James R. White
I met my first Muslims my junior year in college at Arkansas State University when I began working at the student cafeteria. Our university at the time was one of the favored engineering schools in the country, so many men came from such places like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Kuwait to study in the program.
On the first day of my new cafeteria job, I ate dinner with a fellow named Javid from Bangladesh. We introduced ourselves, and we were just past our opening pleasantries when he immediately told me Christians have everything wrong about Islam. This was pre-911, so in a way he was probably correct. I didn’t really know anything about Islam. All of my knowledge about the religion and its followers came from world history books and television news. I just knew Muslims lived far away in the Arabian desert, occasionally hijacked airplanes, and hated Jews.
I quickly warmed up to the guys I worked with. Not all of my Muslim acquaintances were from the desert and none of them cared to hijack anything. They did, however, hate Jews; but thankfully their antisemitism didn’t manifest itself too often in our conversations.
All of the Muslims I knew attended the local mosque in my college town — the only one, to my knowledge, in the state of Arkansas at the time. A handful of the fellows I knew were active “evangelists” for Islam. They consistently invited people to their mosque and were not timid at all with telling the sappy, Red-state evangelical, SBC church kids how stupid they were for believing Jesus was the Son of God. Next to a bitter atheist woman I knew, they were probably the first real challenge to my Christian faith I had encountered.
A few of those more aggressive evangelists would often seek me out to debate (because I sort of liked debating), and I even met with their “youth director” from the mosque once for a couple of hours. When I wouldn’t yield to their claims of Islamic superiority over Christianity, one of the fellows had me read the book, The Bible, The Qur’an and Science written by Maurice Bucaille, a French medical doctor who converted to Islam.
In the book, Bucallie argued that the Qur’an was scientifically accurate while the Bible was not. He utilized liberal higher criticism in order to “debunk” the biblical text, arguing that the texts of the Old and New Testaments had been intentionally and entirely altered. Of course, Bucallie didn’t even come close to applying the same textual standard to the Qur’an, so his entire thesis was faulty at the start.
While I did have some okay resources to counter the claims of Bucallie against the integrity of the Bible like Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict, I didn’t really have any resources that evaluated and interacted with Islam as a whole. This was way before the advent of the internet and on-line apologetic ministries. I didn’t even know about Robert Morey, so I was severely limited. All I had was an extended chapter in Walter Martin’s updated edition of Kingdom of the Cults. I recall writing to CRI for additional materials, and after a month wait, I received some photo-copied articles from one of the old versions of the CRI journal.
We now live in a post-911 world and the access of the internet has brought not only Islam right into our house, but also an overwhelming amount of information evaluating and critiquing the religion. The overwhelming amount of resources a person can obtain makes it difficult to determine what critical information is good or bad.
A thoughtful Christian will want material that is precise, accurate, thorough, and fair when it comes to handling Islamic sources. Additionally, he will want material that is written from a sound, bibilcal position that holds high the infallibility and integrity of Scripture, as well as the Lordship of Christ. James White has provided the Christian church with just such a resource in his book, What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an.
Back in 2006, I had the opportunity to see James debate Muslim apologist, Shabir Ally, down at BIOLA on the transmission of the NT text and the Islamic claims concerning its so-called “corruption.” As I understand it, that debate was the beginning of a ministry shift for James, because he began focusing a lot of his time studying Islam and debating other Muslim apologists.
Over the last 6 or 7 years since that debate at BIOLA, James has debated a number of other Islamic apologists, done countless Youtube videos interacting with the claims of those apologists against Christianity, as well as taught in local churches how Christians can engage Muslims with the Gospel. The fruit of all of that research and labor has been captured for us in an easy accessible book.
He introduces the purpose of his book as seeking to “…focus on what Christians need to understand about the Qur’an’s teachings particularly as it impacts our interactions with Muslims and our thinking on events throughout our world.” [11,12]. He then moves into the first chapter with providing a biographical sketch of the man, Muhammad, and his “receiving” of the Qur’an. James also gives an overview of the so-called “Satanic verses” as well as Muhammad’s “night flight” to Jerusalem upon a winged-steed called the Buraq and his visit to heaven with the angel Gabriel.
After that introduction, the following nine chapters interact with the key disagreements and arguments Muslims have with Christians and Christianity. One of James’s main talking points is his insistence that Muhammad was ignorant of a lot of what the Bible taught and much of his “knowledge” of Christianity came from nomads he may have encountered during his trading excursions. James demonstrates that notion by examining with individual chapters what the Muslims teach regarding the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, Jesus as described in the Qur’an, and Christ’s crucifixion and Resurrection from the dead.
One extremely helpful portion of the book is a comparative study in textual criticism between the Qur’an and the biblical text, especially the NT documents. James answers the charge by Muslim apologists that Christians have “corrupted” the NT text by providing a brief overview of textual criticism as a discipline. His study is not only a good response to Muslim apologists and their claims against the NT, but it is also an encouraging refresher for Christians that gives them confidence in the integrity of their Bibles. Those chapters alone are worth the price of the book.
James utilizes extensive hadith citations from the two most authoritative collections of hadith, Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim that sets the context for a lot of the reason Muslim’s interpret the Qur’an in the manner they do. And he didn’t just quote weird and odd sounding citations from those sources as a means to paint Islam as a goofy religion. He cited extensive sections from them for the purpose of helping Christians understand why Muslims think the way they do. That attention to accuracy was one of the elements I truly appreciated about the book. James interacted with important Islamic literature that we Westerners often have no knowledge of, but it also demonstrates that he takes their faith seriously as he attempts to answer their claims against Christianity.
Included with the book is a detailed glossary that defines frequent Islamic terms, as well as a thorough biography of Islamic literature for additional research. There is also a surah index for discussion of important Qur’anic citations. One other helpful resource is a reading chart James provides for the Qur’an. The Qur’an is not arranged in chronological order like the Bible, but from the longest to the shortest surah. This can make reading the Qur’an unattainable for a lot of people. James prints a chart that lays out the surahs in the most logical and accurate way for those interested in reading the Qur’an themselves.
If you are someone who is like I was and has a close interaction with Muslim acquaintances who speak to you often about their faith, James’s book will benefit you immensely by helping you understand Islam and the significant disagreements Muslims have with Christianity. The book will help shape the most effective way you can engage your Muslim friends with the Gospel. It is a book I can only wish I had when I was in college.