If you read anything about Islam and engage the people at any level, you know two things: Islam is growing rapidly and Christians don't like it and seem to do anything to stop it. I find this odd, especially in light of the fact that the New Testament would never support the hatred and vilifying of a people group the way that I have seen many Christians responding to Islam. The Ground Zero mosque debate is just another in a long line of weird responses from Christian groups. Many have written and come up with badly formulated demographic reasons on why Islam is growing around the world. But, as I continue to have friends that are Muslim and as I continue to engage Muslims at their events and religious venues, I find something totally different on why they are growing so rapidly. Now, what I am going to put out there is why I believe Islam is growing up here in the Seattle area as I have no experience with Islam worldwide, besides what I hear from my friends around the world.
1. Their relenting submission to Allah (God)
Muslim means "one who submits to God" and I cannot come up with a better definition for my friends that are Muslim than this. They have an honor, love and obedient heart when it comes to Allah. One of the things that Westerners always focus on is the radicals within Islam that are terrorists, which we believe about 95% are NON-extremists. But, even if you want to lump the terrorists in with Islam (which I don't think is fair) the reason these people are willing to sacrifice their lives is because they truly believe Allah is calling them to do so. I am not saying this is correct, and neither would my Muslim friends, but the Muslim should be known as someone who is truly submitted to God. It exudes from who they are. They will not waver and even while they are in prayer, they will not even look at you or what is happening around them, because they are so focused on Allah and their time of prayer with Him. The true Muslim is truly submitted to Allah.
2. Their relenting submission to the Qur'an
People want truth in Seattle. People in the Western world desire people with conviction. The people of Islam, the Muslim, doesn't waiver from their love and admiration for what the Qur'an says. They don't care what is popular opinion, they care what Allah has said in the Qur'an. This is a great draw for people who are looking for leadership, looking for conviction, looking for direction. Muslims believe in the Qur'an and will not water it down for Western culture. They do so many things that are counter cultural to the Western world. They wear head coverings, they pray 5 times a day, they give a ton of money away, they help the poor, the are truly a close knit family. This is so much counter to what Westerners think that they are actually drawn to it when they see it lived out.
3. Their relenting love and hospitality
Muslims are known for hospitality and love for a reason...they truly live this out. I am embarrassed how much my Muslim friends show hospitality and love compared to my own life. It is humbling to have people bring you food when you are at their Mosque after they find out you are not Muslim, but a follower of Jesus. It is humbling to have Muslims engage you wherever, whenever and willing to invite you to become a part of their families. I cannot tell you enough how much I feel loved and accepted by my friends who are Muslims. It is easy to get to know them and they truly desire to get to know you, something I cannot say enough about and a way that is far superior to the way that most followers of Jesus live.
4. Take it or leave it
Muslims pray five times a day, they celebrate Ramadan, some wear head coverings, they give to the poor, they're hospitable, etc. etc. etc. They don't ask what the culture believes and then bend their beliefs to look like their culture. They go to the culture and live out their Muslim identity within and they don't bend it for anyone. They know they are bad at contextualization and they don't care. I can't imagine how successful they would be if they were to contextualize their religion. The point is, they have a take it or leave it attitude with their religion. They don't bend over for the culture they are in, but they ask those within the culture to submit to Allah within their religion. They believe that Allah knows best, not the precepts of man.
These are the four reasons I see why Islam is growing. I don't believe they are growing Islam through fear, but through truly living what they preach. So, how should Christians respond? If you look around on the internet, what you'll see is much hatred, fear and lying going on to try and stop Islam. The problem (I say this tongue in cheek) is that Muslims suffer very well and grow from that suffering. Here is how I think we should respond as followers of Jesus.
1. Engage our Muslim friends to learn from them
A lot of the Muslims that I personally know are from a different culture than the West. A lot of them are closer to the culture of Jesus than I am. I can learn a lot about Jesus from learning about their culture and understanding of what they see as a persons rights verses their freedoms because of living in America. We can learn a deeper understanding of our own texts by listening and watching the Muslims up close. We can learn true community, we can learn hospitality, we can learn devotion, we can learn conviction.
2. Engage for Peace
Jesus tells us, blessed are peacemakers. By engaging our Muslims friends for peace, we are helping to restore our world from war and hatred and that is part of the good news of Jesus. Our Muslim friends are vilified and shown so much prejudice that we have no clue on. If we believe that all people have the Imago Dei, we should care when Muslims are treated unfairly. We should care when people lie about them, we should care when people treat them unfairly, we should care when people hate them. We should care, because Jesus cares and loves us and Jesus loves and cares for them. We need to engage our Muslims friends for peace because that is exactly what Jesus calls us to and would be doing if he was living amongst us now.
3. Pray for, Love and Bless our Muslim Friends
I have said this many times on this blog and it needs to continually be said. We are to pray for, love and bless our neighbors. By burning Qur'ans, picketing Mosques, and lying about them we are doing anything but loving them. We need to show Muslims that Christians can actually be like Jesus and love them. We need to show that we aren't like every other bigot, but we are transformed by the love of Jesus.
Islam is growing rapidly. Should we fear? No. Why would we? Should we scare other people because of the "Islamization of America"? Why? What is there to be scared of? Muslims are the nicest people I have run across and have taught me so much. I think there is much to gain if Islam continues to grow. I think there is a better way to engage the Muslim than on a picket line or in a debate. I think the better way is to invite them into our homes and invite them into our lives and to love them, pray for them, bless them and truly engage them as friends.