Reaching Your Muslim Neighbour with the Gospel, A.S. Ibrahim.  Wheaton: Crossway, 2022.  Softcover, 176 pages.

While pastoring in Hamilton, I had several encounters with Muslims.  One was particularly memorable.  A group of Muslims wanted to use our church building on Southcote Road for Ramadan – their own building was too small.  I met with them to discuss it, i.e. to explain politely why we couldn’t do that.  They insisted we believed basically the same things.  So I asked, “Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross and then rose from the dead three days later?”  They said, “Yes, we believe that too!”  At that point, I realized one of two things must be true.  Either A.S. Ibrahim is correct when he says most Muslims don’t actually know what Islam teaches in any detail, or I was encountering an example of taqiyya.  Islam teaches that it is permissible for Muslims to lie in order to further the cause of Islam – this doctrine is called taqiyya

I wish Ibrahim’s book had been written about ten years ago because it sure would have been helpful in that situation.  Many of us now live in communities where it’s impossible not to encounter Muslims.  Take a taxi or an uber and there’s a good likelihood your driver will be a Muslim.  And he’ll probably be quite happy to discuss religion with you.

Ayman Ibrahim is well-versed in Islam, having grown up in a Christian family in Muslim-majority Egypt.  He currently teaches Islamic studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  His new book reflects years of experience interacting with Muslims around the world. 

Reaching Your Muslim Neighbour with the Gospel divides into two parts.  In the first part, Ibrahim explains the basics about Muslims and Islam.  In chapter 2, he answers the question, “Is Islam really the fastest growing religion in the world?”  In chapter 5, he helps us understand the Muslim worldview.  I found chapter 6 especially helpful in outlining “Basic Muslim Misconceptions about Christians and Christianity.”

Having provided that background knowledge, Ibrahim explains how to evangelize Muslims in the second part.  He points out the importance of expectant intercessory prayer in chapter 8.  In chapter 9, he illustrates how to ask probing spiritual questions like Jesus did.  The last chapter of the book deals with the sensitive issue of speaking about the Qur’an and Muhammad with Muslims.  How do we register disagreement without being disrespectful?

I appreciated Ibrahim’s emphasis on developing personal relationships with Muslims.  He writes:

We must remember that we are dealing with humans created in the image of God.  Muslims are not objects or projects – and if we treat them as such, they will immediately sense the disingenuous attitude and assume we do not truly care about them as people.  In this way, our witness will be ineffective.  Sincere conversations in a steadily growing friendship naturally lead to the effective sharing of the good news. (p.104)

On this point, I do wish Ibrahim would have provided some pointers about how to meet Muslims and begin conversations with them.  Can I just walk into a mosque?

There were a few places where I put question marks in this book.  On page 100, Ibrahim asserts that “Muhammad did not forgive his enemies.”  I googled the question and some Muslims contest this claim, referring to Muhammad’s magnanimous forgiveness of such men as Thumama Ibn Uthal and Safwan Ibn Umayah.  Ibrahim writes on page 142 that the word tawhid [strict monotheism] isn’t found in the Qur’an.  He uses this as an analogy to the way the word ‘Trinity’ isn’t found in the Bible.  The concept is there, but not the word.  But with tawhid, things are a little more complicated.  Other forms of the root Arabic word are used in the Qur’an and tawhid itself appears in the Hadith, the sayings of Muhammad which are authoritative for most Muslims.  So you might get caught out using that analogy with a Muslim who knows their faith well. 

In chapter 7, he outlines four elements of a gospel presentation according to Scripture.  The first is “to emphasize how God loves sinners and initiates the process of salvation.”  As true as this is, we don’t see anyone evangelizing with this approach in the New Testament.  The word ‘love’ isn’t even used at all in the book of Acts.  Instead, the early church evangelized by proclaiming the promise of the gospel:  God holds out to you the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ – believe in him and you’ll be forgiven and saved.

When we first moved to Launceston in 2015, there were only a handful of Muslims in the whole state of Tasmania.  Today we have a mosque just down the street from our house.  I’m praying for opportunities to use what I’ve learned from Ibrahim’s book.  If you read it, I reckon you’ll be well-equipped to begin having fruitful spiritual conversations with the Muslims God brings into your life.