Many of our Turkish friends and neighbors here are eager to discuss religion with us because we are Christians. Since 99% of the country is Muslim, many have never talked to a non-Muslim person before and most have ever heard the true story of Jesus. During this next month, Ramadan, the most holy month of the year for Muslims, we will have more conversations than usual because religion is more on everyone’s mind. Here is an example of a typical conversation, as we’ve experienced many times:
Dale and/or Courtney: It’s Ramadan right now. Are you fasting?
Ali and/or Fatma (generic names): Yes, of course, Allah kabul etsin (may God accept it). Have you ever fasted?
D/C: Yes, we fast too sometimes, but in a different way. Why do you fast?
A/F: Because Allah commands us to fast during Ramadan. We are fasting this whole 30 days – no food and no water at all during the daytime (said very proudly). It is very difficult, but it is a wonderful time.
D/C: Do you believe that you earn sevap,** or merit, by fasting?
A/F: Yes, inshallah (God willing). Fasting during Ramadan is the biggest source of sevap.
D/C: We don’t fast in order to earn merit with God. In fact, we don’t believe in merit at all. According to the Gospel,*** we don’t have to earn merit because Jesus paid the price for all our sins. All we have to do is believe and accept this and repent of our sins.
A/F: That’s ridiculous. It is impossible to pay for someone else’s sins.
D/C: Of course a normal person can’t pay for someone else’s sins. But Jesus was not a normal person. According to the Gospel, he was the only person ever who did not sin. So because he was sinless, he could pay for our sins by dying. God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die as a sacrifice to take away our sins. And then afterwards on the third day he was resurrected by God and taken to heaven. The Gospel teaches that he is the Lord and Savior of the World.
A/F: The Gospel was changed. The real Gospel has been lost. Today’s version is a completely perverted book. Everyone knows this. Besides, all the prophets were sinless. We believe in all the 124,000 prophets whom God has sent over the course of history, including the Prophet Jesus, sallallahu aleyhi ve sellem.**** We also believe in our prophet Hazreti (Muslim title given to prophets) Muhammad, sallallahu aleyhi ve sellem. He is the final prophet. Also, the Koran says Jesus did not die. God took him to heaven without dying.
D/C: The Gospel has not been changed. There is no evidence that it has ever been changed. There are thousands of old hand-written copies of the Gospel and they all say the same thing as today’s version. Have you ever read the Gospel?
A/F: No, we read the Koran. We don’t need to read the Gospel.
D/C: Well, if the Gospel has been sent by God, you should read it.
A/F: I won’t read that perverted book. (This is the most common response. But at this point in the conversation some more open people will agree that they should read it sometime.)
D/C: How can you know if you’ve never read it?
A/F: I don’t need to read it because we have the Koran, the only pure, unchanged book from God. Besides, in the Gospel, Hazreti Jesus, sallallahu aleyhi ve sellem, himself prophesied that someone named Ahmad would come as the final prophet. Ahmad means Muhammad. Hazreti Muhammad, sallallahu aleyhi ve sellem, came and gave us the Koran. We don’t need to read any other book.
D/C: Jesus never said anywhere in the Gospel that a prophet named Muhammad, or Ahmad, would come.
A/F: Then that proves that the Gospel has been changed because the original Gospel definitely said that. You should believe in the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu aleyhi ve sellem, and the Koran and become a Muslim. Only Muslims will be allowed into heaven.
D/C: I can’t believe in Muhammad and the Koran. The Gospel tells us that if anyone ever comes and preaches a different message not to believe it, even if it is an angel***** from heaven (Galatians 1:8). What the Koran teaches is opposed to the Gospel. The most important point of the Gospel is that we can’t earn our salvation by doing religious works. Only a sacrifice of innocent blood can forgive sins. Jesus gave himself as that sacrifice. And now all we have to do is believe it and salvation is given to us. We don’t have to work to earn our salvation. This is an amazing gift.
A/F: You are very wrong about a lot of things.
D/C: Well, we both believe that we are on the right path, but one of us is definitely wrong. Lets both sincerely pray that God will show us the true path. There is a promise in the Gospel that everyone who sincerely seeks God will find Him.
A/F: Inshallah (God willing.)
Please pray for open hearts that can believe and accept this Good News message of Jesus.For we who follow Jesus, it is our task to share this message, or plant the seed as 1 Corinthians says, but only God can make it grow. Pray especially for God to soften hearts and use our conversations during the month of Ramadan, which begins on June 28th and lasts through July 27th.
*In Islamic belief, God may choose not to accept any religious act, so Turkish Muslims will usually add this phrase.
**Sevap are points earned with God to cancel out sins and increase one’s chances of God allowing them into paradise, or heaven, after death. According to most Muslims, earning sevap is the only way to get to heaven.
***Every Muslim believes that a book called the Gospel was sent by God via Jesus, but was later changed by wicked priests, the real Gospel book being forever lost.
****This means “peace be upon him.” Muslims are supposed to say this every time they say the name of a prophet.
*****Muhammad claimed that the angel Gabriel appeared to him in a cave and gave him the Koran.
-workers in Turkey