Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Setting Captives Free

"…He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released…" Luke 4:18b

Nazanin fetched her tasbeeh(prayer beads) and stated proudly to me, “I say salavat 4,000 times a day. I can say it 1,000 times in an hour.” I looked at her shocked. “Four hours a day?!” I asked. “Yes,” she replied, “I’ve done it 125,000 times.” “Oh my goodness, Nazanin, you keep a record?” I inquired. “Yes, I have a notebook. It works. One time my husband lost his job and I said salavat a lot and he found another job very quickly.” I discovered that tasbeeh are sometimes used for more than reciting and counting the names of Allah.

I shared with Parveen about Nazanin and her tasbeeh. Parveen responded, “I did that, too. I said it 70,000 times. But I don’t do that anymore now.” I was relieved as Parveen has moved into the kingdom of light. Then that same week our friend, Jamal, was visiting Parveen and her husband and as I entered their living room  Jamal quickly grabbed his tasbeeh lying on the couch. He blurted out, “You can’t be without these,” and put them into his pocket. Jamal was supposed to be a follower of Christ. A couple of days later I visited a needy lady. A set of blue tasbeeh lay on her coffee table. “They help me to relax and relieve stress,” she explained.

We can read about the salavat salutation in the Qur’an, Surah 33:56. Muslims are instructed to bless their prophet and greet him. Some make their own conclusions, like Nazanin, that by using tasbeeh and counting how many times they greet and bless their prophet(and progeny, as Shi'as will add) good luck will result. Or that there will be protection, negative energies will be replaced by positive energies, or forgiveness of sins will be obtained and hopefully a better chance to enter Paradise. They are held captive to deception and an illusive hope. Once a new believer from North Africa gave me her tasbeeh and also a charm that looked like charcoal wrapped up in an old tattered piece of cloth  intended to bring protection. She had been held captive by invisible powers and relinquishing them was extremely difficult. Saima, another follower of Isa, had trusted in an expensive gem obtained from a “holy man” from Mecca. She was told it would bring protection. It was a day of big victory when she parted with her charm. No one should think that there are no spiritual powers involved. Observing them trying to part with these things or by discontinuing saying certain salavat phrases causes them considerable stress.

We have all been held captive to something or someone: addictions, bad habits,  to self and the power of sin, a codependency or trust in a religious leader or shrine attributing special powers.  I was held captive to a toxic codependent relationship, self and sin.  Jesus had to break my bondage of captivity because I could not in my human strength. Today I know victory from captivity and have experienced there is power in Jesus to be set free. Yes! This is the Good News I share with my Muslim friends and those who have decided to follow Jesus. Do you have a story? Share it with them.

Dear heavenly Father, You are so completely trustworthy, good, all powerful, and full of love. Hallelujah! Amen.