I want to take a brief break from the record of our trip to share something I ran across in a bookstore. Just before we left for Oman, there was a lot of popular debate concerning the question, do Muslims worship the same God as do Christians? As far as I am concerned, we worship one God, the creator of the universe; they do, too. Case closed. Same God, but different beliefs about how to live one’s life to serve him. Well, in a bookstore I came across children’s book written by a Canadian muslim for her child. It is called, “Who Is Allah?”
Since most of the articles I saw written and addressing this question were quite negative, I was interested to read a muslim’s explanation of God in simple words a child could comprehend. Seemed pretty good for non-muslims, too. One part of the book lists 99 names of God found in the Qur’an. I wanted to share those now. This list was prefaced with the statement:
There is no one who deserves to be worshipped except Allah . . .
the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate, the Sovereign Lord, the Holy, the Peace, the Faithful, the Guardian, the Mighty, the Compellor, the Superb, the Creator, the Maker out of Nothing, the Fashioner, the Forgiver, the Subduer, the Bestower, the Provider . . .
Find anything offensive in that? Let’s continue . . .
the Opener, the All-Knowing, the Restrainer, the Extender, the One who brings to low, the One who raises up, the Honourer, the Dishonourer, the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing, the Judge, the Just, the Subtle, the Aware, the Clement, the Magnificent, the Forgiving, the Appreciative, the Sublime, the Great, the Protector . . .
Aside from the British spellings, any arguments? More . . .
the Sustainer, the Reckoner, the Majestic, the Bountiful, the Watchful, the Listener, the All-Embracing, the Wise, the Loving, the Glorious, the Bringer Back to Life, the Witness, the Truth, the Trustee, the Strong, the Firm, the Patron, the Praiseworthy, the Reckoner, the Originator, the Restorer, the Quickener, the Destroyer, the Alive, the Eternal, the Perceiver, the Illustrious, the ONE, the Eternal Support of Creation, the Able, the Winning, the Promoter, the Retarder, the First, the Last, the Manifest . . .
We are almost done now . . . I find typing these titles to be uplifting and spiritually moving even as I just briefly think on each . . .
the Hidden, the Governor, the High Exalted, the Righteous, the Relenting, the Avenger, the Pardoner, the Pitying, the Owner of Everything, the Lord of Majesty and Bounty, the Equitable, the Gatherer, the Self-Sufficient, the Enricher, the Withholder, the Distresser, the Beneficient, the Light, the Guide, the Incomparable, the Everlasting, the Heir, the One who guides along the right path, and finally, the Patient.
This is the God worshipped by Muslims everywhere. Is there anything in this that would distinguish their God from ours? I think it profoundly unfair to let a bunch of ignorant terrorists define our image of Muslims. Why should, “God is Great,” (Allahu Akbar) be surrendered to a bunch of murderous thugs? Wouldn’t it be wonderful, as Christians, to be defined by the Westboro Baptist Church? Why do people pretend to know what Muslims are and believe, having never talked with them about their beliefs, and then proceed to mistrust them on the basis of our own misperceptions? Why focus on some embarrassing parts of their holy book that were written at a much different age for different people? Just as we no longer follow certain parts of our New and Old Testaments, they ignore and discount parts of theirs.
On our trip to Oman, one of my favorite moments was an evening up in the mountains when we were dining with our guide. He said he had made his “hike” to Mecca, I asked him questions about it and, finally, encouraged him to share his experience as he had confessed his sins and asked God to guide him, and be with him and in him forever. His face glowed, there were tears in his eyes when I asked if was truly personal. I feel that we had a meeting at the spiritual level. He had shared, as best he could in another person’s language, the depth of meaning this moment had for him and the change it had made in his life. It was as sincere as any sinner walking the aisle of a church after singing multiple verses of Just as I Am. I don’t know what God expects him to do with Jesus Christ; no, he doesn’t follow “our formula” but he was as sincere as any person could be in his experience with God.
I believe that God has chosen to deal with Muslims differently, just as he dealt differently with Christians than he had done with the Jews. I cannot believe that God would look at that level of love, sincerity and commitment, then say they cannot go to heaven because they had failed to follow the path proscribed for Christians. God is a just God and merciful. God gets to figure it all out in the end.
With the globe marked by evil everywhere, and with a new bombing almost everyday now, I think good people, God-loving people, need to acknowledge each other, support each other, learn to respect and love each other, and seek ways in which we can have fellowship together. It is the government’s job to find and imprison or kill wrong doers. It is God’s job to sort things out in the end. Our job is to love and try to understand, and, if peace is what we want in the world, to try to make peace in our own small part of that world.