Tears misted Basma’s eyes as she touched my arms and looked at me. “Beautiful. You are beautiful.” It was the look a proud mother would give her daughter.
Basma had been a mother to me in many ways. She had taken me in as a newcomer to the neighbourhood, taught me how to cook soft, fluffy couscous, and introduced me to her friends.
Now Basma had dressed me in one of her black abayas and given me a matching headscarf to wear. We were going furniture shopping, and she explained I should dress in the long cloak and scarf to avoid wayward looks from the men who congregate in that part of town. Donning the abaya and scarf didn’t bother me; I wanted to dress appropriately. “It’s better to wear this. Safer,” Basma reminded me with a beaming smile. I smiled back, knowing much of Basma’s happiness came from the fact that I looked more Muslim now than before.
Basma wasn’t the first Muslim woman who tried to convert me, but she was definitely one of the most gracious and sensitive. Some women are pushy and rude; on a bad day, I chafe at their questions.
One Muslim woman grilled me, “Muslim? Are you Muslim?” As I stumbled around in my second language, sharing that I am a follower of Jesus the Messiah, she cut me off. “Islam is good. The final religion. You must enter Islam.” End of conversation. But Basma was much more respectful in “inviting” me to Islam. Asking me what I believed, she thoughtfully processed the information. Then she excitedly explained about her prophet, vouching for the miraculous experiences he had. She scribbled down Islamic Web sites for me to read. On one of my visits, Basma switched the television to a station broadcasting recitation of the Koran. She left the channel playing loudly for the entire visit!
Basma firmly believes Islam is the final revelation from God, and it is for everyone. So can I fault her for trying to win a convert for her religion?
But I felt like a project. If Muslims wrote missionary prayer letters, I might have made the front page. I can see it now: Anna is so close to becoming a Muslim. Yesterday, she even wore an abaya! Although Basma assures me that her friendship is not contingent upon me becoming Muslim, I still notice her discreet disappointment as I hold firmly to Jesus.
When approached by Muslims as a would-be convert, what should our response be?
William McElwee Miller’s answer is one of the best I have found. A Muslim traveler challenged Miller, “Why don’t you accept our prophet?” Miller responded, “… I have in Jesus Christ everything that I need for the journey of life: a road, light, bread and water. What else do I need?”1
Instead of becoming irritated by zealous Muslims, I am slowly learning to expect their challenges (and yes, even their pushy questions) and use them as an opportunity to express my complete satisfaction in Christ. I have Jesus. What else do I need?
Your turn: What is your response to someone trying to convert you? Offense? Indignation? Compassion?
1. Source: “Tales of Persia” p. 38 by William McElwee Miller