Weekly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Dublin Community Church
October 31, 2008
Me and Del Shannon
I was in the office and a gentleman stopped by to talk with the “minister.” Since I am one of the ministers around here, we talked.
It turns out he was from India, though now living in the Dublin area. Not only was he from India but he is Muslim and he wanted to talk about the Bible.
I did not think that he wanted to convert to Christianity and I had no wish to convert him. I had an idea of what he might be getting at. I have spoken with other Muslims and many of them are quite conversant with our Bible and of course, with the prophets and Jesus himself.
This man was no exception. In short…he knew his stuff.
He had lots of questions about some of the finer points in the Bible, which was impressive. He had questions about the shading of certain words and their use in the Scriptures and whether they meant this or that. I was somewhat conversant with lots of those questions. He asked if I knew Greek and I told him that “it was all Greek to me.” I don’t think he caught the joke and quote from Shakespeare but he did understand that I was saying “No, I don’t understand Biblical Greek.”
Ah, but HE did. And, he DID too!
But, through it all he was wanting to talk about how Christians have been speaking out against Muslims as of late. (I assured him that this church was certainly not one of them, to which he was appreciative.) He wanted to know about the bloodline connection of Jesus to God through Mary; virgin birth; Son of God, topics like that. (To which I told him that “Son of God” can be understood in different ways by different Christians and he pondered for a moment and was glad to hear that.)
After about an hour he asked if he could come back again and talk and it was clear to me that I would have to “step up my game” if he were to return (like enroll again in seminary and get my doctorate in Christology and Ancient Greek)
When he asked if we could talk again, I responded with the only line of Arabic that I could muster, “Inshallah!” I said.
He sat bolt upright and beamed.
“Inshallah!” He responded with gratitude and a gentle laugh.
Inshallah means “God willing” and is often used by Muslims to emphasize a phrase and introduce a notion. I would like to say that I am fully conversant with all-things-Muslim and understand the subtle, important differences of their faith and culture. I would like to tell you that I have an extensive background in linguistics and languages and therefore have words like the Arabic “Inshallah” on the tip of my tongue and thoughts. I would like to say all of that but it is not true.
I am familiar with “Inshallah” for the last couple years as the Muslim faith has been in the news, but most recently the word was brought to mind by the book Three Cups of Tea where an American lives and travels in Afghanistan and Pakistan and builds schools for girls. The American knows the language and the cultures and easily interacts with Muslims and whenever he concludes a meeting there are good-byes of “Inshallahs” offered to one and all. “We will meet again, Inshallah! (God willing!)
I just finished a book discussion in the past days on Three Cups of Tea. The word hung in my thoughts and two days later a Muslim walks into my office for a discussion and wishes to meet again and for some reason the word “Inshallah” pops out and suddenly I sound like a Middle Eastern Diplomat to my visitor.
There was a time when I would not have thought much about that but in these times, we find ourselves suspicious of so many things that are “foreign.” And the word, “Inshallah” is certainly foreign.
At another time and another place in my life I would not think twice about the fact that I used a polite, correct Arabic word that is in constant use by Muslims. In today’s hyper- sensitive climate I find it interesting that I wonder if I can use it. I wonder if I will be viewed as un-American for uttering a foreign phrase, a “Muslim phrase.”
I wonder if I will be looked upon with suspicion by some Americans because I, a Christian minister used that term to a courteous Muslim visitor who came to my office?
I wonder. I hope so. Somebody has to say it.