Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Part XXIV: How to Meet Your Local Muslim Neighbors

Part XXIV: How to Meet Your Local Muslim Neighbors
by Abu Daoud
Those of you who have been following our ministry for some time know that we wear many hats. One of those is consultant. Churches and ministries approach us with questions about ministry to Muslims and ask for our advice and help. One of the most common questions is, how do we meet Muslims?

Picture it: you have a group of Christians committed to praying for Muslims, they have studied some of the basics of Islam, have read a couple of books, have listened to some of my world famous lectures *;) winking and they are ready to get to work. And now what? They know there are many Muslims in their city. Where to start?

Each city is different, but here is my basic advice:

1. Shop where they shop: is there an 'international grocery store' or a place that caters to hallal food? Make it a habit of shopping there from time to time. Ask the Spirit to do something surprising before you go in and be expecting him to do it!

2. International Students: are there any ministries that cater to such students? Call your local uni and ask about hosting someone in your home, or at least showing them around town. Get off your butt and call around! You'll be surprised at what you find.

3. English: you speak the international language, and there are many international students and refugees who want to learn it, or who know it and want a conversation partner. Look around on the internet and find out who is doing this in your city and see if you can volunteer. You might now be paired with a Muslim, that is true. But praise God! Buddhists and Hindus need Jesus too.

4. Refugees: so many of the unstable regions in this world today are majority-Muslim: Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, etc. Call your local refugee settlement group and ask if you can help. Follow their rules! If they say you can't evangelize as your volunteer, then don't. But after you are done volunteering, you will have some wonderful friendships where you and your new friends decide what to talk about. 

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.