So, Has Rev. Warren Become Muslim?

I don’t think I’m the only one who noticed that during his invocation, Rev. Rick Warren used the phrase, “You, the merciful one; You, the compassionate one’. That phrase, the heart of the bismillah, was not accidental, I believe.

The bismillah is the prayer that is used to start nearly anything done by a pious Muslim, even appearing at the top of the page for official documents or personal letters and school work, even as a blessing before meals or the sacrifice of an animal. In full, it reads, ‘In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate’: B’Ism Allah, Al-Rahman, Al-Rahim.

And no, I don’t think Warren is a ‘crypto-Muslim’…

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Political Theory, Religion, , ,
John Burgess
About John Burgess
John Burgess retired after 25 years as a US Foreign Service Officer, serving predominantly in the Middle East. He contributed 35 pieces to OTB between February 2006 and April 2014. He was the proprietor of the influential Crossroads Arabia until his death in February 2016.


  1. Jamie says:

    In the Christian tradition, bismillah is an alternative way of referring to the Trinity: god the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

  2. Crust says:

    Also I’m pretty sure I heard Warren use the Muslim (Arabic) name for Jesus, “Issa”, among a list of names for Jesus. I think he was reaching for a subtle inclusivity, such that most Muslims would catch it, but most Christians would miss it.

  3. just me says:

    My guess is what as attempt to be ecumenical. I was listening at work, and was curious to see if he ended his prayer in “Jesus name” but missed that portion due to a phone call.

    I think in general most pastors seek to tone down the specifics and be more inclusive in these situations, and I hardly see it as some secret announcement that they believe something else.

  4. John Burgess says:

    Crust: You did hear correctly. Warren used the name Isa. In Arabic, that’s ‘Jesus’, but also ‘Joshua’, and ‘Isa’, of course, as well as several other Semitic names.

  5. Crust says:

    Apparently, Warren also echoed the Shema, roughly the Jewish analog of the bismillah.

  6. PD Shaw says:

    I believe there has been some activity in the evangelical churches since 9/11 to incorporate some Islamic prayer and stories that are consistent with Christianity into worship services. I don’t know much about Rev. Rick Warren, but I would not be shocked that this was not the first time he has paid some homage to a greater Abrahamic tradition.

  7. G.A.Phillips says:

    My guess is what as attempt to be ecumenical. I was listening at work, and was curious to see if he ended his prayer in “Jesus name” but missed that portion due to a phone call.

    No but he said the Lords Prayer, he’s gonna get sued.

  8. steve s says:

    About halfway through Warren’s speech I muted the tv. I thought it was uninspired and boring. But I’m an atheist, so what do you expect. I thought the black preacher’s ending was pretty good. Though I had a hard time understanding him in the beginning.

  9. G.A.Phillips says:

    But I’m an atheist

    There is no such thing as an atheist.

  10. Michael says:

    There is no such thing as an atheist.

    Holy crap, I don’t exist?

    Or maybe you’re wrong.

  11. Bruce says:

    There is some borrowing here, but in which direction is it really?

    Words like “merciful” and “compassionate” are common, indeed central terms for the LORD in the Bible. Indeed, what is arguably the highpoint of the Old Testament revelation of God’s character — a passage echoed through the rest of Scripture — the revelation of the glory of the LORD and his declaring his name to Moses, includes at its heart

    “The LORD, the LORD,
    the compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. . ”

    (Note that the same word translated “compassionate” above is in other versions rendered as “merciful”.)

    From the Christian perspective, God truly IS compassionate, gracious, merciful, in forgiving sins — and this is at the heart of their believe that God shows his mercy and forgiveness through the cross of Jesus, his Son.

    So Islam borrowed the terminology and a part of the view from the Jewish & Christian Scriptures.

    Now I won’t go into it in detail here, but Christians would argue that the Islamic view of God actually contradicts their use of this terminology, for he turns out to often be simply arbitrary. So why shouldn’t Christians use these expressions to try to point out that what the (borrowed!) Islamic titles proclaim is actually found in the Christian faith, not in Islam.