May 2002 Issue
by Converted Muslim Brothers
A Book Review by Tammi Reed Ledbetter
Two Southern Baptist scholars have
teamed up to offer a comprehensive analysis of the world's second-largest
religion. Their presentation of the practices, ethics, and beliefs
of Islam is more than an academic recitation of the differences
between Christianity and Islam. It's the story of two brothers'
conversion from the religion of their childhood to a living relationship
with Jesus Christ.
Unveiling Islam is a new release from Kregel Publications
intended to educate readers about Islam and provide a practical
strategy Christians can use to open a productive dialogue with
Muslims. Ergun M. Caner, assistant professor of theology and church
history at Criswell College in Dallas, and Emir F. Caner, assistant
professor of church history and Anabaptist studies at Southeastern
Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., admit that
the work was far from "a labor of love."
Raised in a strict Muslim home, the Caner boys admired their
Turkish father even after their parents divorced after moving
to Ohio. They participated in daily prayers, celebrated Ramadan,
and read from the Koran regularly. Hoping their good deeds would
outweigh any bad deeds, the Caners' devotion was not an act of
love, but rather fear, they write in Unveiling Islam.
Thus, the writing of the book was "an arduous and sometimes
painful exercise of remembering unspoken mental pictures that
are never far from view," the Caners note in their book.
"We were taught that Christianity and Islam were antithetical,
stemming from a centuries-old conflict dating back to the Crusades,
when Muslims were slaughtered by the thousands."
Ultimately, it was a friend's invitation to attend a revival
service at a Baptist church that provided Ergun Caner an opportunity
to hear the gospel and receive God's gift of salvation in Jesus.
His other brother, Erdem, received Christ soon after, and Emir
was saved a year later. Those decisions prompted their father
to disown his sons.
Since 1982, Emir and Ergun Caner have preached and taught about
Islam, sharing a desire for salvation among the 1.2 billion Muslim
people who need Jesus. "Usually, churches and pastors would
allow us to preach, graciously pat us on our heads, and tell us
how fascinating this world religion seems," the Caners stated
in their book.
That reaction changed Sept. 11. "After thousands of people
were incinerated in the World Trade Center bombing, people began
The heightened interest in Islam has drawn each of the Caner
brothers into additional debate settings at mosques and universities,
speaking in English, French, and Arabic with Muslim scholars.
And they have been interviewed by the BBC, CNN, Moody Broadcasting
Network, Salem Radio Network, and USA Radio. Talk show invitations
have come from Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Marlon Maddux, and
Nearly every interviewer asks one of the Caners to comment on
the proposition that Islam, like Christianity, is just another
path to God. "The media question belies a mistaken assumption
that all religions are the same," the Caners write. They
respond to the notion that "getting to whatever God there
may be is like getting to Chicago. You can get there by plane,
train, or automobile. It doesn't matter what path you take or
religion you follow, as long as you get there."
They further write, "It must be understood that orthodox,
biblical Christianity assumes the existence of truth. Truth implies
the existence of error, and mutually exclusive claims of truth
cannot both be correct. Such is the case of Islam. Either Islam
is correct in the assumption that 'there is only One God, Allah,
and Muhammad is His prophet,' or Christianity is correct when
Jesus says, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man
comes to the Father except by me' (John 14:6). They cannot
both be correct."
The Caners provide a history of Islam and assessment of Muhammad
as a militant messenger, explain the "five pillars"
of Islamic belief, and examine the holy days observed by Muslims,
with citations from the Koran as well as other key writings in
Islam, the Sunnah, and Hadith. They offer details of inherent
inferiority of women in Islamic teaching and the inevitable clash
of cultures between Christians and Muslims. Salvation for the
Muslim is described by the Caners as a mathematical formula.
"Each person is literally accountable for each act performed.
Consequently, the scales become more important as one approaches
the end of life, especially for those who are on the edge. They
have to work harder, live better, and give more. Then, they can
hope, the scales will tip in their favor."
By moving through the elements of Islamic teaching, the Caners
critique its claims and respond with the testimony of the Bible
regarding the necessity of faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.
When Islam is described as a peaceful religion misrepresented
by the zealots of the Taliban, Ergun Caner is quick to respond.
"Islam at its core is a religion of warfare. Muhammad was
a warrior. [Muslims] are taught to conquer ... to fight. If anyone
says in the media that Islam is a religion of peace, they either
don't know their faith, don't know the Koran, or they are lying."
When their father died from cancer in 1999, the Caners realized,
"The stark reality of religious systems and our relationship
with Jesus Christ as our Savior came into sharp focus." Through
the investigation into Islam, its teachings and its adherents,
the Caners want readers to see "the human side of religion
where faith often means the total rejection of culture,
ethnicity, family, and friends."
To find "heaven's glory in Jesus Christ," they lost
their father, their earthly hero, just as have millions of others
worldwide, they acknowledge.
Muslims will not gain a better perception of Christianity through
Muslim-Christian dialogues seeking to find commonalities between
the two faiths, the Caners argue. "Ecumenism has offered
little solace; it has ignored substantive disagreements and refused
honest engagement. This approach might bring a stagnant calm,
but never healing of the bitterness. True understanding can come
only as honest perceptions are confronted truthfully and answered
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