As a Human Resources Professional and a former Muslim, I get many questions about how to handle the limitations of Ramadan for Muslim employees. When I was working full time and tried to fast during Ramadan, it was next to impossible for me. There were doughnuts at the morning meetings, lunch meetings catered by my favorite restaurants, more lunch meetings with clients and dinner mixers. You could also forget trying to pray five times a day in the middle of these and other obligations as a senior level manager! Today with the increased awareness of the Diversity that exists, Muslims are not as ready as I was to quietly go through the day to fast or pray. Ramadan can present a challenge especially for Human Resources and employees that is confusing. Those outside the Muslim faith don’t quite understand the issues or the flexibility in a religion that looks quite inflexible on the outside. Some try to compare this to the Lenten season, but not all Christians practice fasting for Lent and even then, many Catholics give up meat on one day. Christian fasting is also different as there is no set day. Christians can fast anytime, however they like. It is a discipline to draw them closer to God – not to fulfill any religious obligations. Furthermore, Christian fasts do not make up any meals. If you give up a meal, it is gone.
I describe Ramadan fasting as a flipping of day with night. Meals are not eaten during the day (no water or liquids either). However, at night, you can eat or drink to your heart’s content. We would get up before sunrise and eat a breakfast. You can then eat again after sunset. It’s the daylight hours that present the challenge. I have written other blog posts on this topic: Ramadan Demystified and the Christian’s Guide to Ramadan.
So… what is an employer to do?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion (or lack of religious belief) in hiring, firing, or any other terms and conditions of employment. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says:
“In addition, the Act requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of applicants and employees, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operation of the employer’s business. A reasonable religious accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment that will allow the employee to practice his religion. Flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments lateral transfers, and exceptions to dress or grooming rules are examples of accommodating an employee’s religious beliefs.”
*”Undue Hardship” on Employer = costly, compromises safety, decreases efficiency, infringes on other employees’ rights or requires others to pick up their task of burdensome work.
*Undue hardship also may be shown if the request for an accommodation violates others’ job rights established through a collective bargaining agreement or seniority system.
*Prohibits religious harassment of employees, such as offensive remarks about a person’s religious beliefs or practices (hostile or offensive work environment) or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).
Of course, the EEOC guidelines are to be followed, but a good rule of thumb is to practice Diversity awareness and allow employees to openly have a conversation about what is Ramadan and why it is practiced – if they are willing. This way, it will not become a taboo topic where people are walking on eggshells or ignoring it. In addition, allowing a little flexibility in hours is not only kind but appreciated by all employees (granted in retail sales, call centers and manufacturing, that is more difficult to do).
The same kindness should also be shown to others who have differing religious beliefs- including Christians. I find now as a Christian, it is the flip side of the coin, where people are not willing to share their Christian faith for fear or repercussion – a man I know did not even feel he could put a cross in his office without being ridiculed. Religious accommodations can be made, but decisions should be made with respect to overall productivity and efficiency of the organization. If all employees on the team are willing to pitch in, then it will become a win-win for everyone – especially if others want to take a religious day off for their practice in the future.
Open dialogue, questions to reach an understanding and a willingness to help — these are all hallmarks of organizations that are open to diversity and create a culture of learning.
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”).
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.
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.
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?
Over the last two weeks, I have had the privilege to listen to two very moving testimonies about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. One was our friend from Iran and the other was our friend from India. In both testimonies, there was a common denominator… the LORD called and they answered. There was also another commonality – they both had to forsake all else to follow Christ.
In the West, we have it easy. There are mega-shopping malls and mega-churches. There are gas stations at every corner and also houses of worship. We take Christianity for granted. If you feel like going to church you can walk into any place of worship. If you don’t feel like doing any of that… well, you don’t have to do that either. I have heard many say “it’s whatever makes you feel good.”
When listening to each testimony, I was reminded that here in the United States, there is no heavy persecution to follow Christ. Both of these men have faced persecution from their countries and also from their families. Yet, the persecution has brought out a beautiful light that shines from each one of their faces when they both attested to the fact that Christ rescued them – one from Islam and the other from Hinduism. To be delivered from death into eternal life, to be delivered from trying to reach God from their own works to the work done on the cross for them by the sinless Christ, to be delivered from darkness into light is only something the Holy Spirit can do.
What a marvelous and beautiful Savior. May His light shine through these amazing men who live and die for Jesus. May the Lord bless them and strengthen them in their walk with Him. Amen.
One of the frequent questions I get is “Do Muslims pray to the same God as us (Christians)?” If you would have asked me when I first became a Christian, my answer would have been unequivocally “YES!” Having been taught that Allah is the same God of Abraham (whom both Jews and Christians worship) for 35 years was the reasoning behind that answer at that time. I didn’t understand fully who God Almighty was and more specifically, who He was as revealed by Jesus Christ.
This year, I was mortified to learn that churches right here in Oklahoma City were allowing Muslims to come and pray with them. When I asked how prayers were being conducted, the two people I spoke to said that their Imam was leading the Muslim prayer with everyone there… in the church. Did I mention that this was IN THE CHURCH???
What’s wrong with that?
In my Muslim brain, I would not have seen any issues with that. Same God = Same God. No problem.
As a more mature Christian, my understanding of who we worship is very different! We, Christians worship ONE God in THREE persons: God the Father Almighty, Jesus Christ his only begotten son and the Holy Spirit. All three separate persons who have existed together since the beginning of time (for there is no time for them – they are infinite!). They are three, but ONE.
This is not only completely different than what Muslims believe, it is also considered to be “Shirk.” Shirk is the ultimate sin of blasphemy that puts another equal to God. In Islam, the belief in Allah is called Tawhid. Tawhid comes from the Arabic root word for ONE “Wahid.” One means only one – not a father, no son and no Holy Spirit. In fact, in the Quran, the Trinity is called out by Isa (Jesus) in verse 5:116 (Yusuf Ali):
And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah‘?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden.
Yes… that’s right. The Quran points out that Christians believe the Trinity is Allah, Jesus and Mary. The next few lines say that is blasphemy and guess what… CHRISTIANS AGREE! In fact, the Bible attests to this fact numerous times in both the Old & the New Testament:
Deuteronomy 6:4 (the Shema) ~ “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [NOTE: Jesus repeats this in Mark 12:29]
8:1 Corinthians 6 ~ yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
In Islam, the five daily prayers (Salat) attest to the Muslim belief that Allah is only ONE and that there are no others equal to him. In fact, there is a beautiful prayer I used to recite each time I prayed and that is called “Surah Fatiha (the beginning prayer).” The Fatiha is prayed at least 16 times a day and can also be prayed upwards of 48 times a day. I would pray this prayer as often as I could as a Muslim.
It is important to note that just in one prayer (there are multiple prayers recited in Arabic during each of the 5 times of Salat), there is a denunciation of the Triune Christian God and also it says that Jews and Christians are going into the path of destruction. Again, I urge you to not just take my word for it, but to look it up for yourself (www.muslimconverts.com). Here’s a screenshot of the prayer with translation in English. Many Muslims have no clue what they are reciting because they have to pray in Arabic and don’t even speak the language.
In the name of inclusion and diversity, people are willing to consider Islam as the same as Christianity. It is not the same – that’s the beauty of real diversity in the United States – that we can worship how we want. I am 100% on board for people wanting to open their hearts to Muslims – we should not only open our hearts, but also our homes. The only caution I give is to not compromise when it comes to belief and worship. Worship of the LORD our God YHWH is sacredand should be kept that way. Christians cannot stand in our place of worship with someone next to them who is denying the Triune God and His Christ with his every word.
Instead of asking do Muslims worship the same God, I think we need to be clear that Christians DO NOT worship the same God.
This is what I believe, along with the thousands before me (The Apostle’s Creed):
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,[b]
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The holy catholic Church*;
The Communion of Saints;
The Forgiveness of sins;
The Resurrection of the body,
And the Life everlasting.
Amen and Amen…
*NOTE: “The holy catholic church” does not mean the Roman Catholic church. It is a term that means the Church Universal (the big “C” Church!)! 🙂
Father’s Day is a reminder to us to go back and think of our earthly father who has influenced us over the course of our life. My father has been a generous source of caring and love. I have photos of him carrying his daughters around and you can see his giant grin that goes from ear to ear. He is the kind of father that is ready with a hilarious joke, a well-told story or the loving kindness in his smile – even for strangers.
Over the years, I have come to the realization that some don’t have a warm, fuzzy recollection of our father. For some, that person was just a “donor” and left soon after they were born. Others never knew an earthly father who raised them up.
We live in a broken, messed up world. There are painful stories people have shared with me that have brought me to tears, listening to the cruelty and heartbreak of an uncaring, missing father. Some of these personal stories have left me wondering how does this person carry on with their life or even more than that – how do they have a role model to follow?
Not only did I have my father who raised me up, but we had the additional blessing of having our maternal grandparents who lived with us for several years. My grandfather (lovingly called “Abba”) was also kind, caring and ready to sit with you. He wanted to be involved in your life and was genuine in his affection. He was quiet in his manners and demeanor but made you feel special even when you sat next to him. He had all the time in the world to spend with you.
When I became a Christian, imagine my surprise at reading about how Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” He told them to call God their Father. It even got more strange for me, because I was told the Aramaic (what Jesus spoke to his disciples) – “Abba.” I about flipped out of my chair that Sunday morning! Abba was my grandfather – my grandpa. Abba was not God Almighty’s name!
As a Muslim, I was taught that God was way up high in the heavens and that he was indifferent to us unless it was during the time of prayer. You see, as a Muslim, you have to have an appointment to truly talk to God. Even then, you aren’t really “talking” to him as an equal. You are bringing in your petition like a slave does to a king. You bow down low (literally the case during prayer) and then you say certain verses in Arabic. You don’t just plop down on the couch and chit chat with God (YIKES! Blasphemous!) but you approach His throne (see another post I wrote on this here: MY Dad’s Chair) carefully so you don’t cause offense.
There is no relationship with God. That is just a ridiculous notion to a Muslim. When I heard someone praying and calling God Almighty her “Daddy,” I freaked out then also. I did not realize that Jesus had given us the model to pray. We truly DO have the freedom to call Him our Father in Heaven, as well as “Abba.” He is just that close to us in a true relationship.
What a mind-blowing revelation to me! Yet, many Christians take this fact as nothing special. When we realize that we have officially been adopted into the Kingdom of the LORD God Almighty – creator of Heavens and earth, we should be shaking in our shoes. Instead, He welcomes us into an embrace – He runs to us (Prodigal Son parable – see Luke 15:20) with joy and His arms open wide!
On Father’s Day today, if you have a crummy earthly father, don’t give up hope. If you have a missing earthly father, don’t give up looking. If you have a wonderful earthly father, give God praise. For all of us, remember that we have a PERFECT Heavenly Father who is waiting for us very patiently to return to Him so He will run to us, embrace us, and call us His child. What a wonderful God, Redeemer and Savior we have! Amen.
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.
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.
TODAY, May 27 is the first day of Ramadan for 2017
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the FIVE Pillars of Faith (requisite checklist for all Muslims)
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!
Ramadan is a time for prayer. Muslims try to get closer to God. WE CAN HELP!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Muslims 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
My first experience with death was in High School. Until then, it was not very personal. I had never attended funerals at all. I didn’t really think much about death or that life was going to have to end at one point or another. Many of you know I lived a fairly sheltered life. Our family moved around a lot when I was growing up. Several of my relatives passed away when I was very young (less than four years old) or were living in another country, so I did not get to have a relationship with them.
All of that changed when my grandmother passed away. She had heart issues but was in her late 50’s, so her death was unexpected and sudden. My grandparents had been living with us for a few years prior to moving out to a small home, so this was a relatively close relationship. Her death hit me very hard.
It wasn’t because I missed her or was upset about her death (sounds callous, I know). It was mainly because as a selfish teenager, all of a sudden it became about ME. I realized I didn’t know what to expect when I died. What did the Quran say about death? I knew there were angels on my right and left shoulder who noted my good and bad deeds to report them to Allah, but apart from that, I didn’t know.
When I was a little girl, I was told that when you sleep at night, your soul dies a little death and that God will return your soul to you in the morning if He wills it. This was also a pretty scary thing to consider as a small Muslim child. Here in the West, children are worried about the monsters hiding in their closet, but for the Muslims, you actually died at night!
From the Quran (al An’aam 6:60)
“It is He, Who takes your souls by night (when you are asleep), and has knowledge of all that you have done by day”
Interpretation – Hadith Al Bukhaari, 7474
It was narrated from Abu Qataadah (may Allah be pleased with him) that when they slept and missed the prayer, the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Verily Allah took your souls when He willed, and He returned them when He willed.”
When I asked my father, he replied that Muslims believed that Allah does indeed take into account the good and bad deeds and that all Muslims work towards increasing the balance of the good deeds so that the scales will tip in their favor. This led me to even more questions: how do you know how much each good and bad deed is worth? Are they all weighed the same? It can’t be! Isn’t murder worth more than a lie? What about a lie to my parents versus a lie to an unbeliever? Are they the same? Does one have a higher penalty than the other?
Muslims have no answers to those questions! There is no assurance of salvation, no pardon, nothing to rely on. You have to believe that Allah is most merciful and that He will tip the balance for you, but then again, the Quran says that Allah can change His mind — how do you know for sure?
This is where the relief for me came in. It took another 20 years for me to come to Christ and the Holy Spirit showed me that indeed, I was a horrible Muslim. I tried to pray five times a day, but didn’t (meetings at work, luncheons, appointments, you name it). I tried to fast, but couldn’t (meetings at work, luncheons, migraine headaches, etc). I tried to give alms on a regular basis and did pretty well at that. Overall, I fell short of even meeting the checklist for the five pillars of faith (see my post on fasting). I was convicted by the Holy Spirit that these things were not going to get me to heaven. Only ONE thing could do that for me and that was Christ.
In John 14, Jesus speaks to His disciples and tells them not to worry. He says:
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in Goda ; believe also in me.2My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.4You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.7If you really know me, you will know b my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
What comforting words! He does not promise that we will prosper here on earth. He doesn’t tell us to do five, ten or fifteen things on a checklist. He says He is the way and we can come through Him. He says “get to know me.” He says He will come back and take us. We don’t even have to look for a way or find it on our own. We don’t have to do anything other than accept Christ for who He is: the way, the truth and the life. He is the WAY to God. He is the TRUTH that so many are searching for and He is preparing a home for us to live in… not to die in, but to live.
In Matthew 22:32, Jesus talks to the Sadducees (Jewish priests) and says “‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”
In Christ, we only have the shadow of death (Psalm 23). We pass from life here into eternal life with Him. Matthew 4:16 says “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
What a joy and a relief for me on the day that I realized I did not have to sit in the shadow of death. I didn’t have to worry about what would happen to me, for the great light of Christ shined upon me! What a comfort to know – truly know that what God had planned from creation was going to be set right in Christ. He does truly love us and knows us by name. He will come and bring us back to be with Him. He promises this.
No Muslim (or anyone else) has this assurance! When I became a Christian, I asked my first Bible Study group why they weren’t shouting about this from the rooftops? What an amazing burden to be lifted off of me. I was scared to death of death and dying! I had nights where I found I couldn’t sleep. Before I had my first C-Section (my first surgery), I really thought that I might have to go and have my scales be weighed in front of God. I knew I was going to the “escalator down.” There’s no way, I would be admitted into heaven based on what I had done (or not done in my case).
Why hide this from others? Why not share what Christ has done for you? Do you have this assurance or do you still worry about where you are going when you die? If you are in Christ and you know Him, then you know the way, the truth and will have eternal life TODAY.
Today, I was invited by my friend to attend a talk given by the Religion Department at Oklahoma City University. I welcomed the opportunity to be in the audience, given that I think we should have an open mind to see what the current Muslim conversation and views are in our community. The speakers were all from the University and were intended to present what it’s like to be a Muslim in America today.
Even though I was not speaking or on the panel (= not a Muslim), I had to pray that the Lord keep my mouth shut unless 3 conditions were met. I prayed “Lord, open my mouth only if 1) it glorifies you, 2) it glorifies your Son, and 3) it is wrapped in your love.” So, being equipped with prayer, I set off with my daughter (who had a fever yesterday and is fine today, but could not attend school due to 24 hr rule for fevers). Right when we got there, I realized I did not bring my notepad to take notes. So, digging into my purse, I found my Sephora coupon for a free mascara. After a moment of hesitation (free makeup!), I went ahead and wrote down notes from the speakers.
The first speaker was the Imam from the Greater OKC Mosque. He is the Assistant Professor and Chair in Islamic Studies Religion and hails from Palestine. Just a side note, he is also the Imam for the guy Alton Nolan who beheaded an innocent woman, Colleen Hufford in Moore, Oklahoma. The Imam started off talking about Islamophobia in the US
and asked why we couldn’t “coexist.” He cited examples of being harassed at the Muslim Day at the Capitol but nothing specific, other than saying that a Christian man from Kansas (how he knew he was Christian, I’m not sure) told him that he was “the devil.”
The other two speakers were less emphatic. The professor spoke about being victimized and using Muslims as doormats. He made political comments about the current presidency and also how he has been reading MLK Jr’s books about the Civil Rights Movement. He actually went as far as to say “the Civil Rights Movement is applicable now to the Muslim Community.” How? I find that to be a far reach. The African Americans at that time were facing serious oppression – separate bathrooms and eating areas, not being allowed seats on public transportation, etc. That is most definitely NOT what my family has faced as Muslims. He also said something that caught my attention. He said that Muslims needed to call for tolerance… really? Show me at least ONE Muslim nation that is “tolerant.” This is the reason why so many Muslims flock to the West – tolerance is here in the United States. You cannot find tolerance in the Sharia law that governs Muslim nations.
The young student they had on the panel was just darling and sweet in her replies. I told my husband afterwards that she reminded of me as a Muslim, telling everyone how wonderful Islam was. Her opening remarks were that she had not read the Quran and was not familiar with the writings, but she would share her experiences. She said that she had not felt any hate remarks aimed at her, even though she wears a hijab. She made it a big point to stress that she CHOSE to wear a hijab to cover and that no one was forcing her to do so. Her closing comment on Islam however, was naive and mistaken. She said that she wanted everyone to know that “Islam has the root word for peace and whenever we greet one another, we say ‘Salam’ which means peace be on you.” Unequivocally… not true. If you want to know, here’s an excerpt from the website Answering Islam:
“In order to find the meaning of a certain word in the Arabic dictionary, it is essential to search for the three letter infinitive verb which is called the root. Many words can be derived from the same root, but they don’t necessarily have to have any similarity in their meaning. The word Islam, which means ‘submission’, is derived from the infinitive Salama. So is the word Salam which means ‘peace’ and so is the verb Salima which means ‘to be saved or to escape from danger’. One of the derivations of the infinitive Salama means ‘the stinging of a snake’ or ‘The tanning of the leather’. Hence, if the word Islam has something to do with the word Salam i.e. ‘Peace’, does that also mean that it must be related to the ‘stinging of the snake’ or ‘tanning the leather’?
Muhammad used to send letters to the kings and leaders of the surrounding countries and tribes, inviting them to surrender to his authority and to believe in him as the messenger of Allah. He always ended his letters with the following two words: “Aslim, Taslam!”. Although these two words are derived from the same infinitive Salama which is the root of Salam, i.e. ‘Peace’, neither one of them implies the meaning of ‘peace’. The sentence means ‘surrender and you will be safe’, or in other words, ‘surrender or face death’. So where is the meaning of ‘Peace”In order to find the meaning of a certain word in the Arabic dictionary, it is essential to search for the three letter infinitive verb which is called the root. Many words can be derived from the same root, but they don’t necessarily have to have any similarity in their meaning. The word Islam, which means ‘submission’, is derived from the infinitive Salama. So is the word Salam which means ‘peace’ and so is the verb Salima which means ‘to be saved or to escape from danger’. One of the derivations of the infinitive Salama means ‘the stinging of a snake’ or ‘The tanning of the leather’. Hence, if the word Islam has something to do with the word Salam i.e. ‘Peace’, does that also mean that it must be related t’ in such a religion that threatens to kill other people if they don’t submit to it?”
Pastor Mateen Elass also wrote a great blog on the very topic of Islam not meaning Peace. You can find it here & I encourage you to check it out.
The question and answer session began with the question “All of you have been talking about how peaceful Islam is, but what about the violent passages in the Quran?” The Imam took that question right away and said there were NO passages in the Quran about violence at all! He continued to say that in fact, the Quran does not have words like “kill” or “kill the Infidels,” “convert or die, ” or even the word “sword.” The professor on his right picked up this theme from the Imam and said how Jihad was only to indicate a personal struggle and that all the students in his class were Jihadists because they struggled to get good grades. The Imam said that the media had bastardized and perverted what was written in the Quran… after all, it is interpretation that is the issue.
NO, NOT SO. We cannot continue to play the “it’s written only in Arabic, so we cannot truly understand the Quran unless you read it in Arabic.” “Kill” in Arabic pretty much means “kill” in English. This was a hard thing for someone who has been a Muslim as an adult and has read the Quran to swallow. I had to break down and whisper to my friend who invited me and tell her that was a blatant lie. There are over 164 passages in the Quran that are violent and deal with war, jihad (even though the word is not used, the intent to fight infidels is clear), or killing. It is not a story about peace and love… not even close. On average, one out of every six lines is about hell fire and damnation.
There is NO good news for Muslims.
Here is a list of over 109 passages in the Quran from a website called The Religion of Peace. Below is only ONE of these verses where you will find… drum roll please… “Kill, Killing, and Kill again” from Surah Al-Baqara (2:191-2):
And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.
It’s difficult to sit there and see what is being said in front of you without anyone in the audience to challenge it. Yet I knew that this was not a place for debate and I was so thankful for coming to the place prepared through prayer ahead of time. The woman who asked the question about violence in the Quran left early, so I could not catch up to her to talk – maybe it was not meant to be. The rest of the questions were very politically correct and were in the line of “why can’t we all just get along?”
The message from the Muslim community (including those in my family) is mixed. There are many who do not know what is in the Quran and those who DO know (like the Imam) are choosing to not tell the truth or even a part of the truth.
It is important to know and look things up for yourself. The Quran is available online and all you have to do is to Google “violent passages in the Quran” or something along those lines to see BOTH the Arabic and the English. Please don’t accept things at face value. God gave us a brain and he intends for us to use it. Let’s use our brains to His glory and know what is being said in the media and on this type of a panel.
The end was more of the same. The Imam made an ostentatious claim that we are all under one God. He said “Allah, Eloh, Ilah” are all the same (look up the name Ilah & you will find something totally different!). Again, not true. Allah is only one dimension. Our God as revealed by the Scriptures is YHWH. He exists in three dimensions. Unless you know the relationship of love that exists between God the Father, the redeeming love of Christ Jesus and the breath of the Holy Spirit, you miss the whole picture. Allah is not the God of the Trinity.
There is great confusion and darkness for those who do not know God as revealed in the Scriptures. I pray that the Church will wake up and heed the Great Commission to GO! As one who lived in the US as a Muslim, I was accustomed to the darkness. I blindly believed what the Imams said in the mosque and what my parents told me. When the scales fell from my eyes and I saw the truth of God as revealed in Christ, it was indescribable. There is great freedom and love in Christ Jesus. I just pray that we, as Christians will share the Gospel in love. We need to always be prepared to give a reason for the HOPE we have ~ 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.
I beg you… Be ready! Be prepared! Give that reason for the hope you have in Christ. DO IT with gentleness and respect.This is what we need to share with Muslims today. Find a Muslim in your own backyard and share the Good News of the Gospel!
Last weekend, I had the honor of being invited to speak on a panel of Believers of Muslim Backgrounds (BMB) for the Crescent Project National Conference in Houston, Texas. The conference had about 400+ people in attendance. Fouad Masri, founder was spoke on the first night about how Fear exists not only for Christians who believe the media about Muslims but also for the Muslims in the United States who believe the media about Christians. There is a desperate need for an AUTHENTIC Christian witness to all people.
The panel was both exciting and interesting. I want to walk you through the details. There were only two women (myself and the other woman to my left in the picture) and all others were men. The moderator, Fouad Masri, had us sit in a particular order by country from left to right – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, another from Iran, Morocco, and Palestine. I want to point out that there were many more Believers from Muslim Background at this conference, about 21 of them (but not all were on the panel). This is the most I have seen gathered in one location. When we were introduced according to country, the man from Iraq put his arm around the man from Iran. They said something amazing “Only Jesus can bring these two countries together like this – arm in arm.”
Each of us had the chance to briefly tell our story. There were several questions asked by the moderator, that included why we decided to follow Christ, what made us follow Him, what is the one point we want people to know about Muslims. If you don’t know my story, let me briefly share it with you. I wasn’t looking for Jesus. I wasn’t interested in following him. In fact, I was trying to become a better Muslim. My family is considered to be moderate Muslims or nominal Muslims. In other words, we were Muslim in name, not by practice. We did not pray 5 times a day nor did we uphold many of the pillars of faith.
After 9/11, I decided that I didn’t know much about what I believed, so I went into a deeper commitment to Islam. I started by reading the Quran (or Koran – different spellings can be found). The Quran brought questions for me – I didn’t have any questions about my faith, but just wanted to know more. The Quran actually was confusing and troubling in it’s treatment of women (Sura Al Nissa). It also contained a whole chapter on Jesus (Sura Maryam) that I didn’t understand – why did Jesus have so much power to do miracles like raise people from the dead? Why could he alone give life and heal?Through prayer, the Holy Spirit led me to a church where the associate pastor helped to connect the dots. This was not an overnight thing, but was a journey that took over a 3 and a half years. At the age of 35, I accepted Christ and was baptized along with my husband and 3 children! What a huge praise it is and I still thank God for His mercy and grace on our family.
Sometimes I think that people in the United States sell Christianity & themselves short. They think that Christianity is just a religion for “white people.” Revelation 7:9 says “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” Christ didn’t come for just one group! He came as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) and for the world.
This was the most amazing part of this conference. To share the gospel of love with Muslims, you don’t have to go across the world (unless you want to) or to the Middle East (unless you want to). You simply can go to the local grocery store, University classroom, or restaurant. God has brought Muslims here to the United States. There are many who are lost, who need Christ’s message of hope and need an authentic witness in their life. What are you doing to help reach out to them?
God said “GO” in the Great Commission. Are you going? God said “LOVE” in his commandment to us (John 13:34). Are you loving others in the world or just the ones you are comfortable around? God said “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7). Are you fearful?
Today’s the day to change all that. Decide to live for Christ and watch what happens. A world of new relationships awaits… from every nation, tribe, people and tongue…