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WDMD?, a three-legged stool, a picture of the solar system

A parishioner came to me and asked how he should make sense of the New York City and Edmonton jihad attacks. My answer, which I sketched out on the back of a napkin, helped him to understand a bit more clearly. Here are the three sketches I made:

  1. I drew out the letters WDMD. Perhaps you recognize them from the phrase that some people have on their bracelets, namely What Would Jesus Do? Or WWJD? I informed the person that because the Quran speaks of Muhammad as the “perfect exemplar for humanity” or “an excellent pattern” (33:21) Muslims are instructed to emulate him to the best of their ability. That is why in some countries some men dye their beards with henna, or relieve themselves in the same manner he did.
  2. I drew a three-legged stool. Each of the legs supports the weight of the stool and each is vital to its overall function. In the same way, the Quran, the biography of Muhammad (‘the Sirat’) and the reports on the life of Muhammad (‘the Sunnah’ or hadiths) all inform each other. Thus, when an imam says that a certain Islamic practice is not found in the Quran might be technically correct, but it is well possible that it will be found in the other two sources.
  3.  I drew a sketch of the solar system with the sun in the middle and the planets circling around it. Some planets are close to the sun and others much farther away, yet all are influenced by the center. I told him that the Quran, the Sirat, and the Sunnah are like the center of the Islamic solar system and that they are a non-negotiable center. Sure, a very small Muslim minority might be called Quran-only people, but they are very much out of the mainstream.

I then told him that every Muslim is in an orbit around the center. Some closer and some farther. That way, one can see that the members of ISIS who are as close to the center as possible with a literal application of WDMD are not from some different kind of Islam, but just closer to the center. I also explained that his secular Muslim neighbour might be orbiting as far out as Pluto or whatever distant planet one imagines, but the pull toward the center is still present.

I also told him that no matter where a Muslim is orbiting, the Gospel is powerful enough to save any of them. I told him about the ‘Son of Hamas’ circling close to the center and who came to know Jesus, the late Nabil Qureshi orbiting farther out and became one “who follows the Lamb wherever he goes” — or a Christian, and so forth.

The man’s responses:

… so I really need to know who the Muslim is in front of me before assuming anything

… it would seem that many stories are about people who were orbiting farther out and then they got radicalized.

… so there are not really two kinds of Islam, as some people have suggested … just people circling at different orbits

A few questions about the napkin sketches

  1. Since Muhammad is such an important figure in Islam, how will you learn about him? Perhaps you will take the time to read one of the best sources which is the English translation of ibn-Ishaq’s “The Life of Muhammad” translated by Alfred Guillaume.
  2. Does the picture of the three-legged help you to understand the center of the Islamic solar system? Will it affect your approach to Muslims?
  3. Does the phrase WDMD make you want to study What Did Jesus Do all the more?

One man who compared and contrasted the lives of Jesus and Muhammad was Mark Gabriel in his challenging book, “Jesus and Muhammad: Profound Differences and Surprising Similarities” which you can purchase in English for your Muslim friends, or you can even send them a link to its Arabic version. Find the link below. 

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