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One of the great fruits of the Protestant Reformation has been the missionary movement that today has spread its influence to every corner of the globe. It has proved to be more successful in some areas than in others. Accordingly most of the Protestant missionary force today is involved in those fields that have proved to be more fertile and responsive than others. Only a very small proportion of missionaries is engaged in reaching Muslims for Christ. Yet the Muslim world remains Christianity's greatest challenge for there is no other religion that has succeeded in making such inroads into traditional Christian realms as Islam and no other faith of its magnitude which has resisted the influence of the Gospel as this one has.

Since the end of the Second World War there has been a phenomenon in the East that discerning Christians have identified as providential. Muslims have emigrated by hundreds of thousands from their traditional homelands into Western countries, the customary heritage of Christendom. The Church in the West has been presented with a unique opportunity to evangelise Islam right on its doorstep. A mini world of Islam has mushroomed so that there are today emigrants, migrant-workers, students and the like from just about every Muslim country in the world based in Europe, North America, and other predominantly Christian lands in the West. God has presented the evangelical Church with a new field of mission and one which can be discharged by all Christians, whether trained missionaries or not. Experience has shown that the growth of minority Muslim communities in Christian countries has opened the door for a more comprehensive form of ministry than has hitherto been possible in most Muslim lands.

All over the Christian world there is a rising awareness and consciousness of Islam and the need to evangelise Muslims, especially those who are now our neighbours, fellow-citizens and close associates. It is the firm conviction of many that this is God's day for the salvation of the Muslims and the need to equip the Church for the task it is beginning to assume is being recognised by many.

I have had the privilege of witnessing to many thousands of Muslims during the past twelve years. Although I am a professional man established in business, the presence of a few hundred thousand Muslims in South Africa has given me the opportunity to become involved in a sustained ministry of evangelism among them and in recent years I have become more than ever persuaded that the future of Muslim evangelism in the West lies in the hands of those Christians who live near enough to Muslims to have regular access to them and to befriend them. I am about to prepare the manuscript of my book The Christian Witness to the Muslim which will cover the whole field of a potential ministry of comprehensive friendship evangelism among Muslims, provide effective means of communicating the Gospel to them, and supply ways of answering their usual objections to the Christian faith. This book could have been ready for publication even now, were it not for my firm belief that all Christians seeking to become involved in any form of continuing evangelism among Muslims should have a sound, basic knowledge of the religion, heritage and customs of those they hope to reach.

The result of this conviction has been the preparation instead of this volume Muhammad and the Religion of Islam. I have sought and endeavoured to inform those who contemplate Muslim evangelism of the history and development of Islam from the time of Muhammad himself down to the present day as well as survey the religion from an evangelical Christian perspective. This book will be followed by the second, God-willing, before the end of 1988. I trust that they will, as companion volumes, reflect the fruits of many years of study and experience and provide in some measure the basic knowledge every Christian should have if he wishes to be effective in this field.

It is being wisely said in these days that we need to "earn the right to be heard", that is, that we must be equipped with a sound knowledge of the religion, convictions, hopes and thought-patterns of those we desire to win to Jesus Christ. Nowhere is this more applicable than in the case of the Muslim. As my own personal knowledge of Islam has increased over the years I have found it easier to communicate with Muslims and to make the message of the Gospel meaningful to them. The average Muslim has not only his religious thinking but even his whole outlook on life conditioned by the mentality of Islam. One cannot speak to him as if he were just another human being. He has to be approached for what he is - a Muslim trained to think like a Muslim, and to have his ideas and beliefs fashioned in accordance with the basic Muslim world-view.

It has also been my pleasant experience to find that many Muslims sincerely respect anyone who has taken the trouble to obtain an inside knowledge of their faith, even if he is, as I am, a Christian evangelist ministering under the conviction that he is called to reach Muslims for Christ. Such a Christian is far more likely to convey his message with an impact than those who know little or nothing of Islam. Indeed it is also my experience that many Muslims, confronted by Christians whose fervour to witness to them is matched only by their ignorance of Islam, are quickly comforted by the conclusion that the confidence of such men in Christianity is caused purely by their lack of knowledge of the surpassing beauties of Islam. The message is gently pushed aside as the product of "zeal which is not according to knowledge".

A Christian who really knows Islam is able to present the Gospel against the Muslim's background and is far more likely to command a responsive ear. For this reason I was persuaded that the second book would be incomplete by itself and that it needed this book as a companion volume to assist Christians to approach Muslims in a truly comprehensive way.

Although the book covers four hundred pages it is purely introductory. I have supplemented it with a number of quotes which I believe enrich the text, help to document it, and often express matters in a far more effective way than I could. It is also my purpose to acquaint Christians with many of the major works on Islam. Although a number of these will be inaccessible to most of my readers, I trust that many will be encouraged to obtain and read other books on Islam.

I have also had the privilege of relying first-hand on English translations of many of the major works of Hadith literature. When I began working among Muslims in 1973 only the Sirat Rasulullah of Ibn Ishaq was freely available in English. Since then a great number of works have been translated and I am indeed privileged to be able to quote directly from them in a work on the heritage of Islam. It is my sincere hope that the remaining three major works of Hadith mentioned in this book will also appear in English in the near future but we can in the meantime be grateful for the translation of the Sahihs of Bukhari and Muslim and the Sunan of Abu Dawud.

While on the subject of books I should perhaps mention that the date of each respective book mentioned in the bibliography at the end of this book is only the date of the copy that I have consulted. It is not nepessarily the date of publication of the original work which, where known to me, is quoted in brackets in each case. I must express my considerable debt to Hughes' masterpiece A Dictionary of Islam. I have constantly consulted it and believe that it is by far the best resource work available. Every Christian seeking to obtain a basic knowledge of Islam should earnestly endeavour to obtain a copy of this book.

Although the present work is chiefly an assessment of Islam and accordingly does not deal comprehensively with the teaching of the Qur'an about Jesus, the Trinity, etc. (these will be covered in the second book), it is written purposefully from an evangelical Christian perspective. I have at all times sought to be as fair as I can be and have endeavoured to be strictly accurate, but do not claim to have written dispassionately or purely objectively. The writer is a Christian by firm, independent conviction, and accordingly writes as such. This book, therefore, is not only informative but also approaches and evaluates Islam in the light of the Christian faith and on many occasions does so critically and finds Islam wanting.

Many will be inclined to conclude that this book is not only a description of Islam but also a refutation of it. I make no apology for this. I have a healthy respect for Muhammad, his book and his religion, but sincerely believe that he does not compare with Jesus Christ and that Christianity, in its Biblical form, is far superior to Islam.

I have also considered it necessary to deal with the Muslim tendency to place both Muhammad and the Qur'an in a category of perfection. Muslim writers customarily gloss over the defects of both and it is only very rarely that one finds them subduing their sentiments in the cause of presenting a truly historical picture. This has become a universal vogue in the world of Islam and, without any desire to cause offence but with the purpose of obtaining a truer perspective, I have purposefully analysed many of these sentiments in the light of Islam's sources and historical heritage.

It is also common to find Muslims charging Western writers on Islam with a prejudice against it, even when they write somewhat sympathetically. I am persuaded that such complaints are often ill-founded. Many Western scholars, having taken pains to assess Islam as objectively and sincerely as they can, are nevertheless discounted and faulted purely because they will not make any concessions to popular Muslim sentiments. I do not expect Muslim readers to review this book favourably in the circumstances, but do sincerely trust that they will acknowledge that my conclusions and opinions have been based on records drawn from within the heritage of Islam (i.e. the Qur'an, major works of Hadith literature and other Islamic sources) and that they have always been factually stated and carefully documented.

Lastly a brief word should be said about the transliteration of Arabic texts from the Qur'an and other works into English. As the Arabic script is principally phonetic I have sought to reproduce it as phonetically as I can so that the form here set forth conveys as closely as possible the pronunciation of the original. To give an example, whereas some writers are inclined to write the definite article, al, as it appears in the consonantal script, I have followed the usual pronunciation, especially where the word to which the article is attached begins with one of the so-called "sun-letters" (al-hurufush-shamsiyah), for example as-Siddiq (written in the script as al-Siddiq).

I have generally not indicated long vowels or the use of the three diphthong letters to elongate a vowel except in direct quotes from the Qur'an. All quotes from the Qur'an in English are from the translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali unless otherwise stated. Translations of particular verses quoted in the original language are usually my own, appearing always within the body of my own text.

As is generally customary today, the feminine ta marbutah has been used in the transliteration of words employing this form by the addition of an "h" to the relevant word in each case. I have endeavoured to be as consistent as I can be in transliteration (employing an order coming into general use today), but where a widely accepted form of a word has taken root in writings on Islam, I have retained its traditional arrangement (e.g. muezzin for muadh-dhin, etc). Readers, I am sure, will recognise that there is great value in having some knowledge of Arabic and I urge those contemplating Arabic studies to pursue them.

This book has been written primarily for evangelical Christians to give them a sound, basic knowledge of Islam and its heritage. It is my fervent hope that it will inspire confidence in those seeking to witness to Muslims and equip them in some measure for the task.

John Gilchrist.
10th July 1984

Muhammad and the Religion of Islam: Table of Contents

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