Many have suggested to me that Jesus advocated the same food laws as Mohammed and Moses. The gospel of Mark, however, tells another story:
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honour me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”
After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
Not all hijab (head coverings) are burkas. It’s important to know the difference, especially if you’re going to shoot your mouth off about them. Burkas are the most extreme form of head covering, as they mask the eyes, but they are also the least common, at least where I live.
I have been finding it interesting to explore how the greetings and affirmations of the New Testament authors sound when phrased in a more Arabic ways. Consider these examples:
Salam to all of you who are in al-Masih (1 Peter 5:14)
Mercy and salam to you from Allah our Father and from Ar-Rabb Isa al-Masih. (Romans 1:7)
For the law was given through Musa; mercy and truth came through Isa al-Masih. (John 1:17)
Accept one another, then, just as al-Masih accepted you, in order to bring praise to Allah. (Romans 15:7)
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Ar-Rabb Isa al-Masih must not show favoritism. (James 2:1)
But we preach al-Masih crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the nations. (1 Corinthians 1:23)
But Allah demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, al-Masih died for us. (Romans 5:8)
If you are insulted because of the name of al Masih, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of Allah rests on you. (1 Peter 4:14)
Praise be to the Allah and Father of our Ar-Rabb Isa al-Masih! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Isa al-Masih from the dead (1 Peter 1:3)
But in your hearts revere al Masih as Ar-Rabb. 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)
Yet for us there is but one Allah, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Ar-Rabb, Isa al-Masih, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
Maybe you find this language confronting? Maybe you find it thought provoking? Maybe you struggle to connect with it? Whatever your response, please share.
As a moderator of the The Christian-Muslim Interfaith Bridge it shouldn’t be any surprise that I’m interested in how we practically practice (yes, I know I’m verging on tautology) reconciliation between Muslims and Christians. Recently I came across these comments in Peace-Building by, between, and beyond Muslims and Evangelical Christians by Mohammed Abu-Nimer and David Augsburger (Editors):
“There are a wide range of forgiveness practices and rituals in both religious communities. Some are similar, perhaps parallel; others unique in character and practice. In their description of rituals of reconciliation, you Irani and Funk (2001, P. 187) portray the powerful rituals of sulh (settlement), musalaha (reconciliation), musalaha (exchange of handshakes), and mumalaha (breaking bread together) that demonstrate forgiveness and further reconciliation with the language of bitter coffee shared and broken bread together. Each group possesses a vocabulary and a set of practices that facilitate the offering and reception remorse, repentance, and a desire to return to relationship and reconciliation. Dialogue on the nature of these practices and their unique strengths to resolve injury is a central task of interfaith conversation on peacemaking.”
The mention of breaking bread resonated with me deeply given I take Acts 2 as a pretty good description of authentic Christian community:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Breaking bread isn’t a practice that should just be practiced with people we are already reconciled with. It can be an act of reconciliation in itself.
There have been some vigorous debates over dress codes lately but I have to ask, what would a universally acceptable dress code even look like? In some (sub)cultures full body coverings including face coverings are mandatory for all. In some (sub)cultures clothing is optional. Two extremes on a spectrum. In my own culture jeans and shirts are the norm, with bearing shoulders and midriff common in summer in informal settings. Head coverings are acceptable but face coverings of any sort are seen as subversive and banned in high security areas. Conversely, full nudity is also considered subversive but permitted in some, more isolated areas. Breast feeding in public is generally acceptable but discreetness while doing so is considered more polite than just lobbing them out. While some countries, such as France, are taking a draconian attitude towards one end of the spectrum, other countries, such as Saudi Arabia take an even more draconian attitude towards the other end of the spectrum. I expect most countries are at different points along that spectrum. I know this is an emotive topic, especially at the moment, but I always seek the bigger picture and what I see is that it may be very difficult to find somethings everyone agrees with. If we just say each to his own, let’s think of what that means. It means naked folk and 100% covered folk potentially occupying the same spaces and everyone being okay with that. The truth is most societies draw boundaries at some point. As an Aussie I’m comfortable where my society draws boundaries – tolerates most things but draws the line on 100% covering and 0% covering in select contexts. But I know I’d be a fool to universalise my expectations. What’s the answer though? I don’t know.
If you know nothing else about Islamic ritual and practice make sure you know this. These are known as the five pillars of Islam.
Shahadah: declaring there is no god except God and that Muhammad is God’s Messenger
Salat: ritual prayer five times a day
Zakat: giving 2.5% of one’s savings to the poor and needy
Sawm: fasting and self-control during the holy month of Ramadan
Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if one is able
Something had always puzzled me. Why do Muslims consider the Kaaba so sacred when it functioned as a pagan temple before Mohammed conquered Mecca?
So I asked some Muslim friends.
They informed me the Kaaba held the status it did amongst Muslims because (according to their history) it was built by Ibrahim and Ishmael in dedication to Allah. That what Mohammed did was “restore” the Kaaba to its true and original function.
This only raised another question. Is there any archaeological evidence to support the claim that Ibrahim and Ishmael built the Kaaba rather than local pagans? The answers I received weren’t particularly enlightening one way or the other.
So I put that second question to you. I have to say I am sceptical. But I am open to being swayed if there is any solid archaeological evidence that predates Mohammed’s conquest of Mecca.
Female circumcision is widely associated with Muslims in Western consciousness, but in truth the practice of female circumcision varies widely between different Muslim communities. Why is this?
Well, I came across an intriguing explanation for this in “The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom” by Mark Durie. Mark writes:
“The modern distribution of female circumcision among Muslims cannot be explained in terms of geography, nor in terms of pre-existing cultures before the arrival of Islam. The Acehnese in Indonesia were Hindus before converting to Islam, yet they practice female circumcision, while Indian Muslims, who also converted out of Hinduism, do not generally follow the practice. The simple explanation for the distribution of female circumcision among Muslims in the world today is that, while all four schools of Sunni Islam allow the practice, it is only the Shafi‘i school which makes it mandatory. Wherever female circumcision is widely practiced among Muslims, this is a region where the Shafi’i version of Sharia law prevails. In this case it is belief which determines behavior, not perfectly, but to a very significant degree.”
I have since had many Muslim acquaintances affirm that many of the differences in the ways Muslims practice Islam can be attributed to different schools of jurisprudence. So there you go.
Non-discrimination means accepting (or not accepting) burka-clad women and bikini-clad women on the same basis. Discuss (but keep it civil).
This is a question I like to ask of Muslims, “What is your favourite story about Mohammed?” It is true, isn’t it, that most stories we Christians hear about Mohammed are negative. This is understandable. Negative stories help us Christians feel comfortable with our rejection of Islam as a way of life. But if we hope to understand Islam, if we hope to understand our Muslim neighbours, it is important to listen to their heart stories. The stories that draw Muslims towards Mohammed and the way of Islam. Here is one story a Muslim told me:
A long time ago, there lived an old woman who was carrying a heavy load along the road in the desert. It was a bit difficult for her, but she was managing as best as she could. A young man asked if he could help her with her load, and she readily obliged. Here is the conversation that transpired:
“It would be such a pleasure to have you come alone with me. I accept your gracious offer of kindness and company,” she said. She was a very talkative woman, and the young man did not want to interrupt her. So, he let her speak the entire time they were together without interruption
“But as we walk along young man and as you help me with my load, I have only one request as we travel down this road: Don’t talk to me about Muhammad! Because of him there is no peace and I have trouble in my mind. So, don’t talk to me about Muhammad! And as we walk along together, we will get along just fine.”
“That man upsets me so, so much more than you could know! I hear of his name and reputation every where I go. Though his family and his clan once knew him as an honest man, he’s dividing everyone with his claim that God is one!”
“He’s misled all the weak, the poor, and the slaves. They think they’ve all found wealth and freedom by following his way!” she sarcastically snorted.
“He’s corrupted all of our youth with his twisted brand of truth. He’s convinced them that they all are strong and gave them somewhere to belong. So, don’t you dare talk to me about Muhammad!”
They reached their destination, and the man helped the woman put away her belongings. The old woman, with a wide smile of gratitude at this stranger’s kindness, turned to him and said,
“Thank you now, young man. You’ve really been so kind. That generosity and smile is very rare to find now a days. Let me give you some advice, since you’ve been so very nice to me. Stay away from Muhammad. Don’t heed his word or emulate his way. If you do, you will never have true peace, and all you will find is trouble.”
As the young man turned to walk away, she stopped him: “Now before we part and go, if it’s alright just the same, may I ask my dear young man, who are you? What’s your name?”
He told her, and she stopped dead in her tracks.
“Forgive me, but what was that? Your words weren’t very clear. My ears are getting old, and sometimes I have a hard time hearing. You know, it’s truly rather funny, but I’m sure I must be wrong. Yet, I thought I heard you said that your name is Muhammad.”
“I am Muhammad,” the Prophet (peace be upon him) told the old woman.