Can Christians in the Middle East Trust Muslims’ Hospitality?

A sacrificial sheep in Turkey used to celebrate Eid al-Adha.
Image: Chris McGrath / Getty Images News

The holiest of Islam’s two yearly holidays is Eid al-Adha; in Arabic, “the feast of the sacrifice.” This week, on August 21, Muslims worldwide slaughtered sheep, remembering how God saved Abraham from sacrificing his son Ishmael.

Wait, Ishmael? Not Isaac?

Though the Qur‘an doesn’t name the son, Muslims believe it was the ancestor of the Arabs that God used to test Abraham’s faith. Should Christians understand this as a theological error? Or an outright lie?

The identification matters, because Isaac is a prefiguration of Jesus, whose sacrifice saved man from his sins. Religions often have differing traditions; and for Christians, Muhammad’s conscience in founding Islam is unknown. But some Christians today are comfortable delving into the conscience of everyday, ordinary Muslims, finding deception at every turn.

The idea is called taqiyya: that Muslims are permitted by their faith to lie if it will advance the cause of their religion.

Tharwat Wahba, professor of mission at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, cited a tradition of Muhammad that allows Muslims three exceptions to lie for a greater cause: War, reconciliation, and to keep a wife happy.

Might some Muslims extrapolate two of these for their experience in the West? Does the first exception imply there is a secret jihad? In the second exception, a religion of peace?

“Accept kindness and friendship, but be alert and awake,” Wahba said. “Don’t be naïve. Some have agendas.”

So what if a Muslim invites you to a celebration? The lamb might be tasty, but should Christians be wary?

Statistics show they already are.

The 2018 American Muslim Poll from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) found only 36 percent of white evangelicals believe Muslims are committed to the well-being of America.

And according to the Pew Research Center, 50 percent of self-identified white evangelicals believe there is a “great deal” or “fair amount” of support for extremism among Muslims living in America. This is often connected to a fear of Shari’ah law.

Yet according to the 2017l ISPU poll, only 10 percent said Shari’ah should play a legal role in their community.

Are the rest lying? Or are evangelicals predisposed to assume they are?

Taqiyya is an Arabic word that has come to mean “dissimulation,” said Martin Accad, chief academic officer of Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon and associate professor of Islamic Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. It is a contested allowance in Islam to conceal your true faith if under personal duress.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Jayson Casper