One of the main purposes of this trip has been to learn about Islam, to be better equipped to reach Muslims both in America and abroad. To this end, we've been drowning in a deluge of new insight.
We visited a mosque, watched the afternoon prayers, talked with the imam, asked questions of his students. A three year old in a hijab did prayers alongside her father. A young boy told us about watching Terry Jones stamping and spitting on the Qur'an. The young men answered our questions about the prayer beads and being a minority in the schools, while the imam talked in circles in response to our more difficult questions. By the time we left he was sounding like an emergent or a universalist: Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all right; on Judgement day, each religion's prophet will be an intercessor; Jesus is the Messiah and the word of God . . .
Let's also say, we learned some interesting Bible stories. Did you know Jesus talked in the cradle? And Jonas was the Savior of Ninevah? That God made a covenant with Ishmael? The imam was pleased to school us on the Tawrat.
When we left the mosque, we launched into a review of everything that had been said. We learned about the "doctrine of deception", that is, Muslims are allowed to lie for the sake of "reverting" an infidel. They call it reverting instead of converting because Muhammed taught that the whole world is Muslim, and it's this mindset that motivates the spread of Islam. Everything the Qur'an and Muhammed say a Muslim must believe, and no matter how moderate or nominally they believe, they can never deny its truth. And the Qur'an and Hadith say some stark and frightening things: we uncover a little more of the darkness of its teachings every day.
It's frustrating that opportunities for ministry are so few and far between. The community is so closed to outsiders, it's a miracle to be able to talk to these women face to face. The real value is any chance to show these people that Christians are people who love Jesus and are filled with love as a result. How different this trip has been so far! And how very much I'm learning.