Today in my Sunday school class we talked about Islam. In recent weeks, we had turned to the subject of how Christians might/should view other religions, and it was felt that those in the class would benefit from learning more about other religions. It is hard, if not impossible, to discuss how one might view them without knowing something about them, after all! Much of this resulted from one person in the class expressing surprise that I’m pretty sure others felt when they discovered that Muslims believe in the virgin birth but not the divinity of Jesus.
There were other surprises for some today, I’m quite sure. We started off with an activity that I’ve used in my university classes on Islam. I handed out copies of the Apostles’ Creed, and asked everyone to underline those things they thought Muslims would disagree with. (I think the original idea for the activity came from Alfred Guillaume’s classic introduction to Islam).
Without in any way negating points about which Christians and Muslims would disagree – such as whether Jesus was crucified – I also sought to counter some stereotypes, and in particular to emphasize that most Christians and most Muslims understand their scriptures as justifying if not encouraging them to live in peace with their neighbors, while for those who desire conflict, verses that might justify violence can be found as easily in the Bible as in the Qur’an, if not more so.
We only managed to touch briefly on the legacy of British colonialism in relation to the Islamic world today, the status of women, and even fundamentals subjects such as the Five Pillars and the Hadith. And so it looks like the overview we began today will continue for at least another week.