Prayer for the Muslim world: We don’t know what we don’t know
July 2020
By a member of SEND’s Diaspora | North America team — My wife and I were just finishing a visit with a Central Asian family at their house. We had come to express our concern about the family’s sick mother.

Due to COVID-19, this family was trying to keep contact with others to a minimum, so we just interacted with the eldest daughter. She served tea and ran back and forth between the living room and the mother in the bedroom to answer some medical questions and to try to sort out a mistake that had caused the pharmacy to reject filling her prescriptions. After my wife, a nurse, had two phone conversations with the doctor’s office and the pharmacy, the problem was resolved and we were getting ready to leave.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door and six women filed into the room, which only had seating for five people. Thankfully my wife was there, but it was still a bit awkward, as women and men from this country generally stay separated. There were the usual greetings, but subdued, followed by polite small talk—but something was definitely off! They asked about the mother and said they had come to see her, their not-so-subtle way of saying that the daughter should go get her mother, which she did. When the mother came in, it was again subdued greetings all around, not really normal for this group of gregarious women.
Tea was served, and a minute later the oldest visitor lifted up her hands, said, “We are going to pray.” I was thinking, “Wow, I have never seen Muslims walk into a house and start praying for a sick person!” But as I listened, I realized this prayer wasn’t for the mother. It was a special prayer called a fatiyah in memory of her brother, who apparently had just died back in their home country. 

As we left, I told the mother and daughter that we were very sorry we hadn’t known about the death of her brother or else we would have expressed our condolences earlier. They said, “Thank you, but you didn’t know because we didn’t tell anyone. We didn’t want the whole community coming over to visit us during COVID-19. We have no idea how those ladies found out!” 

There are no secrets in a small community that still has strong links to home. Someone from their native country probably heard about the death and told one of the visiting ladies, who called together the other ladies to go make a visit. 

All this to say, we almost never know the whole story when we interact with someone. There will always be things that they hold close to their hearts and don’t want to share with anyone else. What those hidden things are can depend greatly upon culture. This family tried to keep close their loved one’s death because they knew how their culture would respond and that the response would NOT include social distancing!  

It was a good reminder to me that, even though we have been meeting with this family for six months, we are still outsiders. Being an outsider can also be good, as at times we are told things that people within a close community won’t tell each other. 

For example, years ago I knew two refugee brothers in Pakistan. One brother confided to me that the other brother’s son had died, but he didn’t want to tell his brother. This situation went on for six or seven months, before the brother was able to return to his village, and then and only then he found out. The family didn’t want him to be sad when the whole family couldn’t be there to support him.

At the time, I thought it was terrible that one brother knew and didn’t tell his own brother, but I am learning that there is wisdom in waiting for the proper time.  

Today, in this age of instant communication, these old customs are being challenged. In many situations, they are not able to hold up, and as a result, there is great unsettledness, both culturally and emotionally. May God grant us wisdom to know how to step into these voids with the love and grace of Jesus Christ. There is still so much ground that we have to cover as we seek to represent Christ to hurting people, but be encouraged to continue on with the small steps of faithful friendship that God has given you with your Muslim friends. You never know how God will use you in a family’s life.

Prayers for the Muslim World  

  • 10/10 Prayer Initiative: As we continue to pray for 10 percent of the Muslims world to come to Christ in the next 10 years, we can also be praying for how will we make ourselves available for God to use us in this initiative?
  • Coronavirus impacts the world: Many communities are living in fear as the outbreak spreads through their towns and cities. Poor communities are being hit especially hard, as their physical space is limited and there is no possible way to practice social distancing. May God give us and those working among Muslims in various social strata wisdom in sharing the peace that passes understanding!
  • Changes to the Hajj: The annual pilgrimage or Hajj is supposed to take place this year July 29- Aug. 3. But, though the Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, Saudi Arabia has announced that it will be a dramatically scaled back Hajj this year with participants limited to those Muslims residing in Saudi Arabia. Of the approximately 2 million that attended Hajj last year, only 200,000 were residents of Saudi Arabia. This comes as another shock to Muslims, especially after many also were not able to attend mosque prayers during Ramadan. Pray that these disruptions would cause many Muslims to question their faith and open the door of their hearts to Jesus. 

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• This article was originally published in SEND Hope & Light, a monthly newsletter for people interested in praying for the Muslim world. Sign up to get SEND Hope & Light delivered to your in-box.


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