Someone recently sent me an Arabic video that juxtaposes snippets of sermons delivered by Christian and Muslim leaders in the Middle East.
The Christian preachers give universal supplications that include phrases like “O Lord, lover of all mankind and savior of all the world”; they quote biblical passages such as “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5: 44); they pray that God may “heal all people around the world of their diseases.”
While such an approach is familiar, taken for granted even, the supplications of the Muslim preachers may surprise some. Popular Egyptian preacher Sheikh Muhammad al-Zoghbi was taped invoking his god thusly:
May Allah cut your tongue out! May he freeze the blood in your veins! May he inflict you with cancer and allow you no reprieve. … Allah, strike them with all sorts of disease, afflictions and pain! Allah, strike them with cancer! Allah, let your prophet overpower them! Allah destroy them! Allah destroy them! Allah destroy them! Allah destroy the criminals who challenge the noble prophet!
[Then, very serenely to his Muslim viewers] And peace upon you, and Allah’s mercy and blessings.
Likewise, Sheikh Abdullah Nihari supplicated Allah with outstretched arms accordingly:
Lord, Lord, we condemn them before you! Freeze the blood in their veins! Strike them with evil, or at the very least freeze the blood in their veins — until they pray for death, but do not receive it! O Lord! O Lord! O Lord!
One need not understand Arabic to appreciate the intensity of Nihari’s hate: watch the 45 seconds starting at minute 2:15, and see the gesticulating cleric issue his curse while striking the floor with a stick, hurling a picture, and banging on the wall.
Also shown was a snippet of formal prayers at Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. As Muslims circumambulated around the Kaa‘ba, the following supplications were blasted on a megaphone, chanted to by Islam’s devotees:
O Allah, vanquish the unjust Christians and the criminal Jews, the unjust traitors; strike them with your wrath; make their lives hostage to misery; drape them with endless despair, unrelenting pain and unremitting ailment; fill their lives with sorrow and pain and end their lives in humiliation and oppression; inflict your tortures and punishments upon the unjust Christians and criminal Jews. This is our supplication; Allah, grant us our request!
What to make of this immense contrast between Christian and Muslim supplications to the deity? Of course, in former times, these contradicting approaches would simply have been interpreted as natural reflections of the divine and the diabolical.
Today, however, where moral relativism insists that all religions are viewed equally — that is, all are viewed as equally meaningless with no tangible impact on their devotees’ lives — no doubt many will conclude that the Christian prayers, calm and placid, evince Christian contentment in the Middle East, whereas the Muslim prayers, irate if not insane, evince sincere grievance.
Nothing could be further from the truth. If prayers and supplications were mere reflections of one’s level of contentment or discontentment with this world, then surely the Christians of the Muslim world — where churches and Bibles are burned, Christian girls are abducted and forced to convert, blasphemy and apostasy laws kill, and the state massacres Christians — would be praying for fire and pestilence to descend upon their persecutors.
Conversely, Muslim leaders are quick to point to anything to rationalize their prayers of hate. Thus when Professor Abd al-Latif was asked if Sharia law permits Muslims to pray for the “annihilation” of Jews and Christians, he said yes, since Jews are unjust to Palestinians and Christians are responsible for Abu Ghraib, adding that “the prophet himself used to invoke curses” against his enemies.
Indeed, Muhammad — who counseled cursing Islam’s enemies by, among other things, telling them to bite their father’s penis — condemned and called for violence against Christians and Jews (e.g., 9:29). This begins in the Quran’s opening prayer, the Fatiha, which Muhammad uttered many centuries before the creation of the modern state of Israel and the events of Abu Ghraib — that is, before any “grievances.”
The lesson? Prayers do not reflect one’s situation in the world; they reflect the teachings of one’s faith.