A former Muslim offers a Christian approach to Islam
Q&A | Abdu Murray talks about his conversion experience and his view of Islam
by Warren Cole Smith
Posted 7/11/16, 02:10 pm
Abdu Murray is North American director for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, an evangelical outreach group. But for most of his life Murray was a proud Muslim who studied the Quran and Islam diligently. After a nine-year investigation into the historical, philosophical, and scientific underpinnings of the major world religions, Murray said he discovered the historic Christian faith alone could answer the questions of the mind and the longings of the heart. I had this conversation with Murray at Summit Ministries in Manitou Springs, Colo.
Tell me about your upbringing. I was raised as a Muslim, a Shiite Muslim. I was pretty serious about my Islam. I thought people should believe what’s true and not what’s false. I thought Islam was true—everything else was false. I spent some time, casually, in conversations trying to debunk other religious systems or nonreligious systems, especially Christianity because Christians were low-hanging fruit. They were all around me growing up here in the United States. I tried to prove it false.
Some folks came along who actually knew what they were talking about and knew how to defend the Christian faith and started to give me some things to think about. Over the course of about nine years of a search, looking into the historical, philosophical, existential reasons why Christianity makes sense, I began to see that it made some sense. Eventually, having seen the strength of the evidence, having seen what it can do for me and the spiritual impact as well, I gave my life to Christ at the age of 27 years old.
It took nine years. That’s absolutely right. There were two guys who came at my door at the University of Michigan who were preaching the gospel to people. … I was like, “You guys deliver? This is great, come on in.” We spoke, and I made life very tough for them because I had objection after objection. They would think, after all those encounters, “This guy is never going to come to faith. He’s not even listening.” But the reality was that nine years … to the day when I became a believer, I still remember what those guys shared with me and our encounters. Their statements made an impact to me. They never would have thought that, but the reality is, now not only am I a Christian, but I’m a Christian advocate. I’m speaking about the credibility of the gospel to non-Christian audiences.
There is a lot of fear in this country about Islam. For 15 years we’ve been at war with radical Islam, since 9/11. How do we as Christians behave in an environment where there is a war of ideologies going on, and yet we are also called to love our neighbors as ourselves, to love even our enemies and to welcome the pilgrim and the stranger into our land? I think the Christian’s first perspective is to have a Biblical anthropology. What I mean by that is to understand that people are sinners, regardless of where they come from, what skin color they have, or what their religious background is, and they’ll act that way. But they’re also people made in God’s image, so they’re equally redeemable. That means that if they hear the gospel and they respond to it, then there’s a chance there for us to have this reconciliation—only, I believe, through Christ. We can’t be naive; we have to have political solutions. We have to have, sometimes, military responses to things because that’s just reality, the world we live in.
But I think the ultimate answers come from not fearing the other, but seeing ourselves in the other. We were once them by the way; there’s no us versus them. We have an Arabic phrase that means, “We’re all in the same air,” or, “We all smell the same wind.” We’re all in this together. If we see ourselves in them, then we see them not as enemies to be vanquished, but sinners to be saved by the same method by which we were saved, which is the cross itself. … We are to welcome in the immigrants. We have to do it cautiously, but we have to do it with an open heart because our first calling is not to be safe, it is to be faithful.
Os Guinness and you have together spoken at conferences on religious liberty. What’s the key message that you try to get across? It’s that true liberty is liberty for everyone. Good ideas and bad ideas need to have the liberty to be expressed and to be even expressed in terms of religious ideas. Because it’s then that we can actually see what are the good ideas and the bad ideas. When you stifle some ideas because you don’t like them, then you’re never going to get to the heart of the matter here. It also invests people with dignity. You can disagree with somebody and think their religious system is wrong, but if you invest them with the dignity enough to be able to express themselves publicly, even if they’re wrong, then … a real discussion happens. You don’t foment hatred that way because people will feel marginalized if they are in fact marginalized. …
If you wanted to create enemies, by all means stifle their opinion. You will create plenty. But if you want to create friends whom you disagree with, then you can have this religious liberty and that actually creates peace despite the fact that we disagree so vehemently. Peace is created, I think, often times in the crucible of disagreement.
Listen to Warren Smith’s complete conversation with Abdu Murray on the June 10, 2016, episode of Listening In.