Friday, July 25, 2014

A liturgy for the Baptism of a convert from Islam

Greetings, 

Here is part IV of my series on sacraments and mission, which I started many years ago for St Francis Magazine. This one contains an introduction summarizing why I think that liturgy is valuable for those engaged in mission to and among Muslims, and then contains a liturgy for baptism (of an adult) based on the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church (USA), which yes is very liberal, but the liturgy in the Prayer Book  is very good.

So check it out, try it out if you are doing any work among Muslims, and let me know what you think.

'Mission and Sacrament, Part IV: A Liturgy for the Baptism of Muslims, to be Conducted on the Feast of Pentecost' in St Francis Magazine Vol 10:2, June 2014.

The first three articles can be found (in order) here, here, and here.

Peace,

Abu Daoud

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why the rise of Extermism among Muslims in the Middle East?

Why the rise of Extermism among Muslims in the Middle East?
by Abu Daoud

I was recently asked to comment on this topic, and here is what I wrote

There is a complex web of reasons, but I think overall here are the main reasons:

1. The failure to achieve success by copying European models, including capitalism and communism. Capitalism cannot work in the ME because it requires a) rule of law, and b) freedom to form new businesses and c) creativity to invent new products. All of these are lacking because of deeply ingrained traditions of favoring one's own religion or family or tribe. I do trace this back to Islam (a lot of people don't), where the dhimmi system forces people to discriminate against non-Muslims, and where the shari'a is clear that women are worth less than men, and of course the Arabo-centric facet of Islam, which more or less implies that God is an Arab, because his book is in Arabic and cannot be translated, and thus Arabs are (in reality, not in theory) better than non-Arabs. (This last reason is why lots of Berbers and Pakistanis and Iranians have left Islam, by the way.) 

2. Regarding creativity, I feel that Islam clearly suppresses it because when you cannot ask basic questions about God and his prophet and book, then at a basic level you are taught not to be critical and analytical. This then overflows from the area of religion into other areas like commerce and computer science and so on. I trace this back historically to the victory of asharites over the mu'atazila and the affirmation of bila kayf--that certain doctrines must be affirmed but without asking why. The doctrine of al insan al kamil (the ideal or perfect man) comes up here too, because a quick glance at Muhammad's life shows he is clearly not perfect.

3. A related, but minor, point: commerce was hindered in the Ottoman Empire because the formation of corporations was legally impossible. So there was no incentive to form large international businesses, because upon the owner's death it had to pass on to his sons, whether they were good or bad. This has been remedied, but centuries too late.

4. This rise of independent nation states and authoritarian governments. One of the most unfortunate aspects of society in the ME is the tendency to always blame others for any problem that takes place, rather than to try to address problems as far as on can. Anyway, with the end of European hegemony countries were formed and to a real degree free to govern themselves. It is true they were never entirely free to do as they please, but this does not matter--no country (or person) is entirely free to do as they please. So authoritarian governments arose and they did not prosper, at least not to the extent that some people thought they should. I too attribute this to the very DNA of Islam. When Muhammad died there was right away a great struggle between the Shi'a and the Sunni, and we also see this principle operating in the wars of apostasy or hurub al ridda. Historically one finds that Islamic societies over the long term alternate between authoritarian governments and anarchy/tribalism. The period of European colonialism artificially enforced Western practices of government and business that were foreign to Islam. And when Europe left, these traditions started to deteriorate. Authoritarian governments silenced public discourse, but they could not or would not silence the discourse of Islam, including Islamic reforms which we in the West call radicalism or extremism, but which are really just reformed Islam.

5. The problem of natural resources. Egypt's population in 1900 was about five million, today it is about 80 million. Many of the countries in the Middle East do not have the natural resources to feed their enormous populations. Right now Egypt imports over 50% of its wheat. That is an amazing number. This naturally results is large numbers of unemployed young men, many cannot get married because they don't have a job. With the reformed Islamic militant ideology (a more accurate term than fundamentalist, I think) present, the opportunity to be part of something new and good and powerful (like the Caliphate) is attractive. This is not so much a reason for the Islamic reformation (to radicalism) but is a key reason that right now it is easily able to get recruits. The Middle East has a demographic profile that makes economic prosperity almost impossible in many countries, coupled with the non-critical education (mentioned above) and the lack of rule of law

6. One often hears that the Arab-Israel problem is at the heart of the problems in the region. I think that even if all Israel-Palestine was again ruled by Muslims and the Jews who arrived by Aliyah were made to leave and then a lot of European and American Jews would leave voluntarily this would not solve anything at all.  Indeed, even if every Jew left and every Palestinian refugee returned and all those apartments in Tel Aviv and Haifa were given to them, it would not decisively change the dynamic described above. I do believe, as unpopular as it is to say so, that many of the problems we see in the ME today can be traced to the very heart of Islam--the life and practice of Muhammad.

More than you wanted to hear I think! Why do you ask? I liked the book Sandcastles: Arabs in search of the Modern World by Milton Viorst on this topic. They have it at the library at St George's College in Jerusalem. I still think that reading Qutb's Milestones is the best intro for people who want to know more. His writings are like those of Martin Luther, sometimes brilliant, sometimes with gaping holes of logic.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My predictions on the Arab Spring, from January 2012

Hi All,

I was recently going over this interview I did with Don Warrington at Positive Infinity for another interview I'm doing right now, and I was struck by how I nailed the Arab Spring all the way back in January of 2012. Check this out:

6) Where do you see MENA going, especially in view of events such as the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the Arab Spring?

This is the million-dollar question, isn’t it? First, the people who protested didn’t take political control, so as much as they wanted freedom and democracy, they just won’t get it, I’m sorry to say. The Egyptian elections were demonstrably corrupt, though the international press has not said so—I have no idea why. The Islamists will take power and they will not let it go. And why is this surprising? That is precisely what Muhammad did—engaged in diplomacy and compromise and so on, but once he had power he was ruthless. In the end, an Islamic society cannot be a free society. Islam and freedom are mutually exclusive.

The question I have is this: will it be like Iran? After the revolution in `79 Islam had a chance to prove itself in the political arena, and Islam, unlike Christianity, makes substantial guarantees in this area. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have concluded that Islam failed—it did not deliver politically so it must be false in terms of its religious and spiritual claims too. They have turned to Christianity some of them, and some to secular humanism or atheism. Will this happen in these newly Islamist states? Perhaps. I pray it will. Islam’s love of political power may well be its Achilles’ heel. Meanwhile, that means the native Christians need to stay as long as they can, and foreign missionaries like me need to stay no matter what. I will do it. Maybe the kids and wife need to go back to the US, I will do everything I can to stay here even if all hell breaks loose.
Anyway, if you didn't read the interview when it came out, I think it contains a good summary of my own philosophy of mission and opinions regarding the Arab world today: here are Part 1 and Part 2.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Did Saints Peter and Paul believe in insider movements?


I answer that the Biblical witness clearly leads to the answer no:
Further, the mixed churches in cities like Rome and [the region of] Galatia were likewise errors. These believers, both Jews and non-Jews, had mistakenly supposed that they in some way had come into a new oikos and a new identity, and Paul, lacking wisdom as usual, taught them these things. Indeed, a triumph of IM hermeneutics and practice would have meant that Peter should have been victorious when Paul confronted him. Indeed, Paul, in violating kashrut was stepping needlessly outside of his oikos, while Peter himself was honoring his God-given identity as a Galilean Jew. 

In the end though, it was the faith—the apostolic faith—that was victorious. A faith which understood that in Jesus a new community had come into being demanded allegiance above and beyond one’s own community of birth. Or as one African pastor put it in those early centuries: you cannot have God for your Father without having the Church for your mother.
From my recent article on insider movements.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Insider Movements, Jeff Morton, Kevin Higgins, Dave Bogs and Rebecca Lewis

Insider Movements, Jeff Morton, Kevin Higgins, Dave Bogs and Rebecca Lewis
by Abu Daoud

As a contributing editor of St Francis Magazine I have the privilege (and duty) to write at least one substantial article per year. All my previous SFM articles can be found in the menu to the right of the main blog text. My recent article started as a mere book review of Jeff Morton's recent book Insider Movements: Biblically Incredible or Incredibly Brilliant?

The material in this book unfolded itself into an article-length article (which is also a review) concerned with 'insider movements'. In his book, Morton particularly takes on two of the main proponents of IM: Rebecca Lewis and Kevin Higgins--hence the full title (and biblio):
Abu Daoud. 2013. "Rebecca Lewis and Kevin Higgins against the Ropes: sounding the death nell of the insider movements and the victory of Apostolic faith" in St Francis Magazine 9(4), August, pp 1-7.
(Yes, that is "Abu Daoud" and not "Daoud, Abu.")

The article also takes on Dave Bogs, who is the gatekeeper of the 'Insider Movement' entry at Wikipedia, which is well-curated and totally inaccurate. It is a good reminder as to why Wikipedia is not allowed to be used in academic papers!

Here is an excerpt:
If you journey over to Wikipedia and check out the Insider Movement entry, you will enter the personal fiefdom of one Dave Bogs. If you click on the ‘view history’ tab you will find that anything he does not like is deleted (by him). His justification for this is invariably that a significant number of people have said that the article is balanced. If you click on the ‘Talk’ tab (next to the ‘Article’ tab) you will find that a bunch of people went to Wikipedia between March13th and 17th of 2012 and left positive comments on the article. Is it possible that Dave or someone else was teaching a class on IM, and that the students were told to log in to Wikipedia and endorse the article as ‘excellent, concise’ and so on? (p. 4)
Dear Dave Bogs, please leave a remark here and clarify the situation. I won't delete your material like you do with the poor souls who try to fix the IM article at Wikipedia. As Christians, dialogue is a fine way to work this out, but your control of the Wikipedia site makes this impossible.

Anyway, check out the entire article here, and let me know what you think. If Kevin Higgins or Rebecca Lewis or Dave Bogs would like to leave any comments, they are most welcome.

Find it a Scribd or download the PDF from St Francis Magazine.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Message from a Christian of Syrian Ancestry to the Americans


Message from a Christian of Syrian Ancestry to the Americans

by Abu Daoud (8/2013) 

Today I was running errands and I happened by my local pharmacy to pick up some stuff for the family. The man there is a Greek Catholic Christian of Syrian ancestry and he told me about how his ancestors had migrated from Syria to where I am, back in the days of Ottoman Empire. 

We got to talking and, as often happens with this sort of thing, he became rather impassioned and started to tell me his thoughts in detail about what was going on in Syria. He told me, You are American, you voted for this guy (President Obama)!  I promised him I would relay his message to people in the USA as best I could. So here I am, trying to do that. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, of course. But I did think that people in the USA (and elsewhere, too) would be interested to hear the unvarnished thoughts of an Arab Christian whose ancestral home is Syria, in Wadi al-Nasara (it’s on Wikipedia). 

His main source of frustration was that, in his mind, the Obama administration was actively funding the genocide of Middle Eastern Christians. He felt that the USA and the UK were arming terrorists (Jabhat al Nusra, which is a branch of the Syrian rebels, and is affiliated with Al Qaeda) who were killing Christians. He said that these people were beasts and monsters, and that he hoped that Al Assad would kill them all. Not just beat them or chase them out. But kill them. He believes that the Obama administration is lying then they say that they think they are supporting Syrians fighting against Al Assad, because in fact they know that these people are foreigners (from Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Gulf, the USA, Europe) and not Syrians. He mentioned the famous video clip of one such fighter cutting open a man’s chest and then taking out his heart and eating it, which, yes, really exists. He said, when I’m hunting and I see a wounded animal, I kill it. I don’t feel good about it, but I do. The implication is that these Al Qaeda people are wounded beyond recovery—their humanity irrevocably damaged.

He says that before the revolution he didn’t much like Al Assad, but now he likes him. This is because Syrian regime left the people alone, and didn’t enforce religion on anyone. 

I explain that the Obama administration says they only want to support the liberal, secular democratic rebels, not the terrorists who are bent on destroying Christianity in Syria (though they are working together). The logic behind this explanation seems so entirely incoherent to him that he concludes it is a lie: the Obama administration (and John McCain as well, it appears) is merely saying this to cover their tracks. The logistics of giving weapons to one portion of an army while keeping them from another portion of the same army (and a more powerful and larger portion, at that) is ridiculous, and no one would ever think that is a realistic goal, he said.

Based on this evidence—the Obama administration’s clear and unequivocal support (in his mind) for a branch of Al Qaeda bent on eliminating Christianity from the region, he concludes that Obama must be a Muslim—there is no other logical way of explaining it all. He concludes that he hates Obama. He says his wife’s parents are in Canada and he could have easily emigrated, but he loves this land and will not leave. He wants American Christians to know about his point of view.

I told him I would tell you, and I have. I will leave the evaluation of his opinions to you. As for me, he told me to pass this on, so please link to this or copy and paste. The material is not my own.

--Abu Daoud

Friday, May 31, 2013

Missionary Secrets 5: How to fruitfully insult the Prophet

Missionary Secrets 5: How to fruitfully insult the Prophet
by Abu Daoud

It has become accepted in many missionary circles (among Muslims, at least, an that's me folks) that one should never, ever insult the Prophet. If you do it, then as Mazhar Mallouhi, evangelical turned Jesusy-Muslim, said, it is like telling someone their mother is ugly (that is from St Francis Magazine). Actually, normally he is right. Normally you touch Muhammad and that is the end of the conversation. So I appreciate his insight.

Here is a missionary secret which took me like eight years to learn: there are ways to do this fruitfully and to God's glory and to the good of the person you are speaking with. It is not an easy procedure though.

First, you need to earn the right to be heard. Say you're in Cairo, for instance. Demonstrate a knowledge of the history of the place. Show that you know a lot about Egypt and the people there. And this is the hard part: you actually need to really know this stuff. You really need to know about Chalcedon and arrival of Arab Imperialism (ie, Islam) and the Fatimids an Mamlukes an so on. You need to show that you know about the contemporary challenges faced by Cairenes: that Egypt imports more than 50% of its wheat, that the currency has become very weak, and so on. You also need to show that you know more about the Qur'an and Islam than your hearer. Not in a pompous, bossy way of course. Finally, you need to be able to do all of this by mostly asking questions and (really) listening to their answers (and really caring about what they say--there is no substitute for sincerity).

Once you have done all of this, you probably have earned the right to fruitfully insult the Prophet. This happened to me today where I'm staying, over a lengthy conversation. The speaker was emphasizing how Christians and Muslims get along well, and the proof was that Muhammad took Christian wives an the shari'a allows this. I told him, "With all respect and sincerity [that doesn't sound so corny in Arabic], the Prophet's Shari'a is precisely the reason I could never become a Muslim. That a Muslim man can take a Christian wife, but a Christian man cannot take a Muslima wife is injustice in my view. The Shari'a is not stable--sometimes it is generous and sometimes harsh. Sometimes it is peaceful but other times violent. The path that our master the Messiah [I don't even say Jesus because then I have to choose this or that] taught is one of love and perfect peace. The Prophet's Shariah is the reason I could never be a Muslim."

Was he mad? Of course not. He knows well that what I said was true. I left the guy with a Bible in Arabic and the location of a decent local church. Hopefully he will read and/or visit.

And here is the clincher--always end up with Jesus (sayyidna al masii7). Emphasize his love and the closeness of his God. Don't say something stupid like Islam is a violent religion, or Muhammad was "a violent man." Sure he was, but at times he was generous and kind.  The beauty of Messiah's way is that we was consistent. Muhammad (and hence his Shariah) were not. Muhammad (and Islam) are unstable and can't be depended on. In other words, they are not worthy of one's faith.

So there you go. You can fruitfully insult the Prophet. Just make sure you know what the heck you're talking about (history, contemporary politics) before you do, and make sure to earn a hearing, and make sure to bring it back to Jesus.