Ramadan 2018: Demystified for Christians

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image by: crossroads on a mission

Well… it’s that time of the year again. No, not Mother’s Day, not graduation, not Father’s Day but RAMADAN! Millions of Muslims all over the world celebrate this time within their communities, leaving the rest of the world wondering what the fuss is all about.

Most Muslims will tell you that Ramadan is “Fasting” and is one of the five pillars of Islamic beliefs. The truth of the matter is that Ramadan includes FEASTING! Many don’t realize that the fasting Muslims do during Ramadan is only during the daylight hours. The feasting lasts all night long with parties and food galore. There is a sense of jubilant celebration that you made it through yet another day of not eating or drinking.

When Christians think of fasting, they believe in not eating or drinking for the day and night. There is no “make-up” of the meals missed. In Islam, only the day and the night are switched! The fasting looks to be severe to the rest of the world because they are working and abstain from drinking water. Some Muslims cautioned me that I should not be brushing my teeth during Ramadan because technically, I would be introducing toothpaste and water into my mouth (not allowed). I was told to “dry brush” – of course, being a teenager at that time, I was appalled at that suggestion and chose to ignore it.

Shariah law dictates what a Muslim can and cannot do during Ramadan. There is great detail of who can fast (that means anyone seven years or older – including that a child of ten is beaten if not fasting), and who cannot – a woman on her period cannot fast, an insane person cannot fast, etc. The rules state that fasting during Ramadan involves abstinence from drink and food, sexual intercourse, smoking, anything that punctures the body like an injection, swallowing mucus and a long list of items (see link) that is permissible or not to a Muslim (including something called “cupping” where heated glass or a heated horn of an animal used to be put to the skin to draw blood like a suction in order to restore energy) from the dawn to the moment when a black thread is indistinguishable from a white one outside. That is the signal that the feasting time can begin and the fast is broken (called “Iftar” or “Iftari”).

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My own copy of the Sharia Law Book = last summer’s reading 😦

When I was a Muslim,  I didn’t keep many fasts. The most I kept were when we lived in Muslim countries. When we moved to the United States, our Muslim community used to fast together, so I wanted to join them. There was a great number of gatherings in people’s homes for the break of the fast – especially the first day. There is an intense suspenseful time of waiting right before the evening meal can be eaten – everyone’s eyes are on the clock, watching seconds tick by. We, the children were in a frenzy of anticipation and many Muslims drive like maniacs on the streets as they go racing home to their meals. Our kitchen counter would be piled high with food, tea and a sweetened drink called Rooh Afza. Dates and water would be set aside as that is the traditional way to break the fast.  When the time came or the muezzin’s call was heard from the mosque, there was chaos as the meal began with everyone grabbing dishes with their hands. When appetites were finally sated, our friends and family used to head for the couch to take a nap or to play cards or board games together. Again, fasting during Ramadan is simply a checklist. There was not much spiritual introspection for it, other than some who read the Quran during this month.

Christian fasting is different. The fast is not required or mandatory. It is a self-discipline that is revealed through prayer. Its intended to change the person who is fasting — not to change anyone else or (God forbid!) to change God’s mind. It is simply to quell an internal struggle one may be having with a number of things (anger, grief, lack of forgiveness, etc). Passions are not an issue for Islam. Fasting does not get rid of any of them, it only forbids them in the daylight hours. You can indulge in smoking, sex, and gorging on food or whatever you want at night. It is not a basis of righteousness nor is it about getting right with God. Again, it is simply a checklist to fulfill one of the pillars.

 

Christians might be surprised to learn that the Bible talks about fasting at least 77 times! Here is a wonderful article from Ligonier Ministry’s Donald Whitney called “The Discipline of Fasting.” He states that “But Christians are free to experience the blessings of fasting as often as they desire. Fasting expresses in a God-ordained way our belief that we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8) — so good that there are times we’re satisfied to feast on Him instead of the food that the Lord made for us to live on. Fasting is a temporary physical demonstration that we believe the truth declared by the gospel, namely that, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Do you believe that? Do you fast?”

We need to share the Gospel with others who are bound by checklists and obligations. We have such a beautiful freedom in Christ that we are able to fast if we wish to or not fast if we don’t. There are many ways to fast and to become closer to the Lord. Let’s start by prayer during Ramadan for our Muslim friends and neighbors. Maybe this period of time will allow you to consider fasting in order to share the Gospel with others who have not heard about the Way, the Truth, and the Life that comes only through Christ (John 14:6). Amen.

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Rejected!

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On Tuesday, I wrote about the fear of rejection and how tough that can be for children and adults alike. I was scheduled to speak twice that day- once at a place in OKC called Concordia (which went well) and later in the evening at the City Rescue Mission (which went not so well).

Last year, I shared my testimony at the City Rescue Mission, so after prayer, I felt that I should speak about something different. I settled on a topic that’s not so popular… that man is not “good.” Even David said in Psalm 51:5 that:

“5Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

After the fall of man, there’s not much that is “good” about human beings — the 20th century was the bloodiest century ever recorded in the history of man. YET, we are capable of good — for God is the only one who allows us to show good works in our life through fruit of the Spirit by the work of the Holy Spirit.

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Within about 5 minutes of the talk, several women just walked out! At first, I faltered in my speech. As much as I speak, I am not used to people just walking out. I am used to people coming up afterwards to argue or tell me I’m wrong about something (that happened earlier in the day at Concordia, but the man was respectful in his disagreement). So, I stopped in the middle of my sentence and watched them get up and go out of the place. Within seconds, I smiled to myself  and was amused because I remembered what I wrote about that very morning! 🙂 Talk about timing!

So, I took a deep breath and continued where I left off.

It’s funny when you get called out on the very thing you are telling others to practice in their life. As I mentioned in that blog – I am not immune from the feelings of rejection. It makes me sad and messes with my mind! I am also not writing this so you will feel sorry for me… instead, I am writing so you will know that public speaking – especially sharing the Gospel of Christ is no joke! I don’t take it lightly and I know that it can be irritating to many.

This is what was promised… so now go out there and live out the Great Commission (Matthew 28) to share the Gospel and yet, share the reason for your hope in Christ with gentleness & respect.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… 1 Peter 3:15

Fear of Rejection

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If you Google “Fear of Rejection,” you’ll find about 54,700,000 results in 0.42 seconds. It is a real fear – there are phobias named for this. As a people-pleaser, I know that  it’s difficult for me to not be liked by everyone. When I was a child and had just moved to the United States, I was always the LAST ONE to be chosen for a team… I don’t blame them – I didn’t know how to play baseball or dodge-ball.  Nobody wanted a “loser” to be on their team! Later, as a senior manager in a corporate setting, I would try to be on everyone’s team to gain their favor. I was told by my boss that  it was ridiculous for me to please everyone. Going through life, the career advice I received was correct.

Rejection comes all the time and in many different ways. Our children suffer through it, we have strangers and friends who reject our ideas, plans or even dreams and even family members who don’t want to have anything to do with us. How do we handle this as adults? What’s behind all of this? Why are we not able to help our own children with the rejection they will face?

We are created as social beings, to have community with others and not be isolated. When we are rejected, it can cause a loss of self-confidence (maybe I’m not good enough, maybe I’m a failure,  I smell bad, look weird, etc) – even depression. Psychologists say that at the heart of the fear is the avoidance of pain and suffering. So we try to cope with other ways of feeling good. Some turn to drugs and alcohol, while others live in a constant state of worry.

Where does your confidence and assurance come from?

Is it from other people? If so, be careful… they maybe as fearful or broken as you.

Is it from doing good works? If so, those can ring hollow after a while when no one else notices!

Is it from your career? Is it from money? Take a look and examine yourself.

The only thing that has changed my view on rejection, pain and suffering is CHRIST.

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Passion of the Christ
Christ suffered pain from scourging, beatings, and being nailed to the cross. His trauma on the cross brought about a new word in our language “excruciating” which means literally out of the cross (ex: out & cruc: cross). He is the only sinless person to ever live who had his blood poured out drop by drop for the salvation of sinful man. He felt pain until the last moment when he cried out in John 19:30 “It is finished.”

If you are a believer in Christ as your Lord and Savior, what are you worried about? He promised us that we would be rejected as he said in John 15: “17 This is My command to you: Love one another. 18If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first. ” We are actually CALLED to suffer and be JOYFUL in the things we are dealing with! Why? 

Romans 5:3-5 answers this:

3And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

So… what’s your hang up? Why worry about being rejected and having to suffer. Christ suffered and if we are to reflect Christ as Christians, we should be ready with the knowledge that we will be rejected. We will be mocked as foolish. We will suffer… but we will overcome these things — not in our own power, but in the power of Christ who has defeated death, the ultimate enemy and has RISEN from the grave! Hallelujah!

What a reason to celebrate REJECTION!!!

May Christ be the ONE you turn to for your confidence and assurance. Amen.

A Former Muslim’s View of the Cross

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I had the honor of doing a podcast yesterday for Anna Clement from  Mission OKC . It’s called “A Former Muslim’s View of the Cross.” It’s a part of my testimony, but focuses on how the Cross of Christ is viewed by Muslims and what it means to me today.
A few highlights from the interview:
*Surah 4:157 says “And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.”

The Bible says: For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  ~ 1 Cor 1:18

 

I thought you might want to watch the video or listen to the podcast with Easter in mind!
While you are on Anna’s site (http://thefirstthings.com/), check out her other podcasts as well.
May you celebrate the RISEN Savior who died on the cross for our sins and gave us life eternal!

He is RISEN!

Not an Author

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From Isa to Christ – A Muslim Woman’s Search for the Hand of God (published Feb 2017)

I’ve had the chance now to speak at several book clubs around the OKC area. Each time, I’m asked about the writing process and why I became an author. When I reply that “I didn’t set out to become an author,” another conversation begins.

The truth is that I didn’t want to write a book. I didn’t know the first thing about writing (even though I am a Business Professor and grade writing papers each week), I didn’t know how to start a book or how the entire process worked. What I did have, however, was a compelling story that the Lord gave me. I have been speaking about this journey He’s taken me on for the last decade and each time, I was asked if there was a book available or in progress and each time, I said “no.”

I was afraid of writing a book as it seemed like a daunting process. The real reason behind me saying no was that I didn’t want the “author” label… seemed too pretentious and that it would go to my head. As a Christian who is in the spotlight as a speaker and corporate trainer, I get used to being the center of attention. All of that is not good for the HUGE head I get, contributing even further to me being prideful. I have to get up in the morning and pray that the Lord helps me to point to Him and not hog all the accolades that come my way. In other words, it’s not about me.

A few years ago in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), I had the chance to share my testimony with a group of leaders in an informal setting. The Teaching Leader, Paula, told me that I needed to write because “there’s a book in there!” She was very excited about the unique way the Holy Spirit had led me to Christ and encouraged me to write it all down. When I confessed to her about my pride issue, she asked in a straightforward way if I had confessed it and had repented. I jokingly told her that I tend to do that several times a day. She again encouraged me to write and said “if it’s God’s will, then the book will write itself.” There was truth in that…

So, I began to pray for several months before I even started any part of the process (again, no clue what the process was). I asked for the Lord to give me guidance, direction and make it clear if it was His will. I also decided that I would pray every morning and simply ask “Lord, do I write today?”

Each morning, I would get up and ask. Some days, it was very clear that I needed to write. Other days, nothing. On some days, I would sit down at the computer and write 10-15 pages! On other days, nothing. I even had a long stretch of about 3-1/2 months where there was nothing. I was around the 6th chapter in the book by then and it caused me great panic after about 2 months. I began to second-guess if I was even supposed to be writing.

Looking back, I think that was a part of praying and waiting in obedience, for shortly after that drought, it was as if the dam had broken. The rest of the book simply tumbled out in quick succession of chapters. Before the year was over, I had a book completed! I knew that I needed a cover that would encompass the story. I now began to pray for help with the second part – design. Again, the Lord answered very quickly! I woke up one morning and had the picture of the cover in my head. I knew that there was supposed to be a Quran on the cover – maybe in the background, soft-focus and there should be a picture of me somewhere as well, in my Pakistani outfit. By the end of the SAME DAY, I had my cover picture. In fact, I had about 5 different versions of the cover.

I am not a designer. I am pretty low-tech when it comes to using computer software. I couldn’t have told you how to design a book cover, much less make it so you could upload it and have it look half-way decent. YET, GOD can!

You see, when I was studying Moses’s life in Exodus 31, I came across a passage where God calls certain people by name to come and work on His ark of the covenant. He gives them the ability and talent to do what He asked them to do. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He does not change. He gives us each talents and abilities to use them for His glory.

Think about the verse in Philippians 4:13 that says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Do you truly believe that? Do you believe that Christ can help you in your circumstances, hard times, and even in times of doing things that are out of your comfort zone or talents? If you really believe that God can give you what you need, then please realize that it also means that He can also equip you for every good deed (Hebrews 13:21).

I was not an author, but I now have a book. I was not a designer, but the Lord gave me a clear vision of what the cover would look like and helped me to figure out how to do that within 24 hours. Maybe we should stop saying what we’re not and start looking at ourselves as God sees us – His children and His disciples.

I want to encourage you today to pray and pay attention to what the Lord might be asking you to do. Step out in that faith and watch what He does for your life!

New Year, New YOU?

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Are you one for making resolutions for the new year? Then you reflect about half the population. Are you one for keeping them? Studies show that only about 8% of the people keep their resolutions. Why the staggering low amount of completion?

Turns out that self-help isn’t really all that helpful!

We make a resolution to exercise more and the first really cold day (again… January), we decide that it’s much better to be bundled up with a steaming cup of hot cocoa. We decide to spend less money, only to be confronted with after-Christmas sales. Yes, you guessed it – I’m talking about myself. It happened again today for lunch – here I was, making good choices about eating vegetables and saw that they had my favorite carb right by the veggies. Yup, my resolve crumbled right there just like that cookie facing me.

It’s not easy to do this alone.

The world tells you that “YOU can do it” and that “It’s all about YOU.” It tells you that only if you were more focused, you could achieve every goal. For some of you out there who are disciplined, you can do it… but again, we are talking about the 8%. The rest of us 92% fall miserably short of our goals.

There are goal-setting tools that can help you achieve a few more of those goals and the self-help section in the bookstore is always the largest. But what if I told you that you weren’t meant to do it alone? What if I told you that if you were to have someone alongside of you, that the resolutions and goals would have a better percentage?

It’s called ACCOUNTABILITY. 

We need that at work, for our diets, for exercise and most of all, for our Christian walk. We were meant to work together with others who will help us, encourage us (take a look at 1 Thes 5:11) and also cry with us when we mess up. It’s wonderful to have someone to share things with.  The statistics back up my claim. The Association for Training & Development did a study where they found that sharing the goal with even one person increased the odds of goal completion by 95%!

So this year, don’t do things by yourself. Enlist the help of others. It will keep you accountable and humble!

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. ~ Proverbs 27:17

No Peace

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NY Times Photo – Nigerian Mosque Nov. 21, 2017

The self-proclaimed religion of peace is busy committing atrocities in the name of Allah. The latest bombing of the Mubi mosque in Nigeria has claimed over 300 souls. The president and others have named the radical Muslim extremist group, Boko Haram for the murders. This is a militant Islamic group that leaves chaos in their wake throughout Nigeria and neighboring countries, displacing over 2 million people by burning villages and attacking towns, camps and other mosques.

The New York Times reported that “Mr. Abubakar, the police spokesman, said the assailant was a male teenager. He said the attacker had walked into the mosque and joined the worshipers crowded inside the small room.” Poor child who was sacrificed in the way of jihad. Poor families who lost their loved ones that day. We grieve for them and those who know no peace.

In a season that hails the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, there is only chaos in the Muslim world. There are extremists who are fighting in a religious struggle against whoever gets in their way — kill or be killed. Christ did not teach the way of the world. In fact, He taught in Matthew 5:5 the OPPOSITE by saying “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”

Being meek is not popular with the world. You don’t really see many T-Shirts with a catchy slogan about being “meek.” When I was a Muslim, I used to laugh at the Christians who (I thought) held hands and sang together. What nonsense! My belief was go out there and get what you deserve – you should demand it in a big, loud voice. If you don’t get whatever you are after, then beg, borrow and steal to get it. It’s every man (and woman) for themselves.

This is what Islam teaches… “It’s all about YOU, babe.” You are responsible for your own salvation. No one is going to come and save you. YOUR works, YOUR efforts, YOUR good deeds. Do extra credit good deeds, pray extra ~ the more you rack up, the better it will be for you on judgment day and even then, you have no guarantee of getting into Paradise.

Then, one glorious day, I came to find out the TRUTH about Christ Jesus.

It is not about YOU. It’s about what Christ did for us on the cross. It’s about His perfect, sinless life and perfect death of obedience on the cross for our sins. It’s about His efforts and His conquering of death in His resurrection. No one else has ever done that. Ever.

Only Christ.

Only His Death.

Only His Resurrection.

Only His Peace… so we sing:

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

~(lyrics to Hark the Herald Angels Sing)

May we pray for the families who lost their loved ones. May we pray for Muslims everywhere who don’t know peace and don’t know the Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus. May His peace reign forever and ever.

Amen.

All Ways Lead to God?

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When I share my testimony with others, I share John 14:6 – Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Most times, I am speaking at Christian gatherings, yet within the crowd I will almost always get someone who wants to speak with me afterwards about how offensive it was to them that I stated that the only way to God is through Christ Jesus. Again… speaking at CHRISTIAN gatherings.

I am not sure when the idea of tolerance included getting away from scripture. If you are a Christian and you believe in the sanctity of the written revelation of God through the Bible, then you cannot dispute Jesus Christ’s own words. Either you believe or you don’t believe. It’s that simple.

Or is it?

At this point, I usually get called “narrow-minded” or “arrogant” to have that view. I am told that the world is not black and white. There is no real right or wrong way of thinking.

As someone who has a real desire to be liked, it is difficult to be called “offensive, narrow-minded, and arrogant.” Yet, we are told that the world will hate us (see John 15:18). Paul even tells us that we are fools for Christ’s sake in 1 Corinthians 4:10  and this is usually how the rest of my own family views me for believing in Christ as I do. The world wants you to choose a watered down Gospel. They want you to agree with them and say there are many roads to heaven and God. At the same time, they don’t realize that this is an arrogant view to take because they are saying “You are wrong for believing in one way. You need to believe the way I believe.” They are also narrow-minded, for they do not take into account that other religions do not believe in many ways to God – like Islam! Muslims, for one, would laugh at you if you took that approach with them and they would set you straight by telling you that the only way is through following the 5 pillars of faith and through good works in the name of Allah.

If you are in Christ, stand firm in the foundation of His WAY of grace as a free gift that no one has earned through works, His TRUTH as revealed in the Gospel, and the eternal LIFE only He has paid for through the shedding of His blood on the cross. Amen.

Eid al Adha TODAY!

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image from RRB Result

Muslims all over the world look to Saudi Arabia to determine the shape of the moon to indicate the start of Eid festival. The Saudi High Judicial Council (HJC) announced August 22 that the new moon will be in a crescent, (they then calculate the date of Eid to be 10 days after) indicating the festival of Eid. The Islamic religious calendar is based upon a Lunar calendar and there is significance in the crescent moon. This is why you see the crescent moon for many of the Islamic nations’ flags and on top of mosques.

Eid al Adha (or Eid ul Adha – same thing) is translated as the “Greater Eid” or “Bakr Eid.” It is the Festival of the Sacrifice. I wrote about the rituals last year in this blog titled “Eid al Adha, 9/11, & God’s Sacrifice on Mount Moriah.” Every year, millions of Muslims sacrifice a goat or a lamb to commemorate Abraham’s sacrifice of his son. Muslims believe it was Ishmael who was offered on the altar, while the Jewish and Christian Scriptures state it was Isaac. Nevertheless, Abraham’s obedience to God is the commemoration on this day.

According to Hanifah (stricter rules of Islam), the offering for every Muslim is mandatory. According to other Hadiths (traditions), however, it is called “Sunnah” or a good thing to do. Either way, the Hadith says:

“Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is reported to have said :
‘Whoever can afford to offer a sacrifice but does not do so, let him not approach our place for prayer.’ (Reported by Ahmad and Ibn Maajah; classed as saheeh by al-Haakim from the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah.  ‘All those people who have the nisab (payable amount) of zakah should offer a sacrifice. The time for offering a sacrifice begins after the `Eid Al-Adha prayer.’ According to a Hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “Whosoever offered a sacrifice before the `Eid prayer, he or she just slaughtered an animal for meat, but whosoever made sacrifice after the `Eid Al-Adha prayer, he or she has offered a sacrifice.” (Al-Bukhari, Sahih, Hadith no. 902).”

So if you are called to sacrifice a goat or a lamb, how do you fulfill this as a Muslim? In this technologically advanced world, this has become much easier!  There are advertisements that allow a Muslim to pay for a lamb, a goat or even a cow (can share this sacrifice with up to 7 people) all around the world. Here’s an example of an ad:

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EXAMPLE of an ad for “Qurbani” or Sacrifice for sale

The problem with this is that the sacrifice needs to fulfill certain age requirements (more than 6 months old, but less than five years old, have none of the four defects mentioned by Muhammad, etc.). So how would you know that your sacrifice being chosen thousands of miles away meets the requirements? The answer is: You don’t.

When the Jewish people would offer sacrifice to the Lord, they had the understanding that the sacrifice was for atonement of sins – they were sinful and had to pay the penalty for sin. God allowed them to have a system of sacrifice that was offered on their behalf. Only one obscure Muslim Hadith mentions that you need to be present as you slaughter your sacrifice so that “Allah may forgive you as the first drop of blood comes out.” It is not certain what is being forgiven here – your latest sin, killing the animal or all your sins. The way most of my family looked at this was that it was simply one of the checklists that you need to do as a Muslim.

When I was a Muslim, I did not completely understand why we sacrificed a lamb (see post to explain that ritual) other than remembering Abraham’s obedience. I didn’t know what that lamb’s blood would do for me and what it meant for me, other than being obedient to Allah. There was no connection for me as to atonement or someone else taking on my sins. As far as I knew, I ALONE was responsible for doing good deeds to tip my scales towards the good on Judgment Day. It wasn’t until I met Christ Jesus and understood him shedding His blood willingly on the cross for my sins. I understood that day that only ONE is sinless (the Quran says also that only Jesus – Isa Ibn Maryam was sinless!). In the Bible, 1 Peter 1:18-20 says:

18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life you inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was known before the foundation of the world, but was revealed in the last times for your sake.…

As Muslims celebrate today and this weekend with parties and festivals, I want to ask Believers to pray for them to know the TRUE Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the sinless and spotless lamb of God. May every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Amen.

ISIS & the Cultural Muslim

ISIS & the Cultural Muslim

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I know Muslim homes around the world were cringing yesterday when a Muslim man’s name was announced for the terrorist attacks in Spain. My family gets really agitated and worked up each time there is an attack. They don’t want to hear it was a Muslim person yet again who was driving into people, killing at random.

Most of my family and friends are “Cultural Muslims.” They will tell you that they are not terrorists. In fact, this is what I used to go and speak about as a Muslim woman after the 9/11 attacks. The Muslim community sees itself as a peaceful, working class group – just like any other patriotic citizen.  There is a desire to fit into the culture, yet be set apart from it due to the religion and what it entails. This is not an easy thing to do. It’s a fight I had within myself as I grew up Muslim in America.

The freedoms you have in the West do not compare to the oppression from Islamic nations. It’s really easy here to get used to being able to talk freely to everyone (including men), to speak your mind and share opinion without repercussions and to practice your religion – even at work. I enjoyed all these freedoms!

When faced with the media and portrayal of Muslims, I find a broad-brush statement like  “all Muslims are terrorists” or even “all terrorists are Muslims.” The frustration for others comes when Muslims do not stand up and deny that Islam teaches this type of behavior. It’s hard for someone who doesn’t come from this culture to understand what’s going on in the background.

Muslims – even cultural Muslims will not condemn what ISIS is doing because ISIS is indeed going by what the Quran says (see Quran 3:32, 48:29, 5:23, 9:29, 9:73, 9:111, etc). Orthodox Muslims will tell you that ISIS is those who are holding true to the Quran = real, authentic Muslims. In fact, Orthodox Muslims say that the Cultural Muslims are not real Muslims and have denounced them. 

When I was a Muslim and we showed up to the Mosque, I would inevitably get the 20 questions routine (I have blogged about this before). There is a battery of questions asked unashamedly by others. I was usually asked what my name was, my parents’ names, where we were from (city), if I was married, husband’s name (this was a kicker when I was married to an American, but remained a Muslim), if I kept all the fasts for Ramadan, if I prayed 5 times a day, on and on. They weren’t trying to be nosy – they were trying to figure out what kind of a Muslim I was. The reason why they asked is because we were not regulars to the Mosque! Should’ve been obvious we were not Orthodox in our beliefs. The question and answer session usually concluded with the person looking down at me in disdain.

Nevertheless, even the Cultural Muslims will not come out against what another Muslim is doing, especially if they have no clue as to whether or not the Quran supports it (for many have not read the Quran or have only read it in Arabic when it was not their native language). The condemnation only comes from the Orthodox Muslims for the rest of the Muslim world to follow what they are doing. This is not only scary for the Cultural Muslims (because they actually want to live in Western countries and want to work and be “normal”) but also for the rest of the population for the US and Europe. Did you follow that? Orthodox Islam condemns Cultural Muslims for their flimsy, watered-down beliefs. 

There is a definite call to follow Orthodox Islam. Saudi Arabia sets the tone for the rest of the world because it is the heart of Islam and the birthplace of Muhammad. The Muslim world looks to Saudi Arabia for everything from when the moon is in the right phase for the start of Ramadan to dictates that they set (especially Sharia law). In 2007, Saudi Arabia launched an official website for issuing of “Fatwas” (religious decrees and mandates put forth by Islamic scholars on a council, including who was an enemy of Islam).

When I speak publicly about growing up Muslim and becoming a Christian, I get responses like “well, the Muslims I know are nice people and not terrorists.” My response is that my own family is made up of nice people and not terrorists, but that isn’t the point. The point is that to say you are a Muslim, you have to believe 100% of what is in the Quran. You cannot say “I don’t believe in the violent passages of the Quran.” That is not possible. As a Muslim, it’s black or white. Either you believe or you are not a Muslim. This is the choice I was faced with when I started to read the Quran. I didn’t know there were passages about violence against women. I didn’t know that there were passages about violence against non-believers and that they were the enemy of Islam. I didn’t want to believe that. The problem was I could not then say I was a Muslim. I knew either I believed it or I did not.

Here’s just a small sample of what the Muslim Scholars say about a Muslim who doesn’t pray 5 times a day:

If the one who does not pray does not do it because he denies that it is obligatory, even though he is aware that Allah has commanded that prayer be established, then he is a kaafir and an apostate according to the consensus of the ummah. 

If a person does not pray because he denies that it is obligatory out of ignorance on his part that it is obligatory, such as one who is new in Islam, he is not deemed to be a kaafir, but he is to be taught and instructed to pray. 

Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (may Allah have mercy on him) said:  The Muslims are unanimously agreed that the one who denies that prayer is obligatory is a kaafir who is to be executed if he does not repent from that kufr. However they differed concerning the one who affirms that it is obligatory but deliberately does not do it even though he is able to.

End quote from al-Istidhkaar, 2/149 

NOTE: Kaafir = Unbeliever (usually used as an offensive word)

The choice I had to make was revealed to me by the Holy Spirit. I was led to a church, where the pastor shared the definition of GRACE with me. He also explained that Jesus was the only one who was sinless and could bridge the gap between us and God, thus giving us assurance of heaven. Muslims do not have assurance. They only have works. Either they do good deeds or they go to the fiery place and burn for an eternity. There is no Savior – it’s all up to you. This is why Jihad is so alluring. Jihad is the only 100% way to get to Paradise (Quran 4:95 & 3:169-170). It’s an act of desperation – of knowing you cannot make it to heaven because you have sinned. You cannot do it on your own, so you drive a van into a crowd.

Christians need to use this opportunity to share the message of Grace with a Muslim -that God offers us His mercy and pardon from sin as a gift. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23. It’s not what we do, but what Christ does that brings us to a place of peace and restoration with God and thus, with the world. The Muslim world is not our enemy. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12.  How much better would the world be if we realized we are not to hate your enemies but to love them and offer them peace found in Jesus Christ?