I’ve been involved in reaching out to those from a Muslim background for many years. I lived in Turkey for 14 years before coming back to the UK for serve with London City Mission. While in Turkey, I was asked two questions on a regular basis: ‘What do you think of Muhammed?’ and ‘have you read the Qur’an?’ To the first question, I have generally given a vague answer, not wanting to offend people. It probably wasn’t going to help me build a friendship if I told them what I really think of Muhammed. But also not having really studied much about their prophet’s life, I didn’t want to give an unbalanced view. The second question has always been a strange one for me. Not having read the Qur’an from cover to cover – not like I have read the Bible – I could have just said no.

Over the years I have explored the Qur’an, wanting to encourage my Muslim friends to read the New Testament. But how could I convince someone to read my book if I’d not read theirs from beginning to end? While being back in the UK, I’ve enjoyed freedom to take an openly critical approach to Islam in our outreach, with ‘gentleness and respect’ of course. Over the last year I’ve been taking a deeper dive into apologetic and polemic approaches to engaging with our Muslims friends. At the same time, it is the perfect opportunity for me to take a deeper dive into the Qur’an and read it from beginning to end.

But why do this? For me, Paul in Acts 17 gives us a good reason. The way he makes himself a student of the culture of those he was seeking to reach for Christ is a good model for us. The idols of Athens may have distressed him (Acts 17:1) yet that didn’t stop him from carefully investigating their beliefs (Acts 17:23). Through his study of their culture, Paul was able to find things in their world-view that provided him a fruitful way of pointing them to Christ. A couple of helpful tips to reading the Qur’an as a Christian is firstly understanding the historical context behind it.

The Bible is compiled largely is chronological order, so reading start to finish you mostly follow the story from beginning to end. The Qur’an is very different. With the first chapter an exception, the Qur’an is compiled according to the length of each chapter, or surah, with the longest at the beginning gradually decreasing in length. The order they were claimed to have been revealed is very different, however. Some chapters were revealed early on in Mohammed’s supposed prophethood when he was, for example, largely in good relations with the Jews around him. Some chapters were revealed later on, when the Jews openly rejected him as prophet. It is helpful to know this, to understand how some Muslims explain the contradiction between the ‘peaceful’ verses and the ‘violent’ ones.

Another tip to reading the Qur’an as a Christian is to have some help from those who have gone before. Gordon Nickle has written a helpful guide called ‘The Quran with Christian Commentary’. Another title is ‘A Christian guide to the Qur'an’ by Raouf and Carol Ghattas. Of course, I have the conviction that the gospel is all God needs to work in the hearts of my Muslim friends. Hopefully, however, my ‘deep dive’ will help me find some equivalents to the ‘unknown gods’ that Paul discovered in Athens. My prayer is that it will help me reach my Muslim friends, and help me equip others to do the same.

This article is take from our quartetly magazine, Changing London. Read the latest version here or fill in the form on this webpage to get it through your letterbox.


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