Monday, October 19, 2015

The Hidden Part

The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David!  Luke 2:11

An iceberg is approximately 10% visible and 90% hidden under water. That is an analogous picture of the Muslim world which I have encountered. Years ago I was aware mostly of the visible part of Islam which revolves around Islamic orthodox beliefs in Allah, the Prophets, Holy Books, Angels, and Day of Judgment. Those beliefs are clearly documented. The Islamic practices or rituals of saying the creed, praying five times a day, fasting during Ramadan, giving charity to the poor, and making the pilgrimage to Mecca are clearly displayed.

But there was a part I did not see right away among Muslims. Fatima wears charms to ward off anything bad that might happen. A string is tied around the waist of Zahra, a pregnant woman, to help protect her unborn child.  A pendant is pinned on the baby’s clothes to keep the jinn away. Amal believes that a gem stone given to her by a local holy man can protect her. Nasrin visits psychics to have her future read on her palms. Shazia is keen to know which people bring good energy. Numerology and horoscopes are followed diligently. Some depend on their dream interpretation books and are fearful of omens.  Many of my Muslim friends follow istikhara procedures for guidance and engage in Fal-e-Hafiz for divination purposes. They visit the grave shrines of men believing their requests will be answered through intercessory powers. Sometimes my friends use the Qur’an as a charm, putting a miniature copy in the baby’s crib, viewing it not just a book to memorize or chant but as an object of power. Although Muslims will adamantly tell us that these popular folk beliefs are not true Islam and are forbidden when we really get to know Muslims we discover there is a strong underlying belief in and practice of all kinds of hidden activity. Fear is what drives people to them. Allah is unknowable and completely transcendent. Their major fears revolve around jinn and Satan, death, punishment, judgment and the evil(jealous) eye. Many of them do not know if Allah loves them unconditionally. If something good happens to them they conclude Allah loves them. If something bad happens then they must have done something bad and are being punished or tested. They are terrified of magic(jadu)and curses put on them by others. I would be, too, if I did not know Jesus Christ as my Savior who loves me unconditionally. If I did not have the Holy Spirit living in me I might resort to istikhara, too.

Jesus is the Savior who forgives our sins, removes punishment and judgment, washes our souls clean, and gives us new life. He is also the Savior who breaks the power of death, Satan and evil spirits. Perhaps you know Jesus primarily as the Savior who forgives your sins but Muslim women often first need to discover Jesus as their Deliverer and Protector. He is a Savior who both forgives our sins and delivers us from our fears. It is the resurrection of Jesus that validates and confirms Him to be Savior. There are many beautiful dimensions to His title Savior.

Jesus, you are a wonderful and powerful Savior! Amen