Muslim Followers of Jesus?

This December 2009 piece from The Global Conversation really grabbed my attention, given my current devotion to the New Perspective on Paul and its social implications (Gal. 2:11-21).

But can one really remain in a Muslim community and still be a follower of Jesus?

Case #1:

When Nabil had a life-transforming encounter with Jesus, he remained within the Muslim community, participating in Muslim prayers.  As his love for Jesus became known to family and friends, some followed his example, but others actually attempted to murder him.  After being imprisoned for his beliefs, he decided he no longer considered himself a Muslim.  He saw Islam as the system responsible for persecuting him. Today Nabil considers himself a Christian.   But some who followed him in faith still see themselves as Muslims.  (emphasis added)

Case #2:

Ibrahim was a well-respected scholar of the Qur’an, a hafiz. When he decided to follow Jesus, he closely examined the Qur’anic verses commonly understood as denying the Trinity, denying Jesus’ divine Sonship, denying Jesus’ atoning death, and denying the textual integrity of the Bible.  He concluded that each of these verses was open to alternate interpretations, and that he could therefore follow Jesus as a Muslim.  Soon members of his family and community came to share his faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Ibrahim was also imprisoned for his faith, but unlike Nabil, Ibrahim still wanted to follow Jesus as a Muslim.  Nonetheless, some whom he led to Jesus no longer see themselves as Muslims.  Ibrahim and Nabil are friends and respect each other as brothers, though they disagree about their identity.  (emphasis added; read full article…)

For Nabil, he soon realized that he couldn’t be both: a practicing Muslim and a practicing follower of Jesus (But for those who followed his faith and remained in Muslim communities, I question their faith).  How is such possible?

Ibrahim, on the other hand, sought to reinterpret and Christianize the Qur’an to achieve both: a practicising Muslim and a practicing follower of Jesus.

But as his imprisonment proved, Ibrahim reinterpretation was just that, his reinterpretation—one not shared obviously by a pure Muslim community.

Let’s not forget that the Law, which served as a boundary marker for OT covenant people Israel, had to be set aside to ensure full participation of both Jews and Gentiles in the One New Humanity that Jesus created (Eph. 2:11-22, NRSV, TNIV)

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8 Responses to Muslim Followers of Jesus?

  1. J says:

    I think it depends partly on one’s definition of the the word Muslim and what is essential for one to call themselves a Muslim. Also what elements of Judaism do you think must be rejected for a Jew to be considered to be a follower of Jehoshua.

    • T.C. R says:

      Joel,
      Thanks for the link.

      J,
      Yes, it does. But from the two examples above we’re speaking of remaining in a Muslim community and therefore engaging in the practices that define such a community. I think that is clear from the two examples above.

      As a Jew, one must rejected those long-held-boundary markers that the Jews clinged to, making them the only people of God and everyone is pagans – outside of God’s blessings. Such attitude must go (Gal. 2). It’s not the Jesus way.

  2. it’s a bit of a complex missiological issue – there are hindi Christians too – those of the Hindus Valley in India but too I think if one can be a follower of Jesus and sill remain in one’s community of relationships that will be more beneficial in long run, for example with Ibrahim, his sticking around enabled him to win more folks than if he fled. Again, its a tough issue and we in America tend to want to be blacka and white about this when maybe we need to rethink it mostly for missiological purposes.

  3. Iris Godfrey says:

    I, too, would suspect the ones staying within may be considering “Muslim” to be a cultural thing, as “Christian Jews” might today. Eventually, no matter what culture one comes from, it all must be traded in for Jesus, the Son of God. He becomes our culture and our life. Sometimes this does take some time and our gracious Lord does allow for such. However, eventually – He must be all.

    Some of us have had the same journey as we moved in faith from one expression of Christianity to another. The old order (culture) cannot contain us. We move forward in faith and we must. He does, occasionally, allow some to stay within their original structure, but most of the time that becomes strained over time. Cultures (and systems) are not holy within themselves, so eventually must bow in the dance of obedience with our King.

  4. T.C. R says:

    Brian,
    It’s a tough issue indeed. I suppose one could remain in such a community if choosing an identity doesn’t really become an issue, which is the case for a Nabil, as seen above.

    I recall Paul being persecuted by his own Jewish people, even Christian Jews, for reaching out to Gentiles.

    Eventually, no matter what culture one comes from, it all must be traded in for Jesus, the Son of God. He becomes our culture and our life. Sometimes this does take some time and our gracious Lord does allow for such. However, eventually – He must be all.

    Iris,
    Which seems to be the case of Ibrahim. Now, if his mission is to remain within a Muslim community and become all things to them to win more, then such cannot be slighted.

    Now if we must stay within a particular culture to get more people to the dance, then stay we must.

  5. That’s a hard issue. For a while I was casually acquainted with a fellow who attended our church in Cincinnati every week while visiting the U.S. He considered himself both Christian and Muslim. I wish I knew more about how he reconciled the two, but from what little I do know, I’ve got to agree that it’s a difficult issue to think about.

  6. T.C. R says:

    Mitchell,
    It is extremely difficult. It seems like a parting of ways is inevitable at some point.

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