(1) Will it be the trends in Islam or in our own world that
make Muslim evangelism such a challenge?
I am convinced that the greatest obstacles are the trends in
our own world: trends that render churches impotent; that
view the aliens in the country as a threat more than an
opportunity; and loss of sheer evangelistic and mission
zeal. Christian stereotypes of Muslims can only damage
relations and discourage evangelism. Muslims were "camel
jockeys" in the 1960's; "oil sheiks" in the 1970's and
"terrorists" in the 1980's.
(2) Globalization of Islam is through migration. Christians
are stationary. Poverty in Islamic nations has helped them
become global, while Christian wealth hinders the
globalization of western churches.
David Barrett (IBMR, Jan, 1996): Christian world estimated
to increase 5 times between 1900 and 2025, from 558 million
to 3 billion; however the Muslim world is estimated to
increase 10 times from 200 million to 1.9 billion. Currently, the
Christian world is 2 billion, Muslim world is 1.12 billion.
There are 44 dominantly Muslim countries.
In 1994, USA Today identified 42% of US Muslims were
African-American; 24% South Asians; 12% Arab; and 6%
African. Mosques in the USA increased from 104 in 1960 to
1,100 in 1993. It is estimated that 56% of all Muslims are
immigrants; 44% native-born. Some predict that by 2025 the
major religious force in all urban centers of America will
be Islam. Only four years ago the U. S. military got its
first Muslim chaplain, Imam Abdul Rasheed.
There are over 75 million Muslims in the former Soviet
Union; 1/3 of the whole population. The last translation of
the Qur'an was by a Christian in 1913; a new translation has
been done by the Russian author Valeria Porohova, consultant
on Islamic culture for Raisa Gorbachev. Copies were
distributed free to all universities, schools, public halls
and mosques. Including the western section of the former
Soviet Union, Europe has at least 25 million Muslims [18-20
million in Europe alone].
There is a large, well-developed Muslim infrastructure for
Islam in the West. Almost every large city in Europe has a
(1) Coordinating bodies link Muslims in different spheres
and activities with each other and with the Muslim world.
International Islamic organizations include: Organization of
Islamic Conference; the Islamic World Liga (Saudia Arabia);
the Islamic World Congress (Pakistan), and the International
Society for the Propagation and Spread of Islam (Libya).
(2) Muslim publishers produce quality Islamic books in
(3) Qur'anic schools give instruction (as much as 10 hours a
day); even missionary training schools for da'wa (mission);
they have some success at conversion, more possibly through
marriage; but more convert to Islam than from Islam.
(4) Currently there is debate in several places in Europe
over the possibility of the place of Islamic (Shari'ah) Law
in a liberal democracy; some Muslims are seeking a separate
law; we may see the day when we have a millet system in the
(5) Muslim Brotherhood and fundamentalists groups have had
no problem establishing themselves in the freedom of
democratic Europe and USA.
The current trends in the Muslim world will be addressed in
three broad areas, borrowing from Kenneth Craggs categories:
Islam and the State; Islam and Contemporary Society, and
Inward Crisis of Faith.1
1. ISLAM AND THE STATE
Iran has been the worlds only self-claimed theocracy, but
according to the Houston Chronicle (Dec. 1994), President
Hashemi Rafsanjani was in trouble for failing to deliver a
utopia; the clergy had been given vast powers but failed to
build a stronger state.
In 1991, the Lilly Endowment funded "The Pluralism Project"
to examine religious diversity; cities like Houston had
60,000 Muslims; 40,000 to 50,000 Hindus.
Muslims have difficulty coping with a pluralistic society
because there is no separation of the secular and sacred
[This may not be all bad.] However, their sacred is
surprisingly secular. In theory, there are two worlds: Dar
ul-Islam (abode of Islam) and Dar ul-Harb (abode of war).
Only since the 19th century have they tried to define their
faith in the context of a third option--abode of freedom in
They are unable to accept open dialogue, especially in
their own state. They fear evangelism, so they ban it,
limit it to church property, where that is even possible,
and punish violations severely.2
On May 12, 1991, Dr. Zaki,
a leading British Muslim (Scots convert) claimed "Islam is
not just a religion, it is a state, and Islam does not
distinguish between sacred and secular authority. Apostasy
and treason are one and the same thing." Since treason is
punishable by death, he argued, so too is
IRAN: In 1990 Hossein Soodmand was arrested, imprisoned,
tortured, and hanged for conversion to Christianity.
EGYPT: Even if someone converts, they are not allowed to
change their religion on their national identity card. In
the 19th Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in Cairo in
1990, they issued the "Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in
Islam" that showed little respect for religious freedom --
Article 22a: "Everyone shall have the right to express his
opinion freely in such a manner as would not be contrary to
the principles of the Shari'a." Article 22b: "Everyone shall
have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what
is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according
to the norms of Islamic Shari'a." Article 10: "Islam is the
religion of unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise
any form of compulsion on man or to exploit his poverty or
ignorance in order to convert him to another religion or to
atheism." Apostates can be executed -- Article 2.a.: "Life
is a God-given gift and right to life is guaranteed to every
human being. It is the duty of individuals, societies, and
states to protect this right from any violation, and it is
prohibited to take away life except for a Shari'a prescribed
They do not respect minorities in their own lands. They
are always one quick step away from oppression. While many
politicians would prefer a more open society, the growing
power of the fundamentalist will keep that from taking place
without divine intervention.
2. ISLAM AND CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY
Possibly the most important question facing Islam today is
what to do with the place of the Sharia in Muslim societies-
-they are experiencing the emergence of a "new hermeneutic"
that sees the Qur'an and the Hadith in the light of
Not everyone agrees with this however. Like Islamization,
modernity also has a vision of uniformity and a global
culture but where man, not Allah, is the major focus of
It is also becoming a tough choice between the
mall and the mosque and, like the church, the mosque is
Mohammad Shahid Raza [Imam and Director of the Islamic
Center in Leicester, GB], in Islam in Britain (1991) reveals
that Islam is very divided in the West. The reasons he gives
are -- different religious sects, survival of the Indian
caste system, dynastic loyalties, and neighbor-hood
loyalties. Islam is divided and not open to change. As a
result, they are losing their young, the women and the
educated. It is beginning to face the effects of
[Although the church in Islamic nations is
a suffering church while Islam in Europe and America appears
to be flourishing and free, there is a spiritual conflict
between the secular and the sacred everywhere.]
Gulf News in UAE (4/4/93) ran a story on efforts to build
a Muslim girls school in Chicago, claiming that setting up a
school is vital if Islam is to be saved in the region
because attending public schools will cause them to "lose
their touch with" Islam. There are 350,000 Muslims in
Chicago. Most are not there to change American society; they
are more afraid American society will change them.
Fundamentalism: growing stronger in nearly every Muslim
country, it is a reaction to their experiences with
colonialism, a search for an authentic Islamic identity, a
response to the failure of both capitalism and socialism to
create prosperous and just societies in Muslim lands, and an
offer of hope and possibility of change to the alienated.
Their influence is felt in both "branches" of Islam: (1)
Sunni Islam, strict adherence to the Qur'an and the Sunnah
(teaching and practice of Muhammad); and (2) Shi'a Islam,
rely more on the personal authority of Mujtahids or
ayatollahs, such as the
3. INWARD CRISIS OF FAITH
A key word in certain circles of the Muslim world is
tajdid = renewal. This is neither reformation nor
renaissance, but goes back to the sources and roots of Islam
-- the Qur'an and the Hadith. In October, 1987, the Islamic
Conference on "Da'wa and Development of the Muslim World"
started a series of conferences, such as the one in Abuja,
Nigeria in November 1989. It called for renewal of Qur'anic
education, teaching of Arabic, and da'wa over all
Terrorism and Violence: the 1994 Organization of the
Islamic Conference (OIC), composed of 52 members, met in
Casablanca, Morocco and in an unusual move, adopted a "code
of conduct" that urges member states "not to host, train,
arm, finance, or provide facilities" to violent groups.
Although they are powerless to enforce the code, it did
signal a new tone of attempts to at least address the
controversial issue. Muslims as a whole are no more to be
blamed for terrorism than Christians in America for the
pornography and violence in our own cities and streets.
The 4-6 million Muslims in America are mostly immigrants.
As much as 90% of converts are black men. REASONS: Islam is
seen as a religion of self-discipline, simple beliefs, faith
with ties to Africa (while Christianity is tied to passivity
and soiled by associations with white oppression.)
Two schools of thought developed in the British church by
the 19th Century around Charles Foster (1787-1871) and
William Muir (1819-1905). The former viewed Islam as
preparation for the Christian message and sought bridges of
thought, history, and relationships. The latter viewed Islam
as opposed to the gospel and sought to build walls and
oppress it. Neither were very successful. However, since our
call from God is to be ministers of reconciliation, I am
convinced the former will be more faithful to the nature of
an honorable God who works in the lives of people today.
1Kenneth Cragg, "Contemporary
Trends," Muslims and Christians on the Emmaus Road, p. 21-43.
2Daniel Ho, "Issues in
the Muslim World," World Evangelization, Jan. 1995.
3Dr. P. Sookhdeo, "The
Law of Apostasy in Islam and its
Relation to Human Rights and Religious Liberty," November,
1992, p. 8; on BBC Radio 4 "Sunday Programme" talk show.