by Dr. David Garrison
Ten-year-old Nadia wasn’t surprised when her father signed her marriage contract nor when, two years later, she had to move in with her 20-year-old husband. Nadia’s experience was not unusual in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nor was it unusual for her husband to become an opium addict – Iran has the highest rate of drug addiction in the world. Two of Nadia’s brothers had succumbed to drugs; one was sentenced to prison for killing a man in a drug-related dispute, the other committed suicide.
It was around this time that Nadia’s cousin who had recently become a Christian quietly gave her a New Testament in Farsi, the Persian language. Nadia prayed, “Allah, show me your truth.” As she read it, Nadia said, “I felt my heart open like an old door. Inside I felt very warm and thirsty. It was like drinking cool water, and I wanted to drink it all. From that time on,” Nadia recalled, “Jesus’ work started in me. It was a strange happiness like nothing I had ever known.” Soon afterwards Nadia led her husband and three children to faith in Jesus Christ.
What Nadia experienced has been repeated among thousands of men and women throughout Iran and across much of the Muslim world.
Something is Happening!
What is happening in this ancient Muslim community was once unthinkable in the House of Islam. The House of Islam, a name Muslims have long used for a sprawling religious empire that encompasses nearly one in four persons on earth, is now home to a growing number of Muslim movements to Christ.
Since its inception 14 centuries ago, Islam has spread from the deserts of Arabia into virtually every country on earth. Today Islam is the fastest growing major religion in the world, adding more than the population of Canada to its ranks each year! Over the centuries Islam has assimilated tens of millions of Christians into its numbers. By the year 2050 some demographers predict that Islam will surpass Christianity as the world’s largest religion.
It was with this knowledge that I began a study of Muslim movements to Christ in 2011. I wanted to know when, where, and how any movements to Christ occurred from the Muslim religion. With a working definition of a movement as “at least 1,000 baptisms in a given Islamic community over a timespan of two decades or less” I began a survey that would take me a quarter of a million miles through the House of Islam into dozens of movements. Along the way I collected more than 1,000 testimonies of Muslims who have turned from Islam to faith in Jesus Christ.
A Historic Absence of Movements
Since the birth of Islam in AD 622, Christians have attempted to halt the Islamic advance with military might, apologetics, and an array of missionary efforts. They have had few little results.
Searching the pages of history during the first seven centuries of Muslim-Christian interchange reveals only three movements of Muslims to Christ. The first appeared in 982 in ancient Nisibis (on the modern-day Turkish-Syrian border) with 12,000 Arab Muslims converting to Byzantine Christianity. Three centuries later, two missionaries, William of Tripoli in the Levant and Conrad of Ascoli in Libya, reported movements of 1,000 and 6,400 baptisms respectively.
Over the next five centuries Christianity around the world failed to register a single Muslim movement to Christ. All the while Islam continued to grow exponentially, largely at the expense of traditionally Christian populations.
The Tide Turns
The tide began to turn in the late 19th century. In Indonesia 10-20,000 Muslims left their religion and were baptized into the Christian faith through the ministry of Sadrach Surapranata, the Apostle of Java. Soon after, an Islamic sheikh in Ethiopia named Zakarias converted to Jesus and led 7,000 co-religionists to faith and baptism. Then, in the latter decades of the 20th century, between 1967 and the year 2000, hundreds of thousands of Muslims converted to Christianity in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iran, Algeria, and Central Asia.
A Wind in the House of Islam
As Christianity moves into the 21st century, the swelling tide of movements has accelerated. Just since the year 2001, we can now document an additional 72 movements of Muslims to Christ. Each of these movements has recorded at least 1,000 baptisms, some of them tens of thousands. Details of these movements are found in my book A Wind in the House of Islam. Today, with total numbers registering in the millions, these contemporary movements of newly baptized believers constitute the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history.
Interviews reveal multiple factors that have led to today’s historic movements. Undergirding each of these factors has been the faithful prayers of thousands of Christians around the world.
Bridges of God
It is no coincidence that more than 80 percent of all the movements of Muslims to Christ in history have occurred in the 23 years since Christians around the world began praying for Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan. The 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim world began 23 years ago, and we are just beginning to see the awesome results of this concert of prayer that now extends across 26 different languages.
The sad truth is that for many centuries, Christians simply avoided Muslims. Today, with renewed faith and courage, Christians are taking the gospel to the Muslim world. This faith enables God’s people to see what does not yet exist: a boundless harvest of Muslim souls for Jesus Christ.
For centuries Muslims who wanted to know more about Jesus lacked access to God’s Word in their heart language. Today, agencies such as Wycliffe Bible Translators and producers of the JESUS Film are providing God’s Word in the heart languages of Muslims, and Muslims are responding.
Christians are also learning to communicate more effectively with Muslims. Jesus promised that, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). For too long, Jesus has been shrouded in Western cultural trappings. Better methods of presenting the gospel to Muslims are allowing them to see Jesus in all of his unfettered glory.
Along with better communications, today’s movements are benefiting from satellite television and radio, Internet media, and multi-media resources tailored to Muslim audiences. Muslims are taking note.
Unexpectedly, we can also see that God is using Islam’s weaknesses to draw Muslims to the good news of Jesus Christ. Many Muslim-background believers tell us that their own comparison of Jesus’ life with that of Muhammad’s prompted their decision to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Others have testified to reading the Qur’an in their heart language as a key to their conversion. A leader of a Muslim movement to Christ in South Asia had this to say:
“I had read and memorized much of the Qur’an in Arabic, but I didn’t really understand Arabic. It was only after I read the Qur’an in my heart language that I realized that I was lost. The Qur’an offered me no plan of salvation, nothing to address my sinfulness. But I did see, even in the Qur’an, that Jesus was special: he was born of a virgin, did miracles, was with God in heaven, and would return to judge the world some day! I knew that I had to know more about this Jesus. So I found a New Testament and read it. From this book, I fell in love with Jesus and gave my life to Him.”
That former Muslim now leads a movement of more than 33,000 fellow Muslim-background men and women as followers of Jesus Christ.
Finally, testimonies of new believers reveal that Islamic violence is driving Muslims toward Jesus Christ. The terrors of Muslim-on-Muslim violence in Indonesia in the 1960s, the 1971 bloody War of Liberation in Bangladesh, the brutal oppression in Khomeini’s post-1979 Iran, and the slaughter of more than 100,000 civilians in Algeria in the 1990s have all been cited in the conversion of hundreds of thousands of Muslims to Christ over the past few decades.
So today, as we watch with horror the violence unfolding at the hands of Islamic extremists through Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, and ISIS, we must pray and expect that this internal evil will awaken Muslims everywhere to a different pathway, a pathway offered to them by the Prince of Peace.
by Keith Carey
Dear Praying Friends,
You may have noticed by now that the GPD covers the Middle East and North Africa every December. You also might have noticed that we have had three Decembers in a row where we prayed about the mayhem and violence that plagues this part of the world.
This issue will be different. We are focusing on gospel inroads into the Muslim world.
Have you heard of A Wind in the House of Islam? This 2014 book by David Garrison tells what God is doing in nine regions of the Muslim World. I hope to have GPD issues in the future that tell about some of these regions which Garrison calls “rooms in the house of Islam.” He points out in his book that there have been far more movements to Christ in the Muslim World in the 21st century than in all previous centuries combined!
God is on the move, and Satan’s efforts to kill, steal, and destroy are failing. Every time Satan inspires one of his children to kill in the name of Islam, he turns more hearts away from Islam, and often to Jesus. Remember this fact when you read the headlines in 2017.