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.

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Reaching Muslims in Love

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

A Muslim can kill any person he wishes if it be a “just cause” Surah 6:152

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

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

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

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

Hadith (traditions of Mohammad)

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Bookmark-How to witness to muslims

  1. PRAY

Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have against the spiritual forces. Prayer opens up the power of heaven and allows us to plug into the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Do not depend on yourself to have the smooth speech. Ask God’s Holy Spirit to share words that give life to others and are wrapped in love

2. MAKE EYE CONTACT

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

3. EXTEND HOSPITALITY

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

4. TALK ABOUT JESUS!

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

5. SHARE THE GOOD NEWS

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

6. BE PATIENT!

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

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

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

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

The Sacrifice of the Lamb

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One day, a man visited our home in Pakistan and he brought along the sweetest thing I had ever seen in my life. We were not allowed to have our own pets. We had a guard dog, but the guard (sometimes chauffeur) used to feed, pet, keep the dog. We played with him sometimes, but it was greatly frowned upon by my nanny who insisted on scrubbing us down if we had even touched the dog, for dogs are considered dirty in Islam.

The man brought something even more special than a dog… he had a rope and at the end of that rope was a little lamb. It had a sweet face and just stared at us, chewing on whatever it was in his mouth. My parents took the lamb from him and thanked him. My older sister immediately fell in love with it and said that she would only feed it flowers, for it was too precious to eat just plain straw and grass that the man had brought along with him. She took the lamb’s leash and ran off to the heavily flowered garden in front of our home where she stayed true to her promise.

Each day, we played with the lamb until we got used to its presence. It would roam around our home and three gardens (one at the front, in the middle between our house and annex and then one at the back of the annex). I remember just sitting outside, watching it roam around and eat a few nibbles from my hand. Never did we question where this gift came from or why my parents decided to get us a lamb as a pet. We simply enjoyed it.

Early one morning, I awoke to a very loud noise of someone crying… no, it was almost like a child’s scream. I jumped out of bed, scared to death and the screaming/crying noise would not go away. I ran out of the house, still in my pajamas, and followed the horrific sounds as they were coming from the back garden. As I approached, I knew something was terribly wrong. There were men with beards standing around the back faucet, where we had a small concrete basin for washing off yard dirt or larger, messy chores.

One of the men saw me staring with eyes as large as saucers at the scene. He screamed at our cook “Get her out of here!” as I started to scream and cry. When the man had turned around to see me, I saw what had been making the noise. It was our beloved lamb. There was blood all over the place – the wash basin, the ground and on the two men who had done the sacrifice. In the middle was our lamb with it’s neck sliced open. Blood had covered a part of its body as well. I realized then that it was a lamb my parents had bought for Eid Al-Adha (Eid of the Sacrifice) which all Muslims celebrate with a sacrifice of a lamb 70 days after the end of Ramadan (annual season of fasting) and after sighting of a new moon according to a Lunar Calendar. Never had I given it any thought of the lamb that was to be sacrificed for our party meal.

lamb sacrifice

This is something still practiced all around the world by Muslims. Eid Al-Adha is the festival to remember Abraham’s obedience to God to sacrifice his son (we won’t argue which son it is right now…). It is a celebration that allows families to come together and give thanks to Allah. My parents still pay for a lamb to be sacrificed in Pakistan and the meat to be distributed to charity.

In the book of Revelation 5:6, there is a passage that says that “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” As we discussed what it must have looked like to have a lamb slain, I thought back to the bloody scene I witnessed.

We don’t like to think of the blood or the guts. We like things to be sanitary. We get our meat nicely packaged at the grocery store. Our streets are clean, our news is clean, our water comes out of the faucet clear, our clothes are clean and we have hand sanitizers in every location. It’s not considered polite to discuss the gory details of any event, especially dealing with blood.

I think that’s one of the things I have noticed most about living in the United States. While we lived in a nice home in Pakistan, we weren’t always guaranteed clean water out of the faucet. I remember being quite upset several times when I turned on the faucet for my bath and the water ran brown.

Our treatment of Jesus’s sacrifice should not be sanitized. We need to accept the fact that it was a bloody mess. That he suffered and he felt every bit of the pain on the Cross. As we look at Good Friday as the day that commemorates Jesus on the Cross, we need to remember that He was the lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8 and 1 Peter 1:20). Our Lord gave up every drop of blood for us. The least we can do is to acknowledge His sacrifice for us in the way it happened… not as a sanitized version of the cross, but a Cross full of God’s glory and His willingness to provide for us a spotless, sinless lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Amen.

 

 

Forgotten Art of Storytelling

f52160e9d05b76e7b8e7ec21206f46bdLet me tell you a story~ A handsome Rajah had a beautiful garden in which he planted fruit trees of all kinds. He hired gardeners to take care of each section and in a land that suffered from droughts, the Rajah’s garden was like a lush tropical paradise. There were benches where one could sit in the cool shade of the fig tree and many tree branches that bent down due to their heavy burden of fruit.

A pair of parrots happened to fly past this oasis and decided to perch upon the garden’s thick stone wall. As they talked to one another about the beautiful garden, the husband parrot’s mouth was watering as he looked at the beautiful mangoes on the trees. His wife, seeing him eye the fruit sang a song of warning to him “totaya, munmotaya tu rajah bagh na ja. Rajah bagh asah he, dainda payan la [parrot, parrot, don’t go to the Rajah’s garden. Rajah’s garden is like this, they will hang you].” They thought about the risk and flew away, however, desire got the best of them. The very next morning, driven by hunger and the aroma of the many fruit trees in the garden, they decided to approach again. They were quiet this time, but went closer to the trees. He looks at his wife who sings the warning to him again and this time, he sings back “totayee, munmotayee, main rajah bagh main jaoonga or aam laykay ahoon ga” [my sweet girl (parrot), I will go to the Rajah’s garden and will bring you back some mangoes]. He immediately flew and collected the ripest fruits. Later that afternoon, as they were sitting on the wall, enjoying their bounty, the servants came to collect the fruit. The Rajah desired to have the choicest mangoes. The servants panicked when they only saw green mangoes. As they looked from tree to tree, they spotted the parrots eating the fruit. They ran to tell the Rajah what happened.

The Rahah was outraged! He told the servants to immediately place a net and catch the offender. He was so angry that he said he would eat the bird alive. They caught the parrot quickly for he was still sitting there blissfully, enjoying his stolen fruit. They put the parrot into a dish and served it to the Rajah. The Rajah laughed as he ate the squawking parrot! The Rajah immediately has indigestion and the parrot seems to be flying in his stomach, still alive. The Rajah is indignant! He tells his servants that he wants the bird dead now and he asks them to wait with guns and daggers until the parrot comes out the other end.

The parrot was moving so much, that he came out quickly and as he emerged from the Rajah’s behind, the servants shot the Rajah in the rear. The parrot flew away. The Rajah sees that maybe the parrot was too clever for all of them and so he decides to punish his servants for not taking better care of the garden and of the outcome. The Rajah yells out to the flying parrot “Magical and clever parrot. Come and be in my court for you are wise and should counsel me in my kingdom.” The parrot, his wife, and their children come and live at the court where the parrot serves as the Rajah’s Vizier for years and years.

[old tale told by my great-grandmother, to my grandmother, to my mother, to me and now, to our children – originates from Bannu, Tribal area of west Pakistan]

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

 

It’s not unusual to find my father at a party or gathering with a story ready to go. He is a wonderful storyteller and knows how to weave a fantastic story together. The most forgettable events can turn into a beautiful story in his hands. When my sisters and I were little, he used to tell us stories to charm us into eating, sleeping or even tidying up the house. He still has a story at hand for his grandchildren and even as teenagers, they find them as fascinating as I did.

I get my love for talking and telling stories from my dad. However, I do not know poetry from heart and I also mess up the details or endings. I watched an “I Love Lucy” episode once where Lucy messed up a humorous story’s punchline – I feel like that sometimes. Still, I think there is a value in telling a story.

In the United States, we find that we are given facts, statistics, and even small infomercials at times about all aspects of our lives – from work to family, from personal hygiene to what to eat. With the advent of Ted Talks on YouTube, 15-18 minutes seems to be all you need to get a message across to someone. Someone sitting down to tell a story doesn’t seem to be a common occurrence.

Sharing information through a story is an ancient way to communicate. Walls and barriers seem to be relaxed when someone says “Let me tell you a story…” We seem to visibly relax and ease into a conversation. It hearkens back  to settling into our comfortable pillow and blankets for a bedtime story. It puts us at ease.

It was no surprise to me when I read that Jesus spoke to his disciples in parables. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus used the most parables. Since Matthew wrote the book for the Jewish audience, he knew the heritage and history of sharing the word of God through a story. They were used to telling stories and passing them down through the generations. The same feeling of sitting down, relaxing and settling into a story was what Jesus was doing to the large crowds that gathered to listen to him. This is still a wonderful way to not just learn the Gospels but also to communicate and share them with people from other cultures. There is always a point to the story, key players (usually a good and evil) and also a desired behavior or outcome. The stories are interwoven beautifully and they capture our imagination.

A good story is one that draws the receiver in, makes them listen, allows them to learn and think or reflect on the teaching. Stories are softened lectures. They make a point that the reader has to think about and they may not even understand what the story was about right away. There are many layers to the story that allows us to ponder and unfold at a later time.

One of the most important thing we can do is to share our own personal story with others. You can simply start with how you were as a child, or how you met your spouse or how your parents met. Those are wonderful things to pass on to the future generations and shared with elaborate details. We have done this with our children and even drove them to the place where my husband and I met. We have shown them the place where we got married and had our first home. It’s important to set down your traditions, roots and stories so that the next generation has something to hold on to.

Just as I shared the strange tale of the parrots with my children, a story can become a link to the past, to traditions and culture. It is a legacy you give to your children. It is a special gift that can be passed on to their own family and if it is told with passion and emotion, it’s something they will think about as adults. As a Christian, it is a legacy of the way God has weaved your life together and has shown you and your family His blessings. For those who believe, this can be a powerful way to witness to others and to show God’s love to others.

So the next time someone asks about your faith or about what you believe, instead of giving them a lecture or sharing the latest statistics, allow them to relax and settle into a story of something Christ told in His parables or how those parables have related to your own life story. It will become as a memorable event and will also allow you to share your background, upbringing, family, culture or traditions and connect in a deeper way.

Unity out of Diversity

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I have taught at several universities in California and Oklahoma over the last 18 years. Many times, I teach Cultural Diversity. Of course, there are trends, like women in the workplace or hot topics like the SONY Executive e-mails that made racist comments, but still, we continue to tackle the same issues over and over.

Many people don’t know that the term ” University” means  “Unity out of Diversity.” (Uni= one Versity= groupings). Diversity has the similar word base, but in this case, the “Di” stands for division or separation. So in technical terms, diversity is actually about looking at groups separately. It’s good to start with word origins because we get confused sometimes when discussing terms that have an emotional charge associated with them.  When you look at how the dictionary defines Diversity, you end up with more of a normative definition – how we have changed the term to represent it for our culture and needs today

Diversity: the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc.

: the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization

When I work with businesses on developing a Diversity program or initiative, there’s almost a panic – what if we aren’t doing this right or worse, what if we leave something out? I guess I come from a totally different (dare I say “diverse?”) point of view. Having been raised in six countries gives me some insight to the United States. In Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, you mainly see one type of people – Arabs. Now, granted, there are ex-pat communities, but they tend to live separately and not really join the mainstream public. In Pakistan, everyone looked the same. The only other group I saw was the Chinese and even then it was because they owned the Chinese restaurant we were dining at.

So, coming to the United States was a it of a culture shock (to say the least). There were different people everywhere. It didn’t help that we came to New York City first. Talk about diverse! Moving to California was no different – lots of people from all different backgrounds. In fact, itwas very easy for us to find a tight knit Muslim community and settle in nicely. There were many here that spoke the language as well, so it was a small piece of home.

I think as Americans, we don’t stop to admire what this country offers us – a vast variety of groups that don’t have to give up their unique identity, but are able to function as a whole, My family and I never felt any pressure to be Americanized or to take on something we were not comfortable with. Now, that doesn’t mean that we didn’t face discrimination. Moving to the US was the first time I felt discriminated against, but it wasn’t for what you might think. I was in the fifth grade and no one would play with me. No one. When I finally got the courage up after almost two months of having no friends, to ask a girl who seemed remotely kind (=she didn’t say “eew, get away”) , she acted like she didn’t want to tell me. I then started crying and said that I had no friends. She was embarrassed, but was kind enough to tell me it was because I smelled bad. She even told me that maybe I should wear deodorant. When you cook with curry at home, you have to put the spices into hot oil so they develop their flavor. With long hair, that absorbs the aromas and some oil along with it, I am sure I smelled like what we cooked – and still do at times, but take a shower and wear some good deodorant now!

Trying to teach diversity from an immigrant’s eyes has a value. I think that I bring a little appreciation for what we have in the United States. In fact, on our money, it says “E Pluribus Unum”- out of many, one. I believe that is the strongest way to address diversity and the importance Americans place on the value of differing opinions, backgrounds and cultures.