A Christian’s Guide to RAMADAN

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I used to dread Ramadan as a Muslim… I knew I was supposed to look forward to it each year, but it was so much better to simply ignore it was coming and that I would be judged by how many fasts (“Roza” in Urdu) I would keep.  On the occasions I would fast, I would sleep all day, get headaches, try to brush my teeth because I couldn’t have water and even passed out from dizziness (I used to pass out all the time growing up).  I wrote another blog about fasting here last year.

All of that was worth the night time activities. Being one who enjoys having people over to our home, the evenings would be a time of celebration (we made it!) and we would feast, play board games and cards and eat full meals again until the wee hours of the morning before sunrise… only to do it all over again.

There was even a joke in our family-if you weren’t fasting and if someone asked you if you were keeping your fast, you should always say “yes, I keep it in my closet.” The bottom line is that for Muslims, keeping a fast is a matter of honor and shame for your family. Muslims will ask you straight up if you are fasting or not to see how pious you are (or not, in my case). There is definitely a sense of pressure from the community. This is not felt so greatly in Pakistan or in the Middle East because everyone there assumes you are fasting – it’s just what you do. During the day, restaurants are open only to foreigners (and even that is limited).  In some Muslim countries, it is a punishable crime to eat and drink in the public during Ramadan and the religious police look for people! Everything shuts down, so the only thing to do for women, especially is to watch long movies and sleep.

For many Christians, Ramadan is a mystery. I hope today to untangle some of those confusing ideas.

  1. Ramadan starts upon the sighting of the crescent moon by Saudi Arabia’s High Judicial Court. The dates always vary of when Ramadan starts due to Islam’s use of a lunar calendar (hence the shape of the moon on all things Muslim).  Fasting is for 30 days.
  2. TODAY, May 27 is the first day of Ramadan for 2017
  3. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the FIVE Pillars of Faith (requisite checklist for all Muslims)
  4. It’s not truly fasting as in the Christian sense of the word (completely abstaining from food and water like Jesus did in the desert (see Matthew 4) for 40 days and nights. Fasting for Ramadan is a flip of night and day. You can eat all you want from sunset to sunrise – you don’t touch food or water (not even a sip, otherwise you break your fast) from sunrise to sunset. It’s embarrassing for a Muslim to gain weight during this time!
  5. Ramadan is a time for prayer. Muslims try to get closer to God. WE CAN HELP!!!
  6. Join a Christian movement called “30 days of Prayer”  http://www.30daysprayer.com/ to pray for the Muslim world to come to the LORD. The website also has a devotional book you can order, as well as e-mail reminders to pray for the Muslims around you.
  7. Women who are pregnant or nursing (or menstruating) cannot fast. They will have to make up their fasts at a later time in order to do their duty as a Muslim. Children and the very elderly do not have to fast. There are also some exemptions made for athletes and those who are traveling.
  8. Some Christians I know want to fast in solidarity with their Muslim friends – you can most definitely do that (=freedom in Christ!), however please note that fasting during Ramadan is complete with religious obligations and rules set forth by Islam. Don’t follow those rules or do something contrary to the beliefs you have in Christ Jesus. These two religions are very, very different! Make it clear why you are fasting so that they don’t get the wrong idea or so that you are not misleading them into believing something else. Be clear about who you follow, that’s all.
  9. We can enter joyfully into a fast and even share the breaking of the fast party with our Muslim friends and neighbors. Let them know that Jesus allowed Christians to fast in Matthew 6:16-17 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face.”
  10. At the end of Ramadan, all Muslims celebrate Eid — many of my fond memories as a child revolve around us celebrating Eid with so much joy! Eid is scheduled for June 25 this year.

69859_artworks-000076178737-9xpof4-originalMuslims are our neighbors, and Jesus instructed us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mat 22:39) Pray For Muslims in Love. Invite them to your home! 

The Bible says: 15and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. ~James 5:15-17

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Manchester – Islamophobia or Jihad?

 

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Photo: Daily Express – Getty Images

“Muslims are being spit upon and the number of verbal attacks are increasing.”

“The terrorists don’t represent what Islam teaches.”

“We cannot blame this attack on the entire Muslim community.”

These are the types of things that are now being reported all over the internet. The comments are cliche and don’t leave the Manchester or other communities (like New York) that have been threatened over the last week. It brings to mind the bombing of the night club in Orlando. Westerners who don’t understand Islam are asking “Why did this happen and what can we do about this?”

What the Muslim community does not tell the public is simple. Jihad is the only 100% way to get to heaven according to Islam.  Jihad means “to strive or struggle.” Muslims will tell you that it does not mean “Holy War” but refers to an internal struggle, but that is NOT what Islamic teaching says. Let me start at the beginning.

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The Guardian: Muslim Leaders concerned about Islamophobia in Manchester

For Islam, there are two worlds: Dar al Islam (Arabic:House of Islam) and  Dar al Harb (Arabic: House of War). If you don’t belong to the House of Islam… you automatically belong to the House of War. The Quran (Surah Al-An’am 6:127 and Surah Yunus 10:25) goes further to call the House of Islam the House of Peace (versus war). This is where Muslims have publicized that they follow a religion of peace. It is peaceful as long as you follow the laws of Islam within the House of Islam. If you do not follow the rules and law of Islam (Sharia), there is no peace for you because you belong to the world of the infidel or Kafir (literally one who rejects Islam).  Muslims will not tell you that there is most definitely war. Many Friday prayers at the local mosque will remind Muslims weekly that they are all united in war against the infidels.

For the Muslim, there is a checklist to follow in order to be a good Muslim and fulfill their faith requirements. These are called the Five Pillars of Faith. I have written about these in a previous blog. For the average, cultural Muslim. These are very difficult to achieve on a daily basis. I know – I tried and failed miserably when I was a Muslim, both as a teenager and as an adult. I simply could not get it right. There are many Muslims who feel this way. Their works cannot justify them, so they count on Allah’s mercy to get them to Heaven. There is no assurance for ANY MUSLIM that they will get to Heaven. Allah (through angels on your shoulder) is keeping an account daily of their good and bad deeds. Furthermore, Muslims believe that Allah can change his mind. Even if you’ve been a “good Muslim,” Allah can change his mind at the last minute and deny you entrance into Paradise.

Here enters JIHAD… the shining knight that can save a Muslim from all his or her troubles. Jihad is the only 100% guaranteed way to get into Paradise for a Muslim.

Here’s excellent information (supported with research) from the website Answering Islam:

9:33 It is He Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the religion of truth, to make it superior over all religions, though the Mushrikûn (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) hate (it). (Hilali and Khan, The Noble Qur’an, Riyadh: Darussalam, 1996, 2002; parenthetical notes are theirs).

This verse is repeated two more times, word for word, in Suras 61:9 and 48:28. Muhammad means business.

The Arabic word for “to make it superior” comes from the root z-h-r, which means “to become distinct, obvious, conspicuous, or manifest; to ascend or to mount; to have the upper hand.” It can also mean “triumph” or “victorious” or “prevail.”

Seekers and the curious about Islam must understand this brute fact as they read the Quran: in the ten years that Muhammad lived in Medina (AD 622-632), he either sent out or went out on seventy-four small assassination hit squads, raids, expeditions, small battles, or full-scale wars like the Tabuk Crusade in AD 630, in which Muhammad led 30,000 soldiers north to invade the Byzantine empire. Sometimes the conflicts did not end in violence, but too many times they did. All verses (and there are not many) in the Medinan suras that seem to speak of peace and tolerance must be read in light of this violent historical context. Not far from the few tolerant verses the reader will find intolerant and violent verses.

Sura 9:33, simply put, predicts the conquest of Islam over all religions. Islam must dominate the world through jihad.

9:29 Fight [q-t-l] against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Hilali and Khan)

What happens to martyrs in jihad?

Martyrs are guaranteed a fast track to Islamic paradise. Their deaths are depicted in economic terms. If they expend their lives as a living currency, Allah will exchange them for heavenly Islamic gardens.

61:10 You who believe, shall I show you a bargain that will save you from painful punishment? 11 Have faith in God and His Messenger and struggle [j-h-d] for His cause with your possessions and your persons—that is better for you, if only you knew—12 and He will forgive your sins, admit you into Gardens graced with flowing streams, into pleasant dwellings in the Gardens of Eternity. That is the supreme triumph. (Haleem)

Muslims who struggle (j-h-d) in Allah’s cause will either win the battle and live to see another day, so that they can collect some spoils of war, or they will die and have their sins forgiven and be admitted into Islamic heaven.

Sura 9:111 carries on the economic bargain.

9:111 God has purchased the persons and possessions of the believers for the Garden—they fight [q-t-l] in God’s way: they kill [q-t-l] and are killed [q-t-l]—this is a true promise given by Him in the Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur’an. Who could be more faithful to his promise than God? So be happy with the bargain you have made: that is the supreme triumph. (Haleem)

Two things should be noticed here. First, the root q-t-l is used three times in this short verse. Qital or qatala, as noted in the section “What are some rules of jihad?” means killing, warring, and slaughtering and is therefore less ambiguous or has a more restricted meaning than jihad, though this latter word can mean those same bloody acts.

Okay… so, Martyrs who fight in Jihad get the equivalent of the Disney Fast Pass to Paradise. What’s waiting for them? Men get it all! They get a place of extreme physical pleasure with 72 eternal virgins (Houris), wine, food, etc. Women simply get a couch by rivers of milk and honey… oh wait, they also get the same husband they had on earth (whether they want him or not).

Getting back to the Manchester situation. It is an ATROCITY. Is this what England gets for agreeing to have Sharia-enforced areas in their country? They have been bending over backwards to allow Muslim demands to filter into their schools, politics and courts. When a terrorist strikes in the name of Allah, please understand that this truly is what Islam teaches.

Quran Surah 8:12 Then your Lord spoke to His angels and said, “I will be with you. Give strength to the believers. I will send terror into the Kafirs’ hearts, cut off their heads and even the tips of their finger

What Islam teaches and what many Muslims believe may be two different things ONLY because over 80% of the Muslim world cannot read Arabic and the Quranic teachings are in Arabic. They are ignorant of what the teachings are, so you will find Muslims who say “Oh, this is not what I believe.” In order to be a true Muslim, you HAVE TO BELIEVE 100% of your book. If this is not what you believe as a Muslim, then according to your own religion, you are not a Muslim (Quran Surah Al-Baqarah 2:208 & Quran Surah Ali ‘Imran 3:7). In Quran Surah As-Sajda (32:22) it goes further to say –

“And who is more unjust than one who is reminded of the verses of his Lord; then he turns away from them? Indeed We, from the criminals, will take retribution.”

So, if you are a Muslim who questions Quranic verses or worse turns away (like I did = apostate), there will be retribution, for I am a criminal in Islam’s eyes.

This is your religion of peace. This is why people fear Islam for what it is and what it tells Muslims to do in order to behave. This is not a “phobia” (which is defined as “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.”). This is not IRRATIONAL, but is a RATIONAL, logical fear people have. As long as we make excuses as a nation and remain politically correct about what Islam is and what it teaches, we will remain in the dark.

Let LIGHT and TRUTH shine in!

The Bible in Ephesians 6:12-14 says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth fastened around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness arrayed…”

As Christians, we do not fight the Muslim people. We fight against the spiritual forces that do not tell the truth and take evil actions against innocents. We need to join together in prayer and share the Gospel of Christ in love. We do not need to take it upon ourselves to retaliate in anger, but to wrap ourselves in the truth of Christ’s teachings. To pray for your enemy and  to answer evil with love.

If you have any questions about what I wrote – contact me. I am happy to answer or find the answer for you. The Lord gave you an incredible mind. Don’t take statements like “Islam is peace” or “Terrorists don’t represent Islam’s teachings” at face value. Question it. Research it. May the Lord shine His beautiful light into your life.

Reaching Muslims in Love

Most in the West do not understand the implications of witnessing to a Muslim. They don’t understand that there is a huge cost to pay to follow Jesus Christ. In fact, a Muslim  who turns their back to Islam — like me, is guilty of apostasy and must be put to death. Muslims here in the US will regularly tell you that this is a religion of peace, however, this command from the Quran is carried out in all Muslim countries, where it is enforced by Sharia. In the US, Muslims can face kidnapping, beatings from family members, and being disowned from the family.
When I accepted Christ, I knew the risk I was taking. I am not saying this as a “holier than thou” attitude, but as a reality. At the least, I had been taught that becoming a Christian was one of the worst things you could do. When a Muslim accepts Christianity, their fate in the afterlife is  to automatically be placed into one of the deepest levels of hell. Here are other verses that state what the fate of one who does not believe in Islam can be:
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A Muslim can kill any person he wishes if it be a “just cause” Surah 6:152

– Allah loves those who “fight for his cause” Surah 61:3
Anyone who fights against Allah or renounces Islam in favor of another religion shall be “put to death or crucified or have their hands and feet cut off alternative sides” Surah 5:34

But those who reject Faith after they accepted it, and then go on adding to their defiance of Faith,- never will their repentance be accepted ; for they are those who have (of set purpose) gone astray.  Surah 3:90

Any one who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters Unbelief,- except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith – but such as open their breast to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty. Surah 16:106

Those who believe, then reject faith, then believe (again) and (again) reject faith, and go on increasing in unbelief,- Allah will not forgive them nor guide them nor guide them on the way.  Surah 4:137

Hadith (traditions of Mohammad)

A Muslim can kill any person he wishes if it be a “just cause” (Sura 6:152).

Abd-Allah ibn Masood said : The Messenger of Allah said : “It is not permissible to shed the blood of a Muslim who bears witness that there is no god except Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah, except in one of three cases : a soul (in case of murder) ; a married person who commits adultery ; and one who leaves his religion and separates from the main body of Muslims.” Sahih Al Bukhari number 6484 and Sahih Muslim number 1676

Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him. Sahih Al-Bukhari (9:57)

 

When you have been born into the religion (as I was) and you away, you are looked upon as worse than an infidel (one who was never a believer of Islam in the first place). It’s considered treason, for Islam is both religion and law of the State.

When witnessing to a Muslim, there needs to be an understanding of the seriousness of the cost to the person. Persecution is inevitable, even in the United States. However, I personally have taken that into account and know that following Christ is worth that cost.

There are several things you can do if you believe God is calling you to reach Muslims. I have created a bookmark so you can print it out & easily remember:

Bookmark-How to witness to muslims

  1. PRAY

Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have against the spiritual forces. Prayer opens up the power of heaven and allows us to plug into the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Do not depend on yourself to have the smooth speech. Ask God’s Holy Spirit to share words that give life to others and are wrapped in love. Pray that the Lord will lift the physical and spiritual veil for Muslims. I like to pray ” But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:16-18).”

2. MAKE EYE CONTACT

Kind of hard to do when someone is wearing a full burqa, but still try to do it. A genuine smile is the start of any authentic relationship! Sometimes, we get into a hurry and don’t listen to what God is telling you. A super quick prayer and a smile may bring about a beautiful friendship with someone from a diverse background.

3. EXTEND HOSPITALITY

Why do we have beautiful homes and we never invite anyone in? Why do we have nice kitchens and never offer to cook for anyone? Hospitality is a part of the culture for Muslims. It used to be this way for Americans as well. In our busy lifestyles, no one has time. Extend an invitation – just a cup of coffee or tea will do!

4. TALK ABOUT JESUS!

Hey! That’s who I want to talk about all the time anyway, so why not ask what they think of Him… you might be surprised! If that’s too risky for you, ask how your new Muslim friend sees God. Ask them to define His character and see where that conversation goes. Muslims are pious. They enjoy talking about God!

5. SHARE THE GOOD NEWS

Many Christians leave out the most important part. I have heard people say “well, I want to show Christ in my actions.” That is wonderful! However, that’s not the end of the story. How will they know if they never hear who Christ is and of His sacrifice for us on the cross. How will they know that God gave us salvation and His grace as a free gift. We cannot earn our way to heaven. ONLY CHRIST has paid our debt, bridged the gap to God and will come back to judge all.

6. BE PATIENT!

This is a relationship… not a pet project. A Muslim is a person, a human being. They are a person connected to a family. They need love and respect and deserve to be treated with kindness. On average, it takes a Muslim about 7 years to accept Christ. Remember, there is a lot at stake and it’s not an overnight decision. After conversion, be ready to disciple your friend & don’t leave them to wither on the vine.

It’s a matter of sharing your love, compassion and care for a hurting world. These are ways you can reach anyone (not just Muslims). If your heart is in the right place and you have prepared with the word of the Lord, God will help you! You are not on your own.

If you would like to know more about my journey, please check out my book:

From Isa to Christ: A Muslim Woman’s Search for the Hand of God

Ethics, Morals & Values

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I remember being in a Bible Study once and a woman who hadn’t done her homework asked me what I had down for some of the answers. I laughingly said “I think it might be double-wrong to cheat on Bible Study homework!” Of course I was just teasing her and that was not a serious statement levied towards her. She was simply asking about some of the questions that were confusing to her about our study.

When I teach Business Ethics, we always begin with clarification of terms. You cannot talk about ETHICS without considering a few other terms: Morals & Values. We don’t talk much about what we value today. There is discussion in the social circles about values, but the discussion tends to be vague. It is even more difficult to have this discussion in the workplace about Business.

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Mintz & Morris “Ethical Obligations & Decision Making in Accounting (2011).”

Ethics are simply defined as what is a Society’s standard of behavior of RIGHT and what is WRONG. MORALS comes from applying those ethics with principles and a framework of VALUES. VALUES are personal beliefs that are chosen or are cultural.

This is so very confusing and gets blurry very quickly! Here’s a way to think about this. We will start backwards. Values are personal. They can include hard work, integrity, honesty, love, servant attitude. It’s personalized and each individual has their own values. You can also have negative values – like valuing money above all else or greed, coveting, etc.

The word “morals” comes from Latin and has the root word “mores (pronounced “more rays”). Mores means societal customs and literally means manners of doing what is right and wrong. Morality becomes “conformity to the rules of right conduct.”

The word “ethics” comes from the Greek word “ethos” which means character. Many times people look at ethics as a moral code that governs the internal decisions of a person and morals as the external code for society. Whatever the case, both are intertwined.

This becomes even more convoluted when you look at ethics, morals and values from a Diversity viewpoint. For example, I did consulting work for a manufacturing company that was having issues with their employees stealing equipment. When I asked what was happening, they told me that they gave each employee a meat cutting knife to use. The employees were stealing these expensive knives ($50+ each) and they kept having to order more. What they didn’t realize is that most of their employees were from another culture where “giving” the knife meant it was theirs to keep. They were simply taking it home and using it in their kitchens. The management did not explain that when they gave the knife, it was to only be used at work. I asked if the employees could possibly take the nice knives home if they promised to bring them back for their shift? They reluctantly said yes, but if the employees did not, they would start fining them. Guess what happened? After a meeting with the employees to discuss the misunderstanding, the knives came back. The rest of the year, they did not have to order any more. This was not “stealing” it was “given.”

So, if ethics is defined as “right or wrong,” how do you make that as a general rule? What is right and what is wrong? If we use Morality, then we use society’s definition of what is right and wrong. Is it wrong to kill people? Most would say yes, it is wrong, yet we have the death sentence and abortion. When is it okay to kill? What about war? What about euthanasia (painless killing of a patient with a terminal disease)? What about suicide? These are very difficult questions that are made even more difficult when you take God out of the picture.

Scripture tells us in Amos 7:7-8 “Thus He showed me, and behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall with a plumb line in His hand. 8The LORD said to me, “What do you see,Amos?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,“Behold I am about to put a plumb line In the midst of My people Israel. I will spare them no longer…” There is a plumb line. For those not familiar with this concept, it’s used in building so that things are straight. You attach a heavy weight to the end of a string and suspend it. It gives you a way to measure and make your walls straight. For us, it is a Biblical Standard for being upright or righteous. It is a way to check yourself and make sure you are measuring up to what God has commanded you to do.

In a world that tells you boys are girls and girls are boys OR there is no “boy or girl” designation anymore, it is difficult to determine right and wrong without a standard. What ruler do you use to measure things? How do you even hang up a picture frame in your home without a standard guide? There has to be an external standard by which we measure.

Many young people tell me that right and wrong are relative. What’s right for you might be wrong for me and what’s wrong for me might be right for you. This is a scary statement for me. If it’s wrong for me to kill (thou shalt not murder – Commandment six), and you think that’s okay, then you threaten my life. These are not things that are arbitrary and left up to us (society = people) to decide. These are things that God Almighty gives us as rules. We need to use some sort of a plumb line in our lives. God is our Plumb Line and the true standard. In the verse above, His warning is to “his people.” In  Galatians 5:1,16-18 Paul says that  Jesus died in our place, thus fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law. Christ “took us out of Egypt,” he took us out of slavery and death. Today we, as God’s People,  have a responsibility to acknowledge what God has already done for us through redemption in Christ for our sins by making an effort to live a pure and upright life according to the standards He has set for us. We are not to look like the rest of the world, but to be set apart for His holy use.

Romans 12:2 ~ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

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