Looking Like Jesus:

Actions and Proof Texts

I recently took my Syrian imam friend to a Christian college to speak. He was a guest lecturer in “Cross Cultural Communications” classes, a “Theology of Missions” class and a “Church Planting” class. It was really interesting to hear how the imam approached these topics from an Islamic perspective.

Saudi scholar says Muslim women do not need to veil their faces

National Public Radio
December 17, 2014

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Ahmad Aziz Al Ghamdi. He’s a religious scholar, the former head of the religious police in Mecca, a group officially known as the Committee for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice

But norms are changing as global culture is beamed into the kingdom through social media and satellite television.

Hilali-Khan English translation of the Qur’an may promote extremism

The Malaysian Insider
December 1, 2014

malaysia-allah-ban-muslim

In researching English translations of the Qur’an, I came across this article.  Technically, there are not “translations” of the Qur’an, but rather interpretations. Any translation interjects a certain degree of bias, that is part of the reason people are compelled to make new translations of Bible and the Qur’an.

The Hilali-Khan is the most widely distributed English translation in the world and officially recognized by the Saudi government.  However, a forum in Malaysia has “called out” the translation as promoting extremism.

This widely available translation, called the Hilali-Khan, made Muslims think that Islam was a religion hostile to other faiths, said academic and progressive Muslim thinker Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa.

The seeds of the “Allah” controversy, the custody battles between Muslim and non-Muslim spouses and the spread of anti-Christian feelings in Malaysia can be traced to a certain translation of the Quran, a recent forum on Muslim extremism in Kuala Lumpur was told.

The “Allah” controversy is where some Muslims teach that Christians should not use the word Allah to refer to God.

 

In Islam, What happens after death?

Video view of afterlife

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.

Pruning the Tree

Diversity within Islam

I found this chart on the Washington Post last year. I keep coming back to it to help people see the diversity within Islam.  If you enlarge the chart to where you can actually read it, fascinating details emerge; the percentages of Shia and Sunni, subsets of each group and about how many are represented in each subset. You will also learn from what subsets the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS come. It looks a little like a tree to me.  Perhaps a tree that needs some pruning. Some will dispute the overall 1.6 billion number of Muslims.  I’ve heard numbers between 1.2 billion and 1.6 billion, but clearly this large number resists uniformity.  We desperately need a more nuanced conversation when we speak about what “Muslims believe.”

When I first started building relationships with Muslims, a few of my friends talked about the unity of Islam, the single umma (or community) of Islam.  This was presented as a proof of God’s blessing on Islam and as a stark contrast to the divisions within Christianity.

In time, I found that there was great diversity within Islam. So much so that it is very difficult to say Muslims uniformly believe anything.  I have even heard the five pillars of Islam explained differently and the shahadah (confession of faith) explained differently.

With so many schools of thought and theology within Islam, it is important to see our Muslim friends as individuals and ask their individual perspectives on things.  God has us all on a journey. Is this journey getting us closer to God or moving us further away?

Just as in numerous Christian circles we have different perspectives on how to interpret the Bible and live our faith, our Muslim friends also have different opinions about how to interpret the Qur’an and live out their faith. Christians would not all want to be lumped in with the belief systems of a Jim Wallis, an Al Mohler or Pat Robertson, much less so the systems of Jim Jones or Westboro Baptist.

As we describe the faith journeys of others, we need to keep the “Golden Rule” in mind. A nuanced description of others is useful because it helps clarify our thought process and challenges our assumptions.  This is respectful and honoring.  On the other hand, generalizations can be marginalizing, dismissive and condescending.  This is offensive. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Labels are the tools of antagonists’ and politicians to manipulate an uninformed populace.   They are the lazy man’s way of categorizing others and not dealing with the nuance required to resolve most conflicts.

It is inappropriate and dangerous to make sweeping generalizations based on what one fraction of the whole professes to believe. Would Christians want to be dismissed as racists because the Ku Klux Klan wear crosses on their robes and twist the Bible to support their claims to superiority over the races?

As I looked at the chart above, it reminded me of a tree. If a limb of a tree becomes diseased, it may need to be pruned.  Islam currently has the attention of the world, and people are arguing over who gets to hold the pruning shears and where and how to make the cuts. It seems clear that there is some pruning that needs to be done for the sake of peace and mutual thriving. Some who claim to be Muslims don’t seem to think they can live in peace with the rest of the world. It may be a twig or it may be a branch.  Some non-Muslims want to see the entire tree cut down, but not only is that not possible, its not smart to try.

Our Muslim friends also want to see this blight of Daesh eliminated. We can and must work effectively together to do so. It will be an ideological battle that defines Islam and makes space for freedom of religion for all.  It will be a psychological battle for the individual hearts and minds of people on all sides.  It will be a sociological battle as our society struggles together to overcome the challenges of this era but not also destroy or marginilize our neighbors. It will be a battle of international law and human rights and it may be a military battle as well as misguided souls, created in the image of God, are restrained from hurting others.

 

 

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.

Imam Wasif, with other Sunni and Shia Muslim leaders in Louisville, called a press conference on August 25, 2014 to condemn the actions of ISIS. Afterwards we sat in his mosque and I asked some clarifying questions. In this video Imam Wasif says that press statements are necessary because people are not sufficiently informed about Islam. He references respected Islamic scholars that oppose ISIS and explains how orthodox Islam opposes groups like ISIS. Dr. Muhammad Babar also wrote an editorial for the Courier-Journal on this same topic.

Some Christian Thoughts on Fear

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.

The Problem With Fear

1 John 4:18 Perfect love casts out fear. As long as we are fearful, we are not loving perfectly.

With people’s heads getting sawed off with knives, it is easy to become fearful and/or angry. That is what the terrorists want. I’ve watched the news reports calling for war. Now, on this 13th anniversary of 9/11, the President vows to “destroy” the militants known as ISIS. Seems like we have been here before. Trying to bomb our way to peace seems misguided without a longer-range plan or asking ourselves, “How did we get here in the first place?”

Following the collective “we,” the masses, the majority, frequently get us into trouble. As Brian Zahnd recently wrote in his book, A Farewell to Mars, “the crowd is nearly always wrong,” or at least suspect. The crowd wanted to return to Egypt. The crowd wanted to crucify Jesus. The crowd has elected and followed some terrible leaders throughout history.

Peace Catalyst Articles

 

The purpose of Peace Catalyst International entries here are to create a greater understanding and respect among various cultures. How many conflicts could be minimized or totally avoided if we just understood each other an little better.  In that spirit, these posting try to shed light on things often misunderstood.