Dialogue with Muslims

Hi There,

I have a group of Muslim acquaintances with whom I have been discussing the Catholic & Islamic faith recently.

I’m wondering does anyone else here speak with Muslims or have any ideas on what a good way of discussing these issues and possibly opening them up to the concepts of the Catholic faith.

Many Muslims misunderstand the idea of the Trinity and no Muslim believes that Jesus is the Risen Lord.

Just starting this thread to bounce ideas.

I agree: the local Muslim group “Getting to know your Muslim neighbour” ran a day at the local library. I spent a pleasant hour being welcomed with food and drink, receiving free literature including the Koran and discussing Allah. My Muslim friend was unimpressed with my brief attempt to explain the Trinity, and yet when I read in the Koran a reference to the Holy Spirit (Sura 16) I was surprised.

However the most striking aspect of the meeting was the hospitality to a stranger, along with the warmth of the welcome. That spoke as powerfully as the words.:o

We’re both Abrahamic religions. Muslims consider Jesus as having been a great prophet, and they do revere Mary, but not as the Mother of God. I’d focus on what we do have in common, and listen to their beliefs as well as explain my own. You may make a friend, and isn’t befriending someone part of “loving thy neighbor?”

They think the Holy Spirit is the angel Gabriel.

Anyone who is familiar with and knows Islam will tell you that any honest religious dialog with Moslems is impossible.
One of the “10 pillars of Islam” demands that all non-believers be converted to Islam by any means possible. And, although Islam prohibits lieing, just as Christianity or Judaism does, the Koran permits it in the prosecution of the “true faith”.
Since Moslems consider that they have the “true faith”, they also consider that all non-believers (infidels) have no rights-not even the right to life. This is all covered in the Commentaries on the Koran.
How many of you know that the presence of Islam in the US was insignificant up until the mid 1960’s when Kaddafi of Libya gave millions of dollars to the Black Moslem cult to promulgate their beliefs amongst our black population in order to foment social disorder and weaken our government. What he did not anticipate was the rise of Malcolm X and his people who became a real Moslems and this spurred changes to US immigration policies that permitted large scale immigration from Moslem countries.
However, despite all of this, as a percentage of population, Moslems are on a par with Hindu’s and Buddahists- all together no more than 15% of the total.

The reference to anything Holy Spirit in their Koran is not what you think. They’ve put that title on Angel Gabriel as the Holy Spirit.

Um… That isn’t true. First of all, there are only 5 pillars of Islam, and they are monotheism, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage, and when Muhammad issued the constitution of Medina, he protected the rights of the Jews who lived there, and Muhammad issued a charter protecting the monks who lived at St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai. Not very consistent if Islam teaches the annihilation of all non-muslim religions.

Has a gathering likewise been organized by a local Christian group to which Muslims were invited and to whom literature was distributed explaining the trinity and deity of Christ?

My Muslim friend was unimpressed with my brief attempt to explain the Trinity,

What did you say? :slight_smile:

and yet when I read in the Koran a reference to the Holy Spirit (Sura 16) I was surprised.

Do you recall the particular passage?

When discussing issues of faith with Muslims, some important points must be borne in mind (the following may sound incendiary, but the arguments made appear well-founded):

While we have already discussed the actual person of the Antichrist, the Bible also talks of an antichrist spirit. Apart from the one direct reference in the Bible to The Antichrist, there are four other times that the word is used in a more general sense by the Apostle John. Each time it is in reference to a particular spirit. This spirit is defined by its denial of some very specific aspects of Jesus’ nature and His relationship to God the Father. Following are the verses that describe this “antichrist” spirit:

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 1 John 4:2-3

Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist–he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:22

Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 2 John 1:7

From these verses, we learn that the antichrist is a spirit that is identified as a “liar” and a “deceiver” which specifically denies the following:

*]That Jesus is the Christ/Messiah (The savior/deliverer of Israel and the World)
*]The Father and the Son (The Trinity or that Jesus is The Son of God).
*]That Jesus has come in the flesh. (The incarnation - that God became man)

The religion of Islam, more than any other religion, philosophy, or belief system, fulfills the description of the antichrist spirit. The religion of Islam makes it one of its highest priorities to very specifically deny all of the above points regarding Jesus and His relationship to the Father. In fact, it can very fairly be said that Islam literally is a direct polemical response against the above essential Christian doctrines. Regarding the above points however, Muslims will be quick to argue that Islam teaches that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. But this is really just trickery. While it is true that Islam does retain the title of Messiah for Jesus, when one asks a Muslim to define what the title “Messiah” actually means in Islam, the definitions given are always hollow and fall entirely short of containing any truly messianic substance. In Islam, Jesus is merely another prophet in a very long line of prophets. Biblically speaking however, the role of the Messiah, among other things, also entails being a Divine Priestly Savior, a Deliverer and the King of the Jews. As we saw in the earlier chapters about the Muslim Jesus, rather than being a Messiah that saves or delivers Israel and all of his faithful followers in any way, in the Islamic traditions, Jesus instead returns to lead Israel’s enemies against her in battle and to kill or convert all Jews and Christians. This would be the equivalent of calling Adolph Hitler, rather than Moses, Israel’s deliverer. For now, we see that the apostle John informs us that just before the final hour, a very specific “spirit” will dominate the earth. This spirit will deny many of the essential biblical doctrines regarding who Jesus is and what He came to do. Islam epitomizes this spirit perfectly.

However the most striking aspect of the meeting was the hospitality to a stranger, along with the warmth of the welcome. That spoke as powerfully as the words.:o

We must keep in mind that the hospitality of a group does not necessarily point to the truth of their religion. :slight_smile:

Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and often Hindus (for the sake of convenience) were declared to constitute “People of the Book” and were presented with three choices upon conquest by Muslim armies: convert to Islam, pay the jizya (see Qur’an 9:29), or face the sword.

Pagans were not so fortunate, being denied the status of “People of the Book”, and were offered two options upon the taking of their homeland by warriors in Muhammad’s cause: convert to Islam or face the sword.

My dear brother Adam :slight_smile:

Vatican guidelines on interfaith discussion courtesy of yours truly (me :smiley: ) from the 1991 Document “Dialogue and Proclamation”, a must read for any Catholic who wants to engage in interfaith dialogue:


Remember, first of all, that Muslims are our brothers and sisters; and that the love of Holy Mother Church embraces all humankind within and without her bosom:

“…The maternal love of the Catholic Church embraces all people…It is the industrious guardian of the teachings of its Founder [Jesus] who, by His words and those of the apostles, taught men the fraternal necessity which unites the whole world. From Him we recall that everybody has sprung from the same source, was redeemed by the same ransom, and is called to the same eternal happiness…”


If pursuing a dialogue with Muslims is your desire, and you wish to have a meaningful exchange of spirit so as to both enrich yourself and your Islamic friends rather than simply try to convert them, then the first thing I would suggest is for you to buy - if you haven’t done so already - a good modern translation of the Qur’an and a reading guide to it. One has to know, understand and respect what is genuinely good in other religions, before properly engaging with them. And goodness is there:

“…Now [we refer] to the adorers of God according to the conception of monotheism, the Muslim religion especially, deserving of our admiration for all that is true and good in their worship of God…”

***- Servant of God Pope Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam 107, August 6, 1964 ***

“…There is something true and divinely revealed, in every religion all over the earth…”

- Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (21 February 1801 – 11 August 1890)

"…It is the Spirit who is the source of the drive to press on, not only geographically but also beyond the frontiers of race and religion, for a truly universal mission…The Spirit’s presence and activity affect not only the individuals but also society and history, peoples, cultures and religions. Indeed, the Spirit is at the origin of the noble ideals and undertakings which benefit humanity on its journey through history: “The Spirit of God with marvelous foresight directs the course of the ages and renews the face of the earth…I have repeatedly called this fact to mind, and it has guided me in my meetings with a wide variety of peoples. The Church’s relationship with other religions is dictated by a twofold respect: “Respect for man in his quest for answers to the deepest questions of his life, and respect for the action of the Spirit in man.” The interreligious meeting held in Assisi was meant to confirm my conviction that ‘every authentic prayer is prompted by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in every human heart.’…Every form of the Spirit’s presence is to be welcomed with respect and gratitude, but the discernment of this presence is the responsibility of the Church, to which Christ gave his Spirit in order to guide her into all the truth…”

-Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 1990

In this dialogue it is important to remember that we should expect to find God both in each other and in our respective religious traditions, as the Catholic Bishops Conference of England Wales explain:

**"…We must certainly enter dialogue prepared to be surprised and to change our minds, because in dialogue with people of other religions we must not be surprised, but actually expect to find God already there. It is in dialogue that we meet and are moved to collaborate with the same Holy Spirit we have received ourselves…" **


And it is my hope that through dialogue we can discover what Blessed Pope John Paul II described:

“…You speak of many religions. Instead I will attempt to show the common fundamental element and the common root of these religions…From the beginning, Christian Revelation has viewed the spiritual history of man as including, in some way, all religions, thereby demonstrating the unity of humankind with regard to the eternal and ultimate destiny of man. The Church sees the promotion of this unity as one of its duties…”

- Blessed Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope

As others have wisely said, look to what unites Islam and Christianity - not (initially) to the differences, because:

"…Divine truth should be a means towards union, mutual understanding and peaceful living,and not a reason for quarrels and division…”

***- Pope Paul VI (Ecclesiam Suam n. 32), 1964 ***

One does not want dialogue to degenerate into petty “one-up-man-ship”.

This doesn’t mean that you cannot “share” your faith with them but you must be willing for them to equally share their faith with you. Its a two-way street.

Learn from the great saints and teachers of our tradition:

“…Through the participation of one people with another there will be love and concord…For just as we have one God, one Creator, one Lord, we should also have…one manner of loving and honouring God and we should love and help one another, and make it so that between us there be no difference …] which causes us to be enemies with one another and to be at war, killing one another and falling captive to one another. And this war, death and servitude prevent us from giving the praise, reverence and honour we owe to God every day of our life…[And so] all men might be brought together, that they might have understanding, and love one another, and agree in the service of God…Let Christians who are well schooled and proficient in the Arabic language go to Tunis to demonstrate the truth of their faith and let Muslims who are well schooled come to the kingdom of Sicily to discuss their faith with Christian scholars. By acting in this way, maybe, there can be peace between Christians and Muslims, when in the whole world the situation will take effect that neither Christians want to destroy Muslims nor Muslims want to destroy Christians…”

***- Blessed Ramon Llull (1232 – ca. 1315), Catholic mystic, philosopher,
logician and Franciscan missionary ***

Remember the example of Saint Francis.

Saint Francis, in 1219, began a year-long, unarmed walk right through a war zone from Italy to northern Africa, where he managed to meet the Sultan, Melek-el-Kamel, the leading Muslim of the time. Both Francis and the Sultan were impressed with each other and Saint Francis and his brother friar stayed at the Muslim encampment for some time. Francis was impressed by the genuine prayerful attitude of the Muslims and it appears that Malik al Kamil was also impressed with the humility of St. Francis. These two men became friends and when it was time for Francis to move on, he was given safe passage to the Holy Land by Sultan Malik al Kamil. When Saint Francis returned home he added to his Rule of life ( for the friars) that if any brother felt called to go among the Muslims, he should receive permission to do so and the brother must always remember that he is to “live in Peace” with all Muslims and must be “subject to them” when living in their lands. Brothers were not to preach or try and convert Muslims. If asked about the Christian religion, a brother should answer the question in humility but no ‘preaching’. Francis believed that the actions (deeds) of his brothers would be sufficient.

There have been many artistic depictions of Francis and the Sultan, here is one by a modern artist:


My favoured translation of the Qur’an is the readable “Oxford University Press” edition by Abdel Haleem. It renders the ayats (verses) and suras (chapters) of the Qur’an in English modern and fluent enough to be comprehensibly understood, yet it remains faithful to the text and spirit of the original Arabic (with few exceptions), unlike other translations of less merit (ie ones by the Ahmaddiya Muslim community).

A few pointers:

  • Remember that we are both Abrahamic religions and worship the same God:

“…Christians and Muslims, we have many things in common, as believers and as human beings. We live in the same world, marked by many signs of hope, but also by multiple signs of anguish. For us, Abraham is a very model of faith in God, of submission to his will and of confidence in his goodness. We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection…The Catholic Church regards with respect and recognizes the equality of your religious progress, the richness of your spiritual tradition…On this path, you are assured, of the esteem and the collaboration of your Catholic brothers and sisters whom I represent among you this evening…”

- Blessed Pope John Paul II: Address to young Muslims in Casablanca, 1985

“…He who enlightens all men coming into this world (John 1.9) has enlightened your mind for this purpose. Almighty God, who wishes that all should be saved and none lost, approves nothing in so much as that after loving Him one should love his fellow man, and that one should not do to others, what one does not want done to oneself. This affection we and you owe to each other in a more peculiar way than to people of other races because **we worship and confess the same God though in diverse forms **and daily praise and adore Him as the creator and ruler of this world. For, in the words of the Apostle, ‘He is our peace who hath made both one.’ This good action was inspired in your heart by God…This grace granted to you by God is admired and praised by many of the Roman nobility who have learned from us of your benevolence and high qualities . . .] For God knows that we love you purely for His honour and that we desire your salvation and glory, both in this life and in the life to come. And we pray in our hearts and with our lips that God may lead you to the abode of happiness, to the bosom of the holy patriarch Abraham, after long years of life here on earth…”

- Pope St. Gregory VII, Letter XXI to Al-Nasir the Muslim Ruler of Bijaya (Algeria), 1076

  • I do not know whether the Muslims in question are Shi’a or Sunni. If the former, here are some things that I have noted Shi’as and Catholics have in common:

*- In both religions the extraordinary is often the ordinary. Compassion and forgiveness triumph over cruelty and vindictiveness when human beings with divine qualities make sacrifices in order to redeem their fellow men and women. Jesus the Messiah and Ali and Husayn, the first and third Imams, faced suffering and death. In so doing, they became powerful role models for other men and women who have tasted the salt of their tears and have worn masks of happiness in the darkest of times.

  • The importance of the remembrance of God and of those, like the imams in Shiism and saints in Catholicism, who have suffered and sacrificed in the service of God (veneration of saints, especially of Mary, the Mother of Jesus)

  • a profound contemplative and mystical tradition (Sufism ie both Sunnis and Shi’as)

  • notions of infallibility and authority

  • Both Catholicism and Shiism have well-defined clerical hierarchies; Catholicism and Shiism also share respect for the existence of an official clergy

  • a strong belief in justice tempered with compassion and a healthy apprehension of the evils of excessive materialism at individual, collective, and global levels.

  • high emphasis on rational inquiry into matters of faith (faith and reason)

  • suffering for the sake of others and for the sake of truth and justice, as exemplified by Christ and Imam Hussein

  • belief in the intercession of holy beings (Muhammad and his Family)

  • the central importance of a holy female in both traditions–the blessed Virgin in Catholicism and Fatima Zahra in Shi’a Islam

-The word “fundamentalist” in English is usually (but not always) applied to both extreme Protestants (evangelicals, Pentecostals, “Born Again Christians” etc.) and the Salafis, rather than Catholics and Shiites. Both the Salafis and the extreme Protestants seek to return to how they imagine it was in the earliest days of their religion, while Catholics and Shiites have more respect for the entire scope of their histories and the teachings of many teachers and thinkers down through history.

  • Both the Salafis and fundamentalist Protestants use very simple, literal readings of their Holy Texts. The Shiites and the Catholics are apt to take a more complex, broader view that involves ideas about hidden meaning that needs careful interpretation, and so on.

-Both the Salafis and fundamentalist Protestants are very quick to use the label “unbeliever” or “un-saved” for others who think differently than them, while the Shiites and Catholics both seem to be more cautious and thoughtful about making such judgements.

  • Belief in the redemptive function of suffering and martyrdom; ideas of tragic, unjust suffering of the innocent and pure are more central in Catholicism and Shiism than in Protestantism or Sunism. Some types of Catholicism encourage very emotional enactment of suffering and long contemplation on various types of sorrows and sufferings.

-In official doctrine, the Catholics seem see themselves in a closer kind of relationship with Islam than most Protestant denominations, most of whom completely reject any acknowledged relationship with Islam.

  • The Lord’s Prayer in Catholicism and the Surah Fata in Shi’ism *

Hope that helps!

There’s that one Muslim that owns a shop right around the corner from where I live. Sometimes I buy stuff and we talk. He’s hilarious. When I return home from work and he’s sitting in front of his shop I wave at him and he waves back at me. Couple of days ago, however, I drove by on my bike waving at him, and he waved back at me saying “Oh! Today small car!” hahaha. There’s another Lady that used to own a grocery shop where I always bought my vegetables (they closed the shop) and recently I met her in the streets when she was buying breakfast for her family. I was on my way to church and she was asking me where I was heading and I told her that I was on my way to Sunday mass. She smiled and seemed to appreciate my faith. I have never, never ever had the feeling that a Muslim tried to convert me to Islam. All of them are very cordial people. With her I simply started talking about her faith and my faith naturally, as both of us were curious :slight_smile:

What bothers me, and it seems to really bother me deeply as it becomes a daily - I would really like to use this word - burden, is that Jews don’t show me the same cordiality. Everyone I’ve met is nice to me, really friendly and considerate, almost sensitive, but that’s where it seems to end, and it’s as if fellow Jews would even make sure that no real friendship would develop. I feel as if the simple fact that I’m not Jewish asks them to respond in a different way towards me, and it hurts me, and it seems to hurt me deeper than I even want to confess. Right now while I’m typing this I feel like crying because of it. It bothers me so much and even to a point where my life as a catholic is being affected. I don’t feel that I can live without the Jewish faith and I need Jewish company, yet I stand no chance of getting accepted in the Jewish community.

Maybe I was talking too much, but sometimes I just let it all out even very intimate things :blush:

The Jizya tax is a relic of the past in most Muslim countries nowadays, so I don’t see how that criticism would be any fairer than someone criticizing the Old Testament for not allowing Pagans to worship freely in ancient Israel.

But at least one term in the Constitution of Medina presupposes the existence of the Pagans in Yathrib. It says (for example)

If it restricts the pagans from providing material support to the Meccans, there must have been pagans in Yathrib under Muhammad to begin with, otherwise the article wouldn’t have been put in, so Muhammad clearly didn’t kill them all.

I have never encountered the cordiality you speak of with Muslims. All my religious banter with them has led to an attempt at conversion. (My own father is muslim by the way, perhaps this is relevant).

I have one or two Jewish friends, but I have never felt this particular lack of cordiality with Jews. They are very protective of their culture, even if they don’t particularly practice.

I think its important to acept people and love them as they are - not to try to force them into what we would like them to be. As Christians we’re called to make Christ present on the earth and to love everyone In Christ and for Christ.

I am in dialogue with a Muslim and he’s been my friend for 10 years. Only recently he has been interested in what his religion teaches and got himself a Koran (English translation) when only 2 years ago said he doesn’t read the Koran because it is Arabic, but now a changed of heart he’s reading the English version.

A few days ago (mind you we’ve been discussing our respective religions quite often the past year or so) he made me read a passage on Moses and the calf worship part and asked me what it means (he also joked that he really doesn’t even know why he’s asking a Catholic lol!) :stuck_out_tongue:

I must say he also said he would like to read the Bible and I happily recommended to read a Catholic one. Previously he didn’t know Christians were divided so Ive always reiterated Catholics are the first Christians.

However, lately he’s become a little defensive whenever he asks me a question about the Bible because I answer our Christian beliefs So what Im trying to say is it isn’t easy to dialogue. What I also learned is that he is proud of the so called “science” in the Koran and Mohammed could know all this even if he couldn’t read or write so the Koran must be true and so it is really God’s words. :shrug:


Thanks to European colonialism and Ottoman reformism.

so I don’t see how that criticism would be any fairer than someone criticizing the Old Testament for not allowing Pagans to worship freely in ancient Israel.

Islam has no such distinction as between an Old and New Covenant, so this comparison is not an apt one. Further, the `ulama’, or Islamic scholars, have never issued en masse a fatwa repudiating the jizya as no longer relevant, so it can always be reinstituted (a Coptic lady mentioned to me that there’s been talk of doing so in Egypt as of late).

But at least one term in the Constitution of Medina presupposes the existence of the Pagans in Yathrib. It says (for example)

If it restricts the pagans from providing material support to the Meccans, there must have been pagans in Yathrib under Muhammad to begin with, otherwise the article wouldn’t have been put in, so Muhammad clearly didn’t kill them all.

Interesting. Muhammad wouldn’t have wished to antagonize the pagans in the city at the same time as he was warding off threats from elsewhere, though. And there aren’t any non-Muslims left in present-day Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam–or for that matter on the rest of the Arabian peninsula, apart from a small, and shrinking, Jewish community in Yemen.

The conservative Muslims do similar. They believe Mohammed was God’s final messenger and he was this holy man and that they must follow the way he behaved to love everyone like he did:shrug:

But it’s good that Muslims like this exist; who don’t force things on people…:smiley:

I have had the same experience. My best friend is Muslim and I’ve never ever felt pressured to join Islam. We’ve been best friends for so many years. Her family is also so nice. They’re always so sweet to me. My bff does ask questions about the Church and I answer what I know. It’s nice to compare both religions and learn different things. Apparently I’m the only Catholic friend of the family!:smiley:

We (the dioceses’) have had a long association with the small muslim community in Whitehorse as we allow them to use the cathedrals’ hall for Friday prayers and have provided office space all free of charge. They are working at building or at least acquiring property for a mosque of thier own. The relationship has been nothing but cordial and respectful, more so than what some of our fellow christians treat us Catholics at times.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.