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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Love Your (Muslim) Neighbor

by Dina Sleiman

 You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:43-45 

My church has been on a 40 day prayer vigil leading up to Pentecost Sunday. Each day, my pastor has assigned us something to pray for. Saturday is pray for your enemies day. My first thought was, I really don't have many enemies. But the truth is, the recent bombings in Boston served to remind us that our country is facing a rabid enemy called Islamic terrorism. At the same time, many of us have friends, co-workers, and neighbors who are Muslims. How do we even tell difference between these two groups? It can be quite confusing, but in light of the scripture above, it seems like love and prayer are a safe way to approach either one.


No doubt many people are wondering about their Muslim neighbors these days. Being married to a Lebanese man, and having many Muslim and former Muslim friends, I have a lot to say on this issue. And yet it can be hard to express my feelings without engaging in an argument, which is the last thing I want to do. 

I have much love and respect for the Muslim people, especially the women. But I also have serious concerns about the fundamental teachings of the religion. There are many beautiful parts of Muslim culture, and there are many troubling aspects as well. Not to mention that, of course, there are as many different types of Muslims as there are different types of Christians, and there is no easy way to compartmentalize them and put them in a box.

So for me, art is the best way to explore this subject. This October, my novel Dance from Deep Within will release with WhiteFire Publishing. The book takes a three dimensional look at the Islamic belief system and culture, while also exploring Christianity and typical non-Christian American beliefs. This is not a rah, rah, Christians are great and everyone else is bad book. Rather, the three young women from varying backgrounds learn from each other's strengths. My Muslim, Layla, is a fictional character, but she is also a conglomerate of the many former Muslim women I have met who have turned to Christ, and her decision reflects their searching and reasoning. 


I think this book will be a great starting place for many Christians to learn how to better love and pray for their Muslim neighbors, and I can't wait for it to release!

In the meantime, I was also the primary writer on a CD project with songs and prayers about the Islamic people. These songs provide another great way to learn about Muslim culture, and if you don't know how to pray, you can just pray along. This one is available right now. Click here to order.  You can also learn more about the album, including lyrics and videos, here.

Over the next few months I'll be back to share more about this subject.

Do you have any Muslims in your life? What have you found is the best way to show love to them? Who are your enemies, and how do you feel God wants you to respond to them?

12 comments:

  1. A lovely post, Dina, and one of many I hope you have revolving around this subject and your release in October!

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  2. We can never go wrong following Christ's command to love our neighbor. It doesn't distinguish by culture, religion, or race.

    I agree with Deb. This is a lovely post, Dina.

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  3. Hi Ladies, I'm super busy at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference today, but stopping in to say hi and thanks :)

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  4. Dina
    i think it is great that you have that book coming out. having done a bit of world traveling, I've learned you cannot lump all people under one label. Each person is unique and it's always best to try to learn from each other.
    i had a couple of Lebanese friends during grad school. One was Muslim and we got to talking during a film shoot during which we were working close together. I didn't try to "convert" her, like many of the other students were trying to and she told me that she appeciated that fact. She liked that I asked questions and let her share with me what she believed without any condemnation. I just figured I could pray for her and love her as Christ would love her. I could be a seed planter and allow that seed to grow for someone else to perhaps "harvest" in God's timing.

    I guess I've had that view for a long time. I don't like it when people tell me what I think or believe is wrong, so I shouldn't bonk people over the head even if I think they are wrong. Christ's love brings people together and, while I'm not the best at reflecting Christ's love at times, I do try to do it as much as possible.

    i think it is great you've written the book and even greater that Whitfire is publishing it.

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  5. You're exactly right, Deb. If you try to convert them you will greatly offend them and turn them off. I'll be doing another article later near the release, but the best ways to minister to Muslims is by being a friend, showing hospitality, and asking about their beliefs and culture. Usually that will turn into an exchange of ideas and allow you to plant those seeds, as you mentioned.

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  6. Yes, our job is to show grace and mercy-- a representative of God, and God is Love. That's the only way anyone is going to want to listen to anything more. And of course this is not just Muslims but everyone. I don't really have an Muslim acquaintances or friends, not by any purpose of mine but because my area is rural and not very multi-cultural.

    I'm looking forward to hearing about the conference, Dina.

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  7. I think this book will accomplish great good by breaking down the barriers of fear that keep us apart. So excited for you.

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  8. I live in a Muslim majority country and went to school with a lot of Muslims. I have close friends who are Muslims as well. You were spot on in saying that there are many different types of Muslims and also very right in saying that some of their fundamental teachings can be somewhat scary! I think while most nominal Muslims are peace loving, there are a number of them who take it to the extreme and want to kill all the infidels! And who are the infidels? You and me of course. In Malaysia, you can go to jail for sharing the gospel with a Muslim, and isn't sharing the gospel the best way to love someone? It's tough but I guess we have to live by "Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words". They read our lives...

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  9. Thanks so much for visiting and offering your support Joanna :) Yes, preach the gospel and if necessary use words is perfect in this situation.

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  10. I wouldn't say I'm acquainted with, but have met a fairly well known former Muslim turned pastor/preacher who knows the Koran inside out. Truly there are some wonderful Muslim people (I remember from holidays how friendly and welcoming they can be), and certainly love is important.
    However, I think the notion that we believe in the same God is a fiction. The notion that God even has a son is akin to blasphemy in the Islamic faith.

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  11. I agree, Bookish Medievalist. The character of the Muslim god, according to the Quran, is very different than our Christian God. I think people get the impression that they are the same from the fact that we are both monotheistic, and because that part of the world was very influenced by Christian and Jewish thinking at the time Islam was founded.

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