How I got started thinking about Islam


On a trip to Dakar, Senegal, I came across an artist who paints on the back of glass. I found this picture interesting and asked the artist about it. He said it was Abraham and Ishmael.

That was the first I was ever exposed to this interpretation of the life of Abraham. I have used this picture to lead me to try and understand what God thinks of Muslims and of Christians. This seems to me to be even more important than what Christians and Muslims think of God, though that is of fundamental importance, too.

A quick look at the Atlas the other day reminded me that we westerners do not see the world in terms of religion. Our way of evaluating a country or a region is to ask how many goods and services they produce. Or to ask what language they speak. But at least the Atlas’s I looked at had no map of religions. But what people think about God is proving to be important, at least in today’s world. People are killing each other over that.

In the Abraham/Ishmael/Isaac story, one that is important to approximately 1/2 of all humans on earth today, we can see how what God thinks of humans is important. Read Genesis 22.

Or read this article about the Feast of Sacrifice by Gilchrist. I think the article is marvelous.

May God continue to take initiative in each of our lives and may we be open to what He wants to do. Without that, we are lost and so are our children.

More on the hope for humanity’s future

I don’t want to get the focus off the question that I raised at Eid: “What is important for the future of humanity?”

I got a lot of comments on that posting. Make sure you read the comments. That’s where I say a little about what I believe is important for the future of humanity. My hope depends on Christians and Muslims living next to each other and developing a relationship in which God has a role. There are many ways this can happen, but it seems to me that we are doomed to jihads followed by crusades followed by terrorism followed by “just wars”, ad infinitum unless we can figure out how to break down the “dividing wall of partition”. For that you may want to take a look at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

It is not easy to imagine how this is going to happen!

We I did get one very interesting reply to my posting was an article from the Internet regarding whether the son that Abraham offered was Ishmael as is popularly believed among many Muslims or if it was Isaac as the Bible declares. It is from a Christian polemical site, so it would be interesting to know if thinking Muslims actually agree with what is written there.

This of course gets into a polemic that can degenerate into an arguement about “who is right”. While one may be right and the other may be wrong (or did Abraham offer both sons and have this experience twice?), such polemic hasn’t been able to settle this question during the last 1300 years. If our disagreements continue define our relationship, the future of humanity is at risk.

I don’t think that is what God was thinking about when he rescued Abraham’s son, whoever it was. What was He thinking?

Eid and hope for the future of Humanity.

Ever since I was introduced to the Muslim world through my Latin American friends, I have had a special fascination with Eid, the Muslim holiday that was celebrated yesterday.

Eid, by its place in the Islamic calendar and by the things that are done on Eid, can remind Muslims each year that their ancestor Ishmael was spared death because God provided a substitute (yes! that is their variation on the story of the rescue of Isaac in Gen 22).

My fascination (and my hope) grows when I read in Isaiah 60:7 that God promises that the rams of the children of Ishmael will be “acceptable on my Altar”.

Does that refer to the rams in these pictures of the Eid holiday? Take a moment to look at them.

Islam can be a challenge to our Christian faith. For many Muslims “devotion” to God is critical for the future of humanity and they see Abraham’s willingness to offer his son as a supreme devotion to God.

Our Christian faith says that Jesus is critical for the future of humanity.

What do you think is critical for the future of humanity?