In 2014, I made a very close non-Christian friend. A beautiful Muslim woman, deeply spiritual, and full of compassion for others; we spent our days together eating snacks, discussing our religions, and debating some of the intense happenings in our world. Although most of my other friends are Christian, there was something unique about this young woman. Her vigor and passion for life, topped with a desire to love and serve others, instantly directed me to some of the deepest longings of her heart.
Spending time with this young woman not only proved to be fun and entertaining, but also opened my eyes to several things about the Muslim faith, which I would like to share here. Below are five things that I have learned as a result of having a Muslim friend:
- Christianity and Islam are actually quite similar. Now, before you get defensive, hear what I said a second time: Christianity and Islam are actually QUITE similar. That doesn’t mean they are the same thing. That doesn’t mean that we believe or follow the same practices or theology. What it does mean is that at the core of who we are, we have more similarities than differences. AND YET, how easy is it for us to only focus on what makes us different? At the very root of both our religions is a desire to serve and love others. At the very root of both of our religions is the desire to bring peace to this world.
- Muslims are deeply committed to their faith. When you consider how many Muslims actually take the injunctions not to eat pork or to drink alcohol seriously and how important prayer is in the Islamic faith – dare I say it, but we Christians could certainly learn a lot from them. Now, of course, there are Muslims, just as there are Christians, who choose not to follow these laws, but for someone truly following the core convictions, they are truly living counter-culturally. Now, ask yourself: what if Christians had that same amount of courage? What if Christians also chose to live just as counter-culturally? Of course, there are many, many Christians who do live differently than society… I’m just saying in general, as Christians we shouldn’t be so quick to assume that we are the one religion that takes our faith so seriously. No! There are so many other rich and vibrant religions who also care deeply about what God is leading them to do.
- Muslims Come in Many Different Shapes and Sizes. Before I made my first Muslim friend, I actually had a rather skewed belief about how “all” Muslims dressed or acted. The problem is: that just as there are many forms of Christians and yet we are all one body in Jesus Christ, so it is with our Muslim brothers and sisters. Many Muslim women are highly educated and are contributing so much to their professional fields. Not all Muslims wear the hijab, and very few Muslims actually fit the stereotypes that so many Western Christians seem to think they do. So, don’t be so quick to put your preconceived ideas of Islam onto someone who actually practices that religion.
- Muslims Typically Have the Same Core Values That All of the Rest of Us Do. They love their family. They love their pets. Some of them even love celebrating the Western holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and even Christmas. Many Muslims enjoy the same music that we like to listen to, they enjoy the same types of activities, and they enjoy just having a good time. That’s right, everyone needs a Muslim friend 😉
- Just Like With Many Other Religions, Just Because Someone Is Muslim Does Not Mean They Aren’t Interested in Your Religion. When we make friends with someone of a different religion, whether that be Muslim, Hindu, or Jewish, we shouldn’t be so quick to assume that they won’t be interested in learning about our own beliefs and practices. And we shouldn’t necessarily enter into the friendship trying to convert them, either. You see, the more I spend time with my Muslim friend, the more I become aware of just how culturally rich and vibrant her faith really is. As we begin to dialogue and share questions with one another, we move into a closer understanding of one of the most fundamental things in our lives. Every time I learn something about her religion, it also gives me a chance to look deeper into my own faith. Why I believe the way I do and why I practice the way I do. It challenges me to become a better Christian. To become more faithful. To become more holy. Therefore, I have learned that some days I can be closer to God in the presence of a Muslim friend even than when I am at church or sitting in a chapel.
So what’s the point of this post? Am I saying that Christianity and Islam are one and we should just mold the two together to form one faith? Not at all. I believe that while there are similarities between the two world faiths, there are also profound differences. There are differences in how we view certain characters in our Scriptures and how we view the role of God and His reign in our world. I do not want to change those differences firstly because it would be impossible to “force” everyone in this world to believe as I do, but more importantly, because I believe that it is in these differences that the beauty truly comes out. Ignoring these vital differences in and of itself is a form of marginalization. Rather, every day, I seek to grow closer in my own understanding of who God is and I encourage my Muslim brothers and sisters to do the same. I encourage both religions to not passively accept what they have been taught, but rather to ask questions and to seek answers. It is only by doing so that we can truly begin to co-exist as one.
Photo courtesy of Google Images.