How to Use the Qur’an To Reach Out to Muslims
When we hear that Muslims are impossible to evangelize or that a missionary who has worked in an Islamic country for 15 years converted only 1 or 2 or no Muslim to Christ, we sometimes wonder if Christians are using the right methods to reach out to Muslims. Jesus came down to Israel from heaven, spent only three and half years to produce more than 200 faithful disciples, making an eternal impact which resulted in more than 2 billion Christians two thousand years later. How did He do it?
We sometimes wonder if we can converse with Muslims in a loving way so that they realize the truth and come to believe in Jesus and the Bible. For example, what would happen if we tell Muslims, when they support suicide bombing and try to justify other Islamic terroristic activities, that the Qur’an tells them that Jihad should be used only to serve God and only when they are under attack, and should not exceed the limits set by God according to Qur’an 2:190? If we lead them to read Qur’an 2:190 and also help them to find that the Qu’ran tells them that Muslims should read the Bible as well as the Qur’an according to Qur’an 2:4, what would happen? What about all those Qur’anic verses that describe the divine personality of Jesus in Qur’an 3:45-51?
This seminar examines the Qur’an using hermeneutics (the science of interpretation used for interpretation of scriptures and laws) and explains what the Qur’an really says, and describes our conclusions about the way Jesus Christ would have used the Qur’an to reach out to Muslims, if He were to reach out to them today. In doing this, this seminar follows the fundamental Christian principle: Speaking the truth in love. At no time is the supremacy of Jesus Christ forgotten, demonstrated by His redeeming death on the cross and His resurrection after death to lead us to victorious life. However, we want to let Muslims claim anything they want if it is supported by the Qur’an. Islam has been using an erroneous interpretation method for the Qur’an just as Catholics used an erroneous interpretation method in the 16th century prior to the Reformation. Some examples of the results of the Catholic church’s use of erroneous interpretation methods at the time were the sale of indulgences, the selling and buying of clerical offices, absolute authority of the Pope and the worship of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Islam is behaving today in a very similar way to how Catholics did before the Reformation.
This seminar provides a way to break this barrier, using the Qur’an, just as Jesus taught the ancient Israelites using the Old Testament. In order to reach out to them, we should not criticize the Qur’an, their highest authority. Criticizing the Qur’an is like criticizing the parents of a person to whom we want to deliver the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We’ll first describe our motivation and background for this work before discussing about the Qur’an. The target audience for this seminar includes Christians, moderate Muslims, and missionaries bound for Muslim countries.
Motivation and background
We have observed two things as we continue our Christian life. One is that Christianity has not penetrated any countries dominated by the so-called great religions of the world. This is true not only for Islamic countries, or Hindu countries, or Buddhist countries in South Eastern Asia, but also true in places like Japan or Taiwan where there is no limitation on what Christian missionaries are allowed to do. In all these countries, the Christian population remains at 2% or less despite many years of Christian mission efforts. Christian historian Kenneth S. Latourette confirmed this observation of ours. Today’s class of missiology never teaches how to reach peoples of other faiths. It teaches about cultures, but does not teach how to reach Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or Confucian humanists. An even more amazing thing is that many “Schools of Mission” changed their names to “Schools of Intercultural Studies.” The people are enamored with the cultural studies and have forgotten missions!
The second thing we have observed is that people are not truly following Jesus Christ. He said, “Follow me,” twelve times to His disciples, not counting the duplicated verses in Mark and Luke. He never said, “Follow my words only.” Yet Christians just try to follow what He said, thinking that is the same as “following Him.” Christians pay much less attention to how he lived and how He reached the people around Him. Jesus clearly said, “Follow me” not “Follow my words.” He wants us to mimic His life, and His methods of reaching people around Him. Following Him in all aspects of life as He commanded is important for our Christian living.
One area this practice has been lacking is in the area of Christian mission work. Whenever Jesus was teaching the ancient Israelites, He started with the Old Testament. The Old Testament was the highest authority known to them. Jesus could have taught them without resorting to the Old Testament. Why then did Jesus use the Old Testament? Jesus was using the Old Testament so that the Israelites could readily accept His messages through the known authority to them. If Jesus had not used the Old Testament at all and started with His own new teachings alone, He would have had to spend a lot longer period. By looking at the examples of other great men in the world, it could have easily taken 20 to 40 years. However, by using the Old Testament as the base, Jesus was able to finish His entire ministry in three or four years. Jesus used the Old Testament as a springboard to complete His ministry effectively in a short time. In Christian missions, this means that we should use the Qur’an to reach Muslims, should use the Hindu scriptures to reach Hindus, should use the Buddhist scriptures to reach Buddhists, and should use Confucian classics to reach Confucian humanists.
This is not to say that preaching the Gospel alone is useless. On the contrary, it has been very effective where people do not have a strong religious base of their own or strong cultures. That is how Christianity has grown to the present state. This covers Europe and America. However, this same method has been proven to be powerless where other major religions dominate, as Kenneth S. Latourette noted. Peoples of other major religions saw the benefits of their own religions and formed their own cultures based on these religions. They have no reason to accept Christianity unless they are convinced differently through their highest spiritual authority. This is well expressed by one of the Indian gurus, who said that England had not taught India anything new spiritually even after 300 years of ruling India. Therefore, the method of Jesus Christ using the Old Testament becomes crucial in evangelizing the peoples of other religions. We should use their own spiritual authority such as the Qur’an, the Hindu Scriptures or Buddhist Scriptures to deliver the Gospel to them.
Then what specific approach should we take toward the peoples of other religions to follow the method of our Lord Jesus? We can choose our specific approach only after we understand one difference between us and Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ knew the Old Testament better than anyone because He is the Son of God. For the same reason, Jesus would also know the scriptures of other faiths better than anyone, and He would use their own scriptures to reach peoples of other faiths. However, we are only humans and we do not know unless we study. Due to this difference between us and Jesus, we should study the Qur’an to reach Muslims, should study the Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita to reach Hindus, should study the Buddhist scriptures to reach Buddhists, and should study the Confucian classics to reach Confucian humanists. This approach is also consistent with the Chinese “art of war,” which was taught by Sun-tzu. He said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of one hundred battles. However, if you know the enemy but do not know yourself, or know yourself but do not know the enemy, you could be victorious only in fifty battles out of one hundred.”
This is the motivation and background on why COTARI is carrying out the projects of “Interpreting Other Religions’ Scriptures through the Bible.” As the first of such projects, we are performing “Interpretation of the Qur’an through the Bible” at present with the help of three advisors: two retired seminary professors and one retired professor of Islamic Studies. We are using a word-for-word (interlinear) translation of the Arabic Qur’an with a complete parsing of each Arabic word of the Qur’an. We are also using the Arabic dictionary to find the various meanings of Arabic words used in the Qur’an. We are in addition using more than 10 different books of English translations and commentaries of the Qur’an and major Islamic literature to support this project. However, the interpretation methodology that we use is the same modern hermeneutics used in interpreting the Bible. Most important, all interpretations are done from the perspectives of the Bible. To be fair, if the text of the Qur’an supports it, we are trying to give the best credit to the Qur’an so that the best of Islam may be compared to the best of Christianity beyond denominations or sects.
The benefits of Project “Interpretation of the Qur’an Through the Bible”
The success of this project would provide tremendous benefits in several areas:
- The Qur’an can be used in opening the hearts of Muslims through this project. This has not been possible with many mission methodologies used in the past. The “bridge mission” had some local success but could not penetrate the mass of Muslims. The “insider movements” or “C5 mission” has been successful to some extent but criticized for syncretism. All these methodologies presently used in the mission field are derived from cultural studies. The method of reaching Muslims through the Qur’an is Biblically derived — the method that Jesus Christ would have used. This project would enhance the power of Christian mission, and enable conversions of Muslims based on their conscience, not by coercion.
- This project would help Islam Reformation. Islam is corrupt to the core. For example, Islam does not practice what the text of the Qur’an says. The Islamic religious leaders teach Muslims what they think the Qur’an is supposed to say. Moderate Muslims have no deep knowledge about the Qur´an and they could not stand up against the wrong teaching of Islamic religious leaders, because they do not understand the Qur’an. As the Catholic Church needed a reformation after fourteen centuries of corruption, Islam also needs a reformation to finally be consistent with the text of the Qur’an. In many ways, Islam today is very similar to the Catholic Church before Reformation. Why then do we care about the corrupt Islam? In this modern world, we are all interconnected, and the corrupt Islam impacts us in many ways including international terrorism. Reformed Islam would make communication with Muslims much easier and smoother and help Christian evangelism.
- This project would soften or remove the potential armed conflict between the radical Muslims and Christians in the future. The armed conflict with radical Muslims is inevitable. The goal of radical Muslims is to Islamize the entire world, and Christianity is in their way. More than 25 % of the Muslim population is sympathetic towards the radical ideology, and most Islamic religious leaders tend to be radical. Proper understanding of the Qur’an would stop the radical Muslims from taking actions contrary to the Qur’an.
- This project would help the dialog between Islam and Christianity and would provide opportunities to better believers in Islam and Christianity by learning about the scripture of the other religion.
COTARI has done sufficient research on the Qur’an and Islam and has been offering the Qur’an Seminar, titled “How to use the Qur’an to Reach Out to Muslims” since 2015. This seminar has been given seven times: four times in the USA and three times overseas, in Uganda, in Rwanda, and in Bangladesh.
This seminar can be provided in two ways:
- 20 weeks with one and half hours each week. This may be a more suitable option for a church.
- Two- week intensive seminar from 9 AM to 6 PM, Monday through Friday with the weekend off. This may be more convenient for the overseas missionaries, either in their local area or in the USA.
When the seminar is held in the USA, lodging and meals are provided by COTARI. The transportation expenses are required to be paid by students. If a student demonstrates a great need for this seminar, but could not afford to pay the transportation expenses from his location to the location of the seminar, COTARI could pay the transportation expenses in those special cases.
This seminar includes the dialogue practice sessions, simulating the real-life dialogues between Muslims and Christians.
No tuition is required for this seminar at this time. However, if your heart is so inclined to help the cause of COTARI, we would gladly accept any donations you could make for COTARI.
Contents of the Seminar
This seminar covers the following content in over 400 slides:
Session 1 – Introduction. Purpose and the approach of the seminar. It is to help Muslims and Christians. Why should Muslims and Christians study the Qur’an? What is the proper approach for the Qur’an study and evangelism?
Session 2 –Background. What is the Qur’an and what is the Bible, Who were Muhammad and Jesus, The socio-religious background of the 7th century Arabia.
**For Sessions 3 through 13 that deal with controversial topics between Islam and Christianity, four different perspectives are presented so that Muslims and Christians could have a proper understanding and make a correct decision: The Qur’anic view, the Islamic view, the Christian view, and secular views. **
Session 3 – Does the Qur’an Teach Violence?
Session 4 – Does the Qur’an teach that man is born sinless?
Session 5 – Does the Qur’an deny the divinity of Jesus Christ?
Session 6 – Does the Qur’an deny Trinity?
Session 7 – Does the Qur’an deny the death of Jesus Christ on the cross?
Session 8 – Does the Qur’an put Muhammad above the Qur’an?
Session 9 – Does the Qur’an teach that the Bible was altered?
Session 10 – Does the Qur’an Deny Religious Tolerance?
Session 11 – Does the Qur’an teach that Islam is the only religion approved by God?
Session 12 – Does the Qur’an teach that deeds are more important than faith?
Session 13 – What Does the Qur’an Say on the Status of Woman?
Session 14 – Islamic Eschatology
Session 15 – Errors in the Qur’an and the Bible
Session 16 – Is Sharia Law Applicable today?
Session 17 – Traditional Interpretation Methods of the Qur’an
Session 18 – Islamic Traditions: The Hadith and the Sirat (biography of Muhammad)
Session 19 – The Gospel of Barnabas
Session 20 – Islamic Sects, Movements and Islamic Reformation
As we carry out this project, we have realized that the Qur’an is misunderstood by nearly everyone. Nearly all Christians misunderstand the Qur’an. Most amazingly, many Muslims also misunderstand the Qur’an, just like Catholics in the fifteenth century misunderstood the Bible. It is important that Christians understand the Qur’an so that they may tell the truth in love to Muslims and guide them to the right path. It is important that moderate Muslims understand the Qur’an so that they may take the right position against the wrong teachings they may receive from the radical Muslims. It is important that Christian missionaries understand the Qur’an so that they may lead Muslims to the path of salvation, just as Jesus did for ancient Israelites. It is important for both Christians and Muslims to understand the Qur’an, because it may be the only way that we could avert or soften the coming armed conflict between Islam and Christianity.
Answers to Sessions 3 through 13 are definitely NO. All these items can be used positively in reaching out to Muslims with the proper understanding of the Qur’an. They would also help Muslims truly understand the Qur’an and reform Islam.
Video Recordings of the Seminar
For Pastors and Congregations
If a preview presentation is required for pastors, the PowerPoint slides prepared will be used as they are, and more detailed discussion will be provided on the motivation and the background. For one to two-hour seminar, a summary of Sessions 1, 2, and 20 will be presented within the allowed time. As the time allowed becomes longer, more subjects could be discussed in detail.