The Old Testament largely agrees with contemporary Muslim perspectives on the actualities of the unseen world. Lying demons are Lucifer’s children, while prophet Elisha’s buried bones can impart renewed life to a corpse.
Pragmatism, however, is not to be the main motive for moving ‘successfully’ in such a world. It is all a matter of living faithfully towards God in such a context.
Some Muslims who become believers in Christ experience extraordinary problems, seemingly the result of their entanglement in dangerous spiritual dynamics during former shrine visitation and vow-making. In its place, Muslims discover in their experience, that God is at hand, present and willing to be in daily relationship with His children.
The Lord’s desire for such divine/human relationship is well illustrated in the way that the subject of vow-making is progressively dealt with in the biblical revelation. Care was taken, when producing the Septuagint to use words which differentiated the narrow sense of vow-making in the Old Testament text, from the common and careless proliferation of vows and votive offerings by then ubiquitous Greek and Roman worlds.
In the New Testament, the Greek words carefully chosen in the Septuagint were adopted and used for ‘calling on God’. And in Christ’s name, the believer may ask what they will and they shall be answered positively.
In reflecting upon the syndrome of vow-making in Muslim experience, it would seem that the cult of saint veneration which provides its rationale has developed to meet needs unsatisfied by the beliefs and practices of formal Islam. ‘Submission’ to a remote God or impersonal fate is not enough of an answer when a woman finds herself barren or her child sick with a fever.
The ordinary Muslim knows that her disequilibrium arises in the context of a vast world of competing beings and powers. The obtaining of a saint’s assistance via a process of vow-making provides one way of seeking new equilibrium either for herself or for those whom she loves.
The saint cult stands its ground in the face of orthodox criticism basically because ordinary Muslims continue to experience unanswered felt needs and because, as devotees of saints, they find the process to work.
The Old Testament is not unfamiliar with a rite of vow-making, though it insists that vows be made only to God. Prayer, now, is supremely to be the channel for intimacy between a believer and the Lord of all creation.
In terms of relating this wonderful news to Muslims, it would seem that as much emphasis must be placed on experience (their pragmatic sense) as upon conveying cognitive information about Christ. Jesus Christ as healer, answerer of prayer, exorciser, guide, light, peace and sustainer of mortal beings is the only person in the world who can, in glorious tenderness and great power, replace the Muslims’ inclination towards shrine visitation.