Monday, October 8, 2018

Introducing our New Book | Margins of Islam: Ministry in Diverse Muslim Contexts

On behalf of Gene Daniels, I’m excited to introduce our new book Margins of Islam: Ministry in Diverse Muslim Contexts. Here is the book description:

What do you do when “Islam” does not adequately describe the Muslims you know? Margins of Islam brings together a stellar collection of experienced missionary scholar-practitioners who explain their own approaches to a diversity of Muslims across the world. Each chapter grapples with a context that is significantly different from the way Islam is traditionally presented in mission texts. These crucial differences may be theological, socio-political, ethnic, or a specific variation of Islam in a context—but they all shape the way we do mission. This book will help you discover Islam as a lived experience in various settings and equip you to engage Muslims in any context, including your own.

One of the most succinct and descriptive endorsements comes from Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary:

In a marvelous tour de force, Margins of Islam exposes the widely held, but false assumption that the house of Islam is a monolithic religious entity which either resists or responds to missiological strategies. Collectively, these authors offer up case studies and rich and textured “on the field” experience which reflects the true variegated diversity of Islam. This book is contextual missiology at its finest.

The project was the brainchild of Gene Daniels. I vividly remember sitting next to him on a bus discussing it with him on our way to a conference center from a hotel a couple years ago. His big idea was to gather missionary scholar-practitioners serving in various Muslim settings to explain how they take context seriously and how they deal with the phenomenon that we call “Islam.” I was genuinely surprised and honored when he asked me to be his coeditor!

We immediately started networking and looking for contributors. Gene already had several people in mind. My job was to help edit each chapter and then to produce a concluding chapter that explained the themes of the book. It was a rich learning experience. As I researched for the book, I found myself often disagreeing and pushing back on evangelical treatments of Islam.

My criticism began to take shape and eventually became an introductory chapter—most evangelical missiological treatments of Islam are reductionistic with what I call a “top-down” approach, meaning that Islam (and subsequently, Muslims) can be adequately understood by addressing the Qur’an, hadith, and history of Islam. From this textual understanding, it is assumed that Muslims believe what Islam teaches, and thus there is a “Muslim worldview” and strategies on how to engage it. In this framework, Muslims are often simplified as cultural and spiritual clones of one another.

Many workers have read books based on this top-down approach, but when they begin to engage Muslims in their context, they quickly discover that the Muslims they are working with believe very different things from what “Islam” teaches. While the top-down approach is incredibly valuable, it can also distort our understanding of Muslims if it is our only lens. We also need a “bottom-up” approach that explains the historical evolution of the Islamic phenomenon and the sociological perspectives that accounts for the diversity of Islam today. Ergo my chapter two: How Muslims Shape and Use Islam: Towards a Missiological Understanding.

As I was editing the chapters (which do a wonderful job of combining the top-down and bottom-up perspectives) and after I wrote the introductory chapter, I started to reflect on how recent developments in postcolonial theory, anthropology, and religious studies have influenced mission to Muslims. Gene and I later decided that I would write a theory piece again for a concluding chapter which I titled Adaptive Missiological Engagement in Islamic Contexts. Gene then did a masterful job tying the themes of the book together in the final chapter, “Conclusion: Learning from the Margins.”

Here are the contents of the book:

Foreword, David Garrison

Introduction, Gene Daniels


1 Who Represents Islam?, Evelyne A. Reisacher

2 How Muslims Shape and Use Islam: Towards a Missiological Understanding, Warrick Farah


3 The Donkey and the Straw: Reaching South Asian Sufis with the Gospel, Kevin Higgins

4 Secular Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ted Esler

5 Egalité, Fraternité, and Cous-cous: Ministry to Muslims in the Context of a Resurgent Islam and French Laïcité, Rick Kronk

6 Biblical Approaches to the Nurcu Gülen Movement in Turkey, Yakup Korkmaz

7 Magical Mystical Muslims: Sufi-oriented Islam and African Traditional Religion, Robin Dale Hadaway

8 Ordinary Muslims in Pakistan and the Gospel, Warren Larson

9 Ministry to Hui Muslims in China: An Approach to Dual-layered Cultural Settings, Enoch Jinsik Kim

10 Context as Flypaper: The Island of Java in Indonesia, Michael A. Kilgore

11 Liberating Liminality: Mission in the North African Berber Context, Patrick Brittenden

12 Russified Muslims of the Former Soviet Union, Gene Daniels

13 The Queen’s Muslims? Muslim Identities in the UK, Phil Rawlings

14 In the Shadow of a Buddhist Temple: Muslims in Thailand, Alan Johnson

15 Uyghurs of the Tarim Basin: Muslims in Northwestern China, CG Gordon

16 Muslim Youth in a Glocal World, Arthur Brown


17 Adaptive Missiological Engagement with Islamic Contexts, Warrick Farah

18 Conclusion: Learning from the Margins, Gene Daniels

As our endorsements were rolling in, one from JD Payne stood out in particular that helped us identity the biggest potential takeaway from this book:

Margins of Islam takes readers on a global journey revealing the multiple expressions of the Islamic faith… We no longer have any excuse to train others to reach all Muslims in the same way.

I want to thank Gene for this incredible opportunity, and also for our excellent group of contributors who have taught me so much about the variety of Muslims and the varieties of biblical mission in the world today. Go ahead and buy the book on Amazon, and please help us spread the word—you can easily share this from the button on the bottom of the post on the blog. Thank you for considering! We feel this volume represents a significant encouragement for the mission of the church.

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Monday, September 3, 2018

Lausanne Global Analysis: Chapman and Azumah Respond to Taylor

When I first read Jenny Taylor’s brief article Why Grace is Not Enough to Reach Muslims: Balancing Grace and Truth in Outreach, I admit I was surprised that Lausanne would allow an article like this associated with it’s name. It was a bit confusing, and it seemed to imply that anyone who does not truly understand that violence is core to Islam has somehow minimized “truth” in their ministry approach to Muslims.

Thankfully, Colin Chapman and John Azumah have responded with  Islam through the Lens of the Golden Rule: Grace and Truth in Our Approach to Muslims and Islam. Here are their four main points, which I believe quickly get to the heart of many missiological fallacies made when discussing Islam and terrorism:

  1. We must allow Muslims to define what is ‘true Islam’ and remember Muslims are not all the same
  2. Texts are important, but they cannot be considered in isolation
  3. Understanding jihadi violence does not mean justifying it
  4. We too have our failings, and we need to find ways of addressing these problems within our own communities

I encourage you to read these two brief articles. This is an important conversation.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Exposed: Muslim Demographics Video

You might remember this viral piece of propaganda in the missions community. In 2009, I posted the Muslim Demographics Video:

I'm not sure I like the video I'm posting below. It is sensationalistic, mistakes Christendom for biblical faith, and seems to imply that secularism is better than Islam. But it makes a very interesting point about the future influence of Islam. I have heard about it from a couple different sources now. I did not check the stats but I assume they are correct.

Ummm, yeah. I should have checked the stats. I’m so sorry 16 million people have seen this misleading video.

Today, I saw that the BBC has finally fact-checked the video. The blog: Understanding Islam: Toward a Balanced Perspective has posted a nice write-up about it. Here is the link: Is Islam taking over the world?

And here is the new video: Muslim Demographics: the Truth

I apologize for posting the original video 9 years ago. As Christians, we need to recognize fear-mongering when we see it, especially from fellow evangelicals.

At the least, it makes an interesting case study in how some quarters of the missions movement try to manipulate us. Islamophobia is real.

Friday, May 18, 2018

What is sharia law?

From The Sociology of Islam: Knowledge, Power and Civility (p. 79-80):

Based on a Qur’anic keyword meaning the “straight path,” the sharia was first elaborated by Muslim scholars as a philosophical and theological rather than a strictly legal concept (W.C. Smith 1962).

Yet over time and by virtue of the force represented by the rising importance of Sufism as a discipline stressing the inner truth, the sharia, as much as it was seen as the manifestation of divine Will (shar`), also came to represent the outer dimensions of the ethico-religious code of Islam. The sharia happened to be identified with the more systematic dimension of the Islamic normativity, the one that could be formulated in terms of legal norms which, in turn, would be liable – to a not yet exclusive extent – to be enforced. Apart from this technically legal dimension, the sharia covered a comprehensive concept of norm, which included ritual and dietary rules, as well as rules about family, commerce, and social relations more in general. However, this normative idiom, reflecting basic values of humanity, justice, and equality, never became a code in the sense of a closed (and univocally ‘searchable’) text. It rather preserved an inherent, inner pluralism and contestability in the form of a cumulative tradition articulated in translocal schools and local, contextualized sets of practices variably drawing from most pre-Islamic customs.

This is why the understandings of sharia and related practices have been historically dependent on the types of knowledge and the varieties of culture prevalent on a local scale, as well as on the degree of social contention and reconstruction that they authorized. The convergence between concretely practiced Islamic jurisprudence and the idea of sharia was therefore a diversified, gradual, and (at least till the colonial era) never fully accomplished process… Modern attempts to systematize and implement sharia, whether associated with ‘liberal’ and ‘reformist’ or with ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘puritan’ interpretations (all labels that, originating in Western history, should be taken with a grain of salt), have been hardly able to extinguish its historic dynamism. Yet they certainly contributed to obfuscate the consciousness of this dynamism among a mass public, which in the colonial and postcolonial eras has been more prone to appreciate its new rigidified contours.

It is a myth to assume that sharia is a universal, coherent legal code that is ready to be applied. Any missiological approach to Muslims that claims sharia is some sort of spiritual force that means the same thing to all Muslims everywhere has not done enough contextual analysis.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Is There a Christian Double Standard on Religious Violence?

Good article by Brandon Withrow: Is There a Christian Double Standard on Religious Violence?

Nearly 80 percent of Christians don’t think a terrorist acting in the name of Christianity is Christian. But more than half say terrorists acting in the name of Islam are Muslims.

The article does a good job exploring different perspectives on religion and violence using a mosaic of both Christian and Muslim voices. This is a debate with layers of complexity that will probably never end.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Atheist Muslim (Rizvi 2017)

Interesting interview of an atheist Muslim who attempts to retain a Muslim identity while rejecting Islamic ideology. He nuances between extremes on how to define something as Islamic/Muslim. Also helpful is how he describes the errors of the left which conflate legitimate criticism of Islam with Islamophobia and the errors of the right which demonize Muslims. This kind of book nicely illustrates the incredible diversity in the so-called ‘Muslim world’ today.

Here is the interview on Vox: An atheist Muslim on what the left and right get wrong about Islam

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Jesus Christ as the Patron for Muslims | 5 Min Video

Here is an excellent video from Richard Yacoub that explains the implications of patronage for ministry with Syrian refugees. Applications extend to many other contexts as well.

In an earlier article, I said this about the Patron-Client Gospel for Muslim conversions:

Hanaan grew up very disillusioned with the hypocritical lifestyles of some fundamentalist Muslims she knew. One night a man in a brilliant white robe holding a staff appeared in her dream and told her that she was correct to doubt Islam. The next morning she described this event to her loving and devout Muslim father, who told her the person from her dream was Isa al Masih. Eagerly she went to the Qur’an and read everything she could about Jesus, who continued to show up in dreams for many years at key moments in her life.

According to her testimony, Hanaan joined herself to Jesus long before she met another Christ follower who studied the Bible with her for the first time. Like Hanaan, MBBs appear to bond themselves to Christ in a patron-client relationship as they initially begin to understand His lordship and even the atonement.

A biblical, missiological view of conversion must take into account the social context of the first century Mediterranean world (Asia and Africa are much closer to this worldview today than is the West). Relationships were conceptualized around the concept of “patronage,” where “they saw their gods as patrons and benefactors and their own conduct as clients” (Crook 2004, 254). “In this hierarchical society, where the status of the person you follow and to whom you give allegiance is very important, the position of Isa becomes the focus of reconsideration” (Edwards 2013, 84). MBBs relate to Christ in ways that are difficult for Westerners to understand, but make sense in their worldview. Yet this understanding of salvation is commonly found in the writings of the Apostle Paul. Christ is our ultimate Patron (the Divine Lord), we must be found “in him” and part of the new people of God.

See also