When Kawsar Prays

  • Jack Heppner, Author
  • Retired Educator

One of my new friends here in Altona is Kawsar. I met her for the first time last spring the day she registered for a garden plot at the Altona Community Garden. When she realized she could enter a draw to win a free plot later in the day she said she would do so and then told me she was going home to pray. She came back in time for the draw and won the free garden plot. So I returned the registration fee to her.

Then she told me what had happened. “I went home to pray that I would win the plot so that I could send those sixteen dollars to a relative in Africa who is destitute. And now I am so happy that God answered my prayer.” So far, so good! Who of us hasn’t prayed for something specific and then rejoiced when we felt our prayers were answered?

But Kawsar is Muslim. And that raises red flags among some of my evangelical friends. In my childhood church, Kawsar would have been numbered among the “heathen” to whom missionaries were being sent to convert them to Christianity. All their prayers, we were told, were useless babble because they were enslaved by the demonic forces of darkness. Interesting though, that Kawsar’s testimony was a mirror image of the many testimonies I heard at church as a youngster.

Since then I have had numerous opportunities to dialogue with Kawsar. Once we lingered at the garden till after dark sharing about our faith experiences! She is convinced that we pray to the same God who is gracious to all who call upon him. The truth is, though, that in terms of sincerity and piety she has me beat by a Manitoba mile.

Earlier this spring, just before the garden was swinging into gear, I was experiencing some health issues for which I was hospitalized. Since then the doctors have determined I am, in fact, quite well and can continue on with my work at the garden. Shortly afterwards, I met Kawsar’s husband at the garden on a Sunday morning while we were setting up for a “field-trip” church service there. I introduced him to Pastor Ted after which he told us how much his family treasures the garden.

Then he went on to tell us that Kawsar had not slept well the night before, so she had been on her knees in prayer for two hours in the dead of night. And then he looked at me and said, “Jack, I heard your name many times during those two hours. Kawsar was praying that you would be well so you could continue your work at the garden.”

I was moved to tears! My Muslim friend, Kawsar, had prayed for me at least as fervently and lovingly as I suspect anybody in my early church community had prayed for heathen Muslims in faraway Africa. And here I was – in answer to her prayer – up and around, carrying on my work at the garden. I felt, in that moment, a deep bond of fellowship and love I have been told most of my life would be impossible with someone of a different faith than mine.

What was I to do with this new experience? I will post some options below.

  1. I could go with what I was taught early in life and discredit the testimony and prayers of Kawsar. While she may have been sincere in her prayers, they were in fact nothing but empty words because she was still in darkness and controlled by the Deceiver. I could even think that we are not real friends, because “what fellowship does darkness have with light?” Then, upon meeting the next time, I could tell her that unless she repents of her sin and prays the sinner’s prayer she is alienated from God and will spend eternity in the flames of hell – forever separated from God. She could become my evangelism project!
  2. On the other hand, I could regret that the Muslim world has come so close to my world and withdraw from situations where our paths might cross. (It was so much easier when Muslims lived across the ocean and I didn’t have to look them in the eye!) I could resign my volunteer position with the Community Garden because a third of the gardeners there are new immigrants to Altona. And then I could join the anti-immigrant movement I come across quite regularly that thrives on fear. Fear that the Muslims are coming here to overrun our rights and freedoms. Fear that Muslim refugees are dangerous people whom you cannot trust. Fear that their presence will have a negative impact on my practicing the Christian faith freely and openly.
  3. And then there is a third option: I could allow my heart to be enlarged. I could see Kawsar through the eyes of Christ. She was born “in the image of God” just like I was, so that when I look past her cultural and religious trappings I, in fact, can see the presence of God in her. I could understand that she is Muslim because she was born in a Muslim country, just like I am a Christian because I was born in a Christian environment. I could recognize her as one of those “sheep” of whom Jesus says “they are not of this fold” (John 10:16). I could see Kawsar as one who has in fact responded to the Universal Christ in the way she knows how, as have I, and that the universal love of God has embraced her as it has me. I could see that we are brother and sister in more ways than one – that while she might learn about gardening in Manitoba from me, I could learn a lot from her about faith and life.

I will leave it to you to select the option that you think I have chosen.