The following transcript is from an Apologetics 315 interview with Jay Smith. Original audio here. Transcript index here. If you enjoy transcripts, please consider supporting, which makes this possible.
BA: Hello, this is Brian Auten of Apologetics 315. Today, I interview Jay Smith. Jay is a Biblical scholar specializing in Islam. He spent much of his life in evangelistic ministry to Muslims in the U.K. He regularly engages in Islamic debates from the Chambers of the Oxford Union to his regular debates at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.
The purpose of this interview is to gain some insights from Jay about Christian interaction with Islam, find out more about what Muslims believe, and ask for his advice for Christians seeking to share with their Muslim friends.
Thanks for joining me today, Jay.
JS: Thank you, Brian. It’s good to be with you.
BA: Now, you, like me, are an American but don’t live in the U.S. So what brought you to the U.K.?
JS: That’s correct. In fact, though I am an American, my accent gives me away. I was not born here nor in the States nor have I lived much in the States. I think, though, I’m 57 years old now, I think I’ve only lived ten years in America.
I was born in India. Grew up there for my first 17 years. When I finished high school there in India—my parents were missionaries, my grandparents were missionaries, so I’m third generation Michigan—I then went to the States in my graduate and post-graduate degrees there.
While I was finishing off seminary, I went to a one-day seminar on Islam and was told back then—this was back in 1981, so that dates me—I was told there were 800 million Muslims, huge number. Didn’t really think much of that, kinda went in one ear, out the other ear. Didn’t pay attention to it. The next two numbers really bothered me. I was told that there were only 1500 Christian missionaries working amongst them, and that these 1500 Christian missionaries made up roughly 2% of all missionaries. That really bothered me, and I remember turning to my wife and I said, ‘Judy, we gotta do something. We’ve got to work with Muslims. We’ve got to engage with this religion that’s growing faster than any other.’ That was in 1981. We’re now in 2011, and it has increased, double that number. Some say 1.6 billion, could be as high as 2 billion. We really got interested in Islamic work back in 1981.
Now, as far as London is concerned, the reason we’re here in London and have been since 1992, almost 20 years now, was because back in 1991, we had just been 5 years in West Africa, Senegal, working with Muslims there in West Africa when we were told that they were having a real problem here in London with radical Muslims, and that the growing radicalization was happening here in London. No one really knew how to contend with it or work with it. My area of expertise was apologetics, and so I said, ‘Well, listen. Let me try London. It’s not a 1040 window. It’s not really an Islamic country per se, but because of the enormous amount of Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshis that are here in Britain—about 70% of the Muslim population here in Britain is made up of people from the Indian subcontinent who are much more radical than, say, your Arab counterparts. Because of that, our mission asked if I’d come and start work here amongst that, so that’s why we came, and that’s what I’ve been doing it for the last 20 years, engaging with the radical Muslims.
I was just on the phone with Anjem Choudary tonight. In fact, we just scheduled a debate for the, looks like the 23rd of this month, we’re gonna be doing a debate, he and I. Probably the most radical Muslim in Britain today. A good friend. I’ve debated his predecessor, Sheikh Umar Bakri Muhammad, twice now. That’s what I’ve been doing—taking on and confronting the radical Muslims here in London.
BA: Well, Jay, some of our listeners have probably heard your many debates with Islamic scholars and your videos on YouTube. They may have heard your recent debate with Khalil Meek. You are also on the Unbelievable radio program. People who have heard you debating would probably want to know what did your Islamic studies entail? Can you tell us a little bit more about your educational background in that regard?
JS: Yeah, I can. What I did initially before I even got into Islamic work was to get a Master of Divinity mostly in apologetics, which is just general apologetics, but it was defending the faith, defending Scripture, defending the existence of God. These kinds of questions. Not geared towards at all Islamic work, but when I went to the seminar back in 1981, it was then that I decided to change and do a second Masters degree in Islamic Studies at Fuller [Theological] Seminary under Dr. Woodberry, and it was there while I did my second Theological Masters that I really geared towards Islamic work. That was in 1980, so you can see for 20,30 years now I’ve been working in Islamic apologetics gearing towards that kind of material.
More recently, I’m now involved in finishing up my doctorate, Ph.D. which was first started here at LST (London School of Theology) and then I took off about seven years and didn’t do any work on it just because of the enormous amount of work that I had to do around the world following 2001, the 9-11 incident. I also changed my doctorate, moved it down to Australia, where it currently is, and I have about another year left on that. I’m studying under Dr. Peter Riddell, who used to be head of LST, now he heads MST, Melbourne School of Theology. That’s geared towards just apologetics and polemics, Islamic apologetics and Islamic polemics.
Now, Brian, I assume your listeners would know what we mean by apologetics and polemics. Would they?
BA: Probably most, but I don’t mind if you go ahead and elaborate on that.
JS: Let me just go ahead and do that, because I find when I go to churches, when I meet new people, they know apologetics. I don’t think anybody has a difficulty with that because we do it. Certainly, there’s lots of schools that teach it. Most schools would either have a course on it.
Apologetics is defending the faith and is much like a football team. You have your defense. You need your defense, so others don’t score against you, and that’s your apologetics and missiology or Christian work, but you don’t win games just with defense. You also need your offense, and so the offense, sometimes certainly in football or soccer, depending on where you are in the world and what the name is for that game—the offense are really the most important players, they’re certainly the highest paid and the best known and they are the ones that score the goals. Now in missiology or evangelistic terms, your offense would be your polemics.
And so apologetics is to defend. Polemics is to go on the offense, and it’s that that we don’t teach anywhere. There’s no school in the world that teaches it, certainly not Islamic polemics or even polemics, and that’s why most people don’t know what that means. And yet when you look back certainly in the Book of Acts and you look back in the career of Paul, Paul is a great apologist. He’s also a great polemicist. He did both end, and he’s probably the greatest example we have. Christ did the same thing. He defended against the Pharisees, but He also went on the offense. In Matthew 23:13-33, you can see where He was very polemical, calling the Pharisees “hypocrites”, “den of vipers”, “white sepulchers”. Certainly we know that when He was in that Temple, He was overturning the tables. There again is another example of polemics. We don’t do that today. We don’t teach it. There’s no school in the world that teaches polemics that I’m aware of, and certainly not Islamic polemics. And there’s a reason for that, and we can talk more about that later.
BA: Well, I think one of the great examples of this in action is your own interaction with Islamic issues at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. So, for those who aren’t familiar, what is that place and what sort of interaction can you describe there?
JS: Hyde Park is the largest park in Central London. It’s right off of Oxford Street which is one of the major shopping streets. It’s right at the end of Edgware Road, which is the straightest and longest straight street, going north and south in London. So it’s a very important place. Buckingham Palace borders it on the south.
On the northeast corner of Hyde Park is a place called Marble Arch. This is where they used to execute their prisoners, and every Sunday, they would execute the prisoners. But before they were executed, they would be given the chance to have their last say, and they would get up on a box and they would do their defense before they would be executed. As a result of that, it became a tradition. After the execution, since this huge crowds had gathered to see the executions, a lot of people started bringing their own boxes and started getting up, especially politicians. They would get up and they would give their platform for democratic vote, and that became a tradition that happened every Sunday. Speaker’s Corner then evolved from these executions. Now, in the beginning, they used boxes, soap boxes, that’s why the whole idea of “get off your soap box”. That’s where it comes from, Speaker’s Corner.
This has been going on for about 150 years, so it’s an institution. It’s been around over a century, obviously, and it’s an institution that is controlled by the Queen herself, and there are only two laws. There are only two rules that govern Speaker’s Corner. One is you may not use violence. You must only speak. And secondly, you must not slight off the queen. Now, both those rules are broken every week. Nonetheless, there’s hundreds, thousands that come to Speaker’s Corner in the summer time. Hundreds that are there right now, and on any given Sunday. Only on Sundays. The whole day is dedicated to freedom of speech. It’s the bastion of freedom of speech anywhere in the world. There’s no other place like it. There is no other Speaker’s Corner. There have been many that have been tried and failed, but Speaker’s Corner is unique.
Now, we go down there every Sunday. I’ve been doing it since 1992, so I’ve almost been doing it for almost 20 years. I get up on a ladder, that’s what we use now, these kitchen ladders. They look like an A-frame. If you go up on YouTube, you can see some videos of us up there. Just put my name up in there—Jay or Smith or Pfander Films—and just take a look at what we are doing up there. It’s exciting. It’s very engaging. It’s the only place on earth where we can say anything we want, and we do.
Just yesterday, in fact, I was at Speaker’s Corner, and I got up there, and I don’t know if you remember what happened of Friday. Nine U.N. soldiers were killed after some of the imams in the mosques there in Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan remonstrated against Terry Jones who had burned the Koran, I don’t know, a week or two ago down there in Florida, and crowds went on a rampage and killed nine U.N. soldiers, wounded eleven others there in Mazar-i-Sharif, and these U.N. soldiers were from, well four of them were from Nepal. They wore burkas. One was a Swedish. Two of them were beheaded.
Of course, I got up on the ladder and I wanted to bring this—and this is what we do—I get up and take what’s on the news and I bring it around to the Gospel. I just got up there and said, ‘Listen, you all heard the news. You all heard what happened. What in the world went wrong, and why are you Muslims killing people for your Koran? Why in the world nine young men, or whatever their ages were, why did you kill nine men who had nothing to do with the burning of the Koran that took place thousands of miles away over in Florida by a pastor who did something he shouldn’t have done. Nonetheless, why do you kill people for doing this?’
And then I asked the question, ‘Do you burn your Korans? Is there any evidence of you burning your Korans?’
Now, bringing that kind of thing at Speaker’s Corner brings a huge crowd, and I had a huge crowd yesterday. Hundreds were there, and the Muslims came all front and center, right in front of the ladder, so I turn to the Muslims and I said pointedly to them, ‘Do you burn your Korans?’ And they said, ‘Absolutely not. We don’t burn our Korans.’ I said, ‘Well, have you looked at your traditions?’
That’s why I went—a place like Speaker’s Corner, you can then just open it up and that’s what happened yesterday. I just opened up to Al-Bukhari, chapter 6, verse 509-510 and I just read it: how at the very beginning, Uthman had all the manuscripts burnt and then I said, ‘Since you burned your Koran, why in the world are you killing others for burning your Korans?’ And then I asked, ‘Should those men have been killed? Should those nine men have been killed, though they had nothing to do with the Koran? They didn’t even know Terry Jones. They are hundreds, thousands of miles away.’
And what was fascinating, Brian, as I said that, about six or seven Muslims started raising their fists and yelling, ‘Yes! Yes! Allahu-akbar! These men should be killed.’ So I said, ‘Do you all agree?’ All the Muslims, there may be about 40 or 50 Muslims there… ‘Do you all agree?’ And almost all of them said, yes, those men should be killed.
So I turned to the crowd. The crowd was huge, and you could see the horror on the faces of the crowd. It was priceless from where I was standing to look out and said, ‘Are you watching this? Are you looking at this? These are Muslims in the middle of London who believe those men should be killed, though they had nothing to do with the burning of the Koran. Can you make sense out of this? Can you see that this is what we have to fight against?’ This anger, visceral anger over someone burning a Koran. Not even looking for the guilty party or if anybody is even guilty. Nonetheless, they would kill anybody. I said, ‘Why is it they should be killed?’ Because they weren’t Muslim.
Now that you can only do at Speaker’s Corner. You can only get that kind of reaction at Speaker’s Corner. And then you also can only get those kinds of crowds, and so we film it. We put that—that one, unfortunately, the fellow that does all the filming wasn’t there, so that didn’t get on film, although the same thing happened back in July when Terry Jones was going to do the same thing, and I did much the same kind of talk back in July. That got filmed and that’s up on YouTube. You can go and see it.
So that’s why we do this. We go down there but not every Sunday do we get on and can polemicize at that extent. I used that one because then when I did come back there, I said, ‘Let’s look and see what we’re supposed to do as Christians. Are we permitted to do that? Do we kill anybody for burning the Bible?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ And I just held the two books up there and I said, ‘Listen, folks,’ and I turn to the Muslims and said, ‘If I burn this Koran right now, what will you do to me?’ They said, ‘We’re gonna kill you. We will kill you.’ I said, ‘Are you all listening to this? I want you to hear this.’ And then I said to the Christians there, ‘If anybody burns this Bible, what will we do to them?’ And the Christians said, ‘Nothing. You can burn as many Bibles as you want. You burn Bibles all the time. It’s not the book that matters. It’s what’s in the book, ‘coz you’ll never destroy the Word of God.’
And just that kind of comparison is what we’re doing. That’s why we’re using this kind of venue to not only show what’s happening in the news and try to bring it down so that people can digest it but then also to feed the Gospel into it, and then we will just be able to open up and say, ‘Isn’t it great that Jesus tells us to put away our swords? Jesus says that those who live by the sword, die by the sword. Jesus is the one who went willingly to the cross, willingly to His death. What a comparison. What a model for today.’
Now that’s where you can really bring it out in a place like the Speaker’s Corner. I don’t know how many people came up afterwards. Just took about an hour to get through all this material and to get the reactions from the Muslims, but so many people came up to shake my hand. People I don’t even know, have never seen before, and probably never will see. But it’s that kind of venue. Speaker’s Corner is a magnet for people from all over the world. From here on out, every May, June, July, August, there’ll be thousands of people who come from many parts of the Muslim world. I would venture to say those who were in the crowd yesterday maybe possibly half of them were Muslim. But the radical ones, the ones who were really confronting me at the front were about 40 or 50, and they’re the ones that I was engaging with the most, because it’s a great place for radical Muslims to come.
The great thing, Brian, about radical Muslims, is they’d tell you exactly what they believe, and they don’t hide anything. Not at Speaker’s Corner. And that’s where you see the real private face of Islam. The real face of Islam. And the real reaction, this kind of reaction, that comes out. And it’s terrific then to put that up alongside how we react as Christians, and how that’s the peace that we have and the model that we have in Jesus Christ. It’s such a contrast to this model.
BA: Well, that’s powerful, and that’s what we want to talk about in this interview is try to give a brief overview of Islam for those who are listening. So, can you, first off, give an outline of the life of the Prophet Muhammad as the founder of Islam?
JS: Yeah, now that’s a loaded question right there and that’s also a loaded statement that you made, because most Muslims who have just heard you say that would say he is not the founder of Islam. Islam has always been. Islam existed from the very beginning. Adam and Eve, they were Muslims. Abraham was a Muslim. Moses. All the prophets were Muslims. Jesus was certainly a Muslim. And they would be very careful not to suggest that Muhammad is the founder. They would say that he is nothing more than the last, greatest, and the one who, basically, created the model that we use today. The universal model that everybody is to follow. So, in that sense, Muhammad is the paradigm for Islam, not the founder, but certainly the paradigm, the model for all Muslims, and because of that, it is absolutely important that they follow him in every detail.
Now, the difficulty with Muhammad is this: I hear lots of people saying today, ‘Define Islam’. Of course, if you’re in Europe, the mantra by the government, by this media, certainly by our academics, and the people on the street—you know, even in the church, I would say—is that Islam is a religion of peace, and the reason we know that is because Muhammad is a man of peace and the Koran is a book of peace, and our neighbors, all the Muslims we know are people of peace.
Now if you start from that standpoint, you need to ask, ‘Well, then what’s happening around the world?’ Well, they would say that those are aberrations.That’s not true Islam. They’re tribalism or they’re cultural adaptations or they’re accretions that had a lot more to do with the cultural milieu that has then imposed itself ‘coz true Islam is a religion of peace. That’s what you’ll hear, most people hear in Europe say. I’m sure your listeners have heard that said over and over again.
So when you ask, ‘Where does this violence that we’re seeing around the world, where does that originate?’ They would say that probably originated in the last century. More than likely most, I hear them say, really is come about since the creation of Israel and that Israel is the problem and that there have been other political situations that have come since then such as Iraq in 1983, before that Afghanistan—I’m sorry 2001, Iraq, more in 2003—and those are the two political situations that are exacerbating and creating radical Islam. So, therefore, they would say that this violent, radical, fundamentalist Islam that we see around the world is a reaction against the political situation created primarily by the United States and Britain.
Now, I hear people say this all the time. My response to that, and the reason why Muhammad is important, is that if you ask any Muslim that question, they’re gonna—I do this whenever I start a debate—a lot of times I turn to my adversary and I say, ‘How do you define Islam? I assume,’ I said, ‘you’re gonna define Islam by following the Qur’an, reading what it says there, and modeling it on the prophet, himself. Are we agreed on that point?’ And every Muslim I debate, whether they are nominal, whether they are radical, whether they are liberal, will have to say yes. And I’ll do the same thing. ‘Look,’ I’ll say, ‘I’m gonna define Christianity as the New Testament modeled on the person of Jesus Christ,’ and I shake hands with them, and once I’ve shaken their hands, I know I won the debate, because I’m gonna hold them accountable to their Koran. I’m gonna hold them accountable to their prophet, ‘coz that’s really how you define Islam.
The liberal are gonna be the easiest to debate because they don’t even know the Koran and they have already given up on it and they know little about their prophet. The nominal Muslims, much the same problem as the liberals. Most of them have come to our country, have come to the West are here for social reasons or for economic reasons and they hardly know much about their religion other than the fact that they do the five pillars. Your radical Muslims, however, are the most exciting ‘coz they’re just like us. They will have read Scripture. They will have understood it. They will have to use it. They will try to assimilate it, and try to apply it, and that’s why they’re so exciting because you know exactly where they’re gonna go with it, and you know where their material comes from. And they are the most consistent with their text.
So to understand real Islam, and this is why people who argue this point, to really understand real Islam, you need to go back to the prophet, himself, and that’s where the rubber hits the road—once you go back to his biography. The biography does not exist in the 7th century, nor does it exist in the 8th century, it only begins to appear in the 9th century with the man named Ibn Hisham. Ibn Hisham was a disciple of Ibn Ishaq who was the first to have written down the prophet’s story, his biography, the Sirat Rasul Allah, that’s the name of the book. He died in 765 A.D. We don’t have as many material. Ibn Hisham, his student, is the material we do have and he picked and chose what he liked and what he didn’t like, and he threw out what he didn’t like and kept what he liked, and that’s what we have today, and that’s the earliest reference we have to the prophet, himself, from within Islamic traditions. The date is 833 A.D. Muhammad died in 732 A.D. You can do your math and see the problem. That’s 200 hundred years after the fact that we finally find the prophet’s life written down.
But it’s not just his life, not just his sirat that’s important, we also need to go then to his sayings: the hadith, and those are introduced by a man named Al-Bukhari in the late 9th century, about 850 A.D. – 870 A.D. Died in 870 A.D. By that time, he has written the most authoritative and the earliest and also the greatest traditions on the hadith. He is sahih. That means he is perfect. After him come others who have compiled the sayings of the prophet, like Sahih Muslim, Ibn Dawud, Tirmidhi, and others. Now, it’s because you need to go back to those traditions, you need to find out who the prophet is, what he said, and it’s that that then defines Islam for the last 1400 years.
So when you look at the prophet’s life and you’ll see what he did, you’ll see that there are three stages in his life. We don’t know of much until he started receiving his revelations and the first of his revelations was received in 610 A.D., and when he started that revelatory period in 610 A.D. to 622 A.D., the first 12 years of his life, you look at that as very peaceful in that there was no warfare. He was under authority of those in Mecca, so therefore, he did not have any political authority. He was persecuted. He did not have many followers. Some say as many as 80, probably as many as 200. And then in 622 A.D., he had the hijra, that’s the exodus. He moved from Mecca to Medina, and for the next two years, from 622 A.D. to 624 A.D., he tried to make a relationship with the Jews. The three Jewish tribes that were there in Medina: the Banu Qaynuqa Family, the Banu Nadir Family, and the Banu Qurayza Family. Those were three Jewish tribes that controlled the commerce. He was brought up there to arbitrate between the Jews and the Ansar, who were the native Medinans who lived there. That lasted for about two years, that relationship, and after two years, it broke down because they refused to accept him as a prophet. Once that happened in 624 A.D., he then turned on the Jews, and then he also started confronting the Meccans. That’s when the battles begin.
The first great battle was the Battle of Badr in 624 A.D. I won’t go into all the details, what happened. What we do know is that he won that battle, came back victorious. 300 hundred men. He defeated 900, and he blamed the Jews for not supporting him. He turned against the Jews, and he threw the first Jewish tribe out and set them packing. He took all their material, all their commerce and gave it to his men. A year later, in 625 A.D., the Meccans came to revenge against that attack. They had the Battle of Uhud. The Battle of Uhud was a stalemate battle. Neither side won and Muhammad came back furious because he was almost killed. He was wounded, gravely wounded, blamed the Jews again. The Banu Nadir was thrown out, set up the Qaybar in the north.
Two years later, in 627 A.D., was a great battle with the Meccans. That was a stalemate. Excuse me. The Uhud Battle actually, the Meccans won. I got that wrong. It’s the third battle in 627 A.D. that was a stalemate battle. That one, when he finally came back, neither side had won that battle. He built a trench so that the Meccans could not come across. He then went back to the Jews, the last remaining Jewish tribe, the Banu Qurayza Family, and after 20 days of confronting them and their garrison right outside of Medina, he then had all 800 of their men executed, had their throats slit in one afternoon, took all the women for concubines for his men, and the children as slaves.
So within five years of his movement to Medina, between 622 A.D. and 627 A.D., Muhammad had eradicated the three great Jewish tribes and from that time on, then the battles began, and you see raid after raid after raid. When you look at his biography, you will see from 624 A.D. specifically right up to 632 A.D., the last eight years of his life, he was involved in 29 battle campaigns, raids, and he planned another 39 on top of that.
So, Brian, you can see the problem. From the very beginning, Islam was housed, was created through violence—modeled on the prophet’s own example. From that time on, you can just look at the rest of history, take the next 1400 years and you will see that Islam moved right across North Africa, right up all the way east to India, and by the end of the 7th century, from India in the East to Spain in the West, that whole swathe of land came under their control, all of it by conquest. This happened primarily under the time of Umar and Uthman and of course then into the Umayyad Caliphate up to the end of the 7th century.
So that land from India to Spain, except for Spain, all that land has remained under the control of Islam, and it all happened within the first 60 years of Islam. All modeled on the prophet’s example. That’s the problem. We’re dealing with a religion that was created in violence, and for 1400 years has continued that violence, and if you really have any doubt where that violence comes from, it is not because of Israel. It’s not because of Iraq. It’s not because of Afghanistan. It’s right based on the prophet’s own example. If you have any doubt, look at and read his biography, and I would suggest to your listeners that probably the best biography to read, the best author is the earliest. Go to Ibn Hisham, himself. Read it. No, you can’t read it in Arabic but read the translation, and the best translation is Alfred Guillaume. You can buy it on Amazon.com. Read his biography, and it is not pleasant reading. Don’t read it before you go to bed. It is full of violence especially from 624 A.D. to 632 A.D., the last eight years.
Now, if that is the case, and he is the greatest of all prophets, he is the model for all of mankind, he is the final prophet, can you then understand why my radical friends and many Muslims that I have come across, when I get back to that—when they read his biography which they are now doing, can you now understand why they are making the decisions they are making today? And it should not surprise us that more and more people are moving and becoming more radicalized. Now, I don’t know where you wanna go with this, Brian, but we can go and just look at the statistics, if you wanna see exactly how radical the rest of the world is becoming, the Muslim world is becoming.
BA: Well, Jay, that’s really enlightening as far as all of this different background on Muhammad. It brings to mind a question that I have in regards to how Christians should use that sort of information. For instance, many people would bring to light Muhammad’s very young wives, and they would try to bring that to light in their interactions with Muslims. I’m wondering if that’s wise or appropriate in their interactions.
JS: No, and I think this gets back to the question of apologetics and polemics. Polemics is going on the offense and that’s when you confront the traditions, you confront the Koran, you confront the prophet’s example. There are very few of us that should ever get into that battle. That is not for the people out there, and I hope the listeners are really listening to me on this.
Please do not use polemics unless you’re trained to. Unless you have had the training, you’ve had the background, ‘coz once you start using polemics, you’re gonna do two things. First of all, you’re gonna lose your audience, more than likely and you’re gonna enrage the Muslims. They get angry when you use polemics. If you have any doubt, just go up on YouTube and look and see what happens when I use polemics every Sunday, and I do it all the time ‘coz that is my job. That is what I’m gifted for. That is what I’ve been trained to do. I’ve had lots of experience. I’ve been doing this, I’ve been working with Islam for 29 years, almost 30 now, coming up on my third decade. Those of us who are trained to do it, let us do it. That’s not your job.
Every Christian—every Christian is given the responsibility to defend their faith and that’s why I hope the listeners really get this. Apologetics is all you’re called to do, and apologetics basically is to take the questions they’re throwing at you and respond to them. And there’s myriads of questions that are coming from their end, that’s why I love Muslims, because they’re the first to throw questions at me and at you. You’ll find this. You’ll find this as soon as you get involved with Muslims, as soon as you engage with them, whether they are liberal, whether they are moderate, whether they are radical, all you need to do when you find a Muslim either in your home, your neighborhood, or your work, at school, certainly all over Britain, and I don’t know where all the listeners are listening to this, but here in London, we have a million Muslims in London alone. Half of all the Muslims in Britain live in London, and what we’re finding is as soon as you go up to Muslims, and I tell my students to do this, I say, ‘Listen, go up and tell a Muslim that you believe that Jesus is God, not Lord. Don’t use the word, lord, ‘coz they’ll think anybody who’s in authority is a lord or lord is an authority. They won’t understand the significance.’ Say, ‘Jesus is God and the Bible is the Word of God’. See how they react. That’s all you have to say.
If Jesus is God, and the Bible is the Word of God, you have an opinion. Now you ask that to any secular student on a university campus or any secular student walking down the road and they’ll probably just walk away from you, looking at you rather askance wondering who you are and probably have something to say to you with Jesus’ name in it as an accusation, but you say that to a Muslim and see how they react. And we find Muslims almost always have an opinion on just those two comments, and that can open you up right into three hours of discussion, because most every Muslim I meet has an opinion about Jesus Christ. It’s not the Jesus I know, and their opinions are gonna be full of all kinds of accusations concerning the Trinity (1+1+1=1), the christology of Jesus, His divinity, the problem of the crucifixion, and certainly they’re gonna confront your Bible. They’ll have all kinds of problems with your Bible. That’s why I love Muslims, because as soon as you engage with them, you can spend three to four hours talking about Jesus and the Bible. I can’t think of two better subjects to talk about than Jesus and His word. That’s why Muslims are the easiest to work with. They, by far, are the most, probably the easiest to open up into a conversation about the Gospel. And if you don’t introduce it, they will. We find this all the time.
So when it comes to using polemics, I would just caution, please don’t use polemics. These kinds of questions about Muhammad’s wives, it’s not gonna help your conversation. You don’t need to get into that. The only time I even talk about Muhammad’s wives is that they make claims about Muhammad—how great he was and how he’s a great paradigm for today, and how he’s a great model for today, then on that occasion, I can then say, ‘Well, I have some problems with Muhammad. Let me just give you a few. Are you willing to hear that?’ And that’s when I go probably talk about Aisha or Zaynab or Hafsa or some of the other problems, but primarily Aisha and Zaynab are the two that are the most difficult for the Muslims to answer.
BA: You talked about how Muslims are going to want to emulate Muhammad as the prophet, as the paradigm of how they should be living, but you also mentioned there the five pillars of Islam. Maybe we could talk about what those are and what role they play in the life of the Muslim.
JS: Yeah, when you look at the five pillars, Brian, it’s very important to understand that the five pillars—the name they call it in Arabic is deen—these are the five practices that every Muslim must do. The first one is the Shahada. The Shahada would be the statement of faith that every Muslim must say. If you convert, you have to use that statement and it’s very simple: “There’s one god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.” That’s all it is. It’s very simple. It’s the monotheistic creed with the second part of it, and that is the application of Muhammad as his vicegerent and he is the model. That’s why whenever you look at the Koran, you will see he almost always accompanies Allah, and in many cases, he is even superior to Allah because he is the one that everybody must obey and must emulate since he is the representative of Allah on earth.
Most Muslims I meet, whenever you talk about the Shahada, they would say that this is something that has been around since the very beginning. The difficulty even when you look at the Koran, you won’t find those two phrases in one case together. They are separated, which seems to suggest that this view of God as one was not just introduced by Muhammad, it was there in the central part of Arabia long before Muhammad was there, and this is one of the problems with their history. They believe Muhammad introduces into the central part of Arabia called The Hijaz. There have been many books written showing that monotheism was there. Christians were monotheistic, the Jews were there long before the Muslims, and of course, there were many monotheistic tribes. In fact, the majority of people in the central part of Arabia before Muhammad was born were monotheistic, so that’s a misnomer.
So the oneness of God, though it’s part of the Shahada, the difficulty with that is that it seems to suggest that it was created as a polemic against Christianity, and that’s what most Muslims would agree. It was suggested because Christianity had corrupted the monotheism by allowing a prophet to be elevated to the status of divinity. That’s why when you look in the Koran—now I’m gonna give you some references here—when I say use the references, let me make a caution. I would give you surah and ayah. Surah means book. Ayah means verse. Now the numbers I give you may not correspond with the Koran that you have in your hand, because the real problem with English Korans is depending on who the translator is, they have different versification, so when I give you the number of chapter and verse, chapter and verse, be aware of the fact that it may not be the very verse that you’re looking at. Look forward and backwards about five verses, because I use Hilali and Khan, which are the two most authoritative translators. They also agree with Yusef Ali. So Yusef Ali, Hilali and Khan all have the same versification, and so I’ll be quoting from those whenever I give chapter and verse.
And to look at the problem of Jesus as God, since the Shahada really confronts that issue, you need to look at five verses:
1. Koran 4:171 which is very clear that God does not have a son.
2. Koran 5:72 that God cannot have a partner
3. Koran 5:75 that God does not eat
4. Koran 5:116 that God does not share his authority with any other. This is basically, in this case, it would be certainly Mary and Jesus
5. Koran 6:101 where God does not have a wife
All of these are confronting that Jesus is divine, confronting that God can become a man, confronting that God could eat or have a wife or that Mary would ever share in His glory, suggesting that she is part of the Trinity. And they are all confronting Christianity. They are all confronting our view of Jesus Christ, and they’re all lifting up the fact that God is one and He is totally distant, totally other, always stays in Heaven, and never comes to earth, never takes on human form. So that’s why the Shahada is right at the very front. It’s very important because of that.
Secondly comes the salat, which would be the prayers. They pray five times a day, once in the morning, once in the afternoon, once just before sundown, and then two more prayers are tagged on in the evening: once after sundown and then once right before they go to bed. So three prayers in the evening, once in the morning, once in the afternoon. Now when you look in the Koran, you won’t find five prayers. You will only find three prayers: once in the morning, once in the afternoon, once in the evening. And it’s fascinating that that should be the case because as every Muslim knows that you must pray five times a day. So where did the other two evening prayers come from? You can’t find them in the Koran. They don’t exist. There are only six references to these prayers in the Koran. These last two aren’t out there, so where did they get these five prayers? Well, Muslims won’t know that answer. We know the answer. They are first referred to as five prayers in Al-Bukhari. As we said earlier, Al-Bukhari died in 870 A.D., so these prayers are introduced in the late 9th century, these last two prayers, which suggests therefore that Muhammad never knew about these five prayers even though the story exists when he received these five prayers, called The Miraj, which is referred to in Surah 17:1.
What we do know is that Muslims must pray these five times and I love to really confront Muslims on these whenever they bring them up, and the I say, ‘Isn’t it interesting? You can only pray these five times. We can pray anytime we want. In any direction, at any time, and in any language.’ Which seems to suggest the prayers we’ve got are by far much greater because we can do thousands of them. We can be praying all day long. We don’t have to pray towards Mecca. God’s everywhere. He’s omnipresent, which means that He can be in any direction and the great thing about our God, He can speak every language. We don’t have to pray them in Arabic, following a routine or ritual because their five prayers are straight out of the Koran, and they always start with the Bismillah, which is right there in the first chapter, chapter one or surah one. And when you look at Surah 1, you will see that it’s only seven verses long. It’s very quick, and they always start with that prayer. The last verse, seven, is the prayer that we cannot pray and that’s why it’s called the cursing prayer because it curses Christians and Jews, those who are in anger are the Jews and those who go astray are the Christians. ‘Thank God, we are Muslims. We do not in anger like those who are at anger as the Jews are or those who go astray as the Christians’. So Christians need to be careful about inculcating these prayers or even using these prayers when they’re trying to acculturate or when they’re trying to come alongside Muslims. Most Muslims know that this is the cursing prayer against Jews and Christians.
Let’s move on to the third and come back to this. The third pillar is what we know as the sawm or Ramadan fast. This is a fast that they do once a month [sic], the lunar month, so it’s not quite as long as our month, and they do it as a unified body. It follows a lunar calendar, so it keeps moving up about 11 to 13 days every year. It keeps moving its way around the calendar, but they must start the fast right there when the sun comes up. An imam or a sheikh will go outside and will put a black and a white thread up and when he can finally distinguish between the two colors, that’s the sun coming up, then he tells the muezzin who is the caller who goes up into the minaret and he calls the beginning of the fast. That starts right through the day, and in the evening, as the sun’s setting, he goes out with the two threads again and if he no longer can distinguish between the two, he calls the muezzin and the muezzin gets up and does the Bismillah and they break the fast, eat a date, and then they drink a very sweet, sweet tea called the ataya and then they start feasting for the rest of the evening. They eat more in the month of Ramadan than the entire other twelve months of the year.
Now, that fast, interestingly, is very similar to the Jewish fast, and you can see that these are borrowed from these areas.
The fourth pillar would be zakat, which is tithe that needs to be paid. It only comes up to about 2.5%. It’s not very much at all compared to the 10 % that we have to give, and what’s interesting is when the Muslims started the Umayyad Caliphate under the auspices even of the first rightly guided caliphs, there was taxes that were imposed on Christians, primarily Jews and Zoroastrians and Christians, called the jizya tax and also the kharaj tax. The jizya tax was a tax that was imposed on that which you own and the kharaj tax was imposed on Christians and Jews and Zoroastrians on the land they owned. So one was a land tax. The other was just a wealth tax. And when you add those two taxes together, they equal about 20% of what people owned, whereas the Muslims only had to pay 2.5%. So many Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians were converting to Islam so they won’t have to pay these high taxes in the first century of Islam. It became such a big problem that by 705 A.D., in the early 8th century, Al-Hajjaj who was the governor of Iraq under the auspices of Abd Al-Malik who was the caliph from 685 A.D. to 705 A.D., the great caliph who built the Dome of the Rock, so many Jews and Christians were converting to Islam that they weren’t getting enough money in the treasuries that they stopped all conversions. The reason was ‘coz these people wanted to stop paying so much money, and that’s why conversions at the very beginning of Islam were induced for financial gain.
The fifth pillar would be the Hajj. The Hajj would be the pilgrimage that every Muslim must do once in their lifetime. Only once is required, where they would go to Mecca. You wear izhar, the white cloth that would be universal so everybody looked alike. There was no difference in rank or color or culture. And then they would have anywhere from three to six days of different routines that they would go through. They would go around the Kaaba, which is that square building that supposedly was rebuilt by Abraham in 1900 B.C. along with his son, Ishmael.
Now that whole Hajj, the routines around it, if you look at them, you will see that they have very little religious value. Why must they go around seven times around the Kaaba? Ask a Muslim. They won’t know. After that, they run between two hills called Al-Marwah and Al-Safa hills, and there’s a long corridor that they went back and forth seven times again. Why and what is the significance of those two hills, Al-Marwa and Al-Safa? Muslims don’t know, although there has been a tradition that suggest that it was where Hagar went with Ishmael and when she could not find water, she ran from one hill, couldn’t find water there, ran to the other hill, couldn’t find water there, when she came back to where Ishmael was sitting, the water was bubbling out of the ground, and that created the Zamzam well, which is the Zamzam well that is still there today to commemorate that event.
Then they go out into the plains called Al-Arafat, called the Mina Tower, and then they do their sacrifices and then they come back to these jamarats, these are three pillars that are raised out of the sand, and they take anywhere from 7 to 49, any groups of 7 stones, and they throw them at these jamarats. When you ask a Muslim why they are throwing stones at these jamarats, they will say ‘coz they are the devil. The difficulty is I don’t recall anywhere in either Scriptures are there being three devils.
So what this suggests, all these rituals—going around seven times around the Kaaba, running back and forth between these two hills, going out into the plains, sacrificing a goat, throwing a stone at the jamarats—seem to suggest that these are pagan rituals, pre-Islamic pagan rituals that have been incorporated into Islam and the meaning has changed. There’s some reasons why we say that, there’s no time to get into it right now. That’s a whole historical study. We’re now confronting that because that has huge ramifications for, as far as every Muslim is concerned, the fifth pillar which all Muslims must participate in. I hope that helps.
BA: So we’ve got the five pillars or practices: the Shahada, the prayers, fasting, alms-giving, the pilgrimage. What do you think are the key worldview points that Christians should be concerned with when they are evaluating Islam or when they’re interacting with muslims?
JS: Well, when you look at those five pillars, the thing you could do as a Christians is ask them why must they do those five pillars. What’s the whole purpose? Now, they will say it’s to obey. ‘We’re told to do so because a Muslim—and the word, Muslim, or the word, Islam, means obedience and submission. Muslims like today, especially since 9-11, would like to say, ‘No, it means peace.’ Peace is salaam. Salaam is a first form verb. Islam is a fourth form verb. So it does not mean peace. Anybody that knows Arabic knows that you can’t impose a fourth meaning onto a first form or vice-versa as they would like to dot—it’s only Muslims who don’t understand Arabic, which is the vast majority of Muslims, 85% of Muslims do not speak Arabic.
Now getting back to these five pillars, why then do they do that? A Muslim would say ‘It’s ‘coz we submit. We obey. That’s why we do it.’ And then when you ask them why are you to submit and do these five pillars? These don’t make sense? They will say, ‘Well, it’s to receive baraka.’ Baraka means to receive blessing. What that means is when a Muslim is born, they are born with two recording angels, an angel on either shoulder. They sit on the shoulder throughout their lives. One is on the right should, the other is on the left shoulder. And the angel sitting on the right shoulder records their good deeds. The angel sitting on the left should records the bad deeds. And so what you do is you work off, basically, you create as much as credit as possible on your right shoulder so that when you die, the two records are then taken and they are put on a scale and they are weighed. If the good deeds outweigh the bad deeds, only then do you have the right to walk across a razor-sharp bridge, called the As-sirat, and as you’re walking across this razor-sharp bridge, called the As-sirat, Allah could throw you down to hell at anytime.
But the whole premise of trying to get that baraka is to do these five pillars, and so, therefore, everything is geared towards working off your salvation. So, what I say to Christians is whenever you are talking through this, ask them, ‘How can five prayers a day get you to Heaven? And what’s the purpose of five prayers?’ They will say, ‘The five prayers is to show our obedience.’ Again, ‘We’re told to do so. We obey.’ I say, ‘Well, isn’t that interesting? As a Christian, we don’t have to obey or submit that way. We pray knowing that God answers our prayer. We pray because we assume that there is a relationship with God and that God, when we supplicate, He then responds to our supplication. He responds to our questioning. That shows relationship.’
Ask a Muslim if they can do that. Now, some Muslims here in the West say, ‘Yes, yes, we do that as well,’ but ask them in the Qur’an does it say so? And if they yes, that God responds to their prayers and that says that you have a relationship with God, which means God can be limited. Now they will recoil when they realize what they’ve done. Muslims haven’t really thought that through. There’s no reference anywhere of a relationship with Allah, of a give-and-take, back-and-forth God responding to your prayers.
And there’s no reference anywhere of people who do the fast, for instance. That’s another good one to talk about. Why do they do the fast? Again, to receive the baraka, the blessing that the angel records on your right shoulder, building up your credit. But ask a Muslim, ‘Do you feel any different after the fast? Do you feel any closer to God?’ They will look at you quizzically. For them, there is no reference point of getting closer to God. Nobody can get closer to God. God is always totally other, totally distant. He is a master. We’re nothing more than slaves. We are abd Allahs, slaves of God. Abd is is the Arabic word for slave. We are nothing more than abds, and of course, the name that they use is Abdul and that’s why so many young boys are called Abdul-rahman, Abdul-rahim. Slave, one of the 99 names of God, Rahman, Rahim.
Now if this is the case, you are a slave of God, you don’t have any relationship with God. A fast as they know it gets them no closer to God, but we, as Christians—and this is a great way to really reach over to them—we as Christians, when we pray and when we fast, we do so because we know God’s gonna respond to us. We get a relationship with Him. When we fast, we know that that fast and that praying is not only gonna increase that relationship, but there’s gonna be a solution at the end of it, which suggests a huge different belief and who God is compared to their god. This is a great way to get into the whole category of who God is.
For the Muslim god is Allah. He is very distant. The word, Allah is generic. It just means ‘the god’. Nothing personal about him. Nothing unique about that name. That’s pre-Islamic. It’s pagan. There are sources that take us back and show us that that god is an Arab pagan god. Allah is—the documentation that we see that goes back to at least 4th century A.D. shows that his popular name is Allah but his formal name is Hubal. When we look at Hubal, we see that he had three daughters, Al-Lat, Al-Manat, and Al-Uzza. These are known as the Three Cranes or the three goddesses, and they are referred to in Surah 53. Right there from [verses] 10 to 20. You will see those references to those three names, and those are the three goddesses which make up the Satanic verses, which were made popular by Salman Rushdie. Satanic verses are well-known in Muslim theology, and they’re found right there in Surah 53, which suggests therefore that Allah, his popular name, who is the same as Hubal, that Allah and Hubal have three daughters which then completely confounds the idea that Allah can be monotheistic ‘coz how can you have God who is one but he has three daughters.
Now I like to throw this at Muslims. I don’t know if your listeners should go into that detail or into that depth but it’s a great way to flesh out the problem even with the god they call is one. How could God be one if he has three daughters? And how can he be supreme? By virtue that if he has three daughters, he must have had a wife, which is exactly what the Koran says he cannot have in Surah 6:101. Now, I leave that up to the Muslims to try to come up with a response. I have yet to see a Muslim who can respond to those kinds of questions, but these are ways you can engage, show that we are talking about a totally different God, a God who not only is omnipotent—our God, He is omnipotent. He is omnipresent. He is omniscient, but He also comes to earth. Our God can walk and talk in the cool of the day as He did with Adam and Eve. Our God can eat with Abraham as He did in front of the temple of Memra. Our God can wrestle with Jacob. Our God can also be there in front of the children of Israel as a pillar of fire at night and a cloud during the day. That’s our God. Our God comes to earth over and over again. These are what we call theophanies. Our God can relate to us and come and take on human form, and if He did it from the beginning, if He did it right there with Abraham, if He did it with Moses, if He did it with Jacob, if He did it with the children of Israel, then our God can certainly do it 2,000 years ago and spend 33 years on earth. We got a big, big God. Great God. And that’s why it’s so good to just bring this material and just feed the Gospel into it.
We find with Muslims all the time, as soon as we start talking about God and we start talking about this relationship, which the five pillars are used as a means of taking us away from God, submitting to Him as a slave does to a god, there’s nothing that suggests anything to do with a relationship in any of those five pillars. They’re ritualistic. They’re done the same way everyday. There’s no increase in relationship with God after them or before them. Completely lost, and yet every Muslim, when you really get down to it, when you talk to them and have a good relationship, they love this idea of God having a relationship with man, which is unique to Christianity and Judaism, and it’s a great discussion. I hope that helps.
BA: These are great points for interacting with Muslims and kind of unpacking their worldview and questioning their concepts at its heart. You talked about earlier different things that Christians may say that would be the wrong direction to go, so could you speak to common mistakes that Christians would make when speaking to their Muslim friends?
JS: Yes, let’s talk about some of the mistakes, and I think I’ve already mentioned one and that is, don’t sit there and confront their Koran or their prophet. Stay away from those two areas. Don’t go into polemics. Stay away from polemics unless you know what you’re doing. Let those of us who are professionals, who have been trained to do so, let us do that. That’s really our job, and there should be very few of us who get engaged at that level. There’s only very few of us.
Those of us who go engage in polemics have the same responsibilities that, say Paul did, and remember there’s only one Paul, and he’s the only one that I know that really went and used polemics as an art form. He could do so because he understood it. He knew their Scriptures. God chose him for that reason. God chose him out of Judaism as a very learned man who knew his Scriptures. So be careful.
Don’t you get into polemics. That’s a first no-no, unless you’ve been trained. Once you’ve been trained, then fine, but realize, once you use polemics, you can be attacked. You’re gonna be confronted. They’re gonna level and they’re gonna start gunning for you. That happens all the time, and I’ve had more people that I’ve trained up, that once we start using polemics, the first time they get hit or punched or the first death threat they get, they just walk away. They don’t want to have anything to do with Islam anymore and that’s tragic. That’s why I say, don’t get into this area unless you know what you’re doing.
Apologetics, though, is brilliant. Apologetics you have all the right to do, and you will get a lot of questions thrown at you that you have to have answers for.
Now, another no-no: guys don’t talk to girls. That’s just common sense, especially in the Muslim context, where you’re in their area where they feel comfortable. That’s not always the case here in Britain. Here in Britain, guys gonna have to talk to girls, especially if your students on university campuses. That’s not a problem. At Speaker’s Corner, guys and girls talk all the time. When we have debates, we have girls and guys engage all the time. So in the West, you can get away with it because most Muslims in the West understand the innuendos, the cultural milieu here, and they understand we allow our girls all their freedoms. In fact, sometimes we even push that point. We’ll say categorically that our girls will not sit at the back, our women will not sit at the back. They’ll sit with the guys. We don’t have any problem with that. We don’t see them as sexual objects. We let them uncover their heads, and we also let them dress modestly, but we let them choose and, we also let them engage in question and answer at the end of debates. We also even let them debate. We’ve had our first debate last year between two women. So at this level, it is a no-no but it can also be used as a way to preach the Gospel, to show the equality we have with our women.
Another no-no, I guess, or something you just need to be aware of, be aware not to let Muslims dominate the conversation. We have a real problem as Christians. We’re always letting them dominate. We let them gear and engage, because we’re so fearful that we’ll hurt their sensibilities. You need to get beyond that fear. When they say something that is wrong, especially when they misquote our Scriptures or they make a suggestion about Jesus Christ that’s totally in error, you need to confront that. You have all the right in the world to say, ‘That is absolutely wrong. That is not representative of Jesus Christ. Can you source it? Can you show me in Scripture where Jesus ever said that or did that or could you even open up the Bible? Let’s read it.’ And you know what you’ll find? They misquote Scripture right, left, and center. More than that, they don’t want to quote it correctly. So we have all the right to confront them at that level, but don’t let them dominate. Make sure you control the conversation and make sure you always weave in the Gospel into every question, and they’re so easy to do. That’s why I love Muslims, because they ask the right questions. They usually always tend to gear the questions around Jesus Christ and the Bible itself.
Now there are many other no-nos I can get into but this would take all night, but I hope those are something to start off with. I think also that if you’re going to be talking, make sure you always keep your Bible with you. Make sure you support everything you say in Scripture. Quote it. Look at the context. The Bible is full of context. The Koran is not.
You will find in almost every case, when you get into discussions with Muslims, they will never have the Koran. We don’t find any Korans in Speaker’s Corner. We have to supply all the Korans ‘coz Muslims don’t read it, and if they did, they don’t understand it. Try reading the Koran and you’ll see why. Much of the Koran is just confusing. It doesn’t take you anywhere. It doesn’t lead you anywhere. It flits and floats all over the place. Stories don’t begin. Stories don’t end. There’s only one complete story in the entire Koran anyway, and that’s Surah 12, the story of Joseph. So you can see why it’s even confusing to the Muslims. We are the ones who bring the Korans, and those of us who do polemics actually engage with them at that level in the Koran. But you bring your Bibles. Make sure that you don’t put your Bibles on the ground.
Feel free at all times to write in the Bible. I know many people say don’t write in the Bible. Please do ‘coz you need to make sure that we tell Muslims and show them what the importance of the Bible is and the fact that we study it and the fact that you can study it and you can read it in any language. For the Muslims, they can only read their Koran in Arabic. That’s the true Koran. Anything else is a meaning of the interpretation of the Koran. It’s not the true Koran. The English Koran is not the Koran, they will say.
Now there’s ways to answer that and there’s great ways to engage at that level, but we can get in that later, but I hope those are some areas to be careful of.
BA: Okay, good. Now for those who really have the heart to pursue Islamic studies and maybe in the similar way that you have, what sort of advice would you wanna give them. I’m thinking maybe of seminary students or people who are gonna do mission work and they would need to study this area. What’s your advice?
JS: Oh, I’d say, the best way, the first thing anybody who wants to get into Muslim work is to find a Muslim. Find your local Muslim. They’re everywhere. Even in America. They are there. They tend to be in large cities, but I’m sure, if you’re in Europe, you could find Muslims. They are everywhere. They are all around us. Get to know them and ask the two questions: I believe in Jesus as God, and I believe the Bible is the Word of God. Do you have an opinion?
Once you do that, you will find out what their questions are. Immediately, you will find out all kinds of questions, and then what is important about that is you could take those questions and you engage them at that level. That means you may not know the answer. My favorite phrase is ‘Give me a week.’ That gives you one week to go back and find the answer. Come back online. Go up on the Internet. Look at answering-islam.org. That’s the biggest website that really answers almost every question. It has 80,000 pages put up by a good friend of mine, Jochen Katz. All my material is up there as well. Almost every question is answered up there, so you can find all your answers there on answering-islam.org.
You don’t even have to go on answering-islam.org. Just answer the questions they’re asking and make sure that you’re answering the questions they’re asking, not ones that you heard elsewhere, so that you gear your answers to the person, that individual. It may take a few weeks to get used to it. It may take a few months. What you will be doing is you will be answering not only their questions, but you’ll be building up your apologetics. What I find, once you learn the answer, you’ll never forget it. I remember a question that was asked of me 20 years ago. I still remember the face of the person who asked me that question. It’s indelibly inked in my mind, and so that’s probably the best thing to do.
Now, as far as formal training, find out where your Bible schools are. Find out the seminaries that teach it. Here in Britain, there aren’t very many. That’s unfortunate. There’s only one school that has a formal degree in Islamics and that’s London School of Theology, and I’m not even sure how much longer that’s gonna continue. It’s one of the tragedies that we have here in the Christian world that we have lots of schools that teach apologetics, lots of schools that teach systematics, and almost all the systematics are still based on the Catholic-Protestant debate that’s been around for 500 years. We’re not fighting the Catholics anymore. That was back in the Reformation, and yet no one’s paying attention to Islam, the fastest growing religion in the world. It’s gonna surpass us within nine years, by 2020. It will be the largest religion, both Catholics and Protestants together, it’ll surpass us. And yet we still don’t have schools of Islamic apologetics nor do we have any school anywhere in the world of Islamic polemics, so you’re gonna have a hard time finding schools that actually teach it. And I think the problem is people just don’t feel that it’s worthwhile, I guess that there’s a huge amount of fear that goes along with it. We are fearful of engaging with Islam at that level, and that’s why schools will not put it on their curriculum. They’re scared that when Muslims see it, and then they will target those schools. And there’s a pervasive fear that just incapacitates us and paralyzes us from teaching it. So much of the teaching they’re gonna have to do will have to be self-taught.
Now there are schools in America that I know do teach it. I know Biola now teaches it. I know Fuller Seminary where I got my degree teaches it. There are other schools that you could go to as well, but they tend to be at a very tertiary level. Nothing really in-depth, so the best way is to find out what the questions are and just answer them yourself.
We teach people here, and I go all over the world teaching. I’m teaching now at Midwestern Bible Theological Seminary, a Southern Baptist seminary, and I do modules where I come and teach a week at a time. Very intensive training, and then I leave. So that’s ongoing, and that will continue but there are very few of us that can teach that kind of material. In fact, I can only think about a handful of us who can really teach Islamic apologetics and polemics, and we have to be careful where we teach that schools don’t have it advertised so that Muslims don’t see. We kinda have to come in, teach it, and then leave, but hopefully that will change. I would love to see schools coming up to the plate and actually starting to engage at this level.
We need to absolutely, Brian, we need to have Islamic apologetics. The reason why is this: go up on YouTube and just look at the number of videos up there that are attacking Christianity. The last time we looked, we found 43,000 videos that are attacking Christianity—43,000 videos. This is done in 2006, so we’re talking about five years ago. Back in 2006, they counted 43,000 videos singularly attacking Christianity, then they went on to find out that almost all of them, there were few by atheists, but almost all of them were by Muslims. Then they wanted to find out how many videos were actually confronting Islam. They could only come up with 17. There’s many more now. That was in 2006. 43,000 versus 17. Now the number of videos attacking Christianity has almost quadrupled since that time, but how many videos are up there confronting Islam? Very few. I’m one of the few that has videos up there. I have 67 up there that are confronting Islam, but we just do not have anybody who’s capable or able or schools that are teaching this level of Islamic apologetics, and I think it’s a crying shame. It’s a crying shame.
Islam has huge schools especially in Pakistan where they are graduating 1.7 million […] students who are learning to not only confront other religions, but they are learning how to confront other political systems as well. We have nothing at that level, nothing to beginning to be at that level. We’ll leave it there. I hope that helps.
But again, I would end by saying get to know a Muslim, find out what they’re asking, and find the answers.
BA: Well, Jay I appreciate so much your heart and your ministry in this area. I also know you’ll be in London for the upcoming Premier Unbelievable Apologetics Day Conference on May 14, so for those who are listening who may be in the area, I would encourage them to come out and hear more. Do you plan to be in the States anytime soon, Jay?
JS: Ah, yes, I just came back from the States doing this debate. I will be back there in June again teaching in Kansas City. In fact, I’ll be there for four months in the fall—August, September, October, and November. I’ll be there traveling all over America teaching, speaking, and also I’ll be in lots of churches in California especially. I’d be headquartered in Pennsylvania, but if people in the United States, they wanna come and hear me speak, just throw me an email and I’ll tell them where I’m gonna be.
BA: Finally, you mentioned your YouTube channel there, and we’ll link to that on our blog today, but what was the other resource that you would want to point people to?
BA: Excellent. Well, Jay, it’s been a real pleasure. Thanks for joining me for this interview.
JS: Terrific. Thank you.