What Do Muslims Believe?/Program 4
|By: Dr. Ergun Caner, Dr. Emir Caner; ©2003
|What do Muslims believe they must do in order to have any hope they will go to Heaven? According to the Qur’an, what is the only act a Muslim can do that will guarantee he or she will be admitted into Paradise?
What evidence could cause devout Muslims today to leave Islam and embrace Christianity? Today on The John Ankerberg Show, two former Muslims tell why they turned away from Allah and placed their faith in Jesus Christ as God, knowing that their decision would cost them the love and acceptance of their family?
- Dr. Emir Caner: And so I told my father, necessarily Allah and Jehovah are not the same gods. I worship Jesus Christ now. And he told us to make a decision between our religion and him, or better said, between our Heavenly Father and our earthly father. So I got up and I left. He disowned us.
These two brothers went on to get their Ph.D.s, and now, Dr. Ergun Caner, is Associate Professor of Theology and Church History at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, and Dr. Emir Caner is Assistant Professor of Church History at Southeastern Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. In countries outside of America, if a Muslim leaves Islam and embraces Christianity, what consequences does he or she face?
- Emir: In many of the countries, what happens is, on a Friday day, the Jumaa prayer, they will take you to the city square, they will bury you up to your waist in your burial cloth. The indictment is read that you have converted to Christianity, and then everyone picks up the stones and you are stoned to death in the city square – for the sole indictment of being a believer in Jesus Christ.
Everyone in the world should understand what the religion of Islam teaches 1.6 billion Muslims of what they must do to have any hope of going to Heaven; of how they are to treat Christians, Jews, and other unbelievers in Islamic countries; how women are to be treated; the role of Islamic leaders in government, and when jihad, or holy war, is justifiable.
- Dr. Ergun Caner: If the numbers hold up right – and 16 percent of the Muslims worldwide believe that the bombing of the World Trade Towers was morally justifiable – if those numbers continue out, we’re talking about somewhere in the vicinity of 100 million Muslims who believe that jihadic acts are morally justified. And so you see that there is this divergence of opinion about jihad, but what we hear here in America, we have never heard anywhere else in the world. We’ve never heard certainly in our background that you would say jihad was only an internal struggle.
Today, we invite you to join us to hear two former Muslims talk about Islamic belief and practice on this edition of The John Ankerberg Show.
- Ankerberg: Welcome. My guests today are two former Muslims who came to faith in Jesus Christ. Their family disowned them. They went on in their education to get their doctorates. They’re now professors at Christian seminaries. They’ve written two best-selling books. And we’re talking about, what do Muslims believe? What did they believe when they were in Islam?
- And we’re talking about the fascinating thing today of: What is salvation in Islam? And Emir, start us off. What is it that you believed? What was the goal? What did you have to do to get there in Islam?
- Emir: Well, the Five Pillars that you had to do from the Creed, to the Prayer, to the Almsgiving, to the Fasting, and finally, the Hajj is what a Muslim hopes will get him good enough–50.1 percent. Yet they have the scales, Surah 23:101, and that they always have this fear in Surah 17 fastened around their necks. But we watched it very personally, that is, we watched our father, who was dying of prostate cancer. He was so kind enough, through the convincing of our stepmother, to see us again. And we’re so grateful to God that we got to be reconciled to our father. After 17 years apart for my brother and a decade for myself, we’re grateful. But I’ll tell you, when I walked into that house, how much it broke my heart to see that he had no peace, no joy, no hope. Why? If it’s based on works, you can’t know until you’re dead. But if it’s based on grace, you can know right now. And what I remember of that day, he died on my birthday, 1999, what I remember of that day so clearly is there was absolutely no contentment and no peace. He never cracked a smile. He gave us the Qur’an just four days before he died and handed [them] to us, hopefully that we would revert back to Islam somehow. But he himself never found any eternal joy.
- Ankerberg: Ergun, take us back, because maybe some folks didn’t hear the program in which you talked about it, and that is, there was a time when you investigated Jesus and all of a sudden, you realized He was more than a prophet. And that the real reason that Jesus was tried was for blasphemy because He actually claimed to be God. That’s what the evidence showed. And that got you thinking and eventually, you realized that Jesus not only claimed to be God, but He was God. You placed your faith in Him, but you had to go back and tell your father. What was that like? What happened when you told him? So let’s go to the beginning of the story and then come to the end.
- Ergun: Sure. We had come to America. My father, being an architect, I was going to follow in my father’s footsteps. I was going to become a worker in the mosque just like our father was, and he built mosques in America and overseas. So, for me to become a Christian was more than just a change in my life, it was betrayal to him. Your children, you know, following along in your footsteps is very big in our culture. And so my father disowned me. For him it was the best option he had. And for me, it was as bad as it humanly can be.
- Ankerberg: Were words said?
- Ergun: Yes. Yes. I was denying Allah. I was denying faith in Allah, faith in Islam, faith in the Qur’an. I believed Jesus Christ was Lord, Savior, and God. I was no longer a Muslim, I was a believer in Jesus Christ, a Christian. I was the oldest of three, so I had not only betrayed my father, betrayed my mother, but betrayed my brothers who were supposed to follow after me. I learned what Psalm 68 said, that He is “a Father to the fatherless and a hope for the widow.” [Psa. 68:5] A year later, both of my brothers accepted Christ. And in stark contrast to the way we saw our father pass was the way we saw our grandmother pass. Our grandmother did not accept Jesus until the late 1990s, until she herself was in her 90s. But when she died, she went with peace and hope even though she did not accept Jesus until she was almost a hundred years old. The distinction is not the chronology, not the amount of time you are saved, but in what or in whom do you put your faith and confidence.
- Emir: The key: no one goes to heaven by good works and no one goes to hell by bad works. People go to heaven for accepting Jesus Christ as Savior; people go to hell for rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior.
- Ankerberg: I’m just still stunned with what you were telling me and how to process that in your own mind. Your father disowned you at that spot. Also, in reading your book, I realized that you guys, with your eyes wide open, knew what you were doing. The Qur’an and the Hadith have some words to say about those who openly reject the faith. What does it say?
- Ergun: Hadith 9:57 says, Muhammad speaking, “If anyone changes his Islamic religion, kill him.” And now while here in America there are those that will allegorize this and say this is simply just hyperbolic speech, around the world this happens every day. All you have to do is visit some persecution websites to know, some persecution ministries to know that in the past decade more Christians have died for the cause of Christ, not dying to earn their salvation but dying because of their salvation, dying because of their faith. More Christians have died in the past decade than at any period of time, including what we consider the days of high persecution in the Early Church.
- Ankerberg: Not only is there words about the person that leaves you can kill them. If you are in Iran, Iraq, the Sudan, I mean, that could actually take place. But the fact is, from your father’s point of view, there was a reason he cut you off. What do the Qur’an and Hadith say about that?
- Emir: Surah 3:85, if a Muslim accepts another religion, it’ll never be accepted of him. And so it is the very fact that when he saw us, he didn’t know what to do. He was in America. He’s in a secular country. He loved us; we loved him. He was our hero.
- Ergun: Yes.
- Emir: This wasn’t a matter of something he wanted to do, but something he was commanded to do. And so he, using scripture in the way he used it, mercifully said, “I can’t see you anymore.” What was he afraid of? He was afraid that we would pervert our two sisters. He was afraid that it would be a bad testimony to him as a Muslim. And you can see that it even broke his heart. This is not to say our father was a bad father. Indeed, our father was a wonderful father. I have a nearly six-month-old at home, and the more I raise him, the more I recognize he was a good father. But he followed a fallible prophet. He followed a false prophet. He followed one who said, “This is what you should do” and my father was devout, and did it.
- Ankerberg: Talk about the angst, the 51 percent; because some folks might not have understood what you were saying there. Islam actually teaches that at the end of your life, you have got to reach 51 percent good of all the works that you do in your life. They have to add up to 51 percent, right?
- Ergun: Surah 23 of the Qur’an. Surah 23:101-102 says, “He who finds the scales heavy will find salvation. He who finds the scales light” – meaning the good side of the scales light – “shall burn in eternal hell-fire.” We live and die by these scales, that at the moment of consciousness, everything you do, everything you say, everything you think, everything, every motivation, every desire, every deed, everything that can possibly go through the transoms of your mind either goes on the good scales or the bad scales. That you have a jinn, an anjil, you have an angel standing on one shoulder, and angel sitting on the other. They write down everything. A spirit being writing down everything that you do. At the end of your life, they must be tipped in favor, must be tipped in favor of the good.
- Ankerberg: How did you keep score?
- Ergun: You can’t.
- Emir: You can’t! You can’t. You hope you could, but you can’t. The numbers are so unfathomable that you can’t. Not only that, but then, the picture of hell comes into the equation, Surah 14 and Surah 25 where it speaks of it as boiling and roasting and torture, and even in Christianity, where we recognize hell is real, the fire is real, but it is torment. It is not torture. The ultimate picture of hell in Christian theology is a lost person who stands before the Great White Throne Judgment and sees Jesus face to face and He says, “Depart from me. I never knew you.” And hell is the eternal privation of God’s face. The fire is not the epicenter. But in Muslim theology, the boiling and the roasting, over and over again. Because your body then gets roasted and comes back and it more resembles Greek mythology than it represents anything else.
- Ankerberg: Okay, you get a new skin so you can have it burned again.
- Emir: That’s right.
- Ergun: This is what we were raised with. And as a young child, your father would even say, “Watch what you’re doing. Hell awaits. Watch what you’re doing. Your scales!” At the end of the day, as we would say our evening prayers, after we were doing wadu, “What kind of day did you have? What did you do?” It just added up.
- Ankerberg: Unbelievable. We want to talk about the Good News of what you found in Jesus Christ and compare the two. Alright? We want to do a careful comparison, and we’re going to do that. It’s fascinating information and I hope that you’ll stick with us.
- Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with two former Muslims that came to know Christ, their family disowned them. They went on in their education to get their doctorates and they’re teaching in Christian seminaries. They’ve written two best-selling books. But we’re talking about Islam’s beliefs about salvation – what you had to do. And somewhere along the line, with all this angst, with all of the troubling thoughts, no assurance, no guarantee of heaven, you started investigating Jesus Christ. Tell us the Good News.
- Emir: Yes. There’s a wonderful verse in the Qur’an that I hope every Christian can even memorize, in Surah 10:94. It’s really the question, “How do we know, Muhammad, what you say is true?” And of course, it is, to the Muslim mind, the answer from Allah, and here’s what he says, “If you are in doubt as to what we [speaking of God] have revealed unto you, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee. The truth has indeed come to you from your Lord.” And the question must be asked, “Can Allah recommend perversion?” In his transcendence, in his separatedness from us, absolutely not! He recommends to the Christians and the Jews in the Arabian Peninsula, in the seventh century, to read the Book – the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament; the Gospels of the New Testament, and he says, “It’s truth from your Lord.” And all of a sudden you have a commonality between you and a Muslim that many Muslims forget. They’re called to read the Bible.
- Ankerberg: Let me slow that down. What you’re saying is that’s the Qur’an, right?
- Emir: Yes.
- Ankerberg: In the Qur’an, Allah tells the Muslims, okay, you’ve got a question, go and ask the people of the Book, which are the Christians. Alright? Is that what you’re saying?
- Emir: Yes. And so you have two camps in Islamic theology. Did the Christians pervert, corrupt, the New Testament and the Jews the Old Testament? Or is it just merely a misinterpretation? And they recognize they have to agree with corruption because you cannot go to John 8:58 and come to any other conclusion, besides the fact that Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I Am” is a direct, explicit statement that He is God. That when Peter says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” and Jesus says, “Upon this confession I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” [Matt. 16:16-18], you cannot come to any interpretation besides those which are simple and hermeneutically literal. But they’re in a quandary when you share the Gospel.
- Ankerberg: Yeah, and if Allah said that in the seventh century, that means that the Bible in the seventh century had to be the revelation that was accepted…
- Emir: Which it’s the same.
- Ankerberg: …and we’ve got records that goes back before that and it’s the same as we’re reading in our Christian churches.
- Ergun: That’s right.
- Emir: That’s exactly right. And of course, you can defend the Scripture, not by any type of archaeological evidence, but the Scripture defends its own. The Scripture defends Scripture. And so when we recognize Christians are called to believe that the Bible is infallible, it will lead no one astray; it is inerrant, there are no errors in it; and it is inspired, it’s from God. If they do not believe it, then they’re in heresy. But as they believe, so they can also defend it. We have thousands of copies of the Scripture. Indeed, when you mark down any mistakes and you take away any of the spellings, it is such a minute portion of any mistake that we could find between the copies, not within the Bible but the copies between themselves, that it has no doctrinal difference and indeed, no difference at all in terms of its minutia.
- Ankerberg: Could it be possible, then, for a Muslim that is listening to us, would it be possible for him, then, to use that verse as a reliable reason why they ought to be listening and considering what we’re saying, because we are Christians?
- Emir: Absolutely. He should. He should because Allah gave the Torah and the Injil and though they may be corrupt, he says here, “It is truth from your Lord.” It is a recommendation that the Muslim must consider seriously in order just to consider his own faith; that is, he thinks he is the perfection of a corrupt Christianity, when really he is a repudiation.
- Ankerberg: When you’ve said this to Muslims, how have they reacted?
- Emir: They either are ignorant of their faith, that is, they haven’t read the Qur’an because they say if you don’t read it in Arabic, then you’re not reading the “original” autograph. And so many of them are just ignorant of it. Others repudiate it and say, “Well, I’ll have to go back to my imam but it cannot be right.” Yet, there are open ones. When Christians get an open Muslim that says, “I want to listen. I want to speak. I want to have open dialogue,” and that, the Holy Spirit pricking his heart must be taken with such an incredible understanding that God is speaking to that man or that woman, and that we can thereby speak the grace of God to them.
- Ankerberg: More good news. What more good news can we know? What are the dos and don’ts?
- Ergun: There are a number of things that you need to know, to be absolutely sure of, because especially in our Christian culture we all have training – Evangelism Explosion, Continued Witness Training, whatever. You’ve been through all this kind of evangelism training and in our Westernized mind, knock on the door, ask the two questions. But they have to remember that to turn from Islam and to turn to Jesus Christ is more than just changing a set of beliefs; and more than just changing a hypothesis or changing your theological abstracts. It is literally a rejection that goes to your family, your home, friends, your job, your loved ones, and sometimes even your life.
- Ankerberg: If necessary, for believing in Christ.
- Ergun: For the sole “crime” of believing in Jesus Christ. So when you come to a Muslim and you begin to share the Gospel and you sense they’re open, I would tell them, “Please, please, please! Patience.” I know that eternity is waiting, but I also know that this is not just a small decision for our people. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, and sadly, we have sprouted much in the past decade. There have been more deaths because believers in other countries have come to Jesus Christ out of Islam and a revival among our people. We’ve been preaching about this for 17 years, trying to reach our people, and nobody paid attention. Four planes go into two towers, the Pentagon and a field, and people listen. I mean, between us, we have five masters and two doctorates. We’d give them up like this! [snap of fingers] I’d go and paint houses if it meant that my father could be saved. If it meant that my father would have listened. Our brother accepted Jesus. Our mother accepted Jesus. Our grandmother accepted Jesus. We have sisters who have not, and we have a father who did not.
- Ankerberg: Do you see any other openings in the Islamic community in America right now?
- Ergun: In America, yes. There was a survey done of mosques last year, and they asked, “How many Muslims live in America?” and they came up with a number a little over a million. But the Council for American-Islamic Relations said, “No! There’s eight million.” Well, they had surveyed the mosques. Here’s the issue. There probably are eight million Muslims living in America, but only about a million of them are faithful to the mosque. That means we have “cultural Islam.” We have Muslims who are committed to Islam as a part of their heritage, as part of their background, perhaps even their dietary laws. But they do not go to the mosque. They do not attend, they’re not devout, they’re not faithful. And thus, there is an opportunity for us as believers in Christ.
- There has never been a chance like this in a millennia now to share the Gospel! There’s never been a chance like this in history, in my estimation. We have not had this opportunity. If we miss this, we have made one of the gravest errors, because one out of five people that you and I run into, according to statistics, come from our kinsmen according to the flesh.
- Ankerberg: Dos and don’ts. What would you advise Christians to do and not to do?
- Ergun: I would say very quickly, number one, make sure that you do not offend them in trying to build opportunities.
- Ankerberg: How could you offend them. How can you offend?
- Ergun: Serve them shrimp. Halal and haram, the rules by which we will eat, dietary restrictions: no shellfish, no catfish because it has skin. You must eat fish with scales. No pork. No lard-based products. No liquor. But I would also say, you know: men speak to men; women speak to women. In our culture, sometimes you cross those lines and you are offensive. I would be very clear, very loving and very gracious. You will find them to be some of the most hospitable people in the world. Some of them are very hospitable because they believe it to be an act that is a good act. Be patient. Don’t force the door open to try to witness to them, but know that when you do get the opportunity, be able to hammer what we believe to be the two major messages of the cross, which is: the finished work of Atonement; that Jesus Christ is God; mercy and grace.
- Ankerberg: Emir?
- Emir: There are two other things that have to be stated. Number one, I spoke to a woman who is from Afghanistan, and she just couldn’t become a Christian because she didn’t want to lose her family. To that key, Matthew 10:34, Jesus prophesied, “I didn’t come to bring peace but a sword.” What was the sword? Not jihad, but that “daughter will be separated from mother, and son will be separated from father,” and that when they make a commitment to Christ, you don’t say, “Well, you can make a half commitment. You can haphazardly become a Christian. You tell them, “It’s all or nothing!” And more Muslims will be won to Christ by a bold witness. And no Muslim will be won to Christ by a weak witness.
- The second is not speaking to the Muslim in general; the second is speaking to the Christian. We have had such a conflagration of Christianity that we want to be a “21st century Church.” We want to reach out to certain age groups, we want to reach certain races or certain economic groups – whatever it may be. And God calls us to be a first century Church; not casual, not convenient, costly! And that means that out of our churches – rural, city, whatever it may be – that believers in Jesus Christ will be called out to pay the price; to sacrifice their lives, to give the privilege of sharing Jesus Christ to a people they never met, to go to a place they never went and share Jesus. That is to become a first century Church. We have to go back to Matthew 28. We have to be “Great Commission” Christians, and that means we have to get out of our convenience, out of our comfort, and know more blood will be shed, but, indeed, Americans are called to even risk their own lives.
- Ankerberg: I was thinking, boy! How in the world could you reach any Muslim when they’re not supposed to befriend a Christian? They’re supposed to hate that which Christians love. And they have to do it in terms of having any hope of heaven, and yet, you guys were in that boat and you crossed the line and God brought you to Himself and you paid a great price. And again, this is Truth. If you want to know the true God and you really want to have His salvation, there is no other way. And sometimes it is costly.
- For the dear Muslim that is watching right now, that says, “I want to cross the line. I’m willing to pay the price,” Ergun, would you lead them in a prayer that they could pray to Jesus Christ and how they could take His gift of salvation and start a personal relationship with Him? Would you pray that prayer for them?
- Ergun: I would be honored. I’m going to ask that you simply do this. You pray along silently as we pray out loud and I want you to please listen to the words we’re about to say. “Dear God, I know that I’m a sinner, born a sinner; by lifestyle, by deed, by thought, a sinner. I know that if I had to live by the scales, that there would be no chance for me to make it to paradise. That daily, hourly, even minute by minute, my life is far more outweighed with bad than good. But Father, I also know that not one sin, not one, not one, is allowed in. And so it’s not a matter of me being good enough, or smart enough, or nice enough, or kind enough, but by the shed blood of Jesus Christ – that Jesus, in fact, was crucified. He died, was buried, resurrected and ascended. Jesus shed His blood so that I never would have to. Father, I accept you in my heart. I repent of sin, turn my life over to you. Jesus Christ, you are more than just a prophet. You are prophet, priest, and King. Thank you for saving me. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.”
- Ankerberg: Thank you. If you prayed that prayer, we’d love to hear from you.
- We’re going to have you back, guys, and I also want to say “thank you” to you for coming, and I just admire your courage. And I just thank God for you that you had the courage to stand up and to speak this. A lot of this is “politically incorrect,” but we think that God is going to use this information. So thank you for being with us.