Called from Islam to Christ
by Dr Jean-Marie Gaudeul
It is encouraging to find a book that addresses a subject that so few dare to handle. The reason for this is that due to the sensitivity of the material, it is difficult to gather information on the subject. Gaudeul who is an author and researcher of repute has done justice to the subject. He has written in a style and language that makes it accessible to everyone.
In reading the book, it immediately becomes obvious how Gaudeul himself sees the phenomenon of conversion from Islam to Christianity. For him conversion is viewed largely in terms of changing one set of like values for another. Islam and Christianity are seen to be on an equal footing. The whole process of conversion is reduced to human effort and decision. He speaks of God not being at "the service of our parties and interests." (p8) While this rightly points out that God is not a champion of any religion, it also emphasises the transcendence of God and denies his involvement in the story of human conversion beyond the inherent call in every person. Each person Muslim or Christian , according to Gaudeul, hears God's call to know the Truth and to live in submission to this Truth. This call is viewed as being individual to each person, and it is up to each person to find the place where they might best fulfill this call. Thus Gaudeul levels out what he perceives as 'the call' in both religions. The 'call' is not the same in both religions. Islam calls people to obey a set of rules rather than a person, whereas Christ who is God's supreme revelation of himself, calls us to follow and obey Him. For Gaudeul, 'the call' is reduced to a person's 'quest for God' in whatever shape or place he can be found. Conversion, then, is a person deciding to follow another religion as he interprets God's call to himself for himself.
The weakness of the book lies in the fact that it views Christianity merely in terms of human culture when comparing it with Islam. Islam and Christianity are approached with a pluralistic world-view. Both are regarded as having equal validity as a revelation of God's purposes. While there is certainly a degree of God-consciousness in Islam, one mustn't confuse this with the revelation of God in Christ Jesus. The Gospel claim that there is no salvation in any other name than the name of Jesus, makes such a parity difficult.
The question is posed, 'Does God remain aloof from a person's quest?' Gaudeul then goes on to answer it with the experiences of converts from Islam. It is here that the book's real strengths lie. He allows the testimonies to speak for themselves, and draws from them some very acute observations and comes to some remarkable conclusions, which every worker and discipler among Muslims would do well to take note. Needless to say these accounts distinctly differ from his own viewpoint. But he allows them to speak for themselves. His approach encompasses the whole experience of conversion. While he himself views conversion as a cultural phenomenon, he presents the converts' view that their conversion is deeper than a mere cultural level (p100). This depth has enabled them to withstand both social and familial ostracisim and pressure to hold onto the priceless pearl that many have obtained at great personal cost. They do not view it as a cultural conversion. Bilquis Sheikh, one of his subjects, recently died having withstood great pressure even into her old age to either recant or at least to be quiet about her faith. She returned from self-imposed exile to spend her last years in the land and among the people she loved and called her own.
Earlier in the book Gaudeul has spoken of conversions from Islam to Christianity and from Christianity to Islam as being of the same nature. While converts from Islam face severe ostracism and even persecution for changing their faith as Islam expressly forbids it, converts from Christianity to Islam, living in pluralistic societies, can freely do so without fear of social ostracism, or physical violence for apostasy. Besides the case studies by Gaudeul, phenomenal conversion movements in Bangladesh and Post-Revolutionary Iran would have given a more comprehensive overview of the Muslim World. However the case histories provided show that in spite of the difficulties and pressures, the converts and those helping them are seriously wrestling with the issues involved in leading a Muslim to Christ, and establishing them in their new identity and conviction, even though they will never have the same safe passage that converts from Christianity to Islam enjoy in the pluralistic west.
Rt Rev Azad Marshall
A very encouraging read and challenging book. Called from Islam to Christ is a collection of testimonies of Muslims from various countries and backgrounds who have been called to Christ over the last hundred years, some of whom are still alive and living among us. The author's definition of a call is a rather ambiguous one. He states that God calls and guides everyone, but not all perceive his call. He also acknowledges that some feel a definite call to Islam. But the purpose of the book is clearly to show how a real `call' has led some Muslims to leave Islam and embrace Christianity.
Gaudeul relates their stories showing the prime elements which drew them to the Gospel, e.g. the attractiveness of Jesus, the things they observed Christians doing (praying, worshipping, the sacraments), a thirst for truth, a hunger for community, for forgiveness, or a search for God himself. The author wants the reader to appreciate the unique way God calls many of our Muslim friends and that they do respond and come to Him. He briefly addresses the issue that many believe the genuine conversion of Muslims to Christ is not possible. The use of the Scriptures figured prominently in the conversion of many. The struggles of the convert for acceptance into the Christian community are brought to our attention as well as the persecution they might suffer from those who oppose their faith. Some of the testimonies are of martyrs.
J.P. Gaudeul is a White Father who has worked in Africa but presently teaches in Paris. Do not be put off by the author's Catholic faith. He writes openly and clearly about faith in Christ and mentions problems of the Catholic Church in relation to Islam. He admits that the church does not always present Christ as they should, even giving at times a wrong impression about the truth. Yet in spite of the problems and even at times a lack of witness, people have been attracted to come and ask about Christ at Catholic Churches as well as other churches. I am not sure any protestant writer would have been more open and honest than he is.
The bibliography is amazingly inclusive: 87 books and articles about converts are listed and 78 on the topic of conversion. The book summarizes many stories which previously only appeared in the French language. It will encourage you in praying and witnessing to Muslim friends. You will become more sensitive about how your daily actions and words can be far more effective than you may have previously considered and make you more mindful of how you are being seen by your Muslim neighbours. I personally found it a good and valuable read.
Dr Elsie Maxwell
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