We had just left the Omar ben Abdul Aziz mosque in suburban Atlanta when he leaned his large frame up toward me in the van and, with tears in his eyes, said, “Dr. Nash, why don’t we get down on our knees before God and pray like those guys do?”
He was visibly shaken. I suppose “rocked to the core” would be a better way to put it.
And this was one of my most conservative students when it came to his Christian faith.
We had spent a couple of hours at the mosque, observing the Friday prayers. If you haven’t experienced it, you ought to. Muslims stand shoulder to shoulder and then alternatively bow towards the holy city of Mecca, reciting passages from the Koran. Men and women usually pray in different rooms or at least the women pray behind the men. Beyond that, social distinctions are generally ignored.
I recently read Darrell Guder’s little book “The Continuing Conversion of the Church.” And I finally understood what had happened to that young student.
He was converted.
I don’t mean that he was converted to Islam. I can assure you that he continues to be a professing Christian today.
What I mean is that he was converted in his understanding of what it means to worship God. And that conversion happened in a mosque of all places.
I believe the experience made him a better follower of Jesus. And it happened because he discovered that there is something of God present wherever people are earnestly seeking God.
Wouldn’t it help if we could all lower our walls just a bit whenever we meet someone from another faith just long enough to see what God might say to us through him or her? I have the sense that if we could do this, then both of us might experience a bit of conversion.
Lord knows, I need it.