Have you ever wondered why some Muslims react violently when rumors are circulated that the Qur'an has been desecrated? The riots in Pakistan, reported last month in Charisma NEWS Online, caused me to ask that question. (Muslim Pakistanis attacked Christian Pakistanis, killing at least seven people and burning many homes. See the article: http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/news/22823-christians-burned-to-death-in-islamist-attacks-in-pakistan.) As God often does with me, He set up the question a short time before He provided the answer.
Last Sunday, we began a series by John Piper called "Why We Believe the Bible." In the introduction, he compared what Christians teach about the Bible with what Muslims teach about the Qur'an. Mr. Piper made the statement that "It would be truer to say that the Qur'an is for Muslims what Christ is for Christians." (The implication being that most people would compare the Bible to the Qur'an, not compare Christ to the Qur'an.)
After a couple of hours of online research, I discovered that Mr. Piper's statement is valid. I found the following information in Wikipedia (as cited from the Encyclopaedia of Islam Online): "The word Qur'an means "recitation". When Muslims speak in the abstract about "the Qur'an", they usually mean the scripture as recited in Arabic rather than the printed work or any translation of it. To Muslims, the Qur'an is perfect only as revealed in the original Arabic; translations are necessarily deficient because of language differences, the fallibility of translators, and the impossibility of preserving the original's inspired style. Translations are therefore regarded only as commentaries on the Qur'an, or "interpretations of its meaning", not as the Qur'an itself."
In my research, I also found that some Muslims teach that the Qur'an is uncreated; God come to earth in spoken Arabic words, although controversy about this belief does exist in the Muslim world. When Muslims riot, destroy, burn and kill they are expressing their pious respect for the Qur'an.
In light of all of this, as Christians called to share the truth of Jesus' death and resurrection to people who hold these beliefs about the Qur'an, we face a seemingly impossible task. We are asking Muslims to lay down the beliefs that define them. In their eyes, the Christian life is a blasphemy against their god. The biblical description of heaven does not fit what they are taught about paradise. When they hear us talk about the gospel, it is an offense to their whole way of living. Christ's gospel calls them to reject the religion they love, to repent of rejecting God who died for them on the cross. It asks them to accept something foreign to them: that their own personal goodness cannot earn them eternal life. If they live in a predominately-Muslim world, accepting Christ's sacrifice in their place means dying to any involvement in the community and could easily lead to physical death.
Such a gospel is a threat to everything Muslims value in this life and the next. When we speak to Muslims about accepting Jesus as their Savior and Lord, prepare to be ridiculed or despised. If the Holy Spirit has not gone before us and done His work inside the person to whom we are witnessing, the words will probably be futile.
Twice in my life, I have witnessed to Muslims. The first time I talked about Jesus to a Muslim was in college. This Muslim classmate was busy trying to convert me to Islam at the same time, so I think my words had little, if any, affect on him. Only God knows the result of that experience. The second time I witnessed was to a cab driver on the way to an airport. He had seen the Passion of the Christ and had a hunger to know more. God brought him into His kingdom before I left the cab. We both left that experience rejoicing.
I learned something new about Muslim beliefs, today. It helps to understand where people outside of God find their values in life before we share the love of God with them. Whether we are witnessing to Muslims or to any other people lost in sin and unrepentant before God, we should stay alert for the leading of the Holy Spirit; He will give us an opportunity to share our faith. With Him going before us, that seemingly impossible task transforms into God's power at work advancing His kingdom. There is nothing impossible about that.