Muslims in the United States come from a variety of backgrounds; some are immigrants, some are second-generation Americans, and some are converts to Islam. Since Islam impacts everything in a Muslim’s life there there is a huge gap between Muslims who are trying to hold true to Islam’s values and the western culture they may live in. This gap is a space for Christians to step in and speak truth into our Muslim friend’s life.
First, we need to know the differences between what Islam values and what western culture values. We’ll ask each side 4 questions, hear their answers, and then see how we can step into the gap with a biblical answer. (Keep in mind, this is only part one! We have four more questions we’ll cover next month!)
Four Q&As: Islamic culture, Western culture, and the Bible
Does a person’s good actions reflect on them or on their family?
Islam: A Muslim’s good acts bring honor and respect to the family and community.
Western: A person’s good acts gain them a good reputation individually.
Biblical answer: When we do good, our actions reflect honor on God, because as Christ-followers our actions reflect the change He has made in our hearts.
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
When someone fails, who carries the shame?
Islam: A Muslim’s failings bring shame to their entire family and community. Their family and community have the right to wipe out the shame from tainting them by punishing the individual or even killing them, depending on the shameful act.
Western: A person’s failings make them guilty, and they are individually punished by the authority of the context where the failing took place. For example, if a student breaks the rules at school, it is the principal’s job to discipline them.
Biblical answer: We no longer have to bear the shame of our failures because Jesus’s blood has paid for our sins!
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Romans 8:1-2
How much do you value public image?
Islam: A Muslim must try to maintain a good public image in front of others at all costs, even in the cases of injustice. An example is covering up assault against a daughter so the family would not be shamed and shunned from the community.
Western: Image is not as important as demanding justice, even if the issue becomes public.
Biblical answer: How we look, react, or present ourselves on the outside should be in line with the biblical teachings we follow and our sincere heart and intentions so that our God would be glorified in our lives.
“God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
Which has more value: the community or the individual?
Islam: The community and family come above any of the individual’s rights or desires.
Western: An individual’s rights or desires are more important than the community’s interests.
Biblical answer: We are called to love others above ourselves. The Church is called to be a self-sacrificial community, showing God’s love in all circumstances. Both the individual and community are valued in a balanced way.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13
How to talk to your Muslim friend about these values
Knowing there is a gap between Islamic and Western cultures, and seeing the difference in the Biblical answers, how do we practically bridge the gap?
As you build your relationship with your Muslim friend, they will see how you live your life, following Christ's teachings rather than adhering to the worldly culture you live in. As you reflect Jesus, they will see the way your faith sets you apart! Still, you can have direct conversations about it too so that you can bring the Bible into your friendship:
- Do you feel a lot of pressure to bring honor to your family?
- How important is it for you to keep a good image? Why?
- What do you do if you have to decide between what you want to do versus what your family wants you to do?
When you get a chance to share your answers, share a true biblical answer. If you continue to talk about these deep topics together, this may grow into an opportunity to read the Bible with them.
At the end of the day, pray for your Muslim friend to be open to the Holy Spirit. Be a good friend to them. Talk to them openly and honestly and be loving!
Prayer for your Muslim friend
Dear Lord, thank you for my friend. Please give me the words to tell them the truth about who You are and how You want us to live. Thank you for a relationship with You through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Open up my friend’s heart so that they will seek the truth and find it in You. Amen.
The majority of this blog post is taken from our devotional Dare to Explore: 12 lessons on Islam and how to reach Muslims