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The Sin of Shirk

As global workers in a Middle Eastern country, we moved to a village not too far from the capital city. Ninety-eight percent of the people in that village were Muslim. Few people spoke English, and this would give us a good opportunity to practice Arabic.


I had studied Islamic belief and had learned about the term shirk. The Islamic use of this word means the “sin of association.” For Muslims, the most blasphemous sin is associating anything with Allah. Usually this is used in connection with Jesus being the Son of God.


We made friends in our new village and eventually forged a close relationship with an orthodox Muslim family. Muhammad was from a large Arab clan and Fatima’s father and two brothers were imams (prayer leaders) in mosques.  When I finally revealed that I was a pastor, they seemed interested to learn about us and about what we believed. We agreed to help one another learn each other’s language. We did this by reading the Bible in English and Arabic! I was surprised at how easily they agreed to that, especially Muhammad.


The Bible reading led to deeper discussions about Jesus. I shared sensitive books with him, and Kathy gave Fatima books to read. Some of the books that we shared were forbidden in the country. One book described a Muslim man named Hassan, who was a student in a university here in America. Hassan put his faith in Christ through great opposition. He mentioned that he felt like a bird in a cage, longing to escape and be free. Muhammad told me, “I feel just like Hassan—like a bird in a cage. I believe, but how can I become a Christian?”


Muhammad attended English church services with me and even once observed a baptismal service. He was careful not to be seen in an Arabic service. One time while he was visiting, he complained of a painful shoulder. He could not raise his hand above his head. “We believe that Jesus heals,” I said.  He quickly responded, “I believe that.” I prayed for him in Jesus’ name even though my faith needed to be bolstered. The next day, the doorbell rang; when I answered, Muhammad stood there moving his arm in circles over his head. He joyfully exclaimed, “Jesus healed me!” Muhammad eventually prayed the sinner’s prayer and put his faith in Jesus. He would not agree to water baptism yet, as he didn’t feel ready. Soon after his conversion, we returned to the United States for a year of itineration.


Upon our return to the land of our calling, we immediately contacted our friends. They were cordial, and we were so happy to be back in our country. The next day, Muhammad drove to our house and took a blanket out of the trunk of his car. When he came into the house, he unwrapped the blanket on our dining room table, revealing all the books and Bibles we had given them. I told him, “I do not need these books. They were gifts.” He insisted that he did not need them any longer.


A few days later, we were visiting the wife of his cousin. She was a believer. I related everything to her, and she told me that while we were gone, Muhammad’s oldest son got married. I knew that, but then she told me something that I did not know. She said, “On the night of the wedding, his second son was killed in a terrible automobile accident. Muhammad was the first one to the scene of the accident. He did not recognize the car, but when he opened the door, his son’s body fell out in front of him.”


I was shocked because he never said anything to me about that incident! We went to them to express our sympathies, but he never again wanted to talk about religion. He simply said to me, “We are believers.”  We remained friends, but I was never able to talk to him again about Jesus.


Muhammad was convinced that Allah was punishing him for committing shirk. He had expressed his belief that Jesus was the Son of God! In his way of things, his confession of faith in Jesus caused his sons’ death! Fear of shirk is a terrible tool of the devil. Islam holds people in bondage and fear of a vengeful god.  Sometimes in Muslim evangelism, it is one step forward and two steps back.


Ironically, a form of the word shirk is used in 2 Corinthians 13:14 in the Arabic: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (NASB). Isn’t it amazing that the worse blasphemy in Islam is the most blessed thing in Christianity? God wants to fellowship (associate) with His creation! Pray that Muslims will find Jesus as their personal Savior and come to know Him as more than a prophet because, truly, Jesus is the Son of God.

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