When I was first introduced to Islam several years ago, it amazed me how many teachings paralleled Christianity. Jesus, Abraham, et al, are respected and revered in Islam, along with the prophet Mohammad (PBUH), peace be upon us all.
Though I am, and remain, a Christian, I remember a few years ago (when I was based in Pakistan) asking my Muslim friends to show me how to properly pray in a mosque. A little surprised by my request, my friends showed me what to wear when I enter a mosque, where to place my shoes near the entrance, how to position my body on a prayer mat, etc. The mosque I was taken to was spotless, with beautiful tile work all around. I had never been in a mosque before, and was quite amazed at how calm I felt upon entering.
Then, after that lesson, my friends were eager to take me to a Christian church, which was beautifully cared for, in a serene place surrounded by tall, lush trees. We all walked in; they had never been in a church before. I recall our discussing the importance of wearing clothes befitting a place of worship (growing up, my family always wore modest clothes, such as suits-with ties- and dresses to church, befitting a conservative, Southern family. Not mini skirts and flip flops.) —And my Muslim friends asked me how to properly pray in a Christian manner. We folded our hands and kneeled on the benches. They asked me what words to use in prayer, and I explained that there were specific prayers, such as the Lord’s Prayer, found in the Bible, that they could use, or they could simply speak from the heart, create their own words and have a conversation with God, in Jesus’ name. I said a prayer for all of us that day, with a resounding ‘Amen’ to follow.
Afterwards, we had a wonderful feast. We continued our discussion on spirituality and religions of the world, realizing most of my Muslim friends in this particular part of the world had rarely, if ever, encountered Christian Americans. If fact, one told me that I was the first American they had welcomed into their home.
It was an honour for me to be that ‘first’ one; to be able to share what it means for me to be a Christian in a Muslim country, to be an American in a far away land. It is a privilege for me to be an example of what it means to be both while, at the same time, learning about and respecting other faiths and cultures. I look forward to continuing this path for many years to come, IA, God willing.