A Wind in the House of Islam – Review

David Garrison. A Wind in the House of Islam. Monument CO: Wigtake, 2014. Print.

I have a friend who has devoted his life to Latin American economics. He worked for an international financial NGO in Central America, then for an investment firm specializing in Latin American customers, then for a large bank in its Latin American investments department, and now for his own investment firm that specializes in Latin American securities. Back in the eighties he told me that the most significant change he is seeing in Latin America is the growth of evangelical churches. He noted that the news would never report it, but that region of the world is no longer the Roman Catholic stronghold it once was.

A Wind in the House of Islam gives the same impression about nations that for over a millennium were considered strongholds of Islam and impossible for Christian missionaries (of any type, Protestant or Catholic) to reach. At this point the numbers or percentages are not very high in the Muslim world, but it is not unlike what was happening in Latin America in the 1920s. It is a beginning.

A Wind in the House of Islam defines a movement of God as one resulting in at least 1,000 baptisms or the establishment of at least 100 churches. The total number of converts in Islamic countries may be somewhere between two and seven million. While that is a small percentage of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, it is having an effect. Muslims are turning to Christ.

Garrison notes that until the late nineteenth century there had never been such a movement. In the nineteenth century there were two. In the twentieth century after 1965 there were eleven more. Between 2000 and 2014 there have been an additional 69 such movements. This is where the title comes from: There is some kind of wind blowing through the Muslim world the likes of which it has never seen.

Probably the biggest concern for the author and the researchers working with him was security. In many places in the Islamic world, even talking to a foreigner is suspicious activity.

Interestingly, A Wind in the House of Islam shares the four ways Muslims say that they convert Christians and others to Islam: (1) Money and material enticements, (2) Encourage Muslim girls to marry Christians, (3) Promise them a job in Saudi Arabia or the Emirates, and (4) Buy their home and property and move them out. I have a friend whose widowed father converted through item number two. He was not a Christian but practiced an oriental religion.

While some of these movements have been initiated by outsiders, most began with people within the Muslim culture. Indeed, in many cases it was imams or other respected leaders in the Muslim community who began to follow Jesus. In most cases, they have not adopted Western trappings of religion but have kept as many forms of teaching and prayer that they can without going against direct Biblical instruction.

Why is this happening?

Garrison gives a number of reasons. One is simply that more Christians are praying. God answers prayer. Another is that until the 1940s through the 1960s much of the Muslim world was ruled by Western nations. Muslims in whatever land they were saw their rulers as interlopers and even illegitimate. Now they have had one or two generations of self-rule. They can no longer blame any problems or predicaments on outsiders. In a few places such as the Central Asian republics that used to be part of the Soviet Union, people remember the kindness of Christians who lived among them.

One of the great ironies is that people are coming to Christ because there is a movement among Islam to translate the Koran into indigenous languages. The Muslim tradition is to memorize the Koran in Arabic, but that has little meaning for most people. Even for those who are native Arabic speakers the language has changed to much since the seventh century. It would be like an English speaker reciting Anglo-Saxon or an Italian reciting Latin.

When they find out what the Koran really says two things can happen. One is that they begin to question some of the ideas the book presents. One that repeatedly has made skeptics of Muslims is what it says about multiple wives because they know that Muhammad did not follow his own instructions. Another is what the Koran says about Jesus. Indeed, much of what the Koran says about Jesus is what Christians believe about Him.

The Koran says Jesus is in heaven with God (Allah). Muslims recognize that no one can say for sure that Muhammad is there. Indeed one ritual prayer for many Muslims is that Allah would save Muhammad’s soul. The Koran says that Jesus will return in the last days to judge the earth. Jesus is called by twenty-three honorable titles including savior and Rahallah, the Spirit of Allah. The Koran mentions Jesus nearly a hundred times and Muhammad only four.

Muslims themselves have begun to wonder more about Jesus. If the Koran says all these things about Jesus, perhaps Jesus is a greater prophet than Muhammad. Often they begin to pray about this, and the Lord answers. When they can, they may try to get a hold of a Christian New Testament or Bible to learn more about Jesus.

Some have been turned off by radicalization that has taken place in Islam. Many places Islam was part of the culture but the land was either secularized or Islam was connected with folk religion. (That is the way President Obama explained his experience with Islam growing up in Indonesia.) In many places they cannot protest openly, but the intolerance, the treatment of women, the killing of other Muslims all have caused some Muslims to question their beliefs.

One documented change among Muslims who become Christian is the change in the way they treat women. In most places the women still wear head coverings and dress so they fit in culturally, but the men learn that they are supposed to love their wives. One Bible study recounted, a dozen men who recent converts got together for the first time to study the Bible. The first question they asked was what the Bible said about beating your wife. That alone resulted in a big change.

It is also remarkable the number of Muslims who have had dreams about Jesus or other images or characters from the Bible. This often seems to be a sovereign work of God, perhaps in answer to prayers of Christians. I heard a testimony of one person who worked in a country that bordered on a closed Muslim land. Once they were told very clearly from the Holy Spirit that they were to bring a truckload of Bibles to that neighboring country. They made it past the border but were not sure where to go. They came across a tribal group whose leader told them that he was told in a dream that a truck would come bearing a book that would tell them about God.

A Wind in the House of Islam breaks up the Muslim world into nine “rooms” in the “House” of Islam. (The term House of Islam comes from an early Muslim jurist who said the world was divided into the House of Islam and the House of War.) This is wise, as each culture is different with different styles of Islam and different histories. A Wind in the House of Islam notes that there are changes taking place in each of the rooms.

One chapter is devoted to each of the nine rooms. The rooms are North Africa, West Africa, East Africa, the Arab World, Turkestan (Turkey and Central Asia), the Persian World, Western South Asia, Eastern South Asia, and Indo-Malaysia. Each chapter is exciting and encourages the reader to see what God is doing in these lands.

There can be serious consequences. Some of the people who were interviewed in the course of this study have been killed. The author and researchers he worked with were careful not to use their real names and not even name the country in some cases, but they were identified at some point as being Christians. One woman interviewed is still alive but was married off by her father to a strict Muslim family, so she is not even allowed to leave her house.

These people have counted the cost. Most have known what it was like to be submitted to a god. Now they are submitted to a God who loves them.

In the seventies there was a song that went “I’m not religious, I just love the Lord.” Many followers of Jesus in the Muslim world have a similar perspective. Often they do not consider themselves Christians because that word has cultural connotations. The name Boko Haram, for example, means something like Western education is forbidden or the West is sin. So one follower of Jesus in a Muslim land speaks for many by saying, “I do not want to be a Christian. I just want to follow Jesus.” (118)

You can’t say it much better than that.

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