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Archive for the ‘Muslims’ Category

The Hajj and Eid Al-Adha

In Focus has some great pictures of the hajj (the Islamic pilgrimage) while the Big Picture has some great pictures of Muslims preparing for Eid Al-Adha, which follows the Hajj.

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A very good question. Of course, the reverse question is also good. Do you know any Christians? Or how about: Do you know anyone who believes differently than you?

HT: Middle East Experience

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In the Morning

But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me  a fortress
and  a refuge in  the day of my distress.
Psalm 59:16 (Zabur)

This morning I was encouraged and inspired by this poem written by Musa Burki. It is a poem about the early morning prayer, fajr (it happens before sunrise). It makes me want to start my day focused on God, full of gratitude and praise. I hope you’re encouraged as well.

As we rise in the morning
Our souls possess a yearning
To fill our hearts with spiritual light
Kneeling as a humble servant in His sight

The dawn rings out a peaceful solitude
Rising from our slumber to show gratitude
Revealed words which emanate from the heart
A beautiful ritual for our day to start

Standing before Him in all His glory
While He encompasses our entire life store
Pleading and begging for a measure of grace
As we wipe the tears from our face

Prostrating and bowing in complete humility
Desiring to feel the mercy and tranquility
Releasing our fears and anxiety
Increasing us in our level of piety

We feel the trembling of our soul as it’s shaken
As the wind and the sun begin to awaken
Completing our spiritual practice at the start of day
Asking for our Lord to light the way

A wonderful contentment rests in our spirit
Obeying the call to prayer as we hear it
Our day can now begin with clarity and peace
Hoping that our love for Him will increase.

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Protestants have a hard time listening to and learning from Catholics. Both are Christians, but we all like to find enough of a difference with others to justify not learning from them. Think of how much more true this is with people from a completely different religion? When was the last time you truly learned something significant in your life from someone of a different religion?

Yasmin Mogahed has written a helpful piece on marriage. We can all learn something from it. What so impressed me though, was that what she shared she had learned from a Christian author. She references Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Emerson Eggerichs. In this book he lays out research that says that men most need respect from their wives while woman most need love from their husbands. The problem, then, is that when a husband isn’t loving to his wife, she often responds with disrespect, which leads to unloving behavior from the husband and on and on. It is a cycle that can only be broken when the husband determines to love his wife whether she is respectful or not. Or when the wife determines to respect her husband whether he shows love or not. This idea about love and respect comes right out of the Bible, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).

I love that this Muslim woman is setting such a good example for the rest of us. She knows that she has a lot to learn from Christians. I have seen this first hand in my own life. It was my Syrian Muslim neighbors in Damascus who taught me what it means to be a good neighbor. This was especially good for me to learn since Jesus the Messiah commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). I have always been so grateful for what they taught me about being a good neighbor through hospitality and genuine concern and love for a neighbor.

When was the last time you learned something from someone from a different religion? If you haven’t, why not?

HT: Tia

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Real Men

Muslims love and respect all prophets, but it is not surprising that they revere Mohammad as the greatest of all prophets since they believe he is the last prophet and the seal of the prophets. In Asif Balouch’s post, “Top Ten Traits of a Real Man (Muslim Style)” he uses the prophet Mohammad as a template for what a real man is. He rightly rejects our culture’s many definitions of a real man as one who can hold the most liquor, sleep with the most women, have the hairiest chest, shoot the biggest guns, beat up the most people, etc.

I fully agree with his lists of ten traits of a real man (read his piece for a full explanation). They are not only Islamic traits, but biblical traits. Here are his ten traits and my biblical support for each.

1. A Real Man Reads
In the Injil the Messiah said we are to love the Lord God will all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). In the Zabur (the Psalms) we read, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

2. A Real Man Is a Focused Man
But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7).

3. A Real Man Is Gentle but Firm
The Messiah said this about himself, “Take my yoke upon you, and  learn from me, for I am  gentle and lowly in heart, and  you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29) and an elder (a leader within the church) must be “not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:3).

4. A Real Man Is a Family Man
Husbands are called to “love their wives like Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25) and leaders in the church “must manage his own household well, with all dignity  keeping his children submissive” (1 Timothy 3:4).

5. A Real Man doesn’t Slander/Backbite/Cuss/Gossip
“But now  you must put them all away:  anger, wrath, malice,  slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Colossians 3:8).

6. A Real Man Keeps His Promises
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and  stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

7. A Real Man Respects All Women
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave  nor free,  there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

8. A Real Man Keeps His House in Order
This trait is about helping with chores and not merely saying it isn’t a man’s job. The first verse that came to mind here is “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Those in a man’s family are his closest neighbors.

9. A Real Man Handles His Own Money
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

10. A Real Man Knows He’s Being Tested
Count it all joy, my brothers,  when you meet trials  of various kinds,  3 for you know that  the testing of your faith  produces steadfastness.  4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be  perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

 

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Anas Hlayhel wrote a helpful and short piece on how Muslims can respond when the prophet Mohammad is mocked, “Mocking the Prophet, How Should We React?“. It is well reasoned and rooted in the Qur’an. Here is a short outline:

1. Mockery is equivalent to ignorance.
2. Ignore the ignorant (i.e. the foolish), but engage and even debate the reasonable.
3. Allah will take care of the mocker, so you don’t need to.
4. Respect other faith symbols, even idols, lest others disrespect Islam.

Please read the whole thing in order to see the Qur’anic reasoning behind his points.

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Is Islam a religion of war or peace? I get asked this question a lot. I know that people are asking this question again after all of the attacks on US embassies throughout the Middle East. I’ll give you my answer to this question and then I’ll tell you why I am posting about it.

I don’t know. There you have it, that’s my answer. I don’t claim to be an expert in Islam. Even if I was I am not sure how well I could answer this question. Honestly, I see lots of reasons why people conclude that Islam is a religion of war. There are Muslim scholars who confirm this (though they might not state it this way). There are some really hard verses in the Qur’an. There are plenty of violent acts throughout the history of Islam. And of course, we see the violence perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam all around the world.

However, I can also see lots of reasons why people conclude that Islam is a religion of peace. There are Muslims scholars who confirm this. There are good pointers in the Qur’an towards peace. Within the history of Islam there have been times of peace and prosperity. And of course, we see acts of kindness and love perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam all around the world.

So which is it? Again, I honestly don’t know. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t really care. That probably doesn’t sound good. Honestly, I am not that concerned about what true Islam is. I am more concerned about what my Muslim friend believes. This is not because I don’t care about the truth or don’t think that objective truth is real. I do. I care very much. It is because I have personally settled the issue of truth. Jesus the Messiah says in the Injil, “I am the truth” (see the Gospel according to John 14:6). He is enough for me. I am not saying Christianity is the truth. I am saying that Jesus is the truth. The truth of God has been embodied in a person.

When I am with my Muslim friend I don’t need to know what true Islam is. I need to know my friend. I want to know what he believes. Does he believe that such acts of violence in the name of Islam are justified? Or does he repudiate them? That’s what matters to me.

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I care deeply for Muslims as a group and for my Muslim friends in particular. I am really grateful to God for the relationships he has given me and the friends I have been blessed by. You also know that I have not been afraid to call anti-Islamic statements evil. I am more than willing to call out the evil from Christians regarding Muslims. I believe this film is offensive and the opposite of love.

However, one thing I really haven’t done is also call out the evil that Muslims have done. I feel angry about the response to this movie. I understand why it is offensive. But I cannot and will not understand the need to destroy property and ultimately kill others because of it, especially those who had absolutely nothing to do with the making of the film. I do not hold the American government responsible for the evil of individual citizens anymore than I hold other governments responsible for the evil of their individual citizens.

I am angry because the destructive and deadly responses are evil. I am angry because these responses make non-Muslims living in the Middle East fearful. I have American friends who live all over the Middle East who are fearful that they may need to flee. I am angry because the radical murderous Muslims are giving all of my Muslim friends a bad name. I am angry because the work that I do in trying to promote understanding and peace between Muslims and Christians can so easily be derailed by the site of angry mobs. I am angry because all people are made in God’s image and we are not treating each other with the respect that this simple truth demands. God made us. And therefore he loves us. How is it that this truth doesn’t change everything about how we live with people different than us?!

I feel for Muslims who are appalled at what is taking place. Surely they bear a greater burden of responsibility over their community than I do, but what can they do? I don’t know. And even if my responsibility is not as great, I still am responsible for my reaction and for the circle of influence I have.

So I will pray. I will pray to the God of peace. I will pray for those who have sinned in making the movie and those who have sinned in their response to the movie. I will continue to show the way of love that Jesus Christ teaches us. His way is the way of the cross. He didn’t kill his enemies. He died for them. He didn’t end their lives. He laid down his own.

The way of the cross is the only way forward because it teaches us to humble ourselves and extend the forgiveness we have received to others. It teaches us to love our enemies and to seek their good. It teaches us to love mercy and not merely insist on justice.

I will pray and I will seek to daily die to myself and my selfish desires so that I can love others, even others who don’t love me.

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Today is 9/11. Our lives have been so shaped by it that I have no need to explain to anyone who will read this what I mean by “9/11″.

We left for the Middle East in January, 2002, only 4 months after 9/11. I remember being with friends right after 9/11 had happened and listening them to tell me why we surely couldn’t go to “those Muslims” now. There was a lot of fear among Americans then. There still is. Unfortunately, this has caused some non-Muslims to say and even do things that shame us all. The result is that Muslims today feel more fearful than before.

Sumbul Ali-Karamali wrote an enlightening piece on CNN, “American Muslims Live in Fear 11 Years after 9/11″. There has been an increase in anti-Islalmic rhetoric and crimes. This is tragic. It has certainly changed the landscape for our Muslim neighbors.

The Islamophobia that seems to continue to gain steam is unhealthy and destructive to our nation and ultimately our own souls.

For American Muslims, the past decade has been tumultuous. We have emerged from private life to public life, into the public sphere in an effort to aid understanding between the communities of our multicultural country.

We do it not only for ourselves, but because irrational fear of Islam and Muslims is bad for all Americans: it frays the social fabric of our society; it creates divisions between Americans; it affects the health of our democracy; and it affects the wisdom of our policy choices.

It’s not too late to invite your Muslim neighbors over for dinner in order to love them by hearing from them what Islam is about. Such hospitality and pursuit of understanding seems like a fitting tribute to those who died on 9/11.

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A Ramadan Poem

Ramadan recently ended. Most non-Muslims would assume that Muslims would dread Ramadan since they must fast from sunrise to sunset, abstaining from all food and drink. I know that some Muslims do dread it. However, I also have met many who truly love this month. This poem by Musa Burki gives a picture of the beauty of Ramadan for our Muslim friends.

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Ramadan: A Poem

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A time for our hearts to become unsealed

Reflecting on the divine words revealed

The month which we hope to never end

Unable to count the infinite blessings it sends

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Asked by our Lord to give up our worldly pleasures

So that we may receive His divine treasures

It’s a time that comes but once a year

Yet the moments which we hold most dear

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The nights spent in prayer and reflection

Prepares the soul for redemption

Praying to our Creator for mercy and wisdom

Pleading to be admitted into His kingdom

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We welcome you, O Ramadan, with joy as our guest

Having to subdue our egos as a test

You mend our hearts and give us tranquility

As we engage in battling our iniquity

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Solidifying the bonds of kith and kin

Washing away the stain of sin

Fasting not only of body but of speech

It is Your benevolence which we beseech

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O Ramadan, you have blessed us with your presence

Teaching us to grow from our spiritual adolescence

Continue to be the month which will always bless

Helping us to alleviate our fears and distress

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Eboo Patel has a thought provoking piece about how Evangelicals could grow to love Muslims. He compares current American evangelical attitudes towards Muslims with the attitudes evangelicals had towards Catholics more than 50 years ago before JFK was elected president. These attitudes are remarkably similar. He notes:

It is easy to draw a straight line between the evangelical anti-Catholic prejudice of previous generations and the Islamophobia of today, essentially saying that “evangelicals have to hate someone.”

What a tragedy that those who believe in the One who so loved the world that he gave his only Son (Gospel according to John 3:16) and follow the One who, in love, laid down his life for the sake of  others (John 10:11) would be seen by some as needing someone to hate. I can understand why my evangelical friends would protest this perception. I can also see why my Muslim (and non-Muslim) friends would feel this way.

Fortunately, Patel doesn’t simply leave it at that. He believes and hopes for better things. The change in many evangelicals regarding Catholics happened when they got to know Catholics. Perhaps this same change can happen as evangelicals get to know Muslims. I hope so. I hope that evangelicals won’t be thought of as the people who hate Muslims (or any other group), but as the group who embody Jesus’ love for Muslims.

Patel closes his article with this:

Maybe in 50 years, there will be no surprise when the loudest cheerleaders for Muslim presidential candidates and Supreme Court justices are evangelical Christians.

You’ll have to read the whole thing to see how he got there.

Related Post:
Love Your Neighbor

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