While riding with a friend on a Friday morning (a time usually reserved for prayer at the mosque), he told me that this was his favorite time to drive because there was no traffic. When I asked him why he didn’t go to Friday prayers, he said, “People go, but they are not good. It’s only on the outside.” For this reason, he explained, following Islam was not an important aspect of his life.
My friend’s observation is one that most Westerners recognize immediately in Muslim societies. What you do is not as important as what you are seen doing. If no one sees your sin then perhaps God will not count it against you. While Christians are often guilty of the same behavior, they rarely admit it or give any value to this sort of hypocrisy. The reason is because this is one of the things Jesus often preached against (Matt. 23:28).
For this reason, it is encouraging to hear my friend recognize one of the great failings of Islam. Islam cannot change a man’s heart. Islam has only the power to make a man appear clean before other men, but not before God. For my friend and others like him, this is a useless power, and they understand that God won’t judge a man by how he is perceived by other men, but on how sinful he actually is. Unfortunately, my friend, like most Muslims, has failed to accurately understand the depth of human sin. Though he does not rely on the tenets of Islam for his salvation, he still believes that he lives a life worthy to be found righteous before God.
As Christians, we know that all men are equally judged and all are equally guilty. It is only through faith in Christ that we may be found worthy of God, not through anything we have done, but through what Christ already did.
Pray for my friend and those like him who see the emptiness of Islam, but have yet to sense the dreadful reality of their own sin and the terrifying judgement of God. Pray that they might discover the peace and salvation that comes through faith in Jesus.