What are some tips on how to be sensitive to Muslim/Islamic culture?
Christians are taught to love their neighbor as themselves (Matthew 22:37-40) as well as to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). These neighbors and nations certainly include those of Muslim background, whom Christ also came to save (John 3:16). Cultural sensitivity is important both in loving others and in witnessing to them. So how can Christians be sensitive to people from Muslim cultures?
First, Christians must offer genuine, unconditional friendship to Muslims that extends beyond only witnessing. Sharing meals, birthdays, or other significant events offers common ground that is important to gain a hearing among Muslim people.
Second, there are certain social norms of which to be aware if you visit a Muslim in their home. For example, clothing must be modest and inoffensive. Pointing feet (as may occur when a person sits with his or her legs crossed) is considered offensive. Passing food with the left hand is considered unclean. Since ritual cleanliness is of vital importance, washing hands often is considered important. Some even suggest not using the restroom in a Muslim's home whenever possible to avoid suspicions of uncleanliness. Asking about a Muslim man's wife or children may also be taken as an offense. Further, placing a Qur'an or Bible on the floor is inappropriate in a Muslim home, as is placing any book higher than a Qur'an. Interestingly, a Bible that has been marked up or written in is seen as disrespectful. Finally, speaking maliciously about the Muslim prophet Muhammad or Allah in a Muslim's home would be taken as an affront. When sharing the Gospel, it is most helpful to focus on who Christ is in the Gospels as He is key to salvation.
Third, men should not attempt to build close relationships with Muslim women in order to share the gospel, nor women with Muslim men. This is considered highly inappropriate in traditional Muslim culture. Men would do well to focus on building relationships with Muslim men and women with Muslim women in order to avoid being seen as developing inappropriate relationships.
Fourth, learning as much as possible about Muslim beliefs and practices will help Christians be more effective in communicating Christ to those of Muslim background. For example, the Qur'an speaks of the Injils (Gospels) as being an important book. An appeal to this teaching opens the opportunity to speak about the content of the Gospels and what they teach about Jesus. Jesus is mentioned as a prophet in the Qur'an, yet the Gospels offer much more information about Him that Muslims might find of special importance. Further, understanding the Muslim's concern of Christians allegedly worshiping three gods can allow a Christian to address the topic to show that the Bible teaches there is only one God, yet He is expressed in three persons in Christianity.
Witnessing to Muslims is an important endeavor and biblical command. To effectively witness to those of Muslim background, we can build genuine friendships, learn about Muslim cultural practices, focus on same-gender evangelism, and learn about Muslim teachings in ways that help to communicate the true gospel found only in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; 14:6; Acts 4:12).
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