As part of the 10/10 Prayer Initiative, 180 agencies have come together to ask God to draw to himself 10 percent of the world’s Muslims in the next 10 years. 10/10. Easy to remember, yet such an amazingly big task that only God can do it. SEND International has committed to fast and pray the first Friday of every month — today, and every first Friday for the next decade.
By T.M., Creative Ventures Strategy Coordinator — This month marks two very important events in the Islamic calendar: Hajj and Eid al Adha.
Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, is the fifth pillar of Islam, and every able-bodied Muslim is required to go on this journey and complete the prescribed requirements in Mecca and nearby locations, at least once in his or her lifetime.
Performing Hajj at Mecca can take from five days to a month, depending on one’s health, the type of visa obtained, and how much money one has to spend. There are prescribed details that one has to follow for the “official five days” of the Hajj, and each year the millions of Muslims participating wait in long lines to complete these requirements.
Upon arrival at Mecca, each participant goes through a purification ritual and dons a white robe to signify oneness and purity, as the prayers and rituals performed are to remove all sin and shame for the individual who properly performs them. It is a time of ritual, but it is also to be a time of preparation, inward reflection and repentance of the sins of the previous year.
Eid al Adha — The Festival of Sacrifice
While only Muslims actually in Mecca at the proper time can perform Hajj, Muslims worldwide can participate in Eid al Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice. Muslims believe that this event commemorates Abraham’s obedience, as he was willing to sacrifice “Ishmael,” and God at the last possible moment provided a lamb instead. Officially, this event takes place on the third day of Hajj, but simultaneously, it also takes place around the world, as Muslims globally celebrate this event.
Muslims observing Eid al Adha are to be mindful of God’s provision, and of their requirement to be obedient and willing to sacrifice everything to God. So symbolically, they will purchase and kill a cow or sheep or even a camel (if they are wealthy enough) in remembrance of the lamb sacrificed instead of Ishmael. They will also share the meat with the poor and with their neighbors, as it is a time of excitement, purchasing new clothes, gift giving and celebration.
Even in the West, many Muslims will try to purchase an animal and sacrifice it at a farm or in their back yard. It is imperative that Muslims whisper an Islamic prayer in the ear of the animal before they kill it, otherwise they believe the animal is not considered Halal, or “clean.” If they cannot sacrifice an animal themselves, they will try to find a Halal butcher shop where they can purchase meat to cook and give away. If they are unable to sacrifice or find proper meat to give away, most Muslims will give money instead to the poor in their community.
Recognizing the importance of these holidays
As you engage with your Muslim neighbors and friends this month, here are some points to consider: The two major Eids that Muslims observe (Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha) are so important to them, that they will want to take three or four days off to celebrate. More than once, our team in Central Asia was told that Christmas and Easter must not be very important to Christians as we only took one day off. We at first defended ourselves by saying we had a better work ethic, but then we realized that we needed to agree and take more days off to celebrate the wonder of those special events.
It dawned on us that we needed to examine our practices through the eyes of the people we work with, and that can be a challenge- whether we are engaging Muslims overseas or in our own home country. Our team, from that time forward, began to celebrate the season of Christmas and Easter, to invite people over to our houses for special meals two weeks or more before and after Christmas and Easter. This then gave us opportunity to talk about the meaning of Christmas and Easter for almost a month!
We found that the seasons of Advent and Lent do lend themselves very well to helping one introduce the meaning and importance of Christmas and Easter to those who either have no or minimal understanding of what these holidays are all about. It struck some of us as kind of funny, that in our attempt to rid ourselves of church trappings and traditions, many of us Protestants had thrown out the baby with the bath water. What about you? What have you found that works well to help introduce Muslims to the importance of the meaning behind Christmas and Easter? Does learning how much time Muslims devote to their major holidays encourage you to invest more into your Christian holiday celebrations?
Talking with Muslim friends during this season
Most Muslims are open to talking about Jesus and stories that involve the prophets, so please take the time to refresh your memory about what Jesus said concerning cleanliness on the inside vs. the outside and the forgiveness of sins. When you meet or invite a Muslim over to your house this month for a meal, you can talk about the Hajj and bring the conversation to the matter of clean vs. unclean and sin vs. no sin and the fact that Jesus, who was without sin, died to take away sins once for all, as the blood of bulls and rams can never fully cleanse us. Matthew 23:23-28 and Hebrews 10:4 might be helpful texts to study regarding this matter. What other passages have you used or could you use to speak to these truths?
10/10 Prayer Initiative
Along with other agencies and friends around the world, we continue to pray for the 10/10 Prayer Initiative, that 10 percent of the Muslim world would come to Christ in the next 10 years! Please join with us, as the SEND International community has committed to fast and pray for this unique and challenging prayer initiative on the first Friday of each month. You of course are welcome and encouraged to pray at other times, if that is more convenient for you. We not only need to pray for the Muslim world to come to Christ, but we need to also pray for us, the church worldwide, to be ready to receive and disciple them! Here are some specific prayer points for our team in Macedonia.
- There are many Muslims who need to hear about Jesus. May this be the year that many lives are changed for eternity!
- Praise God for raising up a multicultural team to work with Muslims in different cities and ask that our workers there would be encouraged in their pursuit of language and cultural understanding and that transitions for new team members would go smoothly.
- Pray for the physical and spiritual health of our teams working there — that they be sustained, strengthened and renewed daily, in order that they might reach out in Jesus’ name to their neighbors.
Banner photo by Izuddin Helmi Adnan.
Crowd photo by By Fadi El Binni of Al Jazeera English [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.