Reminder: we are looking at examples that follow patterns of thought within folk-Islamic culture, which need careful appraisal if the kind of deep-level changes brought about by processes of power encounter are not to bring societal disintegration as well.
The concept of baraka pervades Muslim minds. It matters not whether it is fulfilling the formal, religious duty of hajj, or of giving expression to the more magical attitudes towards baraka as a power for healing.
Baraka is seen as ‘good’. Baraka is not to be played with.
Who or what holds baraka? This supernatural ‘force’ is held both by human beings (alive or dead) and by inanimate objects.
Baraka may be gained or lost. In everyday greeting, baraka is passed to and fro.
The concept of baraka is fundamental to the worldview of most Muslims. In a world of activity and stress, disturbed by many ‘beings’ and ‘powers’, they need the blessing that will bring peace.
The trouble with baraka is that it is illusive and short-lived. Jesus alone provides the blessing that brings wholesome, eternal peace.
In the Muslim context, such a glimpse into the world of baraka lends a vista of hope to the relating of the good news of Christ.The biblical account of Isaac bestowing his blessing on his two sons constitutes high drama. Isaac is aware that God has already declared that the older will serve the younger but decides to go ahead anyway, wrongly sensing that he is about to die.
Esau exclaimed, “No wonder his name is Jacob, for now he has cheated me twice. First he took my rights as the firstborn, and now he has stolen my blessing. Oh, haven’t you saved even one blessing for me? Isaac said to Esau, “I have made Jacob your master and have declared that all his brothers will be his servants. I have guaranteed him an abundance of grain and wine—what is left for me to give you, my son?” – Genesis 27:36-37
Esau, favourite son of Isaac, ends up with the blessing of the second-born. The irony of the incident is that Isaac continued to live on for many years. Through the twists of this concentrated tale of human fickleness, the strong sense of the power of blessing, the restricting effect of the concept of limited good and the irrevocable nature of a word spoken by a patriarch are all conveyed.
In Christ, the fount of all blessing is found. For baraka-conscious Muslims, the blessing of Jesus Christ is available and effective.
Genesis 25:23; 27:1-40; 35:27-29; Luke 24:50-51