The answer to this question must be an emphatic NO! There are plenty of situations where Islamists do not resort to violence. But at the same time they face a real dilemma. They want their society to be more consistently Islamic; but how are they to achieve this goal? Are they to work for a gradual and peaceful Islamisation of the country, or are they justified in using force to win power? And what happens when violence is done to them? These dilemmas can be illustrated from the history of one particular Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Last night my church held a Seder (a special meal during Pesach—Passover). Over 280 people showed up to have a rabbi lead us through the Haggadah (a booklet containing the prayers and actions comprising the Seder) and explain the symbolism in the celebration. The attendees were Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
The conversation at our table was very interesting. We agreed that we would all share a typical prayer that we offer up before a meal began. The rabbi mentioned how hand washing was an important part of the initial ceremonies and the Muslims were able to tie this to the ritual ablution Muslims perform before their daily prayers. All of us were able to relate to the Passover theme of God rescuing people from oppressions of all sorts as well as His faithfulness in the presence of our repeated disobedience.
An interesting thing happened when the conversation came to the relationship between God’s grace and God’s justice in the world. The Jews and the Muslims were on the same page with this issue, but they listened very carefully when the Christians spoke about how they see God’s grace is larger than His justice. One of the Muslims jumped in and said that a hadith qudsi (a saying of Muhammad where the words were believed to have come from Allah but voiced by Muhammad) said that God’s mercy prevails over his wrath. The rabbi said that this is exactly how Judaism saw it. It didn’t need to be spoken how close we were on this issue but how we voiced it in very different terms that often get confused.
We had covered some sticky points that are often exploited in the media, and there are many more difficult questions of faith to be touched upon, but we had developed the beginnings of important relationships. I didn’t have a word for what had happened, but then I remembered one of the parts of the Seder in which the Jews chant “Da-yenu” which means “and that would have been enough.” One of the phrases in the chant is, “and He fed us with manna in the wilderness’ everyone then responding “Da-yenu.” I remembered that the word “manna” means “what is it?” It is a question that is the recognition of a miracle while also recognizing that there are things we still don’t know about it. I like it. This Seder was manna. *
*The word “manna” also appears within the Qur’an at least three times. One time in a phrase that means “food from heaven.”
Most Americans would be unaware that Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, begins June 18 this year. Many would only be casually aware that this is one of the five pillars of Islam; the date changes each year due to the lunar calendar, but faithful adherents fast from dawn to dusk until the month concludes with the Feast of Eid.
In the more fanatical countries fasting is compulsory though allowances are made for foreigners and non-Muslims. All do without food, but the more devout don’t drink water and some don’t even swallow their saliva. Not much gets done during Ramadan as offices are open for only a few hours, no one has the strength for much physical labor, and it is easier to endure the personal denial of food by sleeping through the afternoon.
While most Muslims observe the fast because they are commanded to, and believe there is merit to be gained, many do it as a perfunctory obligation. However, for the devout the Muslim month of fasting is actually for the same purpose we, as Christians may occasionally fast–the desire to know God in a deeper more intimate relationship.
Testimonies are abundant of those who have dreams and visions of Jesus appearing to them and saying, “Follow Me.” Others will be impressed to find someone with “the book” that tells the way to eternal life. None of these revelations are sufficient for salvation, but they break down the barriers in their heart, they lead to an inquisitiveness to find out who Jesus is or to know what the Bible says.
What does this have to do with us? What if Christians fervently prayed during the month of Ramadan that God would reveal Himself to Muslims in this time of seeking? What if we covered millions of fasting Muslims with 30 days of intense intercession that something would happen in their spiritual search? Believing in the power of prayer, could we not expect God to respond to our heart-felt burden for the lost millions of the world?
When we first arrived in Indonesia we were irritated at the dissonant sound of the call to prayer from the mosque five times a day, especially when it awakened us at 4:30 am! But it became a call to us and a reminder to pray for Muslims as they were praying to Allah. Join me this month in fervently praying for Muslims in our own communities as well as those around the world. After all, Christ died for them, too. God’s loves them; shouldn’t we?
Christian Heritage and the Rise of Islam in Somalia
The idea that Christianity is the white man’s religion exported to Africa recently is a vast misconception that is deeply detrimental to missionary efforts across the continent. Very early Arab sources indicate a Christian presence in Somalia beginning in the 10th century. It is speculated that Christianity remained in Somalia as late as 1500 until Islam overtook and became the religion of the nation.