Understanding Christianity for Muslims
Over many years of helping people to understand Islam, it has become common for participants in courses to be drawn from Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities, as well as those who follow no religious way of life. Such Muslims, as well as the Christian or other participants, quite often ask “is this the same in Christianity?” Such enquiries led to requests from Muslim groups to deliver some talks in a structured way about Christianity and Christian theology. Preparing and delivering such talks threw up many reflections on the task. What follows is a “work in progress” that is specifically designed to deal with topics in a way that addresses the questions and assumptions of Muslims and not a general introduction to Christianity. It aims to promote an understanding of Christianity the way that mainstream Western Christian theologians understand it. It does not seek to argue with Muslims and Islam but rather to present a way towards understanding Christianity, whether one agrees or not.
The Muslim who wants to understand Christianity as it is understood by Christians has two initial problems. First, the Qur’an contains teaching about the prophet Jesus and his din (way of life) that cannot be reconciled fully with Christianity, as Christians understand it. No Muslim can be expected to deny or ignore this Islamic teaching, but the difference between the two paradigms needs to be known and understood, otherwise no real understanding can take place. Muslims are asked to suspend their judgement initially until they have sufficient knowledge and understanding to come to informed conclusions. Second, just as with understanding Islam, understanding Christianity requires an empathetic entering into the Christian paradigm, to attempt to see Christianity ‘through Christian eyes’ whilst remaining firmly committed to the way of Islam.
As someone who has been studying and teaching about both faiths for half a century, I have become a living bridge of understanding. In my work of teaching, I seek to guide people over that bridge in both directions.