Jews, Christians, and Muslims all acknowledge that Jesus is a sign from God. Their present understanding of the meaning of Jesus as a sign is different. The Jews have no problem with the words of Isaiah in chapter 7:14 ‘The Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.’ Most Jews are still waiting for the fulfillment of this prophecy. It is encouraging to hear of Jews coming to faith in Jesus the Messiah. We hear of groups of Messianic Jews but as yet there are not many like Simeon…
During the 5th Crusade St. Francis undertook what most considered a senseless and foolhardy mission: convert the most powerful Muslim in the world. So radical was the Sultan he had promised a Byzantine gold piece for anyone who brought the head of a Christian. He was “treacherous, brainless and false hearted,” but where others saw the face of evil, Francis saw a man without the Savior and compassion welled up inside of him.
As Francis and his trusted friend Illumimato walked onto the battlefield, they were caught, beaten and brought to the Sultan who was happy because he thought they wanted to become Muslims. “On the contrary,” said Francis, “We have a message that you should surrender your soul to God.” Thus he proclaimed the Triune God and Jesus Christ the Savior of all. The Sultan did not convert for it was he who retook Jerusalem. By God’s grace St. Francis was not killed but that possibility did not deter him.
In these perilous times, when radical Islam is carrying out horrific acts of violence, Christians must reach out to Muslims with courage and compassion. We must understand their concerns and engage with them in witness. Most Muslims wake up with no church, no Bible, and no one to tell them about the Way, the Truth and the Life. Five times a day from countless minarets in their midst, they hear God is great, but who will tell them God is love?
A special and unique night during Ramadan is called the Night of Power or al-Qadr. The meaning of the Arabic word “al-Qadr” is very mysterious to Muslims. They apply a variety of meanings: a name for the powerful Allah himself, a reference to the unknown destiny of oneself, an indication to the pre-destined or decreed fate of a believer. This uncertainty of meaning, in the mind of a Muslim, adds to the mystery and sacredness of the night. During this extraordinary and exceptional night, Muslims believe the gates of paradise are open and all one’s sins can be forgiven. Thus this night provides a golden chance for every Muslim to receive Allah’s favor and forgiveness of sins. But some Muslims stay awake during many nights of Ramadan in hopes of obtaining this forgiveness of al-Qadr. Why do they do so? The reason is that they do not know exactly when this night comes.
Allah told Muhammad the exact time and date of al-Qadr, but Muhammad forgot it and was not able to inform his followers about it. According to an authentic prophetic saying, after Allah informed Muhammad about the date of al-Qadr, Muhammad went out to inform the believers, “but there happened a quarrel between two Muslim men,” which caused Muhammad to forget it. He is reported to have said: “I have been shown the Night of ‘Qadr’, but have forgotten its date.” In another report he said: “I was caused to forget it.” While this is the general narrative provided by Islamic tradition regarding the date of this night, still there are conflicting reports regarding the actual date. Some say al-Qadr is within the last seven nights of Ramadan, others place it within the last ten nights. Some say it is during the odd, not the even, nights of the last ten nights, and others zealously claim that al-Qadr is specifically on the twenty-seventh night of Ramadan.
Among Muslims, there are various traditions concerning the observance of this most sacred night, but generally it is a night for reciting the Quran and spending lengthier time in prayer. Some highly devoted Muslims retreat into a mosque and intensely seek Allah to answer to their prayers. Nightly prayers take place throughout Ramadan, but intensify during the last ten days of Ramadan, in expectation of receiving the plenary forgiveness and blessings of al-Qadr. In Morocco, for instance, there is a very interesting tradition concerning the Night of Power. This tradition is not supported by the Quran, yet is commonly believed by cultural Muslims. It tells of a specific divine person named Sidi Qadr (my master Qadr) who appears during Ramadan on al-Qadr to resolve curses, forgive sins, and heal the sick. Moroccans wait earnestly for this divine person to come and answer their prayers.
They know not the divine Man, who came to bring relief to the oppressed, at whose name even the demons shudder. They know not the One who holds the power to forgive their sins any day or night of the year. They know not He who walked this earth healing the sick with the touch of his hand and or a word from his mouth—the One who still heals today. As Muslims seek God’s favor this month of Ramadan, and especially during the Night of Power, let us too, seek God’s favor on their behalf. Let us plead with earnestness that they would truly encounter God and through His Son Jesus, find forgiveness of sins.