In this video, Dr. Cynthia shares reasons that we have found for Muslims returning to Islam after leaving it (technically called recidivism of an apostate).
For Christians working with Muslims, it is always a difficult to see a former Muslim returning to Islam. But this is not new trend. It has been happening since the early days of missions to Muslims, when it actually happened 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, 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 in the long run.
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. Before execution takes place, if it actually does, there is usually a period of reindoctrination and reflection recommended for the apostate. In reality, this becomes intimidation and attempted brain washing. Only by great strength of will power or the Holy Spirit is someone able to withstand these pressures.
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. The safety nets are based on family, clan, and the mosque. When one leaves Islam, they not only loose 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 starve and go to heaven.
In America, thankfully economic survival is not tied to religion, so here that is not such a factor. However, in the current economy it is not 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. Cynthia 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, she has found, 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 scarcely different from anyone in Western culture, and scarcely have any faith at all.
Dr. Cynthia 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.
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.
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?
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 Mark Vyka 1957-2016.
Muslims think that since Christians are saved by grace that they are authorized to do anything – including immoral activities.
In the video on “Are there Rules in Christianity?” we discuss religious disciplines of things that do not save, but can benefit believers. In this related video on Christian Liberty, Dr. Cynthia and Rev. Georges 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, moral behavior, or going to R rated movies?
The Bible tells us that although all things may be permissible for us, not all things are beneficial (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, to encourage them to sin (I Corinthians 8:9 & Galatians 5:4-6).
A particular problem for the practice of Christian liberty that Dr. Cynthia has run into is in the area of dress. This is especially a problem for women leaving Islam. Imagine – when you are brought up that it is a sin to expose almost any of your body, in some places even your eyes or hands, how can you “get a feel” for what is an acceptable amount of skin and/or figure to show now that you are a Christian? At first you might feel odd or “guilty” about showing anything – hair or skin, 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?
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.
A high ranking Imam told Dr. Cynthia that if a man sees a woman and lusts, the sin is the woman’s. This sharply contrasts with what Jesus taught (Matthew 5:28,29). Dr. Cynthia 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. She says there has to be a balance between a woman’s rights and a man’s lust. Houssney agrees. He quotes, “If we dress sexy we will get sex, if we dress lovely we will get love.”
In the end, Houssney and Dr. Cynthia agree that guidelines for Christian dress could be to:
- try not to be a stumbling block
- 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 to show
(See also videos on “Shopping Day” and “Are there Rules in Christianity?”)
Are there rules in Christianity? There are in Islam. Islam is a tremendous system of rules and laws. By following these laws one obtains points, or thawab to gain favor with Allah at the Day of Judgment, and a better chance to enter paradise. 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 from being burdened with heavy labor.
But the Christian life does contain disciplines. In this video Dr. Cynthia asks Rev. Georges Houssney, if there are rules in Christianity. She explains to him the challenges she has faced in encouraging new believers from a Muslim background to 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. However, 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 self-control enables us to do these things (Galatians 5:22). (See also videos on “Christian Liberty, with Georges Houssney” and “Disciplines of the Christian Life, with Mike Licona.”)
George Saieg, an expert in Islam from a Muslim country, shares with us in this video some of his ideas of why a Christian shouldn’t marry a Muslim. Islam does not allow Muslim women to marry Christian men, so usually the situation that arises is that of a Christian woman tempted to marry a Muslim man. This is allowed in Islam. But the Bible teaches us that Christians should not be united to unbelievers (II Corinthians 6:14).
Saieg also draws our attention to the status of women in Islam as a practical reason that a Christian woman should not act upon temptation to marry a Muslim. Two of the many examples he gives us are the way women are described as a possession in Islam (Qur’an 2:223 & 3:14 and commentaries), and the fact that according to Mohammed most of the people in hell are women (El Bukhari 7:124, 1052). Saieg says English translations of the Qur’an are soft, and that Western women would never marry a Muslim if they could read the Qur’an in Arabic.
As a practical example, Saieg cites the case of his own cousin who married a Muslim man. At first he assured her that she would be able to practice her Christian faith freely; however as time went on he continued to pressure her more and more to become a Muslim. (This is a situation commonly reported by Christian women marrying Muslims to him and Dr. Cynthia.)
Ada was in the Middle East while in the military. She met Muslim men who were flattering and attractive and understands why American women might want to marry one. However, she shares with us in this video why she wouldn’t marry a Muslim. Her concerns are based on the difference in the religions’ teachings and following what is true. She draws attention to the loving approach to others that Christians are taught to have (I Corinthians 13:4-8,13) and how this teaching is lacking in Islam. Islam, she says, is false teaching (Matthew 7:15, 16).
Ada reflects on how sad it would be to loose one’s children to a mother-in-law or other woman to teach them a different basis of life than we have in Christianity (in divorce, the father retains ultimate control of the children). Ada reminds us that the Bible teaches we should not be unequally joined to unbelievers (II Corinthians 6:14), which would be the case if a Christian marries a Muslim.
Rev. Georges Houssney and Elias, both of whom were raised in the Middle East, discuss why a Christian shouldn’t marry a Muslim in this video. They present for us their top concerns, but advise that any Christian considering this step spend much time in consultation with a mature Christian advisor. They admit that not everything they share applies to every case.
First, Elias shares that a Christian shouldn’t marry a Muslim because of the lack of common ground they would have. (This actually would apply in every case of true believers.) In 2 Corinthians 6:14, they remind us that the Bible says light and darkness do not have fellowship, and should not join together. A marriage relationship will be strained with such different backgrounds as Christianity and Islam.
Houssney recognizes that Muslim men can be very romantic. It seems like they will do anything to gain the hand of their loved one in marriage; but in his large experience counseling around the Muslim world, this changes after marriage.
Christian women should be aware that they will face two challenges they might not be expecting. First, since the Qur’an gives a man the right to have 4 wives, whom he can divorce rather easily, it tends to put a man in the mindset of always checking out other women as possibilities. Why not? It is their right in Islam (Qur’an 4:3).
The second thing that a woman should be aware of is that in Islam, the father has priority in custody of the children. If separation or divorce happens, you would very likely loose your children to the Muslim family of your husband.
In this video, Arabs Georges Houssney and Elias discuss why you shouldn’t become a Muslim. Out of the many reasons that you shouldn’t become a Muslim they select six, as follows:
- The concern that Westerners are being converted to a false picture of Islam. The Islamic concept of taqiyya, dissimulation (adapted from Qur’an Surah 3:26), allows an inaccurate picture to be presented for reasons such as self-protection and proselytism.
- Christian concepts and views of God are being adapted into presentation of something different than Islam is. You might think their view of God is more similar to the Christian view than it actually is.
- Saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Elias wants us to know that what is important is not which religion wins more followers, but that in Christianity you can have a personal, saving relationship with Jesus.
- The Law of Apostasy. You should not become a Muslim because, based on the Qur’an (Surah 9:12 & 4:89) and hadith (El Bukhari 9:57) once you become a Muslim, you can not leave Islam without risking death. Houssney tells us that we should not become Muslims based on this risk. He shares a case with us that illustrates Islamic freedom of religion is to convert to Islam, not from it. (In some Muslim countries, your official religion is part of your official documents.)
- The Truth. We should not become a Muslim because we should believe what is true, not simply convenient. We might be tempted to convert for love, or to fit in with friends, family or culture, or because of racial issues; but before God we must look for and believe the truth.
- Eternal Security. You should not become a Muslim if you want assurance of where you are going when you die. Jesus promises us eternal life (John 3:16 & 20:31), whereas Mohammed himself admits he did not know where he was going when he died (El Bukhari 5:266).
In this video clip Rev. Georges Houssney and young believer Elias discuss the differences between Islam and Christianity. Both were raised among Muslims in the Middle East and know the differences between Islam and Christianity from both study and experience. Although a the differences between Islam an Christianity are many, and a full discussion is beyond the scope of this video, Georges Houssney and Elias present to us the most significant ones from their perspective:
- How we get to heaven. Islam, like every religion except Christianity, offers its followers a system of works. By works and religious practices (deen), Muslims hope to gain Allah’s approval and increase their chance of being accepted into paradise.
- Rules vs. Relationship. Islam offers a system of rules. Christianity offers a personal relationship with God as our Father and Savior. We are to walk in fellowship with Jesus and do the things that he did. (I John 1:7 & 2:6)
- External vs. Internal. Islam strives to improve a person, and society, through external indicators: rules and appearances. Christianity is about internal attitude and heart change.
- Works vs. Grace. In Christianity God saves us by his grace, not by our works, so our salvation is based on God’s power, not ours! Christians are called upon to do good works, but these works are a result of our thankfulness for salvation, not to earn it. (Galatians 5:13,14)
- Salvation is a free Gift. In Jesus sacrificial death, God paid the price for our sins. All we have to do is humble ourselves to receive it. If we confess our sins, God forgives them (I John 1:9).
Houssney tells us to read the Bible to learn more about God.
Kelly tells us her story of how she converted to Islam out of a nominal Catholic background when she married a Muslim man. She moved with him to Turkey. As she deeper into Islam, she had less and less peace in her life. Passing through life stress and panic attacks she came to the point she was willing to talk to a pastor. He told her that she could receive Jesus as her personal savior. Although she was reluctant to do so because of her marriage to a Muslim, the Lord’s love and peace irresistibly drew her to him and sustained her through the distress she subsequently faced.
In this video, Rev. Georges Houssney and Elias, both of whom were raised in Muslim societies in the Middle East, share some advice for those who are considering leaving Islam. First, Houssney lets you know that you are in good company. Millions are leaving Islam: in fact, his statistics show that 350 million Muslims have left Islam in the past 15 years! Terrorism and other harsh results of Islamic laws are pushing many people into leaving Islam.
For many, the steps in leaving Islam are to become irreligious, and then atheist. Islam indoctrinates its devotees that Christians are deceived and live ungodly lives. These thoughts usually keep them from immediately seeking truth in Christianity. Atheism however leaves you empty. But atheism can eventually prepare a person to be more open to other explanations about God than that in Islam.
Houssney and Elias’ advice for leaving Islam is to look for the truth. Ask God to guide you to the truth. The Bible tells us, way back in a book of Moses, Deuteronomy 4:29, that we will find God if we seek him with all our heart. As part of your leaving Islam, seek God, and take a fresh look at the Bible and Christianity!
The Bible tells us that Jesus is the only true way to a relationship with God. Jesus will not leave you empty. He will save you and give you new life! (John 14:6 & 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:17)
In the West, we can discuss Jesus anywhere freely without fear, even public places like an airport. It is good for people to hear us discussing Jesus and how wonderful he is! Jesus gives us joy (Galatians 5:22). Even though life is full of hardships, he wants us to be filled with his Spirit and delight in the blessings he gives us.
In this reality video, Huda, a new Christian from a Muslim background, shares with us some of the things she finds amazing about Jesus. She mentions prophecies about his birth (Micah 5:2). Dr. Cynthia adds that the Bible tells us it was just the right time when Jesus appeared (Galatians 4:4). Huda tells us that she shares these things with her Buddhist, Muslim and Jewish friends and they are surprised.
Bible teachers Kevin and Dee share with us in this video the importance of prayer in their lives. Prayer is one of the most important disciplines of the Christian life. Kevin and Dee have seen God miraculously answer many prayers. At times when things are not going well in their family life, they have stopped to remember that they have been slacking off on prayer. Kevin and Dee also explain the importance of prayer in helping adjust our attitudes to be godlier, in line with what he wills, not simply seeking our own way.
Dr. Mike Licona shares with us in this video that there are disciplines of the Christian life. This is not the same as working for salvation. Disciplines are things we do to have a richer experience in the Christian life, and to please God.
The 6 disciplines include: prayer, Bible study, meeting with other believers, worship, serving, and sharing the gospel.
Dr. Cynthia has found that many Muslims and others are confused about why there are different Christian denominations. First, she explains to us that it is not only Christians who have many denominations – every large religion does, for example Islam and Buddhism. It is human nature to want to do things in a variety of ways.
Dr. Cynthia explains that some of the reasons for different Christian denominations are doctrinal. Some are language based and reflect the cultures they arose in, and others are closely tied to our personal style preferences. This website does not promote any particular Christian denomination.
Although there are numerous smaller doctrinal differences between Christian denominations, some important or noticeable differences are: formal or informal styles of worship service, the understanding and practices of baptism, beliefs regarding whether the communion service (Eucharist) is symbolic or actual consumption of the body and blood of Jesus, whether or not a priest is needed to intercede between Christians and God or if there is a priesthood of all believers with Jesus as the high priest. A noticeable difference which is not strictly doctrinal is diversity in styles of worship music. In Dr. Cynthia’s opinion, none of these denominational differences either make or break a church as being “Christian.”
Some people become dogmatic, saying only their church is the true church. Some go so far as to say that anyone in another denomination is not Christian. Dr. Cynthia believes that the Bible teaches that the true Church is composed of the true believers in many denominations. She thinks having a variety of Christian denominations is actually a good thing. It allows freedom and diversity of understanding and style of worship. For example, some people are distracted by people yelling out in church, and others are encouraged by it. It is good to have a choice so everyone can find a church where they feel comfortable.
However, Dr. Cynthia warns to be sure that the church you attend truly does teach the Word of God, the Bible. Many no longer do, not fully. Also, beware of any church that places another holy book or the teachings of another “prophet” above the Bible – even if they do lip service to accepting the Bible. This is what Islam does, and other groups loosely connected to Christianity, which then are called “cults.”
Differences in worship styles, especially musical styles, are some of the most obvious ways in which Christian churches differ. Some more traditional churches sing old hymns from traditional hymnals accompanied by traditional instruments, like the organ and piano. Nowadays, more and more churches opt for modern songs with lyrics projected on a screen, accompanied by guitars, keyboards, and drums. Rather than a choir they have a worship team of 3-5 people performing, without an official director leading the congregation to keep in time. A few denominations refuse all instruments.
Dr. Cynthia points out that the Psalms in the Bible talk about a wide variety of worship styles and body worship positions. This means they should all be valid for today as well. The Psalms do not include musical notes. Although this might not be why, it is actually good that the musical notes are not preserved – that leaves every generation and culture free to develop their own worship music style, rather than relying on what was in style 3,000 years ago.
You might prefer a church with a solemn worship style, one which emphasizes quiet contemplation of the awesome majesty of God. On the other hand, perhaps you enjoy shouting out to the Lord in joy, clapping or raising your hands in praise, or at times even jumping a bit for joy. There are excellent churches which engage all of these worship styles.
Dr. Cynthia actually enjoys nearly every style of worship, but she realizes not everyone does. She suggests that you find a church with sound doctrine and a worship style that you enjoy, and attend there. The same goes for your personal worship – listen to Christian worship music on the radio, CDs or downloads that encourage your heart and Christian growth.
Bible teachers Kevin and Dee share with us in this video the importance of daily Bible reading in their lives. Daily Bible reading is one of the most important disciplines of the Christian life. Through daily Bible reading we stay in touch with God’s way. Daily Bible reading keeps our minds renewed and receptive to what God would show us. (See also other videos on the Bible on this website.)
Bible teacher Kevin, in this video shares with us that being a Christian involves walking as Jesus walked, doing the things Jesus did (I John 2:6). We call this sharing the gospel in word and deed. We share the gospel by showing love to believers and unbelievers, both friends and enemies.
The other thing we need to do is share the gospel story in word – God’s way of salvation through forgiveness of our sins by Jesus’ blood. We can share the gospel by several means, including:
- wide scale distribution of tracts, DVDs, and Bibles
- purposely making friends with whom we will share the gospel (which we call small scale outreach)
- using the internet and television (which can be personal or ultra-large scale outreach)
- talking to people in public places
- and of course, not overlooking our family, friends, and work or school connections.
In our ministry we do all of these. As illustrations, we have included photographs of some ministry volunteers active in outreach, including campus and various ethnic events, and Dr. C sharing the gospel with Muslims in Hyde Park in London.
All Christians are called to spread the gospel with love and words. We encourage you to find a way that you are comfortable with and pursue it!
Dr. Mike Licona in this video shares with us examples of types of Christian service. Every Christian has been given spiritual gifts, and should use them for some type of Christian service to strengthen the church, or bring others into it.
Serving meals is a longstanding tradition in the church, going all the way back to its beginning. Licona’s discussion about hospitality and serving meals includes reality footage of Dr. Cynthia and other volunteers preparing a ministry event.
Licona mentions that some people have learned much about the Bible, and are gifted in teaching it. (Several guests we have on our series, like Mark Vyka and Kevin, although not famous as others of our guests, are gifted Bible teachers and serve their local churches.)
Like everyone, Christians have problems. Wise and experienced Christians can give counsel to those in trouble. Some people are compassionate and show mercy to those who have gotten themselves into trouble by not following God’s ways. Like Barnabas with Paul and later John Mark, this gift of Christian service encourages others, and helps coach them to find where God really wants them.
Finally, Mike mentions the gift of giving. Although some are financially blessed, all Christians should give money to church and charity.
As is common knowledge, families and individuals have become busier over the last two generations. Previously most households had one primary income, and there were fewer entertainments to distract us. Now many, if not most American households have two or more incomes. The result of increasing employment is that donated time has greatly fallen. Charitable organizations have suffered and some have closed. With donated time decreasing and productive work increasing, the gift of giving money should be of increasing employed by sincere Christians. For example, although very active in evangelism and teaching now, there were years in Dr. Cynthia’s life when between her medical work and family duties, she had very little time for Christian service work. During these times she counted as her Christian service giving money and intercessory prayer, which were things she could do in limited time.
If you haven’t already found your spiritual gift or gifts, why not pray now and ask the Lord to show you?