One afternoon, I set out on a walk through my neighbourhood. I told my wife I needed some time alone with God, grabbed my MP3 player and put in the earphones. She said: “Enjoy!”
It was winter in the United Arab Emirates and a lovely day in Ras Al Khaimah, a small town in the north-west of the country. The sun was shining and a cool breeze was blowing from the Arabian Gulf. Beautiful worship songs filled my head and the lyrics seemed to spur on my thinking and guide me into a sweet feeling of peace. I worshipped with the songs and once again felt that “God inhabits the praises of His people”. He was there with me.
After about 10 minutes, I heard the prayer call swell from the minarets of several small mosques at the same time: “Allah akbar!” I thought, yes God is great but this Allah and my God cannot possibly be the same. I turned up the music to cut out the prayer call. As I looked up, about 50 meters in front of me to the left on the other side of the road, I saw a local Arab leave his house. I noticed there was a small mosque across the road less than 20 meters from his house. All he had to do was cross the road which had a fairly wide medium strip in the middle and he would be in his house of worship. Because Muslims are required to pray 5 times a day, mosques are built on the corner of every street so everyone has easy access.
I realised as I was walking towards him that our paths would cross. Drawing nearer to him, I could see his features and noticed a determined look on his face. He was going to pray the way he was taught to do as a young boy. ‘Allah akbar” was most likely his favourite call and he tried to answer the call to prayer as often as he could. He would arrive at the small mosque, greet some of his neighbours as usual and wash his forehead, hands, feet and so on as was required by Islam before prayer. It was the way Allah had revealed it to his prophet Mohammed and submitting to this commandment would bring blessings and peace to him and his family. I imagined that the man’s name was Suleiman which means peace.
As I came closer, I realised he was just as convinced of his Allah as I was of my belief in Christ Jesus. “Jesus, all for Jesus, all I am and have and ever hope to be…” the song started. I smiled. Looking at Suleiman, I wondered what would happen to this man. Would he ever change his mind and find Christ? Is there any chance to get through to people like him? Do I have a chance now? I am going to cross his path in about 20 seconds. Should I address him and start a conversation? I started praying: “Lord, if you want me to, would you create an opportunity to start a conversation with Suleiman?” I had learned over the years to trust that if the Lord wanted me to share Jesus, He would open the door wide. I had often found myself in the middle of my testimony with Muslims and wondered how I got there. At other times the door was firmly closed and there was no point in trying. The least I could do here was to make myself available and see what happened. I was almost there and in fact could smell the scent of Arabic perfume on him. He was still staring straight ahead of him and didn’t seem to notice me at all. I prayed: “Lord, it’s up to you!” Then I had to slow down a bit as not to run into Suleiman. He walked past me and seemed utterly oblivious of my presence only one step away to his right. Suleiman was on the way to his mosque and nothing could stop him. I kept walking. The song played: “I will trust in the cross of my Redeemer, …..my sins forgiven, …and death defeated……and You reign, You reign over all.” The thought lingered: “Would Suleiman ever find Christ?” Muslims recognise Jesus, or Eissa as they call Him, as a prophet but they deny that He is the son of God and deny that He died on the cross for our sins.
This walk on the cross seemed so symbolic and typical for many meetings I’d had with Muslims - as our religions, so close and yet so far. Although our paths crossed we would never meet. My last thought was: “Are many like Suleiman? Do they ever notice the cross or do they deliberately deny it?”
Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus said: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Read more articles by Luke Zimmermann or search for articles on the same topic or others.