Islam is the second largest religion in the world and followed by 1.9 billion people globally. Islam has a long history in the Middle East. In some Middle Eastern countries such as Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Islamic law defines every area of government and civil life. Other Middle Eastern countries are modern secular states where religious law is separate from civil law, yet even in these countries Islam is the dominant religion.
Islam means “submission to God.” There are two major sects of Islam, Shia and Sunni. The difference between these sects relates to a split that occurred after the Prophet Mohammed died. His followers disagreed about who should succeed him, and as a result the two sects emerged. 85% of Muslims worldwide are Sunni.
Sunnis believe there are five duties that every Muslim must follow in order to live a good and responsible life: The saying of The Shahada- a creed expressing God’s oneness and identifying Mohammed as a prophet, praying 5 daily ritual prayers, giving alms to the poor, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and completing pilgrimage to Mecca during their life. Shia also uphold these 5 duties but have an additional 5 duties they must observe.
The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar calendar and as a result the timing of important dates, such as Ramadan, change from year to year. Major Islamic festivals include: Eid-ul-Adha- a festival which Muslims associate with the story of the Prophet Ibrahim who was prepared to sacrifice his son in obedience to God. Eid-ul-Fitr, which is celebrated at the end of the month of Ramadan.
The last Census indicated that there were over 254,000 Muslims in Sydney. This figure includes a large number of people from diverse Middle Eastern nations. They may speak Arabic, French, English, Turkish, Kurdish or Farsi. Their practice of religion and culture vary from individual to individual and family to family. Men and women engage with their faith in different ways. It is helpful to understand the basics of Islam, however, don’t assume that your friend believes everything you come across in your research. Ask them what they think and how they personally practice their religion.
Building a relationship is a good place to begin sharing the Gospel with your Muslim friend. Many Muslims from the Middle East may have practical needs as migrants or refugees. Meeting these needs may be an opportunity to share Jesus’ love.
Muslims are often much more willing to talk about God and spiritual things than people from other faith backgrounds. In the context of friendships, you may have the opportunity to share stories about Jesus or pray for people.
The Quran, Muslim’s holy book, contains accounts of many of the shared prophets form the Old Testament such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Jonah and Job. The accounts of these stories differ significantly from the Bible. However, Muslims’ familiarity with them may mean they are a non-confrontational way to begin conversations about God.
Muslims will say that they believe in Jesus, however they do not believe he is the Son of God or that he really died. The concept of the Trinity is also deeply offensive and misunderstood.
The Quran tells Muslims they should read the Bible, however most Muslims believe that the Christian Bible has been corrupted and do not read it.
Muslims who come to faith in Jesus may face significant persecution from their family and doing so may be dangerous for family remaining in their home country. Women particularly can be quite vulnerable. This means coming to faith may take a long time and requires much prayer.
Relationships between men and women are different in Muslim cultures. If you’re a man, it’s best to talk to men. Women should talk to women. Don’t shake hands or initiate physical contact with someone from the opposite sex.
Shoes are always off inside. Be aware that using your feet to touch things or point may be very offensive.
Muslims revere their copies of the Quran and keep it wrapped in beautiful cloths on a top shelf in their house. Showing respect by not putting their Quran or your Bible on the ground will save unnecessary offence.
If a Muslim person visits your home, it is important to serve Halal food. Muslims do not drink alcohol or eat pork. They also avoid certain types of cheese and anything containing gelatine.
Be careful when complimenting your Muslim friend’s home. Your compliments may make them feel obliged to offer an object to you. Many Muslims believe that complimenting a baby may cause something bad to happen to it. Instead, compliment the parents.