The Quran and the Mission of the Church

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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.

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[quote]The Quran is a helpful bridge to the Bible[/quote]

Those are very dangerous waters you are treading in.

Yes, they are dangerous waters but waters in which we must dive.

Just to see what happens, I'm repeating my earlier comment, which has dissapeared:

"It is likely that Muhammad encountered both Christians and Jews in his travels as a caravan trader."

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It's not only likely that he encountered both Christians and Jews in his travels.  He also tried to kill them all!  The Koran, no matter how you spell it, is a Satan-inspired book.  Stay away from it!

It seems to me that saying that we should respect the Quran the way Moslems respect it, reveals an ignorance of how moslems really regard the quran.   We can understand how they respect it, but the only way to respect it the way they do is to accept Mohammed as the true prophet of Allah, and to follow all the precepts and commands in the quran.  Which we cannot do. 

     Even those of you who view all Muslims as evil or not to be trusted or worse, shouldn't have issue with someone trying to better understand where they are coming from. "Know they enemy" yes? Only a very small percentage of Christians that I've encountered have even a modicum of knowledge about their own faith and what our Bible teaches, so I am very distrustful when they claim to understand Muslims and the Quran. I whole heartedly endorse those Christians who have a mature faith & have spent plenty of time in God's Word to help us understand our Muslim bother & sisters. You go Greg!

 

I agree you you there, but the statement:

[quote]The Quran is a helpful bridge to the Bible{/quote]

is wrong. Read and understand it, yes. Bridge to the Bible, absolutely not.

Bert, I agree with you that the quran will not help us to understand the bible better.   But what I think was meant by the phrase (could have been said better), is that christians can use their knowledge of the quran to lead moslems to the bible.  There are some similar sayings and there are some references to Jesus, which provide a kind of natural link to talking about the truths found in the bible.   I agree with you that  "Bridge" is a poor term, because it suggests we need to cross the bridge of quran in order to understand or receive scripture, and that is not so. 

Community Builder

Thanks for your comments. I think in general this has been a productive discussion. I did not intend to imply that we should bridge to the Bible by understanding the Quran better. The Bible stands on its own as God's special revelation - a further one is not needed. However Muslims have a natural curiosity about Jesus. Where does that come from? The Quran. So in that sense the Quran is a bridge. We can also appreciate other aspects of their faith such as their devotion to prayer and to fasting (as it is Ramadan) which can spur us on to live out our own Christian faith more fully. My main point is that respect opens doors to both better relationships and also opportunities to witness to the Gospel. I hope that is clearer.

Greg:  As much as I appreciate your willingness to understand Islam from within and have immersed yourself into Yusuf Ali's translation, I fear you may be inadvertently Christianizing Islam.  Yusuf Ali's own notes to his translation debunk the idea that Jesus was the Word of God. Ali strongly stresses that Jesus was a word from Allah, and Ali suggests that this has nothing to do with the Logos doctrine as could easily be read from your comments. 

From his book:

39. While he was  standing in prayer in the chamber,   the angels called unto her:
"Allah doth give thee glad tidings of Yahya, witnessing the truth of a Word from
Allah, and (be besides) noble, chaste, and a Prophet,  --of the (goodly! company
of the righteous."
301. Notice: "a word from Allah", not "the word of Allah", the epithet that
mystical Christianity uses for Jesus. As stated in Sura 3:59 below, Jesus
was created by a miracle, by Allah's word "Be", and he was.

Secondly: the Arabic speaking "....the spirit of the Holy is never called the Holy Spirit in Islam. This is the trick of the translators; they make the spirit of the Holy out to be the Holy Spirit. In Islam the spirit of the Holy is not holy, but he is a property of the Holy, a slave of Allah (Abd Allah), and at the disposal of Allah...."[i]  Many Muslim commentators, as well assert that the spirit which appeared to Muhammad was Gabriel and that he is equivalent to the Holy Spirit  (see 2:97 and 16:102). Finally, in his "Ten Most Common Questions asked by Christian Missionaries against Islam" Zakir Naik asserts that he sees nothing unique about the spirit being associated with 'Isa as Surahs 15:29; 32:9 talk about Allah breathing his spirit into human beings.


[i]               Abd al-Masih, "Who is the Holy Spirit in Islam?" http://grace-and-truth.org/AM-WhoIsTheHolySpiritInIslam-Lecture.htm (Accessed 2013/01/24)

                Masih shows that a knowledge of Arabic is necessary to avoid Christianizing the Qur'an. With regards to the phrase 'the spirit of the Holy.' "This means, in Islam, when the Holy Spirit is written, it is never a spirit who is holy in himself. The word holy is not an attribute or an adjective, it is a genitive which means the spirit is not holy in itself but the spirit is property of the holy one. Here you have to distinguish the grammar in Arabic. This means holy is Allah and the spirit is his slave. The spirit is never of divine origin in Islam, even if it is wrongly translated in the different Qur'anic translations to blind the Christians. When we speak about the Holy Spirit in Islam, keep in mind, it is never the Holy Spirit, it is the spirit of the Holy, which means a slave of Allah. Just as Jesus is a slave of Allah in Islam, never Holy or divine in himself, so the spirit is not Holy or divine but he is a property of Allah, the Holy."

 

 

 

Community Builder

Salaam: Thank you for clarifying on the "spirit of the Holy." I do recognize the danger of "Christianizing Islam," and realize that there are nuances to these discussions. I do not wish to imply any kind of Logos interpretation to the word of the Quran. Point well made.

 

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