When I first met these young men, they had been living in the U.S for less than a year. They were young children when the Taliban took power in 1994. They, along with their families, were forced to flee the country because their parents worked for the Afghan government. When the U.S. removed the Taliban in 2002, all three returned to Afghanistan as young adults. Each of them recalled watching the news reports of the U.S. invasion, and upon returning to Kabul all three secured prestigious jobs assisting the U.S. in rebuilding the Afghan government. Both Ibrahim and Yusuf worked for defense contractors in Kabul and Ahmed worked directly with the U.S. military as a translator throughout the country. Both Ibrahim and Yusuf had professional degrees and were some of the highest paid Afghan civilian contractors in Kabul. They loved their jobs because they felt like they were seeing their country transformed for the better, particularly the city of Kabul. Ibrahim put it this way, “It’s not because Kabul is very modern, but there is a deep connection for a lot of Afghans. Friends in Kabul are different. If you have a friend there, they are friends forever. Even after my dad died, his friends would still come to my house to check on us and take care of us.”
The truth is, these young men loved living in Kabul. They described the city as being cosmopolitan and that the ethnic and religious differences that dominated rural areas of the country did not matter in the city. However, as time went on, the threat of retaliation by the Taliban became an ever present reality. They applied and were given visas to come to America but none of their family members could join them. This has resulted in an incredible sense of loneliness and concern for…
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.
Recognize that evil is real. No need to whitewash that reality. Some have given themselves over to evil. But Muslims are not the enemy. Muslims are people whom God loves and for whom Jesus died. Be extremely careful how we talk about our dear fellow Americans and citizens of our earth who come from a Muslim background. 95 percent of all Muslims want what we want: a good job, education, a future for their kids, and to just hang out on a Friday night, watching a movie and eating pizza with friends.
Use the “terrorist” label sparingly. ISIS and Al Qaeda are terrorists. But so are groups in Latin America, Africa and throughout Asia, all non-Muslim. Be suspicious of anyone who is quick to call a Muslim a terrorist for killing and not apply the same label to someone else. Are drug cartels in Mexico Catholic terrorists? The million people who murdered in Rwanda were seldom referred to as terrorist—and most of them were from a Christian background. Are the KKK terrorists? Was this man who murdered the Muslims in Chapel Hill a terrorist? And if so, was he an atheist terrorist?
The real enemy is fear. Fear is the devil’s workshop. Perfect fear drives out love. Did you catch that? Fear drives out love. It’s supposed to be the other way around, but it works both ways. Only one remains: Fear or love. The devil roams around like a roaring lion—not a biting lion—a roaring lion.
5 Reasons The “Draw Muhammad” Contest is Unbiblical
Let me turn to what the Bible has to say about speech to see if it supports absolute freedom of speech, limited free speech, or something else. Here are five passages that help us understand how God wants us to speak:
1. Ephesians 4:29—Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Interpretation: While we are free to speak, we should consider the effect on others. We need to ask if it will be experienced as grace by those who hear it.
Application to Garland, TX: Would Muslims–or anyone, for that matter–hear Pamela Geller’s exercise of free speech as giving grace? Did her speech build up or tear down? How people hear speech is surely relevant in deciding whether it promotes grace and avoids a corrupting influence.
2. Colossians 4:6—Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Interpretation: Again, God offers the “gracious test.” The salt image suggests that speech should be pleasing to the one who hears it.
Application to Garland, TX: Does Geller’s speech pass this test and did hearers experience it this way? Is there a way to speak truth so as to increase the likelihood that it be taken graciously?
3. James 3:10—Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Interpretation: It seems that part of what we say can be praising and part can be cursing, but God doesn’t want us to mix them.
Application to Garland, TX: Is it possible that Geller rightfully praises freedom of speech and at the same time uses the kind of speech that incites violence? Is it possible that mixing the two pollutes praise? Does her way to praising freedom of speech end in death and dilute the beauty of her love for freedom of speech?
4. Proverbs 15:1—A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Interpretation: This is quite clear. Gentle speech increases the likelihood of dissipating anger, whereas harsh words tend to stir up anger.
Application to Garland, TX: Isn’t this exactly what happened? The harsh exercise of free speech stirred up violent anger. In other verses, God acknowledges that we will get angry, but wants us to control it, and not to hang on to it. Geller’s free speech was hateful and angry and this resulted in an even angrier response.
5. 1 Peter 3:9—Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
Interpretation: These are difficult words. As much as we may want to respond to anger with anger, evil with evil and insult with insult, we are told not to do so. Holding our tongue and controlling our actions lead to blessing. The words and actions of radical Muslims are evil, and while we are tempted to respond with anger and insult, that is not in keeping with God’s will. When that happens we fail to be the people God would have us be. We must not use the evil of others to justify our own anger and insulting speech.
Application to Garland, TX: A better exercise of free speech might have been to get people together, pray for radicals, and offer loving words. At the same time we should renounce the evil to which we are all prone. Why? Because fire added to fire will surely burn the house down, and too many houses have already been destroyed by fire.
Pamela Geller, and those who drew insulting pictures of Muhammad, are guaranteed the right to do so by the U.S. Constitution. But those who love God and desire to follow his word prefer a different response. We desire to draw a loving picture of Jesus and offer it to radical Muslims regardless of their response. It isn’t easy, but we are take up our cross and follow him. “Easy” is not the word I would use to describe the picture of Jesus on the cross.