The Christian life has what we call disciplines. These are certain things that Christians do to improve our Christian walk. This includes things like reading the Bible, meditating on the Bible, praying, singing and worshiping God with our spirit, and fasting. In this lesson, Dr. Cynthia will share with you about what these Christian disciplines are like.In this Lesson on the Christian Life narrated by Dr. Girgis with special guests Mike Lacona PhD and James Anderson DMin, Dr. Cynthia shares with you about what the spiritual disciplines in the Christian life are like.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Does God Exist?
Note: The existence of God is a topic with much important information to cover. As a result, this study guide is long. Your study group leader might want to assign only certain portions of it, and reduce the number of study questions discussed. Alternately, it could be used over several sessions.
Summary and Notes:
Quick summary: During our lives we must ask ourselves three questions:
Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where will I go when I die?
In this lesson we address the foundation of these three questions, “Does God Exist?” Atheism and skepticism are growing in Islamic countries, as they are in the West. In this lesson we examine the thinking and reasons behind Muslim atheism. In addition, we make suggestions to help Muslims and all atheists reconsider – God exists, but is different and far better than they had ever thought!
(Note: see also the study guide and “Lesson on Why Believe the Bible?”)
Important words: Theist – believes God exists
Atheist – does not believe God exists
Skeptic – doubts that God exists; much like atheist
Agnostic – not sure about any religion; often like atheist
Monotheism – the belief in one God
Reality – Mammoth Site, South Dakota
Dr. Cynthia introduces us to the fascinating Mammoth Site in South Dakota. Here we find elephant-like creatures that are long extinct. It is not a graveyard where the mammoths buried their dead, but is a place of doom.
The story goes back thousands of years, to when South Dakota’s environment was much different than now. The climate was milder, and fertile enough to support mammoths. Large and well-fed, the mammoths became thirsty. They searched for water and found it –murky water, but better than nothing. Or so they thought.
What the mammoths didn’t know was that under the water lay a base of sucking mud. Desperate to satisfy their thirst, the mammoths went deeper and deeper into the dirty water. That meant deeper and deeper into hungry mud which held them tight. Frantic, they tried to escape. What good was a drink if they died?
Exactly what happened next, we don’t know for certain: did they quickly sink and suffocate, or stay stuck and crying out for days? Either way, dozens were trapped until they died.
Dr. C uses this sad story to point out that people also need water – spiritually as well as physically. Jesus tells us in John 4 that he gives living water – the kind that satisfies our souls. This living water is for everyone, yet as we look around, we see most people drinking from muddy puddles – meaning pursuits that promise satisfaction but don’t deliver. Muddy puddles will not satisfy our longings. And if we follow them too far, they can suck away our very life.
An ancient site like this also makes us wonder about what happened long before we were born. How was the earth formed? How long it has existed? What about other extinct animals?
Being of a scientific background, Dr. C the is very interested in age of the earth and its creatures, and the way God brought them into existence. It is a fascinating topic. She has opinions about it. But Dr. C respects Christians who have different views, and encourages everyone to do the same.
The Bible and the Qur’an on Creation
Muslims and Christians usually agree on issues about creation, and whether or not God exists.
There is much agreement between the Bible and the Qur’an on the topic of creation. It is nice that there are some beliefs that we can share with our Muslim friends and family. For example, some parts of the Qur’an that describe nature, sound like the Book of Psalms in the Bible (zabur).
Both the Bible and the Qur’an say that God created the heavens and earth in six days. Many people believe God used 24 hour days. The word for day, yom, is the same in both ancient Hebrew and Arabic.
Ancient Hebrew only had 3,000 words, which meant words often had more than one meaning. Some people interpret yom in the Bible and the Qur’an to mean that the days were time periods, rather than 24 hour days. You can hold either the short or long day view and be a true Christian or Muslim.
The main issue is not WHEN the universe was created, but WHO or WHAT created it. None of us were alive at the time of the origin of the universe and life. So, to look back in time, we must:
- examine the evidence that still remains, then
- try to interpret it. Naturally, there will be different interpretations of the findings.
We believe it is important not to be dogmatic about the beginning or end of the earth in terms of timing, or the mechanisms God used to create.
It is good to be convinced ourselves, and fine to have friendly discussions within the body of believers. But we should not demand that everyone share our view. Rather, we should focus more on sharing the gospel in word and deed. That is what Jesus told us to do. We must not let “friendly fire” derail our main calling – to make disciples of all nations.
The Main Thing is to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing – sharing God’s plan for our salvation in word and deed.
You might hear that the Qur’an gives contradictory accounts of creation. That is because in Qur’an 41:9-12, if you add up the days you get eight, not six. But in multiple other places the Qur’an says six. Some non-Muslims are critical of this seeming contradiction.
Muslim apologists however, explain that some of the days described in surah 41 overlap. We give Muslims the benefit of the doubt, and accept this explanation. After all, there are some Biblical passages that need explanation. There are other passages that we disagree on in the Qur’an that are more important to discuss with them.
Both the Bible and the Qur’an point to creation as a sign of encouragement that God exists (Psalm 8 & 19, Romans 1; Qur’an 2:164). This is another area in which we agree, as we do on most of the material in this lesson.
Many Muslims are Becoming Atheists
Muslims are told not to ask questions if it would cause them to doubt (Qur’an 5:101,102).
Yet some do. As Muslims begin to question Islam, which has been taught to them as undeniably true from birth, they start to question everything else that they had thought was true. Often, they go from questioning Islam, to disbelieving Islam, to disbelieving in God.
For example, a BBC South Asia interviewer asked Dr. Cynthia,
“Since you are saying that the Qur’an, the last revelation of God is corrupted: does that mean that there is no God?”
At first Dr. C was surprised at his jump to this conclusion. But thinking it over, she saw how clearly it reflects Islamic thinking. To Muslims, the very existence of God is so strongly linked to their view of Mohammed and the Qur’an, that it is a package deal. If one part is wrong, perhaps it is all wrong.
Mercifully, some do go back to believing in God – a different kind of God – and Christianity.
(Note: In order to keep the lesson focused on Islam, we have moved other causes of atheism to Appendix 3, the end of the study guide.)
Atheism in a nutshell
Modern atheists tend to believe:
- natural processes alone are enough to explain the origin of the universe and life, also called “scientific materialism.
- the Theory of Evolution accounts for the development and diversity of life on earth, by mutation and natural selection
- the physical world is all that exists
Some go beyond these beliefs to become anti-theist, saying:
- their view is the only one with evidence
- no one intelligent believes in God
- God-believers are superstitious because they claim a “God of the gaps” for anything not explained; but some day science will explain
- people who believe in God are judgmental
- religion is the cause of most of the problems in the world
- if God does exist, he is an evil dictator that you can’t even escape by dying
Many go beyond even those with aggressive behaviors:
- ridiculing students and other theists
- forbidding education to even mention Intelligent Design as an option
- removing university professors who admit to believing in God
- trying to remove social networking and other platforms from theists so that they cannot express their views
Ways to Consider the Existence of God
We will consider 3 types of proof that God exists:
Subjective (meaning with personal experience, insight, or feelings)
Philosophical Arguments for the Existence of God: using LOGIC
Guest Luke Price makes a very simple presentation of what logic is. Then, he presents his four favorite arguments for the existence of God. They are:
- The Beginning of the Universe
- The Complexity of the Universe
- The Origin of Life
Learning Easy LOGIC
Before we examine Price’s favorite four, let’s look at how to form a logical “argument.” This way of organized thinking, Price explains, goes back to ancient Greece.
An argument in this sense does not mean fighting. It means an orderly presentation of statements which are called “premises.” Each of the statements presented must be true. If true, the premises lead to an unavoidable conclusion.
The Logical ARGUMENT:
Conclusion: based on the Premises
The only way to avoid the conclusion is to disprove one of the premises.
Presenting the case for God to Muslims is similar to how we explain the existence of God to any agnostic or atheist. We present truth and pray for God’s Spirit to confirm it and convict them.
(Note: Islam uses circular reasoning, which is different than logic. For example,
“The Qur’an is God’s word because Prophet Mohammed says so. Mohammed is a prophet because the Qur’an says so.”
Using one thing to prove the other and vice versa is not considered logic. But if you were raised with it, it is probably convincing.
Jesus did not use circular reasoning. In John 5, Jesus told us if he testifies for himself (as Mohammed did) it is not valid. He then gave three outside reasons, to back up his claim.
(Note: See also the study guide and Lesson on What Makes a True Prophet?)
Example: using logic with Muslims Dr. C had the opportunity to tutor a strict Muslim in Critical Thinking and Rhetoric. After these two courses, she encouraged the student to apply this way of thinking to religion, not simply to accept Islam’s claims. She is still praying for a result.)
Price’s Favorite Four Arguments
- Argument #1 The BEGINNING of the Universe
The Cosmological Argument
Premise 1: Anything that begins to exist has a cause
Premise 2: The universe began to exist
Conclusion: Therefore the Universe has a Cause
This argument is one of a family of arguments for God called “cosmological.” meaning related to the universe, or cosmos. Some of our Muslim friends might recognize it as the “Kalam,” which originated in the Middle Ages by a Muslim trained in logic.
The Universe had a Beginning.
Among world religions, only the Bible and Qur’an claim that the universe began.
- This significantly points toward which religion is true: Judaism, Islam, or Christianity.
- For thousands of years there was no proof of whether the universe was eternal or began. Religions could teach whatever they chose about the beginning of the universe, without fear of being proven wrong.
- All that changed in the1920s when high powered telescopes became able to look into deep space and discover that the stars and galaxies are moving apart. This means that at one point back in time everything was all together, until a “Big Bang” explosion blew it apart.
In other words, the universe began.
Eastern religions, like Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, and New Age are becoming popular alternatives to monotheism. But they hold significant problems with logic and truth, because they:
- teach an eternal universe, which does not fit the facts.
- believe in pantheism, that god is inside creation, as “the coexistence of god and matter.” This belief does not provide a force or god outside of the universe to create it.
- God needs to exist outside of the creation to create it.
- Nothing cannot create something
- God cannot create himself out of nothing.
The Bible is not a science textbook. However, it does clearly say that the universe had a beginning, and God “spread it out.” Both claims fit with the evidence of science. (Genesis 1:1, Isaiah 42:5)
- Argument # 2 The COMPLEXITY of the Universe
The Design Argument
Premise 1: Design is evidence of a Mind
Premise 2: The Universe shows evidence of Design
Conclusion: Therefore the Universe was Designed by a Mind
Logical arguments about complexity suggesting design of the universe are called “Teleological Arguments.” Intelligent Design is the name some scientists use to explain that the evidence of design in the universe shows that designer a was at work.
- Fine tuning of the Universe. The complexity of the universe becomes more and more clear as science understands it better.
For example, the evidence of:
- design in the cosmos
- variations in the background radiation of the universe are even called “the fingerprints of God”
- the fine-tuning of the universe required for life on earth
- design in the cosmos
Life only can exist under narrow conditions. Our amazing universe is so finely tuned for life on earth that it is impossible to ignore.
Position, physical laws, and constants: In the last 100 years we have discovered many physical laws and constants which must be exactly right for life to exist. A common one you know is gravity. Gravity must be just right – not too much or too little. Besides constants, there are many other things which must be precisely right for life to exist. For example, the sun must be just the right kind of star at the right phase of its life, set in the right spot of the universe with a planet at just the right distance away to support life.
- The Complexity of Life is appearing less and less random as we learn more about:
- DNA coding of the cell’s genetics
- intracellular information processing
- how the cell knows to use DNA for growth, etc.
- intracellular micromachines
- the limits of mutation and natural selection
Considering this, in the video lesson Luke Price says,
“Personally, I find the level of complexity that is present in nature is very difficult to explain if you are only appealing to evolution, naturalistic processes, and random chance.”
He tells us that these process can explain a lot, like the diversity of dog breeds, but not the complexity of genetic diversity. Astounded by this genetic diversity, some atheist scientists become theists because:
The complexity of information coded in the cell is fast becoming the greatest evidence of Intelligent Design.
Example of Complexity without Meaning: Granite
Dr. C likes the analogy of patterns in granite rock. Granite counters are popular now. Perhaps you have seen some, or even have one in your kitchen or bathroom. The complexity of the patterns is immense: the colors, size, and placement of the minerals forming dots, lines and patterns seems endless. The chance of any slab of granite with exactly that pattern is exceedingly rare. Yet, its random pattern has no significance.
Consider life: not only is it exceedingly rare that any particular combination of information would exist, but the chance that it would encode meaningful information – as DNA and RNA do – is so remote as to be unreal. Computer engineers say the detail in the genetic code reminds them of complex computer coding that could in no way be random.
Example of Complexity with Meaning: Literature
In the video Luke gives us an example of random chance versus information with meaning. Imagine monkeys pushing keys for 6 billion letters on a typewriter at random. The chance of any particular sequence is remote. However, for the 6 billion letters to create the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare at random, is laughably unlikely.
Advances in Science reveal complexity
During the days of Darwin, who presented the Theory of Evolution in the mid-19th century, science was much simpler than today. Telescopes and microscopes were less powerful. Biochemistry was basic. Guesses about how living things worked seemed adequate.
In the decades following Darwin, major scientific advancements and discoveries were made. Now we look far into space through high powered telescopes. We peer deep into cells to see teeny, but advanced, machines and processes. By sequencing the amazing complexity of DNA we discover: where our characteristics come from, how humans are related, our susceptibility for diseases, and even where our ancestors lived.
Attempting to explain how all this complexity could arise without God, scientists came up with the following explanations:
- Atheistic Explanations of Complexity
Only Appearance of Design. Atheists are willing to accept all the evidence of design as appearing to be design, yet still consider it only chance.
If you or I found a watch on the ground in the desert, regardless of our religion or philosophy we would know that it didn’t come from the dirt. Someone had made it. We would know that it had been left there, probably on accident, and we might try even to find the owner.
Atheists however, must look at the universe, which is far more complex than a watch, and say that it was only chance. Atheist Richard Dawkins in his book, The Blind Watchmaker says,
“Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of being designed for a purpose…the living results…overwhelmingly impress us with the illusion of design and planning.” (p. 1 & 21)
Yet consider what Dr. C calls The Flint Inconsistency, with its simplest recognized evidence of design:
- Early Tools: Before metals were developed, people used stone tools. Flint is a strong stone that early humans chipped, or knapped, to make a sharp edge for knives and axes.
Although you and I might overlook a flint with a chip as nothing – merely time and chance acting on stone – the scientists which study early humans (anthropologists and archaeologists) would not. To them, even a tiny piece of flint with chips is evidence of design – the action of human beings.
Yet the complex universe as a whole these scientists believe was the result of chance, not design.
- Notice their inconsistency? Scientists should be consistent. But atheist scientists are not. In one case they accept the tiniest evidence. Yet in the other they overlook an abundance. It’s like the expression, “They can’t see the forest for the trees.” Or as Jesus said in Matthew 23:24,
“You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
- The multiverse hypothesis tries to get around the fine tuning of earth for life. It proposes that there are unlimited universes, of which ours is only one; the others aren’t tuned to support life.
The multiverse hypothesis is supposedly scientific, but has little scientific basis. They simply guess at how the constants of the universe could be set as they are without God being involved. They nod to quantum mechanics to say that these multiverses could have originated out of nothing. Yet, when you ask them what nothing is, the nothing of quantum mechanics it is not really “nothing.”
- The simulation hypothesis sounds like a strange marriage of computer science, Hollywood, and video games. Yet it is a serious hypothesis, gaining in popularity. In this idea, all of us are in a computer simulation of life. Not real. We simply think we are.
Are these 3 explanations adequate to explain the complexity?
We do not think that these atheistic explanations adequately account for the complexity of the universe and life.
Considering the weight of the evidence theists have, and how much the multiverse and simulation theories sound like fairy tales, believing in God is even easier!
As Dr. C says, “When you get to the beginning of the universe, and the origin of life, both theists and atheists alike must rely metaphysical explanations,” meaning beyond physics – explanations that we can think of, but cannot prove.
To theists, believing in God is more sensible than the unprovable, atheistic theories of the origin and complexity of the universe.
- Argument #3 The ORIGIN of Life
Besides explaining how things came into existence, another big hurdle is the explanation of how life began. This is not so much in terms of an argument of logic, as scientific explanation.
Three Huge Hurdles for Atheists:
- Out of Time
- Because they reproduce quickly, the mutation rates of bacteria have been studied for the past several decades. In fact more than 50,000 generations have passed – a number we could not dream of observing with animals. The mutation rate and types of mutations have been documented. Most mutations are negative, not constructive, and would not lead toward evolutionary development.
- It is estimated that there are over 8 million species on earth, of which we have identified over 1 million. Whether you believe life on earth began 6,000 years ago or 3 billion years, there is simply not enough time for mutation and natural selection to develop this many species.
- More against Less
- The tendency of all things is to become less complicated, rather than more complicated over time. We see this in situations from everyday life, for example an untended garden, as well as in physics with The Second Law of Thermodynamics.
- This tendency goes against the atheistic evolution. In science, a law is something that is always true. If a theory contradicts a law, the theory is usually wrong.
- Right or Left Turn
- You might have heard that the building blocks of life were made in a laboratory over 50 years ago. What you did not hear is that they were very simple compounds which lasted only brief seconds. They were unstable. They were formed in a special environment very different than that of early earth. Plus, they were a mixture of right hand and left hand orientation.
Did you know chemicals are oriented right or left, like hands? Proteins are made of parts that must all line up left (levorotatory). Even if we had a mixture on early earth of the chemical building blocks of life in precisely the right environment, their connections would be at random. We would not have all the right and all the left-oriented chemicals attaching to each other unless an outside force assisted them.
Example of Orientation: hand in glove. Our right and left hands are different. Our thumbs are on the different sides of the fingers. As you remember if you have worn a glove for work or in cold weather, right and left gloves are different. You simply can’t make one work for the other.
Imagine that you have ten sets of wet gloves. You put them into the dryer and spin them for an hour. After an hour, you open the door. Do you expect to see all of the right hand gloves lined up on the right side of the dryer and all of the left hand gloves lined up on the left? No! What if you kept spinning them for 2 hours? 5 hours? a day? 10,000 years? 1,000,000 years?
I think we agree that no matter how long we spin the gloves, without outside assistance they will always distribute at random, not in an organized pattern. And yet, this example is extremely simplified compared to the number and complexity of chemicals needed to create life.
Atheists Propose Panspermia to try to get around there not being enough time for life to have evolved on earth. It proposes that the earth was seeded with life from outer space. Very few people would take seriously the idea that aliens visited earth and planted life here. But, perhaps a meteor carried elements of life, they claim.
Panspermia is extremely unlikely. Other planets in our solar system cannot sustain life. As for planets beyond our solar system, the distance to the nearest star makes it unlikely that living material would make it from there.
Panspermia’s Problem: Even if this were possible and did happen, it would not really help. Why? Because you would still need to explain how life began on the planet of its origin. You would only be knocking the ball into a different court, but it would still be a ball.
- Argument #4 CONSCIOUSNESS
Assuming that there were reasonable explanations for the origin of the universe, its complexity, and the origin of life, we still have to explain the miracle of human consciousness.
Luke tells us that consciousness is the part of us that we alone have access to. That means it is subjective.
Objective and Subjective
Objective evidence means factual, not related to how someone feels.
Subjective means opinion or the way something feels to a person, not the facts.
When we die, all of our physical parts are still there, but something is missing Luke tells us, our soul or spirit. It is the essential part of who we are – our pain, loves, and emotions.
Where would these come from if not from a mind? It takes a mind to create a mind. That creator would be God.
Consciousness is not merely a sense of right and wrong (discussed in “The Moral Argument”), but the fact that humans have a special sense of awareness of who they are, the situation they are in, their mortality, and wonder about the meaning of the universe. Bible-believers consider it related to our creation in the Image of God:
“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 (NLT)
“He has also set eternity in the human heart yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
So we have a Biblical explanation that at the time of their creation, God did something special with human beings, different from the rest of creation. The Image of God is not clearly defined, but in general, it is thought to mean:
- Resemblance to God
- Representative of God on earth
- and/or have Relationship with God
Resemblance: Characteristics of Image-bearers which give us resemblance to God are:
Creative Moral Rational Spiritual Relational
The first four of these characteristics require the use of symbols and abstract thinking, which are considered distinctive of human beings.
If you have seen nature documentaries you will know that chimpanzees and gorillas show many human-like behaviors. That is not what makes them in the image of God.
Don’t be distressed if someone points to characteristics that seem human in apes or hominids (extinct creatures with features between humans and apes). Many characteristics that we think of as human, can also be seen in other animals.
Some animals have special capacities. They have been called “soulish animals.” Soulish animals can show affection to each other and humans, mourn their dead, learn behaviors, and use tools. It is as if they were specially created to comfort humans, or assist them with specific functions, like herding animals or detecting drugs. But they do not have the special relationship with God that we do.
Representative: of God on Earth
As God’s representatives, the Bible says we are to be stewards of the earth. We are to tend the land and its animals well. We honor and care for creation. (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 8:6-8, Proverbs 12:10) At the same time, as believers we know that there is a special quality about human beings which we should honor above other animals. Not all philosophies recognize this.
Relationship: God’s Family
Only human beings can have a special, family relationship with God. (John 1:12)
Two Other Arguments for God
Besides Price’s Big Four arguments for God, there are other philosophical and scientific arguments. Probably every believer has their favorites. You might have heard of some of these, or perhaps others.
(Note: Feel free to share your favorites on the comments section of our video.)
- The “God Gene”
Related to the Consciousness Argument is the idea that most people have a sense of there being a God. This trait is so deeply associated with humans, that those studying ancient humans (anthropologists), consider worship of a greater power a distinctly human trait.
In his Letter to Huda at the end of this lesson, Georges Houssney quotes French philosopher Pascal who describes a God-shaped hole in each heart which can only be filled by God. We try to fill it with human love, activities, money, position, or possessions – but they don’t satisfy.
If we focus on:
- circumstances, we will fear
- people, we will be angry
- things, we will be disappointed
- God and his Word we will have hope, abundant life, love, joy, and peace (John 10:10 & Romans 14:27)
Most people go through life either feeling, or trying to suppress the feeling that:
- there is something or someone greater than me
- I exist in a greater capacity than my body expresses
- things are not right in the world, and something should be done about it
- all this glory of nature surely can’t have come from nothing
- a loving God gives me peace
Your personal testimony of how Jesus saved you and the Holy Spirit entered your life is part of your subjective experience. Because subjective experiences are only experienced by you, they are not objective. Other people can’t reason it out objectively like they can other arguments. Atheists will tend to disregard it as emotionalism. So, in discussion with atheists for we don’t find this a top way to prove that God exists. (See Appendix 4 on the Personal Apologetic Testimony)
However, Dr. C agrees with Christian philosopher and debater William Lane Craig, that one’s personal experience can be a valid proof to themselves. And sometimes, when other’s see the love and power of God acted out in your life, it touches them too. So, Dr. C often likes to end a discussion with a personal note, for Jesus told us to use spirit and truth in our worship of God. (John 4:24)
Not everyone has a sense that God exists. A famous mountaineer feel down an ice crevasse, and thought he would die. At his life or death moment, he says, he had no sense of God. But then, he had been atheist for a very long time.
Does it mean there is no God if we can’t sense him?
That God is imagined? Or perhaps that he only exists for those who believe in him?
As noted Craig has said, we don’t have a sense organ for everything. Things like ultrasonic sound, radiation, and math exist, but we can’t sense them like we can light and sound. What about diseases? So many, like infections and cancer can only be seen with a microscope.
We must use more than our 5 senses to determine if God is real. We must use our “capacity for reason,” which some philosophers go so far as to call our “sense organ for God.”
- The Moral Argument
The idea that people everywhere have a sense of right and wrong is a favorite proof to many people that there is a God. If there is no God, they say, there would be no reason for this sense, because without God there is no real right and wrong. This is not a favorite of Luke and Dr. C, because the sense of right and wrong is deeply tied to cultural values.
(Note: For a fuller discussion of The Moral Argument, see Study Guide and Lesson on Godly Relationships.)
In Conclusion, God is the Best Fit
As you can see from the six above arguments for God, an outside force is necessary to:
- create something from nothing
- design complex and information rich systems
- create life from dead chemicals
- create a mind with consciousness, morality, and a sense of God
It is not possible to 100% prove some things. For example something that happened in the past or will happen in the future. What we accept if we are using reason, is the best fit of the facts that we have. Words that debaters might use are “plausible” or “potentially valid.”
The existence of God is the best fit for the scientific and philosophical evidence we have.
As one former atheist said after his conversion,
“The evidence for God is strong, clear, and convincing. The evidence against God is weak, vague, and dubious.”
Dr. Cynthia, a medical doctor who has done research and taught medicine, believes science and logic fit better with the existence of God than atheism. She is not alone in this. Besides believing physicians, Ph.D. scientists are starting to leave atheism because of the weight of evidence favoring God. This doesn’t mean that scientists support the Bible, or that all discoveries fit neatly into a Christian world view. But, when we look at the facts overall, they fit best with the world view of theism: there is a God.
The “Other Fields Fit Better” Defense. When faced with these facts, how can scientists continue to be atheists? They say something like, “Yes, there are problems in [my field], but the other fields fit well with naturalistic causes only.” But the other fields don’t. Every field of science faces significant challenges and unlikelihood in explaining everything with natural processes and no help from outside nature.
Atheists have a lot to answer for. Objective evidence that fits best with a God must be explained by them in a powerful way. There are many things which are difficult to explain in the absence of God, regardless of how hard atheists try to smooth things over.
Deeper scientific details are beyond the scope of this lesson. For more information on how science fits with the Bible, see sites such as: www.discovery.org, or www.reasons.org. For more information on philosophical approaches to theism, see www.reasonablefaith.org.
(Note: Additional information for this lesson can be found in Appendix 1 – Appendix 4, after the study questions. We think it is important information, but do not want to lengthen the lesson. The topics are: How to Follow Science without Being Tricked, Stumbling Blocks to Believing in God, Causes of Atheism, and Developing a Personal Apologetic Testimony.)
In summary, there are many things about the universe and human experience that fit best with there being a God. God is the best fit solution for the objective scientific information, and for the subjective experiences and needs of the human heart and soul.
Reality: Driving into the Smog
On a road trip, former Muslim Huda and Dr. C drive down the mountains north of Los Angeles, California. As they descend, it becomes clear that they are entering impure air – the notorious smog of Southern California.
Dr. C uses this as an illustration of how we can live surrounded by something we do not notice. We get used to what is in our culture, without always identifying if it is good or bad. The kinds of sins the people of Los Angeles get used to living in might be different than those of Islamic countries.
Example of seeming clean: a white railing. In the video lesson, Dr. C used the illustration of washing the white railing of her veranda. It looked clean, but when water was sprayed on it, it became clear that it was actually dirty. That’s the way it is when Jesus’ living water comes into our life. We see how far short of perfection we fall, and long for pure, refreshing, living water. (John 7:38)
Letter to Huda: from Georges Houssney
In this part of the video lesson, Georges encourages Huda to seek a life close to Jesus, rather than a happy life. True happiness, he says, comes only from Jesus. If she gets deeper into Jesus, and fully relies on him, her life will be its best.
He refers to these Bible verses:
- Jesus is the way, truth, and life. (John 14:6)
- Seek God’s kingdom first, and everything important will fall into place. (Matthew 6:33)
- If we seek to make a great life, we will end up losing it; but if we give our life Jesus, we will find it. (Matthew 10:39)
And as Jesus did, Georges gives us several metaphors, or word pictures:
- We might become thirsty enough to drink salty water, but it will not satisfy.
- The bread that Jesus gives satisfies. It is the bread of life.
- Georges puts together puzzles with his grandchildren. If a piece is missing, the picture is not complete. As in our discussion above that most people have a sense that God exists, Georges reminds us that only God can fill the hole in our heart – he is the missing piece of the puzzle.
“Don’t be distracted by the world,” he says, “Seek Truth.”
- II Corinthians 5:17
- John 5
- Romans 1
- Psalm 8 & 19
- Genesis 1:1,27, 28
- Isaiah 42:5
- Ecclesiastes 3:11
- John 1:12
- Psalm 8:5-8
- Proverbs 12:10
- John 10:10 & 4:24
- Romans 14:27 & 8:28
- Psalm 118:1
- John 1:3
- Colossians 1:16
- John 7:38 & 14:6
- Matthew 6:33 & 10:39
- Ecclesiastes 9:11
- Job 23 & 38 & 40-42
- Luke 13:4
- Romans 8:28, & 8:15-17
- John 16:33
- Genesis 6:4
- Hebrews 12:2,3
- Isaiah 63:9 & 61:8
- Galatians 3:28
- I Peter 3:15
- 6 days of creation – 10:3, 11:7, 25:59, 32:4, 50:38, & 57:4
- 8 days described for creation 41:9-12
- as signs of God – 2:164
- Why are Muslims becoming atheists?
- Does it make sense to you?
- Why do you think non-Muslims become atheists? (see Appendix 3)
- Review the steps of a logical argument.
- What is a “premise?”
- Why do you think it is important to know how to make a logical argument?
- This lesson contains some words which are new for most people.
- Practice saying these words:
- Theist and atheist
- Objective and subjective
- Define them if you can.
- Review four of the following arguments for the existence of God:
- Cosmological (origin of the universe)
- Teleological (complexity of the universe and life)
- Origin of Life
- God gene
- Subjective experience
- A casual, “There’s just too much to explain without God” argument
- Which four of the above arguments does Luke Price think are the best?
- Which four do you prefer?
- Regarding the beginning of the universe and its age: In the video lesson, Dr. C emphasizes the importance for Christians to agree on the arguments that support the existence of God, rather than argue with each other about details like the time involved to create the universe.
- Were you present at the beginning of the universe? (Job 38)
- What neutral point does Dr. C say that we can make about the age of the earth and its creatures, that Christians can agree on without arguing?
- How do you feel Christians should balance Christian unity with their different views of creation, for example if the days of creation are 24 hours, eras, or allegorical?
- Which is more important to you:
- winning the lost to Christ?
- convincing others, that the world was created the way you think it was?
- What does it mean to “keep the main thing the main thing?”
- Review how these religions/philosophies explain the origin of the universe and life:
- Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism
- Scientific materialism (common atheism)
- any other that you know
- Christianity and Judaism
- Regarding the complexity of the cosmos and nature:
- Give examples that you think go against naturalistic processes.
- For an illustration that you can use with your friends, do you find the granite, or monkeys on a typewriter examples helpful?
- Can you think of examples of complexity with meaning and without meaning?
- What are some obstacles that must be overcome for life on earth to originate?
- Have scientists ever been able to create real life in the laboratory?
- Do you feel you have been told the truth about this by your teachers and the media?
- Did you learn anything new/different about it in this lesson?
- Do you like the illustration of gloves in a dryer?
- Review some arguments that atheists propose to explain away the need for God, that Luke’s top 4 arguments support?
- Have you heard these before?
- On the surface, do they sound reasonable to you?
- Do you think they are more likely explanations than the existence of God?
- Regarding Consciousness: Since atheists only accept material, naturalistic processes, they have trouble explaining human consciousness.
- How would you explain human consciousness?
- How do you think it might relate to the “image of God?”
- What other things do you think are difficult to explain by naturalistic processes alone?
- Do you believe God exists?
- Why or why not? List the objective reasons.
- If not, what would it take to convince you that God does exist?
- If you are an atheist or skeptic:
- Is there a subjective component to your lack of belief in God? For example:
- Could you be disappointed with God over something?
- Are you struggling with the problem of evil and pain in the world?
- Could you be letting negative feelings influence your consideration of whether or not God exists?
- Are there activities that you enjoy which you fear you would have to give up if you believe in God?
- What do you think are the best arguments for the existence of God? Ones that make you think?
- Georges Houssney says that God is the missing piece in the puzzle of our lives.
- From what you have learned about objective and subjective, is the feeling that something is missing from our lives objective or subjective?
- Is that feeling something that is easy to prove to another person?
- Do you find it a strong or weak argument for the existence of God when someone shares their testimony of what God has done in their life?
- What does misattribution mean regarding the works of God and Satan? (see Appendix 2)
- If you are a believer:
- Has this lesson strengthened your faith?
- Has it made you more comfortable defending it with atheists?
- Do you think that the presence or absence of a father figure might have influenced:
- whether you, or people that you know, believe in God?
- what you think he is like?
- (for more, see Appendix 3)
- Evangelism suggestion. One well-known evangelist has successfully had atheists reconsider that God might exist by this: he has them hold and flip through a book with simple, colored pictures. He follows that with questions such as,
- “Do you think that this book with all its colors and printing could have appeared from nothing, by chance?”
- “What would you think of someone who said it did.”
- “Do you know what DNA is? It is the instruction book for life. It is far more complicated than that printed book.”
- “Do you think it could have appeared from nothing?”
- “If the book had a designer, wouldn’t DNA have a designer?
- What do you think of this approach?
- In what circumstances could you see yourself using this approach?
- Would you change it at all?
- If you are in a group setting, practice this approach with each other.
- Regarding a Personal Apologetic Testimony (PAT, see Appendix 4 ):
- Have you made one?
- What are the main points in yours?
- How could you adapt it for sharing with different people or settings?
- When is the next time you plan to use it?
Appendix # 1 How to Follow Science without Being Tricked
Considering the current discord between science and religion, most people are surprised to discover that Christianity was a founding principle of science. Most great scientists for the first 200 years were devout Christians. For example, Isaac Newton, who among other things discovered gravity.
Modern science with its Scientific Method, originated in Europe in the 1600s. It was based on the belief that God was reasonable and orderly, and that his ways in the universe were reasonable and orderly. That being so, they thought, his ways in nature could be discovered.
During the 19th century, the era of Darwin, scientists started looking to worldviews that were “natural,” meaning did not rely on God. That trend continued to grow through the end of the 20th century. Then discoveries of the complexity, constants, and unlikelihood of all that exists, brought God back into the picture for many people.
Keep an eye on science. Discoveries are constantly being made about the complexity of the universe and life. They demonstrate more and more that chance alone cannot account for everything. But, uncomfortable with the emerging facts, atheist scientists will tend to overlook facts that don’t fit, or twist findings into their naturalistic model. Their twists can trick you unless you are aware and looking for them.
Two Ways Not to be Tricked
- Watch for FACT and FICTION
Look at the evidence, but don’t trust the conclusions that atheists draw from it.
They expertly mix the objective evidence with their subjective opinions and wishes. So be skeptical, doubtful, of their interpretations. (Other words to describe this would be bias, prejudice, lack of objectivity, or presuppositional stance.)
For example, a popular TV science host uses the time-proven formula for deception, that used by Satan in the Garden of Eden: truth, truth, then untruth. With this approach, he has managed to deceive people, especially youths, into believing that God neither exists or is necessary. In fact, he ridicules believers.
Example of Mixing facts with Untruth: Early Earth and the Origin of Life
In this example regarding the origin of life, a top media scientist presents two true facts, but draws a false conclusion. The conclusion seems true because the premises are true, but not related:
True Premise: Early earth had harsh conditions
True Premise: There are bacteria that live in harsh conditions today
FALSE Conclusion: Bacteria like these could have arisen in early earth
The clever argument sounds convincing, and probably convinces almost everyone that watches. Only people who know a about logic or microbiology – and you if you are suspicious – can detect the error.
The problem is that the bacteria which can survive in these conditions are not primitive. They are very sophisticated. Bacteria, like those in their example which survive in extreme heat and salt, need special membranes with complex systems like salt pumps. These are not present in simple organisms. The true argument should be more like this:
Premise: Early earth had harsh conditions
Premise: Only complex organisms can survive in harsh conditions
Conclusion: Simple organisms would not survive on early earth
QUESTION: Perhaps you say, “I am not the most logical person, and I am certainly not an expert in every branch of science. How can I keep from being deceived?”
ANSWER: Don’t be tricked. Now you know the formula: mix facts with falsehood – more facts than falsehood so that it sounds convincing. When reading or listening, try to separate the facts from their interpretation.
Facts are something that we can prove, for example, that some bacteria can exist in extreme conditions. Then look for assumptions and opinions, like the idea that it means life originated in hot, salty water.
- DON’T BE SHAKEN
Don’t jump at the first few reports of a discovery.
Dr. Cynthia learned this studying medicine. There are always reports coming out of medicines that cure everything, or “amazing” discoveries. Discoveries need to be repeated and confirmed by other groups in different places, in order to be certain.
Dr. C, and most physicians, wait until treatments and practices are solidly confirmed before putting confidence in them. This is called “the standard of practice.” There are research institutions that try new things; but they need to let patients know that the treatment is unproven. In America they must review the risks and benefits before using it.
So don’t be shaken when you hear of new discoveries that appear to contradict the idea of God, or what you learned in this lesson. Wait for more evidence to appear.
For example, two areas of active investigation now, in which new information is being reported that might shake you are:
- LIFE on OTHER PLANETS: analysis of meteors and other space matter to determine if life could exist on other planets:
- evidence of water in space would not be surprising – much of the universe is water
- even if there were other planets with life, we know that anything anywhere was created by God (John 1:3, Colossians 1:16)
- GENETIC TESTING to determine the age and history of early humans
- sophisticated techniques are being used which are good; but the findings are early and incomplete.
- The methods have a wide variation of interpretation, especially with dating
- Europeans appear to have some DNA in common with hominids, non-human primates called Neanderthals. The reasons are not clear yet: interbreeding or independent adaptation to the climate are options.
- Humans are all related, but it’s not proven to one man and woman.
- It could be, if Eve’s eggs were genetically mixed.
- It’s good that we are all related. Evolution supports racism. Creation does not.
Again, these and other findings are being investigated now. Don’t be shaken, and don’t reconstruct theology around findings which could be disproven in a few more years.
Appendix # 2 Stumbling Blocks to Believing in God
Besides their misunderstanding of science, there are a few other stumbling blocks to believing in God which we commonly see:
Stumbling block 1: The Problem of Evil/Suffering/Pain
The world is full of pain and suffering. Some things happen which are downright evil. All of us experience these. None of us like it. Evil and suffering are not exactly the same; but their negative power make people doubt that there is a God.
In general, people tend to think that if they are good, nothing bad will happen to them. Often they think, if something bad happens to you, you deserve it. Certainly people can bring on bad results, and wisdom helps us live a safe and successful life; but the Bible warns us against “blaming the victim.” As Ecclesiastes 9:11 says,
“Time and chance happen to them all…so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.”
Examples from the Bible:
- HEALTH: The Book of Job in the Old Testament has the theme of “Why do the Righteous Suffer?”
- The answer is that they do, and that sometimes only God knows why, but we can count on him not to forsake us (Job 40-42)
- ACCIDENTS: Jesus explained to his followers that those who died when a tower fell were not more sinful than others. (Luke 13:4)
Modern Example of blaming the victim: Motor Vehicle Accident Autopsy.
Dr. C recalls an autopsy she did years ago at the Los Angeles Coroner’s office, on a 16 year old young man. He died in a car crash on a winding road – one that she herself used to take at his age. Externally, the young man showed little evidence of injury. His naked body lying on the autopsy table was well-formed and his face handsome.
She thought he looked like a dead Adonis, the handsome young man of legend. As they turned over his body to examine the back, Dr C said to her assistant, “His parents must be devastated!”
The assistant saw it otherwise. He replied harshly, “Aaaah…he was probably a spoiled brat!” His hardened attitude shocked Dr. C. She discovered it reflected his general view that those dead in the coroner’s office deserved what they got.
But most of the time, suffering leaves us puzzled. The Bible does tell us that God will reward his followers, but he does not promise an easy life. (Romans 8:28, John 16:33)
Other Religions and the Problem of Suffering/Evil
All religions and philosophies must address the problems of suffering and evil. Atheism probably finds it easiest, in explaining that natural process account for it all.
Because of their strong belief in fate, devout Muslims tend to accept suffering as the will of Allah, to be borne with patience. Alhamdulillah, praise Allah, is to be said in all circumstances.
However, some Muslims notice that most of the world’s conflicts occur in Muslims regions. The suffering resulting from these conflicts, and the often violent enforcement of Islam cause some to doubt it. They then doubt God’s existence as a consequence of doubting Islam.
Eastern religions see human suffering as the consequence of deeds from a past life, bad karma. Buddha agreed with reincarnation, but began a new religion to help his followers suffer less by detaching from everything in life – including people.
Subjective and Objective Views of Suffering/Evil
Objectively, there are 4 Main Causes of Suffering:
- from poor human choices
- at times we know, but keep doing something destructive any way
- examples: drugs, alcohol, dangerous hobbies, sexual misbehavior
- from people hurting people
- physically – crime, war, violence, cruelty
- from diseases
- others – cancer, immune, developmental
- from natural forces which keep the world running, but can also bring disasters
- hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanos, weather
- we can only predict and avoid some
The first two categories can be modified by human choices, the latter two less so. All of them are difficult to accept, and at times to understand.
Subjectively, human suffering is bad or worse. Dead bodies on a battlefield or starving children break our heart. We are outraged by crimes against humanity and war. The evil of Satanic ritual’s torture of children is unimaginable for most of us. Accidents and natural disasters scare and appall us. And if we survive these, we will eventually die from disease.
Some diseases and injuries can bring pain so severe that we want to stop living. Dr. C can never forget the pain of patients calling out for mercy, or her brother’s lifelong suffering with physical and mental disability. At times, death and eternity seem easier to accept than ongoing pain and distress.
The Logical Argument of Suffering/Evil
Worldwide, evil, suffering, and pain are probably the greatest stumbling blocks to believing in God. A famous skeptic, who publicly complains that his doubts about Christianity came from manuscript variants, in his book admits that it was actually the problem of Evil/Pain that made him abandon God. Many others say the same,
“If there is a God, Why do Suffering and Evil Exist?”
As an argument of logic it could be stated this way:
Premise: If God exists there would be no suffering or evil
Premise: Suffering and evil exist
Conclusion: God does not exist
Remember, to disprove the logic of a conclusion, we must show that a premise is wrong. If we examine the premises, what do we find? We find three underlying assumptions – things that are assumed to be true:
- God is good
- God would change things if he/she existed
- God could change things if he/she existed
But are these true?
- Some religions have evil gods.
- How do we know that God would change things? Maybe he/she has another plan?
- Could an omnipotent God have limitations?
Cultures built around monotheism tend to see God as omnipotent, all-powerful. Miracles happen when God steps in and changes the way things operate. But God doesn’t always step in, he allows suffering and evil.
Not in the video is Luke’s explanation for how an omnipotent God allows evil:
“God permits evil choices to maintain our free will. God can do all things which are possible; but when God made the decision to allow humans to freely choose good or evil, it became impossible to make them freely choose the good.”
Watch out for misattribution!
Misattribution in this sense means giving credit wrongly. It is easy to give Satan credit for the good in life – like fun, music, beauty – and God credit for the bad – like injustice and cruelty. Actually, the reverse is true. If we are not familiar with God’s word, and remind ourselves of it daily, we can easily fall for this trick of the enemy.
Can Evil Spirits Cause Diseases? We know from the Old Testament that evil spirits exist which are different and more powerful than us. They could take on human flesh and impregnate women (Psalm 8:5, Genesis 6:4). Human beings have learned how to clone, genetically engineer crops, and modify viruses for vaccines, etc. Dr. C thinks it is entirely possible that, having greater powers than humans and evil intentions, these spirits could genetically engineer bad things: infectious diseases, cancer cells, and even alter mosquitos to suck blood.
Sometimes good comes from pain or evil.
Examples: of Pain for Good.
- C hated making children cry to treat them, yet it was necessary. Sometimes even adults would cry out or faint. In order to heal patients, doctors must steel themselves against reacting to this.
- Older diabetics lose their sense of pain. As a result, they injure their feet. Sometimes they can’t even tell they are having a heart attack, as happened with Dr. C’s father-in-law.
These are only examples of good that comes from pain. We are too limited to know all of the good that comes, but one thing we know is that,
“Pain is God’s megaphone to the world.” said CS Lewis
He is right. A megaphone makes voices louder. Haven’t you noticed that people who ignore God, often speak to him when they suffer or face disaster? They ask, “Why God?” Pain helps them realize that life is not all fun and games. It helps prepare them for eternity, which is for their ultimate good.
Awareness of daily risks and the finality of death should keep us all humble and close to God.
(Note: See also Dr. C’s presentation in the videos and study guides for the Lesson on Suffering and Thanksgiving, and the Lesson on Human Relationships.)
Stumbling Block 2: Anger with God
Often people who don’t believe in God are angry with him. Does that make sense? How can we be angry with someone who doesn’t exist?
Possibly they are angry over suffering or wars they have experienced or observed. Perhaps their anger comes from a deep-seated belief that God actually does exist, and they hold him responsible for things they don’t like. When people are angry at God, you can ask:
Are you angry because God will judge people? or because he hasn’t judged them yet?
Let them talk about it. Perhaps together you can find the source of the anger. That can help heal it. God was there when the tragedy happened. He cared.
“For I the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward…”
“In all their distress, he too was distressed.” Isaiah 63:9 & 61:8
Stumbling Block 3: Disappointment with God
Muslims might become disappointed in the character of God/Allah that they have come to know in Islam. Syrian Wafa Sultan, our guest in another lesson, says it with the title of her book, A God Who Hates.
Others quit believing in God when prayer wasn’t answered: for example, healing of a loved one, a bad grade, loss of promotion, or a disappointing love life.
We must realize that we cannot make God be what we want. We cannot say,
“If he is real, God will be the way I want him to be.”
In many religions, ceremonies and gifts are essentially bribes to get something from the god. In contrast, Christians are in relationship with God. That means:
- We pray for what we think is best. But we must trust him to do what is best, even if we can’t see it.
- It is important to believe God is good. Otherwise we won’t trust him if we are disappointed. “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good” is the most common phrase in the Bible for a reason. (Romans 8:28, Psalm 118:1)
Disappointment is also a reason that Christians, including those from Muslim background, fall away from Christian faith.
Examples of disappointment: God didn’t do what expected
- A woman who had been a “good Christian” from her heart since childhood was surprised that life turned out to be so hard. She thought that if she obeyed the Bible, life would be smooth.
- Muslims who become Christians have often seen many answers to Christians’ prayers. They can be surprised to find that God is not obligated to answer our prayers the way we want. One said,
“I don’t pray. God doesn’t answer my prayers anymore.”
The solution is a better understanding of what a relationship between God and his follower means. If you find this is the problem with an atheist or backslidden Christian, try to help them through it.
Stumbling Block 4: Gender Issues
In the past few decades various kinds of gender issues have become major stumbling blocks to believing in God.
The originally wholesome movement for women’s rights, in which true Christian women have participated, has been largely derailed into promoting abortion and immorality. Now, women’s movements find the Bible, and the men who claim to represent it, unfair to women. These issues become of top importance to the women’s movements and other concerns, like the existence of a moral God, become of lesser importance.
(Note: Dr. C lectures on how the curse of Genesis 3 has influenced the treatment of women, and can be broken.)
Likewise, the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) movement. It has gained such popularity that even those who do not fit within those categories support it. Even though the Bible is clear that everyone sins, because the Bible mentions homosexuality and other forms of sexual immorality, the movement feels especially condemned.
Both these movements paint Bible-believers as intolerant and judgmental. Their anger at Christians, and the very thought of God, is not based on reason. It is an emotional distaste at the possible existence of a force which might disapprove of what they value.
The irony is that, atheists tend to be materialists – believing only in what is physical. Yet, although physical bodies tell people that they are male or female, LGBT “sense” that they are something else. That sense is not physical. “Cognitive dissonance” results, which means that their feelings are at odds with their beliefs. They believe they are only physical, yet they have a sense that it is not so.
Talking about the cognitive dissonance of physical evidence versus gender feeling could potentially help them understand their situation better and be more open to the gospel.
(Note: read more about cognitive dissonance in the Study Guide for Lesson on Looking for Truth in World Religions.)
Do not Covet
Wanting something that we don’t have, or can’t be – like changing our sex – could be covetous: breaking the 10th commandment. Coveting hurts us by bringing dissatisfaction, and misbehaviors. We are the happiest, when we learn to be content with who we are and what we have.
Stumbling Block 5: Race Issues
Resentment against races that have been strongly identified with God, can be a stumbling block to believing in God or becoming Christian for those not of that race. In this case they misdirect their attention to sins or errors of the people they dislike. We have heard this mainly against white Caucasians and Jews, from blacks, East Indians, and Caucasians.
You could devote time to defending those they attack. But it is better in the long run to point out that there are nominal believers and imperfect followers, then redirect their eyes to Jesus. In him there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. (Hebrews 12:2,3; Galatians 3:28)
Stumbling Block 6: Personal Preference
We all have personal preferences that impact what we believe in the subjective sense. For example, Dr. C and Luke do want to know the truth. They believe the evidence is much stronger for the existence of God than not. But even if the evidence were only equal, rather than godless emptiness,
- Luke would prefer to believe that there is a God, the high judge who will eventually straighten out all injustices.
- Dr. C would prefer to believe that there is a God, the loving Creator who made everything and cares about it.
The positive side of subjective we discussed above under “The God Gene” as the missing puzzle piece. On the negative side of subjective however, some atheists, including scientists, have admitted that they simply prefer not to believe in God. With this underlying motive, they accept the arguments against the existence of God, rather than the evidence for God, even if it is stronger.
- Usually, there is sin in their life that they know goes against what the God of the Bible teaches. Often it is sexual immorality. If they deny that God exists, they feel free to continue living however they want.
- But perhaps the deeper, underlying fear is the sense of obligation that one would have to their Creator as a Lord if they acknowledged him freely.
Misattribution, is probably involved:
- Naturalistic processes made the world, not God
- Their pleasures in life are due to Nature, rather than God
- A sense that “If I believed in God, I would lose myself and my pleasures.”
Appendix # 3 Causes of Atheism
(Note: This is a continuation from the section above on “Causes of Atheism”)
- Islam – see discussion in the main lesson
- Biased Education
Those raised in the United States school system will have had the philosophy of atheistic scientific materialism throughout their education.
And what about Christian young people? Studies and personal observations over the past decades have shown a that most of the young people raised in Christian homes leave the faith when they enter college. Why?
- Almost every class presents the atheistic viewpoint, sometimes ridiculing Christians
- Young Christians were not adequately trained in apologetics (why to believe the faith). Many cite that their questions were not adequately answered by the church.
- Inadequate spiritual support in their new environment. There are Christian clubs on campus, but they do not always fit with the students’ schedules. Needing to find a church in their new area, along with all the other duties might seem too much for them.
It seems easier for many people to simply go through life ignoring the Big Questions:
Where am I going? What am I here for? Where will I go after I die?
Even near the end of life, when you think these questions would be looming, if people have trained their brains to ignore them for so long, even then they do not or cannot, consider what is of ultimate importance.
“Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.”
This popular saying, originally by Aristotle and commonly quoted, emphasizes the power of the first years of life in making us who we are. If you are a parent, or other adult who has raised children, you have probably already sensed this.
A child’s mind and emotions are like a blank computer system. What we say, and how we treat them create the connections that will program how they act and feel for the rest of their lives. Here are two models where atheism can be part of a person since childhood.
Model #1 Good Family
In this setting, a child’s family is relatively “normal,” meaning providing security and shelter for the child and making them feel loved. If the parents are atheists, and teach that worldview, it is likely that the child will simply absorb the view from their parents and become atheist – unless some crisis or other situation intervenes (for example a romantic relationship, a challenging friend, etc.).
Model #2 Deprived of Care
The best example of this is called Reactive Attachment Disorder (known as RAD). Classical examples are Romanian orphanages and the American foster care settings.
Infants have a Satisfaction Cycle of:
need – crying – provision – satisfaction
Infants’ physical needs include food and physical comfort (diaper changing), and psychological needs like gentle touch, and comforting speech or singing. There needs to be at least one person that they can attach to in the belief that they care. If an infant’s needs are met, their brain becomes programmed that someone cares. Life is good.
Physical abuse is very damaging. But in the long run, it has been found that neglect is worse. Children who suffer with no one who cares, especially early on, learn to trust no one. Even God.
Orphanage setting: An infant in the orphanage setting can easily be deprived of provision and affection during its very important first year of life. Dr. C has studied and experienced the results of this first hand.
Foster Care: With more and more disturbed families, drug abuse and crime, the number of children in foster care is increasing. In the foster care setting, children are placed in a family that is not their own on a temporary basis, usually by court order.
Often these temporary situations drag on for years in uncertainty, while the court decides what to do with the child. As a result, these children end up moving from foster home to foster home. In short stays they don’t have time to bond to a caregiver. Perhaps as bad or worse, if they do attach then must leave the foster home, they often feel that the caregiver no longer cares, even if they do. As a result, they grow up feeling disconnected and unloved – unattached emotionally.
Sadly worse, some foster families are not good. They take in children not as a calling, but for the support money. Neglect, abuse, and even sexual molestation can occur. In this setting, children deeply sense that no one cares for them, and may actually live in fear.
Absent Father: It is said that we attribute to God the attitudes of our earthly fathers. As more and more children are raised without earthly fathers, we can expect negative attitudes about God, and denial of his existence. A look into the background of prominent atheists has shown that many of them lacked a caring father.
We have also found that the absence or attitude of Muslims’ fathers impacts how they think of God. In some Islamic families the father is distant or harsh. Polygamous fathers may support more than one family, stretching his time and resources. Or the father may have died in one of the many Islamic conflicts across the globe. Or, as with one case we know, the divorced father, who gets custody in Islam, removed the child from its mother and put him in the care of the rival wife, who neglected him.
RESULT: When a child is neglected to the point that they believe that no one cares, negative behaviors emerge. They feel that they must fend for themselves. No one else matters. God, if he exists at all, cannot be trusted. If no earthly parent cared for them, how can they believe that a heavenly parent cares?
HEALING: Attachment disorder can be repaired. It takes time and special training in psychology of the disorder since the “unconditional love” of usual Christian parenting does not work. Coming to understand that Christians are adopted into God’s family can also help heal the wound. (Romans 8:15-17)
Appendix # 4 Developing a Personal Apologetic Testimony
Note: Similar material is in the study guide for “Lesson on Why Believe the Bible?”
A PAT is a Personal Apologetic Testimony
In the New Testament, 1 Peter 3:15 says, “If you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.”
When teaching apologetics, Dr. Cynthia encourages participants to, “Develop a PAT and get it down pat.” A PAT explains the reasons why you believe what you believe, and how they impact your life. It’s a great tool for all Christians to develop, because it gives us an opportunity to reflect on the reasons for our faith, and to strengthen it.
(Note to English learners: to get something “down pat,” means to learn it well.)
Today’s lesson gives you a good opportunity to think about the reasons that you personally believe in God, and given the opportunity, how to express them to others.
In Spirit and in Truth
In the study guide above on “Does God Exist?” we spoke about objective and subjective information: facts and feelings. We pointed out that human beings are physical, but are in the image of God and have a consciousness.
In John 4, Jesus told us that God wants us to worship him both objectively and subjectively – in spirit and in truth. We think that a good PAT will bring both to your listeners. The objective facts will prevent your listeners from discounting your testimony as simply emotional. But ending with a bit of subjective testimony could touch their spirit as well.
How to Prepare a PAT
Since today’s topic is “Does God Exist?” let’s focus a PAT on why you believe in God. Consider, what are your favorite objective arguments for God? They might be ones we covered in the lesson, or others.
3 Steps to a PAT:
- Objective: Pick 3 reasons for the existence of God that are most convincing to you
- Subjective: Pick one reason that you personally feel God is real
- Combine: Practice combining them in ways that would:
- appeal to the needs of different people you might know or likely meet
- could be varied in length from 2 to 15 minutes
A PAT is as individual as you are. There is no right or wrong PAT. What we want to encourage is that you think about some realreasons for why you believe in God – something besides “I believe because my pastor, or Iman, told me so,” or, “I believe there is no God, because then I can do whatever I want.”
Maybe your PAT is complex, with many points, and might even include some of the evidence we share in this or other study guides.
Perhaps your PAT is simply, “From what I’ve seen in the world, nothing comes from nothing.” Or, “If my old watch falls apart, I think it will take more than shaking it in a bag for a million years to put it back together. So I don’t believe we could have the universe without an intelligent designer.”
People consider the source of who is speaking. If you already know who you are speaking to, and they respect you, you will not need to introduce yourself. Otherwise, if you think that your background contributes to your PAT, you might want to introduce yourself. Present yourself in a way that naturally leads in to your PAT.
Know your Audience
Be sensitive to the needs of whom you are speaking to. Your PAT should vary in emphasis, depending on whom you are sharing it with a Muslim, an atheist, or a child.
Some people have big “heart needs” and will want to hear more about how God showed his love to you. On the other hand, testimony based simply on feelings or a miracle will not hold up to the attacks of someone who wants objective facts. They could say,
“Well, you can believe that if it makes you feel good, but I don’t feel it. It isn’t real to me.”
People usually make decisions based on how they feel, so ending with something that touches their spirit is a good idea. Feelings are real, but unstable. We need stable faith based on facts; one that is not blind, and extends beyond feelings. Spirit and Truth.
Example of a PAT: Dr. C
Since Dr. C dealt with death on a daily basis in her medical work, her PAT explains how she cannot deny that we are going to die. Since this is so, why we are here? Where do we go after we die? These are questions of the utmost importance. Then she explains to her listeners the scientific and other reasons that she believes in God, and the salvation presented in the Bible.
But don’t feel that you need to be a doctor or a scientist to have a PAT. Everyone has reasons for what they believe. A PAT is just recognizing what your reasons are and learning to express them.
(Note: Some of you might recognize that a PAT uses the classical Logos, Pathos, Ethos form of argument found to be persuasive since the days of antiquity.)
© Copyright by Christian from Muslim, 2020. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Does God Exist?
Download FREE PDF Version: Lesson on the Introducing the Bible to Muslims
Summary and Notes
Quick summary: The Bible is a large book which can be intimidating to those who don’t know it. In this video lesson and study guide, we explain to Muslims, and Christians teaching Muslims: the purposes of the Bible, how it is organized, and good places to start reading.
(Note: for a fuller understanding, we recommend that you also view these video lessons and study guides:
- Why Believe the Bible? and Inspiration of the Bible for understanding the authenticity of the Bible and how it came to be
- The Bible and the Qur’an for aspects of the Bible which are different from the Qur’an, so Muslims can know what to expect with the Bible, and
- Bible Study Tools which gives assistance with how to study and meditate on the Bible.)
Reality – Washington D.C. and MAPS in Life
This reality clip takes you to Washington D.C. with Dr. Cynthia and Huda. Besides seeing a few sights of the area, you are encouraged to think about the importance of a map, cell phone, or GPS in helping you find your way around a strange place.
In a way, earth is also a strange place. It is a planet we are attached to for “our life on earth.” Growing up, we learn how to live within the expectations of our families and cultures, to succeed or simply to stay out of trouble.
We should also all think about where we came from, what we are doing on earth, and where we are going when we die. What “map” guides our lives? Is it the Qur’an? The Bible? Or simply our impulse of the moment?
Read the Bible to Nourish Your Soul, not for Points
With Bible Teacher Mark
As we discuss in another lesson, Muslims believe they get points toward paradise by reading the Qur’an – that is if they read or recite it in Arabic. The number of points they expect to accrue depend on factors such as the number of times they read/recite it, the time of the Islamic calendar in which they do it, and even the quality of their accent in Arabic.
Because each letter of the Qur’an is thus believed to counteract 10-40 bad deeds, you can see why a Qur’anic teacher once strongly insisted to Dr. C,
“No! I don’t need a savior! I have been reciting the Qur’an since I was little!”
Understanding this, you can see that those reading the Bible who come from a Muslim background would likely have different expectations than those from a Christian or other background.
Bible Teacher Mark explains to Dr. C and our viewers that Christians do not read the Bible for points. He calls the blessing of reading the Bible, “Nourishment for the soul.”
Salvation and eternal life in heaven are gifts we receive by humble faith, not by effort. The benefit of reading the Bible is to let it purify our minds, and let hope, faith, and truth enter it. We then attempt to live out the Word of God, not for points toward salvation or heaven, but for our own encouragement and to please the Lord.
Introduction to the Bible
The Qur’an says that the holy writings that came before them contain guidance and light. It says that Christians should judge by what is in the Injeel, or New Testament. We agree with that! We want to share that guidance and light, so that others will find eternal life.
As we discuss in another lesson, although Muslims know some about the Bible, they have different terms for portions of it, and those terms don’t neatly fit with how the Bible is put together. So, they are usually clueless about the Bible’s structure, and much of what it contains.
What is the Bible and how is it put together?
Watch us explain it in the video lesson to former Muslim Huda, who wants to know about the Bible. Huda already knows that the Bible is the Word of God. Dr. C tells her that is true!
In learning about the Bible, Muslims are usually interested to find books written before Jesus, called the Old Testament, as well as books written after him, called the New Testament.
Both the words “testament” and “covenant” mean “agreement.” So, the Bible contains the writings under the old and new agreements of God with people. The Old Testament is generally considered the agreement of Law, and the New Testament the agreement of Grace.
The Bible is Also
- God’s message to us
- The story of God and us
- God’s love letter to us, and
- The book which explains the way of salvation
Like a News Article, the Bible Answers the Big Questions of Life
Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How
|Who?||God and us|
|What happened?||Bible stories|
|What does God expect of us?||Walking with God|
|When did salvation come?||With Jesus the Messiah|
|Where did we come from and Where are we going?||Creation, heaven and hell|
|Why are we on earth?||God’s plan for us|
|How should we live and get to know God?||New Testament letters|
You should know that Bibles include a table of contents before Genesis, the first book. This shows you the names of the various books within the Bible, and what pages they begin on. Until you learn the order of the books, you will probably want to refer to the table of contents often. That way you will gain familiarity with the books, and find what you want to read, such as the verses we refer to in our lessons.
There are a total of 66 books in the Bible: 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Most books of the Bible are much longer than surahs of the Qur’an.
Introducing the Old Testament to Muslims
What’s in the Old Testament?
If you are Muslim, you already know the names of some of the Old Testament characters, and call them “prophets.” You have heard that they received holy books from God. But not a lot is written about them in the Qur’an, and the Qur’an itself refers to the Bible for more details. So, it is a real blessing for Christians to be able to share with you Muslims that we actually have the preserved writings by and about characters you know!
The Old Testament contains the Torah, which includes the first five books of the Bible, and is known to Muslims as the Taurat. These five books of the Torah include Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Sometimes the Torah is called the Law, or the Books of Moses, since he is most closely associated with them. Since Muslims know of the Torah, it is relatively easy to explain to them that part of the Old Testament.
Genesis, called Taqueen in Arabic, means “Beginnings” in both languages. It tells us how people were created and the beginnings of society groups and practices. For example, here we meet Muslim “prophets” Adam, Noah (Nuh in the Qur’an), Abraham (Ibrahim), and Ishmael (Ismael). In Exodus we find Moses (Musa in the Qur’an), Miriam, and Amran (Imram), whom Muslims know of.
Muslims are also aware of Sarah, Joseph, David, Solomon, and a few others in the Bible. Both the Qur’an and the Bible have a book called Jonah (Yunus).
Several Old Testament characters are actually common personal names for Muslims. Dr. C has found that a good way to spark interest in Muslims to read the Bible, is to present to them a passage discussing their namesake. We can also interest Middle Easterners by sharing positive Bible stories set in their country – like the repentance of Nineveh for Iraqis, Darius and Esther for Persians, and the Wise Men of the East in the Christmas story.
Muslims also know the Psalms of the Old Testament, which they call the Zabur. But the Old Testament has many other books that Muslims don’t have and haven’t heard of. These include books of history, wisdom books, and the prophets.
Although Muslims in general know that there were many prophets, in our experience they are not familiar with the Old Testament books of the prophets or history, so these will be new material for them. It is wonderful that the Bible preserves the words of so many previous prophets.
The books of the prophets are divided into the “major,” and the “minor” prophets. This distinction is based on the length of their writings, not their importance. These books give messages to people like kings, warnings to the people in general, and prophecies of things we see come to pass, such as the destruction of wicked civilizations.
Especially important are the Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah Jesus Christ. We discuss the prophecies of Jesus in more detail elsewhere, but here are a few of the best ones: Isaiah 9:6,7 & 11:1-5 & 53, Psalm 22, Micah 5:2, and Jeremiah 31:31.
Now let’s look at an important passage from the Old Testament.
Psalm 23 with Rev. Bob Siegel
The video lesson presents to you a well-loved psalm. Psalm 23 is one of the all-time favorite Bible passages of Bible-believers, both Jews and Christians, who are known together in Islam as People of the Book.
This poem, or “psalm,” is from what Islam calls the Zabur. Psalms are a type of poetry which does not depend on rhyme – that way the poems work in any language. Among other techniques, psalmists used are word pictures. That is what prophet and king David (Daoud) did in Psalm 23.
Psalm 23 is one of the many poems and songs to God which were written by David while he was still a shepherd boy, watching his father’s sheep in the hills above Bethlehem.
In the days of David and beyond, in Bible times many of the population were familiar with raising sheep and could easily identify with this psalm. Our culture is out of touch with the life of a shepherd; yet modern day shepherds have pointed out that every detail of the psalm relates to the real-life experiences of sheep and shepherds.
Psalm 23 draws a simple, yet profound word picture. David, as he writes under the power of the Holy Spirit, describes himself as a sheep, and God as his good shepherd. When we read or recite it, we also visualize ourselves as a helpless sheep, cared for by its master.
It is interesting that prophecies of the Messiah spoke of him as a shepherd (Isaiah 40:11, Ezekiel 37:24-28). Jesus called himself The Good Shepherd. He taught that the Good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep. That is exactly what he did for us! (Read what Jesus said about this shepherd in John 10:1-18.)
The message of Psalm 23 is that God cares deeply for those who follow him. He actively provides for and protects us throughout all the seasons of our lives. When we die, it will not be the end, for our shepherd will take us to live with him in his heavenly home.
Because its words are comforting, this psalm is commonly read at Christian funerals, or recited in times of trial. For example, Dr. C recites it in her mind while in the dentist chair!
Apologist Bob Siegel, of Jewish background now a Christian pastor, shares with us that Psalm 23 is one of his favorite Bible passages. During his journey from Judaism to Christianity, Siegel has faced many challenges. The words of this psalm have comforted him. He is especially glad to know that surely goodness and mercy will follow him all the days of his life and he will live with the Lord forever.
Siegel recites for us from memory Psalm 23 in an old-fashioned translation of English. If you are new to English, you might find it difficult to understand. Here it is in the simple, New International Reader’s Version:
The Lord is my shepherd; he gives me everything I need.
He lets me lie down in fields of green grass.
He leads me besides quiet waters.
He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths for the honor of his name.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid.
You are with me.
Your shepherd’s rod and staff comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me right in front of my enemies.
You pour oil on my head.
My cup runs over.
I am sure that your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.
And I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
Now that you know more about Psalm 23, perhaps you also would like to memorize, in a translation that speaks to your heart?
Introducing the New Testament to Muslims
Why the New Testament?
The Qur’an tells us that Jesus brought a book. Actually, the Injeel, as Muslims call the New Testament, was written not by Jesus, but by his followers in the decades after his death and resurrection.
We learn in the New Testament how the Old Testament’s teachings and predictions were fulfilled. The New Testament does not cancel or “abrogate” the Old Testament, rather it fulfills it.
(We discuss the Muslim Doctrine of Abrogation elsewhere.)
Jesus told his followers that having his new teachings alongside the Old Testament was like adding new treasures to old,
“Every Teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven
is like the owner of a house. He brings new treasures out of his storeroom as well as old ones.” Matthew 13:52 (NIRV)
Some Muslims and other unbelievers say that it is bad that Jesus did not write the New Testament himself. Muslims believe that the book that Jesus wrote, the true Injeel, has been corrupted and basically lost.
If Christians don’t know better, this criticism can worry them that somehow a mistake was made. They might think that Jesus should have written it himself, or that the New Testament is not accurate because it was written after Jesus went to heaven. They might develop unnecessary doubts. (See also Why Believe the Bible?)
Actually, it is good that Jesus did not write the New Testament himself. Here’s why:
In the Old Testament, the prophecies about Jesus the Messiah as God, and his sacrifice for our sins were so strongly stated, that the church began with Jesus’ followers teaching from the Old Testament. By teaching from the Old Testament, the disciples were referring to existing scripture that people respected, rather than simply giving their own opinion.
Before his death, Jesus referred to the Old Testament prophecies as one of the three greatest witnesses confirming who he was and what he was doing (see John 5). After his resurrection, Jesus instructed his followers in how these prophecies applied to him in detail.
“Jesus explained to them what was said about himself in all the scriptures. He began with Moses and all the prophets.” Luke 24:27 (NIRV)
So, the disciples were trained, and prepared to use the prophecies correctly once the Holy Spirit had empowered them. There was no need to wait to write new material. New material would not then have had the same authority that the Old Testament scriptures did.
People in Jerusalem and Israel already knew that Jesus did amazing miracles and then died on the cross. Building upon this, the disciples explained that it had happened in fulfillment of Old Testament promises. The entire city witnessed the fulfillment of those prophecies. The disciples’ task was simply to remind them of all that had happened, and explain how it fit with the scriptures they knew. Then they testified that Jesus rose from the dead to prove who he was and what he said.
On the Day of Pentecost, when the church began, the Apostle Peter preached a sermon quoting Old Testament prophecies. He ended by saying,
“God has raised this same Jesus back to life. We are all witnesses of this.” Acts 2:32
Another original disciple of Jesus, the Apostle John also emphasized that they were witnesses of the fulfilled prophecies. (1 John 1:1-3).
The prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31 that there would be a New Covenant or Testament explains why Jesus teaching of a new way of living was accepted by his disciples, and later by those who joined the church. It makes way for Christianity and the New Testament. Without the old prophecies, there would be no sound basis for Jesus to introduce a new agreement with God.
By the time the New Testament actually was written, the church had grown. People believed the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled. Many miracles had happened through church leaders. By then, Christians honored the words of the disciples and apostles of Jesus. They wanted to read about their lives with Jesus – the gospels. And for its health and future, the church needed the specific instructions and theology originally written in the letters of Jesus disciples, now saved in the New Testament.
What a unique and wonderful beginning! There is no other religion that began with such power and proof as the Christian faith. That includes Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, Sikhism, the Moonies and atheism, (which functions like a religion).
What is in the New Testament?
The New Testament contains the holy writings that came after Jesus Christ. It is much smaller than the Old Testament. The New Testament is similar in size to the entire Qur’an.
The New Testament contains 27 books:
- Four gospels, those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which tell of the life and teachings of Jesus by his early followers.
- The Acts of the Apostles is the story of the early church.
- There are, 21 Letters to the churches, also known as “Epistles,” that were written by apostles like Peter and Paul. They talk about theology – God and his grace and salvation through Jesus – and how to live a Christian life.
- Simple summaries of some of the New Testament letters: If you are looking for-
- the theological basics of Christianity, you might want to read Romans or Hebrews
- the relationship of law and grace, Galatians
- a positive outlook on faith, Philippians
- an eternal perspective, Ephesians
- a view of Christ in us, Colossians
- The final book, Revelation, is composed of prophecies from visions given to the Apostle John while he was in exile on the island of Patmos. Besides messages to 7 specific churches in Asia Minor, it touches on the end of the world, Christ’s return, the final judgment, and what heaven will be like.
Example from the New Testament, Romans 8
For those unfamiliar with the Bible, here is a lovely sample of encouragement from the New Testament. It is a favorite of Dr. C and others, who memorize it to help them in times of trials.
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…What shall we say then? Since God is on our side, who can be against us? God did not spare his own son. He gave him up for us all. Then won’t he also freely give us everything else?
Who can bring any charge against God’s chosen ones? God makes us right with himself. Then who can sentence us to death? No one. Christ Jesus is at the right hand of God and is also praying for us. He died. More than that, he was raised to life.
Who can separate us from Christ’s love? Can trouble or hard times or harm or hunger? Can nakedness or danger or war? … No! in all these things we are more than winners! We owe it all to Christ, who has loved us.
I am absolutely sure that not even death or life can separate us from God’s love. Not even angels or demons, the present or the future, or any powers can separate us. Not even the highest places or the lowest, or anything else in all creation can separate us. Nothing at all can ever separate us from God’s love. That’s because of what Christ Jesus our Lord has done.” Romans 8:28-39 (NIRV)
Where to start reading the Bible?
Huda, like most new believers, asks in the video, “Where do I start reading the Bible?” This is an important question. The Bible is a very large book, and although every part is important, some places are definitely better for a new believer to start reading than others.
Old Testament. For many Muslims a good place to start reading the Bible is the first book, Genesis, because its characters are already familiar to Muslims.
New Testament. It is also important for seekers and new believers to learn about Jesus, and how to live a Christian life.
In the New Testament, the Gospel of John is great favorite among Christians for its beautiful and spiritual analogies of Jesus. But the refreshingly powerful Sermon on the Mount is in the Gospel of Matthew, where it fills chapters 5-7. Muslims should not miss it, so that would also be an excellent place to start. And Matthew also points out how Jesus fulfilled prophecies.
Or you could start reading the Bible with the Gospel of Mark, which being the shortest gospel is very fast-paced and gives a quick view of the life of Jesus. Since it is thought to be the earliest gospel, it is one that Muslim critics of Christianity are most likely to accept: yet even it shows the remarkable and unique person of Jesus Christ and portrays his god-like attributes.
And finally, as Dr. C points out in the video, you can start reading the Bible based on what is being studied at your church or in your Bible study group, or with the person that is discipling you. Or you can look up passages which encourage you for whatever you are going through in life at the time.
You might have noticed that at the end of each of our study guides there is a list of the scripture references used in the video lesson and study guide. Reading through this list would also be a good way to start studying the Bible. It would also have the added benefits of reinforcing and helping you remember what you learned in the lessons, and give you experience in finding your way around the Bible.
- II Corinthians 5:17
- The Bible’s Table of Contents
- Isaiah 9:6,7 & 11:1-5 & 53
- Psalm 22
- Micah 5:2
- Jeremiah 31:31
- Psalm 23
- Isaiah 40:11
- Ezekiel 37:24-28
- John 10:1-18
- Matthew 13:52
- John 5:31-40
- Luke 24:27
- Acts 2:32
- I John 1:1-3
- Matthew, especially 5-7
- Romans 8:28-39
- The Bible has Guidance and light – Surah 5:46
- Christians should judge by what is revealed in the New Testament (Injeel) – Surah 5:47
- Do you see the Bible as a map for life?
- What guides for life might people use who either don’t believe the Bible, or don’t bother to read and follow it?
- Reflect on the concepts presented above, of the benefits of reading the Bible versus reading the
Qur’an. What thoughts do you have?
- Are you surprised to know that Muslims are familiar with Biblical characters?
- Do you know any Muslims with names of Bible characters?
- Think about them now and pray for them.
- You might want to write down their names and come back to the list often to pray.
- What parts of the Bible do Muslims know exist and have names for? (review if necessary)
- What books are essentially unknown to them?
- Bob Siegel recounts the blessing Psalm 23 has been in his life.
- Is there a special Old Testament passage that has been meaningful to you?
- Can you think of a way that you might some time share it with a Muslim?
- What New Testament passage might you use to introduce a Muslim to the Bible?
- Brainstorm: what ways can you think of to use Muslims’ knowledge of Biblical characters and
books to interest them in the Bible?
- How would you explain to a Muslim, or a new believer in Jesus, the importance of the Bible
in a Christian’s life?
- Would you be able to explain to someone a relationship between the Old and New Testaments?
- If not, consider how you understand it yourself, and what you might need to learn to
comfortably explain it.
- If not, consider how you understand it yourself, and what you might need to learn to
- Are you surprised that the Qur’an says that the Bible contains “guidance and light?”
- We go into the reasons for this in other lessons,
- but for today’s lesson, can you think of any way that you could use that claim of the Qur’an to help introduce the Bible to Muslims?
© Copyright by Christian from Muslim, 2020. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Do we have to have a miracle before we can believe in Jesus Christ? Dr. Cynthia enlists the opinions of her special guests Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, Rev. Bob Siegel, and Rev. George Houssney on the place for miracles.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Looking for Truth in World Religions
Program Summary and Notes:
Quick Summary: People are searching for Truth. This lesson provides guidelines for those wondering which religion is true. To assist them, we present tools for how to objectively evaluate religions’ claims. For example, we show how to use basic logic to compare the teachings of various religions.
We also provide “keys.” Using these, we can determine if anything, everything, or nothing is true. We take a look at expectations and pitfalls. And we especially examine Eastern Religions, which so many people are now finding an attractive alternative to monotheistic faiths.
(Note: See also Lesson on Does God Exist? where we address that question specifically. Both these lessons are directed to seekers, but also serve to strengthen the faith and provide apologetics training for believers.)
Reality: Mosques in America with former Muslim Huda
Huda and Dr. Cynthia have been on a road trip since early morning, 8 hours earlier. Messy and tired, they come across a mosque. Huda expresses frustration at the number of mosques being built in America. Dr. C grabs the camera and films her response for our video.
As Huda sees it, she had no choice about which religion she would follow until she came to America, far into adulthood. She wishes she had been free to choose her religion in the Middle East.
Huda points out the impossible challenges Christians face when trying to build churches in the Middle East, compared with the ease with which Muslims can build mosques in America. She strongly feels this is unfair. Muslims should build mosques in their own countries, not America, Huda tells us.
Dr. C, in the background, reminds her that the United States has freedom of religion. Huda says she fears that Americans will lose their freedoms if Islam takes root, by building mosques. For example, she has said, “If Islam gains power in America, then women will be nothing again.”
Being reality, this video clip exposes Huda’s gut reaction to Mosques in America. It also reflects the Middle Eastern attitude, still held even now that she is a Christian, that a country can limit religious freedom. There are views that we are raised with that are difficult to change, even when living in a different country and with a new religion.
Do not fear however: we are not saying that there should be no mosques in America. As Dr. C explains later in the video lesson, because of Freedom of Religion, we do allow Mosques in America.
Which Religion is True?
Why Muslims Look for Truth
Seeing much violence and violation of human rights in Muslim countries, many in Islam are discouraged and doubting. First, they doubt Islam. Then, since they have been told that Islam is the final revelation of God with his final prophet, they doubt the existence of God as well. Some ask, “How do I find the Truth?”
A vast number of secular people in the West, raised without religion, are also looking for something to believe. Can we really help them find the truth? Or is all we can do shout that we have the truth, and hope they believe us?
Can we find Truth?
We believe that it is possible to compare religions objectively, meaning in a factual way. This lesson helps you do that.
“But,” you might say, “I don’t have time to look deeply into everything. And I’m not very educated. If smart people still argue about what is true after all this time, how can I figure it out? I might make a wrong choice. And if I choose a religion different than that of my culture I could face real trouble. I wouldn’t want that! What if I choose the wrong one and suffer anyway? Doesn’t it make sense to follow what everyone around me believes? I will trust my Imam.”
Jesus in the Injeel tell us to,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37
Your Ability. Some people have a greater brain ability than others. Those who are very intelligent or educated are expected to use their great ability to learn and to reason more. They should honor God by looking diligently for Truth. Jesus said,
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” Luke 12:48
What if your intelligence and education are not so good? God expects less. He is merciful and compassionate. God does not expect more from you than you can do. In fact, it is very comforting to remember that Jesus defended a woman with these words,
“She did what she could.” Mark 14:8
Example: the Parable of the Talents. In the Injeel, the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus told us a parable, a story with meaning. It explained that people are given different abilities. They are expected to act according to what they have received. If they are very gifted, much is expected. But even the one who has little is expected to do what he can, and is scolded when he does not. (Matthew 25:14-30)
The Bible tells us that God honors it when we use our minds, not simply believe whatever we are told. For example the people in Berea,
“…were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11 (KJV)
“Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” I Thessalonians 5:21,22
And if you are Muslim, consider these ayah from the Qur’an:
“Produce your proof if you are truthful.” Qur’an al Baqarah 2:111
(Note: This is how the Qur’an challenges the Christians and Jews.)
“When it is said to them, ‘Follow what Allah has sent down.” They say, ‘Nay. We shall follow what we found our fathers following.’” Qur’an, al Baqarah, 2:170
(Note: The Islamic commentary on this says it means that you should follow God’s way, not simply what your parents did. We agree!)
So, to the best of your ability, you are encouraged to find out the truth. God expects that of you. According to both the Bible and the Qur’an, it is good for you to examine proof of religions, and use your mind. It is not good to simply follow what your parents and grandparents did.
Again, you are not expected to do more than you can do, but you are expected to do what you can. If you don’t like to read, you can watch videos online, like the ones at here on this website. And there is material available in almost every language online somewhere.
Example: Former Muslim Huda. Part of Huda’s journey to becoming a Christian was learning about Jesus and Christian practices and loving them. But she also looked for the truth. As Huda says in another of our videos,
“I can’t believe that for so long my eyes were blind. I did not know the true religion. Now there is more opportunity if people try to search for the truth.”
(Note: See also the short video of Huda on Islam in either English or Arabic.)
Expectations in Looking for Truth
Dr. C says in looking for Truth, these expectations are important:
- God expects you to do your best in looking for truth – not more, not less
- Expect to find some truth in every religion or philosophy
- If there were none, no one would follow it
- Some truth does not mean that the entire religion is correct
- Don’t be surprised or sidetracked by this
- Expect to find deception. Remember, Satan in the Garden of Eden showed us the best way of deception is 2 to 1:
- Truth, truth, and a lie – tell two truths for every untruth
- This is what we can expect from many false religions
- Also popular science teachers/documentaries which preach the religion of atheistic materialism: a few scientific facts, then falsehood twisted in.
- Most people are fooled by this strategy, so beware!
- Expect some similarities between all religions
- especially if they are related, like many Eastern Religions
- and monotheistic faiths
- this doesn’t mean they are all the same
- Expect to find some things that you don’t understand in every religion or philosophy
- being complicated doesn’t mean it is true
- don’t get confused and give up
- for example by trying to understand all the levels of Buddhist and Daoist realms, or interpretations of Biblical future prophecies
- Focus on major beliefs and the evidence for them
- Don’t get sidetracked by something that:
- you like (for example Eastern Meditation)
- you don’t like (having only one wife in Christianity, or the way some people of a faith dress)
- a minor belief, possibly an interpretation
- as Dr. C likes to quote, “The Main thing is to keep the Main thing the Main thing!”
- Don’t get sidetracked by something that:
MAJOR WORLD RELIGIONS
Our lessons primarily address Christianity and Islam; but since Muslims are turning to Eastern Religions, let’s look at some of the major ones.
Most of our lessons are directed to people who are Muslim, or are familiar with Islam. So we won’t teach it here. We do list some of its major doctrines in the comparison chart below.
(Note: If you are unfamiliar with Islam, we highly recommend that you view our video and/or study guide “Lesson on Introduction to Islam for Christians.”)
Why Eastern Religions?
Eastern Religions, those from the Far East like India and China, are now being strongly considered as alternatives for people from both Muslim and Western backgrounds. Why is that?
Their Good News is Up Front
Modern life is hectic. Every day we hear of tragic violence. Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism emphasize meditative practices which can lead to a feeling of peace. The peaceful concepts of Buddhism and Hinduism have a widespread appeal. They are promoted as a retreat from conflict and busyness.
Doesn’t it sound good, as Eastern Religions teach, to:
- think of the interconnectedness of all living things?
- believe that all is well, and detach from your problems?
- connect to the body’s God-given ability to relax by emptying the mind of stressful thoughts?
- simplify your life?
- follow mindfulness – meaning being fully present in the moment, not worried about what comes next, or what else you need to do?
Another appeal of Eastern Religions is their reluctance to specify sin. That means people can feel peaceful from meditation, and self-righteousness from performing ceremonies, without needing to clean up their lives from things that the Bible clearly states are wrong.
But their Bad News is Big
While presenting the positive aspects of Eastern Religions, the negative reality of these faiths is not advertised up front. They include the burdensome rituals, lack of practical hope, and the impact on societies that believe in things like fate and the caste system.
Once one sincerely practices these faiths, their burdensome nature is revealed. For example, a dear Buddhist friend who has been called a bodhisattva (demigod), said about samsara, the futile cycle of reincarnation,
“I hate the samsara. I wish it wasn’t true.”
She wishes that reincarnation would not have to continue until every creature had passed through thousands of lives. It doesn’t. But sadly, she does not yet see that.
Another negative aspect of Eastern Religions is Maya, the idea that reality is illusion, unreal.
Can you say that the pain of a mother who has lost her child is not real? Do you believe that cancer pain is unreal? Are mutilation and child molestation illusion?
Denying the reality of pain is not easy when you are suffering it yourself. That is going too far for most Westerners, and for those who have left Eastern faiths. Notable examples are Rachel Brown in All the Fishes Come Home to Rest, and Rabi Maharaj in Death of a Guru.
Science. Monotheism’s very belief in the physical nature of the universe and its laws, is what allowed them to originate science. Although using science now, the East’s pantheism has a less linear or predictable view of the universe, which prevented the logic needed to develop The Scientific Method.
In contrast, Christianity puts its negative up front. It openly admits that people are sinners and need saving. So it is seen by the world as a negative, exclusive religion. But people are not all good. This accounts for crimes and violence. Deep down most people recognize this, at least to some degree.
Once we move beyond the obvious fact that no one is perfect, Christianity has the good news:
- Peace – with God, ourselves, and others
- salvation and Eternal Life after only one earthly life!
The Main Eastern Religions
Those of Eastern Religions will usually agree that Christians are on the right path to God, but resist and be offended if we say Jesus is the only path to God.
This, the traditional religion of India, has up to 300 million gods. Some Hindu priests claim there is only one god (the Brahma or highest god). What they mean is since all things are unified, all the gods are part of one god. In this pantheistic view, god is part of the universe, not personal.
Karma is a system of merit. Hinduism believes in reincarnation, not just through animals, but through multiple levels of human beings, depending on how much karma they have merited from their past lives. The process of reincarnation is called the samsara.
The cycle of the samsara is the basis of the caste system, which places every person at a different level depending on their birth family, sex, and wealth. Each caste must stay within its level, or earn negative merit for the next life.
Important to Hinduism are a variety of ritual practices, called dharma. These must be performed reverently and in a specific way for them to have effect. If done right, the ceremonies are thought to win favor with the gods, for both answers to prayers, and merit towards a higher level of incarnation.
There are differences between village “folk” Hinduism, which tends to emphasize revering local gods, for example snakes, and the Hinduism practiced by the high castes and elite, which tend to emphasize a more monotheistic view of God.
The ultimate goal is to progress, through innumerable incarnations, to a plane in which we slip into nothingness and merge with the eternal emptiness – nirvana. Nirvana is not heaven, but non-existence.
Hindus may readily agree that Jesus is “the son of god” – but seeing him as “the only Son of God” is a challenge for them.
Buddhism originated in India, but is more popular in lands farther East, like China, Japan, Thailand and Taiwan.
Since Buddhism is a religion which grew out of Hinduism, the two religions have much in common. It does believe in reincarnation, but with less emphasis on castes. Buddhism attempts to provide way of escaping the samsara to nirvana faster.
Buddha lived around 400 B.C. Through various experiences, he developed a philosophy called the Four Noble Truths. These explain that suffering is a result of desire and attachment. The Eightfold Path are practices to help a follower withdraw from what causes us suffering in this life, and earn merit towards a higher level of incarnation in the next.
One thing that may surprise you is that in Buddhism, you can be either atheist or believe in God, which is an impersonal power. The goal is to have an enlightenment experience, like Buddha did. This means to be able to see numbutsu, that everything is the same: the crooked tree is straight.
(Note: There is a wonderful testimony of a man who almost became a Buddhist priest, but actually became a Christian while meditating in a Buddhist compound. He could not see the peaceful face of Buddha and the agony of Jesus on the cross as being numbutsu – the same thing. His “enlightenment” showed him that Jesus actually was the savior! Purple Pomegranate Press)
The current trend presents Buddhism in science-like terms which make it believable to many people. Its leaders emphasize there is no absolute evil or good; just actions that bring about results. Cause and effect rule everything, they say, because of power and balance in the universe.
Using science concepts like quantum mechanics, which few people grasp, this approach sounds real. Seekers can find it hard to resist. And even those who aren’t seekers meet this philosophy almost daily in movies and other media. But as we discussed above, this is an example of taking truth from science and philosophy and adding something untrue.
Buddhism has many sects. One of them, the “Pure Land” sect, is quite popular for offering a heaven-like final state. Zen Buddhism is quite popular in the West. Zen offers a very fast track to enlightenment and nirvana.
Simply being good is not enough to guarantee that you move up through reincarnations to nirvana. For example, the Buddhist friend mentioned above that had known Dr. C for decades. After studying with the Dalai Lama, she made a special trip from her home in East Asia to America, to share an important message with Dr. C. They spent long days and nights reviewing Buddhist and Christian doctrines. After days of this, the friend warned Dr. C,
“You have good karma from your past life because you became a doctor and are doing well. And because you are a doctor in this life, you have good karma for your next life. But that is not enough for you to reincarnate at a higher level. Unless you start practicing Buddhist dharma you will not get any higher. You will not get out of the samsara. You might even go down.”
Dr. C loves and respects this friend, but for many reasons, she is glad that her religion is not true.
So, while denying human pride and lust, Buddhism appeals to both of them:
- You are good, because you have reincarnated to your current high level
- You are smart, because you are following the way of the universe
- You are not a sinner, although your choices have consequences
- You can have peace with the power of the universe through meditation and other Buddhist dharma
Although not as well-known as Hinduism and Buddhism, Sikhism is the fifth most popular religion in the world. Founded by Guru Nanak only 500 years ago, it is also the newest.
The Sikh religion arose in the Punjab of India, a region of conflict between Islam and Hinduism, and is a mixture of those beliefs. Its holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, contains passages from the Qur’an and Hindu books. In practice, it feels closer to Hinduism. Its participants frequently follow traditions of both. For example, the Diwali (or Deepavali), the Hindu Festival of Lights, and the Nagar Kirtan, annual parade of the Sikh holy book.
Sikhs believe in one supreme God who resembles, but is less personal than the Christian God. They do not claim to be the only way to God, and consider many religions as valid paths.
They do believe in reincarnation, but have the modification that all humans are on the same level – so in theory there is no high or low caste, and women are equal to men. Christians would consider this an improvement over Hinduism. Because of this equality, communal meals are an important component of worship – something unheard of in Hinduism, where castes must eat separately. Free meals are always available at their meeting places, which are called gurdwaras.
The most devout are “baptized” or Khalsa Sikhs, who must wear five symbolic items, including a turban. Sikhs are taught to defend themselves and the weak, with violence if necessary. Khalsas must pledge this. But unlike Islam, Sikhism does not have a manifesto of violent conquest of the world.
Like Christians, Sikhs face persecution from Muslims and militant Hindus. Sadly, being mistaken as Muslims because of their turbans, Sikhs have even been attacked in the West (attacking Muslims is not acceptable either). Fortunately, most Sikhs understand this is not true Christianity and have not retaliated. For example, Dr. C was asked to represent Christians at a Sikh-sponsored community memorial for those killed in a terrorist attack on Sikhs in Wisconsin.
Although less popular than the top five religions, Zoroastrianism is important because of its attraction to people from the former Persian Empire, mainly Iran. Having suffered under Islam, a faith they consider imposed on them by Arabs, many Iranians look to Zoroastrianism as their natural, pre-Islamic faith.
This faith is characterized by its reverence towards fire, and ceremonies which honor it. Traditionally, fire itself would be worshipped. However, modern, educated Zoroastrians say fire is only symbolic of God and Truth. If you meet an Iranian who wears a golden-winged creature, they are likely more interested in Zoroastrianism, than in Islam.
This religion also originated in Persia, in 1863. It is unitarian in that it openly accepts all faiths as valid expressions of God. However, they believe its originator, Baha’u’llah was an incarnation of god. His teachings should be followed.
They affirm family as the pillar of society, marriage between a man and woman, and value human unity. Importantly, they look forward to and encourage a New World Order.
This category of religion incudes most of the polytheistic religions. Daoism is a polytheist religion that arose in China. As with other “pagan” religions, it honors spirits in the natural world, such as water, rocks, and trees. This it shares with Wicca, Druid, Native American, Shaman, voodoo, and Shinto religions. Daoism and spirit worship may be mixed with Buddhism in Asia, for example Taiwan and Japan.
Pagan worship practices look like idolatry, superstition and demonism to Christians and Muslims.
Although frowned upon by pure Islam, some of the practices of folk Islam can resemble pagan, occultic ceremonies. Astrology is also popular in the Middle East.
(Note: for more, see the study guide and Lesson on Islam and the Occult.)
Is Detachment Good? with Luke Price
Detachment is an important part of most Eastern Religions. In the video, Price and Dr. C discuss the question, “Is detachment good?” and if so, to what extent?
Christianity and Eastern Religions both warn us of the dangers of attachment to worldly things. The Bible says,
“Do not love the world, or anything in the world.” I John 2:15
Eastern religions however, go farther than asking us not to be attached to things, or this world or life. They say that the higher path requires detachment from people – even their nearest and dearest. They say that the best peace arrives as a result of not caring about anything, except doing religious duties.
One of Dr. C’s friends, a celebrity former Muslim, was considering Buddhism. After examining its beliefs, and really liking the peaceful aspects, the decision was against it. Why? Detachment from people was unacceptable. This person has a big heart, and is very involved with family and the international community. The idea of not caring what happens to them, or those in the country that they left, makes no sense to them.
Christians agree. We are NOT to detach from people. In fact, we are told to,
“Love one another deeply, from the heart.” I Peter 1:22
Many ills in Eastern societies result from extreme detachment. Price shares his view that attachment to others shows our humanity and makes life richer.
A Look at LOGIC with Luke Price
Price helps us think logically. He provides guidelines for someone who is searching for the true religion. He tells us that there are classic laws of logic which can help us. The names of these two laws are long, but their meanings are easy.
#1 The Law of Non-Contradiction:
Two statements which contradict each other cannot both be true.
The name sounds complicated, but the rule makes sense, doesn’t it? At least it does to people raised in Western culture. For example, you wouldn’t say that a dog is white, and then turn around and say it’s black, would you? Not unless you had just painted him!
In the West it is becoming common to believe that all religions are true, despite the illogic of it. Have you heard any of these?
- Many paths lead to God.
- All religions worship God, just in different ways.
- All religions are the same. They basically tell us to be good.
- If you say that there is only one way to God, you are intolerant and wrong.
In New Age Religion, the Sikh Religion, and popular philosophy you will hear these. But you won’t hear them much in Islamic countries, because they teach otherwise from childhood.
Another logic law Price shares with us is called,
#2 The Law of the Indiscernibility of Identicals:
If two things are different, they are not identical.
Things are not the same if they are different. In the West, we would say that is logical.
Examples: things that are not the same. The video gives two examples,
- Two people. Price and Dr. C use themselves – a man and woman sitting in different chairs are not the same thing.
- A crooked tree is straight. Dr. C gives us an example from a Buddhist book. It says that to be enlightened, you must be able to look at a crooked tree and see it as being straight. It is very difficult for educated people from the West to enter into this way of thinking.
From our discussion, this law has two applications:
- To Numbutsu, the idea that everything is the same: this law shows the illogic of saying that the crooked tree is straight.
Even for people who have not been trained in logic, seeing a crooked tree as straight is not easy. It requires a great deal of training in the Eastern way of thinking to convince yourself that it is true.
- To World Religions: if we can tell them apart, they are not the same.
Perhaps it is easier to believe all religions are the same than finding out specifically what each religion teaches. That would mean needing to sort through them, or admit that some view might be “wrong.” People often prefer to be like ostriches – hide their head in the sand.
Important CONTRADICTIONS between Major faiths
There is a great difference between religions in answers to big questions like:
- LIFE: Is it real, or illusion?
- REINCARNATION: Do we keep coming back to earth after we die, or not?
- GOD: How many gods are there? What is God like?
- FEELING: If I feel good, does that mean I am going to heaven?
- DEEDS: How can I please God?
- JUDGMENT: Will I be judged or not?
- HEAVEN: Is heaven, or non-existence (nirvana) better?
- SALVATION/Moksa: How can I get to heaven?
World religions answer each of these questions differently. How can all religions can be true when they teach different things?
APPLYING the Law of NON-CONTRADICTION
Price and Dr. Cynthia discuss contradictory claims of several of the world’s most common religions.
|universe began||universe began||universe eternal||universe eternal|
|one life||one life||reincarnation||reincarnation|
|sin||sin||no right/wrong||no right/wrong|
|personal God||distant God||many gods||many gods|
|life real||life real||life illusion||life illusion|
|saved by faith||by works||by works||by works|
This chart powerfully illustrates that religions teach very different things. According to the Law of Non-contradiction they cannot all be true. Buddhism and Hinduism come the closest to agreeing on major doctrines, because of their relationship. Note that in nearly every essential doctrine, Christianity differs from the other religions, including Islam.
Confronting contradictions is hard for the West
If you are from a Muslim country, you have probably been told many times that other faiths are wrong. And most Muslims are taught to confront other beliefs. So hearing that something is wrong might seem natural to you. You might not understand why people in West have a dread of telling anyone they are wrong.
People in America and Europe are much more reluctant to confront someone about unrealistic beliefs. We are programmed to accept that everyone has rights not only have their own views, but to express them. It is not nice to tell someone they are wrong. And so, Westerners often think it better to say that everything is right.
But different religions have very contradictory claims. When we apply the Law of Non-contradiction, they fail. The popular idea that all religions are true is not logical.
Three Keys to the Truth with Georges Houssney
Many Muslims are disenchanted. The religion they grew up with seems to connected to practices they dislike: terrorism, Muslim on Muslim violence, and the mistreatment of women and minorities. Many want to find the truth.
Georges Houssney, renown teacher and evangelist from the Middle East, gives us these Three keys for finding the truth:
- Be Sincere
- Compare Teachings and Leaders
Be Sincere. Do we truly want to find the truth? It takes courage to openly examine what we have been taught or grew up believing. But if we are sincerely seeking truth, we put ourselves in the position to find it.
Pray. This can be difficult if you do not believe in God. Many agnostics however have prayed, “If there is a God, reveal yourself to me.” And it has happened! If you do believe in God, pray that he shows you which holy book and teachings reveal him and his way. If you don’t believe, why not ask God if he is real anyway?
Compare the teachings and leaders of the major religions. You will see that although most have similarities, they vary in significant ways. They can’t all be true. When you compare the leaders of world religions, you will clearly see that there is no one who compares to the Lord Jesus Christ. Even Muslims often recognize this, as we have been told by Muslims from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait even before they converted to Christianity.
The REALITY TEST for World Religions
This was not discussed in the video lesson, but is very important. As time goes on, we recognize that Reality is one of the strongest defenses of the Bible. It is also an evangelistic tool with secular unbelievers, because it touches the discomfort they might already sense from their view of reality.
Jesus teaches us in John 4 that God wants to be worshipped in both Spirit and Truth. True religion must do both: meet spiritual hunger and provide practical truth.
Of all world religions, the Bible, fit the best with reality.
- PHYSICAL: The Bible starts out with the creation of the physical, material universe by immaterial God. Eastern religions deny the reality of the material, physical world. Everything physical, they say, is illusion.
- SPIRITUAL: The Bible recognizes spiritual reality. Scientific materialism recognizes only the physical. It denies a spiritual world. There are no souls or spirits, they say, including ours.
- EVIL and SUFFERING: The Bible admits the existence of evil and pain. It explains how it arises, how to deal with it, and what will happen to it. Many other religions and philosophies either deny evil and pain, calling them imaginary, or only a result of neutral causes.
- GOODNESS: The Bible also tells us that good exists. Love and beauty are real, not figments of our imagination.
Almost everyone feels that all four of these are real. They have a sense that the material world exists, that part of them is an immaterial soul or spirit, and that love and evil exist.
To believe a worldview besides the Bible’s (and Islam’s as it agrees with the Bible’s), you must deny one of the aspects of life which your senses tell you are real. Technically, this results in what is called cognitive dissonance – believing things which don’t fit comfortably within your experience.
Jesus or Mohammed? with Georges Houssney
Who is the true prophet, Jesus or Mohammed? This is a question anyone who compares Christianity and Islam must ask. Houssney gives guidance for how we can determine who has the true message from God.
Muslims claim that both Jesus and Mohammed are prophets, yet they make opposite claims of what is true, how we should live, and how we get to heaven. Houssney tells us to
look at what leaders claim about themselves
Mohammed claimed to be “only a warner” (Qur’an Surah 7:188 and 46:9). Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and Savior. Although some Eastern religious leaders have claimed to be one of the many incarnations of god, none were like Jesus: he claimed to be equal to the one Creator God, and then proved it by rising from the dead.
The difference between these messages is extreme and impacts our eternal destiny. A sincere seeker of truth must decide which is true, Jesus, Mohammed, or another religious leader?
SHARING the GOSPEL with People of Eastern Religions
Our lessons are mainly about Muslim evangelism and discipleship. But Christians working with Muslims will find some considering Eastern Religions, or already believing them. For that situation, here are ideas that might help you to build bridges for conversations, or to share the gospel with them.
Who is God? Saying “God loves you” has an entirely different meaning depending on who you think God is. Christians might take for granted that everyone has the same view of God. For example, that God is personal, not simply a detached power source, and that God is good. Eastern Religions see god as impersonal power of nature, possibly with some human incarnations, for example Krishna.
Bear this in mind when addressing the religions of East Asia. Although they differ on specifics, Christians and Muslims share the idea that God is outside as well as inside creation, and has personal aspects. So their concepts of God are closer to each other than the Far Eastern concept.
DISCUSSION TOPICS for Eastern Religions
In case you are talking to someone who is favoring an Eastern Religion, here are a few things you can discuss:
- Compare: Ask what they believe, listen well, and when it is your turn share how your faith is the same and different.
- Unique: All religions are NOT the same
- the main difference between Christianity and every other faith in the world, is that God loves and reaches down to save us (Romans 5:8)
- through faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross.
- by faith saved to do good works, not by good works (Ephesians 2:8-10)
- Use symbolism and parables. Like the people of Jesus’ day, those of Eastern Faiths like illustrations more than lists. Christians working with Eastern Religions have found it helpful to share concepts like: the Light, the Way, the Living Water, the Name, the Good Shepherd, the Truth
- Religious practices – discussing theirs and ours
- Christian meditation also brings us peace; but not salvation points
- For those attracted to Eastern Religions for the peace of meditation, let them know that Christian meditation, although somewhat different, produces the same “relaxation response” (Isaiah 26:3 & Psalm 131:2)
- (Note: Christian meditation is focusing on a peaceful truth or verse in a relaxed state. Eastern meditation is mind-emptying, to “merge with the void.”)
- Christian practices, like communion, fasting, worshipping, fellowshipping, and serving bring spiritual encouragement, not salvation points (Ephesians 2:8-10)
- Christian meditation also brings us peace; but not salvation points
- Peace. Reincarnation and has been described as spending your whole life pushing a large rock up the hill. Then it rolls down for you to push back up in the next life. Jesus promises us peace in this life and the next. (Matthew 11:28-30 & John 16:33)
- Security. In Eastern Religions there is no assurance what will happen to them when they die. It is good for them to know that they can walk with God here, and go to heaven after this one life. (John 6:47)
- God’s character. (See above discussion) These verses show that God is INSIDE creation, which Eastern Religions believe, but also OUTSIDE of it:
- Colossians 1:17 – “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
- Romans 11:36 – “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
- Ephesians 4:6,10 – “One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all… He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.”
- Hebrews 2:10 – “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
- Paul’s sermon in Athens is a good example of God’s character: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.‘ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring!’ Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24-31; NIV)
Disillusion with Islam
In this video of “Dr. Cynthia’s Side,” she discusses how disillusion with Islam encourages Muslims to leave Islam and become Christians.
When Huda was a Muslim, she looked at the Muslim world, its trials and abuses, from the view that Islam was true.
“No country in the world practices true Islam,” she would say. The closest to true Islam, she felt was Iran under the Shah before the revolution, because of its more open attitude at that time.
However, BE, an Arab evangelist working with us challenged Huda that Islam actually teaches the abuses in the Muslim world that she hates. Then Huda looked into facts for herself. As she watched debates, testimonies, and commentaries in Arabic and English, Huda’s disillusion with Islam grew. She saw that principles of Islam underlay its practices.
Through travel, Huda had visited churches and already grown to love Jesus. She found him beautiful compared to what she had learned of Mohammed or seen in Islam. But, she told Dr. C a few weeks before her conversion, she was afraid to leave Islam. It could mean her death. Yet her discovery that the Principles of Islam teach the Practices of Islam, added to her love of Jesus, gave her the courage to leave Islam. Spirit and Truth had come together for her.
There is an urban legend that argument or debate does not bring anyone to faith in Jesus Christ. This is not true. It does not work fast, but it can work. It worked to open the eyes of Nabeel Qureshi when David Wood exposed the truth to him. Huda’s example is another. These and other examples confirm the teaching of BE that,
It is so difficult for Muslims to leave Islam, that they must first know that it is wrong.
This is why we teach that Muslim evangelism should:
Build Bridges, Share Truth, and Expose Falsehood, preferably in that order.
Scripture References for this Lesson:
- The Bible
- II Corinthians 5:17
- Luke 12:48
- Matthew 25:14-30 & 16:15,16 & 26:63,63 & 27:42 & 3:16 & 11:28-30
- John 14:6 & 11:25,26 & 6:51-53 & 16:33 & 6:47
- Romans 5:8
- Isaiah 26:3
- Psalm 131:2
- Ephesians 2:8-10 & 4:6-10
- Colossians 2:3 & 1:17
- I John 2:15
- I Peter 1:22
- Romans 11:36
- Ephesians 4:6, 10
- Hebrews 2:10
- Acts 17:24-30
- Mohammed claiming to be “only a warner”- Surah 7:188 and 46:9
- Regarding Christians sharing with Muslims – Surah al Baqarah 2:111,170
- Regarding the reality video segment:
- Why do you think Huda says she would like to see all the mosques in America torn down?
- Do you think she really means this?
- What frustration with her past does Huda reveal?
- What does “Dr. Cynthia’s side” at the end of the lesson say about mosques?
- Luke Price discusses logic concepts which go back to thousands of years to ancient Greece. The names are long, but their meaning makes sense.
- What does the “Law of Non-Contradiction” refer to? Could you state it in an easier way?
- What does the “Indiscernibility of Identicals” refer to? Could you state it in an easier way?
- Do you think all religions can be true if they contradict each other?
- Price and Dr. C discuss some ways in which common world religions disagree.
- Can you remember any?
- What contradictions in world religions have you come across in your spiritual journey? (Consider: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Bahai, New Age, etc.)
- We presents some important expectations you might face when comparing religions.
- Have you previously had the opportunity to compare world religions?
- Have you found any of these expectations to be true in your search?
- Is comparing religions a topic that you have any interest in?
- Regarding truth in religions?
- How much truth does a religion need to be the Truth?
- How much falsehood would you allow for it to be True?
- Can you see a difference between the clear teachings of a religion and different interpretations of its holy book or practices?
- What in other religions might be attractive to you?
- Does Christianity include something like that?
- Is it essential for a religion you believe to have that?
- Reality is an important thing to consider when looking at religions. By this we mean that it fits with what we know or believe to be real. Looking at what religion fits best with what we know to be real is an important consideration.
- Do you believe that humans are both physical and spiritual?
- Which religions/philosophies believe the world is only physical?
- Which religions/philosophies believe that the world is only spiritual/unseen?
- Rev. Georges Houssney gives us three important keys for finding the truth.
- Can you recall what they are?
- How important do you think sincerity is?
- Do you think we can deceive ourselves that we are sincere when we aren’t?
- Houssney says we should look at Jesus in comparison to the founders/leaders of other religions. Can you think of similarities and differences between Jesus and:
- Hindu and Sikh Gurus?
- Joseph Smith?
- After taking this lesson, and thinking about it:
- Do you think all religions are the same?
- Did you learn anything about comparing religions?
- What religion do you think is true?
- Give your reasons why?
© Copyright by Christian from Muslim, 2020. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Looking for Truth in World Religions
The parables of Jesus are found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. They represent nearly one-third of his teachings. Parables are very simple and memorable stories that were used by Jesus to convey deep and life-changing truths.
This lesson focuses on the importance of letting the Holy Spirit fill Christians, so that their lives will bring forth fruit. As we actively abide in Christ, letting the Holy Spirit and scripture fill us, we will naturally bring forth the Fruit of the Spirit.Continue reading...
Disclaimer: This video lesson and study guide is for people from a Christian background who want to know how to connect with Muslims. It is directed toward the way Western Christians think. Those from Muslim background might learn some things from it. However, it is one of our few lessons which is not directed toward Muslim thinking. Some Muslims might even be offended, but that is not our intention.
Quick Summary: In this video lesson and study guide, Arab Pastor George Saieg inspires us to reach out to Muslims, and Dr. Cynthia gives us important tips on how to do it.
Introduction to this Video Lesson and Study Guide: the Manual on Building Bridges with Muslims
The video lesson attempts to squeeze a day-long seminar into half an hour. The accompanying study guide is actually a full manual on how to connect with, and bring the gospel to Muslims in America (and to a degree all Western countries). It fills in details not covered in the video, adds more material and examples, and is much more complete.
The manual presents such important and foundational material that we want you to have it all, so it is longer than our usual study guides. However, we understand that you might not have time to read it all.
The material is organized so that you can easily skim its headings, and then focus on the parts that interest you. Likewise, for study groups, the leader might need to pre-select portions for group review and discussion.
Reaching Muslims for Christ takes prayer, preparation, and intentional forethought. It can be challenging. But don’t let that scare you. Jesus told us to take the gospel everywhere, and that we could do it because he would be with us. So the church began, so it has been, and so it will be for you.
The Manual covers:
Essentials for securing both ends of the bridge – yours and theirs
Bridge Type #1 – from you to the Muslim
Bridge Type #2 – from the Muslim to the gospel
Bridge Type #3 – from the Muslim to other Christians
Study Questions and Practice Laboratories
- DOs and DON’Ts
- Dress for Success
To receive a link to the Video Lesson and PDF copy of the full Manual on Building Bridges with Muslims, please send an email describing you and your group to BecomingChristianfromMuslim@gmail.com or click on the link below:
NOTE: For the exclusive use of trained individuals. See also Lesson and Study Guide on Fear, Persecution, and Spiritual Warfare
Lesson Summary and Notes
Quick Summary: This lesson and study guide are an introduction to the teachings and practices of violence in Islam. It is not a complete analysis. There are many other books and videos which focus on exposing Islam’s violence.
The GOALS: are basically to understand why violence is associated with Islam, especially in relation to the “Doctrine of Abrogation,” to process how you feel about it, and what might correctly be done about it.
- The information given in this lesson is primarily for your education. We want to clarify the confusing, and at times contradictory picture of violence in Islam. We hope that learning this you will have greater insight into history and current events:
- The image of Islam being presented to the West is far different than that recorded in history, including the Qur’an and other documents of Islam. It is sanitized and idealized. Violence and human rights abuses, like slavery and the mistreatment of women and minorities, are called irrelevant and swept away.
- Looking deeper into accurate translations of these sources, a grimmer reality emerges: one that fits with the violence and human rights abuses we see flooding the Islamic world every day.
- We hope that your compassion for Muslims increases, by understanding what influences their thinking and the resultant sufferings.
- We would like you to get ideas about what, when, if, and how to discuss these with Muslims.
- And perhaps how we can prevent Americans and Europeans from converting to Islam – especially to its false image – through ignorance and propaganda. Potential converts do not need to believe us, but they should read what the authentic Islamic sources themselves say before converting.
This Study Guide answers 11 of the most common questions about Islam and Violence. (If reviewing the lesson in a study group, you might select only a few for discussion.)
Here are the questions we will address:
- Is Islam a Religion of Peace?
- Why are some Muslims nice and others violent?
- Were Christians told to spread their message by force?
- Did Islam spread by force?
- What is the meaning of Jihad?
- Have Islamic Governments been more tolerant than others?
- Is there other violence in Islam?
- Would a Muslim reformation help?
- Is there hope for peace?
- Do we need to fear Muslims?
- Since Islam can be violent, isn’t there a better way to serve God, besides sharing the Gospel with Muslims?
We then mention PTSD, and present some Guidelines for discussing the violence in Islam with Muslims.
QUESTION 1: Is Islam a religion of Peace?
At the beginning of the video lesson, Dr. Cynthia tells an audience that to understand violence in Islam, we need to look at what the Islamic sources say, in Arabic. George Saieg has studied these sources in the original Arabic, and has a clear understanding of what they mean. He will help us cut through the politically correct presentations of Islam’s promoters, Western media, and modern Qur’an translations to give us an accurate picture of Islam and Violence.
Likely you, like most Americans, have heard statements from Islamic leaders, in the media or in events, that support the idea that Islam is the “Religion of Peace.” They even may quote some verses from the Qur’an to support their claims, especially at community events after a terrorist attack. We ourselves have heard this many times.
For example, a university event that Dr. C attended in California, had an audience of mostly American students curious about Islam. During the presentation Dr. C was stunned to hear an imam tell the assembly, “There is absolutely no violence in the Qur’an.” For someone who has read the Qur’an, this is like saying, “There is no sex in Hollywood.”
Such a bombastic claim is actually easy to refute. A more reasonable claim would be harder to refute, for example saying that any violence in the Qur’an was excusable, and for that time only. But that is not what the imam, an American convert to Islam, claimed.
Obviously, the imam must have thought that the Muslims in the audience would not contradict him, and that the others were too ignorant to call his bluff. But with Dr. C was Brother E, a Palestinian Arabic speaker familiar with the Qur’an. He was nearly crawling out of his skin at hearing this falsehood so baldly proclaimed.
Brother E had an Arabic Qur’an with him. After the speech, at the question time Brother E raised his hand to oppose the statement about no violence, quoting two verses from the Qur’an in Arabic and English, which demonstrate that Christians are infidels, and the infidels must be killed.
Although violence in the Qur’an is easily documented, the imam interrupted Brother E to say that the word “infidel” is not in the Qur’an. Brother E started to explain that infidel is the English translation of kafir, the Arabic word. The imam kept interrupting and repeating himself to shut Brother E down so that the audience could not hear the truth.
Although some Muslims do not fully understand the teachings of Islam, it is incredible to believe that even in America someone could become an imam without having read the verses we will discuss in this lesson. Frankly, we don’t believe he did.
The two verses Brother E was trying to share with the group explain that Christians are unbelievers, and that unbelievers should be killed until subjugated:
“Surely they disbelieve who say: ‘Allah is the Messiah, son of Maryam…whosoever sets up partners with Allah, then Allah has forbidden Paradise to him, and the fire will be his abode… Surely, disbelievers are who say that Allah is the third of three’…”
“So when you meet those who disbelieve, smite their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (as captives).”
A media example supporting this peaceful view of Islam, is a 2012 Hollywood film about the Iran hostage crisis. It mistranslated a Qur’anic verse, deleting its instruction for Muslims to be “harsh with unbelievers.” By ironic contrast, this same verse was actually often quoted by the Ayatollah Khomeini to incite violence against Americans and other non-Muslims. (You would need to know the verse or Arabic to detect this deceptive translation.)
Christian Peace is one of the Fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22. (In other lessons, we present the Fruit of the Spirit and the idea that the Christian life is Peace and Purpose.)
The Peace of Christ is spiritual peace. Jesus tells us it is not the peace of the world. His peace brings us:
- Peace with God Romans 5:1
- Peace within ourselves Psalm 131:2, John 14:27
- Peace with others, leading to Romans 12:18, Proverbs 16:7
- Peace between nations Joshua 21:44
This is not the model of peace that Islam proposes. Adding to the video lesson, this study guide will document and discuss the basis of Islam’s peace through violence model. It will show some ways it is practiced around the world.
A Heritage of Warfare
That Islam grew out of pre-Islamic, Arabic and Bedouin cultures, is affirmed by experts in many fields. Rather than change those cultures, Islam cemented most of their virtues and vices.
In regards to violence, these experts point to the historic difficulty of life in the Arabian Peninsula. The scarcity of provisions, and the many tribal conflicts, meant that only the strongest survived. Being quick to fight was considered a necessity. Courage and violence were signs of manliness in Prophet Mohammed’s 7th century Arabia. Defending one’s territory and tribe, and plundering one’s rivals, were simply part of lifestyles which Islam did not confront or attempt to change.
In Islamic thinking, the people of the world fall either into The House of Peace (Dar al Islam), which holds the now large tribe of Muslims, or The House of War (Dar al Harb), which includes everyone else. So, the peace that Islam offers is similar to that of communism – when the entire world is within the House of Peace, meaning under Islam’s control, there will supposedly be peace.
Examples of Muslims discovering the Violence of Islam
When noted apostate Dr. Mark Gabriel was studying at Al Azhar University in Cairo, he asked his teacher about love and forgiveness in Islam, and received this answer,
“My brother, there is a whole surah called ‘Spoils of War.’ There is no surah called ‘Peace.’ Jihad and killing are the head of Islam. If you take them out, you cut off the head of Islam.”
Later, that teacher, Omar Abdel Rahman, was locked up as the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing, of 1993. He had no doubts that Islam was not about Peace.
Mark Gabriel got his Ph.D., and went on to teach Islamic history at Al Azhar. He tells us in Islam and Terrorism, that little by little he became convinced that Islam was not about peace and love, but about violent propagation. He left Islam and his professorship. A year later became a Christian.
Dr. Wafa Sultan, our guest in Lesson on Islam and Women, shares her experiences of living Syria in her book A God Who Hates. While growing up there she regularly heard hatred pouring forth from the mosques against non-Muslims, like Israel and the West. Adding to that the treatment of women, apostates and the disabled, she came to see Allah, the God of Islam, not as a god of peace, but a God who Hates. Although she is not a Christian, it was when she came to America that she saw in action “A God who Loves.” “It was a total surprise!” she says.
Many others on both ends of the Islamic spectrum – the very religious as well as those who have left Islam – confirm the understanding of Gabriel and Sultan. Remember, the word Islam, means “in submission,” not “in peace.”
When addressing non-Muslim audiences, the spokespeople of Islam say that Islam promotes peace. But when addressing Muslim audiences, they tell a different story. For example, here is what the commentary in The Noble Qur’an edition of the Qur’an from Saudi Arabia says to English-speaking Muslims:
“You will not find any organization past or present, religious or non-religious as regards the whole nation to march forth and mobilize all of them into active military service as a single row for jihad in Allah’s Cause so as to make superior the Word of Allah, as you will find in the Islamic Religion and its teachings.” (bold emphasis ours)
They openly admit that ideally, every Muslim should be involved in military action for Islam. It is difficult coming from our Western and to a large extent Christian perspective, to understand why they make it sound like an admirable thing.
QUESTION 2: The BIG QUESTION: Why are some Muslims violent and others nice?
(Note: Dr. Cynthia’s part of this video lesson is part of a seminar recorded in front of a live audience.)
Possibly the biggest question non-Muslims have about Islam is “Why are some Muslims violent and others nice?”
Millions of Muslims now live in the West. Not only in big cities, but in more rural areas we find a mixture of Christians and secularists, with followers of Islam and other faiths. The hope is that all will grow to live together in a neighborly sort of mutual acceptance that has prospered in the best of times. Indeed, the Bible teaches, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Workplaces and schools have integrated people from across the globe. Comraderies developed there bring a feeling of tolerance that looks beyond racial and cultural differences. Trust and friendships emerge between people of different backgrounds.
But crashing into these zones of tolerance and adaptation comes news of Muslim terrorism. Western news media tries to smooth over incidents and terrorism to prevent violent reprisals and escalation of hostilities. This means sometimes they hide the names and religions of perpetrators until public interest has passed.
Sometimes immigrant Islamic clerics are caught screaming messages of hatred, and are deported. At the same time, other Muslim leaders gain a platform to say that “to kill one person is as to kill all humanity.” They assure us, along with university scholars and news media, that Islam truly is a religion of peace, and that violent practitioners have “hijacked the religion,” turning it into something it was never intended to be.
So – What is the truth? How can we explain the Violence in Islam?
Non-Muslims, and even some Muslims, are left scratching their heads at the difference in attitude between the Muslims they know and love, and the violence of Islam they hear of on an almost daily basis. In this segment, we answer this important question of how some Muslims can be nice, or apparently peaceful, and others violent terrorists.
Most Muslims in the West lead peaceful lives. They want to prosper, just like traditional Americans and other immigrants do. They say and follow verses in the Qur’an like,
“There is to be no compulsion in religion.”
So how can we then explain forceful, violent Muslims?
The KEY to UNDERSTANDING Islamic aggression is the: Doctrine of ABROGATION:
Devout Muslims understand and believe in Abrogation. This doctrine claims that later revelations replace earlier ones:
“Whatever verse we do abdicate or cause to be forgotten, we bring a better one or similar to it. Know you not that Allah is able to do all things?”
Most sects of Islam, including the major ones of Sunni and Shiite, follow the Doctrine of Abrogation based on this verse in the Qur’an’s second chapter/book, Surah al-Baqarah. Although the exact verses canceled, or abrogated, by this doctrine differ by sect, in practice abrogation means that all the peaceful verses were cancelled by aggressive ones. The result of abrogation is invalidation of up to 2/3 of the Qur’an.
If it is the first time you have heard of abrogation, you might have trouble believing it. How can this be?
Early in his ministry, Mohammed lived in Mecca, he and his followers were a minority, mixed in with polytheists, Christians and Jews. The revelations he received then, supposedly from Allah, told them to keep peace with those around them. That was sensible, since Muslims were greatly outnumbered.
Later, Mohammed came to power after his fateful move to Medina in 622 AD, called the hegira. There he had much public support and his followers grew in number.
Now confident and powerful in Medina, Mohammed’s revelations became more forceful. Mohammed and his followers began to not only fight against those who had been persecuting them, but started spreading Islam by force. Revealed in Medina were verses such as,
“Fight and slay the pagans where ever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in every ambush.”
“I will strike terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over the necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes.”
“Let not the unbelievers think that they can get the better: they will never frustrate them. Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the enemies of Allah.”
These and many other verses in the Qur’an justify Islamic aggression. Educated and devout Muslims know about abrogation. Nonetheless, they continue to quote peaceful verses to Westerners. Frankly, some do this deceptively, because Mohammed’s two-step tactic is still followed: extend peace when in the minority, but be forceful when in power. Muslims are still in the minority in the West. That explains why they are mostly peaceful here.
You will know that you understand abrogation when you experience an ah-ha moment!
One day when Dr. C and Brother E were meeting with Muslims, Brother E caught a Muslim cleric doing this, quoting abrogated verses. Brother E rebuked him in Arabic for this deception. The cleric admitted without apology that he was quoting verses to Americans he knew were not valid. But he was not ashamed because in Islam, it is acceptable to say anything to make the faith appealing to non-Muslims. (This is called taqiyya.)
Muslims less expert in Islam usually say they believe the entire Qur’an, including abrogated passages. In spite of the contradictions they read, they will try to live peacefully. Some explain this by saying that the violent verses were given for a specific time and place and no longer apply. This doesn’t fit with the Qur’an’s abrogation verse. It is rather like reverse-abrogation – having the earlier revelations cancel the later, and it is not a view authorized by Islamic authorities. Since it leads to peace, it is naturally preferable to the West, but it holds no water with serious Muslims.
Does the Bible have abrogation?
The answer is NO. The Bible tells us,
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
At this point you might want to point out two things regarding the Old Testament that seem different in the New Testament: There was violence in the Old Testament, and the way of following God is different from the New Testament. Here are the brief answers to those:
Jesus tells us that no word of God passes away; it is fulfilled. The symbolism of the Old Testament law pointed to Jesus, and its obligations enabled us to appreciate God’s grace. Jesus said,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
The Apostle Paul said,
“Wherefore the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”
QUESTION 3: Were Christians told to Spread their Message by force?
Apologist Louis from Truth Defenders answers this question for us in the video. He explains that Jesus and his followers told Christians to share their teachings by word of mouth, and to prove it by love.
In the days before Jesus, the God-fearers of the Old Testament, mostly Jews, were likewise to share the faith by teaching and lifestyle. This included visitors and immigrants who came from around the world to enjoy the prosperity of Israel under God’s laws, and at times by missionaries, like Jonah, who were sent to outlying nations.
Bob Siegel, a Jewish background Christian expert on the issue, affirms in the video lesson that Moses and the Old Testament writings do not teach spreading the faith by force. Siegel says that often Muslims confront him thinking that spreading faith by force is something that Islam has in common with the Jews.
Siegel assures them that they misunderstand: in a few instances the Jews were instructed to punish cities that were involved in deplorable practices, like child sacrifice. This was after their residents had been given generations to repent but did not. Never were Jews to spread the faith with violence or coercion.
So, neither Jesus nor Moses, nor the Bible itself teaches promoting the faith by violence. This is in sad contrast to Islam. Islam not only teaches promoting the faith with violence, in the Qur’an and hadith, but has proven it in the practices of its devoted practitioners through the centuries.
QUESTION 4: Did Islam spread by Force or by willing Conversion?
Have you heard that Islam spread by peaceful means? Dr. C has heard this in Islamic presentations, especially on university campuses. The narrative goes like this: “When people of the nations surrounding Saudi Arabia saw how beautiful Islam was, they wanted to become Muslims, and so Islam spread rapidly by peaceful means.”
How do they defend and even whitewash what has traditionally been called the “Islamic Conquests?” By using this effective tactic: overlooking Islam’s attacks and conquests, they take an isolated incident, and generalize it to represent the rule, rather than the exception.
For example, the Arabs were good sailors. The case is made that Islam spread peacefully in Southeast Asia when Muslim sailors in contact with Southeast Asian sailors. That is entirely possible. But again, it is a notable exception: a four-leaf clover for Islam.
Another example is the legend that a visitor to Morocco complained of Visigoth rule in Spain, saying that Morocco was better. The story is that this instigated the conquest of Spain. But the complaints one discontented subject, hardly constitute willing conversion of a nation, or justify its invasion.
As with other aspects of history, like the founding of America, the distance in time and location between now and when things happened, allows rewriting and presenting a new narrative. Few in America are knowledgeable enough, or care enough to check the facts on either. So the new narratives are told and retold.
An exception is Palestinian Brother E. He has attended campus events with Dr. C, and heard their claims about Islamic expansion. Being Palestinian, he was very familiar with how Muslims conquered his and other regions.
“How can you say they willingly converted?” Brother E asked the speakers. “They didn’t even understand the Arabic they had to say to convert! They simply repeated the words of the shahada to keep from death by the sword!”
Growing up in Islamic countries, Brother E and George Saieg were not taught the peaceful conversion narrative. It wasn’t necessary, since Islam dominated. There was no need to cover up.
The new narrative is also very contrary to what Dr. C remembered being taught in American university in several decades ago. So back she went to her History of Western Civilization textbook. Then not under the current pressure to be politically correct, it confirmed the conquests, saying that within less than a hundred years of Mohammed’s move to Medina,
“…to the economic and social factors that contributed to Arabic aggression was added the stimulus of a holy war (jihad) – an ideal that bound all the Arabs together in a common cause and imbued the campaigns with a certain religious fanaticism…By 720 all the Middle East (except Asia Minor), all North Africa, and most of Spain had been overrun and conquered.”
To be complete, Dr. C checked other sources, including Islamic ones. None back up the new narrative of peaceful expansion.
Noted contemporary historian and expert on Islam, Michael Cook says,
“The Arab conquests rapidly destroyed one empire, and permanently detached
large territories of another. This was for the states in question, an appalling catastrophe.”
Muslim apostate Ibn Warraq, in his critically acclaimed book, Why I am Not a Muslim, gives Islam’s violent expansion of empire as a reason for his not following Islam.
In our video lesson, George Saieg says, “Absolutely the last marching orders of Mohammed were to conquer the world for Islam by force.” For example, besides the hadith, the Qur’an itself says,
“Fight them until there is no more disbelief and the religion will all be for Allah alone.”
The Qur’an’s view of prophethood differs greatly from the Bible’s. Prophet Mohammed himself participated in battles, and he sent his followers into others.
“It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he had made a great slaughter in the land.”
Mohammed’s usual conquest strategy was to first offer conversion to Islam. For example, he sent letters to the kings of the surrounding nations, proclaiming himself a prophet and inviting them convert and follow him. If territories resisted, they would be attacked and invaded, with conversions forced.
Some of the monotheistic civilians would be allowed to live without converting if they would pay jizya, a high “ransom tax” protection money. Even so, Christians and Jews were often slaughtered, without an option to ransom themselves. Polytheists, like India’s Hindus, did not have that option. They must convert or die.
Let’s look at A brief chronology of Muslim conquests:
- In 632 AD Prophet Mohammed died. Conquest of all the Arabian peninsula followed, and then:
- Israel/Palestine: in 634 AD – 4,000 monotheistic Jews, Christians, and Samaritans were killed defending their territory
- Syria: 636 AD attacked
- Mesopotamia: 635-643 AD – unbelievers killed or forced to convert
- Armenia and Assyria: 640s AD – forced conversions and partial to full slaughter of towns
- Egypt: 641AD – entire towns exterminated, even women and children who surrendered
- Persia: about 642-651 AD – Elam’s population slaughtered, likewise Susa’s dignitaries
- Tripoli: 643 AD – pillaged
- Morocco: 647 AD – Islamic conquest of Byzantine North Africa reaches here
- Carthage: 698 AD – most inhabitants were killed, queen’s head sent to Damascus
- Spain and Portugal: Invasion begins in 711AD – fully conquered about 8 years later. The very word Gibraltar, is from Jabal at-Tariq, meaning “Mountain of Tariq,” named after the conqueror of Spain.
- France: 720 AD – got raided and settled, until Muslim expansion in Europe was halted in the Battle of Tours, in 732 AD by Charles Martel
- Sind, India: 712 AD – forced conversions or slaughter because polytheists had no other option
- Punjab, India and beyond:
- 1000 AD Islam pushed its way into India from the Western frontier, there were forced conversions and slaughter
- including 50,000 killed at a Hindu temple
- Out of this terrible conflict Sikhism was born in the 16th century. The youngest and fifth largest of the world’s major religions, it mixes Muslim and Hindu concepts. Many early Sikh saints were tortured and killed by Muslims.
- Muslim intolerance toward Hindus and Sikhs has led to on-going bitterness and feuds.
Consider: When Muslims and Islamic governments promote their faith by force, they act in accordance with Islamic teachings. If Christians and Western nations do this, they act in defiance of Christian teachings.
The truth of Islamic aggression also stands against another new narrative: Slavery.
- One way Islam spreads in America, especially among blacks, is to claim that in Islam there has been no racism or slavery.
- But slaves were typically taken from those conquered, including beautiful women for sex slaves.
- The slaves could be kept or sold: for example to pre-civil war American slave traders. (This source of slaves is another thing you will not hear in Islam’s – or even America’s – new narratives.)
- Mohammed himself had male and female slaves. One of them, a sex slave whose father and husband he killed, is recorded as having poisoned him, possibly leading to his long and painful decline.
Islamic conquest and colonialization permanently destroyed or changed many cultures. The pre-Islamic artistic and scientific achievements of these cultures were then claimed to have come from Islam. For example, most of what we now think of as Islamic style in architecture and design is largely pre-Islamic Persian.
QUESTION 5: What is the meaning of Jihad?
According to Mohammed, to participate in jihad holy war, is next to the statement of creed as a good deed (Sahih Al Bukhari DuS # 1516).
Saieg explains to us that there are different types of jihad:
- The Apostle Paul, said to “fight the good fight.” He was not speaking of physical fighting, but of enduring faithfully to the end. The word “jihad” is used for this type of struggle in the Arabic Bible. Paul admitted he struggled with sin. Shortly before he died, Paul wrote to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Then Paul was martyred by Rome.
- In the USA we are told by Muslims that jihad is within oneself to gain mastery over a weakness. Is that accurate? Jihad in Islam, Saieg explains, is different. It is struggling in in the way of Islam. Because morality in Islam is not as clear-cut as in Christianity, he explains, the internal struggle of Islam is not so much against one’s sinful nature, as struggle against a weak level of commitment to Islam. He gives examples of being reluctant to commit one’s money, or the life of a son to promote Islam.
- Saieg tells us that jihad in Islam clearly includes violence. The word in the Qur’an usually translated as “fight” in English, he says in Arabic clearly means to fight with the sword. His preferred Qur’anic translation is one that says “fight and kill.” Saieg relates two stories regarding participation in the hadith:
- Prophet Mohammed said that his greatest desire was to die in jihad, come back to life and die in jihad, over and over again./li>
- A woman had seven sons. All died in jihad, yet she never shed a tear until the seventh died. People asked her, “Did you love the seventh son more than the others?” “No,” she said. “I am crying because I have no more sons for jihad.”
That, Saieg tells us, is the struggle of jihad.
Similarly, most English Qur’ans translate the Arabic phrase clearly meaning “decapitate” as “smite the necks” which is less clear, and also less graphic and gruesome to would-be converts.
There are many verses in the Qur’an which promote violence, not only for defense, but as offensive against non-Muslims until they die, convert, or pay jizya the ransom tax. Saieg’s claim that the main meaning of jihad is violent promotion of the faith is confirmed by the notes in the back of Darussalam’s Noble Qur’an, English 1996 edition. In its section on “The Call to Jihad” it says,
“Praise is to Allah who has ordained al-Jihad (the holy fighting for Allah’s Cause):
- Within the heart (intentions or feelings)
- With the hand (weapons, etc.)
- With the tongue (speeches, etc. in the Cause of Allah)”
The Qur’an recognizing that Muslims might not be inclined to fight, says,
“Jihad is ordained for you though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you.”
What good is promised to those who fight? Blessings, booty and approval of Allah. Plus, if one dies in jihad, among the benefits will be:
- will not feel the pain of death
- sins forgiven
- no fear of judgement
- paradise, with up 72 virgins
- can intercede for 70 family members
Have you been surprised at hearing some Muslim mothers encourage their children to jihad? Now you know why. Not simply honor for the family, but for her own supposed salvation and that of 69 other family members. This doctrine guarantees a society that will approve of and promote violent jihad: parents raising children with this mindset, for basically self-centered, as well as Islam-centered reasons. (You can view on-line videos of Muslim children singing the glories of martyrdom.)
If you have been learning about Islam for a while, you might have noticed a great irony in these promises for jihadis, because:
- Islam’s greatest criticism against Christians is, that by believing God as Jesus died to save us from our sins and take us to heaven, we make Jesus a partner with God. That is shirk, the unforgivable sin in Islam. But isn’t that hypocritical when …
- … they believe that if they die in jihad, or have a child die for them, that their sins are forgiven and they go to paradise?
- And, since Jesus is God, it is only God who gets credit with Christians – not a human warrior or relative.
Muslims are encouraged to do physical battle with the carrot and the stick – rewards if they do, and punishments if they don’t.
- For example, they are threatened in many verses of what will happen if they don’t,
“If you march not forth, He will punish you by a painful torment
and will replace you with another people.”
Perhaps a good summary of the call to jihad is this explanation in the contemporary commentary from the Noble Qur’an,
“As it is now obvious, at first ‘the fighting’ was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory –
- against them who start ‘the fighting’ against you (Muslims)…
- and against all those who worship others along with Allah.”
QUESTION 6: Have Islamic Governments been more TOLERANT than others?
“The Golden Age” of Islam is commonly claimed to be a time of tolerance and prosperity in the Muslim World. This is a myth. As with Muslim conquests, the claimants take isolated instances of relative tolerance under Islam, and generalize them to be typical. They contrast these with times of relative intolerance under “Christian” rule, which they generalize to represent all of it. Three examples:
- Brushing aside the fact that Spain was invaded from North Africa and forcibly converted to Islam by Muslims, proponents of a Golden Age will point to a time when the Moors tolerated Christians and Jews. A favorite example is that of Muslim Spain, in tenth century Cordoba under the Moor Abd Ar-Rahman.
- Bagdad under Harun Ar-Rashid, of the Thousand and One Nights fame, 786-809 AD might also be mentioned (although he did have times of Christian and Jew slaughtering.)
- Akbar the Great of Moghul India has been mentioned as a tolerant Muslim ruler. Actually, he was more ecumenical than Muslim. He gave non-Muslims improved status and consulted their religious leaders. In 1579 AD, he issued an edict which put him in charge of all religions, above mullahs, thereby making himself a heretic. He later claimed himself to be a prophet and invented his own religion.
During these times of relative tolerance, the Islamic rulers were influenced by non-Islamic philosophers, like the Persian Averroes, who mixed Persian, Byzantine ideas, and the writings of Aristotle into Islam. But since their ideas were against Islam, sometimes these philosophers were killed or exiled, rather than honored.
Those who perpetuate the myth of Islamic tolerance won’t tell you that under Islamic rule these ethnic cleansings and atrocities occurred:
- in Fez, Morocco:
- 6,000 Jews massacred in 1033 AD
- in 1465 AD near genocide of thousands of Jews left only 11 alive
- Marrakesh, Morocco: Jewish massacre in1232 AD
- Muslim Cordoba, Spain: 48 Christian Martyrs were beheaded between 850-859 AD
- Muslim Granada, Spain: genocide of the entire Jewish community of 4,000, during the riots of 1066 AD
- Egypt, Syria and Yemen under Islam: issued many decrees to destroy synagogues between 1000 AD and 1676 AD
- Idolaters like Hindus needed to convert or be killed. Protected dhimmi ransom tax status was not an option for them.
Even in the so-called “tolerant” times, there was never a suggestion of equality.
- Christians and Jews would be allowed to live in Muslim lands at times, but they were always second-class citizens, called dhimmis.
- Not only did they need to pay the ransom tax, but they lived under a situation of extremely reduced privileges: with restrictions on what they could do, wear, read, and say.
- For example, see “The Omar Agreement” of what the Christians in the Holy Land had to abide by in order to live there. (You can look it up online.)
- These civilian conditions were similar, but even more repressive than those of Jews under the Nazis.
When you meet traditional Christians from the Middle East, show them double respect:
- They and their ancestors have refused to convert under pressure for many hundreds of years. They have had to pay extra taxes to be allowed to survive.
- It is thought that poor Christians did not survive Islamic invasions: they had to convert or die because they could not pay the jizya.
- The survivors have had to endure ridicule, repression, criticisms, and hearing Islam broadcasted from minarets day and night. Often mosques were intentionally placed next to churches for this harassment.
- They have had to hold their tongues in frustrating situations and against false accusations.
- They usually have kept quiet about abuse. Outside observers have been requested not report the abuses to authorities, in fear that reprisals will bring worse abuses.
- They could not share a word of what they believed without severe risk.
As Brother E from Palestine said,
“For 1400 years we Christians in the Middle East have not been able to share about Jesus or criticize Islam. Now that we are in America, it is hard for some of us to stay quiet!”
Consider: When Muslims and Islamic governments treat non-Muslims harshly, they act in accordance with their teachings. When “Christians nations” treat unbelievers harshly, they act in defiance of their teachings.
QUESTION 7: Is there other violence in Islam?
Yes. We won’t give many details here, but the categories are roughly:
- Killing apostates who leave Islam: The Qur’an in Surah 4:89 tells Muslims to,
“Those who reject Islam must be killed. If they turn back take hold of them and kill them wherever you find them.”
- The hadith, the traditions of Mohammed, also tell them that Mohammed said to kill those who leave Islam.
- For example, in Sahih Bukhari, Mohammed himself cauterized their eyes and cut off apostates’ hand and legs, then let them bleed to death (DuS # 6802, vol. 4, 87:1; also see DuS # 6922, 9:84:57).
- Domestic Violence:
- Wife beating is actually sanctioned in the Qur’an
- (It is dealt with in greater detail in the Lesson and Study Guide on Islam and Women.)
- Can result in physical and psychological damage needing treatment. Since this is usually not received, lasting damage and behavior patterns remain.
- Honor-killing of family members who are felt to have disgraced the family or Islam:
- exact numbers are difficult to find, but cases are increasingly reported in the West, as children of immigrants clash with their families’ traditional values. This is especially true of young women who choose to wear Western dress or have boyfriends.
- those who leave Islam are often killed by family members for honor, rather than an official Islamic court
- Wife beating is actually sanctioned in the Qur’an
- Mohammad’s violence as the example for all Muslims:
- battles, treatment of apostates, teachings
- punishments of those who ridiculed him, like 100 year old Abu Afak
- the poetess Asma, killed by the sword as she suckled an infant
- sets the precedent for violence against cartoonists and publications in our modern world
- Harsh legal punishments:
- • Stoning for adultery (flogging in Qur’an; but stoning in hadith, so it is followed)
- • Blasphemy laws requiring the death of those who speak against Mohammed or the Qur’an (can include cartoons).
- • Chopping off hands for theft
- • For “making mischief” (like selling alcohol or making movies) —
“The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and his Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off from opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter.”
Note 1: since the West has attacked Muslim countries, however justified, and because of our liberties, according to a strict interpretation, we are all subject to the punishment of this verse. As a former Muslim from a royal family told Dr. C,
“You do not need a special fatwa on your head. From the teachings of Islam, Muslims are authorized to kill you at any time.”
Related to this is the concept of Booty of War, which Gracia Barham and her husband became when they were taken hostage by Islamic terrorists in the Philippines. You can read about it in her book, In the Presence of My Enemies.
On the video lesson, Dr. C asks Saieg if it is true that Christians and residents of the West are considered booty of war? Does Islam consider all that we own, and even our own bodies, can be considered as belonging to Islam? Fundamentally speaking, it is true. George gives us an example of a Muslim man claiming George’s wife to be his, at least in paradise.
Note 2: It is curious that Surah 5:33 comes right after 5:32, the oft-quoted verse that says killing one person is like killing all of mankind.
QUESTION 8: So, would a “Muslim Reformation” help as it helped Christianity?
No. Here’s why:
By the sixteenth century, the time of the Protestant Reformation, official Christianity of the Roman Catholic Church had drifted far away from Biblical teachings. The drift covered everything from personal life, to evangelism, to church structure, and even national policies. The teachings and decisions of the organized church were considered to outweigh the Bible.
When Martin Luther and other reformers started reading the Bible itself, a new image emerged of how Christianity should be practiced. Gradually, Biblical principles became incorporated into individuals, church structure, and nations. New life from God was breathed into them. The concept of a personal walk with God arose, and from that the freedom, tolerance, and personal liberties that we now believe in.
So, when Christians become devout and return to the Bible, they become more Christ-like, and filled with the Fruit of the Spirit. Ideally this means more loving, tolerant, and peaceful.
When Muslims become devout and return to the Qur’an, they also immerse themselves in the hadith, and Islamic writings. These encourage then to become more aggressive, and to promote Islam with violence.
|Muslim devotion often increases:|
|with age||after marriage||in enclaves||when challenged by Christians|
PROOF: Islam is currently in a period of return to its original writings and practices. Fundamentalism did re-emerge in the later part of the 20th century. If you ask people who lived in the Muslim World in the 1960s and 1970s what it was like compared to today, or look at pictures of how populations dressed on the street then compared to now, you will see the difference.
How has this return to fundamentalism arisen, and what is it doing? To understand this phenomenon we need to consider the impact of Islam’s “manifest destiny” – the idea that it is predestined to encompass the entire world in an Islamic government.
Islam’s Manifest Destiny
Having been promised success in expansion by Mohammed, the replacement of Muslim empires with Western control has been difficult for Muslims to account for and accept.
On September 12, 1683, Islamic expansion faced its end at the second siege of Vienna. Following that, a large part of the world, from Spain to Indonesia and down Africa, became lost to Islamic control especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
As Paul Marshall explains in his book Islam at the Crossroads, this trend of territory loss has severely challenged Muslim theology. Mohammed promised Muslims success until all the world was in “The House of Islam.” The loss stimulated self-examination within the Muslim World. Rather than consider that their prophet and Islam might have been wrong, strict leaders conclude that the loss is because Muslims have not been practicing Islam strictly enough, or taking jihad seriously enough.
- A backlash of fundamentalism has resulted with more Muslims focusing on the teachings and practices of the Qur’an and hadith.
- The writings of Osama bin Laden, the Shiite Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, and Sunni Hassan Al-Banna, who started the Muslim Brotherhood, reflect these attitudes.
This explains why Brother E says,
“Not all Muslims are terrorists; but all true Muslims are terrorists.”
QUESTION 9: Is there HOPE for PEACE?
As Christians we are to pray for peace, and for the gospel to be spread and honored. What hope do we see for peace in the Muslim World and beyond?
- Non-Christian options:
- Secularization – people keeping the name “Muslim,” and perhaps some of the rituals, but not being seriously religious. Like secular Americans, they look for good lives for themselves and their family, without feeling obligated to participate in verbal or violent jihad.
- Modernists and the Secondary Precepts movement – especially in Iran, seek reform from Islam’s harshness, restrictions, and legalism.
- They state that the harsh teachings and view of Allah from the Qur’an should be considered limited to that time, 7th century Arabic.
- Now, they say, the principles, or “precepts” of Islam, should be modified. In their place, they propose a gentler view of God and society, similar to that of Christianity.
- Since there is no basis in the Islam for this approach, it will not easily gain widespread acceptance.
- Christian options:
- Conversion to the Christian faith, and discipleship:
- dreams and visions of Jesus are common in Christians who convert from Islam
- Note that not all who have dreams convert, and dreams confirming Islam also occur
- (See more on this in the lesson and study guide on The Place of Miracles.)
- internet websites, like this and others
- literature distributed
- personal relationships
- dreams and visions of Jesus are common in Christians who convert from Islam
- In order for Muslims to become Christians, Christians need to:
- live like real Christians
- open their hearts and lives to Muslims
- reach out to Muslims – nearby and far
- financially support others who reach out
- and PRAY!
- Conversion to the Christian faith, and discipleship:
QUESTION 10: Do we need to fear Muslims?
(See also the Lesson and Study Guide on Fear, Persecution, and Spiritual Warfare)
Yes and No.
Most Muslims are peaceful, and surprisingly grateful when a Christian makes the effort to meet or befriend them. But, knowing what you now know about Islam, you will understand that some Muslims are indeed inclined to promote their faith by force, and to punish those who stand against Islam.
It is unlikely that you would come to harm in the West, unless you are a family member who has left Islam, but overseas the situation is different. This is especially the case in Muslim countries which have Blasphemy Laws for speaking against the Qur’an or Mohammed, Anti-conversion Laws, and Anti-Proselytism Laws. It is best to check on the existence of these laws before you attempt to evangelize in a Muslim country, although in general you can assume that they exist.
QUESTION 11: Since Islam can be violent, isn’t there a better way to serve God, besides sharing the Gospel with Muslims?
The Bible says we are to try to live peaceful lives (1 Timothy 2:2, I Thessalonians 4:11); but that is regarding our prayers for our nations, and our way of behaving with each other. This advice does not exclude taking risks for the gospel.
It can be disconcerting that God allows his servants to suffer, at times even to die in his service. The Bible is full of such examples, from Old Testament prophets to New Testament apostles. In Matthew 10, Jesus warned us that we would face hardships while standing for him. But then in Matthew 24 he commands to go and share his gospel with every ethnic group. After that is done, the end will come and we can all be with the Lord.
In its word origin, Martyr means witness. In Arabic the two words are similar. But the similarity between Muslim and Christian martyrs stops with the name. Why?
- Muslim martyrs usually die in violent jihad, killing others.
- Christian martyrs die not while killing others, but being killed by unbelievers because of their faith in Jesus. Many even forgive their persecutors and invite them to repent while dying.
Jesus commanded us to go into the world and share the good news about him with everyone. He told us that all authority on heaven and on earth is his, and that he will be with us forever. That is to be sufficient to preserve and empower us.
Certainly, it can be dangerous today to share the gospel in some parts of the Muslim world. It was likewise dangerous in the days of the early church. All but one of Jesus 12 main disciples died as a martyr.
But let these quotations by brave Christians encourage you move forward:
“We are immortal until our work is done.”
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
“Perfect Love drives out Fear.”
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Guidelines for Discussing the Violence in Islam with Muslims
The information given in this lesson is primarily for your education. We want you to know it so that you will have greater insight into what is going on in the world, and into the thinking and sufferings of Muslims. We also want to prevent you from believing a false image of Islam, and hope that together we can prevent Americans and Europeans from converting to it.
Dr. C’s PALM Project training breaks down all our interactions with Muslims, actually everyone, into three aspects:
- Build Bridges
- Share Truth
- Challenge Falsehood
Of these, we prioritize Building Bridges and Sharing Truth – showing the sincere love of God, especially in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Discussing the violence in Islam mostly comes under the category of Challenging Falsehood. That means it needs to be approached with caution, as does any challenge.
(See also the lessons and study guides on Building Bridges and Sharing the Gospel with Muslims.)
The truth is a sword.
The truths you have learned today are powerful weapons. Like knives, they must be used carefully and appropriately to bring about healing, not damage.
Discussing the violence in Islam is something that can easily seem like an insult to Muslims. How would you feel if someone you just met told you that Christianity is violent and that Christians are violent? So, by mentioning things you learned today, you can accidentally alienate someone that you actually want to bring close. And in today’s societies, it doesn’t take much to be labeled “intolerant” or making “hate speech,” even if what you say is totally true.
Who is the Enemy?
Remember, spiritually speaking, Muslims are not our enemy. Satan is. They are his victims and captives. We want to free them into salvation and the abundant life.
We are to speak only what is good for others (Ephesians 4:29). Our goal is not to insult Muslims, but to help them exchange a God of Hate for the God of Love.
As in all our difficult discussions with Muslims:
The Main thing is to Keep the Main thing the Main Thing!
Islam does not have the Savior. That is its main problem. Yes, we want to stop terrorism, and end the hatred between the Muslim World and the West. We want to stop abuse of women and Christians. But the ultimate thing we want to do is bring Muslims into the Kingdom of God. False teachings make life difficult for Muslims, and show that Islam is not the truth. Our goal is not to gloat over this. It is to reveal the one who can give them abundant and eternal life (John 10:10 & 3:16).
Prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and its impact on ministry to Muslims
Research has shown that about 10% of refugees and immigrants have experienced violence to the extent that they developed PTSD. In countries where torture is practiced, this is higher, for example in 20-40% of those from Somalia and Eretria.
When meeting refugees from zones of known conflict, Dr. C approaches them as if they have been traumatized. She uses caution in approaching their personal experience. Some might have been asked to work on telling their life story as a part of therapy. Others are asked to write it out. Some will be eager to tell you, but bear in mind that others might be reluctant to relive their most traumatic experiences.
Talk about violence with PTSD sufferers might trigger unfavorable reactions.
Wise Use of the Information on Islam and Violence
Having learned all of this about violence in Islam, you might be bursting to share it. But please, don’t just blurt out challenges and insults. This goes for any problem area in Islam and other world views. You must use forethought: learn, pray, strategize, and only speak on this topic when the Holy Spirit clearly leads you.
It is possible that you will not need to use this information at all. If you are in relationships that are leading more and more to the truth, and they already know the draw-backs of Islam, we suggest that continue to emphasize sharing the Bible’s truth until they are ready to trust in Christ as their Savior (see upcoming Lesson and Study Guide on Out of the Saltshaker).
Two situations in which you might need to use this information on violence are with:
- Someone who is very attracted to the Christian faith, and understands its primary teachings, but is not ready to accept Jesus: because they believe that at its core, Islam is good.
- They think that Muslim countries would be good if Islam were practiced right.
- This is what our on-video disciple Huda used to think. She did not cross over to become a Christian until Brother E convinced her, in Arabic, that oppressive Muslim regimes are practicing Islam correctly — for example Iran under the Ayatollahs, and Afghanistan.
- As we explain elsewhere, it is so difficult to leave Islam that no one will do it unless they are convinced that Islam is very wrong. Instead, they might simply add Christian virtues to Muslim ones.
- If so, pray for wisdom and the right time to discuss with them the violence in Islam, women’s issues or other things that might open their eyes
- They think that Muslim countries would be good if Islam were practiced right.
- Someone who is very certain that Islam is right and is not really interested in anything else. In long term relationships we don’t like to push topics or agenda, but wait for things to arise naturally. We suggest you pray and wait. An appropriate time may arise to start them questioning various Islamic teachings, for example with current events, their questions, or family situations.
Violence in Islam is not something you would usually want to bring up in an outreach, or early in a relationship. An exception might be a debate setting. Otherwise, here are some suggestions of what you might say when the time is right:
With refugees, immigrants and foreign students:
- The easiest and safest thing to say is, “I am praying for your country. I am sorry about what is happening there.”
- Be sincere. Do pray for their country. Even learn about it.
- This is mostly a bridge to the person. It shows them that you care about them and the situation they come from. Of course, this does not apply to all Muslims; but the situation across the world means that most Muslims, especially those that come to America and Europe, have faced violence in their homeland.
- This bridge is also an indirect challenge. It reminds them of the tension and violence within Islam, in contrast to the peace and acceptance they now feel in America or Europe. Most of those who suffer from Islam’s violence are Muslims. Sect battles sect. For example, since Shiites believe their saints can intercede, Sunnis consider them infidels, and attack them as such.
- 2. Later on, if the relationship is right, it might be appropriate to ask the immigrant or student something like this:
- Was it difficult for you, coming to America?
- Was it safe in the part of your country that you lived in?
- Tell me about what is happening in your country. Who is fighting whom? Why?
With Muslims American-born or here a long time
You may find that they are so much like mainstream America, that they are as confused about the Islamic violence around the world as they are. Very possibly they will think that no country practices pure Islam. Your challenge will be to gently open their eyes to the consistency of the teachings and the violent practices.
In the Debate Setting
In the debate setting, it is usually appropriate to discuss points made in the debate with Muslim friends attending with you, or those nearby. Even after the debate, you can ask Muslims in the area if they attended it. Whether or not they did, you can use the event as a bridge to bring up topics discussed then. But again this must be in the proper setting – one in which you know that the potential benefit outweighs the risk of the topic.
Another Possible Challenge
If the setting is right, politely ask: Islam says that Christians make Jesus a partner with God when we say his death can cover our sins and take us to heaven. How is that different from Islam saying that a Muslim’s death in jihad covers sins and takes people to paradise?
Responses to Expect
Don’t expect that Muslims will respond positively, unless they have already expressed deep doubts about Islam. When presenting this information, your goal is to provide something to think about, NOT to get them to agree. Even as they disagree, they will think about the discussion afterwards.
It is “an enormity” meaning a major sin, to bring shame to Islam. Agreeing with you about Islamic violence would do that. Nevertheless, we know from experience, that our discussions DO make a difference. For example, two members of a Muslim family who later became Christians, said to Dr. C,
“Cynthia, we used to argue with you that Islam was not about violence, but inside we knew it was.”
References for this Lesson:
- II Corinthians 5:17
- Mark 12:30-32
- I Timothy 6:12
- II Timothy 4:7
- Romans 7 & 8
- Galatians 5:17
- Isaiah 40:8
- Matthew 5:17,18 & 10:16-42 & 24:9-14 & 28:18-20
- Galatians 3:35
- I Timothy 2:2
- I Thessalonians 4:11
- I John 4:18
- Joshua 1:9
- Ephesians 4:29
- Surah 2:256,216
- Surah 9:5,29,39
- Surah 2:105
- The Qur’an, mostly:
- The Noble Qur’an, Darussalam Publishers. Riyadh & Houston, 1996
(Note: various translations used, including The Noble Qur’an, 1985 edition, from which commentary promoting Jihad has been subsequently withdrawn for the American market.)
- Sunni and Shiite Hadiths:
- Al Bukhari’s Sahih. Dar Al-Kotob Al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, Lebanon, 2003
- Sahih Muslim. Dar Al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, Lebanon, 2005
Books and Articles:
- Al-Banna, Hassan. The Way of Jihad (Risallat al-Jihad), available on-line in English
- Note on al-Banna: he was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood party. His manifesto on jihad, written decades ago, is credited with re-igniting interest in jihad in the Muslim World.
- Andrew, Brother, God’s Call. Fleming H. Revel Publishers, 2002
- Langer, et al. Western Civilization I second edition. Harper and Row, 1975
- Marshall, Paul, et al. Islam at the Crossroads: Understanding Its Beliefs, History, and Conflicts. Baker Books 2002
- Rose, Mark. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” NetCE, September 2015
- Note on books: There are many books partly or entirely devoted to exposing the violence in Islam. The below are two of the best, written by former Muslims from different Muslim countries. Gabriel’s is from a Christian perspective, and Ibn Warraq’s from the secular perspective:
- Gabriel, Mark A. Islam and Terrorism. Charisma House 2002
- Trifkovic, Serge. The Sword of the Prophet: Islam, history, theology, impact on the World. Regina Orthodox Press, Boston, 2002.
- Warraq, Ibn. Why I Am Not a Muslim. Prometheus Books, 1995 (very well-documented, fully rounded expose).
- What was your thinking about Islam and violence before this lesson?
- Whatever your background, had you heard that Islam was peaceful, or violent?
- Where had you heard that?
- What impression have you received from various media outlets about violence and peace in Islam?
- Give examples of things you had heard or seen on both sides of the issue:
- Violence is part of Islam
- Violence is not part of Islam
- Discuss in your group, or consider on your own, the Doctrine of Abrogation.
- Review what the doctrine teaches
- Why do George Saieg and Dr. C think this is the key to understanding how violence in Islam is practiced?
- How does this differ from the Bible with its Old Covenant, or Testament, and the New Covenant, or Testament?
- Previous to today, what had you heard about:
- the way Islam spread over much of the globe? (west to Morocco, north into Spain and France, south into Sub-Saharan Africa, and east through Pakistan and India to Indonesia)
- the tolerance of Islamic governments?
- in history
- how has today’s lesson impacted what you previously thought about the above two points?
- Review the three forms of Jihad described in the Saudi commentary:
- Were all three of these forms familiar to you?
- What does George say is the internal struggle of jihad in Islam?
- How does that differ from the internal struggle of Christians?
- Do you now accept that the primary meaning and purpose of jihad is forceful expansion of the Islamic dominion?
- Have you ever been told Christianity is a violent religion?
- If so, what examples have you been given?
- Are you familiar with violence in the Bible?
- What are difference between the violence of the Bible and that of Islam?
- Did Jesus or Moses give a command to spread the faith by force?
- Did Mohammed give a command to spread the faith by force?
- How might you defend Christianity if a Muslim told you that it is just as violent as Islam?
- Why won’t a “Muslim Reformation,” like Christianity’s Reformation, work to bring about tolerance?
- During the Christian Reformation people went back to the Bible. How did that change practices of the Christian faith?
- If Muslims devoutly follow the teachings of the Qur’an and hadith, will it reduce or increase the violent practices of Islam?
- Think about the Muslims that you know personally.
- Do you think that they are nominal, moderate, or very serious and knowledgeable about Islam?
- How do you think that they feel about violence?
- Do you think they understand abrogation?
- Can you imagine a situation in which you might discuss violence with them?
- How might you do that?
- What do you know about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
- Have you met anyone with it?
- Can you imagine why it is more common in refugee populations?
- How would you feel approaching someone who has suffered severe violence or loss of family members to conflict?
- Does knowing that many Muslims are at risk for PTSD impact your approach to them?
- If you are a Christian, where do you plan to be sharing the gospel, in word and deed, with Muslims? Knowing what you do now about the violent teachings of Islam, how might your approach differ for these locations?
- in America
- in Europe
- in a moderately Muslim country
- in a strict Muslim country
- If you are a Christian, how has learning about the violent teachings of Islam affected your desire to bring the gospel to Muslims?
- Are you more or less afraid of reaching them?
- Do you have more or less sympathy for them?
- Might your approach have changed?
© Copyright by Christian from Muslim, 2019. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
ChristianfromMuslim.com is an extensive free video resource for Muslims who want to learn about the Christian faith, and Christians who want to help them do it. Here you find teaching, testimonies, reality clips of a formerly Muslim new Christian, and expert answers to questions Muslims ask.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Islam and Women
Summary and Notes:
Quick Summary: Islam and Women is a huge subject. It would take many lessons to fully cover how Muslim women vary as individuals and by subcultures, and the special ways to build bridges, share truth, challenge their thinking, and bring them to Christ. We only cover a few here.
For this video lesson we have as our guest Dr. Wafa Sultan. Sultan is a psychiatrist from the Middle East. Although largely unknown to Americans, she is one of Time Magazine’s “most influential people in the world.” She is an outspoken former Muslim human rights advocate, and critic of Islam.
Notices: The Study Guide and video lesson on this subject contain adult content. Viewer, reader, and parental discretion are advised. Due to the broad topic and documentation, this study guide is long. Group Leaders may want to select portions for study and group discussion.
See also Lesson and Study Guide on Building Bridges with Muslims.
The Study Guide for this lesson is divided into Two Parts:
Part 1, a Review of the video lesson with Wafa Sultan. This lesson focuses on 5 important Women’s Rights issues in Islam that we think are important for Western Christians to know. We include the relationship between the Islamic Principles and these Practices. Are the abuses simply cultural?
Part 2, an Appendix of References, one of the largest English listings of authentic Qur’anic, Sunni, and Shiite references on women’s issues in Islam.
Part 1: Islam and Women with Guest Dr. Wafa Sultan
“I invite the advocates of the multicultural society to acquaint themselves with the suffering of the women who, in the name of religion, are enslaved.”
“Every Muslim country abuses women. That is why I am so poor after my divorce. I came to America to start a new life.”
Our PALM Project training teaches us to:
- Build Bridges
- Share Truth
- Challenge Falsehood
Five of the Worst Abuses faced by Muslim Women
Today’s lesson focuses on challenging an aspect of Islam: Women’s rights. The video lesson presents Five of the Worst Abuses faced by Muslim women. These are:
- The claim that women are “Lacking in Mind and Religion”
- Women’s Testimony being worth half a man’s
- Male domination of Women
It discusses these in the context of the Qur’an and authoritative traditions, (the sahih hadith), and answers the question, are these abuses due to Culture or True Islam?
Meet Dr. Wafa Sultan
Dr. Sultan has a fierce international reputation for her courage to speak out against the violence and human rights abuses of the Muslim world. She jumped to worldwide fame through an interview on Al Jazira television, but her convictions did not arise overnight.
Born and raised as a Muslim in Syria, Sultan saw and experienced many abuses against women, and observed Islam’s anger toward other people groups. In her culture, it was accepted without question that Islam was right. In that case, she thought, the abuses must be because her country did not correctly practice Islam.
Then she met the man who became her husband. He was Muslim, but he knew of another worldview – Christian. Little by little he convinced Wafa that the things they both disliked in their culture were a result of Islam. She began to see that it was true. And she began to doubt the existence of God.
Because of her excellent command of Arabic, when she moved to America, Sultan began writing articles for Syrian publications on what it was like to live here. Although she did not become a Christian, little by little her observations of America showed her a culture that was based around the belief in a God who loves. This made a stark contrast to A God Who Hates, her view of the God of Islam, and the title to her book on the subject.
“The righteous are bold as a lion.”
That describes the righteous indignation of Sultan in facing the system and leaders who exploit those trapped in the Muslim World. Yet on a personal basis Sultan is warm and full of Middle Eastern hospitality. You see this warm side as she welcomes Dr. C at the beginning of the interview.
(Note: Dr. Sultan is controversial. Some of our Muslim and former Muslim followers may already know her. Many admire her, including Muslims we know who have left Islam, partly because of her. However, perhaps you are offended by her and her message. If so, we ask you to overlook that and focus on the material we present as objectively as possible.)
Women and the Prosperity of Muslim Nations
Dr. Sultan starts out by telling us. “If women in the Muslim world were treated the way they are in America, every nation there would be as wonderful as America.”
“I believe the situation of any country is a reflection of the way its women are treated. How can a nation prosper,” Sultan asks, “if half of its citizens are mistreated? Several times during the interview she comes back to this theme – that a nation cannot do well if its women are abused.
The importance of ISLAMIC SOURCES in the Treatment of Muslim Women
Dr. C gives the references which set the foundation for the abuses that women face in the Muslim World. Dr. Sultan shares her experience with the reality of how they are practiced.
Since the West is constantly told that the mistreatment of women in regions dominated by Islam is cultural, not based on Islamic teachings, Wafa and Cynthia want to be sure that we know that the authentic documents of Islam prove that there IS a relationship.
It is true that there are a wide variety of Islamic sources, and they are of variable authenticity. Dr. C takes care to use the most authentic – the ones that are undeniably accepted by Muslims of Sunni and Shiite sects: the Qur’an and high level, or mutawater, hadith (for example Sahih Al Bukhari, and the Sayings of Ali).
When we see what the Islamic documents teach, and compare it with how the women under Islam are treated, we cannot reasonably deny that there is a connection:
The Teachings cause the Treatment, or
Islamic Principles = Islamic Practice
Pastor George Saieg, who is featured in several other lessons, told Dr. C off screen that when these principles are taught in Muslim countries, like where he was raised, the documentation is not given.
“Everyone accepts what is being taught, so the references are not necessary,” he says. “It is when Westerners want to understand or expose these teachings that the references must be used.”
That is our situation here, so we will give the references.
Are WOMEN LACKING in MIND and RELIGION?
Dr. C presents one of the worst principles against women in Islam: that they are Lacking in Mind and Religion. This concept is at the highest authority level of any teaching in Islam and cannot be denied by either Sunnis or Shiites. To deny a teaching with this level of authority would be similar to denying other major teachings of Islam, such as how many times a day to pray.
ISLAM TEACHES: Women are lacking in Mind and Religion
- Sunni Sahih Al Bukhari DuS # 304 (in seven books with indisputable transmission)
- Shiite Sayings of Ali (NaHjul Balagha)
- Both of which refer back to Qur’an Surah 2:282
- (see references in Appendix)
“Do not you see that two women’s witness is equal only to one man’s witness? …Then, this is women’s deficiency of intelligence. Do not you see that the menstruating woman could neither fast nor perform prayer? …This is her shortage of religion.”
“Women are deficient in Faith, deficient in Shares and deficient in Intelligence… So beware of the evils of women. Be on your guard even from those of them who are (reportedly) good. Do not obey them even in good things so that they may not attract you to evils.”
ISLAM TREATS: Women as lacking in Mind and Religion
Dr. Sultan’s response: When asked if she agrees that women are lacking in mind and religion, Dr. Sultan responds to the question as if it is ridiculous. “You are asking Wafa Sultan if women are lacking in mental ability? Of course, we’re not!” She goes on to add that to her, the role a woman plays in building a nation by building good families is highly dependent on women and their intelligence.
The belief that women are lacking in mind can be seen with American Muslims as well. Take for example, “Student S,” a Muslim undergraduate that Dr. C met at the University of California at Davis. Although born in Yemen, she was raised in America. When asked by Dr. C what she thought of women lacking in mind and religion, S answered,
“It is proven that women’s memories are not as good as men’s.
That’s why their testimony is only worth half a man’s in court.”
The idea expressed in the Sunni and Shiite hadiths that women are lacking in mind and religion is based on the instruction in Surah 2:282 of the Qur’an,
“And if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses,
so that if one of them err, the other can remind her.”
Even highly intelligent Muslim women in America are under this misunderstanding:
- A pre-law Student at the University of California Berkeley
- Ph.D. Pharmacist Dr. O, and
- an Islamic Newspaper publisher from the Midwest
These three women from strategic fields all told Dr. C on separate occasions:
“It is right that a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s.”
Dr. C finds this astounding. First, it is shocking to hear these points of view from educated women in America. Secondly, because women are NOT proven to have worse memories than men. In fact, some studies show that they have better memories. Dr. C presents evidence which supports the positive view of women’s intellectual abilities and religious devotion.
In the video lesson Dr. C says that these three women should know better. It is this sort of thinking that demonstrates why she is not happy with the thoughts of Sharia Law coming to America and Europe. Look at what it does in just two countries overseas:
PRACTICE: Status of Women Before the Law
- Women’s Testimony in Iran (Shiite) is worth half a man’s
- Bahrami of Iran said regarding the publicized court case of her blinding with acid, “Each man is worth two women. They are not the same.”
- Mahnoush of Iran said, “I am protesting that in any instance I am considered only half a man…maybe I am more effective than a man so why should my rights be half his?”
- Afghan Constitution (Sunni) made under the “direction/protection” of the United States government says:
- Woman is worth half a man
EVIDENCE that Women are NOT intellectually below Men:
- Women have higher IQs than men and
- Better memories than men
- More university students in America are women, and they are more likely to graduate with a degree
Also: women in at least one Middle Eastern university have higher admission requirements, as affirmative action for men, reportedly because male applicants have lower grades. (Dr. C has confirmed this claim by viewing the university’s admission requirements chart.)
Looking Down on them:
There actually are a few ways in which women might appear less intelligent than men, but they are not valid:
- Generalizing from the example of a simple, stupid, or obnoxious woman to claim that all women are that way.
- Keeping education from women, and then accusing them of being uneducated (Egyptian Muslim reformer Nawal Al Saadawi, also a physician points this out concerning village women in her writings.)
- Marrying girls at a young age before their education is complete, and diverting their attention to raising children.
- Telling women that their value is in providing sex and children, and then wondering why, as Islamic literature claims, they are mostly interested in sex and children.
Regarding Women Lacking in Religion: Lacking in Religion, or Religious Ritual?
Islam considers women unclean during their menstrual periods. This means they cannot attend the mosque. They cannot touch the Qur’an. They cannot even pray. They can not fast. When they are pregnant and breast-feeding children they also do not fast.
Women cannot pray in the same mosque zone as men. It is preferred if they have their own prayer room (which is never as large or grand as men’s), or in some situations they can pray behind all the men. While raising small children, they are excused from mosque attendance.
Set up for failure. With all these restrictions upon women, you can see how easily they fall behind in religious ritual. In a religion like Islam, which so heavily weighs religious rituals, being denied opportunities to perform them is a big strike against one’s religious progress. Theoretically, women can make up some of these prayers and fasting on other days. But the daily obligations are so many, that it is nearly impossible to make up additional rituals.
In the hadith, Mohammed said that women were lacking in religion. Why? Because of these ritual limitations. Is it fair to put ritual limitations upon women, and then call them lacking due to them?
Excepting Islam, Dr. C has seen that on several continents, regardless of the culture or religion, it is women who are the most frequent visitors to places of worship, apply rituals, and tend to pass on teachings of faith to the next generation.
The Pew Research Center agrees. Possibly the most prestigious organization studying religious trends over decades, it has collected much data that supports her view. In March 2016 it published, “The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World,” which says,
“Based on these wide-ranging and comprehensive datasets, this study finds that globally women are more devout than men by several standard measures of religious commitment.”
In Islam, however, the study noticed that although men and women are equally religious, men attend mosque more often, because of “religious norms.” And you now know what the “religious norms” are – discriminatory laws.
Proving Our Point
Having PROVEN our Point: that Women are Lacking in NEITHER Mind nor Religion MEANS:
- Women should be considered men’s equals in every culture
- Women deserve equal rights with men
- We see that Islam’s teachings are inaccurate
Deuteronomy 18:22 tells us not to follow a prophet who has spoken something that has been proven to be untrue. The Qur’an and both Sunni and Shiite hadiths strongly assert the falsehood that women are lacking in mind and religion.
Therefore, based on the above evidence, and applying Deuteronomy 18:22, Dr. C asserts that exposing the error of this teaching alone is enough to prove that Islam itself is not true. That means it is not from God.
Any Muslim, man or women, who is familiar with logic or can reason, should reflect on this, and consider leaving Islam.
Put in the terms of a Logical Argument:
- Premise 1: We should not follow a prophet who speaks untruth (Deuteronomy 18:22)
- Premise 2: Mohammed spoke untruth (about women lacking in Mind and Religion)
- Therefore: We should not follow Mohammed or Islam
WHY do educated Muslim women accept this FALSE stereotype?
Dr. Sultan makes another very strong statement, “I always say that education without values is of no value.” Without women being appropriately valued, how can they be expected to fulfill their roles to improve society?
Dr. Sultan explains that growing up in Islamic society being told this, influences the way women think. They have never even considered that they might be the equals to men.
LEAVING the CAGE:
Dr. Sultan says, “The worst form of slavery is when the slave thinks they are free.”
Noted reformer Ayan Hirsi Ali comments on this too,
“Psychological conditioning is very powerful…Muslim girls … have internalized their subordination, they … never succeed in escaping from the cage. They are like prisoners suffering from Stockholm Syndrome… comparable to slaves … who prefer the certainty of their existence in slavery to a freedom that they perceive as treacherous.”
“Marry of the women, who seem good to you two, or three, or four…”
Quoting this, Sultan says, “Muslim men can have four wives.” She asks how that makes a woman feel? It makes them feel that they are not adequate to fulfill the needs of their husband and raise his family.
“There is no doubt that the woman who has…one forth is better off than the one who has no husband at all,” says a contemporary law book from Saudi Arabia.3
Certainly, we disagree with this baseless claim. Dr. C’s Muslim students have expressed hoped that their marriage contract could prevent subsequent wives. But this Saudi book makes that doubtful. When addressing a woman’s complaint that she had kept her part of the marriage contract, yet her husband wanted another wife, the legal advice is:
“You do not have the right to prevent him from marrying again no matter what your activities toward him. He may desire more children or he may feel that having only one wife does not keep him completely chaste.”
So, what Christians call adultery, these Sunni leaders call “chaste.”
The Impact of Polygamy
Another former Muslim, Noni Darwish exposes the broad impact of polygamy:
“Men do not even have to exercise their right to additional wives for the damage to be done. By allowing men to be “loyal” to up to four wives, the stage is set for women always to distrust their husbands. Nor can they trust their friends.”
Darwish states that polygamy indirectly results in:
- making Muslim women adversaries
- single women seeing married men as available
- wives vulnerable if childless
- preventing support groups to help women
- manipulative wives
Since polygamy is respected, and divorce by pronouncement is easy, to avoid divorce, women may:
- Endure beating
- Endure husband’s women in their house/bed
- Pay money to husband
Did you know that Muslim polygamy goes on in America? Only the first wife is considered legal. Second marriages can occur in the mosque, and are considered valid by Muslims, but have no legal standing. As reported by co-workers, extra wives obtain government support as single mothers. (There is much more about polygamy and temporary marriages that we do not cover in this lesson.)
One Man One Woman?
The movement to establish this as the definition of marriage in America failed. A concern of those working with Muslims is that the erosion of the traditional American version of marriage could allow for the legalization of polygamy in America. As we hope you now see, that would be a big step backwards for women’s rights in America, and for the world.
“If Islam gains power in America, women will become nothing again.”
“In Islam,” Dr. Sultan tells us, “a man can beat his wife, and they practice this.” She tells us that beating a person takes away their dignity, and treats them as less than human.
“As to those women on whose part you see ill conduct, admonish them, and BEAT them.”
“My husband used to beat me until my whole side was blue. My mother told me to stay with him. It would be shame if I did not.”
Because this verse is actually in the Qur’an, Muslims in the West cannot deny that men have the right to beat their wives, something which is never granted in the Bible.
This is disastrous for Islam’s public relations with the West. To get around this, Dr. C has heard them attempt to soften the shock of the verse by claiming that it simply means, “slap them to bring them to their senses,” like something we might see in an old TV comedy.
But that is not the way it is practiced. And the truth is far from humorous.
There is an important book called, Reasons for Sending the Verses from God by al Sayuti, which explains the circumstances in which verses of the Qur’an were revealed to Mohammed.
When we look up the situation described for Surah 4:34, which allows a man to beat his wife, the situation becomes worse, not better: A woman came to Mohammed complaining of being beaten. Mohammed inquired of Allah, and Allah said that the man had the right to do this.
“My husband beat me and left some marks on my face. In spite of that the man was not punished, though Mohammed wanted to do so.”
Also consider these other Examples from the Qur’an and Mohammed:
In the Qur’an, Job is commanded to beat his wife, in Surah 38:44
A woman, greener than her veil from being beaten, complained to Mohammed. Regarding this, Aisha, Mohammed’s favorite wife said,
“I have not seen any women suffering as much as the believing women.”
on another occasion, because she left the house without his permission, Aisha said Mohammed,
“Struck me on the chest, which caused me pain.”
(Note: Sahih Muslim is another collection of highly regarded Sunni hadith, second only to Al Bukhari, and perhaps equal to it in esteem.)
The argument could be made that children need discipline. Some Westerners spank their children. Islam allows men to marry children (pre-pubertal girls), so they might need spanking, right? But does that make Islam’s treatment of women sound better or worse?
The PR and the Reality of Wife-Beating
While much effort is made in the contemporary English writings, especially online, to soften the blow of these verses (literally), and to come up with hadiths which would suggest nice treatment of wives is better.
One hadith says the “best of men” treat their women well. We don’t think it should be only the best of men. We think all men should treat women well, and their religion should tell them that. For example, the Bible says all Christian men must love their wives like their own bodies, and as much as Jesus loved the church he died to save.
Internationally the domestic violence statistics do not show Muslim wives being treated well:
- Pakistan: Many studies out of Pakistan report that up to 95% of women suffer domestic violence, so much so that they consider it a normal part of married life.
- Afghanistan: According to a 2013 HRW Report, 85% of Afghani women have experienced violence. 60% suffer serial violence. Afghanistan is the only country in the world where female suicide tops male.
- Egypt and Jordan: A UN Study in 2012 found 33% of Egyptian women, and 20% of Jordanian women experienced physical domestic violence.
- Bangladesh: The UN in the 1990s found that 45% of Bangladeshi women had experienced domestic violence.
- Other high figures are reported from Turkey, Iran, Syria and Palestine
Remember that this rough treatment will leave deep psychological scars and behavior patterns, at times even Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Some women are starting to report the abuse they experience, but in their shame-and-honor cultures it is extremely difficult to get a response or see progress.
“Men have a status above women. God is Majestic and wise.”
“Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property.”
Surah 4:34 sets up for woman to be under the domination of males for her entire life, including her:
- and even her Juvenile son
Several experts believe that the key to improving Muslim societies is to empower women with the courage and skills to raise their sons to respect them and other women. This means not letting the son, even little boys, boss them around, as happens in so many Muslim homes.
One expert says allowing sons to boss adult mothers not only undervalues them, but it leads to a misunderstanding of how things work. When a boy tells his mother to do something, and she does it, he gets the idea that saying = doing. Whereas, the reality in life is far different. Saying it does not get it done. Effort is needed to bring goals into reality.
Male custody of children is based on this verse as well.
In the West primary, custody of children in a divorce is granted to the mother, unless she has significant problems. The thinking is that she most loves them, and has their best at heart. Notice that this is the opposite view of Islam. Although Sharia may allow the children to be with the mother for a while, for example two years for a boy for nursing, and seven years for a girl, the ultimate custody belongs to the father.
We know of an example where the father took custody of a boy, out of his mother’s house, and turned him over to another wife. The boy was overlooked by both the dad and stepmother. Both neglected to educate him. He later went back to the birth mother as a barely literate older teen, struggling to survive in society because of his neglect.
“Not Without My Daughter,” a film starring Sally Field, as an American mother trying to get custody of her daughter from a Muslim husband. Based on a true story, it is a not uncommon example of situations that can result when international Muslim marriages break up. (In the video lesson Should Christians Marry Muslims? George Saieg strongly recommends this film for women considering marrying Muslims.)
What about decisions regarding herself? Some Muslim countries the husband can notify airports not to let his wife leave the country.
“The man has to have the upper hand!” affirms Sultan in today’s video lesson. He needs to control every aspect of a woman’s life. She cannot even attend her own father’s funeral unless her husband gives permission. If she cannot make even simple decisions regarding herself, Sultan asks, how can she be expected to make the kind of important decisions that impact those around her and the world?
Tina, a successful business woman working in the Middle East, told Dr. C that “Muslim women have difficulty making decisions. They have not learned how to do it – make a choice and take responsibility for the results. There is always someone making the decisions for them – a father, brother, or even juvenile child. After time, some of these women get tired of being bossed around, and rebel. That can start other problems.”
In Tina’s country, women have the opportunity to be educated and get jobs. “But they have no practice in how to make decisions,” she says. “So, society is now facing a group of educated women who insist on having their own way; but because of their lack of experience, make bad decisions and mess up their lives.” (Note: Tina is not her real name. She asks to remain anonymous)
There is one area where women are considered equal in Islam: before the law in responsibility for performing the duties imposed upon them. As it says in the Qur’an,
“Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female while a true believer… we will bestow on such their reward according to their actions.”
“So Allah has stated that the woman is an equal partner of the man in terms of reward and punishments for their actions…. Yet, as a class, men are superior to women in general.”
Are these Abuses Cultural, or related to Islam?
“They are NOT cultural!” insists Dr. Sultan.
Sultan says these abuses are a result of Islamic teachings. “And I can prove it!” she says. She points out that in her country, Syria, there are Christians. Muslims and Christians there share the same broad culture. But, the Muslims have “honor killings” of women who are felt to disgrace Islam and family.
The Muslims in Syria hold this custom in common with Muslims elsewhere, like Pakistan. However, she has never heard of honor killing among Christians. Because of Islam, she says, Muslims in Syria behave more like Muslims in Pakistan that with their own Christian neighbors.
Dr C agrees with Dr. Sultan: the abuses Muslim women face are primarily due to Islam. Why? Because Islam teaches them. These abuses could be considered cultural only in the sense that the culture of Muslim countries is based on Islam, which originates and authorizes these mistreatments.
So – is there a relationship between:
the PRINCIPLES regarding women and the PRACTICES regarding women in Islam?
Yes, the Teachings of Islam give rise to the Treatment of women in Islam.
In his well-documented book, Why I Am Not a Muslim, Ibn Warraq states,
“The horrendous behavior toward women, non-Muslims, heretics, and slaves manifested in Islamic civilization was a direct consequence of the principles laid down in the Koran and developed by the Islamic jurists.”
Dr. Cynthia thinks that understanding this relationship is probably the most important message to get out of this lesson.
The Presentation of Islam and Women to the West
Dr. C has attended many presentations of Islam to Americans in person, as well as many others online and in the media. In these, spokespersons paint a bright picture of women in Islam. They say,
“Islam puts women on a pedestal. We honor them. We do not treat them like sex objects, making them expose their bodies. We do not treat them like slaves, expecting them to work outside of the home, as well as having children and raising a family.”
This chart summarizes how Islam explains the treatment of its women, compared to the way most in the West would find it:
|Islam’s Presentation||West’s View (Reality)|
On American university campuses, it is common for the Muslim students to put on “Women in Islam” presentations. As part of these, they often have a panel of Muslim university students, and at times educated Muslim women who share their positive experiences as women in Islam.
Egyptian reformer Nawal Al Saadawi sees through the pedestal presentation. From her long experience she says,
“When fundamentalist movements become powerful, it is women, especially poor women, who suffer most. These movements direct their attack against women and minority groups… In the name of protection, honor, sacred motherhood, women are degraded and exploited inside and outside the home.”
Dr. Sultan responds to this situation in the video lesson, explaining that what they present to the West is not representative of Islam around the world.
“Those women live in America,” she says. “They are protected by the United States Constitution. No one can beat them, no one can abuse them.”
She encourages them to visit or live in a strict Muslim country to see how pure Islam treats women.
Herstory in Islam
Considering all of the above, Dr. C explains to us that HerStory, The Story of Women in Islam has the shape of ___, a flat line.
Most of us find that,
A Good Story Has:
A Beginning, Middle, and End
Drama: Good vs. Evil
Reversals of fortune
A Happy Ending!
In Islam, there was no lovely beginning for women; meaning that there is no evidence that Eve was ever equal with Adam. Throughout their lives, Muslim women suffer great indignities and pain, sadly much of it is authorized and institutionalized by Islam. And what end do Muslim women have to look forward to? One of these options:
Islam’s Eternally Bad Option for Women:
- They have a greater chance of being in hell than men (most of those in hell are women)
- They get hell because they are disrespectful or ungrateful to their husbands (This puts a woman’s eternal destiny at her husband’s pleasure; not something appealing to Western women. They would prefer an objective judge – like God.)
Islam’s Eternally “Good” Option for Women:
- Believing women who do good are promised paradise in Islam, but there is no specific description of its delights for them.
- They could end up as one of 2-72 perpetual virgins servicing a man (depending on how many he merits)
- A Saudi cleric, trying to soften the prospects for believing women, told one of our students that the wife could be a social secretary of sorts, scheduling the women’s sex nights with her husband.
- Is it any wonder that one of the first things that attracted her to Christianity was the Bible’s description of heaven without marriage?
As Dr. C points out in the video lesson, perpetual virginity would not be a pleasant thing for the virgin. It might be good for the man; but since a woman’s first experience of sexual intercourse is usually uncomfortable, she would face continual suffering (especially if she had had female genital mutilation).
By way of contrast, the Story of Women in Christianity is the shape of a W. Women start out equal with men, experience a disastrous fall, but rise greatly with Jesus. After Jesus, women still face consequences of the curse; but believing women are assured a beautiful future in heaven with God, when the curse haunts them no more, and they again share equal status with men.
Muslim DENIALS of the Sources and Abuses:
Denials of the Sources
In a Western setting, Muslims will not readily admit what the abundance of authoritative Islamic literature says about women. Some will respond by saying they believe only the Qur’an. But how does that really improve things when all these abuses are set up through the Qur’an?
We are presenting only the strongest and earliest claims about women here. These are documented so well that to be a true Sunni or Shiite you must accept them. Later Islamic commentators, like the respected expert Al-Ghazali, say utterly atrocious things about women, which could perhaps be denied – but not the Qur’an itself and hadith.
As Christians, we cannot deny that historical church leaders have said terrible things about women too, and have negatively impacted women’s equality and rights throughout history. The difference is that the Holy Scriptures we rely on for our faith, when properly viewed, disprove those statements and practices. Whereas, in Islam, the documents which must be accepted to be a Muslim, firmly assert the inferiority and suppression of women.
Dr. C thinks most Muslims are unaware of many of the specific teachings, especially women. That is why she hears views like Wafa had before she left Islam – that Islam is true, but simply not practiced right.
This was also the view of Huda and other women we know who left Islam after fully realizing Islam’s teachings. As Nabeel Qureshi said, “I had read the words multiple times since childhood, never stopping to consider what they meant.”
When speaking with educated Muslim women on American university campuses, Dr. C finds that even they are ignorant of the weight of Islamic literature against them. If they do come across something which they are uncomfortable with, their leaders give them a very soft interpretation of it – one which fits with American life, but would not be practiced in an Islamic country. Dr. C encourages these women to become experts in what Islam has written about women, the scriptures on which the leaders base the rules, in order to be better able to serve their fellow Muslim women.
At a Muslim convention Dr. C asked one of the leaders, an extremely knowledgeable Muslim man, how he would explain their doctrine that women are lacking in mind and religion. Since Dr. C knew the documents, he could not deny them as he otherwise might.
Instead, he paused, then “punted,” as Americans would say, meaning he tried an entirely different approach:
“I suggest,” said the leader, avoiding the question,
“that you fall in love with the Prophet Mohammed.”
Dr. C was dumbfounded. “Does he really think that would work with me?” she thought, “knowing what I do about Islam, and what I must know about Mohammed? He is certainly desperate for something to say without telling me to my face that yes, in his religion says I am lacking in mind and religion.”
Denial of the Abuses
If you ask a Muslim woman how Islam treats her, she will almost always say, “Very well. I like it,” Dr. C tells us from her experience. But she says in the video lesson that this claim is less convincing when you know that is what they must say.
In a highly authoritative book of Sunni Law, Reliance of the Traveler, # w52.1(384) tells Muslims they must cover embarrassing things about Muslims/Islam. If not, it is “an enormity,” a major sin.
Most of us respect someone who does not gossip about their loved ones. For anyone to share something sad like abuse, they usually have to know a person well. This is especially true in shame-and-honor cultures.
So, it is good for those befriending Muslim women to know that their natural reluctance to share negative experiences is underlined by Islamic law forbidding it.
Dr. C tells us that in the West, we have found that the first step towards progress is to admit there is a problem. For example, this is the case with drug/alcohol and domestic violence situations in the United States. The reluctance of Muslim women to admit the problem, understandable as it is, makes it more difficult for Muslim cultures to progress toward better treatment of women.
SUMMARY OF WOMEN in ISLAM:
- True Islam truly represses women
- Westernized Islam can be similar to secular America
- The great women of Islam are great in spite of Islam, not because of it
- The more a religion favors man, the less it is of God
- Down deep, most Muslim women know they are treated wrong in Islam because Their conscience is better than their religion
An Inescapable CONCLUSION
Perhaps we could explain away a few problems are misunderstood/mistranslated verses, such as is the case with Christianity. However, this is not the case with Islam. The Islamic writings are weighted down with many harsh rules and insults against women (see reference list in Appendix). Although newer translations try to lessen the impact, you do not have to look hard in the Qur’an or hadith to find many harsh sayings and laws regarding women.
That means that either or both of these statements must be true:
- The authoritative documents of Islam teach the suppression of women
- After 1400 years, Islam – which controls all the minute details of the lives of its followers – is powerless to bring about the fair treatment of women
The Best, and possibly Only HOPE
- Individually – inner freedom through Jesus, and to carry the hope of heaven in their hearts
- Culturally – redeemed, as more and more Muslims come to know the truth of the loving God personally, and apply the Bible to their culture
- “Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you really are my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31, 32
(Note: See secular options in the section on “Is there Hope for Peace” in the Study Guide on Islam and Violence, also apply here.)
What Can We DO About these Abuses?
“Do you have to be mistreated, raped, locked up, and repressed yourself in order to put yourself in someone else’s position? Is it not hypocritical to trivialize or tolerate those practices, when you yourself are free?”
In the video lesson, Dr. C tells us that Christians are authorized by the Bible to do something about these abuses. It might seem difficult, or unpleasant, but we are instructed to Expose, and Reform them. Read what the Bible says:
Expose darkness and bring people into the light:
“Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.”
Ephesians 5:11 (NLT)
Reform women’s rights in Muslim cultures:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.”
So Exposure and Reform should be our goals.
The Style we use to do this is of great importance:
- We must remember to speak the truth in love, and with gentleness and respect
- We must not be overcome by the power of evil. We must overcome evil with good. (Ephesians 4:15, 1 Peter 3:15 and Romans 12:21)
- We must be humble, and guard against falling into sins (1 Corinthians 10:12, Galatians 6:1)
Then, you might ask, will it work? Will we be wasting our time? Perhaps we should simply spend more time with our families or at church activities? Consider these examples:
RESULTS of EXPOSURE with INDIVIDUALS:
Classic Example from the Past:
Pandita Ramabai – In India, over 100 years ago, her high caste father broke the traditions of his religion: he allowed brilliant Pandita to read the Vedas, the high-holy books of Hinduism forbidden to women. When she saw what the books of her religion really said about women, she was shocked and hurt, and knew they could not be true.
So, Pandita left Hinduism. After more study she eventually became a Christian. A century later, India issued a stamp in her honor for the good work she did rescuing child widows from wandering the streets and starving. These children were traditionally shunned in Hindu culture, for it was believed that their bad karma had brought bad luck and death to their husbands.
Note: The example of Pandita Ramabai shows the power of a person reading for themselves the harsh writings of a religion against them. Following this example, rather than us saying these harsh things, whenever possible we like to let Islam speak for itself. We have found it powerful to tag these references in an Islamic book with post-its, and give them to a receptive Muslim to read on their own. That way the insult comes directly from Islam, not the Christian.
- Former Muslims Nabeel Qureshi, and Ismael of Canada
left Islam partly due to its principles and practices regarding the treatment to the women (Surah 4:24, 23:6 & 70:30) (See Nabeel and hear his testimony in the Lesson on The Place of Miracles.)
- Middle Eastern student “F”
lost faith in Islam at age 14 when she discovered their teaching on women and became a Christian in USA over a decade later when she heard the gospel (see her written testimony in the “Testimonies” section of our website)
- Two Shiite students in USA
Became very disillusioned after being shown what Ali said about women, and they became less and less strict in Islam, eventually became Christians. (see their written testimony in the “Testimonies” section of our website)
RESULTS of EXPOSURE on a CULTURE: Example India’s elimination of SUTTEE
The practice of suttee, burning Hindu widows alive with their husbands, has now largely disappeared from India, thanks to exposure and reform. Reformers worked against it from both cultural and legal angles, both inspired by Christian values.
English ruler in India, Sir Charles James Napier, when told by Indian locals it was their custom to burn widows alive with their husbands, responded that it was his “custom to hang at dawn” those burned widows alive.
Using the cultural angle, missionary William Carey convinced high caste Hindus to join him in fighting suttee. They assured the people that burning widows was not necessary Hindu practice.
If Exposure and Reform worked with Hinduism, why not Islam?
As David told Solomon,
“Be strong and courageous and do the work.
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord, my God, is with you.”
1 Chronicles 28:20 (NIV)
Note: List of Important Issues regarding Islam and Women not covered in this Lesson
Women in leadership, no women prophets, hijab, covering and its consequences, the many types of Muslim marriages, double standard for sex, female blame for male sexual misconduct, temporary marriages, incorrect assumption that women are more sexually oriented than men, rape, conquest rape, and gang rape, “rape capitals,” “outcasts,” traumatic or repeated abuse leading to post traumatic stress disorder, divorces, secret marriages and secret divorces, child marriage, selling in marriage, bride baiting for greater dowry, “only boys count,” female illiteracy, female infant mortality rates, honor killing, cooler white clothing reserved for men, forbidding wigs, infidel and attractive fashions prohibitions, female genital mutilation (“female circumcision”) and whether Christians and Muslims should marry (See Lesson and Study Guide on Should Christians Marry Muslims?). Some references for these can be found in Part 2, the Appendix.
Scripture References for this Lesson:
II Corinthians 5:17
Ephesians 5:11-13 and 4:15
I Peter 3:15
I Corinthians 10:12
Ephesians 4:15 & 5:11
I Peter 3:15
I Corinthians 10:12
I Chronicles 28:20
The Qur’an, mostly from:
The Noble Qur’an, Darussalam Publishers, Riyadh & Houston, 1996
Sunni and Shiite Hadith Collections:
Al Bukhari’s Sahih. Dar Al-Kotob Al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, Lebanon, 2003
Sahih Muslim. Dar Al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, Beiruit, Lebanon, 2005
Ali, Imam Ibn Abu Talib. NaHjul Balagha: The Peak of Eloquence. Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an Inc, New York, 1985
Books and Articles:
- Ali, Ayaan Hirsi. The Caged Virgin. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2006. & Infidel 2007
- Darwish, Noni. Now They Call Me Infidel. Sentinel Publishers, New York, 2006
- Sultan, Wafa. A God Who Hates. St Martin’s Press, New York, 2009
- Warraq, Ibn. Why I Am Not a Muslim. Prometheus Books, 1995
- Ward, Olivia, “Worst Countries for Women” Toronto, Canada 2008
- Al-Fauzan, Saleh. Rulings Pertaining to Muslim Women. Darussalam Publishers, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2003
- Al-Sistani, Ayatullah. Islamic Laws: English Version of Taudhidiul Masae’l. World Federation Publisher, Lebanon, 1994
- Human Rights Watch, “Afghanistan: Ending Child Marriage and Domestic Violence” 2013
- Harrison, Frances, “Iranian Women Struggle for Equality,” BBC News, Tehran, 2009
- Al-Musnad, Muhammad bin Abdul-Aziz. Islamic Fatawa Regarding Women. Darussalam Publishers, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2003
- Wikipedia “Islam and Domestic Violence” 2019
- Rose, Mark, et al. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” NetCE, September 2015, Vol. 141, No.4
- An-Naisaburi, Abu Al-Hassan. Reasons and Occasions of the Revelation of the Holy Quran. Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, Beirut Lebanon, originally written about 1000 AD
- Al-Misri, Ahmad. Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law (sic). Amana Publications, Beltsville, MD, 1994
- El Saadawi, Nawal. The Nawal El Saadawi Reader. Zed Books, New York, 1998
- Merinisi, Fatima. The Veil and the Male Elite. Perseus Books Pub, New York, 1991
- Qureshi, Nabeel. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2014
- Dr. Sultan believes the situation of any country is a reflection of the way its women are treated. We think this is a strong point.
- Do you think she made this point clearly?
- What reasons did she give to support this claim?
- Thinking it over, do you agree or disagree?
- What else might be needed to make a nation prosper? (see Proverbs 14:34)
- The TREATMENT of women in Islam is based on the Teachings of Islam. Or, as Dr. C says, Principles = Practice
- Do you think this video lesson made a solid case for that claim?
- Have you heard the Muslim claim that the mistreatment of women in Islamic countries is based on culture, not the principles or teachings of Islam?
- What was some of the evidence Wafa and Dr. C gave to support this claim?
- True Story for comparison: Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped at age 11. She was discovered in Antioch, CA, in August 2009, at age 29. Jaycee had been used as a sex slave for 18 years by Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy. It was called “an unfathomable crime” in USA.
- Do you think it would have been better if –
- the stepfather were paid?
- the parents agreed?
- she were taken during war?
A situation like this in the Muslim world is not unimaginable. Islam today still has child marriage and sex slaves. If any of the above conditions were met in the Islamic world, the situation would have been acceptable. Basically, since women belong to men, as long as there is no man forbidding this practice it is acceptable; or if the female is taken as “booty of war,” even married women. (By the way, according to strict interpretation, all Western women are declared “booty of war” because the West has attacked Muslim countries.)
- Since it is culturally acceptable in Islam, should we consider that it would not be “an unfathomable crime” if done there?
- Since it is acceptable under Sharia’ Law, should it be acceptable in Europe and USA in areas where Sharia’ Law is now practiced?
- What does it say about the differences in the Western and Muslim world views that one considers as an unfathomable crime” what the other world view could find acceptable?
- Which 5 Women’s Rights ISSUES did today’s lesson cover?
- Which issue do you feel is most important?
- If you are Muslim, do you have experience with any of these?
- What related to these abuses might women in the West have experienced to some degree?
- Regarding Women LACKING in Mind and Religion:
- Do you recall why Islam says women lack these?
- Do you think we present solid evidence that women do not lack these?
- Do you think that the evidence suggests that since Islam in incorrect about these, it might be unreliable in other things as well?
- Did you realize that the Qur’an, and thus Sharia Law, state that a woman’s TESTIMONY is worth half of a man’s?
- How does that make you feel about Sharia Law?
- Knowing that Sharia Law also allows polygamy and grants child custody to the man, how do you feel about Sharia Law being allowed in any areas of the West?
- Regarding POLYGAMY: At creation, God established one man and one woman as a married pair. Jesus affirmed this during his ministry. Although never approved by God, polygamy existed in the Old Testament. Some experts that the verse forbidding sister-wives means co-wives, more than one (Leviticus 18:18).
- How do you feel about polygamy?
Polygamy is being used to recruit men into Islam. Can you see the appeal in that?
When prophets like Mohammed and Joseph Smith re-instate polygamy, does it seem that they are going forward or backward in spiritual progress?
How would you feel if you were a woman who discovered her husband was getting another wife?
How would you feel if polygamy becomes legal in America?
- How do you feel about polygamy?
- “J,” one of our volunteers, was having lunch with Dr. C and a Muslim student. She was surprised when he told her that his father had several wives. “That’s just wrong!” exclaimed “J.”
- Do you agree with her?
- Is that the way you would approach the situation?
- What might you say?
- Try to imagine a religion designed to mistreat women.
- What sorts of principles and practices would the religion include?
- How would this differ from Islam as you learned today (including the references in the appendix)?
- Regarding Muslim women discovering the teachings of Islam about them:
- Why do you think this lesson says it is better for Muslims to read it for themselves than for a Christian to tell them?
- Does this mean that a Christian should never tell them?
How would you feel if you unexpectedly came across writings by your religion which said you were very low, and probably going to hell simply because of something beyond your control, like your race, size, or gender?
Study Guide Part 2
Appendix: Islamic References Regarding Women from the Qur’an, and Authoritative Sunni and Shiite Hadiths
- Note 1: This is the most complete list we know of anywhere of authoritative references on the problems of women in Islam.
- Note 2: Surah designates the book, or chapter, of the Qur’an. The books also have names as well as numbers.
- Note 3: Sahih Al Bukhari is generally considered the highest level of Sunni Hadith, and required to believe/follow for Sunni Muslims. Dr. C has run into at least 5 numbering systems for Sahih Al Bukhari, none of which is always used. This could cause you confusion. The DuS # we use here is the Dar us-Salam number, which is good.
- Note 4: If you want to look up references, an online source for multiple sources of hadith and different numberings, and commentaries is https://quranx.com, which uses three systems, including DuS.
- Note 5: Some hadith about women are getting more difficult to find online due to political correctness.
- Note 6: The Sayings of Ali, NaHajul Balagha, are highly respected by Shiites.
Authoritative Quran and Sunni References:
- Men superior to women – Surah 4:34, Surah 2:22, 228
- Women are a man’s field to plow as he wishes – Surah 2:223
- Women are a desirable “possession” – Surah 2:223 & 3:14
- Woman’s testimony worth half a man’s – Surah 2:282
- News of the birth of a daughter depresses a man – Surah 43:15-17
- Women are lacking in Mind and Religion –
- Al Bukhari DuS # 304 (USC-MSA 1:6:301; 6:9, 2:541; 3:286), & Sermon 79 from the Sayings of Ali, NaHjul Balagha
- Surah 2:282 is the basis
- No women prophets or leaders – Surah 16:43
- “Those who entrust their affairs to a woman will never know prosperity.” – commonly quoted, attributed to El Bukhari
- Inherit from father half of a man’s share – Surah 4:11
- Inherit from husband only 1/4 if he is childless, and 1/8 if he has children – Surah 4:12
- Status before the law is different for women and slaves than men – Surah 2:178
- interpreted by Muslim jurors that in cases of manslaughter, the financial compensation for a woman is half of that of a man
- Sex slaves, “booty of war,” permitted – Surah 4:3, 24
- Four wives permitted Muslim men – Surah 4:3
- Can beat women –
- wives – Surah 4:34, Sahih Muslim 11:35:103 (7:2127)
- daughters – Al Bukhari DuS # 6845 (Aisha’s father beat her violently)
- No women suffer like Muslim – Al Bukhari DuS # 5825 (USC-MSA vol 7 book 72 #715)
- They are green from being beaten – also 5825
- Don’t have sex with wife after you beat her like a slave – Al Bukhari DuS # 5204
- Pre-pubertal child wives acceptable – Surah 65:4
- Mohammed married Aisha when she was six and consummated it when she was nine, so child marriage is ok – Al Bukhari DuS # 5133, 5134, & 5158
- Temporary Marriage
- Surah 4:24
- Al Bukhari DuS # 5118, 5119
- Forced Prostitution Acceptable – Surah 24:33
- Seclusion of Women – Surah 33:33 & 53
- Covering of Women – Surah 33:59, 24:31
- Women lower gaze – Surah 24:31
- Beware of women’s voices – Surah 33:32 & 53 and other
- Men are sexually weak and need to be indulged – Surah 4:28
- Husband’s permission for visitors to home – Al Bukhari DuS # 5195
- Husband’s permission for wife to fast – Al Bukhari DuS # 5195
- Mohammed’s wives complaining? No great loss, Allah will send better! – Surah 66:5
- Pronounce or text divorce – Surah 66:5
- Husband originates divorce, and can take dowry back – Surah 2:229
- No official means for a woman to instigate divorce, although some branches now accept it under certain conditions.
- “The Legalizer” al mohalil, is the man who “marries” a divorced woman so she can remarry a husband who has divorced her by triple pronouncement – Surah 2:229, 230
- A woman can pay her husband to prevent him from being cruel or divorcing her – Surah 4:128
- Most in hell are women – Al Bukhari DuS # 304 & 5197 (and 8 other places in this source)
- Because ungrateful to husbands Al Bukhari DuS # 5197
- No women prophets or leaders –Surah 16:43
- Touching a woman makes a man unclean for prayer – Surah 4:43
- Mohammed married his daughter-in-law by divine revelation – Surah 33:37,28
- this incident led to the outlawing of adoption in Islam
- Mohammed’s wife Sawda, gave her night to Aisha to stay married – Al Bukhari DuS # 5212
- Women are like a bent rib, and cannot be straightened – Al Bukhari DuS # 5185
- Women are evil omen – Al Bukhari DuS # 5093 (7:30)
- Nothing more harmful to men than women – Al Bukhari DuS # 5096 (7:33)
- Angels curse wives who decline sex – Al Bukhari DuS # 5193
- No society will prosper with woman leader – Al Bukhari vol 4:226
- Note: Honor killing – derives secondarily from men’s authority over women, and punishments for immorality and apostasy.
Somewhat lower Sunni authority, but still strong and current:
- Female genital mutilation is indirectly referred to, but unfortunately this seems to be adequate to continue the custom –
- weakly connected to Surah 30:30
- Al Bukhari 58:89, & 64:17, & 77:106;
- Don’t ask why a man beats his wife – Hadith Abu Dawood 11:2142 (somewhat lesser authority Sunni hadith collection than Al Bukhari, but also authoritative)
- Women may not leave town without a near relative accompanying – Reliance of the Traveler m10.3
- Lying to wife ok – Reliance of Traveler r8:2
- OK to keep rival wives secret – Reliance of the Traveler r8.2
NaHjul Balagha, Peak of Eloquence (Shiite)
By the fourth Caliph, Ali ibn Abu Talib as translated into English by Sayed Ali Reza, 1975
Although Dr. C’s Shiite students told her that the Shiites honored women because Ali loved Mohammed’s daughter Fatima so much, these “Sayings of Ali” about women are just as bad or worse as the Sunni.
Sermon 79, page 204
“O ye peoples! Women are deficient in Faith, deficient in Shares and deficient in intelligence… So beware of the evils of women. Be on your guard even from those of them who are (reportedly) good. Do not obey them even in good things so that they may not attract you to evils.”
The commentary says “The second weakness is that their natural propensities do not admit of full performance of their intelligence… nature has given them the power of intelligence only in accordance with… child care and household affairs…”
Sermon 152, page 313
“Beasts are concerned with their bellies. Carnivores are concerned with assaulting others. Women are concerned with the adornments of this ignoble life and the creation of mischief herein.”
The commentary says that if men try to satisfy bodily needs like these beasts, they will be “like a woman, because in a woman both these passions act side by side and because of these she is extremely eager of adornment and is active in fanning mischief and disturbance.”
Saying of Ali #61, page 583
“Woman is a scorpion whose grip is sweet.”
Saying of Ali #124, page 595
“The jealousy of a woman is heresy, while the jealousy of a man is part of belief.”
Saying of Ali #235, page 618
“The best traits of women are those which are the worst traits of men, namely: vanity, cowardice, and miserliness. Thus, since the woman is vain, she will not allow anyone access to herself; since she is miserly, she will preserve her own property and the property of her husband; and since she is weak-hearted, she will be frightened with everything that befalls her.”
Saying of Ali #239, page 619
“Woman is evil, all in all; and the worst of it is that one cannot do without her.”
Saying of Ali #267-8, page 630
Encourages men to stay away from women because they weaken their enthusiasm for Jihad.
Saying of Ali #362, page 653
“Do not devote much of your activity to your wife and your children, because if your wife and children are lovers of Allah then He will not leave His lovers uncared for, and if they be enemies of Allah then why should you worry and keep yourself busy about the enemies of Allah.”
Saying of Ali #61, page 583
“The eyes of these men are covetous and this glancing is the cause of their becoming covetous. Whenever anyone of you sees a woman who attracts him, he should meet his wife because she is a woman like his wife.”
© Copyright by Christian from Muslim, 2019. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Islam and Women
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Islam and the Occult
Program Summary and Notes:
Quick Summary: In the discipleship of a new believer in Christ, it is always good to address the occult. Occultic practices should be recognized and left behind as the new believer walks from darkness into light. This is especially true with believers from a Muslim background, because occultic practices are extremely common in the Islamic World.
Occultic Practices in the Muslim World
Despite the fact that pure Islam is against occultic practices like amulets, spells, reading of coffee grounds, superstitions, and astrology, these are common in most Islamic cultures. Sometimes they are called, “Folk Islam.” But more than just country folk follow these practices. Almost everyone does to some degree. So, sooner or later a Christian working with Muslims, or Muslim background believer themselves, will need to confront these practices.
The Evil Eye
It is curious that the contemporary book Islamic Fatawa Regarding Women, from Darussalam publishers in Saudi Arabia, warns against the evils of using a fortune teller, psychic, or astrologer, amulets, or seeking the dead. Yet it also says,
“A disbeliever like any other may afflict with the evil eye for the evil eye is factual.”
Such a statement would appear to open doors for superstitions and amulets like the evil eye beads – those blue, black, and white beads so common in Muslim lands and Greece – and if we include the “eye of Horus” even Egypt.
The Bible agrees with Islam in warning against people who claim supernatural powers or practices,
“Do not practice divination or seek omens…Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:26,31 (NIV)
Christianity does however recognize the kind of demonic power that the evil eye cult implies. It can be scary. However, even if they seem insignificant, all practices that draw protection or power from a spiritual source other than God, should be rejected by Christians. We fight evil power with spiritual weapons from God. (see below)
Rev. Houssney and Dr. Cynthia Discuss Islam and the Occult
In the video lesson, guest Georges Houssney and Dr. C discuss especially common occultic practices of Muslims and former Muslim Christians. Since the Bible renounces such practices, they comment on ways to recognize and combat them.
The Power of the Words
Verses of the Qur’an can be used as a talisman, or lucky charm, by Muslims. Some roll up verses and wear them in jewelry, or inscribe them on a surface for protection. Most schools of Islamic thought reject using the Qur’an itself as an amulet.
You may see the word Allah in Arabic as a necklace on Muslim women. To our understanding there is controversy if this is acceptable. Most Muslim leaders will allow this, especially in the West; but the strictest will likely also consider it a talisman.
Since the words of the Qur’an in Arabic are felt to have power, we can see how Muslims could be attracted to this sort of talisman. Elsewhere we explain that the very words of the Qur’an are believed to have power when recited in Arabic (see Lesson on The Bible and The Qur’an). Muslims believe they receive points for these, the amount depending on the time of year and excellence of their pronunciation. This helps gain credit for the reciter at the Day of Judgment.
In contrast, with the Bible the power is with the message. As long as it is clearly translated, the message is the same in any language. The Word of God is sharp and powerful (Hebrews 4:12).
Other Occultic Practices in the Muslim World
Tea and coffee are popular drinks with Muslims, perhaps because Islam forbids alcohol. Practices like reading patterns in the tea leaves and coffee grounds left in cups after these drinks are finished, is extremely common, especially with women. Dr. C has experienced the discomfort of having to decline graciously made offers to do this for her.
Because the occult is so pervasive in the Muslim world, it is difficult for former Muslims who are now Christians to recognize and eliminate it from their life style. They may still be reading astrologic forecasts without thinking that it is a habit which must now be discarded.
Curses may sound medieval to Christians, or like something they would encounter mainly working with Satanists. But curses and charms are part of the daily occultic practices of folk Islam. Huda has shared with Dr. C that she has had several curses placed on her by jealous women.
Charms are popular for a variety of causes, like protection, infertility or health. Dr. C has even had to decline a love charm for one of her family members offered by a Christian from Muslim background.
Perhaps related to curses is poisoning. That is definitely be an unlucky charm! 19th century missionary Lilias Trotter described it as a common method Muslims used to punish, even kill, her converts to Christianity. Their team tried protect their new believers from being poisoned by relatives. Others have found the same thing. New believers from Muslim backgrounds and their disciplers should be aware of this possibility. We have also had a case of suspected poisoning of a new convert.
The Qur’an’s Spell
In the video lesson, Huda explains to Dr. Cynthia how the Qur’an is whispered over Muslim babies. She feels it is like a spell that controls the lives of those living under it.
The lesson includes reality video of the call to prayer in Turkey. Being loudly broadcast from mosques across Muslim countries five times a day – from before dawn until bedtime – you can see a sense in which the Qur’an does have a hypnotic and controlling effect among those it touches. Huda expresses regret that the Qur’an was spoken over her from her birth onward until she left the Middle East.
As a child, she was afraid to even touch the Bible a friend gave to her. As an adult, when she started reading the Bible, she found God very clearly speaking. Huda says she feels like she came out of a cage when she left Islam and its spell. This echoes what former Muslim Ayan Hirsi Ali wrote in her book Infidel.
Psychological conditioning is very powerful… They are like prisoners suffering from Stockholm Syndrome…comparable to slaves…who prefer the certainty of their existence in slavery to a freedom that they perceive as treacherous.
In contrast, Dr. C encourages reading the Bible. It is not a hypnotic spell. Its words comfort us. It is a light to our path. As we allow its words to abide in us, we bring forth spiritual fruit.
A Christian’s Weapons against Evil
Don’t try to get from anything or anyone what you can only get from God.
Life is difficult. We certainly understand the need for supernatural assistance – sometimes just to make it through the day. But Christians should take our burdens and fears to God, and rely on his supernatural power to assist us.
We cannot force God to do what we want; but we can rely on him to do what is best in our situation. Many times, we see him supernaturally intervene. Other times, he simply gives us power to endure the difficulties, or to see the deeper reasons for what is happening. (1 Peter 5:7, Joshua 1:9, Ephesians 1:19,20, Romans 8:28, 2 Corinthians 10:13)
The Armor of God
“Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor, then you can remain strong against the devil’s evil plans. Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world.
So put on all of God’s armor. Evil days will come. But you will be able to stand up to anything. And after you have done everything you can you will still be standing.
So remain strong in the faith. Put the belt of truth around your waist. Put the armor of godliness on your chest. Wear on your feet what will prepare you to tell the good news of peace. Also, pick up the shield of faith. With it you can put out all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Put on the helmet of salvation. And take the sword of the Holy Spirit. The sword is God’s word. At all times pray by the power of the Spirit.”
Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIRV)
With these weapons, we can defend ourselves from evil. Remember, we are not to fight evil with evil. We are to overcome it with good. Here is one of Dr. C’s favorite verses:
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 (NIV)
Are all Muslims Arabs?
Because Islam originated in the Arab world, it is most often associated with Arabs. However, Arabs now represent a minority of Muslims worldwide. Indonesia has the largest number, followed by India. Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan are other non-Arab Islamic countries.
To give you the flavor of a part of the Muslim world, one where you can choose from an abundance of “evil eye” accessories in tourist shops, the video lesson concludes with a 5-minute Travel Segment of Turkey. Dr. Cynthia narrates a quick trip for you, from the Christian perspective. Watch for significant sights and events from around Istanbul and Asia Minor.
Turkey, now a Muslim country, was one of the first to receive the gospel, through the Apostle Paul. It became one of the earliest Christian regions, until conquered by Islam. Many locations from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible can be seen there.
At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Istanbul has been a hub of human activity for thousands of years. Perhaps you know that the Emperor Constantine made Constantinople, now Istanbul, the new capital of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire? And with his conversion to Christianity, it became a major Christian city.
Although Constantine made Christianity a legal religion of the Roman Empire, contrary to popular opinion he did not invent Christian doctrine. All the points of the gospel and of Jesus’ deity were laid out long before Constantine’s conversion, or the church councils he called. (See also Lesson on Why Believe the Bible.) And remember also, the Old Testament prophecies were so clear about Jesus, that they were the Bible the early church used, before the New Testament was written.
Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul, enjoyed nearly a thousand years of glory as a major church of the Christian World. It was once earth’s largest building. But with the fall of Constantinople to Islam in 1453 AD, it became a mosque. For a Christian visiting it now, seeing the large medallions of Islamic calligraphy bolted onto the walls of this spectacular church can be a heart-rending experience. Some even cry. But here and there, glorious golden mosaics survived the conversion to mosque, and from them, Jesus peeks out, depicted in his golden glory.
Christian church building attacks have become more common across the world. They are now happening in Europe as well as the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. In some countries they have become routine. To say this is terrible is an understatement. But thank God, the Bible tells us that God does not need a beautiful church to be worshipped in.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by human hands. And he is not served by human hands as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all nations that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not very far from every one of us.” Acts 17:24-27
In the travelogue, Dr. C also shows us Ephesus and other sites traditionally associated with the Bible or early Christians. With such a rich Christian heritage, it is sad to see how Turkey came under the spiritual domination of Islam.
However, we are now seeing Muslim Turks coming out of Islam and back to Jesus. Please pray that the Turkish people will return to their Christian roots, and that the Holy Spirit will breathe new life into its ancient foundations.
“They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated.” Isaiah 61:4
Bible Messages to Turkey
Some of the Old Testament, and a significant part of the New Testament are about, or written to people who lived in what is now Turkey. Here is a sample of them:
There is … one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.
Salvation by Grace
By grace you have been saved, through faith – and that not of yourselves.
It is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
How to Live
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Know this love that surpasses knowledge –
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God.
Keeping the Faith
Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel
other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.
The First Sermon in Turkey
‘Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent… We tell you the good news. What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus…from the dead, never to see decay…Therefore, my brothers, I wat you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is preached to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law.’ When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord…The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.” Acts 13:26-49
In the last book of the Bible, Jesus gave a message to the church in Laodicea, a town near the modern city of Pamukkale. It compares our heart to a door.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in. Revelation 3:20
Is your heart open to Jesus today?
Have you accepted him as your own Savior?
Is he living in you, giving you love, peace and joy, and guiding all day long?
Scriptures (NIV unless otherwise stated)
II Corinthians 5:17
Leviticus 19:26, 31
I Peter 5:7
I Corinthians 10:13
Ephesians 6:10-18 & 4:6, & 2:8,9 & 3:18,19
Galatians 1:8 & 3:28 & 5:22,23
Acts 13:26-49 & 17:24-27
Definitions of terms used:
Jinn – demons converted to Islam (related to “genies”)
Tafsir – commentary, especially Qur’anic
Abraj – horoscope
Shouwajad – occultic practices like witchcraft
Al Hasad – the “evil eye,” often seen as a blue glass bead
Thawab – power
Note: the photograph of the Qur’an used in this video lesson is of the Topkapi Codex – an early Qur’anic manuscript in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.
(Note to study leaders: This episode gives us much food for thought and discussion. You may select only a few of the below questions for discussion, or cover them in more than one session.)
- The discussion between Houssney and Dr. Cynthia brings to light occultic practices that our Muslim friends have, which might not be obvious in short acquaintance.
- If you are from a Muslim background, reflect on what occultic practices you might have come across is life.
- Are any affecting you now?
- If so, are they ones you are involved in, or
- ones around you?
- If you are Christian, have you found occultic practices in your Muslim associates?
- if so, which?
- What about in yourself or associates?
- Huda says the Qur’an is like a spell:
- What do you think she means by that?
- How does it affect someone to be exposed to certain ways of thinking over and over?
- Can you name Muslim behaviors which are difficult for the West to comprehend, but which become understandable in light of the effect of the Qur’an’s spell?
- Do you think we in the West could be brainwashed?
- Name three concepts which have been repeatedly presented to the West over the last generation, or decade, in order to make them accepted.
- Can you see ways in which this has changed our societies?
- If you are a Christian, do you think being under this constant exposure to Islamic discipline and doctrine would mold you into a good Muslim or cause you to rebel?
- What if you did not know anything else?
- If you are Muslim, how did this exposure affect you?
- Can and should Christians be “brainwashed?”
- If so, what might that mean? (see Colossians 2:8 and Romans 12:2)
- Are there ways in which Christians should allow their scriptures to affect them? (see Colossians 3:16)
- How is the Christian sort of brainwashing similar and different to that of Islam?
- Can you name other regimes which brainwash their people?
- Can you imagine what it would be like to be obligated to pray not only at set times in daylight hours, but to routinely pray late and to rise before dawn to pray and recite the Qur’an?
- How would this affect your sleep?
- How would this affect your work?
- How might it affect the productivity of Muslim nations?
- Some popular Western films and stories revolve around the concept of rescuing someone who is captured physically, or by a totalitarian system.
- Can you name such a tale?
- Are there ways we can help rescue those in bondage to Islam?
- How do Proverbs 24:11 and 31:8 come into play here?
- How could we tie these Proverbs in with Matthew 28:19,20?
- Do you think God cares about those under such totalitarian regimes which rely on mind control?
- How might he reach those people?
- What occultic practices are common in the West?
- Might some of these be in your own life?
- In this episode, which Islamic concepts and practices did Huda says come to disbelieve after coming into contact with the Bible? (select all she mentioned)
- The Qur’an taught much violence she felt was not of God
- The Qur’an teaches that we are God’s slaves rather than children
- The Qur’an has many, many rules
- The Qur’an teaches God can hear us anywhere we pray, no matter what we wear
© Copyright by ChristianfromMuslim.com, 2019. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Islam and the Occult
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Liberty or Laws?
Summary and Notes:
Quick Summary: This video lesson and study guide help us work through an age-old problem: is the Christian life to be characterized by freedom or obligations, liberty or laws? All Christians struggle with this. We usually end up emphasizing one side or the other of the balance.
As you might imagine, this question of liberty or laws is especially challenging for Christians of a Muslim background because everything in Islam, including their eternal destiny, depended on their successfully obeying laws.
Reality – Shopping Day
This video clip from the real life of former Muslim Huda and Dr. Cynthia might seem frivolous – just for fun or showing off. However, that is not the point. It brings to our attention the challenge of finding an appropriate wardrobe for Christian women, especially new believers who were raised Muslim.
Today we see Huda trying to find a suitable clothing. She looks to Dr. C for advice, but struggles to find something that they both think is acceptable.
Are there Rules in Christianity?
Every Christians must decide how their freedom in Christ will affect the way they live. This applies to believers from all backgrounds, men as well as women. If we are not careful, liberty can lead to a license for wild living, or caution can lead to legalism and judgementalism.
Coming from Islam, a religion based primarily on laws, presents a special challenge to this dilemma. As a Christian, former Muslims learn that they are saved by grace, not law. Now they are free from rules about fasting, praying, diet, and dress codes. Does that mean that they can do anything? Or will they simply exchange one restrictive code of rules for another?
In Islam, religion is tied to culture and politics more than in the West. Thus, they tend to see all Western behavior as reflective of Christianity, and acceptable to Christians. As a result, we find misunderstandings among Muslims of what Christianity teaches. This also impacts the thinking of Muslims who become Christians.
One of the things which often attracts a Muslim to Christianity is our freedom in Christ. The fact that we are loved and accepted by God without good deeds is a refreshing change for them. Their life in Islam is burdened with heavy labor, and every mistake recorded with no promise of salvation at the end. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said,
“Come to me all you who are tired and carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest… You will find rest for your souls. Serving me is easy, and my load is light.” (NIRV)
But for the burdened looking up, sometimes the attraction of freedom itself is too strong. Sadly, obtaining that freedom can become the Muslim’s chief goal, rather than the deeper blessing of knowing Christ.
For example: on-call to the houka bar: Brother E, an evangelist from Palestine who works with us, received an urgent night call from a Christian in a houka bar. It was from a young Arab man who was there with two young Muslim women. The women said wanted to convert to Christianity and needed a minister. Brother E is sociable, but does not go to houka bars. For this occasion, however, he went immediately.
After talking to the women for several hours, sharing the gospel, and discussing the Christian life with them, he realized that they did not want to become true Christians. Nor did they want to know Jesus personally. They simply wanted the life of license – dressing scantily, smoking, drinking alcohol, picking up men in bars – that they imagined Christians had. So, despite their requests, he did not pronounce them “Christians.” He left them as they were, simply “bad Muslims.”
It is not uncommon for us to find this motivation. We are thankful that at least these two Muslim women let Brother E share the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ with them. We believe that God’s word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Although they were not ready to respond to it at the time, we pray that later in their lives the Holy Spirit will open a door for the message that they heard to be received.
Are there Rules in Christianity? Dr. C & Rev. Georges Houssney in discussion
In the video lesson, Dr. Cynthia and experienced guest Georges Houssney discuss the challenge of bringing new disciples into discipline without delivering a burden of rules similar to what they carried under Islam. The two lay out guidelines reflective of how inward transformation can result in outward change.
Islam is a system with a long list of rules and laws. By following these laws, Muslims believe they obtain points, or thawab, and gain favor with Allah at the Day of Judgment. This gives them a better chance to enter paradise.
Dr. C explains to Houssney the challenges she has faced in encouraging new believers from a Muslim background. She wants to help them grow in disciplines like Bible study and prayer, without making them feel like they have simply entered another system of rules.
Houssney affirms that yes, Christians are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8,9), not by our good deeds. But if we want to grow as Christians, we need to follow certain things called disciplines. We are not obligated to do these for salvation, but if we do not, we will not fully live in Christ.
For example, to live we need to breath, eat, and drink. Similarly, to live spiritually we need to read the Word of God and pray. The fruit of the Spirit of God living in us gives us self-control, and enables us to do these things (Galatians 5:23).
Although these are suggestions, not rules, for their own growth, strength and joy, we encourage all believers, former Muslims and otherwise, to:
- read the Bible daily
- memorize verses that encourage them
- take time for reflection and meditation on what they learned
- pray to God throughout the day as in conversation
- learn some spiritual songs to sing in their hearts
- join with other believers in fellowship, and
- serve God with their spiritual gifts.
- (For more information on growing in Christ, see lessons and study guides on Lesson on Being New in God’s Family, The Christian Life, and others.)
Are there things Christians shouldn’t do?
Muslims often think that since Christians are saved by grace, that they are authorized to do anything – including immoral activities. Dr. C and Houssney discuss how much liberty we as Christians have. Can we do anything we want to and still be Christians? What about dressing scantily, drinking alcohol, swearing, sexual relationships, or going to R rated movies?
The Bible tells us that although all things may be permissible for us, not all things are helpful
(I Corinthians 6:12). Houssney says that yes, we have freedom, but we are told not to misuse it. We must live in a way that loves others and considers their good. We should not put a stumbling block before someone else, that might encourage them to sin.
“Be careful how you use your rights. Be sure you don’t cause someone weaker than you to fall into sin.” I Corinthians 8:9 (NIRV)
“The only thing that really counts is faith that expresses itself in love.” Galatians 5:4-6 (NIRV)
More on the Christian wardrobe:
As introduced in today’s reality video, a particular problem for the practice of Christian liberty that is in the area of dress. Dr. C has found this is especially a problem for women leaving Islam.
Men leaving Islam do not seem to face the same challenge, probably because men’s dress codes are less strict in both cultures.
First, know that it is not our policy to encourage any Muslim or former Muslim to take off their head scarf or dress in Western style. That should be a decision between them and God.
Imagine – you are a woman brought up that it is a sin to expose almost any of your body, possibly even your eyes or hands. How can you learn or “get a feel” for what is an acceptable amount of skin and/or figure to show now that you are a Christian?
Example, an Iraqi refugee woman: This lively and friendly 46-year-old Muslim woman is happy now to be safe in America, and is open to ideas of Christianity. But adjusting to dress standards in America has been difficult to her.
In Bagdad, Mrs. L always wore long skirts. Here, she got jobs that required her to wear pants/trousers – first loose, then tighter. Since she had to make the change for her job she did. She has been allowed a head scarf, which she still wears (hijab). Although it has been a few years, she has still not adjusted to wearing pants/trousers. She feels that people are looking at her body, and she is not comfortable with anyone – man or woman – doing that.
Example, Westernizing dress standards: Sometimes we see liberalizing of dress standards as an indication that a Muslim is becoming more open to the Christian message. For example, some Muslim women students that we followed for several years that removed their head scarves a year or two before they became Christian.
One, in her mid-twenties had worn a hijab outside the house since she was a young girl. She was thrilled with what Christians take for granted. On a lovely day, she was walking with Dr. C around a fountain in the town square near her campus. With an enthusiastic smile, lifted her hair with her fingers, and let the gentle breeze pass through it, saying,
“I just love the way the wind feels in my hair!”
Example, North African immigrants: Two married women in their thirties who were born overseas but grew up in America became frustrated with Islam and left it. One of them had dreams and became a Christian. The other has not. Both still wear hijabs for two reasons:
- For safety – so that their families and Muslim communities they live in will not know they have left Islam. (They and their children could face trouble.)
- Even when away from family, since they have worn head scarves their entire lives, they confess they have no idea of how to style their hair. This makes them insecure in removing their hijabs.
Example, Saudi Arabian women, now Christian: Several women we know who had to cover all but part of their face and hands in Saudi, are now sincere Christians in America. They want to wear miniskirts and low-cut tops showing cleavage. What should we say to them?
What is the appropriate way to dress now that you are a believer?
Think about how you might feel about changing from Muslim to Western dress. You might feel odd or “guilty” about showing anything – hair or even fingers, since you are breaking an ingrained pattern. But does that mean if you are going to feel guilty anyway, that you might as well show everything that anyone in Western culture shows?
In the Balance: Believers need to learn to balance freedom in Christ with modesty and Western lifestyle.
- Houssney reminds us that although people look on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart (I Samuel 16:7).
- True beauty comes from the inside, as we are told in both the Old and New Testaments (Proverbs 31:30 & I Peter 3:3,4). We should let our internal beauty flow out. In that way, we should care about what others think.
Example, a journalist: In Islamic countries, Westerners might be surprised to learn that a woman’s most attractive feature, after her face, is considered to be her hands. Once Dr. C read an article by a woman journalist in the Middle East. She was concerned about women’s rights and accepted dress standards. She pointed out that if hands are the only part of a woman that men can see, they will lust over a woman’s hands.
This shows Dr. C that no matter how modestly a woman dresses, it will not be modest enough to prevent sin in a man’s heart.
Example, an Imam: A high-ranking Imam in a large American city told Dr. C that if a man sees a woman and lusts – no matter what she is wearing – the sin belongs to the woman, not the man. She has somehow enticed him. This sharply contrasts with what Jesus taught,
“Here is what I tell you. Do not even look at a woman in the wrong way. Anyone who does has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28 (NIRV)
This important verse confirms that it is the heart that God is most concerned with. But Dr. C expresses concern that if women worry too much about how men see them, they can be reduced to covering their faces and hands with gloves, as in strict Islam.
Example, the cowering: Once when Dr. C was volunteering in an immigrant friendship center, she saw something that made her sad. Dr. C was in a room of Arab Muslim women who were studying English as a second language. One of the women was totally covered in black, with only narrow slits for her lovely eyes (niqab). Beyond that, even her hands were covered with black gloves.
The friendship center was directed by a man. When that man walked into the room to make an announcement, Dr. C was surprised to see the veiled woman bow her head, cower, and retreat into herself. Even covering everything was not enough. She had to become invisible.
So, Dr. C says there has to be a balance between a woman’s rights and a man’s lust. Women should respect men’s weakness, and not try to tempt them sexually. But shouldn’t women have the right to wear something in public that pleases them, without needing to cower or hide?
Houssney agrees. He quotes a saying, “If we dress sexy, we will get sex, if we dress lovely, we will get love.”
Of course, different cultures consider different areas of a woman attractive, and encourage different dress standards. So, it is not really possible to select one appropriate wardrobe for all Christian women in every situation. Somehow there must be a compromise.
The Compromise: In the end, Houssney and Dr. Cynthia agree that guidelines for Christian dress in America or Europe could be to try:
- not to be a stumbling block (seductive)
- to reflect well upon the Lord, and
- generally, follow how a conservative person in Western culture might dress, in terms of how much of their body is shown. That way they will not stand out as looking for attention. (Usually this would mean nothing too tight, low cut, above the knee, or revealing the shoulder or upper arm.)
(For specific wardrobe suggestions for Christians working with Muslims, see lesson and study guide on Building Bridges.)
Legalism and Judgementalism:
Muslims that were comfortable with the rules of Islam, may feel comfortable continuing with rules as Christians, and fall into legalism.
- There may be a necessity to continue in these laws outwardly in order to live as secret believers in their culture.
- Some of the early Jewish Christians were very comfortable with laws, and tried impose rules back upon other Christians (see Acts 15 and the book of Galatians). The church leaders spoke to this error to correct it.
Legalism leads to judgementalism. A risk for former Muslims, as all Christians, who are successful with laws is judgementalism.
Several professional and reliable sources, and our own experiences, have reported a critical spirit in many people from the Middle East, especially Muslim women. Someone who falls easily into a legalistic Christian life style is at risk for developing a critical attitude toward those less strict than them.
In fact, it is common among all Christians to view someone more strict than them as legalistic, and someone less strict as morally loose. We should pray to avoid both these extremes.
Although we must be cautious about who we associate with, and encourage them to seek Christian virtues, we should also refrain from being judgmental.
“Don’t let anyone fool you. ‘Bad companions make a good person bad.’ You should come back to your senses and stop sinning. Some of you don’t know anything about God.” I Corinthians 15:33, 34 (NIRV)
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others.” Matthew 7:1 (NIRV)
Returning to Islam
Dr. C shares reasons that we have found for Muslims returning to Islam after leaving it. (Technically, this is called recidivism of an apostate).
For Christians working with Muslims, it is always sad to see a former Muslim returning to Islam. But this is not a new trend. It has been happening since the early days of missions to Muslims. Then it was at a very high rate of up to 70%.
One of the reasons for recidivism, returning to Islam, is that the new believer from Muslim background came to the faith for the wrong motives. Maybe they were getting something in exchange for converting – food, increased status, marriage, free life style, acceptance, etc. In that case it is very doubtful as to whether or not they ever sincerely believed in their heart, or if they were simply making a bargain which lost its appeal over time.
A common reason for returning to Islam is fear and intimidation. When a Muslim leaves Islam, they are automatically under a fatwa for death, which extends all the way back to the time of the Prophet Mohammed. It does not need to be specifically pronounced for each of them. Although new converts to Islam don’t always know, those raised in Islam know the fatwa is on the head of an apostate, and any Muslim is justified in killing them anytime. (See lessons and study guides on Fear, Persecution, and Spiritual Warfare, and Violence in Religion.)
If someone has left Islam and been captured, before execution takes place, they are given three days of reflection to consider returning to Islam. In reality, this becomes a time of intimidation and attempted brain washing This period of reindoctrination and reflection, is often accompanied by imprisonment and beatings. Only by great strength of will power, or the Holy Spirit is someone able to withstand these pressures. (See many published testimonies of Muslim converts to Christianity.)
Another reason for returning to Islam is because of missing family and cultural support. Anyone leaving their family and culture is prone to miss it, and Muslims especially so. Why?
- First because Muslim culture is much more socially interconnected than Western: more group than individual.
- Secondly, because being disowned and shunned by one’s family is a painful thing for anyone, and
- Thirdly, Islamic culture is intimately entwined with their religion. The Muslim has been programmed to base their year around the events of Islam. The special foods, the activities, the ceremonies which formerly made their lives rich are now gone.
Economic survival is another reason for returning to Islam. Muslim economies are typically not strong and without government safety nets. Their safety nets are based on family, clan, and the mosque. When one leaves Islam, they not only lose family, but often their job and any means of survival. The Qur’an tells them that apostates should face hardships in this life. Not everyone faces starvation and privation willingly. In the short run it is easier to submit to Islam and eat, than risk starvation, even for heaven.
In America, thankfully economic survival is not tied to religion, so here that is not such a factor. However, it is not always easy for even well-educated English-speaking Americans to find a job; how much more difficult for immigrants, even international students, to compete with Americans? Dr. C has seen examples of Muslims who return to their home nation for economic survival, where they then face all the above pressures to return to Islam.
Sometimes, Dr. C has found, that former Muslims are so repulsed by Islam that it is not Islam that attracts them to leave Christianity. If what attracted them to become Christians was freedom from the bondage of Islamic Law, then they might be attracted to become secular. They become and more entangled in the ways of the world until they are little different from anyone in Western culture, and scarcely have any faith at all.
Dr. C tells Christians working with Muslims that they can assess what kind of risk Muslims have of returning to Islam by finding what most attracted them to Christianity.
And in any case, it is advisable for Christians discipling Muslims to provide for them emotional and social support to help make up for what they have lost in leaving Islam.
Many in the Muslim world are facing insecurity. With the economies of most Muslim nations being weak, people wonder about finding jobs and supporting their families. Women especially face insecurity: what if my husband divorces me? What will happen to my children? If I struggle to study will my husband become angry at my new independence? To whom will my father marry me? Will I be beaten tonight?
Mark Vyka is facing insecurity. In fact, he is dying of cancer. In this video he shares what has helped him face the insecurities of life.
When facing insecurity, Mark recommends that we read the Bible and look for a verse that encourages us, then “camp on it.” By this he means that we would think about it, meditate upon it and even memorize it. He encourages us to seek God first, because when we do, everything else falls into place (Matthew 6:33). If we walk in faith, God will provide for us what we need and a way to escape from our fear, temptation or problem (Genesis 22:14, I Corinthians 10:13).
(This video is in memory of our beloved brother in Christ, Mark Vyka 1957-2016.)
Scripture References for this Episode:
- II Corinthians 5:17
- Matthew 11:28-30
- Isaiah 55:11
- Ephesians 2:8,9
- Galatians 5:23
- I Corinthians 6:12
- I Corinthians 8:9
- Galatians 5:4-6
- I Samuel 16:7
- I Peter 3:3,4
- I Samuel 16:7
- Proverbs 31:30
- I Peter 3:3,4
- Matthew 5:28.20
- Acts 15
- Matthew 7:1
- Matthew 6:33
- Genesis 22:14
- I Corinthians 10:13
Mohammed said to kill those who leave Islam:
- Qur’an in Surah 4:89
- Hadith – Sahih Bukhari 52:260 & 84:57.
- If you are a former Muslim, how did the freedom of Christians you knew personally, or saw in media, impact your decision to become a Christian?
- Was it favorable or unfavorable?
- What part of your conversion was desiring the freedom that you thought Christians had?
- If time allows and you want to, perhaps you could share these ideas with the group.
- How might the Christian lifestyle be different than that of a strict Muslim?
- Dress for men?
- Dress for women?
- Prayer and other spiritual disciplines?
- What are some principles that Rev. Houssney and Dr. Cynthia suggest might be helpful in assisting new Muslim background Christians in adapting to Western behaviors which reflect Christ, rather than worldliness?
- In reflecting over the course of your Christian life:
- Have you been more inclined to liberty and license, or laws and legalism?
- If liberty vs. laws is a spectrum from one extreme to the other, where along that line do you see yourself at this moment?
- Do you think there is something you could do improve this balance?
- What are the disciplines that Houssney and Dr. C encourage all Christians to participate in.
- To what point do you think it would be good for Christians to participate in these?
- Can you think of what might be too much or too little participation in these?
- Are there ways that you could apply Houssney and Dr. C’s dress guidelines to your life?
- Have you ever been used to wearing a watch or ring, and then lost it, forgotten to wear it one day?
- How did you feel going without it?
- Does this give you insight into how someone might feel when they start to dress differently?
- It is not easy to assist someone walk through the transition from a life of rules to a life of controlled freedom.
- Do you know someone who might be in need of guidelines such as Dr. C and Houssney present?
- Without being judgmental, what might be an appropriate way to share these guidelines with them?
- What response might you expect at first? Over time?
- How do you think a person’s clothing reflects who they are and what they believe?
- Dr. C loves to go out with Muslims. Mostly this is to connect with them and make friends. But another thing she likes is seeing how people react to her, a blond woman, with one or more people in Islamic dress. She thinks this is good for several reasons, including the people she is with and those watching them. Why do you think it would be good:
- For the Muslims she is with?
- For the people watching them?
- Would you consider dressing as a Muslim in your community some day as a learning experience?
- Do you think that would be a good idea?
- Why or why not?
© Copyright by ChristianfromMuslim.com, 2019. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Liberty or Laws?
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Jesus’ Style of Teaching and Living
Summary and Notes:
Quick summary: In learning about the Christian faith, or as part of becoming a Christian, it is very important for Muslims, and others, to learn about Jesus. This video lesson and study guide are to help give people unfamiliar with Jesus, insight into the special ways he taught and lived.
(See also the lesson and study guide for Jesus’ Parables for Muslims, which is a companion lesson to this one.)
Reality – getting attention.
Today’s video lesson opens with Dr. Cynthia by the pool on a beautiful day. She is typing on a laptop, wearing earphones. Huda enters and tries to catch her attention. Huda wants to talk about Jesus.
In our electronic age, flashy things grab our attention; but such things did not exist in Jesus’ day. He had to get attention by other means. One was miracles. Another was through his special teaching style.
Understanding Jesus Teaching Style
The setting changes. We see Huda and Dr. C entering a lovely gazebo surrounded by a lake in an urban setting. Here Dr. C and Huda draw analogies from the world around them, in a way similar to what Jesus did in his teaching.
It is important to understand the style of Jesus’ teaching so we can:
- Fully absorb the point he was making
- Keep from being confused or finding it a stumbling block
- Not misapply what he says
- Explain these things to others
- Use Jesus’ techniques when we share God’s word with others
The Purposes of Jesus teaching
The purposes of Jesus teaching were to:
- draw attention
- challenge people’s thinking
- touch hearts
- teach and to prophesy
To do this, Jesus used various teaching techniques, to make his points clear.
Techniques Jesus used in Teaching:
- Drawing illustrations from the environment surrounding him
- Using common everyday objects and activities
- Telling stories known as parables
- Using similes and metaphors (saying what things are like)
- Speaking plainly
- Occasionally speaking poetically (beatitudes)
- Exaggerating (hyperbole)
- Setting an example with his life
The Sermon on the Mount
Jesus’ most famous sermon is called The Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7, Jesus uses these techniques to explain how to live for God’s kingdom. The video lesson demonstrates several for us.
Rather than focusing on rules and condemnation, this sermon presents love and inner change. This was in contrast to the methods of the religious leaders of his time, who emphasized rules. Emphasis on the rules in Jesus day was similar to the emphasis on rules in Islam.
The Beatitudes, poetically phrased blessings, begin the Sermon on the Mount. They are famous in the Christian faith, and are worth being familiar with.
One beatitude is Blessed are the peacemakers. We happened to get a real-life video illustration of this: Kevin, a mature Christian, is shown being a peacemaker between arguing neighbors.
Also, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used nature, objects, stories, and exaggeration. Besides getting the crowd’s attention, they illustrated his points and helped people remember them – that the Kingdom of God is more important than the physical world.
Worry is a trap that we all fall into from time to time, and for some of us it is a continual habit. Science has discovered that worrying is unhealthy. So in this, as in many other areas, Jesus is showing us the best way to live.
Jesus directed our attention to birds and flowers. For our encouragement, he suggests that we meditate upon them and what they are doing. They exemplify what is nowadays called “living in the moment,” without worrying about the future.
“I tell you do not worry. Don’t worry about your life and what you will eat or drink. And do not worry about your body and what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than eating? Aren’t there more important things for the body than clothes?
Look at the birds of the air. They don’t plant or gather crops. They don’t put away crops in storerooms. But your Father who is in heaven feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they are?…
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the wild flowers grow. They don’t work or make clothing. But here is what I tell you. Not even Solomon in all his royal robes was dressed like one of these flowers. If that is how God dresses the wild grass, won’t he dress you even better?…
But put God’s kingdom first. Do what he wants you to do. Then all those things will also be given to you. So don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Matthew 6:25-33 (NIRV)
Jesus also spoke plainly about prayer, fasting, money, and forgiveness. Let’s compare his teachings with those of Islam:
Muslims perform ritual prayers in Arabic several times a day. They can be done alone or in a group. They must be performed in a specified way. Those around you know if you are praying or not. Often, other Muslims judge how religious you are by watching your prayer life.
(For details on this, see Lesson on Introduction to Islam for Christians.)
Jesus way of Prayer
“When you pray, do not be like those who only pretend to be holy … They want to be seen by people … When you pray, go into your room. Close the door and pray to your Father, who can’t be seen. Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly.”
Matthew 6:5,6 (NIRV)
Muslims have a strong tradition of fasting. Its practice is very different than Jesus suggests. Although there are other fasts in Islam, Ramadan is the Muslim holy month of fasting, where the entire community fasts during daylight hours. Eating in public is forbidden. Those not fasting are noticed and judged. (For details on this, see Lesson on Introduction to Islam for Christians.)
Jesus way of Fasting
In contrast to the open show of Muslim fasting, Jesus says,
“When you go without eating, do not look gloomy like those who only pretend to be holy. They make their faces look very sad. They want to show people they are fasting. What I’m about to tell you is true. They have received their complete reward.
But when you go without eating, put olive oil on your head. Wash your face. Then others will not know that you are fasting. Only your Father, who can’t be seen, will know it. Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly.”
Matthew 6:16-18 (NIRV)
Again, we see with this teaching that Jesus is emphasizing our inner life. Does this mean we cannot attend an Eid al Fitr party at the end of Ramadan? No. We have found it to be a good time make friends, and to talk about Jesus teaching on prayer and fasting.
Regarding ritual prayer and fasting
As we point out throughout these lessons, Muslims work very hard to gain merit with God. They feel that they need to earn forgiveness through good works. Our approach is not to belittle this effort. What we say is something like this,
“God appreciates that we try to do good. But his standard is perfection. None of us is perfect. We all need forgiveness for our sins. God showed us through his prophets that his way is blood sacrifice for sin, but he accepts a substitute. Jesus is the prophesied final sacrifice for sin. His blood covers our sins and will substitute for us if we accept it.”
Loving our Enemies
Louis of Truth Defenders talks to us about loving our enemies, and money.
Loving our Enemies. One radical aspect of the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ instruction to love our enemies. It seems natural to love our friends and hate our enemies. But Jesus told us,
“Love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you.” Matthew 5:44
Louis points out that in his view, this teaching is unique to Jesus. Jesus forgave his persecutors when he was on the cross.
“Father forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 (NIRV)
Love and forgive your enemies, like most virtues, is easy to say, but difficult to do. Muslim refugees in the West have often faced atrocities. Perhaps all they owned was taken away, and family members were killed, raped or tortured. Can you imagine the challenges they might face with accepting and applying these verses?
The film “The Passion of the Christ” powerfully illustrates how Jesus forgave his persecutors from the cross. God used it to show Dr. C hardness in her own heart. After watching all the torture that they put Jesus through, she felt like screaming, “No! Don’t forgive them! They were too evil!”
Serving God or Money?
Louis tells us that surprisingly, the Bible speaks more about money than any other topic. Jesus also spoke about money. That is because the use of it reflects people’s hearts, and Jesus main goal in the Sermon on the Mount was to get people to look inside their own hearts.
“You can’t serve God and money at the same time.” Matthew 6:24 (NIRV)
How Jesus Exaggerates
Many people find it difficult to understand his message when Jesus exaggerates. For example, Matthew 5:30, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.”
Yet, as Huda points out in the video, when she says her headache is “killing her,” she does not really mean that she is dying. She means that it is very severe.
Likewise, when Jesus talks about throwing away your eye or hand, he is showing us how serious an offense an eye or hand can cause. He wants to motivate people to guard their hands and eyes against sin.
It would be wrong however, to take exaggeration out of context and say that Jesus taught mutilation (meaning hurting our bodies to please God).
History’s Greatest Speaker
Given near the beginning of his ministry, The Sermon on the Mount established Jesus as a great speaker, with an amazing gift of teaching.
“When Jesus had finished saying all these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” Matthew 7:28,29
The Sermon on the Mount itself is a powerful evangelistic tool for Muslims and others. We have found that distributing it, encouraging Muslims to read it, or even quoting a small part of it in the right setting, can open eyes to the dramatic difference between Jesus’ teachings and those of Islam and other ideologies. It lets people taste that God is good (Psalm 34:8), and gives them hunger to know more.
Later in his career, Jesus clearly prophesied his own death, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and the end times. And he confronted the religious hypocrites to the point that they did have him killed.
Living as Salt of the Earth
“You are the salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13
You learned in this video lesson and study guide that Jesus would teach by using everyday life situations, and things in nature around them. That is exactly what we try to pattern in our daily life with Muslims, and the former Muslims that we are discipling.
You have seen many examples of using common things and events of everyday life in the reality sections of this video lesson series. We call this style Out of the Saltshaker, because it is an easy and practical way that we can be as Jesus says, salt of the earth. Often you might hear Dr. C saying, “And that reminds me of…”
In fact, once a Christian develops this skill, they can use it with everyone – from teaching their children to encouraging their friends and loved ones– and hopefully, they do it with love and wisdom.
Life is full of SALTSHAKER opportunities. Here’s how to find them:
- Know God’s word the best you can (he will use whatever you know) 2 Timothy 2:15
- Ask God to open your eyes to see opportunities for salting Colossians 4:3
- Once he does, you will start to see them everywhere John 4:35
- Have courage and speak, remembering that, “Kind words make people want to learn more.” (NIRV) Proverbs 16:21
Many people in the West have a vague idea of what Jesus’ ministry was like. But it is unlikely that people from a Muslim background would know, unless they are one of the millions that have seen a film about the life of Jesus.
Even then, they might be confused about what he was doing, because his lifestyle was so different from that of the prophets they are familiar with. Muslims might be expecting Jesus’ life to be like Prophet Mohammed’s life, or perhaps like Abraham’s. They might try to fit Jesus into their mold.
Muslims could be surprised to learn of the type of life Jesus lived, after he began his ministry at about age 30. He was neither village man, nor hermit, king, military leader, nor powerful man of influence. Jesus was a traveling teacher with students, a rabbi, of a type that was not uncommon in those days.
Rather than write out all of the Bible verses about Jesus in this study guide, we will let you do that on your own. Instead, what is presented here is a summary of Jesus wonderful life, as brief as we can make it, while covering the important basics.
Brief Summary of the Life and Lifestyle of Jesus Christ
While always existing and still filling the universe, God once humbled himself by coming to earth in human form as the prophesied messiah. This was Jesus Christ.
On earth, Jesus spent time alone in prayer and meditation to confirm what he must do. He started by teaching about the Kingdom of God. It was now nearby, he said, and everyone could live in it! Anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, Jesus went around doing good, and healing everyone who came to him – Jews, Gentiles from the surrounding regions, and even Roman oppressors – the nation’s enemies.
Jesus touched people to heal them, including unclean people, like lepers. He was willing to enter the homes of unbelievers, considered unclean, in order to bring the grace of God to them. He was entertained in the homes of the wealthy. But he himself had no home of his own, no wife, no children, and little support from his family.
Emmanuel is one of Jesus’ special names. It means God with us. This thought is so surprising and unexpected, that Muslims have trouble accepting it. God lived with us, ate with us, slept and got dirty with us, and was even tempted as we are. But Jesus never sinned, as even the Qur’an recognizes.
Jesus taught us in ways that we would always remember. Mostly he taught in parables – stories that touched our hearts. But at times he gave examples from everyday life that made spiritual principles come alive. Once in a while he clearly told us what we needed to know.
Jesus was comfortable speaking to either large crowds, or to his select followers. Women traveled with his group, and in all but the most private occasions were taught by him, along with his male disciples. Some of the women were wealthy and helped support him and his work; yet he never used them sexually.
The crowds found Jesus’ teaching amazing and his miracles astounding. He was nothing like any religious leader they had ever met. Love and honesty were balanced in his gracious teaching.
Although he told us we could live like birds and flowers who trusted in God’s provision, he knew when people needed to be confronted for their own good: like the dishonest tax collector Zacchaeus, and the religious leaders whom he rebuked for their pride and hypocrisy.
One day he met a Samaritan woman, an outcast for her race, gender, and lifestyle. He reminded her of her past; but then he offered her “living water,” fresh, and more satisfying than her failed love affairs. God’s grace had come to her, and through her to entire village.
Jesus and his followers had frightening experiences in which they were almost killed by nature and by humans. In these dangers, Jesus had confidence in God that they would be fine, because he knew it was not yet his time to die. To his disciples’ surprise, he simply slept or calmly walked away.
The time came however when Jesus began to predict his betrayal, trial, and cruel death. Being human as well as God, just before his arrest he prayed in agony to avoid the coming torture. He knew the extent of the suffering he would and did face. But Jesus willing endured it in order to accomplish the plan of God. He kept his eyes on the goal that was the ultimate purpose of his life – taking upon himself God’s full anger for the sin of the world he had created.
But as Jesus had predicted he did not stay in the grave! He willingly laid down his life on Good Friday, and took it up again on Easter. After appearing to about five hundred of his followers, encouraging them and reinforcing his teaching, Jesus returned to heaven.
Jesus gave his followers, then and now, last instructions to accomplish before his return to judge the world. They should go throughout the world, peacefully teaching his gospel to everyone – the good news of repentance, forgiveness, and eternal life in God’s kingdom, which they could start living in right now!
Jesus’ life is his greatest teaching example. Let’s look at passages in the Injeel (New Testament) various aspects of it that we should try to reproduce in our own lives.
Jesus showed us how to live:
- Take time to be alone with God Mark 1:35
- Be tempted without sinning Hebrews 4:15
- Don’t worry Matthew 8:24-26
- Be responsive to the needs of others Mark 5:23,24
- Associate with people lower than us Luke 5:12,13
- Treat all people as equals Matthew 8:5-11
- Serve humbly Philippians 2:6-8
- Help the ill and needy Acts 10:38
- Teach what we know in a way that others can understand Matthew 5-7
- Tell people the truth they need to know John 4
- Obey laws, pay taxes Matthew 22:17-22
- Be willing to confront evil and hypocrisy, in love, even when it makes us unpopular Matthew 23
- Lay down our lives for the kingdom of God John 10:18
- Suffer for doing God’s will – when it is unavoidable Matthew 26:38
- Have faith that something better awaits us as a reward Hebrews 12:2
(See also the lesson and study guide on What Makes a True Prophet?)
Reality – Lessons from Surfing
The current lesson includes a reality segment filmed at a famous surfing beach in Santa Cruz, California. Huda and Dr. C have fun watching surfers catch waves, and sometimes loose them. It’s a great place for imitating the way Jesus taught, by drawing lessons from nature and human activities.
Notice that first Dr. C talks about how good it is to catch a wave in life – either literally or figuratively. We feel like we are sitting on top of the world! But as we watch surfers either loose the wave, or even crash, we are reminded that life is a ride of ups and downs. God is our foundation whether we are doing well, feeling left out as life passes us by, or when the waters sweep over us.
Our attention is also drawn to the tremendous physical effort it takes not only to catch and surf the waves, but also to simply carry a surfboard up and down the rocky cliffs to reach the surfing ground. This reminds Dr. C of 1 Timothy 4:8. In this verse Paul tells Timothy,
“Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.”
Although physical exercise is of value, it is of much greater value to put effort into praying, reading the Bible, serving others, and be close to God.
- II Corinthians 5:17
- Matthew 5-7
- Luke 23:34
- Psalm 34:8
- II Timothy 2:15
- Colossians 4:3
- John 4:1-42
- Proverbs 16:21
- Matthew 23 & 24
- John 13:34,35
- Mark 10:43-45
- John 13:12
- Hebrews 2:10
- Mark 1:35
- Hebrews 4:15
- Matthew 8:24-26
- Mark 5:23,24
- Luke 5:12,13
- Matthew 8:5-11
- Philippians 2:6-8
- John 13:4,5
- Acts 10:38
- John 4
- Matthew 22:17-22
- Matthew 23
- John 10:18
- Matthew 26:38
- Hebrews 12:2
- I Timothy 4:8
- Jesus sinless – Surah 19:19
- Jesus taught from the surrounding environment. His style fulfilled the Old Testament commands of Deuteronomy 6 and 11 to teach our children about God’s word wherever we are and in everyday situations.
- Give an example of an everyday setting or thing that Jesus taught with.
- Can you think of a situation of object in your life in which you could similarly find a lesson for yourself or to share with others? Share this example with the group and see if they too find it meaningful.
- When time allows,
- read the entire Sermon on the Mount
(Matthew chapters 5-7). In this and elsewhere, Jesus taught from nature.
- Give an example of something from nature Jesus used as an example in this sermon
- There are months’ worth of discussion topics in this sermon, but name one or two points that especially touch you.
- Read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. Kevin exemplifies for us being a real-life peacemaker.
- Can you give an example of someone who fits one of the other beatitudes?
- Is there one you feel you come close to exemplifying?
- Some of the more difficult to understand of Jesus’ teachings involve exaggeration.
- Give an example of where Jesus exaggerates
- Can you think of an exaggeration you or a friend said to emphasize your point?
- Can you see how Jesus exaggeration could cause people to take something he said too literally?
- In this lesson, apologist Louis of Truth Defenders spoke about money. Much of our lives has to do with the getting and spending of money.
- What did Jesus say about money in the “Sermon on the Mount?”
- Consider Jesus’ lifestyle:
- Is there anything about what you learned today that surprised you?
- What parts of Jesus’ lifestyle are you currently sharing?
- What parts of Jesus’ lifestyle might you like to accomplish more in your life?
- The lesson illustrates Jesus teaching us humility through serving others, for example washing his disciples’ feet (John 13:4,5). If you have read enough about Jesus to know how he lived, share one or two examples of how he taught through his example.
- Regarding the surfing segment:
- Have you ever surfed? If so, can you share with the group what kind of physical effort is involved?
- What other sport might you have participated in? Does having done this help you relate to the scripture verse from I Timothy?
- Not shown in the video lesson because of poor quality audio, was a reality segment with Huda saying that the ocean waves reminded her of God’s blessings. They come new every day. Dr. C said that since the waves reminded her of new trials every day, Huda had the more positive spiritual outlook.
- Which do you tend feel come more your way each new day: blessings or trials?
- Forgiving our enemies:
- Have you ever felt that there is someone you don’t want forgiven? Someone who has mistreated you? A political enemy? A monstrous dictator?
- Does loving and praying for our enemies mean that they should not face justice for their crimes?
- Think about someone now that you would not be pleased to see in heaven with you. Ask God to soften your heart. Then pray for them to hear God’s voice and follow his ways.
- Encouragement from Nature: Lilias Trotter has a fascinating life story. She left a life of Victorian wealth and a promising artistic career to become a missionary to Muslims. Lilias gave her money and health to set up missions in North Africa.
Rather than gain her fame and money, she used her artistic skill to illustrate spiritual truths. Lilias had a heart condition. She found her work very stressful. One thing that helped Lilias relax was to look at nature, meditate upon it, listen for God to speak through it, and paint pictures of it.
- Was there a time in your life when you were encouraged by something in nature?
- Can you remember how it made you feel? Or what message it gave you?
- Do you think it would be of benefit to meditate on nature regularly?
- How might you incorporate nature into your life? Perhaps taking a daily walk? Planting a garden? Getting a pet? Simply looking up at the sky when you walk to work? Other ideas?
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