A few years ago, I had the high honor of taking my then-8-year-old son on a mission trip to Thailand. The year before the trip, my son was born again, accepting Christ into his heart as Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9-10). His first request after his salvation: to go on a mission trip with his mom and dad. He wanted to share his newfound faith with Buddhists and Muslims in the beautiful country of Thailand.
Who was I to say no? In the summer of 2011, my wife and I spent two wonderful weeks alongside our son sharing the love of Christ with many adults and children. As part of the experience, our group visited a local mosque during Friday prayers in order to observe how Muslims pray. We, of course, did not participate. Little did I know the experience would make as much of an impact on me as it would my son.
Upon arrival at the mosque that Friday, childhood memories began flooding back to my mind. When I, too, was 8 years old, my father had taken me to our mosque in Columbus, Ohio. But I wasn’t a mere observer; I was a Muslim participating in corporate prayers, the lifeline of the Islamic community.
I can still remember lining up shoulder-to-shoulder beside other Muslims as we prayed to Allah together. I can still remember my ritualistic surrender by facing Mecca, bowing in reverence, and declaring, “Allahu Akbar (God is great).” That picture of me bowing to another god is seared into my conscience. And now I was watching as countless Muslim fathers were walking their children to the mosque to do likewise.
It broke my heart.
It hurt deeply because I still remember the deafening silence of speaking to a god—Allah—who did not speak back. To me, that is one of the great tragedies of a false religion. Dead gods do not speak, much less save. Such silence from false gods is highlighted in scriptural passages like 1 Kings 18:26, where, after the prophets of Baal worshiped the false Canaanite god, the Bible states, “But there was no voice, and no one answered.” The Bible repeats the claim in 1 Kings 18:29 and adds, “No one paid attention.”
However, my sadness turned to joy during a revival service at a Baptist church in Columbus, Ohio. For the first time in my life I heard God speak, and He simply said, “I love you. I died for you.” I eagerly repented of my sin and placed my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Since that night, I have made two vows: 1) I will never again bow my knee to a false god, and 2) I will never take it for granted when God speaks.
Today, 1.6 billion Muslims trust their eternal destiny to a god that does not exist. Many of these same Muslims assume they worship the same god as Christians, something maintained by the Quran: “But say, ‘We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; our God and your God is One; and it is to Him we submit (in Islam)’” (surah 29:46).
Yet the verse above reveals the erroneous reasons they believe that we worship the same God. First, the verse maintains that the Quran is the fulfillment of the Torah and the Gospel and that it—the Quran—is the final revelation. Second, the phrase God is One is an explicit denial of Christ’s deity. This denial is also found in other Quranic verses, including surah 4:171, “Say not ‘Three’: desist, it will be better for you: for Allah is One God.” Third, a belief that we worship the same god will only encourage Muslims to remain in the Islamic faith.
With such confusion innate within Islamic teaching, it is incumbent on Christians to speak clearly about who God is. We must recognize that Islam is a complete repudiation of the essential tenets of Christianity, including the doctrine of God.
When I was a Muslim, I rejected God as Father and Jesus Christ as the only begotten Son of the living God. I also rejected the Holy Spirit, seeing Him as only an angel, Gabriel, who revealed Allah’s words to prophets (surah 2:253). Furthermore, Islam rejects the crucifixion of Christ (surah 4:157), His way of salvation by grace (compare surah 35:18 with Matthew 11:28) and His purpose of coming as the only Savior of the human race (surah 5:75). It is not that I had a distorted view of God; I rejected Him intentionally regarding how He revealed Himself. I accepted another god, one made by man.
But God—the one and only living God (Isaiah 45:5)—still loved me! (Romans 5:8). He sought me (Luke 19:10), and He found me (Luke 15:24). And today, so many millions of Muslims awake to the deafening silence of a god who does not speak. It is incumbent that we share the unconditional love of Christ with them.
There is no greater pain, no greater agony in this world than missing the voice of God. Be His ambassador, “as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
This former Muslim is grateful someone shared with me! Life and life eternal will never be the same because of His grace (John 10:10). Truth is immortal. D ©2013 Emir Caner
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Emir Caner is president of Truett-McConnell College, in Cleveland, Ga., and has written or contributed to 18 books, including Unveiling Islam.