Earlier today I came across a Christian man shouting into the face of a Muslim sister. At first I wasn’t sure what to do, but the sister was accompanied by her husband who was able to manage the situation quite well.
I calmly encouraged the Christian to walk away and to talk with me instead. At first he was a little bit hesitant, but this one interaction led to what was perhaps the strangest conversation I’ve ever had. The Christian man was clearly angry, agitated, and upset. As I was walking with him, we both quickly realised that we were Trinidadian (from the same country) and we spoke a little about our shared heritage. I thought we were making progress until his next sentence:
I have to admit that this caught me off guard, but I didn’t insult him in return, they are not our teachers in this regard. This would turn out to be an impactful action that led to a good end, keep it in mind as the story continues. Apparently I was stupid because I’m a Muslim. I’ve been called worse before so this was tame in comparison.
He decided that he wanted some coffee so I offered to buy a cup for him and so we began our brief journey to the nearby McCafe. Along the way he asked me why I believed in Islam and why I rejected the ‘truth’ about Christ. I simply let him know that I’ve studied both Islam and Christianity and that I simply find Islam to be more coherent, consistent and considerate than Christianity. He didn’t like this answer, but it was a truthful one. I mentioned that I couldn’t believe in the Bible because of its lack of preservation. He tried to argue that I likely hadn’t read the Bible, so in response I gave a few examples of the surviving New Testament papyri which contained variants affecting his beliefs, specifically that the papyrus containing the earliest text of ‘Doubting’ Thomas’ “my Lord and my God,” was lacunose. He quickly shifted topics to the ‘Qur’ān having 27 versions’. I shut down that argument pretty quickly and he seemed happy to move on from it.
Finally we got the coffee and sat down for an hour long conversation. On multiple occasions he referred to me as “a dumb Muslim”, “a stupid person”, “Satanic/ Satan”, “demonic”, etc. I’m old enough to know that when someone insults you in this way they’re looking for you to validate their perception of us as being angry, hateful people. He was trying to provoke me into confirming his prejudice. Yet, I simply smiled and ignored it. Over time, he stopped the insults. He tried to claim that the Qur’ān stated that Muslims should kill all non-believers, I asked for a reference, he quickly tried to Google an answer but he couldn’t find any verse that made any such claim. One by one his arguments fell apart.
He mentioned that the Qur’ān isn’t in chronological order therefore it can’t be understood, I pointed out that it wasn’t a Greco-Roman bios (like the Gospels), so it didn’t need to be in chronological order, much like the Psalms in the Bible. His next argument was that Muslims want Islam to be the dominant religion, I responded that everyone wants their ideology to be adopted by the masses, nothing is wrong with that. He followed up by saying that only Islam is bad as an ideology because of the violence Muslims commit. I responded by referencing Zechariah, chapters 12 to 14, where forced worship, torture and mass genocide is what happens to non-Christians when his version of Jesus returns, so it would be more rational for me to be afraid of his faith than he should be of mines.
Our conversation was quickly coming to an end, but I had him read for me 2 Corinthians 6:14 to 2 Corinthians 7:1 –
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[a]? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”[b]
“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”[c]
“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”[d]
7 Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
He didn’t want to read these passages out loud, in fact he tried on multiple occasions to avoid discussing it. I stuck to my course and kept returning to these few verses. I remarked at him, look at the derogatory way in which it refers to ‘unbelievers’, look at how it says we’re unclean, that we can’t be touched, that we must be segregated! He didn’t enjoy this at all, his demeanor had changed, he was no longer boisterous. He had lost his gusto. He then tried one last argument, that it’s only Muslims that force their faith on others. Somehow this ended up with him wanting me to touch the cross he was wearing, I made it clear that I didn’t want to touch an idol. So he proceeded to touch me with the cross. I don’t think it hit him, the irony of the situation, until I pointed it out. I had expressed that I didn’t want to touch it and yet he forced it upon me. Once the realisation hit (that he was forcing his beliefs on me), we decided to end the conversation and he promised to be in contact with me.
On our way back to the street, he actually said I was very ‘humble’, that I didn’t shout at him or insult him in return, he confessed that my reactions to him were puzzling. In fact, he specifically mentioned that it’s likely I am Satanic because of how good my behavior was as a non-Christian, especially given the heated situation underwhich we met. As we were about to part ways, he walked up to his Christian buddies from Christ Forgiveness Ministries and made a comment about me, what he said I couldn’t hear but when he returned to me, I was in the company of the sister he initially was shouting at. Surprisingly he came with a smile and said that I was his ‘buddy’ who was very ‘humble’ and pleasant to talk with.
It’s amazing what good adab can do. Da’wah isn’t only about explaining what we as Muslims believe but it’s also about our behavior, mannerisms and etiquette:
“Invite ˹all˺ to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and kind advice, and only debate with them in the best manner. Surely your Lord ˹alone˺ knows best who has strayed from His Way and who is ˹rightly˺ guided.” – Qur’ān 16:125 (translation: The Clear Quran, by Dr. Mustafa Khattab).
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