Fred Farrokh has recently published an article titled “Contextualization and ‘Encroachment’ in Muslim Evangelism”. Farrokh is introducing a new, specialised meaning of the word encroachment:
This essay introduces the concept of encroachment as another important fine-line tension which has emerged in ministry to Muslims. Encroachment occurs when Christian messengers enlist and redefine sacred Islamic texts, persons, and identifiers in a way that usurps from the indigenous communities those texts, persons, and identifiers.
Farrokh goes on to explore some popular missiologists’ encroachments—Kevin Higgins and Kevin Greeson being key among them. He also does a fine job showing that re-envisioning the ‘prophethood’ of Muhammad and filling the word ‘Muslim’ with a new meaning are also encroachments. He also mentions how the sword cuts both ways and notes some Muslim encroachments on Christian terms and vocabulary.
The fine insight behind the introduction of this new technical definition—something that has been stirring in my mind for some time—is that communities are the arbiters of their own boundaries. It is for Muslims to decide the meaning of the word Muslim. It is for Muslims to decide the significance of Muhammad being the “seal of the prophets”. It is not for Christian thinkers or missionaries, regardless of their intentions.
One can hope for thoughtful responses to Farrokh’s irenic and well-researched paper.