February 19, 2021
This is “Salaam Week” at University of Alberta, sponsored by the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA). In a normal year, outreach booths on campus would be distributing printed materials and inviting people to hear speakers brought in for the occasion. Last year, I went to hear one of the prestigious international speakers. I was surprised by the low attendance and alarmed at her selective representation of Islamic history attributing blame for the loss of aspects of Islamic culture to European “colonization” of Islamic societies but totally ignoring Islamic conquest. Perhaps the students were too in awe of her fame to ask challenging questions.
I admire the students who are committed enough to their faith and community to provide, despite their busy schedules, what they believe is the best help they can offer other students. They’re following an instruction in the Qur’an: “And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful” (Q3:104, quoted on the Facebook page of the University of Waterloo MSA).
“Successful” is loaded with meaning in Islam. Mark Durie (The Third Choice, pp 19-20) explains that Islam defines the human problem as ignorance, for which Allah’s solution is right guidance, producing success as the result*. Success comes from following the teachings and example of Muhammad. Reports of what he taught and did were collected by scholars and organized into hadiths. Hadiths regarded as authentic form the basis for sharia, the Islamic legal code. Adherence to sharia is the goal of Islamic faith. While anyone can easily learn from the Gospels what Jesus taught and did; what Muhammad taught and did is not so accessible. It requires reading the Qur’an in the light of thousands of hadiths plus the sira (his biography), most of which was only available in classical Arabic until 30-40 years ago. Muslims trustingly rely on scholars and teachers.
Because “ignorance about Muhammad is ignorance about Sharia” which determines human rights in Islamic nations, Durie advises that, “anyone who wants to form an independent and accurate opinion of Islam… should first read Ibn Ishaq’s Life of Muhammad and then one of the major hadith collections such as Sahih Muslim or Sahih al-Bukhari. The Quran may then be read in the light of Muhammad’s life. Secondary derivative sources should not be assumed to be reliable guides” (p 54). Accounts of Muhammad’s life are sanitized for the general public**.
This COVID year, the theme of Salaam week at UofA is “Hope in Hopeless Times”, intended for students “regardless of their beliefs and background” and the speakers’ topics for February 17, 18 & 19 are “The Prophet of Mercy”, “The Afterlife” and “Black History in Islam”. Let’s pray for Muslim postsecondary students, teachers and those they will be influencing.
Heavenly Father, “With You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light” (Ps 36:9). Shine Your light on the life of the prophet of Islam to reveal the truth to these students. Stir up curiosity to research original sources of their faith. Catch them when they fall so they don’t give up and turn to atheism.
Holy Spirit, reveal Jesus to Muslim students and their teachers. Convict them of sin so they cry to Jesus for His true mercy and obtain eternal life.
Jesus, please redirect students sincerely seeking hope to ministries, churches, friends and teachers who will boldly and accurately represent You in word and deed.
*The human problem in Christianity is sin. God’s solution is forgiveness through Jesus, the result of which is salvation.
**The Reality of Islam According to Islamic Sources by Rev. Dr. Zakaria Botros is a reliable resource. Rev Botros has won many converts from Islam by simply telling them what respected Islamic sources say about Allah, Muhammad, and Islam.
Picture: Pixabay - Annalise Art