Saturday, March 31, 2007

Pray for Yemen

Yemen is one of the least-reached countries in the world. Personally, I have a particular burden for this country and the people living in it. It is a Gulf country, but it is very poor. It has the lowest GDP of any of the Gulf countries. It has an extremely high birth rate and government corruption is extremely high.

It is like Isaiah chapter 6: who will go for us? If you will to Yemen, I will help. E-mail me at winterlightning [at] safe-mail (dot) net.

This is the ends of the earth. Unlike other Muslim countries (Egypt, Jordan, Syria) this country has NO indigenous Christians. Here is the news:

SAN'A, Yemen: Heavy rains triggered floods that killed at least 36 people and injured 18 others in Yemen in the past week, local officials said Friday.

The officials said the floods inundated several areas across the country, disrupting telephone and electricity networks, destroying houses, cutting off roads and washing away cars, crops and cattle.

Some 115 families have been displaced and 150 homes destroyed, officials said.

Yemen's rainy season begins on March 21 and causes casualties every year. A report issued by the Interior Ministry said 500 people were killed during last year's rainy season.

From here.

I think that helping those in need is one of the reasons that Christ founded the Church. I know evangelicals are not used to speaking this way, but trust me, for Muslims, the Church is part of the Gospel--it is Good News. It is good news: it actually does reach across ethnic boundries, unlike the Umma of Islam. It actually is based on love and charity, unlike the Umma, which operates acccording to a paradigm of political authority. The Church actually does gather in peoplee from every tribe and famile and language and country--unlike the Umma. May the Church minister to the needs of the afflicated, and thus, through her actions, proclaim the kindness and charity of the Messiah.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

First Church in Qatar (in a loooong time)

There are churches in Qatar from what I hear, but this is the first time since the advent of Islam that a building designed as a church is being built there.

Work has begun on the construction of Qatar's first purpose-built church in the desert outside Doha, the country's capital.

Although the country's native inhabitants are entirely Muslim - and are prohibited by law from converting to another faith - the new Catholic church will cater to the large number of Christian migrants who have come to the Arabia Gulf state in search of work.

From Here

Monday, March 26, 2007

More African-Americans converting to Islam

Well, liberal Christianity told us not to be judgmental.

We should dumb down that difficult Catholic weekly fast every Friday. We should "sit back and be loved." Christianity is a relationship not a religion! All grace and rules! We are free from the law... And look where that has gotten us. I for one think that pastor or priest should be able to do what Ezra did: proclaim a mandatory fast. But that's legalism! No, Americans worshipping their own freedom, that's worse than legalism, it's idolatry. Islam has not lost its sense of discipline, nor has it forgotten that true religion is challenging:
Byrdsong, executive director of the Community Empowerment Association, was attracted to Islam while serving a 10-year prison sentence for robbery. He said the religion appeals to many, including those in prison, because of strict rules banning alcohol and drugs and its success at keeping people from deteriorating into a life of crime.
Here is the link. Read it all.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Part XI: Muslims' Main Objections to Christianity

In Part X of this series on Islam I wrote on four of the main things that attract Muslims to Christianity (The Bible, Dreams and Wonders, Charity and Kindness, and Christian Community or the Church), but now I want to outline the four main theological stumbling blocks for Muslims who are interested in the Christian faith. Note that I am talking about the ones who are interested, most Muslims actually have no desire whatsoever to learn about other religions, nor do they have any desire to ask hard questions about their book or the life of Muhammad. Islam does claim to be the supremely logical religion, but the ability to engage in critical thought in the Middle East is close to null.

In any case, here are the four theological topics which are most confusing and difficult for Muslims who are searching for truth. The four topics are born from Islamic caricatures or misunderstandings of genuine Christian teaching. I will make no effort in this article to show how Christians respond to these objections, though I am open to doing that if you are interested.

1) The Incarnation: How can God become a man? This has been scandalous since the very beginning of the faith, but it is absolutely essential to maintain this doctrine since without it God becomes further and further removed from our understanding. Also, our anthropology or understanding of what it means to be human, whether as individuals or as parts of a community, becomes degraded.

2) The Trinity: The period of Islam's growth and early spreading was marked by an extraordinary and effective policy of military subjugation which did not allow space for attempting to understand the Christian dogma of the Trinity, which was by then articulated in the language of Greek philosophy. Thus the rejection of the nuanced doctrine of God's triunity was firmly cemented as a form of tri-theism by the time Islamic scholars gained the skills whereby they could effectively dialogue with Christian theologians. Of course, by that time is was an article of faith for the Muslim scholars that trinity was somehow identical to tri-theism, so in spite of their academic abilities, it was simply not open to question: the Christians had to believe in three gods, even if the Christians said they didn't.

3) Corruption of the Bible: Muslims are taught that Christians and Jews corrupted the books which came down from heaven to such prophets as Jesus and Moses and David. This is, actually, not clearly supported by the Quran, but it is a common teaching today.

4) The Crucifixion: The prevalent interpretation of the Quran today indicates that Jesus was not crucified. Also, in Islam God's grace and favor must be identified with political and military supremacy, thus the idea that one of God's prophets could be reduced to such a humiliating death is fairly repulsive to Muslims. There are interpretations of the Quran which support that Jesus was crucified, but Islam refuses to or is unable to differentiate between the meaning of the Quranic text and the act of interpretation.

Muhammad and his Christian Uncle

You have probably not heard of Waraqa bin Nawful. Not a whole lot is known about him, but he is actually a very important person because he was probably very influential in forming Muhammad's understanding of religious topics. He was the uncle of Khadija, Muhammad's first wife, and according to the ahadiith he knew Hebrew and was able to read and translate the Bible from that language.

Anyway, I am not an authority, but it is an important topic. This link goes to a conversation which represents the two views fairly well. If you Google him you will find that some people spell his name "Waraqa bin Naufal".

(Incidentally some think he was a Nestorian, which is related to my previous post on the Trinity. The Nestorian heresy was rejected at the Council of Ephesus in 431.)

Orthodoxy, Abouna Zacarias, and the Trinity

Folks in the West don't usually think about the Orthodox churches' missions to Islam very much. In fact, most Western Christians don't know the first thing about Eastern Orthodoxy.

One of various Orthodox churches is the Coptic Orthodox Church. For those of you who knows something about church history, they are one of the non-Chalcedonian churches. That is, they did not accept the Definition of Chalcedon (451 AD) wherein the Church said that Christ had two natures, one human, and one divine. He did not have some mixture of natures, nor was one eliminated or subsumed into the other.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is based out of Egypt, and they are by far the largest of the existing churches in the lands of Islamdom.

Now there is one Coptic priest named Abouna Zacarias. (Abouna is simply Arabic for 'our father' and is the title used for a priest here.) He is a brilliant scholar of Islam and is hands down the best-known apologist for Christianity in the entire region.

If you would like to read some of his work here is a link. He is here tackling what is probably the single hardest issue one could think of: The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Need I say that, technically speaking, the majority of Western Christians (Roman Catholic and Protestant) are probably heretics? I mean that if you keep asking questions about the Trinity and about the divinity of the Son you will generally run into a heresy. That is not because they want to be heretics of course, they simply have not read the early definitions and creeds on the matter. And the pastors who are responsible for teaching them? Unfortunately, the evangelical distaste for Catholicism led to a distaste for church history, and well, if you don't know where you come from you simply don't know who you are. So many of the pastors are ignorant of Trinitarian theology, even at a basic level.

Want to test your knowledge? Try this: name five heresies related to the divinity of Christ or the Trinity.

In any case, kudos to Abouna Zacarias for addressing these questions in an intelligent and direct way. He does not skirt around the fact that he is not a Muslim or that he does not believe in the Quran or Muhammad, as do many Western Christians when they discuss these questions. God bless him and his ministry

Friday, March 23, 2007

Apostasy as a Capital Crime

Leaving Islam is a capital crime according to the ahadith (that's the plural of hadith which refers to recollections of various sayings and events during Muhammad's life, or the lives of the Rightly Guided Caliphs). For anyone who wants to know some specific references where death is mandated for apostates here you go:
Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn 'Abbas, who said, "Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, 'Don't punish (anybody) with Allah's Punishment.' No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, "If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him."
From Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 260
If you are having trouble with the link then cut and paste this:

Or This from Volume 4, Book 52, Number 261:
Eight men of the tribe of 'Ukil came to the Prophet and then they found the climate of Medina unsuitable for them. So, they said, "O Allah's Apostle! Provide us with some milk." Allah's Apostle said, "I recommend that you should join the herd of camels." So they went and drank the urine and the milk of the camels (as a medicine) till they became healthy and fat. Then they killed the shepherd and drove away the camels, and they became unbelievers after they were Muslims. When the Prophet was informed by a shouter for help, he sent some men in their pursuit, and before the sun rose high, they were brought, and he had their hands and feet cut off. Then he ordered for nails, which were heated and passed over their eyes, and they were left in the Harra (i.e. rocky land in Medina). They asked for water, and nobody provided them with water till they died.
The website where you can read these two ahadith is a complete collection of Bukhari, so do a word search when you get to the page. Both references are quite a ways down the page.

The most important text of course is from the Quran itself (16:106):
Any one who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters Unbelief,- except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith - but such as open their breast to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Slave of the Cross

That's what Abdul Saleeb means in Arabic: slave of the cross. His testimony is here, he is an MBB, that is, a convert from Islam. Here he describes himself before his conversion:

I thought of Islam as a faith with such high ideals that I did not consider myself worthy of the name Muslim but I wholeheartedly believed that Islam was God's last and most perfect religion for all mankind, based on God's final revelation, the Qur'an, and the prophet Muhammad, God's seal of prophethood. My view of other religions (especially Judaism and Christianity) was that although they were fundamentally the same since they had all been revealed by one God, they were all inferior to Islam because all of them had to various degrees corrupted the original message of their founding prophets, something that we as Muslims have not done.

Testimony of a Convert from Islam

These testimonies are all over the place on the net. I realize that Christians will find these immensely encouraging and Muslims will find them worrisome or perhaps will be angered or disgusted by them.

In any case, I would like to study this phenomenon more. Given the population in MENA it (converts from Islam) is probably a trickle, but still, conversions between the two religions will probably continue to increase in number in the globalized world of today and the near future.

An example:

When I went back to the Arabian Gulf after finishing the semester, I had a dream about Jesus. In the dream, Jesus told me to come to Him and read the Bible and He would show me the way, truth and the life. The next morning I was excited and told my mom about it. She said my dream about Jesus was a "victory" (a lucky dream), and that surprised me. A few days later I saw my friend and expected him to spend a lot of time with me that day. He told me that he was going to church (it was Sunday) and he invited me. I had a great desire to see how the Christians prayed and I wanted to go with him. At church they had communion and I wondered about what it was. Another acquaintance of ours said I couldn't take communion unless I was a believer in Christ. My friend listened and answered my questions. During the next couple of weeks I thought a lot about Christianity and began reading the Bible. The more I read, the more I wanted to read and know. I was hungry for truth.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Satanic Verses

Muhammad admitted that a few of the verses which he thought he had received from Gabriel were in fact from Satan. They would be in the surah The Star (al najm) had they not later been renounced.

Great story and it brings to mind some difficult questions regarding the validity of the rest of the Quran. Here is a section from one site and a few links for people who find this topic interesting. This quote is from a Muslim scholar. I try to quote Muslims more than non-Muslims on Islam:

One of the greatest Islamic scholars who wrote a Tafsir was Zamakhshari. He commented on this event as well.Here is his writings, quoted from "The Quran and its Exegesis, by Helmut Gatje, pages 53 - 55, published by Oneworld, Oxford, England [10].

"The faithful rendering of the revelation Zamakhshari on Sura 22:52/51

We have never sent any messenger of prophet before thee, but that Satan cast into his fancy, when he was fancying; but God annuls what Satan casts, then God confirms His signs - surely God is All-knowing, All-wise.

.. The occasion of the sending down of the present verse is the following: As the members of the tribe of the messenger of God turned away from him and took their stand against him and his relatives also opposed him and refused to be guided by what he brought to them, then, as a result of the extreme exasperation concerning their estrangement and as a result of the eager desire and longing that they be converted to Islam, the messenger of God sheltered the wish that nothing would come down to him that could make them shy away. Perhaps he should have been able to use that for the purpose of converting them and causing them to be dissuaded from their error and obstinacy. Now this wish continued in him until the sura called "The Star" (that is, Sura 53) came down. At that time he found himself with this wish in his heart regarding the members of his tribe. Then he began to recite, and when he came to God's words "and Manat, the third, the other" (Sura 53:20), Satan substituted something in accordance with the wish which the messenger of God had sheltered, that is, he whispered something to him which would enable the messenger to announce his wish. In an inadvertent and misleading manner, his tongue hurried on ahead of him, so that he said: "These (goddesses are the) exalted cranes. Their intercession (with God) is to be hoped for."...Yet, the messenger of God was not clear at this point until the protection of God "isma" reached him and he then became attentive again.

Some say that Gabriel drew his attention to it, or that Satan himself spoke those words and brought them to the people's hearing. As soon as the messenger of God prostrated (for prayer) as the end of the sura, all who were present did it with him and felt pleased (that is, the unbelievers felt pleased that their goddesses had been accepted as intercessors with God).

From Here:

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Part I: Islam and the Future of Europe

To me this is one of the most interesting topics one can discuss. The
way I see it, and this is a summary so it lacks any kind of scholastic
rigour, there are a few possibilities:

1) Purge: This is
mentioned in this article. Europe has shown that it has a unique capability for violence in the past, and, lacking any kind of Christian ethical basis, it is not difficult to imagine forced deportations on a large scale, or perhaps something worse.

2) Evangelization of Muslims: Unlikely since the various churches in Europe are so peripheral to public life there.

3) Islamization and Decline: As Europe is Islamized tribalism and nepotism will grow, which are inextricably linked to Islam via Arab culture, and everything will decline in Europe: economic productivity,quality of education, just governance, freedom, and so on. Many educated Christian will emigrate, some companies will relocate. It will be Byzantine to Turkey all over again. The Byzantine Empire was the world center for science, education, medicine, art, and so on; once it was Islamized it lost all of those qualities.

Great article though:


Claims of Anti-Muslim Racism in the UK


According to a study, a majority of Muslim pupils are underachieving at schools because the curriculum is racist. [...] In state schools, Muslim pupils are placed in situation where they feel pressured into acting contrary to their beliefs and conscience and also experience Islamophobic sentiments and comments within schools.



Thursday, March 08, 2007

Islam and Commercialism

Jesus is the reason for the season! Well, Muslims may well be facing the challenge of formulating something like this for Islam. But really, Muhammad was very pro-commerce, having been a merchant himself before his calling/decision to be a prophet.

Alas, here is the link. Starbucks in Mecca! Egad!


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Muslims Dream of Jesus

Interesting website here, with information on Muslims having dreams about Jesus. Have seen one of the movies and it was very well produced and the acting was quite good.


The Most Curious Country...

Western Sahara anyone? Western Sahara? Yep, it's country, there on the W coast of Africa, just south of Morocco. It is one of the least-reached countries in the world. I think that, foreigners aside, it is about 100% Muslim. Also, the population is pretty small.

Good article on this rare and unique country which has been under the control of Morocco for quite a long time now:


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Great Article on Libya

Well, you don't read much about Libya in the news these days, but this is a good article. Not much on religion in there, but for those interested in the region in general:


Marriage and the Terror War

Interesting post here, may have more to say on the topic in the future. I think that basically Islam Arabicizes culture. That is, where Islam goes Arabic vulture goes. Why else do you have white American Muslims wearing the dishdash, which is a 7th century robe that men wore back then? Because the religion of Islam and the idea of 7th C. Arab culture go hand in hand. Islam compels monoculturalism in a way that other religions like Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism never have.

In any case, he makes some good points about cultural stability and marriage.

me also mention that I don't like the term, "war on terror," very much.
Not because I don't think that the conflict is important or
dangerous--it certainly is. But because "war" has traditionally been
understood to take place between two or more sovereign states. I much
prefer Huntington's term, a clash of civilizations.


this first in a series of essays on Muslim cousin-marriage, I want to
begin to make the case that Muslim kinship structure is an unexamined
key to the war on terror. While the character of Islam itself is
unquestionably one of the critical forces driving our global conflict,
the nature of Islamic kinship and social structure is at least as
important a factor — although this latter cluster of issues has
received relatively little attention in public debate. Understanding
the role of Middle Eastern kinship and social structure in driving the
war not only throws light on the weaknesses of arguments like D’Souza’s, it may also help us devise a new long-term strategy for victory in the war on terror."