There are many people who study Islam. Some, like myself, focus on theological differences. However, one of the things I have learned is that the use of apologetic tools to prove the rationality of Jesus’ claims is hardly ever effective. That doesn’t mean such apologetic efforts should be discarded. Rather, it means we should be looking for additional tools when introducing Muslims to Jesus Christ. It has been observed that often power encounters rather than truth encounters help reveal God’s true nature within the Muslim community. It is within this context I recommend “The Unseen Face of Islam” by Bill Musk. The book goes much broader than theology, discussing those area of life, superstition, and tradition that are often forefront in the mind of a Muslim and thus more meaningful than intellectual arguments.
The book was written almost 25 years ago, but “The Unseen Face of Islam” is a very unique book in the way it approaches Muslims and the religion of Islam. I have read many books on Islam. There are countless volumes of books describing the tenets of Islamic doctrine. There are still bushels more that take an apologetic or polemic tone directed toward those tenets. Still others take a more scholarly and even-handed view of the Qur’an or the Hadith literature. Musk takes an approach I haven’t seen anywhere else. He examines the everyday life of Muslims, and how their practices differ from those official doctrines that Islam lays out. Most importantly, he connects the fact that a scholarly approach to Islam in general by Christians does not address the folklore, spiritism, and demonic powers that often come in to play in the daily life of most Muslims.
The author starts the book by covering a variety of topics having to do with superstition and religious rituals. Such topics as the evil eye, talismans, jinn, and festivals are discussed from the standpoint of individual accounts as well as patterns of behavior. Such traditions are sometimes based on obscure teachings of the Qur’an, but often they come out of societal habits that go back centuries before Islam itself. The reality is that these rituals provide deep meaning and cultural cohesion. To minister to Muslims, Christians must understand the embedded nature of these traditions and practices. Muslims look to them in order to have guidance, obtain healing, and seek protection from evil spirits.
This brings Musk to the main point of the book. Any purely academic approach to Islam will fail to meet the Muslim in the world in which he lives. Truth is a concept that Westerners value highly, and so we should. However, in Middle Eastern cultures, issues such as family ties, religious festivals, and supernatural entities take a more prominent role. Any attempt to evangelize Muslims must take these issues into account. Truth must be accompanied by power. Jesus is the great physician as well as the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus has power to cast out demons, to heal our infirmities, to answer prayers, and to meet us in our times of need. Jesus Himself made reference to the fact that belief in Him would often come by recognizing His miraculous power first, leading to the realization of who He is (John 5:36, John 14:11). His miraculous power is just as prevalent today as it was when He walked the earth.
Jesus’ abilities meet us no matter what our issue, but especially when we are being oppressed by spiritual forces. In the West, we tend to discount such powers as real and present, while the Biblical accounts tell a different story. Musk does a great job of breaking us out of our Western way of thinking in order that Muslims may be reached for Christ by not just the truth of His Word, but by the power of His presence as well.