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“Why Should We Learn about Islam?”
Christians sometimes wonder, “Why should we learn about Islam?” There are lots of reasons that people in general, but especially Christians, should be learning about Islam. Let’s consider five of them.
First, numbers. Islam is the second-largest religion in history (after Christianity). There are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. That’s over a fifth of the world’s population. There are currently more than 1200 mosques in the United States, and more than 6000 in Europe. And according to many sources, Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world. So Islam is big, and it’s getting bigger. When that many people believe something, it’s a good idea to learn what they believe.
Second, Christians can’t communicate the Gospel clearly to Muslims without understanding what Muslims believe, because the Qur’an distorts the meaning of Christian claims. For instance, Christians claim that Jesus is the Son of God. But when we say, “Jesus is the Son of God,” Muslims think we’re claiming that God had sex with a woman and produced Jesus as an offspring. They believe this because the Qur’an says, “How can Allah have a son when he has no wife?” (Surah 6, verse 101). Now, when Christians call Jesus the Son of God, we’re not talking about God having sex and producing an offspring. No Christian has ever meant that. But that’s what Muslims think we mean, because the Qur’an says that’s what it means to call someone the Son of God.
There’s a similar problem when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity. According to the Qur’an (Surah 5, verse 116), Christians believe in a Trinity made up of God, Jesus, and Mary. Here again, no Christian has ever believed this. But there are Muslims who think we believe in a Trinity made up of God, Jesus, and Mary, because of how the Qur’an distorts Christian doctrines. So if we don’t know what Muslims believe, we won’t understand how they’re misinterpreting what we say when we preach the Gospel.
Third, Muslims are trained to challenge the core doctrines of Christianity. Jesus taught his followers lots of things, but when they preached the Gospel in the Book of Acts, they preached that Jesus is the divine Son of God, who died on the cross for sins and rose from the dead—deity, death, and resurrection. These are the three core teachings of the Christian Gospel. Islam denies all three of them, and so Muslims are taught to challenge Christians on these issues. Muslims are taught to attack Christianity where it matters most. If Christians don’t know about Islam, we won’t know how Muslims are going to challenge our beliefs, and we won’t know how to challenge their beliefs.
Fourth, many Muslims are so confident that Islam is true (because they’ve been told all their lives that it’s indisputably true) that they can’t seriously consider any alternatives to Islam. My best friend in college was a Muslim. That’s why I started studying Islam. We talked about Christianity for a couple of years, but he was so confident that Islam was true, he really wasn’t taking Christianity seriously. It was only after we began looking at some of the problems with Muhammad and the Qur’an that he realized, “Maybe what I’ve been told about Islam all my life isn’t true. Maybe I need think through all this more carefully.” He’s a Christian now. He’s one of the speakers for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. So giving Muslims some facts about Muhammad and the Qur’an is crucial, and we can’t give them these facts unless we know what the facts are.
Fifth, Islam thrives in an atmosphere of ignorance. I’ve met lots of converts to Islam over the years. But I’ve never met a single person who converted to Islam after carefully studying Islam. When I meet a convert to Islam, and I ask, “Why did you convert to Islam?” it’s almost always because the person was given some false information. The reason so many people fall for this false information is that there’s a general atmosphere of ignorance about Islam, which allows Muslim preachers to say pretty much whatever they want, because no one’s going to correct them. These preachers are then free to adapt their message to the values of their audience. In the West, we believe in women’s rights, so the Muslim preacher says, “You believe in women’s rights? Muhammad was a champion of women’s rights. He was probably the greatest defender of women who ever lived.” People in the West usually have a high respect for science, so the Muslim preacher says, “The Qur’an is filled with scientific claims that could only be verified centuries after Muhammad’s death. Science proves that Islam is the truth.” In an area where no one knows much about Islam, many people believe what they hear from these Muslim preachers, and they convert to Islam. The only way this is going to stop is if we get to a point where we know enough about Islam to refute false claims. When a Muslim preacher says, “Muhammad was a champion of women’s rights,” hands need to go up to question him about Qur’an verses that refute him.
So Islam is already a massive religion, and it’s growing rapidly; Muslims often don’t understand the Gospel because they’re misinterpreting our claims based on the Qur’an’s distortion of our claims; Muslims have been taught to criticize core Christian doctrines; many Muslims can’t take the Gospel seriously until their own beliefs have been challenged; and people are converting to Islam based on false information—all of these are reasons for Christians to learn about Islam.