My first visit
As I enter the small room, I could see that it was very much a holy man’s world. I could see a frail little figure sitting on a mat in the corner, cobwebs fluttering above his head. An ancient glass-fronted bookcase, layered with dust, was stacked with yellowed volumes of Islamic traditions.
In front of the old man sat the preacher from the central mosque, probably the second most influential man among the 14,000 Muslims who compose the community. On each side of him sat another elder. collectively, these four men act as the religious conscience of the whole town.
There were two other men, younger, one of whom I had met at the airport one day. We had talked about Islam, and I had presented him with the claims of Christ. I had also given him five New Testaments, one each for him and his companions.
It was to my advantage that I could speak their dialect, especially to the elders. When asked if I was a Muslim, I replied that I had read the Qur’an. After a little more verbal fencing I inquired about the history of their ancient town.
I learned that Islam had taken hold there in the seventeenth century when a pagan chief became a Muslim. This had little effect on the country people who continued to practice traditional religion. This is still true, but today 80 to 90 percent of the townspeople are Muslims. I asked a few more questions and withdrew. There would be another day.
My second visit
As I talked with the younger men, I realized that they were concerned about their roles in the community. Seven highly esteemed men of the faith had died the year before, and the younger ones missed their leadership. They wanted my opinion about the Qur’an. Is it adequate to meet the needs of modern man?
My third visit
I let things cool down, and then asked, “Since we are all children of Adam and Eve, who of us is without sin?
The preacher turned to the Qur’an and read a passage which said that Muslims should not discuss their religion with Christians.
I kept on. Since Muhammad said the Gospel of Jesus was good, I queried, should they not read it? Also, Muhammad referred a number of times to the Old Testament Scriptures. Should they not read them, too? And what about the prophetic Scriptures?
Then I noticed a magazine in the old man’s hand. there was an article in it with a call from the Ayatollah Khomeini to the Muslim world for a holy war against Christians and the West. I assumed it came from the same source as the anti-Christian posters on the public library bulletin board.
Despite the magazine, the preacher requested a New Testament in his language; the old man himself wanted to know more about prophecies concerning Egypt and Israel. It was a trying two hours, but the door is still open. I need to go back.