The mob surrounded the house as the couple hid behind a locked door. It was not strong enough to protect them. The bolts broke and the young couple was beaten because they had burned some paper with Arabic words that some thought came from the Qur’an. They were barely alive when they were then dragged to a brick kiln, where they were burned to death. The angel from Daniel’s fiery furnace did not appear to those gazing in, they did not emerge unharmed, but the injustice of this vigilante execution touched the hearts of Muslim men in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Do you remember that couple that was killed in Pakistan last year?” Younathan, my Christian Pakistani friend asked,
The look on my face said, “No.”
“They were a Christian couple. They were accused of blasphemy and a mob surrounded their house and killed them.”
Younathan went on. “Two Pakistani men at the mosque here in Louisville contacted me and wanted to set up a scholarship for the four children that were left behind. They asked if I could help them.” Younathan took the request to his father.
Islam is sometimes described as a religion based on works. In a previous video we heard how God weighs our good and bad deeds in judgment. Do Muslims believe they can do enough good deeds to gain God’s favor in judgment? What about Muhammad? Do Muslims believe that his entrance to paradise is assured because of all that he did? In this video Imam Iqbal talks about everyone’s dependence on God’s mercy.
In this video Imam Iqbal tells us that everyone passes over the fires of hell in a final judgement. The conversation shifted to how we are all dependent on God’s mercy. The imam explained that hell should be seen as purifying fires and a sort of “jail time” for the evil deeds done while alive but that God in His mercy can shorten the time spent in/over hell’s fire.
As the world falls apart, sabers rattle and heads roll, an ancient prophecy about Jesus gives me hope. Written 700 hundred years before Jesus came to this earth, the prophet Isaiah said the messiah would bring justice and help the oppressed. God called him to “demonstrate my righteousness.” Jesus is a “light to guide the nations.”(v6) So, I look to Jesus as my example of righteousness and a pattern by which to model my life. Jesus himself quoted from this passage when he spoke in the synagogue in his hometown.(Lk4) The Prince of Peace then demonstrated to us how to live as he encountered the people of Israel.
42 “Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.
He is my chosen one, who pleases me.
I have put my Spirit upon him.
He will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout
or raise his voice in public.
3 He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.
4 He will not falter or lose heart
until justice prevails throughout the earth.
Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.[a]”
5 God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out.
He created the earth and everything in it.
He gives breath to everyone,
life to everyone who walks the earth.
And it is he who says,
6 “I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness.
I will take you by the hand and guard you,
and I will give you to my people, Israel,
as a symbol of my covenant with them.
And you will be a light to guide the nations.
7 You will open the eyes of the blind.
You will free the captives from prison,
releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.
8 “I am the Lord; that is my name!
I will not give my glory to anyone else,
nor share my praise with carved idols.
9 Everything I prophesied has come true,
and now I will prophesy again.
I will tell you the future before it happens.”
One of the people that submitted questions asked,
“What happens after someone dies in Islam? Is there a heaven and hell? What does judgment look like? Can a Muslim know his destiny?”
Imam Wasif Iqbal answered some of these questions for us in this series of videos. This video speaks about the first of two judgment scenes that each individual will experience. He also tells how our deeds in this life will be weighed to help determine the outcome.
If you have questions you would like to see addressed, leave a comment or send me an email.
One of the questions I have received asked me to address the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. In this video, Imam Wasif explains the taxes (Jizya) that are required of non-Muslims and contrasts Jizya with Zakat that is required of all Muslims. He also references letters written by Muhammad promising protection for non-Muslims. There is an interesting video on one of these letters here and a Wikipedia article here.
Is there a caliph leading ISIS? What does that mean?
As we sat in the mosque talking about the differences between the approach of Muhammad and ISIS, our conversation turned to this self-appointed caliph, Al-Baghdadi. The imam made it clear that Al-Baghdadi is acting from political motives and does not speak for Islam. He referenced hundreds, or possibly thousands, of Islamic scholars who have rejected the man. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) released a similar statement condemning ISIS and advocating rights of minorities in Muslim majority countries. You can see that statement at this link S2S statement on rlgs minorities. This four minute video is just part of an insightful conversation. For more videos click here.
If you were to ask Muslims about the events in Iraq and Syria, you would get many different answers as to why these things are happening, which implies there is no single grand conspiracy that all Muslims have to “take over the world.” Sure, there are some who have grand designs to rule the world under a single caliphate, but most Muslims would never follow the radical leader of ISIS. The deeper question is, “Why would anyone follow a self-proclaimed spiritual and political leader who advocates such violence as God’s will?” Imam Wasif Iqbal asked the same question in a recent video interview that I did with him. According to the imam, this “caliph” has no appeal or legitimacy to most Muslims.
Many Muslims would like to see the world submitted to God. Christians would say the same thing. This world would be better off if we were submitted to God, but that should lead us to a neglected conversation between Muslims and Christians about what it means to submit to God and just how are we supposed to get to that point.
I wrote a letter to my representatives a few days ago. I don’t do so often. It honestly feels a little futile. Does anyone really listen? I considered just sending a one line letter, “Please support the Humanitarian Assistance Facilitation Act (H.R 3526).” I know Mitch McConnell receives way too many letters to read himself. I pictured some staff person quickly scanning hundreds of letters and making small tick marks on some chart of issues, “For” or “Against.” Maybe, if there is some vote coming up, Mitch will ask his staff, “What are people saying about this one?” One line might be sufficient and would probably be a relief to some staff person who did not want to wade through paragraphs of detail and passion.
Seeking peace happens in-between the bombing campaigns, when things are out of the spotlight. Individuals see a need and address it. “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness,” according to James 3:18.
Simple right? God ordained? Right? But there is a problem. In many cases it is illegal. Due to our fear of terrorism, U.S. law says that “giving material assistance” to terrorists is a punishable offense. No one wants to see terrorists funded, but these laws are written too broadly. “Giving material assistance” can include giving a seminar on peaceful conflict resolution, giving a ride to someone to talk about peace, or sharing a cup of coffee.