The UK has become much more multicultural in past 60 years. In 1961, Muslims made up approximately 0.1% of the UK population, today it stands at approximately 5.2% or around 3.4 million, increasing the likelihood that they will become our friends, neighbours and colleagues. Ramadan is a time of increased focus on growing spiritually closer to Allah and as such is a great opportunity to start a faith conversation with our Muslim friends.
Whilst we may not think so at first thought, we often have more in common with Muslims than we do with our secularist friends. That does not mean that Muslims and Christians necessarily see eye to eye on every topic, as we all know. Through my conversations with friends and neighbours and in my work with missional movement Operation Mobilisation (OM), I have found that there are five main areas where Muslims object to the Christian faith:
1. The Trinity
2. That Jesus is the son of God
3. That Jesus is God
4. That Jesus died on the cross
5. That the Bible is authentic and true
Of these five, the most common questions that we feel compelled to answer are on the Trinity or the cross. However, it is primarily because of the Bible that Christians believe in the Trinity and that Jesus died on the cross. Answering the question around the authenticity of the Bible can therefore provide a gateway to answering all five questions.
The main question we as Christians face is, how can we prove the authenticity of the Bible in a way that Muslims will understand and accept?
One of the best ways to do this is to use references to the Bible in the Quran, of which there are many. Speaking another person's cultural or religious language is much more effective at encouraging conversation and creating a common ground to talk about faith.
Using another religion's scriptures to support the truth of the Gospel to Gentiles is not a new idea. In Acts 17 whilst debating with the Athenians, Paul references two Zeus-focused poems by renowned Greek writers to support his points. Paul feels free to take a well-known hymn of praise to Zeus and use it to point them to the cross.
The Quran describes the Bible as 'the plain command of Allah'
The clearest passage in the Quran that talks about the Bible is Sura chapter 5. The Quran uses Torah for the Old Testament and Injil Gospel for New Testament. In verses 43-48, the Torah is referred to as 'the plain command of Allah' (the Arabic means, the standard by which everything should be judged). The Torah and Injil Gospel are described as 'guidance and light', and as revelations from God; notably using the same word revelation used to describe the Quran itself.
Clearly, at this point in history, both the Old and New Testament are deemed to be trustworthy as they were seen as revelation and guidance and light from Allah. Sura 5 is also late Medinan, meaning that it was written late in Mohammed's life and as such cannot be over-ruled by later revelations. In addition, we have entire codices of the Bible in museums around the world which were written by the time Sura 5 was written in the late 6th century, enabling us to verify that the Bible we have today was the same as it was during this period.
The Quran 'Words of God' cannot be altered
Upon being presented with this, many Muslims will say that the Bible described here was the original version, but that it got changed afterwards. However, the Quran says in Yunus 10:64 that 'No change can there be in the Words of God' and in Al Aman 6:34 'Rejected were the apostles before thee: with patience and constancy they bore their rejection and their wrongs, until our aid did reach them: there is none that can alter the Words of God. Already hast thou received some account of those apostles.'
Ibn Taymiyyah, a famous Sunni scholar, said "The Quran and Suri both attest that the Torah and Gospel contained what God had revealed" and went on to say that during and after Mohammed's lifetime it would have been impossible to collect every copy of the Torah and Gospel from around the world and change them. Even to this day, there is no agreement in Islam as to who, why or how this could have happened.
Talking to our Muslim friends, neighbours and colleagues about faith this Ramadan
Muslims are drawn to Christ by the lives of Christians and then by getting them into the Word of God. Compared to atheists and secularists, Muslims on average are much more likely to discuss their beliefs, so we should be confident to engage with them.
I became friends with a man called Ibrahim whilst I was shopping. After using the traditional Muslim greeting, I engaged him in conversation and my wife and I then began to visit him and his wife, inviting them over for dinner. For several years, we gently talked to them about our faith and showed them the authenticity of the Gospel using the Quran and gave them a Bible. Eventually, Ibrahim understood that the Bible was the truth and he should follow Christ, but realised it would cost him too much.
It's what the Word of God does. If we let the lion out of the cage then the Living Word, Jesus, breaks down obstacles, changes lives and transforms hearts. Don't be put off talking to those who follow Islam this Ramadan, they are some of the most hospitable and easy to engage with individuals that I have ever met, many of whom are eager to get to know Jesus.
To get involved in the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World this Ramadan, visit https://www.uk.om.org/30-days-prayer.
*Not his real name for security reasons.
Alan Hallmart has worked with OM, amongst Muslims, for over 40 years. He has served in Turkey, The Middle East and presently job shares with his wife, supporting church planting teams around the world while based in the UK and coaching the senior management of many global brands in cross cultural leadership. To find out more about OM, visit https://www.uk.om.org/.