Muslim Conversions to Christ: A Critique of Insider Movements in Islamic Contexts. Edited by Ayman S. Ibrahim and Ant Greenham. New York, NY: Peter Lang, 2018. 532 pp. Hardcover, $77.17.
Ibrahim was raised in Egypt and is a professor of Islamic studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Greenham is a professor of missions and Islamic studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The book contains 31 articles by various experts in missions and evangelism towards Muslims. They provide a wide range of views about how Muslims who convert to Christianity should live out their faith.
Insider movements encourage new Muslim converts to Christianity to keep their Muslim identity and embrace syncretistic practices. As a general rule, the scholars in this book argue against such movements and say that such compromise will cause difficulty in spiritual growth. The book relies heavily on the testimonies of BMB (believers from Muslim backgrounds). Those critical of the insider movements say that the Qur’an is not a guide for Muslims to follow after they become believers.
The book relates reports of many Muslims coming to faith. It does not really address the gospel and certainly does not present the case for a Free Grace gospel. It assumes that many Muslims are coming to faith. This includes some coming to faith as the result of dreams and visions about Jesus.
There are disagreements between the different contributors. Harley Talman (a pseudonym) writes in his article, “Muslim Followers of Jesus, Muhammad, and the Qur’an,” that insiders are still a part of the Muslim community, and they try to evangelize within that community (p. 125). All insiders honor Muhammad and the Qur’an, but in different ways (pp. 123-25). He sees this as a good thing and says that this is what Paul did in Acts 17. When Paul preached to unbelievers, he did not denigrate the pagan beliefs of the hearers. Some insiders reject Muhammad as a prophet, while others do not. Those who do reject Muhammad do not do it publicly (p. 129).
Talman supports a kind of doublespeak for Christian Muslims. If such believers are asked if Muhammad is a prophet, a correct answer is, “he is a prophet of Islam.” One Muslim was on trial for blaspheming Muhammad. He was found innocent because he said that Muhammad was sent by God, and Muhammad turned people away from idolatry to serve the Creator (p. 130). It is both wise and honors God if Muslim Christians avoid speaking ill of the Muslim prophet.
According to Talman, God is at work in the Muslim world through dreams of Jesus, “signs, and miraculous guidance.” The Lord is drawing Muslims to Himself through these means and is not calling them to renounce Muhammad or the Qur’an. The article relates how one woman had a dream about Christ and that as a result she became “a follower of Jesus.” In the dream, Jesus shows the woman a coffin. Muhammad was in the coffin. Even though he was dead, he was beautiful. The point of the dream was that a Muslim could be a believer in Jesus but appreciate the beauty of Muhammad. Another person became a Christian when he had a dream in which Jesus told him to “follow Me” (p. 129).
There is, according to Talman, much beauty in the Islamic culture, and Muslim Christians can embrace such beauty (pp. 125-26). Insiders recognize that there is good in the Qur’an. The sacred scriptures of Islam speak of the love of God. As a result, there is truth about God in Islam. It is even acceptable for a Christian in the Muslim world to consider Muhammad a true prophet (pp. 127-28).
Talman is probably the boldest author in the book when it comes to compromise with Islam. Ibrahim, one of the editors, critiques Talman’s article with one of his own. He says that the Qur’an has no spiritual value. He also argues that one’s faith should not originate from dreams, testimonies, or “strange experiences.” Talman’s views do not reflect the supremacy of Christ or His uniqueness (p. 152).
Another conservative view is found with another pseudonymous author in an article entitled, “Biblical Salvation in Islam?” He critiques the idea of some insiders that they can use the Qur’an to bring people to faith. Some of these insiders see the Qur’an as a “lesser light” that can take people to the greater light of Christ. This is because the Qur’an mentions Jesus and calls Him a prophet. However, the author says that the Qur’an says that Jesus was only human and was submissive to Allah, the god of Islam. The author maintains that evangelism in the Muslim world should not rely on the Qur’an but on the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit (pp. 172-74).
Even though this book does not give a clear gospel presentation, it has value. It gives different views of evangelism as well as how Christians should live in a hostile, Islamic culture. There are various reports of great numbers of Muslims being converted to Christianity. How should we understand these testimonies? What do we make of people having visions and dreams of Jesus, especially when these dreams do not contain a clear gospel?
This is not an easy read. Most readers are not familiar with evangelism in the Islamic world, and the book uses terms with which many believers are unfamiliar. In addition, it is hard for most of us to appreciate what it is like to be a Christian in a hostile environment. In what areas can Christians in a Muslim world compromise with the culture in which they live, or should there be no compromise at all?
Clearly, the editors have a specific group of people in mind in compiling this book. For those who are interested in what is happening within Christendom in the Muslim world, I recommend this book.
Kenneth W. Yates
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society