Previous posts in this series: How are Muslims coming to Christ? Introduction, Part 1: Conversion is a Contextual Process, Part 2: The Prominence of the Affective Dimension, Part 3: The Silent Witness of Love and Integrity, Part 4: A Patron – Client View of the Gospel, Part 5: Conversion in Layers of Identity, and Part 6: The Congruence of Cultural Values.
I believe that perhaps the largest unreached people group in the world is Muslim women. It could be possible that 80% of MBBs around the world are male (just a guess). Most of our outreach/strategy/teaching is geared towards men. This is partly because Muslim women are, by the nature of “Islam,” more inaccessible. But we need more research on how women are coming to faith. And we need to be more intentional. From my view, there are three things to consider in female MBB conversions (from this article):
7. The Differing Female Experience
Unfortunately, most studies on conversion haven’t considered the importance of gender (Gooren 2007, 348). It does appear, however, that there are in fact significant differences. North African women MBBs in Evelyne Reisacher’s research felt that gender related issues in the Muslim world created more barriers to conversion for women than men, but they also felt their faith was more resilient than male MBBs because of the price women paid to follow Jesus (2006, 110-113). Women are more concerned about how their conversion will affect their social relationships, particularly with males in their immediate families. A positive factor influencing conversion was the honor Jesus gave to women. “Women were attracted to Jesus because they were touched by the way he dealt with women in the Gospels” (2006, 113).
Similarly, Miriam Adeney notes that Muslim women come to faith for many of the same reasons as men, but it is the “awareness of Jesus’ affirmation of women” that strongly influences women (2005, 287).[i] Adeney also notes the significance of familial social relationships in conversion. In a study of South Asian Muslim women who were coming to faith, Mary McVicker found that while theology is important, “participation and experience are essential” (2006, 136). Strähler found that female MBBs in Kenya were shaped more by affective elements than were the males (2010, 67).
Thus, female conversions are strongly influenced by an awareness of Jesus’ treatment of women in the gospels, include greater degrees of practical and experiential factors, and are complicated by the role of males in their immediate families. Hanaan’s father, a devout Muslim and loving man, eventually became convinced the Jesus was revealing himself to Hanaan. He gave her the intellectual freedom she felt she needed to investigate further, although he never followed Christ himself. As with other female MBBs, Hanaan’s experience would be dramatically different had her father persecuted her curiosity of Jesus, rather than foster it.
The Differing Female Experience – In ministry to Muslim women, we should:
- tell the specific stories of Jesus’ treatment of women in the Gospels,
- pray with them and for their needs, and
- pay attention to their relationships with males in their families.
One book my wife really likes is A Worldview Approach to Ministry Among Muslim Women.
Next: Part 8, The Beauty of the Written and Resurrected Word.