According to David Garrison, “most Christians admit to knowing little about Islam or the way God is at work in their world to reach Muslims. Still others simply don’t care.” Thankfully, Garrison has written A Wind in the House of Islam, which is a great way for Christians to begin to confront and remedy ignorance about and apathy toward Muslims.
Garrison takes readers on a historical, narrative-based tour of the House of Islam – “the name Muslims give to an invisible religious empire that stretches from West Africa to the Indonesian archipelago, encompassing 49 nations and 1.6 billion Muslims” – to discover how God is at work in it.
On that tour, Garrison focuses on what he calls the nine rooms in the House of Islam: the Indo-Malaysia Room, the East Africa Room, the North Africa Room, the Eastern South Asia Room, the Persian Room, the Turkestan Room, the West Africa Room, the Western South Asia Room and the Arab Room. His information is based on a two and a half year study that spanned 250,000 miles and consisted of more than 1,000 interviews with Muslims who became Jesus-followers.
Garrison and those who worked with him had four outcomes in mind when they began the study. First, to accurately describe movements of Muslims to Christ, movements being defined as “turnings of at least 1,000 baptized believers over the last one or two decades or 100 new church starts over the same timeframe within a given people group or ethnic Muslim community.” Second, to learn how God is at work in the Muslim world so Christians can support that work. Third, to use the study’s findings to encourage Muslims who are coming to Christ with the knowledge that there are other Muslims following the same path. Fourth – and possibly most important for readers – to challenge Christians to love Muslims, instead of fearing or hating them.
For history enthusiasts, A Wind in the House of Islam will not disappoint. It contains a wealth of information about the spread of Islam, wars between Christians and Muslims, and wars between Muslims themselves. As well, it clearly shows that “the Muslim world is far from a monolith.”
For this reader, Garrison’s stories about Muslims who became Jesus-followers vividly portrayed the cost that these believers pay for their newfound faith and the ongoing daily challenges they face. Stories of rejection, persecution and imprisonment are common. On the other hand, conversion and discipleship sometimes led to radical cultural changes, especially in the way new believers treated others. Garrison relates one particularly moving story about a group of Muslim men who became Christians and attended a retreat. One man asked the teacher, “Should we not be beating our wives?” When confronted by the biblical answer, the men repented. One man stood up and said, “I have made many, many wrong things with my wife, and I have been participating in the killing of women.” One by one, the other men in the group stood up and vowed that they would no longer beat their wives, that they would begin to communicate their whereabouts with their spouses, and that they would begin a journey of respect for their marriage partners. In a culture where women were valued less than domestic animals, that change can only be attributed to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
Though A Wind in the House of Islam is surely an excellent educational tool, that was not Garrison’s intent in writing the book. He hopes that readers will ask themselves, “How can I be a part of what God is doing? What is my role? What can I contribute?”
Muslims don’t just live a world away. They live on our streets and in our neighbourhoods. Garrison’s questions are relevant not only for worldwide missions, but for missions to our nearby Muslim neighbours. How will we answer Garrison’s questions?