Ramadan and the summer of discontent
Erich Bridges, Baptist Press
August 19, 2011

Ramadan and the summer of discontent

Ramadan and the summer of discontent
Erich Bridges, Baptist Press
August 19, 2011

— In Syria, Muslims seeking to pray in some cities are dodging shells lobbed at
their mosques by the military.

In other Muslim-majority nations swept by recent political change, the hopes
raised by the “Arab Spring” are sagging in this summer of doubt and fear about
what will happen next as factions struggle for power. “Now Yemen, Libya, Syria,
Egypt and Tunisia are all (attempting) similar transitions — at once — but
without a neutral arbiter to referee,” observes Thomas Friedman. “It is
unprecedented in this region, and we can already see just how hard this will
be. … (T)he new dawn will take time to appear.”

In Somalia and
its neighbors, meanwhile, masses of Somali Muslim refugees are unwillingly
observing a grim Ramadan fast: famine-induced starvation.

Ramadan, the annual month of dawn-to-dusk fasting observed throughout the
Muslim world, began Aug. 1. This year, it found millions of Muslims struggling
for political freedom, for a better future — or for basic survival.

But Ramadan itself calls Muslims to higher things, things beyond this material
world. “Ramadan helps us become conscious of our souls,” explains one Muslim. “Fasting
helps us to separate ourselves temporarily from our worldly needs and pursuits
so as to become aware of higher needs and pursuits.”

So why should Christians care about a Muslim observance? Because Ramadan is a
priceless opportunity to lift Muslims in prayer to God — and to love them in
action by His grace — whether they live across the globe or right next door.

The month of fasting isn’t easy, even for Muslims who don’t face political
turmoil or life-threatening hunger.

“It is a time when Muslims try to spend more time focusing on (Allah) and
learning about patience and humility,” says a Christian worker in South
Asia. “We have seen the opposite effect as the month wears on for
the millions around us. There are often fights in the traffic jams as people’s
patience is frazzled by lack of food and water. There is also the feeling by
many that they just are unable to keep the fast and are therefore unable to
please (Allah). Pray that Muslims … will realize their deep need for a Savior.
Pray that they will experience the grace and love of God that will forever
replace the rules and works of man.”

Make no mistake: Many Muslims eagerly want to know more about Jesus.

A college student from my church has spent the summer ministering to Iraqi Muslim
refugees in the Atlanta area. In
the course of providing practical help, she’s had many opportunities to share
stories from the Bible about Jesus and His Lordship.

Nearly everyone listens; several have decided to follow
Jesus as Lord.

One 22-year-old Muslim “jumped into this spiritual discussion with us the first
time we met him,” my college friend related. “I told him the story about when
Jesus calmed the storm. He listened very quietly and was very curious. Once I
was done, he said something we’ve kept in our minds: ‘Why do Christians only
tell other Christians about Jesus? They should teach the followers of Islam
these things, because the Christians already know.’”

Good question. Whether believers assist Him or not, however, God is moving
among Muslims.

In Washington, D.C.,
a group of Christians regularly visits shopping malls to share the gospel with
Muslims. Yet after years of ministry, they “have yet to find a church, of any
denomination, who will partner with them,” says a longtime worker among Arab
Muslim peoples. “Without a doubt, there have been more people incited to pray,
and they are praying.” The net result is that, even in the absence of Christian
obedience on the part of many churches to go and make disciples of all peoples,
“God is still working and calling Arab Muslims to follow Him in greater numbers
than at any other time in history.”

He speaks through His followers when they are faithful to lift Him up. He
speaks through His Word. And He speaks through dreams and visions, as countless
testimonies from throughout the Muslim world continue to confirm. Here is an
account of one such dream from a Kashmiri Muslim woman in India
who now follows Christ:

“I was in a beautiful garden, and an old woman dressed in white came up to me
and said, ‘Come with me.’ She then took me to a place where I saw Him … Jesus …
dressed in white and glowing with love for me. He hugged me and took me in His
arms. He set a crimson rose in my lap and then said to me, ‘You are my
daughter.’ And all I could do was cry. Then I turned around and saw a huge
crowd of hundreds, thousands, all coming to be baptized.”

During the closing days of Ramadan, and particularly on the “Night of Power,”
(Aug. 26 this year), many spiritually hungry Muslims will stay up all night,
seeking divine forgiveness and praying for a vision. Ask God to answer their
prayer with a vision of Jesus, the “man in white” so many other Muslim seekers
have encountered. Pray that they will hear His unmistakable voice calling them
to Himself — and that they, too, will follow Him.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Bridges is IMB global correspondent. Visit “WorldView
,” the blog related to this column. Listen to an audio version. For
videos, stories and other resources exploring how to love and pray for Muslims,
visit http://www.lovingmuslims.com.)