Reaching your Muslim Neighbor with the GospelWritten by A. S. Ibrahim Reviewed By Duane Alexander Miller
In this brief, introductory volume Ayman Ibrahim departs from his customary academic work to branch out into more popular writing as he offers practical advice on reaching your Muslim neighbor with the gospel.
The book is divided into two parts. The first part addresses “Understanding Muslims and Islam” (pp. 17–94). He begins by explaining that there are many ways of living out Islam. This is indeed a practical and important point. Many times, when I have been teaching on Islam, someone has challenged something I have said by anecdotally quipping, “Well, I had a Pakistani roommate, and he didn’t believe that.” While we can outline the heart of Islamic teaching and we can trace its historical development and divergence, we cannot provide an all-encompassing definition that would satisfy all Muslims. There are always exceptions. Islam is no monolith.
Ibrahim also challenges the notion that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. He notes that a good number of people are leaving Islam, and that the Christian should respond with intercession and evangelism rather than fear. And yes, while some Muslims are genuinely militant and violent, the great majority are not.
In chapter 3 he presents us with his own philosophy for Muslim evangelism, which is decidedly Christo-centric. While this might seem an obvious suggestion, it entails abandoning the popular polemic approach of attacking Islam and/or Muhammad. While employed fruitfully by a few highly-educated people—Zakaria Boutros, David Wood—polemical attack is not what Ibrahim advises his readers to emulate. In my own 18 years of experience working with Muslims, Muslim seekers, ex-Muslims, and converts from Islam, Ibrahim’s advice is solid.
But this Christo-centric approach also means being suspicious of using the Qur’an to evangelize Muslims. Ibrahim knows the Qur’an well, and if he references it, he is clear that he does not believe it to be a divine book. Again, this stands in contrast with some popular methods that run the risk of endorsing the Qur’an in the way that they encourage its use.
Chapter 4 encourages us to minister out of love, not fear. Chapter 5 covers key elements of how Muslims view the world and live in it. He briefly discusses some important topics, like the umma and the jihad. Chapter 6 explores some common misconceptions that Muslims have about Christianity. These include crucial beliefs like the Trinity and the validity of the texts of the Bible, namely that they have not been corrupted. Ibrahim offers us some possible paths of apologetics that he has used in the past.
Part 2 of the book turns its attention to offering “Tools for evangelizing Muslims” (pp. 93–161). Having explained some basic things about Muslims and Islam, Ibrahim moves on to address some basic suggestions for how to communicate the Gospel to Muslims. In this chapter the Christo-centric philosophy is applied, and we are told to emphasize the sinfulness of humanity. This advice comes from recognizing that Muslims believe in original innocence. He also offers some practical questions and phrases that can be used to explore topics like the incarnation. And, very practically, he recommends we ask questions and employ good skills as listeners in order to lead to deeper understanding and deeper conversations. Chapters 8 and 9 remind the reader of the importance of prayer and provide some irenic questions for engaging in fruitful conversations about the gospel and for getting to know our Muslim neighbor better.
Chapter 10 focuses on “Proclaiming Christ.” While it may seem an odd critique for a minister to identify, the book has been discussing the proclamation of Christ all along. After the chapter on his Christo-centric approach to evangelism, this chapter appears redundant. Reading the chapter, however, one might find that the error is a misleading chapter title. Instead of “Proclaiming Christ,” this chapter might better be titled, “Using Scripture to Connect with Muslims.” The material in the chapter is good, but the titling risks encouraging readers to skip over what might appear to be repeated material.
Chapter 11, “Avoiding Pitfalls,” is full of helpful, common-sense advice: Do not become angry; do not go too fast, nor too slow; don’t go down that rabbit trail, focus on the main topic; and so on.
As I am reading Ibrahim’s work, the word that comes to mind is “subtle”—a word etymologically linked to the Latin sub tela, which refers to a cloth so fine that one cannot feel the individual threads. That is because Ibrahim weaves fine threads of such subtlety throughout his book as he makes proposals in the early part of the book and then employs them in the later part without unnecessarily calling attention to what he is doing. For instance, following his own advice, Ibrahim avoids affirming Muhammad as a true prophet while remaining respectful. Likewise, he references the Qur’an at times, but he does so without insinuating that it is authoritative or trustworthy.
My favorite thing about this book is the various memories that the author shares from growing up in Egypt. Ibrahim sprinkles stories of his childhood throughout, such as his recollections of not being allowed to touch a Qur’an or how the Christians of Egypt often lived in quietness and fear and in so doing, he offers us insights that other authors could not.
This is an introductory book. If you have studied the basic tenets of Islam and or read about apologetics for Islam, you’re not going to encounter much new material in this book. This should not be understood as a critique, however, because introductions have their own place in the academic ecosystem. This is a readable, brief, and affordable book for the Christian who is beginning to learn about Islam and their Muslim friends and neighbors. Ibrahim has provided a great resource for ministers to recommend to those in their churches who are just beginning to grasp the magnificence and wonder of the Church’s mission to evangelize Muslims.
Duane Alexander Miller
Duane Alexander Miller
Protestant Faculty of Theology at Madrid (UEBE)
Alcobendas, Madrid, Spain
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