Almost a quarter of the people on earth identify themselves with the religion of Islam. It is the second largest religion and growing. As Christians, it is essential that we understand how to engage and share the love of Christ with the Muslim world. With this in mind, here are 5 basic things every Christian should know about Muslims.
1. Muslims are more widespread than you may think.
According to the Pew Research Center, Islam is the 2nd largest religion (behind Christianity) making up 23.2% of the global population. Geographically, Muslims are concentrated in East and Southeast Asia, where 62% of all Muslims are located. Many Muslims also live in the Middle East and North Africa (20%) and sub-Saharan Africa (16%).
2. “Muslim” and “Arab” do not refer to the same thing.
The term’s “Muslim” and “Arab” are often confused and are mistakenly used interchangeably, but it is important to know the distinction. A Muslim refers to an individual who practices the religion of Islam, whereas an Arab refers to an ethno-geographical people group originating from the Arabian region within the Middle East.
Although Islam did originate in the Middle East, Arabs ascribe to numerous different religions. Likewise, a person who is a Muslim can be of any nationality or ethnic decent.
3. There are two major groups of Muslims: Sunni and Shiites.
Islam is divided into two major denominations, known as the Sunnis and the Shias (or Shiites) The overwhelming majority (87-90%) of Muslims are Sunnis; about 10-13% are Shia Muslims. Geographically, the Shia Muslims are concentrated in areas such as Iran, Azerbaijan and Lebanon, and Iraq.
The major difference between the two denominations originates from whom they believe to be the successor of the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Over time the distinction between the two groups has grown to include theological disagreements and differences in religious practices.
4. Muslims believe that Jesus was a great prophet.
Many would be surprised to know that Islamic teachings in the Quran have a lot of positive things to say about Jesus. Muslims credit Jesus with many miracles including the virgin birth and His ascension into heaven.
However, the teachings in the Quran deny the deity of Jesus and it teaches that He was only a man and a good prophet. Consequently, Muslims deny that He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
5. Muslims need salvation through Jesus Christ.
For many Christians it can be difficult to look upon Muslims with the love of Christ. This is especially true in a day and age where radical Muslim groups are persecuting and killing Christians around the world. It is important to remember that the Bible says the Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Consider the story of Paul in the Bible, a man who was known for persecuting Christians but after a life-changing encounter with Jesus, he became one of the greatest evangelists of the faith.
As Call of Hope works to share the message of the Gospel we have seen similar transformations around the world as more and more Muslims are experiencing a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Many of these former Muslims risk death and persecution every day because of their faith; they are ostracized from their families and society, yet they continue to proclaim the love and Good News of Jesus Christ. God works through former Muslims in a unique way, but we all have a part to play in God’s plan to bring Gods love and salvation to the Muslim world.