My selection for this month’s book of the month is David Garrison’s A Wind in the House of Islam. Meticulously researched, this book provides necessary background information for Christians who want to understand anything Muslim-related in the modern world. Whether we are talking about world mission, terrorism, or immigration, or America’s drone warfare in Muslim territories, there is information here that you simply must have if you want to be informed.
The subtitle of the book is “How God is drawing Muslims around the world to faith in Jesus Christ,” and the stories involved are fascinating, thrilling, odd, and full of courage.
Dar al-Harb (House of War) is the Islamic phrase that describes the non-Islamic world, which helps to set the stage. Garrison provides much needed information on the history of Islam, the history of Christian mission attempts to the Muslim world, and a copious number of testimonies from every part of the Muslim world. Something remarkable is happening.
Garrison divides the “house of Islam” (Dar al-Islam), a region stretching from West Africa to Indonesia, into nine “rooms,” and he demonstrates how the wind of the Spirit of God is blowing through each one of them. He only counts a movement to Christ if it involves “at least 100 new church starts or 1,000 baptisms that occur over a two-decade period” (p. 5).
The “rooms” are not primarily political, although politics do affect it. They are what Garrison calls “geo-cultural.” Working from west to east, the rooms are: West Africa, North Africa, East Africa, Arab World, Persian World, Turkestan, Western South Asia, Eastern South Asia, and Indo-Malaysia. Movements to Christ are occurring in all of them.
The House of Islam encompasses 49 countries and 1.6 billion adherents. Compared to this size, and this number, the movements to Christ that he reckons up seem (on the one hand) almost entirely insignificant. The number of Christian converts ranges somewhere between 2 and 7 million people — a drop in the bucket. But, as Garrison shows, reckoned in another way, this is actually a thunderbolt development in the long and conflicted history of Christianity and Islam. In short, what is happening now is something that has never really happened before.
Using Garrison’s criteria, from the 7th to the 18th century, there were no movements from Islam to Christ. In the 19th century, there were 2. In the 20th century, there were 11. And in the first 12 years of the 21st century, there have been 69.
What is causing this? Involving that much territory, and the number of people concerned, the answer to that question has to be astonishingly broad. God’s work in the modern world is as messy as it has ever been. He has used Constantinian-like decrees (as in Indonesia), but He is also using satellite television, the JESUS Film, dreams, personal relationships, translations of the Bible into local languages, the Internet, and (perhaps surprisingly) translations of the Qur’an into local languages.
If you can read these (numerous) testimonies without being deeply moved, then you need to seek out pastoral counseling.
One last comment. These movements to Christ do not need to be huge in order to establish a counter-narrative that poses a significant challenge for the devout Islamic mind. For many reasons, the first thousand years of Islam provided the established Islamic narrative with nothing but reinforcement. The theology of Islam and the victorious successes of Islam fit together, hand in glove.
But then it fell apart. The first sign of trouble was found in some key military battles — Malta, Lepanto, Vienna. The tide had begun to turn, and then after the First World War, the European powers just divided up the Middle East like it was a pie. The problem is that Islam has no theology of exile, and so the whole thing set up a profound theological discordance. It is not supposed to be this way. Another great book to help understand this would be Bernard Lewis’s What Went Wrong?
If you couple that understanding (that Islam has no theology of weakness) with a realization of what this book describes, you realize that another huge “discordance” is taking shape. Millions of Muslims becoming Christian is not primarily a demographic problem. They have lots of people. It is a theological problem. And in order to be a pressing theological problem, it only has to be big enough to notice. Once noticed, if there is no answer forthcoming (and given the nature of the Qur’an, there can be no answer), the process can only accelerate.
In short, while the extreme behavior of Islamo-fundamentalists is certainly dedicated and all-in, it is not confident. The kamikaze pilots of Japan were committed, but that kind of tactic is actually a sign of desperation. As this book shows, the answer for such desperation cannot be Western secularism, but rather Christ. And when Christ is proclaimed to the Dar al-Islam, there are many there who are ready to listen.