In considering the task of evangelising the Muslim world we must record at the same time the great sacrificial effort and the apparently small visible result. Looking back to the early pioneers such as Raymond Lull, Francis of Assisi, or Henry Martyn what is there to show for all the tears and blood save the patience of unanswered prayer. Like Simon Peter, the lonely worker might well say, “Master, we have toiled all night and taken nothing, nevertheless, at Thy word we will let down the net.”
A confession of faithfulness – “We have toiled.”
A confession of failure – “We have taken nothing.
” A confession of dauntless faith – “Nevertheless we will let down the net.”
These three short phrases on the lips of the fisherman-apostle express actual conditions in the world of Islam.
It is true there are converts from Islam but when we report the facts there is a paucity of converts in the Muslim fields. Some blame the church for lack of faith; others the missionaries for lack of love. The reason, others, say is that we have tried to win by controversy rather than by kindness, and our difficulty is one of method. Again, we are told that the time is not yet, the hour has not struck, and the harvest is not ripe.
All the reasons given above for the meagreness of direct results in work for Muslims have a measure of truth, yet none of them are sufficient. It is our conviction that among the many reasons for the small number of converts to the Christian faith in Muslim lands there is perhaps none so important as the Muslim law regarding apostates. Every convert to Christianity is an apostate from Islam, and although there have been apostates throughout all the centuries, and we know of cases even during the life-time of Muhammad the Prophet, the law of apostasy has become fixed in Islam. The apostate dies to his faith and is regarded by his family as worse than dead.
Islam from the earliest times and according to the teaching of the Quran, has always made it extremely easy to enter the Muslim brotherhood, and extremely difficult for those who once enter its fold to find exit. It is not an exaggeration to say that the doors of this vast temple reared by the Arabian prophet swing only inward, not outward.
“The Muslim law concerning apostates is one of the factors to explain the paucity of converts from Islam to Christianity. Death, forced separation from wife and family, loss of property and legal rights, naturally cause many who are convinced of the truth of Christianity to hesitate to profess faith in Christ.” (Rev W.T. Fairman)
“The fear of death is certainly one cause for the fewness of converts from Islam to Christianity. Every Muslim knows that his life is in danger if he becomes a Christian. I have known a good many instances of Muslims who would secretly assert themselves as Christians, but would make no open statement because of the danger attending it.” (C. F. Gates, of Robert College, Constantinople)
The Rev. William Miller once asked a convert from Islam this question, “ Is the law of apostasy a cause for the fewness of converts?” he replied, “It is the cause!” Mr. Miller comments that the law does not prevent earnest men from becoming Christians, but it prevents many weaker seekers for the truth from pressing on to a thorough study of Christianity.”
As I pen these lines a Muslim student has just left my study, whose father turned him out-of-doors and threatens to kill him if he continues to read Christian books. He asked me, “what shall I do then with the words of our master, ’Whosoever denies me before men’?” And then the homeless lad looked with pitiful longing for an answer as we prayed together. He knew the Muslim law regarding apostates.
Theoretically the penalty of death has been abrogated in many countries but as a matter of fact, it still exists in actual practice. The only difference being that before its abrogation executions under this law took place in public, and now the converts just disappear.”
“Why are there so few Muslim converts?” (Abridged) S.M. Zwemer