This week in all Islamic countries and throughout many metropolitan areas of the United States, Muslims will be celebrating Eid al-Adha, or "The Feast of the Sacrifice." A friend of mine in the Middle East wrote an interesting article explaining why Muslims celebrate this holy day and how Jesus Christ is the ultimate answer for every Muslim seeking Allah's acceptance. With his permission, his article is reprinted here.
In the country in which I live over the next few days 4.5 million sheep and 1.5 million oxen will be sacrificed, not counting the innumerable chickens and goats that the poor will slaughter for Allah. Over and above this, those with means are in Mecca going on the mandatory Hajj required for all faithful Muslims. The cost for a sheep is hundreds, for an ox is thousands, and for the Mecca pilgrimage many thousands of dollars. Why?
Obedience. Muslims commemorate Abraham's obedience to Allah in offering up his son. So in honor of Abraham's submission to Allah's command, Muslims make offerings to show dedication and obedience just like the prophet Abraham. What is wrong with this picture?
The faith of Abraham is sidelined by the works of Abraham. Muslims during this religious festival divide their sacrifice into thirds giving it to neighbors, the poor, and then their family. It is the same as carving up a "Thanksgiving turkey" for the purpose of gaining merit with Allah. There is no atonement for sins or no assurance of salvation. For days families will be gathered together. Blood will drain down the streets and gutters. Smoke will fill the air. There will be lots of noise, traffic, new clothes, and many sweets or gifts.
This is where we enter the picture. We will be welcomed guests in this environment since foreigners honor the families visited. In the midst of celebrations we will quickly speak about Abraham the "father of faith." We will proclaim how Abraham was obedient because of his faith and this is why God honored him. This is a fine but pivotal point.
Most Muslims see the terrible manner in which some "Christians" behave, of course they think everyone in Europe or the US is Christian. This bad behavior makes Muslims feel confident and superior in their religious practices and actually feel sorry for "Christian countries." Consequently, Muslims feel secure in their "prison of good works."
When we meet with them they know nothing of Christians like us or of grace through faith. They are usually shocked and then receptive to this message of forgiveness since they are always considering the alternative. When we tell them that obedience to God's laws is our daily opportunity to show how much we love God for the redemption we have already in Jesus Christ, this is a game changer, since it moves obedience from obligatory religious ritual to a privileged love relationship.
This all takes time and prayer since they have been doing things their way for 1100 years or more. Traditions die hard, but the Truth will prevail, we just have to present it. It is sad if the Muslim perception is correct that "western Christians" do not live obedient lives. May we never put faith and love in opposition to the law, obedience, or good works. "If you love Me you will keep My commandments."
In an ultra-religious world may we always bring honor to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and not shame Him through disobedience. Please pray as we will be in the midst of many extended families for the next few days during the sacrifice festivities. We always have opportunities to share the Good News, but during these religious holidays it is very easy to speak about The Lamb Who was slain before the foundation of the world. If your wondering what/how to pray? We are speaking of Jesus' sacrifice for sins all day, every day. Pray for wisdom, words, love, and sensitivity on our part toward each family with whom we interact!