Warning: This lesson is a long read! It is designed specifically for evangelism among strong Muslims. Some who read it will be from non-Muslim countries so it contains a lot of extra information not needed by believers who already live in Muslim countries. Feel free to skip what you already know.
1. WHY THE NAME?
An ancient Muslim tradition says that Allah has 100 names, but a man can only know 99 of them and only the camel knows the hundredth name. That is why the name CAMEL is used in this guide. It is also an acronym which will be explained later.
The CAMEL started with a mass turning of Muslims to Jesus in South Asia through a Muslim named Abdul. Abdul came to faith in Jesus after being rejected by both his family and village for questioning the Qur’an at his local Madrasa (religious school). He had seen one too many passages in the Qur’an that didn’t make sense. Because he questioned the Qur’an he suffered great rejection from his village and family, being declared a terrible sinner. He had to live alone in a shack next to his family home. Only his mother had pity on him. He had already lived alone in a shack for three years when he was introduced to Jesus by a foreign missionary. After reading through the Gospel of John Abdul’s eyes were opened. He was not a sinner after all, but a precious child of God whose sins were washed away through faith in Isa Al Masih (Jesus the Messiah).
Abul’s faith in Jesus caused him even more trouble at home so he fled to the missionary’s house. There he learned much and was baptised, but controversially he refused to Christianise his name. He eventually earned a degree and an MBA. During this time he spent many hours studying both the Bible and the Qur’an. Eventually God led him back to his home village with a burden to reach his family. The only person there who would take him in was his childhood friend Bilal. After great persecution against Abdul, Bilal also became a Christian. Eventually Abdul’s dad became very sick so Abdul was given permission to pray for him and he recovered that night. This opened the door for Abdul to explain the Gospel to his family and that day his father became a believer. Within 2 weeks Bilal had baptised 36 souls in his relative’s village. Together Abdul and Bilal became an evangelistic and discipleship team.
Abdul also started businesses that employed his growing number of Muslim Background Believers (MBB’s) as sales representatives. Abdul lead and trained the evangelists. Bilal trained new believers as disciplers, church leaders and church planters intensively every 2 weeks in his home. Sadly, on February 14th 2003 Bilal was martyred when extremist Muslims broke into his home, but it was too late, the movement had become unstoppable. By 2011 there were over 100,000 MBB’s in Abdul’s church planting movement and it is still growing today.
In September 1997 an American missionary to South Asian Muslims, Kevin Greeson, was attending a workshop in Singapore and heard about the spectacular numbers coming to Christ in Abdu and Bilal’s church planting movement. He had been working diligently with a specific Muslim people group in South Asia for years but with little fruit. He had tried everything from Agricultural development, micro-businesses, the JESUS film, disaster relief work and friendship evangelism. Nothing had worked so he found Abdul and began investigating what he was doing differently to others. For months he sat at his feet absorbing what was going on. Kevin interviewed hundreds of Abdul’s MBB’s and verified everything that had been claimed. The result was a new paradigm in his own methods of reaching Muslims.
First up he called in the 23 women and their husbands from the basket weaving microbusiness he had started to hear the CAMEL method of gospel presentation. Discussions went on for days. Within a week all had become convinced of the truth of Jesus as the Son of God and six micro-churches were started. Within four years there were over 8,000 MBB’s and 600 churches in Kevin Greeson’s own church planting movement. Eventually Kevin wrote a book called THE CAMEL: How Muslims are Coming to Faith in Christ. After publication of the book reports began to come in from other cross-cultural evangelists of the breakthroughs in many other locations around the world. A second edition of the book quickly followed in 2011. What you are going to read below are some basic teaching notes based on that second edition as well as an online PDF 40 page training format based on the book which can be found here.
3. WHAT DO MUSLIMS BELIEVE?
Anyone with a heart to reach Muslims first needs to understand a little of what they believe. A Muslim is one who practices the religion of Islam. Islam is the religion passed down from Mohammed. Islam literally means submission and a Muslim is one who is submitted or surrendered. So a Muslim is one who is surrendered to the will of Allah, the Muslim name for God. Muslims would say that all who have followed Allah throughout the ages, from Adam until now, were Muslims. Muslims believe there is only one God. Allah in Arabic means the God.
Muslims believe in a very Qur’anic version of most of the prophets that are found in the Bible. They also believe that Mohammed was a continuation of the Biblical prophetic line and the greatest of all the prophets. Muslims also believe in angels, including Satan who is called shaytaan, and evil angels called jinn. Muslims believe there is a coming Day of Judgment at which good Muslims will enter paradise, which is called the Garden of Delights, and unbelievers will be cast into hell. Some Muslims also have a concept of a purgatory-like purging of sins after death with most or all Muslims eventually entering paradise.
Muslims believe there are four holy books: the Tawraat which is the Jewish Torah, the Zabuur which is the Psalms, the Injil which is the New Testament Gospels, and the Qur’an. Muslims believe that only the Qur’an is the final word of Allah, that it was given by revelation to Mohammed, and later written down by others because Mohammed was illiterate. The only miracle attributed to Mohammed is that he was able to recite the sacred book that was given by revelation to him, even though he was illiterate. Muslims believe that because the Qur’an is the final and complete revelation of Allah to mankind it must never be questioned. They believe it was revealed to the prophet Mohammed by the angel Gabriel. Mohammed supposedly received 114 special revelations, called surahs, over a 22 year period from the time he was forty years old until near his death at 62. This strong conviction about the Qur’an is what makes the CAMEL method so effective.
The faithful Muslim who wants to do his duty to Allah and go to paradise must perform duties which are called the Five Pillars of Islam. They are:
- Confession: There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is His Prophet
- Prayer: Memorised prayers five times a day at a Mosque if possible
- Fasting: From sunrise to sunset for 30 days during Ramadan
- Alms: Giving 2.5% of ones income to the poor or Muslim religious activity
- Hajj: A one-off pilgrimage to Mecca to perform specific rituals
In simple terms, Islam is a religion of works. If you do enough good works to outweigh your bad works, then hopefully, you will go to paradise. However, even if a Muslim performs these duties to Allah perfectly, he or she cannot know for certain that they will go to paradise. Ultimately, they will go to paradise only if Allah wills! Muslims therefore have a strong sense of fatalism. Thus a revelation of the grace of Christ is a liberating concept for many faithful Muslims.
Though Muslims may say that the Qur’an is the final Word of Allah, almost all of what they believe and practice is actually based on later writings called the Hadith. Hadith means story, news, report or narrative. While the Qur’an is supposedly the Word of Allah, uttered by Mohammed while he was inspired with the revelation of Allah, the Hadith are the supposed sayings and life practices of Mohammed that were not recorded in the Qur’an but passed down verbally through many generations before being recorded 200-300 years later.
There are thousands of these sayings and stories of Muhammad in the Hadith literature. Often Muslims will admit there are mistakes in the Hadith. There is a continuing debate among Muslim scholars about which Hadith are valid and which are not. In places these Hadith even contradict what the Qur’an says. Nevertheless, time and again, when you question a Muslim, you will find that what he believes comes from the Hadith and not strictly from the Qur’an. This helps make the CAMEL method so effective as it starts with the Qur’an, their most revered book.
Muslims represent a vast and ripe harvest field for Jesus. Many are deeply frustrated with their lot in life and increasingly with their religion. Inside Islam is where Jesus is at now at work calling millions to himself in one of the greatest movements of humanity into the Kingdom of God in history. It is where you will find some of the strongest and most determined evangelists and church planters. But if you also want to be a harvest worker in this ripe but difficult spiritual field then you have to learn how to evangelize these good people correctly. To do this we must learn from the master evangelist himself, Jesus.
4. INTRODUCING THE CAMEL METHOD
Abdul and Bilal’s primary method of finding the person of peace and reaching Muslims in their country was by initially using the Qur’an as a bridge. Being ex-Muslims, this came naturally to them because they knew where it exalts Jesus. Using the Qur’an as a bridge is initially somewhat foreign to a Westerner so there has been some controversy about the CAMEL method in Western minds, but this controversy does not exist in Muslim countries or with MBB believers. They are just excited to be able to share Jesus and see the blindness of Islam broken.
Note: If you are planning on using the CAMEL method ALWAYS use the other persons Qur’an, never use yours as they will not trust it. It is far better that they fetch theirs or one close by, or use their app, as then they will know that what is being read is genuine truth.
Paul used a similar culturally attuned method of evangelism to the CAMEL method when witnessing to the Jews. He used the Old Testament as a bridge to the sovereignty of Jesus (Acts 17:1-2). When you think about it, 1st Century Israel wasn’t much different to a typical Islamic country today, and that’s why Paul used this same method of evangelising. The CAMEL method uses one particular passage in the Qur’an as a means to confront Muslims with important truths about who Jesus is.
But before you start using the CAMEL method you’ll need to adopt the language of the Qur’an so your audience will understand you. Here are some of the basic terms that are common to Muslims with their equivalents in English:
Messiah Masih, or Isa Al Masih
Verse Aya (plural Ayat)
Torah Tawraat (Gen to Deut)
Gospels Injil (Matt to John)
Muslim one who submits,
Pastor Imam, or mullah
Below is the key passage in the Qur’an that demonstrates the uniqueness of Christ to the Muslim reader. This is the heart of the CAMEL method showing where the CAMEL and is found in Sura 3:42-55 (Surah Al ‘Imran). Please note that the link just given will vary slightly to the text below as I copied below from the online CAMEL teaching notes which come from the Pickthall translation of the Qur’an.
C: Chosen by God
42 And when the angels said: O Maryam! Truly Allah has chosen you, and made you pure, and chosen you above the women of creation.
43 O Maryam! Be obedient to your Lord, prostrate yourself and bow with those who bow.
A: Announced by Angels as Messiah
44 This is of the announcement relating to things hidden. We reveal it unto you. You were not present with them when they cast lots to know which of them should be the guardian of Maryam, nor were you present with them when they quarrelled.
45 When the angels said: O Maryam! Truly Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, ‘Isa Al Masih, son of Maryam, illustrious in this world and the Hereafter, and he will be one of those brought near (unto Allah).
46 He will speak unto mankind in his cradle and in manhood, and he is of the righteous.
(Verse 46 is a 2nd Century fable. Don’t dwell on this story)
47 She said: My Lord! How shall I have a child when no man has touched me? He said: So it will be. Allah creates what He will. If He decrees a thing, He says unto it only: Be! And it is.
48 And He (Allah) will teach him the Scripture and wisdom, and the Tawraat (Torah) and the Injil (Gospels).
M: Miracles followed Jesus
49 And will make him a messenger to the children of Israel saying: Lo, I come unto you with a sign from your Lord. Lo, I fashion for you out of clay the likeness of a bird and I breathe into it, and it is a bird, by Allah’s leave. I heal him who was born blind and the leper, and I raise the dead, by Allah’s leave. And I announce unto you what you eat and what you store up in your houses. Surely herein is a sign for you, if you are to be believers.
50 And I come confirming that which was before me of the Tawraat to make lawful to you
some that which was forbidden unto you, and I have come unto you with a sign from your Lord. So keep you duty to Allah and obey me.
51 Truly, Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is the straight path.
52 But when ‘Isa knew of their disbelief, he said: “Who will be my helpers in the cause of Allah? The disciples said: We will be Allah’s helpers. We believe in Allah and bear witness that we have surrendered unto Him (Arabic: “we are Muslims”meaning “those who submit”).
53 Our Lord! We believe in that which You have revealed and we follow Him (‘Isa) whom You have sent; so write us down among those who witness to the truth.
54 And they (the disbelievers) schemed and Allah schemed against them; and Allah is the best of schemers.
E: Eternal Life
55 And remember when Allah said: O ‘Isa, I am gathering you and causing you to ascend unto Me and am clearing you of those who disbelieve and I am setting those who follow you above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me you all will return and I shall judge between you in that which you used to differ.
How to Use Surah 3:42-55
Start a conversation with something like I have read some amazing things in the Qur’an. Would you read to me Sura 3:42-55 so that I could ask you some questions about it? Then begin to go through the passage using three main themes. First show that Isa is holy, then show that Isa has power over death, and then show that Isa knows the way to heaven.
1. Isa is holy: Sura 3:42-47
45: He is the Word of Allah
45: He is the Messiah
46: He is righteous
47: He is virgin born
Does Isa have the spirit (Word) of Allah?
Does it say Isa came directly from heaven or from an earthly father?
Did Isa ever sin?
Do you know any other prophet who did not sin?
Can anything unholy be in the presence of Allah?
Do you know of any other prophet as holy as Isa?
2. Isa has power over death: 3:48-54
48: Allah gave Isa the New Testament
49: Isa gave sight to the blind
49: Isa healed lepers
49: Isa raised the dead to life again
50: Your duty to Allah is to obey Isa
Does the passage say that Allah gave Isa the Injil?
Can any other prophet raise the dead?
Does the passage say to obey Isa?
Do you know of any other prophet as powerful as Isa?
3. Isa knows the way to heaven and can show us the way: 3:55
55: Those who believe in Isa are set above those who disbelieve
55: Isa is in paradise and knows the way
Has Isa shown us the way to paradise?
Since Isa came from heaven and was taken back to heaven, do you think he is best to teach us about heaven?
Do you know any other prophet who can show us the way to paradise?
At this point some may suggest that Muhammad also shows us the way to heaven, to which you can point to Surah 46:9 where it says: I am not something original among the messengers, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I only follow that which is revealed to me, and I am not but a clear warner.
They may also say that Isa didn’t rise from the dead. If so then point them to surah 19:33 where it says of Isa: Peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive.
Opening up the Qur’an like this will often open up a person’s heart to truths they never saw before from a source they trust implicitly. If this conversation opens an intellectual door that they want to enter explore further then you may have just found your person of peace. So what do you do next? Perhaps the best thing to do is to wait a little while. Digesting the truths of Surah 3:42-55 message will probably take some time for the average Muslim as the implications are huge and the potential personal cost is great. If they want to know more then you have definitely found your person of peace!
5. AFTER THE CAMEL COMES THE KORBANI
The logical next step is to reinforce the message of Surah 3:42-55 by introducing them to the message behind one of the most significant events in the Muslim calendar. This feast is as important to Muslims as Christmas is to Christians and is the perfect next step as most Muslims will understand its significance and join the dots quickly. Our ultimate goal is to show this person the true Jesus and this is easily done by explaining the meaning behind the Korbani feast.
The Korbani feast (pronounced Kor-bah-nee) involves the sacrifice of an animal in remembrance of the event where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son and God miraculously produced an animal as a substitute. It is the Islamic version of the Jewish Passover, using Abraham instead of Moses. It involves the purchase of a perfect animal, the care of that animal in the family compound, the male family members placing their hands on the animal and reading the names of the family members in an act of atonement. The head of the household saying a prayer and then a local butcher slaughtering the animal. One third of the meat goes to the poor, one third to neighbours and one third becomes the family barbeque.
The best way forward when bringing up this topic is to ask your Muslim contact to explain to you all about the Korbani feast and its meaning. Always find out what they know first. Only then ask if you can share some additional insights from history into the meaning of the feast, emphasising the message that it is all about a substitutionary sacrifice to atone for our sins.
Adam: The First Shadow Korbani
This was when Adam sinned, was removed from the garden and God killed an animal to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). Death, shame, guilt and broken relationship were covered through the death of an innocent animal. If your Muslim contact knows their history they will know this story.
Abraham: The Second Shadow Korbani
This relates directly to the Islamic Korbani feast, and was when God directed Ibrahim to take his son up the mountain as a sacrifice. His son wondered where the animal was, but Ibrihim said God would provide an animal. And he did. This event symbolises a father’s willingness to sacrifice his son for Allah. How much more amazing is that the son was prepared to lay down his life for his father. Muslims believe Ishmael was the son about to be sacrificed, not Isaac, regardless, it was Abraham’s son so don’t get caught in the details, stay with the big picture.
Jesus: The Third and True Korbani
Since Allah is 100% holy nothing holy can come into his presence, and that includes us. In order to make us holy in Allah’s sight, the third Korbani sacrifice came in the form of Isa (Surah 3:45-49). Because Isa loved us he took our sins on himself just like an innocent Korbani sacrificial lamb. If we accept his sacrifice then we are holy before Allah, just like Adam was in the garden before he sinned. This is how we are free to join Allah after we die. This is the truth the Injil reveals and which is told in Surah 3:42-55. That’s why Surah 3:54-55 says Allah was the best of planners. This was his plan. Allah actually chose Isa from the beginning to be the real Korbani sacrifice (John 1:29, Romans 5:19). After his perfect sacrifice there was no longer any need to keep the practice of Korban. Isa, who had no earthly father and whose only father was Allah, like Ibrahim’s son he knowingly laid down his life to set us free.
Responding to the True Korban
At this point most Muslims will understand how the Good News of Jesus fits with their teachings. All that remains now is for them to receive this Korban gift of holiness and relationship with Allah. This is when you could be leading them to relationship with Jesus. However, it will be rare for them to want to make a quick decision. They will have to count the cost. From this point you can direct them to the New Testament, the Injil, and the teachings within it that complete their understanding of salvation. The words of life will have their own deep effect.
When ready, and that could take months of further relationship building, you can lead them through a culturally sensitive prayer of faith in Jesus. Then begins the discipleship process. This involves enlarging their understanding of the Injil and what it teaches about the life of a follower of Isa. It also involves encouraging them to repeat everything outlined above with their friends and family. Their friends and family will be often, but not always, open to the voice of someone they trust. That’s when a church planting movement begins.
6. OVERCOMING COMMON OBJECTIONS
Muslims will have plenty of questions when it comes to you presenting the Gospel. Here are some of their objections and how to answer them by using the Qur’an. These answers to their objections will help greatly, but remember, arguing won’t get you anywhere. Just keep in mind that most Muslims will have no idea what is in the Qur’an. When showing these passages always ask clarifying questions on what they mean so the reader understands the implications of the message.
1. We do not accept your Bible
Surah 10:94: So if you are in doubt, [O Muhammad], about that which We have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord, so never be among the doubters.
Surah 5: 46: And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous.
Surah 5:66: And if only they upheld [the law of] the Torah, the Gospel, and what has been revealed to them from their Lord, they would have consumed [blessings] from above them and from beneath their feet. Among them are a moderate community, but many of them – evil is that which they do.
2. We follow Muhammad not Jesus
Surah 46:9: I am not something original among the messengers, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I only follow that which is revealed to me, and I am not but a clear warner.
3. Jesus didn’t really die on the cross
The Qur’an actually has conflicting messages in this area. It’s not cut and dried. The main passage of objection to Jesus dying on the comes from surah 4:157, This passage actually doesn’t say he didn’t die, but that the Jews claim they didn’t kill him.
Surah 4:157: And their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.
Whereas the following Surah says he did rise from the dead: surah 19:33: Peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive.
4. Jesus was not the Son of God
Muslims have been conditioned to think that Christians believe, when referring to Jesus as the Son of God, that Mary and Allah had sexual relations, something that is anathema to both Muslims and Christians. Assure them you agree with their meaning of the term. Show them the following passages:
Surah 3:45: [And mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a Word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allah ].
Surah 21:91: And [mention] the one who guarded her chastity, so We blew into her [garment] through Our angel [Gabriel], and We made her and her son a sign for the worlds.
5. What do you then say about Muhammad?
Insulting Muhammad will get you into a lot of trouble, so here are two passages that will solve that problem:
Surah 3:144: Muhammad is not but a messenger. Messengers have passed on before him.
Surah 46:9: Say, “I am not something original among the messengers, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I only follow that which is revealed to me, and I am not but a clear warner.”
7. FINAL THOUGHTS
Attitude always speaks louder than words. So always prepare by taking on the attitude of Jesus toward his lost flock. Every person is valued and loved by him equally. If you go with an attitude of love and not fear it will be picked up by all who listen.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
I Corinthians 13:1-7
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
1. Get a group of other believers together and memorise together the Camel method scriptures and the list of reasons why they are significant so you are ready for opportunities to use them.
2. Practice, practice, practice with a few friends until it flows smoothly.
3. Go out and ask the Holy Spirit to give you an opportunity to use it.