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May 26, 2003

Interviewing Bilal - Part I

As part of my multi-faith dialogue subject for college I�ve had the amazing privilege a few weeks back to interview a great guy by the name of Bilal about his faith. Bilal is a 25 years old and lives in Melbourne. He works as a plumber and was recently married. Both Bilal and his wife are committed attendees at their local Mosque and are serious about grappling with their faith. The time that we spent together were most interesting. He went to great lengths to assure me that he �was not an expert� in Islam and just a �simple and uneducated man� but what I saw in his life was a rich and challenging spirituality I am incredibly grateful for the glimpse that Bilal gave me of his faith as it greatly informed my understanding of Islam.

Bilal has been really generous with his time with me and has also been gracious enough to let me post some excerpts of our interview here. This is just one question of many that we talked about. I�m happy to post more if there is interest. (Although we had a great discussion I�ve presented his answer as an uninterrupted monologue so as to give a flow to his thoughts.

How does your faith impact your daily life?
There are lots of way I see my faith having an impact on my life. Some of them are very practical. Actually it is the practicalness to every day activity that makes me love Islam. Sometimes when I talk to Christian friends they can�t believe how much I have to DO in my religion, but I can�t believe how little their faith seems to impact their every day life.

Prayer - The main actual impact is through the prayers that we do. I need to arrange my day carefully so that I�m able to pray five times. I am lucky in that I work for myself and determine my own hours, however it can get a little tricky at times. I have friends who have had problems in negotiating with their employers over this issue. On the positive side I find the regular prayer times to be really worth the effort as they force me to think of God during my day and he becomes a part of my workplace, home life and social settings and not just a one off thing in my week. Every time I pray I recommit my covenant with God and seek his guidance. I am constantly working out my faith. I find that even though we recite largely the same prayers every day that they give me a great framework to explore who I am and what my place in the world is.

Diet � Another thing we need to be aware of is what food and drink we have. The main things we are not allowed to eat pork and we are not allowed to drink alcohol. At times this can also be difficult, we have had a few interesting moments when we�ve eaten with non Muslim friends, but generally this again helps us to focus on God in the everyday of life. I also feel that somehow it represents the purity that we strive for as we relate to God.

Fridays � I structure my working week so that I do not work on Fridays. This is the day that I spend with friends and family at our local Mosque. When we get together we pray and spend time with each other. Often on this day we�ll eat together � it has a real community building focus to it. I am able to do this due to my work situation, it is too difficult for others so there are also other times we come together as a community in the evenings and even on the weekends.

Ramadan � Fasting during month of Ramadan is obviously a fairly major focus of the Islamic year for us. In this month we do not eat during the. It sounds like a big sacrifice, and at times it is, but I always look forward to this month because it means a lot to us.

I was really challenged by the commitment and effort that went into Bilal�s faith. The logistics of prayer, diet, fasting and community involvement seemed overwhelming to me yet the results of these things were significant to his life and faith. I could not help but wonder if we are missing something as Christians by often allowing faith to become one of the many compartments of life, often explored only for a few hours a week at certain times and places. Bilal has a rhythm to his life which does take real commitment but also is constantly helping him to see and connect with God in the everyday of life.

Posted by Darren at May 26, 2003 04:56 PM

I was at a seminar over the weekend and one of the things mentioned was, "We say the Muslim requirement of praying five times a day is so ritualistic and rigid, yet do we ourselves even pray five times a day, or do we go about our daily activities forgetting all about God?" The speaker was talking about certain traditions and how there might be some good to them, how we as "modern" Christians might just have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. It was a seminar on the OT and he was telling us how the Jews read certain books of the Bible at least once a year, at particular feasts/festivals. Whereas nowadays we hardly even open those books!

Posted by: irene at May 26, 2003 07:48 PM

This is really interesting reading and I commend Bilal for his active commitment to his faith. It reaffirms that we can learn something from other religions despite the diverse nature of these sometimes.

Posted by: Rachel F at May 26, 2003 08:29 PM

Any wonder that Christians are commonly not considered spiritual people! We make little room in our lives for God.

I've been re-aquainting myself with spiritual disciplines, challenged to make more consistent space in my life for God to give me his grace. I came across this statement by Dallas Willard, "disciplines are for disciples--apprentices--of Jesus, not for dabblers or mere consumers of religious services. They are for people who intend to learn from Jesus how to live their whole lives in the kingdom of God as he would live their lives if he were they."

Thanks to Bilal for sharing. He is a real disciple and he inspires me.

Posted by: ronz at May 27, 2003 08:52 AM

Faith must impact the way we live our daily lives... but I don't think God intended us to be consumed with spiritual administration...

I like the fact that Christianity is relatively compatible with my daily life. I like how each morning, the way I interact with other employees when making a coffee can be a form of worship. My faith does impact how I drive my car, how I surf the web, how I answer my phone.

I think there's a danger we can become overburdened with spiritual tasks and miss the point that God came to give us life, and life to the full!

Certainly there is an essential place for quiet times of solitude - that's the time when I feel closest to God. But isolating myself for a quiet times with God five times a day on a daily basis I fear would tip me over! :)

Posted by: Diddle at May 27, 2003 09:34 AM

Thanks for that.

Posted by: Paul at May 27, 2003 04:45 PM

As I read his words it shows me how deluded some people can be. He is so far gone that his whole life revolves around something so far away from God. It saddens me and makes me angry that you glorify his so called dedication as being an example for us as followers of the true God.

Posted by: Greg at May 29, 2003 01:42 PM
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