Common Confusions About Arabs and Muslims

| January 6, 2015

North American Christians are often confused about the relationship between the religion of Islam and the ethnic identity of Muslims. This confusion takes two forms. The first has to do with the relationship between Islamic religious identity and Arabic ethnic identity. The second relates to the depth to which Islamic religious identity has penetrated the ethnic identities of all Muslim people groups.

If Christians are to understand their Muslim neighbors (locally and globally), love them as Christ commanded, and share the gospel with them effectively, we must grasp how they understand themselves.

'Arab' vs. 'Muslim'

“Arab” and “Muslim” are not synonymous terms. Muslims are followers of the religion of Islam. Arabs are an ethno-linguistic group of people, most of whom are Muslim in religion but many of whom are not. Their origins lie in the Arabian Peninsula, but they burst into the larger world in the 7th and 8th centuries with the dramatic conquests that followed the death of Muhammad in AD 632. Within 100 years they had spread west sw_asia_pol00across North Africa and Spain and had penetrated as far as southern France. To the east, they had conquered the Persian Empire and spread into modern-day Pakistan and Central Asia…

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