I just finished my fourth public conversation with a Muslim leader. In this case, Rihabi Mohamed, PH.D. I found him to be polite, articulate, and caring. A model dialogue partner. *
Three things (of many) that I’m learning, through these events:
1. Know thyself
Muslims educated in the Quran tend to press Christians on several issues for which I must be prepared, such as . . .
- The true nature of Jesus (and therefore the Trinity): Dr. Rihabi asked me why I worship a human being. In response, I quoted scriptures that show Jesus to be equal with God.
- Salvation: Since Muslims tend not to believe in original sin or the need for a blood sacrifice, I quoted scriptures about this as well.
2. Know the other
It’s crucial to know something about basic Muslim beliefs in order to have a productive conversation.
- The Quran is about two-thirds the size of the NT and consists of 114 chapters. Each chapter is called a sura, and each verse an aaya.
The suras do not unfold in chronological order as received by Muhammad, but in descending order throughout the Quran, longest to shortest. The Quran is considered the infallible word of God, untouched by human influence, totally without error. It is a copy of an eternal preexisting text in heaven.
- Muhammad (“peace be upon him”): was an illiterate Arab who, through meditation, received a series of direct revelations from the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years, beginning in about AD 610. Muhammad is considered the ideal human, righteous and just in all his ways. Muslims react strongly when he is demeaned.
3. Use the Bible
Well-schooled Muslims state their beliefs precisely and emphatically: The Quran is the absolute word of God. Allah is one and has no equal. Muhammad is the holy prophet. Every person in the world is welcome to Islam, and is called to obey Allah . . . etc.
These sentences are spoken as though they self-authenticate. That is, they need no defense. It’s obvious that they’re true.
But of course you can’t just state your beliefs. You have to make your case. That’s why I try to match Muslim claims with Christian claims early on, even if neither of us is backing up our claims with argumentation. And that means I quote (and briefly explain) Scripture.
Early in these interactions, I’m aiming for a tie ballgame. I quote the Bible. Muslims quote the Quran. I want them to know that doctrines such as the Trinity and salvation are not human constructs but come to us from the authoritative word of God.
Down the road, the Muslim(s) and I can get into defending our two holy books to each other. For now, I just want the Bible to be read aloud and heard publicly for the benefit of the audience and my dialogue partner.
The more I hang with the Muslim community, the more I enjoy them. They are extremely hospitable toward me.
Recommended Resource: A Concise Guide to the Quran, Ayman S. Ibrahim
*At Rice University in Houston.