Unveiling Islam: An Insider's Look at Muslim Life and Beliefs

By Ergun Mehmet Caner and Emir Fethi Caner
Grand Rapids : Kregel (2002). 251 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. William Barrick
16.2 (Fall 2005) : 327-328

Ergun and Emir Caner are two brothers of Turkish descent who were reared in Sunni Islam. They trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as young men through the faithful witness of a best friend from high school. Ergun is now Professor of Theology and Church History at Criswell College in Dallas. Emir is currently Assistant Professor of Church History and Anabaptist Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. They are eminently qualified to speak authoritatively about Islam.

Assurance of salvation is among the first topics the Caner brothers discuss (“Security, Politics, and Jihad,” 30-38). They point out that even Muhammad questioned his own salvation (32). Demonstrating their willingness to speak plainly, they contradict the strained, but “politically correct” view of newscasters and politicians, who claim that jihad is nothing more than an “‘internal struggle for piety’ and not military engagement” (36). Indeed, the military nature of Islam under Muhammad places him in stark contrast to Jesus who was peaceful and merciful. Jesus’ character “offers continuous, unassailable compassion. Muhammad was both erratic and hostile to those who would not follow him” (52). In later chapters (“The Illusion of Religious Liberty: Terrorism from Within,” 172-80, and “The Bloodshed of Jihad,” 181-99), the authors continue their frank discussion of the true character of Islam.

In “The Story of Islam: A Trail of Blood” (66-81) the Caners unmask the historical naïveté and collective amnesia of most Westerners. With “the notable exception of the Crusades, Muslims have initiated almost all wars” (78) from the time of Muhammad to the present global war on terrorism. In spite of this history, however, if Christians hope to be successful in preaching the gospel to Muslims, they must “persuade Muslims compassionately, wait for them patiently, and pray for them earnestly” (80).

Valuable (and accurate) information about various facets of Islam fill the chapters of this volume. Besides an excellent chapter on Muhammad (39-65), others deal with the Islamic holy book (82-94), the extra-Qur’anic books (94-101), the names of Allah (102-19), the five pillars of Islam (120-31), the religious calendar of Islam (152-60), and the various divisions within Islam (161-71).

The nature and identity of Allah as compared with the God of the Old and New Testaments is a controversial topic (102-8). The Caners reach a conclusion slightly at odds with that of Timothy George (“Is the God of Muhammad the Father of Jesus?,” Christianity Today 46/2 [Feb. 4, 2002]:28-35) and Imad N. Shehadeh (“Do Muslims and Christians Believe in the Same God?,” Bibliotheca Sacra 161/641 [January-March 2004]:14-26). Based upon this reviewer’s fifteen years of ministry among Muslims in Bangladesh and exhaustive study of the Scripture, the view of George and Shehadeh is preferable to that of the Caners.

Nearly everything a Muslim does is different from the way Westerners do things. This is partially due to the fact that “[v]irtually every action taken by Muslims, from how they approach your home to how they brush their teeth, has precedent in the Hadith” (101). After making such an observation, the Caners offer some sound advice for Christians in doubt about what they should do: “to avoid offense . . . allow the Muslim to act first” (101).

Providing one citation after another from the Qur’an and the Hadith, the authors expose the radically chauvinistic philosophy of Islam in regard to women (132-41). The chapter highlights the tragedy of Western women who marry a foreign Muslim without understanding Islamic theology or Islamic history. Again, this contrasts with Jesus who elevated women.

Not only does this significant volume provide two former Muslims’ view of Islam, it provides a look at Christianity from the perspective of a Muslim (200- 211). Five different perceptions are discussed and then a Christian response is offered that will aid the Christian in witnessing to Muslims. A concluding chapter (223-34) provides superb advice on witnessing. One of the soundest suggestions is to “[e]mphasize the forgiveness of Christ” (228).

The volume concludes with four informative appendixes: “Topical Index to the Qur’an” (235-40), “Free Will, Fatalism, and the Qur’an” (241-42), “Christianity and Islam: A Comparison of Beliefs” (243-47), and “Glossary of Arabic Islamic Terms” (248-51). A subject index to provide greater access to the volume’s material would make a valuable addition for readers.