It is a testimony to the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit – in whom Muslims genuinely and adamantly disbelieve – that many Muslims live lives of exemplary civility and graciousness. Their example could and should edify and inspire those of us who strive for civility and graciousness by following Christ. The decent and morally ordered lives of these admirable Muslims could be especially instructive to those succumbing to the post-Christian West’s decadence and vacuous self-indulgence, reminding us all of the inseparability of meaning, happiness, virtue and principled self-control.
A Christian, however, might want to give some credit for the exemplary lives of some Muslims to the Holy Spirit simply because the life of the man on whom Muslim religious beliefs are based is, in my view at least (and in that of many more knowledgeable about Mohammed than I am), far from exemplary, however remarkable might have been his religious zeal and his military accomplishments. That a heritage consisting of this man’s life and the Qu’ranic writings he is thought to have received from on high could inspire so many to live lives of integrity is, by Christian reckoning, one of those marvels for which the Holy Spirit deserves credit. Christians have no proprietary rights to the Holy Spirit.
That the work of the Holy Spirit is in historical struggle with a sin-saturated spirit of another sort can be seen in the ease with which the Islamic heritage to which so many decent Muslims have been able to look for guidance has been transformed by angry, resentful and violent men into something truly toxic and barbarous.
If religious dialogue means anything, it means respecting one’s dialogue partners enough to speak the truth as one sees it, and trying as best one can to speak that truth with as much charity as candor. The truth about the state of Islam worldwide is not one that many Muslims want to hear, but there is another truth we must not forget: there are Muslims among us, children of the God to whom we Christians pray, who live lives worthy of our admiration and emulation, and who have been betrayed by their violent and irrational co-religionists.