Samir Selmanovic has written a wonderful book titled: “It’s Really All About God.” He shares how his devastated parents tried everything within their power to turn him away from Christianity when he embraced the Christian faith. They recruited one of Europe’s best psychiatrists and over fifty relatives to take their best shot in helping their son get over his infatuation with God. While his parents were not religious, their background was Muslim, and on one occasion they invited Imam Muhammad, a man respected in the Muslim community of their city, to their house to talk with Samir. His parents figured Islam was the lesser of two evils.
Samir says that Muhammad “was the most environmentally progressive and socially conscious person” he had ever met. He was a vegan who walked to his house from the other side of the city, avoiding transportation on principle in order to protect the environment. He was a small gray-haired man with a large smile emanating peace and playfulness.
Samir was expecting some sort of talk on the evils of Christianity and the superiority of Islam and the Quran. Instead, after some initial small talk, Imam Muhammad let time pass in silence. When he could tell that Samir was ready Muhammad stood quietly, walked over to Samir, sat down, and lightly touched his shoulder for a moment. Then he said calmly, “I am glad you are a believer.” And nothing more.
After sitting in peace for a little longer they stood up, and Muhammad opened his arms to invite an embrace. Samir opened his. Samir writes, “He smelled like wooden furniture and soap—old but fresh. Hugging him, I thanked God for giving me this break in life.”
Samir had been converted into a conservative version of Christianity, so neither he nor his parents knew how to interpret what had just happened. Samir’s parents nicknamed the imam “Crazy Muhammad” and word of his foolishness spread in the family. Reflecting on that experience Samir writes, “The grace and truth I had first met at the cross were embodied in this man, who was willing to be taken for a fool in order to make me whole.”
While Muhammad undoubtedly held certain beliefs central to Islam, he also knew that God was much greater than his religion, so he was able to embrace the Christian Samir as his brother. Muhammad personally knew a God who was much larger than any particular way of imagining God. He knew that if he helped foster an image of God who withholds God’s self from people outside one’s own religion, he would not only make God less than Divine, he would make God less than human.
Too many Christians imagine a God who is less than human. Isn’t it time we grow up? Isn’t it time to let go of this divisive notion that we must convert people of other religious faiths to our way of knowing and serving God? Surely the time has come for Christians to let go of images of God that contribute to a polarized and conflicted world.