julie Roys: Probably, if there’s a group of people most disillusioned by Islam, it would be those who have been driven out by ISIS, I would guess.
Nabeel Qureshi: Yes. Yes. They hate ISIS for what’s happening in Lebanon. I have a friend who’s Lebanese and he says the exact same thing that the Lebanese Muslims are very angry with ISIS. But internally, some of them are struggling with the kinds of things that ISIS has shown to be true about what the prophet of Islam said.
Julie Roys: Nabeel, thank you so much. You’ve challenged us to really think deeply and really engage our Muslim brothers and sisters and love them with the love of Jesus Christ. I think of when you said how so many of us are just happy to live in our bubble. One of the saddest stories that you recount in your book is one of a Muslim who came to the West, and he came with gifts because he figured he would give those gifts to people who invited him into their home. And yet, nobody ever did, and he went back home with those gifts, and I think, let us never have that happen again. As a church, let’s reach out. Let’s love those that are right here. I mean, the world is coming to our doorstep, isn’t it?
Nabeel Qureshi: Absolutely. Julie, if I can just share one story quickly.
Julie Roys: Yes.
Nabeel Qureshi: One of the fathers of radical Islam, named Sayyid Qutb, and he came to the West as a student. Before he left and developed Salafi and Wahhabi Islam into what it is, all these violent traditions, a lot of them traced back to him – If some Christian had just loved Sayyid Qutb when he came to the West, shared the gospel with him, this world would be so different now. And, we need to be ready to do that for those who are coming now.