On Friday for my World Religion class we went to the Ahmadiyya Community Rizwan Mosque here in Portland to listen to an Islamic missionary explain the pillars and articles of faith, jihad, and the religious experience of Muslims. It was very fascinating to hear about the history and meaning behind the faith of Islam.
The missionary presented us with the definition of Islam which is, “ submission to the will of God and peace and harmony with one another.” This is the idea of righteousness to a Muslim. Living under the pillars of
1. Shahada: Muslims must bear witness that there is no God except Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger or prophet.
2. Salat: Muslims must pray at least five times daily.
3. Ramadan: Muslims must fast during the daylight hours of the holy month.
4. Zakat: Muslims must give alms to the poor.
5. Hajj: Muslims must attempt to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Much was said in our class that Islam is a religion of peace, which I found quite interesting because of the focus of the missionary on defining what real jihad is. The idea that jihad is a holy war is not representative of the context in the Quran, according to the presenter. Jihad means “to strive”, and there is a greater and lesser jihad. The greater jihad is the personal and societal reforms for holiness, while the lesser jihad is the struggle to defend oneself from persecution. Defense is the only reason that violence can be used.
I think that throughout the lecture I felt the tension about how difficult it must be to share the Muslim faith in the post-9/11 American context where there is so much misinformation, prejudice, and heated emotion about terrorism and war. I feel like even though we are at odds with one another doctrinally and historically, that we must be careful to “win” the truth battle and lose the element of relationship that is needed so desperately for Muslims to see what gain following Christ is, even at the potential loss of everything they have known.
Everyone wants to be liked and accepted and it is important that as Christians we seek to understand and be understood in our broadening multi-faith society. Having love for our Muslim neighbors is important because they represent a growing population in many new areas of our country. I think that hospitality and communication would be helpful for breaking down barriers and freely giving sacrificial love that is bound in Christ so that our Muslim neighbors won’t be bound by the system of works salvation they are currently in and come to a saving relationship with the living God and his Son by the work of the Spirit!
Check out the TIME Photo Essay: Muslims in America