I hope that no one burns me in effigy or riots over this post. In religions there is a strange coexistence between the religious institution or organization and its doctrine (and maybe at the same time, humor and seriousness). I felt the tension between the humor and serious today as I was reading and AP article about the predicament that Malaysia’s first Muslim astronaut faced as he was going to be in space during the last few days of Ramadan. Some of you may know that Ramadan is characterized by fasting from sunrise to sunset each day and a grand celebration at the end. Additionally, “Sheikh” (his first name), had to try and figure out how you pray towards Mecca five times per day when you are orbiting the earth at 17,000 mph. Are you laughing yet? Here are a few quotes from the article:
Sheikh…is taking vaccuum-packed Malaysian food, including skewered chicken, banana rolls, feremented soybean cakes and ginger jelly to mark the end of Ramadan.
Still the mission initially presented a dilemma about fulfilling religious duties such as fasting, kneeling for prayers in zero gravity or facing Mecca to pray.
After all, praying five times daily on a craft that goes around the Earth 16 times a day would have meant praying 80 times in 24 hours. Also, it is virtually impossible to face Mecca continuously in a craft traveling at such a high speed.
To get around these problems, 150 Malaysian scholars, scientists, and astronauts brainstormed and published an 18-page booklet of guidelines for Muslim astronauts.
I began reading this article chuckling, but then the gravity of legalism in Islam hit me like a ton of bricks. Muslims seek honor, reward, discipline, sacrifice and world domination while living in a world of legalism and duty, with eternity at stake. The works-based salvation of any Muslim, which is never a sure thing (even for Mohammad himself), is truly a sad burden that over 1 billion people in the world try to live with each day.
Have you prayed today? Have you enjoyed some good pork spare ribs at a tailgate recently? Has your wife been complaining about her wardrobe lately? Consider how different life would be under this religious law. Then consider how blessed you are that the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2). Such is your situation if Christ is your Savior and Treasure. No longer are you seeking to gain merit or favor with your Creator, hoping that the scales will tip in favor of the “Good Deeds” when you stand before Him in judgment. No longer is your life characterized by your sinfulness. No longer are you dominated by guilt. Your salvation is in Christ’s position, gained by Christ’s life, accomplished through Christ’s death, and fully assured by His resurrection.
Praise God for His plan of redemption!
3(A) Blessed be(B) the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing(C) in the heavenly places, 4(D) even as he(E) chose us in him(F) before the foundation of the world, that we should be(G) holy and blameless before him. In love 5(H) he predestined us[a] for(I) adoption as sons through Jesus Christ,(J) according to the purpose of his will, 6(K) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in(L) the Beloved. 7(M) In him we have(N) redemption(O) through his blood,(P) the forgiveness of our trespasses,(Q) according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9(R) making known[b] to us the mystery of his will,(S) according to his purpose, which he(T) set forth in Christ 10as a plan for(U) the fullness of time,(V) to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11In him we have obtained(W) an inheritance,(X) having been predestined(Y) according to the purpose of him who works all things according to(Z) the counsel of his will, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be(AA) to the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you heard(AB) the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him,(AC) were sealed with the(AD) promised Holy Spirit, 14who is(AE) the guarantee[c] of our(AF) inheritance until(AG) we acquire(AH) possession of it,[d](AI) to the praise of his glory.