During my visit to Bahrain I took the tour of Al Fateh Grand Mosque. I was asked to dress in a Hijab and was shown around the building.
My guide was a young lady called Faiza who had such a sweet humble nature, it was a pleasure to talk to her. She had a profound love of God and a desire to serve him and dedicate her life to him. She was keen to share her faith and I mine.
I took the opportunity to learn from her more about Islam, to learn about what Muslims believe about Jesus, our similarities and differences, and to share with her about the Christian faith. We had a long conversation and I liked and respected her very much, in different circumstances I think we could have become good friends. So what did I learn? That Muslims believe that:
- There is only one God and our first commandment is to serve Him (although Islam does not attribute a gender to God) and then to serve others
- Abraham had direct communication with God and Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist are among the prophets
- Jesus was born of a virgin and was God’s messenger, the messiah who was foretold in Jewish scriptures
- Mary was a very special women, chosen by God
- Jesus healed the sick, raised people from the dead and was without sin
- There will be a second coming of Christ, which will be a time of judgement.
- We can communicate directly with God through prayer, we don’t need priests or rabbi as intercessors
- There are angels who God uses as messengers
So far so good. But then the difference were shared. Faiza stated that for Muslims:
- The trinity is regarded as blasphemy as there is only one God – and that Jesus never claimed to be God – he was human not divine
- Mohammed was prophesied in the Bible, the Holy Spirit Christians refer to as the Comforter that Jesus promised is believed to be Muhammad.
- Jesus did not die on the cross, he was still alive when taken up into heaven
- The Bible, although it contains words of truth from the direct words of the prophets (including Jesus) has been change and manipulated and is not all the Word of God.
- That Muslims are the great nation promised in Genesis from the descendants of Ishmael and it was Ishmael that was sacrificed not Isaac.
- The Quran is the unadulterated Word of God and Muhammad the last of the prophets.
I started with our common beliefs then explained about how Jesus died to reunite mankind to God, so that our sins could be forgiven. That God was not just a God of justice but a God of love. I encouraged Faiza to read the Bible and she quietly encouraged me to read the Quran. We had a difference of opinion but I think we both recognised and respected that we were followers of the creator and working towards a better world.
It was an interesting discussion but as I was about to leave the mosque a woman who worked there approached me to explain about Mecca and the Kaaba. When Faiza shared that I knew a lot about the Bible, the women proceeded to cast fierce accusations on Christians, stating the Bible had twisted the truth and that it contained many errors. She gave the example of Genesis 21 when Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away, showing that the Bible says Hagar carried the boy on her shoulders (when the text shows he must of been about 17 years old). How was this possible? If there were errors like this she complained how can we trust it. I was ashamed that I did not know enough about that passage to give her an answer.
She claimed that God had brought me to the mosque that day to hear the truth of Islam, that this is the truth that would set me free??? And that if I did not respond to the one and only God, and reject beliefs about Jesus being God, I would be confined to hell. Wow!! Such a different approach to the humble loving kindness showed by Faiza and much more reminiscent of the nature of conflict prophesied for Ishmael in Genesis 16:12.
“And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” (King James Version)
It made me realise that I need to go back to scripture and also understand more about Islam so I can clearly justify my beliefs. I started today by looking at Genesis 21 and the opinion of Hebrew scholars on verses 8-15. It became clear the problems with translation, something Faiza referred to. If you go back to the original Hebrew it looks as though the punctuation in many modern translations is wrong and that instead of:
14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. 15 When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes.
It should read:
So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water; and putting it on her shoulder, he gave it and the boy to Hagar, and sent her away. Then she departed and wandered in the Wilderness of Beersheba. And the water in the skin was used up, and she placed the boy under one of the shrubs.
(Genesis 21:14-15) New King James version.
To read more about this literal translation of this passage click here
- Women of the Word: Hagar (virtuousgirls.wordpress.com)