Jihad Is A Touchy Subject
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Then of course, there’s the Hajj, which is the pilgrimage to Mecca. Every Muslim who is physically and financially able is commanded to go to Mecca and various surrounding areas around Mecca and perform a pilgrimage, a very complicated pilgrimage where they go around that big black cube, the Kaaba. They go around that during their prayers. They’ll go to a place where there’s a big sort of obelisk-like stone, which represents Satan, and they cast stones at Satan. They go to Mount Hira to look at the shrines there.
They go to the various holy sites and they think it’s a very cleansing time for them. A woman who goes on Hajj gets a title when she comes back. She’s called Haji. A haji is someone who is… She wears a scarf now and she can’t touch another man who is not her husband or her children or her father. I have relatives who won’t touch me. They put their hand on their heart and they’ll bow their head because out of respect, they want to acknowledge you, but they can’t touch you.
The men who go are called Hajj and they are sort of clean now. They won’t touch a woman who’s not their spouse or their daughters or their mother or aunt. It has to be… You can’t… Cousins, they can’t touch their cousins anymore because it’s considered unclean and that kind of thing. They’re very spiritually pure at this time.
I want to show you a quick clip of something. This is the Hajj in Saudi Arabia. You can see it. There’s millions… This is the grand mosque Saudi Arabia and that’s a throng of people moving around the Kaaba. Estimated now, about three and a half million people fill that place every year and surround that and just circle it over and over and over again and go to these various shrines. People die during this time all the time. They get trampled or they… some kind of… Think about it. Mecca is not built for 3 million people, but 3 million people from all over the world, all over the world come and they perform this ritual. They’re all in these areas here in the hallways. They’re everywhere. They’re outside the mosque as well. Yes, sir.
Same time. There’s a holiday actually, where you go on that specific times, that’s why it’s so packed. There’s a greater pilgrimage and a lesser pilgrimage and a few people go to that. But it’s just jam pack of people. Just jam packed with people. Now… Oh yeah?
They call it the age of cons… not consent. The age of… Age of consent, that’s weird. That I even thought about that. I guess it’s sort of torturous. Well, you have to consent to going to do it. The age of knowledge. Typically they don’t usually go until they’re teenagers. A lot of them never go until they’re old because… This is so bad, but people are people. This is another thing. People are people. The pious are still people. They don’t go until they’re adults because they don’t want to have to be pure. They want to make up for their sins when they’re older. I mean, honestly, that’s the truth. Most people who are at the Hajj are older people or middle-aged. A lot of young people aren’t there. My brother went in his early thirties and it was considered very rare, because he wanted to live a pious life.
Now I put jihad up here with a question mark because some people consider this the sixth pillar of Islam. The Qur’an does actually say it’s obligatory for Muslims to give of their lives and of their property in the way and in the cause of Islam. Now there’s two ways you can do this. There’s a greater jihad and a lesser jihad. The greater jihad is the jihad against the self. See, jihad is an Arabic word that means struggle. That’s what it means. It means struggle, doesn’t mean war. It means struggle. The greater jihad is the jihad against the self where you’re trying to subdue your carnal passions, or you’re a cheater and a swindler and you’re trying to make yourself right, or whatever it might be, to bring yourself in submission to God. That’s the greater jihad.
The lesser jihad, is still a jihad and it’s still obligatory, but it’s the fight against those who don’t believe Islam. To not just kill them for killing them’s sake, but to offer them Islam as a religious system and if they are hostile then you attack kind of a thing. Many Muslims don’t even think about the second one. Most Muslims are not sitting around twisting their mustaches thinking of ways to blow up airports. They’re just not doing that. My parents don’t do that. My family doesn’t do that. Almost every Muslim you meet won’t do that. Are they growing in radicalism? Yes, that’s happening. But most of them aren’t doing that. They just want to sort of believe in God and worship Him the best they can, have children, have those kids have children and then pass away happy people. That’s the vast majority of them, in the East and in the West.
So jihad is a touchy subject because many of them don’t know if the Qur’an commands them to fight unbelievers. Many of them don’t care even if they do know. So there’s a tension that exists there because many Muslims don’t want Islam to be a violent religion, but they live in a state of cognitive dissonance where what they know is true about Islam is not what they want to be true about Islam. And they live that way.
Some of the most moral people I know are Muslims. They struggle. Struggle greatly with some of these issues. I think the gospel can help them with that. So those are the pillars, essentially. Now I want to… These are the things that matter to me. Now, back from that, back to my own story. I tried my best to be this way. I didn’t go on the Hajj. I never made it that far. I tried my best to be a good Muslim. Was I perfect? Of course I wasn’t. No Muslims are. I don’t know of one who is who, but I tried my best. I took it very seriously. I would engage with Christians all the time about their belief systems and ask them, “Why are you a Christian?” It’s the most important question I could ask a Christian.
Even when I was a kid, in my early teens and even in middle school, I’d ask Christians, “Why are you a Christian? Why are you a Christian?” I did this all the time, all the way through into college. Why are you a Christian? The answer I got back almost always was, “Oh, we go to church on Christmas and Easter. My parents believe it. So I believe it.” I’d ask them a follow up question. “Is that a good enough reason to trust your eternal destiny to this worldview? Because someone else believes it.” That’s your reason? That’s not a good enough reason. It wasn’t a good enough reason when I was saying it and asking them. I still believe that. It’s not a good enough reason. Now you can be right by mistake. You can be right by birth, by accident. I suppose that’s true. You could be. But they weren’t thinking it through.
So when I would sort of get their mind open to the possibility that they were believing it just for tradition’s sake, I would then say, “Look, do you want to know what’s true?” and I would offer them Islam. Before I offered them Islam, I would destroy Christianity. I would try my best to say, “Your scriptures have been corrupted. All the things that you believe about God are false. The Trinity, incarnation and atonement, these things are false. They make no sense. Can you find for me one place in the Bible where the word Trinity’s even used?” I thought it was a brilliant argument. It’s the stupidest argument ever, but I thought it was brilliant.
The sad thing was so did Christians. I’d… Show me where the Trinity is in the scriptures, your scriptures have been changed. Don’t you know even your own scholars like Bart Ehrman and these other folks, they all say it’s been changed? Now, I included Bart Ehrman, who’s an agnostic, in that because again, my view of Christians is white and not Jewish equals Christian and Bart Ehrman is white and not Jewish. Therefore, he’s a Christian. I thought she was the kind of… So he was telling them their scriptures were corrupted as well. They had these big, wide open eyes and like, “Oh my goodness, I never knew any of this stuff.” Then I’d offer them Islam. I was pretty good at that, actually.
I got people to actually start to practice Islam or read the Qur’an as the holy book of the Muslims and the holy book of their life as well and begin to see that Islam was true and all these things. I was pretty good at it. But there were the occasional annoying Christians who knew what they believed and why they believed it. See, I found them annoying because I like to debate. But I like to win my debates and they weren’t making that easy at all. They would share with you back and say, well, what about this? What about this? Here’s some evidence for you.
So I took it. I made it my job to study comparative religion. I minored in Comparative Religion in undergraduate and I was sort of engaging with Christians and Jews. I was an equal opportunity faith knocker, outer of-er. It didn’t matter to me who you were. I would just try to knock the faith out of you and allow Islam to be the substitute for it. There was two guys, Dave and Pete. Dave and Pete were two Baptist guys going door to door at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Going door to door talking about Jesus to people at the apartment complexes there.
If you know anything about Ann Arbor, it’s like Berkeley, California, but in Michigan. Incredibly liberal, incredibly hostile towards Christian ideas, and they were knocking on the doors. They’d get a lot of laughs, scorns, yelling or slam the door in their face when they came door to door. They came to my door and I was like, “Hello gentlemen, come on in.” I made Dave and Pete very uncomfortable for hours and hours at a time. But Dave and Pete were like the Terminator. No matter how much I knocked them down, they kept coming right back up and walking towards me all relentlessly. I couldn’t get them to stay down, but I love Dave and Pete. I love Dave and Pete because Dave and Pete cared about my soul. They made themselves uncomfortable because they cared if I went to heaven or not. I cared about Dave and Pete. I wanted them to go to heaven too.
I didn’t want them to go to hell. I wanted them to go to heaven. So I taught them about Islam. We went back and forth. Dave and Pete didn’t always have the best answers, but they had sometimes the best answer you can give somebody. “I don’t know. Can I get back to you?” Then Dave and Pete did. We had this back and forth for quite some time. Now I was walking down the street at the University of Michigan. I think it was on South State Street in the corner of South University. There were these Gideons. They were handing out Bibles, little green Bibles. I took one from the Gideon. I tried to convert him to Islam. It didn’t work, but I took a Bible from him and I brought it back to my apartment complex. Now, many of you haven’t gone to college yet, but, some of you may have already, but my apartment was furnished already, which means that it was a fleabag.
I mean, there was just… This furniture you get from the basement of a college apartment, it’s just not the kind of thing you want to sit in. We found a mouse in ours. But anyway, I’m sitting in one of these chairs and I’m opening this Bible up because I want to find something, a contradiction that I can nail Pete and Dave to the wall with. To finally knock them down, have them stay down. I’m reading it and I come across a passage in Luke 3:7, and following. John the Baptist is talking to those who were coming to him to be baptized and he says, “Who told you to flee from the wrath to come?” Of course, meaning God’s judgment. Then he said something interesting. He says, “Do not even begin to think to yourself you have Abraham as your father.”
As if that would save them, simply being Abraham’s child. The DNA in their blood would save them. “For I tell you,” he says, “God can raise up sons of Abraham from the stones.” Do you hear what he’s saying? What he’s saying is that tradition is not as important as truth. You’re relying on your tradition and you’re not relying on truth. Truth trumps tradition. Now, what had I been saying to Christians? What was I saying to them? Why are you a Christian? They would respond, “Tradition.” I’d say, “Not good enough.” John the Baptist was agreeing with me, agreeing with me. But you know what’s funny? In all that time with Dave and Pete and with anybody else, when I asked, “Why are you a Christian?” no one ever asked me, “Why are you a Muslim?” Never asked me that question. Always put the burden on themselves to answer the question. No one ever asked me.
It took… I believe this with the power of the Holy Spirit, frankly, unabashedly… I’m not ashamed about this. The Holy Spirit, through John the Baptist’s words, crossed 20 centuries to a ratty, college apartment with a Muslim who doesn’t have and has no desire to believe this book, shakes him up with that statement. Tradition is not as important as truth. I suddenly realized John the Baptist had to ask me, “Why are you a Muslim?” Now, I had found all kinds of reasons to justify my belief as a Muslim, but the primary reason was just because I had to be. I loved being a Muslim. I was born that way. I was raised that way.
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