The Christian Broadcasting Network


What are the problems for Christians of Muslim background? - The Muslim Fast Month of Ramadan will soon be here again. Islamic Law requires of all adult Muslims to abstain from all food and drink during the daylight hours of this thirty day period; this is not so difficult now that the days are short, but it can be quite an ordeal during the long hot hours of summer. Of course, exception is made for those whose health would be at risk, such as the ill, pregnant women, and even travelers. But they must make up the days missed when they can.

What does Ramadan mean for Christians of Muslim background, especially those living in Islamic countries? Of the five required practices or "Pillars," the Fast seems to bring the greatest pressure to conform. This is because it is a communal event centered in the home and the family, and they know whether or not you are fasting. It also involves two of our most basic needs--food and drink. This is why more Muslims practice the Fast than any other Pillar; even pregnant women fast when they shouldn't. It's only natural then that converts are under pressure to fast as well.

What's more, most of these countries are poor, under considerable demographic pressure, and have severe housing shortages; you'll often find grown children, both married and unmarried, living with parents. If everyone in the home is fasting, how can you go about your normal eating habits? And if you do break the Fast, even if not publicly, you risk prosecution; one Moroccan Christian spent six months in jail for just that. No wonder that for Christians of Muslim background Ramadan is a time of stress and fear, and often feelings of guilt.

But is it all that necessary for converts from Islam to break the Fast? Today, some are saying that since God wants people to have a personal relationship with Himself, and not just change religions, a complete break with Islam is unnecessary. Missionaries of the past are said to have needlessly "extracted the converts from their culture" by urging such a break. The new approach encourages converts to stay within Islam and continue their Muslim practices, but replace the Qur'anic passages with words expressive of Biblical content. They are nevertheless taught that in any case they cannot thereby earn their salvation.

The problem, however, is that for Islam "It is man's works, his actualization of divine will on earth as it is in heaven, that constitutes redemption," as one Muslim scholar put it. One could hardly find an approach to religion more contrary to Biblical teaching than that. If we urge converts to keep the Fast and other Muslim practices, while telling themselves that this does not achieve their salvation, we are putting them in a contradictory and impossible situation. How much better it would be to face the struggle with them. What some have done is to bring the believers together to "fast and pray" during the noon hour for the salvation of Muslim family members and friends. Now there is a biblical approach to the struggle.
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