Where Is Islam Taking the World? – Program 1

By: Dr. Ergun Caner, Dr. Emir Caner; ©1995
What have Muslims been taught about Christians? What is daily life like for a Muslim? How difficult is it for a Muslim to come to faith in Jesus?

How do Muslims view Christians?


Every 24 hours, 68,000 people in the world become Muslims and begin to follow the teachings of Muhammad and learn about Islam’s surprising view of end time events. Islam teaches that Jesus will someday return to Earth to prove to the world that He is a true Muslim, that He will fight in the last great war of Armageddon, the battle for Jerusalem, and bring about the final Islamic defeat of all Christians and Jews. These beliefs greatly affect all aspects of Muslim life today.

Dr. Emir Caner: And so it is the ultimate jihad, it’s the ultimate picture of what will happen at the end of time, that Jesus defends Muhammad’s character. Jesus defends the Qur’an. Jesus defends everything it is to be Muslim. And Jesus defends that He is merely human, as chapter 5 of the Qur’an says, and is no more; and that those who say so, whether it’s Christians who say that He is the Son of God, or those who have corrupted it as Jews have done by eating swine or by corrupting the text, these people of the book are finally put in their place.
Today on the John Ankerberg show, my guests are two former Muslims who turned away from Allah and placed their faith in Jesus Christ.
Emir: We worshiped a false god, which was given to us by a false prophet, which gave a false hope, through a false word, until one day we were introduced to a true and living God, who was triune. And the son sacrificed His life for our sins, and the Holy Spirit, He indwelt us.
These men went on to get their Ph.D.’s and now Dr. Ergun Caner is president of Liberty Theological Seminary at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia and Dr. Emir Caner is Dean of the College at Southwestern on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. They are best-selling authors of Unveiling Islam and More Than a Prophet and are writing the first major commentary on every verse in the Qur’an from an evangelical Christian perspective.
Dr. Ergun Caner: This is for the Muslim, this war that is taking place now, eschatological. This is a prophecy for them, but they believe as they fight they are fulfilling the final days when Islam will take over and the world will be Islamic. And when the world becomes Islamic, Allah comes for judgment.
Join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.

Dr. John Ankerberg: Welcome. My guests today are two former Muslims who decided to leave Islam and to place their faith in Jesus Christ. And today, what I want you to hear is their personal story of what that cost them to become Christians.
Ergun, Emir, we’re glad that you’re here. Ergun, start us off. Tell us your background, a little bit about the family. You were raised where? Start us off.
Ergun Caner: Well, we are Turks. Our father was Acar Caner. We came here; our father was a devout Muslim, and he was an architect by trade. So we came to America right around the same time that the Ayatollah’s were calling for America to become an Islamic nation. And so, part of our father’s work was to build mosques. And in Columbus, Ohio, which is where we settled, he eventually built the mosque which is on Broad Street in Columbus, Ohio.
Ankerberg: Is that where you attended, then?
Ergun: It was. At first we were in Toledo, Ohio. The largest mosque in the Midwest is in Toledo, and we attended there. And then we were actually part of the nexus of Muslims moving to Columbus. We are very regional, very tribal, and so a large group moved to a certain area – in our case, it was Columbus, Ohio – and settled there and became part of this movement on the Ohio State University campus, and then the mosque that was built in downtown Columbus.
Ankerberg: Tell me a little bit of what you believed as Muslims.
Ergun: Well, I mean, we had never heard anything else. Where we lived, Islam was always in the majority. Coming to America, you know, Islam is in the minority. We’d never been exposed to Christianity to any great degree. Everything we ever believed about Christians, or ever knew about you, we learned from our mosque, from our Imam. The Imam is somewhat akin to a pastor, the teacher. Then you would have the break outs, sort of like our Sunday School. But what we learned about Christianity was basically through just rumor and speculation, or what we saw on television. So among the things we thought was that whatever we saw on television as far as the caricature of Christianity, that was Christianity to us.
Ankerberg: What was it like at Christmas time when you got into the United States?
Emir Caner: Well, we didn’t celebrate Christmas. Dad did everything he could to ensure that we were guarded against the holidays, in particular Christmas. And you have to understand, Islam is a polemical religion. We were taught from birth what Christianity had told their followers. But what we had believed is Christ did not die on the cross; He of course was not thereby resurrected from the dead; He was not God; He is only a prophet; He’s a mere messenger, chapter 5 of the Qur’an says. And so Islam is very polemical, and it is a cradle-to-the-grave religion. And we were taught that Christians basically were deceived; they were first deceived by the prophets of the Old Testament, and then by the apostle Paul, and the apostles of the New Testament. And it has crossed down through history, through the Council of Nicaea, which taught that Jesus was God when Christians knew better than that, and didn’t believe that at one time, but were followers of Islam, of the one true God. And so, we viewed Christians as at least brainwashed or purporting to something that is a lie.
Ankerberg: What I was talking about, in terms of Christmas is, did it have an impact on you that everybody was talking about Jesus’ birth, how did that play in your mind?
Ergun: You know, you have to understand, there’s three types of Muslims who come to America. There are the cultural Muslims, they’re just born into Islam, but they’re not devout in any way. [2] The extreme devout, which we were, orthodox, and you don’t have contact, Surah 5 of the Qur’an teaches that you “take no friends from among the Jews and the Christians.” And so it’s a very isolated community from which we came. The third group are a little more friendly in the communities.
I couldn’t understand what did a fat man in a red suit have to do with this teaching of incarnation? Or what did a bunny have to do with the resurrection? Or eggs? When we would bring this up, they would say, “See, they’re even mocking their own religions, because they know that Christianity is a lie.”
You can summarize the difference between Christianity and Islam in the Islamic mind by saying, the Jew had the truth, lost it, corrupted it; then the Christian had the truth, lost it and corrupted it; and here comes Muhammad, and he is the final hope. And so he saves us, he protects and receives from the Angel Jibrael, the absolute truth, which is Islam. And so, Christianity, Judaism, all other world systems are seen as ghosts, you know, empty shells of themselves. And this was our view. I mean, this was what we thought of anything that was Christian.
Ankerberg: Alright. Tell me about what you did, I mean, people that are listening may not understand that Islam is all encompassing. It tells you about everything, every part of your life, what you’re to do. Roll me through a day. You wake up in the morning, what happens?
Ergun: Well, there’s five prayer times through the day: your rakats, you face Mecca and you pray. You begin every activity with “ensh’Allah,” you know, if Allah wills it. You begin with prayer, you eat – the foods that you eat are halal or haram, you know, allowable or forbidden. And there’s one small little section called mushbu, but those don’t count, like vitamins, they fit in the “not sure” category. The clothes that you wear, the way that you dress, the wudu, the ablution that you carry out, when you wash your hands. Down to the smallest detail of how you address those that are the unbelievers, the akafir, the kafirem, the infidels. How much contact you have with the outside world. Everything is dictated, so that at the last thing you do, and the first thing you do is the prayer before you lay down, before you get up. And it’s not prayer like in a Christian world where we pray and bring requests. It is ritual. You carry this out in obedience, because basically our day is living in constant fear of the scales. The 23rd chapter of the Qur’an teaches at the end of your life you have to have had more good than bad on the scales. And so everything we carry out was for the purpose and the hope that it would outweigh what we had done or thought that was bad.
Ankerberg: Let’s slow that down for our audience. The fact is, salvation was what for you in Islam? In other words, to get to Paradise, what in the world were you supposed to do?
Emir: Well, the pillars of Islam really demonstrate that Islam is the works-based religion in the world. Not only reciting the creed, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet,” and saying it tens of thousands of times through your life; but the prayers five times daily; the fasting which is one lunar month out of the year; and going to Mecca; and doing the tithe. These five pillars encompass your entire life. They fill up your days. And to the Muslim they are everything of who you are. When you give birth to a child, you whisper the creed into your child’s ear. When you look at your finances, it has an Islamic stamp upon it. Just like it would because it’s, you have a cradle-to-the-grave religion. This is what we were taught. And why it’s so hard to reach out to Muslims is it’s not merely theological. So many Christians dichotomize and divorce their faith from their life, so sadly so; in Islam you cannot do so.
Ankerberg: Yes. And what I want those of you in our audience to comprehend, the reason I want them to tell this story is, with this background, with this trap around you, a complete social, political, what you eat, who you meet, who you talk with, who your friends are, what you do with your money, everything is told you what to do in what you’re taught is Islam. This is what you’re supposed to do.
Caners: Yes.
Ankerberg: Now, you still became Christians. Okay? So we’ve got to get to the fact of how did you even start to come to think about Jesus Christ in a different way? What happened?
Ergun: It was the tenacity of one kid, literally. The reason that Emir and I are in education, the reason that we speak in youth things as opposed to just being with adults, is because it was one high school boy in my life; one high school boy who, for years, kept coming after me. Now, you have to understand, we did not have contact with the unbelievers.
Ankerberg: You were not supposed to.
Ergun: No! And even though I was in public school you would have friends, but not close friends.
Ankerberg: Yes, but I mean, tell the folks, from the Qur’an, what it says about Christians, Jews, and Gentiles, basically.
Ergun: Oh, yes, well, the term is “do not have contact with”, “do not have close friends.” If you do, you bring their condemnation on you. And so it’s on your bad scales.
Ankerberg: Alright, so were you breaking that rule when you started having friendship with this Christian?
Ergun: Not breaking the rule. It was strange, because as the more I said no, the more stubborn he became, the more he kept coming after me. He would invite me to church. He would invite me to activities. He would invite me, and you need to understand, walking into a church would defile me. Being in contact this way would defile us.
Ankerberg: Just walking into a church would defile you?
Ergun: Of course. It’s the idea of coming in contact with the un-pure. And so, for me, this was strange. Because anything I’d ever seen about Christians was through rumor or through, you know, caricature on television. And now here’s this one kid who is absolutely sold out for Jesus Christ and will not be dissuaded. And this is one of the things we talk to churches about passionately. You cannot take “No” for an answer. They tell us that the average Muslim who comes to faith in Christ and leaves Islam, it takes them seven years to come to faith in Christ. And that’s because it really is a complete shift of everything that we’ve ever thought, said, imagined, read about, you! And so it was one boy, one boy who finally got me to the point where I said, “Fine! I will go with you to your church to show you.” And so I walked into this tiny little church in Columbus, Ohio, Qur’an in hand. And that’s where I was loved to the cross.
Ankerberg: Alright. We’re going to hear the thought processes that went through your mind, talk a little bit about what you believed about Allah and then how the information started getting into your mind about who Jesus was. He was “more than a prophet.” And then, after that, we’re going to come back and we’re going to talk about, right now in the news you’ve got this 41-year-old man in Afghanistan, Abdul Rahman, who was facing the death penalty, okay? And you did the same thing he did. You converted from Islam to Christianity. That’s what he did, he was facing the death penalty over there. Other folks in a lot of states, and I’ll ask you to mention those states, are under that right now. So, stick with us, we’re going to talk about all that when we come right back.


Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with two former Muslims who became Christians, and we’re talking about their own personal story of what happened; how they come to Christ, and what it cost them. And, Ergun, keep us going here. You were contacted by a young man who was a Christian who would not give up on you. You weren’t supposed to have contact with him, so what started to change your mind about Jesus?
Ergun: I walked into the church and it was completely opposite of everything that I’d anticipated. Our training, our madrasa, was, you know, “They hate you,” “They’re vile-filled, bile-filled people.” This church was the exact opposite: the most loving, friendly fellowship. And I couldn’t understand why, you know, I wanted to be anonymous, I wanted to stay out of the way. The meaner I was, the nicer they were. And they sat next to me. I didn’t know the difference between a Bible and a hymnal. I didn’t know any of this.
Immediately after the service, the boy takes me to the pastor, and he says, “Pastor, here’s my Islamic friend, my Muslim friend.” And the pastor asked me the question, “Well, who’s Jesus?” And, of course, in Islam, this is a tough question. Jesus is one of the, you know, Isa, in Arabic. He’s one of the top 25 prophets. And I said, “Oh, I respect Isa very much.” And this is where he hammered down on me. He said, “That’s great, that’s wonderful.” He says, “I’ve got a lot of people that I run into that respect Jesus. But that’s not an option.” He said, “What did Jesus do in the Qur’an, as far as His crucifixion?” And I jumped. I said, “Oh, well, Surah 4, verse 157 of the Qur’an says Jesus was not crucified. Somebody was crucified in His place.” And he said, “That’s right. But somebody was crucified. For what?” I said, “Well, crucifixion was for blasphemy.” The point is, whether or not you believe Jesus was crucified, He was accused and indicted for blasphemy – claiming to be God.
Ankerberg: Yes. The High Priest asked Him, “Are you the Christ [the Messiah], son of the Blessed One?” Are you the Son of God. He said, “I am.” [Mark 14:61-62]
Ergun: That’s right.
Ankerberg: And then He said, “I am also the Son of Man that’s coming on the clouds of glory someday.” So, I mean, that’s when they rent their robes and said, “This is blasphemy.” [Mark 14:63-64]
Ergun: But you understand how difficult that is for guys like us, because, if Jesus said He’s God, He’s not even worthy in Islamic teaching to be a prophet.
Emir: And you have verse 157 where it says “they killed him not, nor did they crucify him,” but the same verse says someone who resembled Him truly took His place. Well, at what point did someone take His place? I mean, after all, He was beaten and battered and bloodied and so much. Were the people so ignorant they didn’t see the replacement of a man who obviously wasn’t beaten like Christ? Or perhaps it was His own mother that was so ignorant that at the cross she looked up and misperceived that this was not her own son. It just doesn’t fit with the facts of the story, and the very fact of the crucifixion and of the resurrection. And so introduced by it, our pastor would tell us, “Listen, Jesus didn’t come to make a bad man good, He came to make a dead man alive. And He’s not a good Savior, or a better Savior, or the best Savior. He’s the only Savior that mankind will ever have.” And there we were presented with a choice: that you either worship Jesus, or you reject Him. You cannot merely respect Him.
Ergun: For us, this is profound. You try to explain the Gospel to a Muslim, and you talk about the cross and Jesus shedding His blood, and quite often you think you’re telling them something new. It’s not! Muslims believe in atonement. We believe in atonement. We believe in blood! The difference is, we believe that by shedding our own blood, we purchase our forgiveness. We believe that our blood purchases our only eternal assurance. Jihad, to die as a martyr in a declared fatwa. What we couldn’t understand was Christ dying in our stead. One of the great Islamic apologists, Shabir Ali, would always ask in debate, “What would one man’s death have to do with me?” And so, the way the pastor reached me was that he explained to me that Christ died on the cross, that Jesus died on Calvary, so that I wouldn’t have to. And if I may be so crass with your audience, Jesus strapped Himself to a cross so that I wouldn’t have to strap a bomb to myself. Because if Jesus shed His blood, and there had an efficaciousness to it, that there was a purpose for it, then my blood’s insufficient.
Ankerberg: Yes. We’re raising a lot of questions. Folks, hang in there. We’re going to come to all these questions in other programs in this series. But, take me to the day that you made the decision.
Ergun: I didn’t know where the bulletin said I had to come forward, you know, at the invitation. I didn’t know anything about Christians. I’d only been in the church four times. But I stepped out in the middle of the sermon and walked to the front to get the contact with the pastor, and look at his eye. And so, it shocked him. Here’s this boy coming in the middle of his sermon. And he said, “What can I do for you?” And I said, “Isa ben Allah – I believe Jesus is the son of God.” And he said, “That’s wonderful. Can you wait?” You know, in the evangelical world, you sing 174 verses of something, you know.
Ankerberg: Yes.
Ergun: And I said, “No.” And he led me to Christ right then.
Ankerberg: Fantastic.
Ergun: You have to understand, if you’ve spent your entire life, up into your mid-teens, living by scales, the liberation of realizing, “I can’t be good enough, nice enough, strong enough, pure enough,” that’s a devastating thing for us. Muslims will often talk about the fear and the angst of eternity. To be liberated and to realize that He accepts me as I am, that He died because I couldn’t do it.
Ankerberg: Emir, when did you make your decision?
Emir: Well, he was saved about a year prior to me, and then the same friend, along with my brother, invited me to church. And here I was, and, you know, the Lord had been working on me for, I remember, for a few years. Here I was. I remember sitting on my bed looking up and thinking, you know, I’d been praying to God, Allah, the false god for all these years and never heard back.
And it was so profound to me that when I walked into Stelzer Road Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio, I was ready on the spot. I was the exception to the rule of Muslims, where I went forward that night and was saved. And it was profound. Here I was. When I hear people say, “Well, Allah and Jehovah are the same God,” we know better. Former Muslims always know better. I did not believe God was Father. I did not believe Jesus Christ was the Son of God. I didn’t even believe the Holy Spirit was a person, much less part of the triune Godhead. What part of God did I understand? Absolutely none. What I did understand was what 1 Kings 18 and Elijah brings out to the prophets of Baal: that there was no answer. It was silent until the day that I met Jesus Christ and I was saved. And not only would I now speak to God, but the true living God, through Jesus Christ would speak to me!
Ankerberg: Alright. Just like Abdul Rahman, it cost you. What happened here, now in your personal life? You make that decision, then what?
Emir: Well, we – all three of us – actually at separate times, were disowned from our father. I was disowned after him, obviously. Our father wanted to somehow modernize a traditional verse from the Hadith, from the second source of authority of the sayings of Muhammad. Hadith volume 9, and number 57 of Bukhari’s Hadith says, “If a Muslim changes his Islamic religion, kill him.” In fact, it’s stated again in volume 4, number 260.
And so here it was, it was obvious it was supposed to be taken literally, because the verse that succeeds it is, if a Jew converts to Islam, who reverts back to Judaism, and they will not go to dinner until this Jew is killed for none other than reverting back to Judaism. It is not only treason against the state, it is treason against Allah. So what’s happening to Abdul Rahman is obvious throughout the centuries. It’s traditional Islam. The Afghans are not extremists, they’re purists.
But the exception to the rule that they tried to find is that he’s insane. Of course he’s not insane, he was actually being divorced from his wife and his wife brought it about. And here’s a man who was supposed to be put to death. And the reason we weren’t…
Ankerberg: But I’m just thinking of you guys going to your dad. Take me to that moment. I mean, what were you thinking, and did he understand what was coming, or what was going on?
Ergun: You know, we’re now 22 years removed from this. I went to my father and said, “Baba, Isa ben Allah. I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” The 112th chapter of the Qur’an says, “Allah does not beget, nor is begotten.” It’s supposed to be the greatest Surah of the Qur’an. And I said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” which obviously is marked for death. I didn’t know this at the time. I wanted him to know grace. I wanted my father to be liberated. I wanted my brothers to be liberated; my mother.
Our father disowned us. I didn’t see him for another 17 years. And you tell this in churches and people get teary eyed. But in fact, for us, it was an act of mercy. Because in over 30 countries around the globe today, in over 30 countries around the world you are put to death. On Friday, on jumu’ah prayer, you are buried up to your waist in your burial cloth and stoned to death. In Pakistan it’s called Rule 295-C. To blaspheme the Prophet Muhammad, meaning to convert to anything else. Put to death.
Ankerberg: Let me read the news release right now. The Supreme Court said, “This man faces the death penalty because he refused to revert back to Islam.” And the sharia law says that’s capital punishment for any Muslim who converts to another religion. Then he went on to say, “Afghanistan’s constitution”—which we helped to erect now, after the Taliban was put down—“states, no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam.”
And so you see the Supreme Court saying, “This man needs to die.” Some of our naïve reporters, television reporters from America, went out in the street and thought they’d get a little sympathy from the guys in the crowd along the street. And every one of the people they interviewed said, “Oh, yes, he needs to die. Yes, we need to kill him.” Alright? If you’d lived there when you made this decision, that’s exactly what you’d be facing.
Ergun: Of course. Many Muslims who come to faith in Christ here in America, their parents, if it happens when they’re young, fly them home for what we would affectionately call re-education. They are given two options. There’s only two reasons why a Muslim who leaves Islam is allowed to live. One, if they revert. The vast majority of them revert if they are flown home. Secondly, you have to be declared insane, which is what the Afghan court tried to do. Problem is, any Islamic republic that calls itself the Islamic republic, cannot allow freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, or freedom of conversion.
Ankerberg: Okay, there are a lot of Muslims in this country that are listening right now. Give me a word for them. If they want to receive Christ, if they want to place their faith in Christ, what would you suggest?
Emir: Picture, if you will, being in a courtroom and standing up and you’re guilty of murder and trying to plead your case. And as you’re pleading your case you say, “I feel like I’m a better man.” And your wife stands up, and your boss stands up, and your kids stand up, and they all say you’re a good husband, good father, a good employee. And then you turn to the judge and you say, “I deserve to be released, even though I’m a murderer.” And yet that’s what the scales say in Chapter 23, that somehow the good can outweigh the bad.
But there must be justice for what you have done wrong. And only the atonement of Jesus Christ does so. No other faith can answer it. In the atonement of Jesus Christ you have a choice: you either pay for your own sins, according to Revelation 20, or the blood of Jesus Christ is poured out for your sins, past, present and future. And thereby Christianity is the only religion in the world that answers that every sin must be atoned for.
Ankerberg: Yes. Alright, we’re going to talk about this more next week. And I’m going to turn this around on them, that the key points of the Gospel, when you want to share the key points of who Jesus is, and what He did, and who God is, and even sin, and substitute for sin, all of these things are the highest sin, if you believe them, in Islam, alright? So, here we are as Christians and we’re going to share with these guys who, say, are Muslims. The fact is, how in the world can we persuade them when we’re actually talking to them about believing the highest sin that they hold to, okay? That’s what we’re going to talk about next week. We’ll talk about Abdul Rahman a little bit more. And so I hope that you’ll join us.

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