I have on my desk an NIV Study Bible and a Quran (The Meaning of the Holy Quran) translated by Yusuf Ali. I study them both. By studying the Bible, I hope to deepen my faith in God. By studying the Quran, I hope to better understand the religious experience of my Muslim friends, so that I can share with them my understanding of truth as it is found in the Bible.
The Quran is a helpful bridge to the Bible — containing much material that originated in stories told by Christians. It is likely that Muhammad encountered both Christians and Jews in his travels as a caravan trader.
But some have questioned this approach. Am I giving too much respect to the Quran? Am I playing with spiritual fire?
Such questions have to do with how we view the Quran. Is the Quran a divine word, does it contain some divine truth, is it just the work of a fallen human being or is it a satanic conspiracy? Those seem to be the different options offered by those who are involved in ministry to Muslims.
This question is important for our witness to Muslims, and for those helping MBBs (Muslim background believers) grow through discipleship.
The Quran offers a very mixed picture of Christianity — and this is why this question is a complicated one. On the one hand the Quran speaks very respectfully of Jesus. He is described as a prophet who did miracles (Q. 3:49). He is a Word of Allah, and a Spirit proceeding from Him (Q. 4:171). He is born of a virgin (Q. 3:47) and is mentioned by name twenty-five times in the Quran (whereas Muhammad is only mentioned by name four times).
On the other hand, the Quran plainly states that God cannot have a Son, that those who believe in the Trinity must desist (Q. 4:171) and that Jesus did not die on the cross (Q. 4:157).
So what should we do with a document that is loved and revered by 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today — yet specifically denounces core Christian beliefs?
A professor of missiology compared the Quran to the crescent moon — the crescent moon is a symbol of Islam. It reflects the light of divine truth as the crescent moon partially reflects the light of the sun, but it is dark in the middle. That is a helpful analogy. In the Reformed tradition we see signs of common grace in the world, and in other religions. That which is noble and generous points to a higher truth. Passages in the Quran that speak well of Jesus are such passages. But we also acknowledge the antithesis. There are elements in other religions that are affected by the Fall, they are corrupted and tainted by the brokenness of the human condition. So we must conclude that the Quran, though not divine, does reflect some divine truth. Such truth is mixed in with much that is not divine and in fact reflects the misunderstandings held by Muhammad about the Christian faith.
For this reason the Quran can be effectively, albeit cautiously, used to lead people to Jesus. Where the Quran reveals Jesus as a Word from God and as his Spirit, it creates interest in Jesus and leads Muslims to desire to know more about him. However, the much fuller revelation about Jesus and God’s one covenant of grace is found in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, and that is where we must go. It is only through studying the full story of Scripture — of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation — that we truly come to know Jesus as God’s Son and our Savior. The Quran is a helpful document for leading people to Jesus if used in the right way.
We live in a time where Christians are increasingly rubbing shoulders with Muslims. I recommend that we become more familiar with the Quran, appreciate what it says about Jesus, and respect it as our Muslim friends respect it. From there we can use it as a bridge, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to enter into deeper conversations about Jesus, God’s divine Son, and about God, our heavenly Father.