Book Notice: Connecting with Muslims

Fouad Masri 
Connecting with Muslims: A Guide to Communicating Effectively 
Downers Grove: IVP, 2014.
Available at Amazon.com

Reviewed by Charlie Fletcher, Dean of Global Mission at Ridley College, Melbourne.

When I first dipped into Connecting with Muslims before Christmas, the Australian news was dominated by images of a sea of flowers in Martin Place in Sydney after a deadly hostage siege by a Muslim man in an inner city café. When I picked up the book again in the new year, Western media and social media were chanting in unison the slogan Je suis Charlie after the fatal attack by two Muslim brothers on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris (in case you’re wondering, I didn’t my own Facebook status accordingly, despite the name). Now, as I come to write a review of Fouad Masri’s book, Western media has picked up in more muted fashion on the Islamist attack that killed nearly 150 Christian students on a Kenyan university campus.

In this context, it seems to me that Western Christians need several kinds of help to understand and respond to Islam. As our secular media downplays the extent of Islamist persecution of Christians outside the West, there is a place for a book like Raymond Ibrahim’s Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians, which seeks to give voice to Christians suffering under Islam and draws on many Arabic sources not available to most Western readers (read an interview with the author here). Then, to avoid the risk of lumping all Muslims together into the militant category, we need help at the level of John Azumah’s nuanced thinking about what he calls the five faces of Islam (listen to John here or read some of his thoughts here). In addition to this kind of help in understanding Islamist movements in particular and Islam in general, we also need help in learning how to love Muslims and present the gospel to them faithfully and appropriately. This is where Fouad Masri’s book comes into play.

Connecting with Muslims is not an academic work (as a total of seven endnotes indicate). It is written at a popular and practical level to help Christians initiate evangelistic conversations with Muslims and answer common Muslim questions about Christianity. Masri, who grew up in Beirut and holds an MA in Islamic Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, says pithily that he wants readers to see Muslims through the eyes of Jesus rather than through the eyes of CNN, and to engage in the kind of lifestyle evangelism that avoids both gospel grenades and fruitless friendships.

The chatty style, short chapters, and a format that includes subheadings, summary pull-out quotes and action points and closing prayers combine to make Connecting with Muslims very readable.

The key strengths of the book are its warm tone and practical advice. Connecting with Muslims contains two parts. The first section offers advice on ways to connect evangelistically with Muslims. Some of the advice, like the value of quoting scripture in conversation, may be unexpected for readers from secular western settings. The second section deals with seven common questions Muslims ask about Christianity. If the following questions surprise you, Masri’s advice on answering them will be worth the price of the book.

  1. What do you think of Muhammad?
  2. Hasn’t the Injeel been corrupted?
  3. Who is Jesus, the Son of Mary?
  4. Who actually died on the cross?
  5. Don’t Christians worship three gods?
  6. Why did Jesus have to be sacrificed?
  7. Is the Gospel of Barnabas true?

Readers may have some quibbles. Biblical scholars will wrinkle their noses occasionally (for example, at the claim in the introduction that “Go” is the key word in the Great Commission). Many practitioners would make more space for polemics in Muslim evangelism than Masri’s friendly approach contemplates (to be fair, his focus is on personal evangelism, not public debate). And there are some minor editing infelicities (even with my glasses on, the charts in Appendix 8 look rather small!).

If you’re looking for a book on Islam for a college course, you’ll need to head for more academic works. If you want warm and practical advice about how to communicate the gospel effectively to Muslims, you will Fouad Masri’s book very helpful.

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