Before coming to university, I had never met any Muslims. Contrary to overly positive and overly negative views of Muslim people, I have witnessed something much more unremarkable: that most Muslim people are, well, people, at least in my part of the world. They are no more evil than myself, nor more saintly. They are people, flaws and all.
Actually, there are a number of things I admire about my Muslim friends. The women are very close-knit, not catty at all, and there is a real sense of sisterhood there that is absolutely beautiful. I have been welcomed with literal open arms into the circles of the Muslim ladies in my program. They are very positive and cheerful, and face stressful circumstances with graceful humor, even when things aren’t going well. These women inspire a sort of competitiveness within me. After all, if I haven’t yet met lovely Christian ladies like this, then there must be something lacking within my community that I must counteract. No hard feelings, just competition for who can be the most loving. There are worse competitions.
Having said this, I was surprised when one of my friends asked our group what we thought love means. Seeing her to be one of the most gracious of all of my friends, I was interested to hear her thoughts. It intrigued me when she said, “I think love only exists because of the benefit you get from being in someone else’s presence. You love to be with them because they make you laugh or they make you feel good, but if they eventually drift out of your life or they die, you cannot really love them anymore.” This was quite shocking to me, especially when one of my other Muslim friends agreed with her. How could they miss such a critical component of love?
“What do you think?” the friend asked me, as she was interested to hear my thoughts. I shook my head and said,
“I think love – true love, not the sugary love you see in those romance movies – is when you are willing to sacrifice yourself for another person, when you care about them so much that you would put their needs ahead of your own. Even if it doesn’t make you feel good, you do it because it benefits the other person whom you love. That is love.”
My friend commented that that was a sweet thought, but doubted its validity (but one of the other girls with us, also a Muslim, remarked that she liked my version of love better).
I do not mean to claim that these beliefs about love are reflective of all Muslims’ beliefs, but it revealed something to me that is lacking in Islam: a Saviour, the greatest expression of love that God could ever display.
Most Islamic beliefs, I would say, are generally in line with Christian beliefs. They have more or less similar moral laws, they believe strongly in prayer, and they believe they serve a just/loving god. But what is missing? A Savior, or rather The Savior.
Muslims believe that if they keep the Five Pillars of Islam and do good acts, like eating halal foods and praying every day, they will be saved, at least from what I’ve gathered about the religion. But what is missing is the fact that no one can really be saved through works because all of us still fall short at the end of the day. I see this in my male Muslim friends, some of them who smoke and consume alcohol, or some who are lazy and don’t do much studying, even though it would be considered “haram,” and they joke innocently that they are still “halal.” They all still believe that the law will save them, even when they fall short and harm themselves.
What is missing from my friends’ lives, as nice and as genuine as they may be, is the true love of God, that He sent His only begotten Son Who came to save the world. This sacrificial love, the true inspiration for all of our good deeds and all of our own love, is the real love of God, the real demonstration of His peace and the perfection of His laws. With this love, they would not have to worry about eating the wrong food or forgetting to pray or sliding off the wagon, because God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ can redeem them every time, if only they turn to Him.
When I told one of my male Muslim friends that I was a Christian, a few hours later he sent me an invite over Facebook to an event about Islam. I politely declined, because as much as I believe in the “Freedom in Submission” to God, I know it cannot be accomplished without first submitting to God’s Son.