Your Prayers Are Making a Difference

2016 Ramadan GraphicRamadan, Islam’s holiest month, has been filled this year with multiple terror attacks killing over 1,600 people in 31 nations around the world. Fear and anger are normal reactions, but as Christians we must respond to Muslims from God’s perspective, separating the Muslim people from the system of Islam. The prayers that we pray corporately have the ability to speak God’s life, light, truth and love over horrendous situations. As the body of Christ, may we all seek Him so that we may change the atmosphere of terror and threats and advance God’s Kingdom on the earth as we speak His life and send forth His light in the midst of this darkness.

God is moving despite the darkness of Islam. Open Doors reports Muslims in the Middle East are turning to Jesus in unprecedented numbers. David Garrison, author of A Wind in the House of Islam, says, “we are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history.” Some estimates say that there are now more than 1 million Christians in Iran. CBN quotes Heidi Baker of Iris Ministries regarding African Muslims, “Many people are having dreams. They see Jesus appear to them. Probably half our pastors were leaders, imams in Moslem mosques. They were leaders in these mosques, now they’re pastors.”

As we conclude this series, we thank you for all your prayers during the Ramadan 30-days of prayer for the Muslim people. It is important to remember that James 5:16b (NLT) tells us, “When a believing person prays, great things happen!” Please continue throughout the year to pray and declare scriptures over the lives of Muslims. As we co-labor with God in prayer, we believe He will remove spiritual blindness, bring them signs and wonders to reveal His heart, and bring them to salvation in Christ.

BCN Ramadan 2015 Day 30 Pray Without Ceasing

Freedom Incompatible with Shari’a

2016 Ramadan GraphicToday, the United States celebrates Independence Day commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress in 1776. Since 1776, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, which was ratified by all of the 13 original colonies by 1790, are the foundational documents of the United States government.

A portion of the Declaration of Independence reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The concept of men governing themselves is not found in Islam. Sayyid Qutb, author of Milestones and Islamic cleric said, “It is Allah and not man who rules. Allah is the source of all authority, including legitimate political authority. Virtue, not freedom, is the highest value. Therefore, Allah’s law should govern the society; not man’s.”

The Quran backs up Qutb’s statement. Sura 18:26 says, “Allah…makes none to share in His Decision and His Rule.”

The Quran also teaches that non-Muslims are not equal to Muslims. Sura 45:21 says, “What! Do those who seek after evil ways think that We shall hold them equal with those who believe and do righteous deeds, that equal will be their life and their death?”

The U.S. Constitution was designed to keep government limited and restrained while shari’a is designed to regulate every aspect of a Muslim’s life from the moment he is born until he dies. Unlike other religious laws such as Jewish religious laws and Christian canonical laws, shari’a law also attempts to control the behavior of non-believers and therefore is in direct violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Islamic shari’a law and the U.S. Constitution are polar opposites in intent and execution.

Prayer Point:

As the U.S. celebrates Independence Day today, pray that governmental leaders both in the U.S. and other Western nations will become enlightened to the differences between the concepts of freedom and democracy and shari’a law.

Is Our Free Speech Slipping Away?

2016 Ramadan GraphicThe OIC or Organization for Islamic Cooperation is the second largest international agency after the United Nations. The international group, founded in 1969, is made up of 56 member states and the Palestinian Authority. 49 of the member nations have populations that are predominately Islamic, and the remaining 8 have large Muslim minorities. The organization describes itself as “the collective voice of the Muslim world.” Its purpose is to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world” while promoting “international peace and harmony.”

The OIC has a permanent delegation to the United Nations and to the European Union. This delegation makes up the largest voting block in the United Nations. The Organization routinely condemns Israel, accusing the nation of terrorism while refusing to recognize any violent actions against Israel as terrorism. At a summit in March of 2016, the OIC called on its member states to ban products made in or produced by Israel to pressure Israel to end its “occupation of Palestinian territories.”

A Forbes Online opinion piece from June 13, 2016 stated that a positive step to America’s challenge of confronting Islam would be to more effectively engage the OIC. The article states that the OIC’s had “abandoned its campaign on religious defamation and backed a resolution more friendly to religious liberty” in 2011. The evidence presented for this abandonment is the organization’s shift from its attempts to criminalize the “defamation of religions” to support the UN’s Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18.

Resolution 16/18, Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief, calls on all U.N. member states to consider adopting measures to criminalize incitement to imminent violence based on religion or belief.

The world has seen multiple examples of how simply criticizing Islam or Muhammad have “incited” Muslim violence. The Hadith records many instances where critics of Muhammad or Islam were put to death, and that tradition continues today. The Qur’an justifies Muhammad’s behavior and says those who “malign Allah and His messenger” are cursed and should be slain (Sura 6:93, Sura 33:57, Sura 33:61).

Perhaps most concerning for U.S. supporters of free speech is House Resolution 569 which was introduced in December of 2015. The resolution similar to UN Resolution 16/18 states, “the victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes and rhetoric have faced physical, verbal, and emotional abuse because they were Muslim or believed to be Muslim.”

The resolution “denounces in the strongest terms the increase of hate speech, intimidation, violence, vandalism, arson, and other hate crimes targeted against mosques, Muslims, or those perceived to be Muslim;” and “urges local and Federal law enforcement authorities to work to prevent hate crimes; and to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those perpetrators of hate crimes.”

According to FBI statistics only 16% of anti-religious hate crimes reported in the U.S. in 2014 were directed against Muslims, yet 56.8% were directed against Jews. The condemnation of “hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States” is particularly concerning when you look at Islamic definitions of legal terms as opposed to western definitions.

Slander for westerners is typically defined as a malicious, false and defamatory statement or report. However in Islam slander is defined as saying “anything concerning a person [a Muslim] that he would dislike.” In the West a statement must be false to be slander, but under Islam, truth is irrelevant. A statement could be considered slanderous if a Muslim was insulted by it regardless of whether or not it was true.

Prayer Points:

It is not hatred to disagree with another person. The free exchange of ideas makes societies stronger. Pray that nations, in an attempt to stop the false narrative of hate speech, do not pass laws that curtail free speech.

Many Muslims, because they are unable to question the teachings of their religion, have never been free to examine and decide if the teachings of Islam are true. Pray that freedom will continue for Western scholars to examine and expose the teachings, and that Muslims around the world will be able to gain access and decide for themselves the truth about the Islamic system.

Night of Power

2016 Ramadan GraphicLaylat Al Qadr known as the “Night of Power” is the holiest night of the year for Muslims. Most Islamic scholars believe it falls on one of the odd-numbered nights of the final ten days of Ramadan. Typically it is celebrated on the 27th day of Ramadan, which is today, July 2, 2016. It commemorates the night that Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad received the first revelations of the Qur’an, which are recorded in Sura 96.

The Night of Power is described in Sura 97: “The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah’s permission, on every errand; Peace! This until the rise of morn!”

The Hadith also describes the Night of Power and says that anyone that prays on this night out of sincere faith will have all his past sins forgiven. (Bukhari Vol. 1, Book 2, Number 35).

Arab News claims Muhammad intentionally did not give an exact night for the celebration of Laylat Al Qadr, because of the importance of the night. Muslims are encouraged to “seek” the Night of Power in the last ten days of Ramadan. This way Muslims believe Allah can give something worthwhile to the deserving person while “denying the hypocritical and lackadaisical ones.”

Imam Khalid Latif, from the Islamic Center at New York University, reveals that what a Muslim does to seek out the Night of Power will vary from person to person. Some will pray the regular prayers at the ascribed times and then stand for hours in ritual prayer. Others will read or listen to the Qur’an.

Some Muslims participate in what is called “itikaf” which in Islam means to stay in a mosque for a particular period of time for the purpose of worshiping Allah. In order to receive the blessing of itikaf the person participating must be mentally stable, a true Muslim, and seek to perform itikaf to seek closeness with Allah, not to please another person or to show off. They must fast and stay inside the mosque for the entire period of the itikaf which is for a minimum of three days. Muslims are encouraged to spend their time reading the Qur’an, performing prayers and seeking blessings from Allah during the itikaf.Night of Power

From the Qur’anic passage, Muslims believe angels come and perform special purposes including granting requests and bringing proclamations of the coming year.  Many Muslims pray all night, and believe the angels will shower down blessings and peace if they remain awake. It is a time when Muslims are open to dreams and visions as they seek guidance and revelation for the coming year.

All Muslims consider themselves the spiritual descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son. Ishmael was the first person in the Bible that God named before his birth and his name means “God hears.”

Sura 1 in the Qur’an is considered to be one of its most important passages. A devout Muslim will pray this sura as many as 18 times a day – during their regular prayers, when he gets up, when he goes to bed and before meals. In this sura, Muslims ask Allah to guide them to the right path.

So many times a day for the past 1,400 years devout Muslims have prayed Sura 1.  The spiritual descendants of Ishmael, the one whose very name means “God hears,” have been crying out to know the right path.

In Luke 1:78-79 (NLT) we read:

“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”

God hears the cries of Ishmael’s descendants who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death today. They ask daily to be guided to the right path, let us cry out that they will indeed be guided to the true right path – the path to peace, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer Points:

God hears the prayers of the Muslim people around the world – pray that their hearts will be open to His truth as He reveals Himself to them.

Pray that Jesus Christ, the Son of the true and living God will appear to Muslims during this time through dreams and visions.

Since this is a time of heightened spiritual activity, pray that Spirit-filled Christians around the world will be quickened by the Holy Spirit to pray and contend for the Muslim people.

The Root of Modern Day Islamic Terrorism: Part 2

2016 Ramadan GraphicIn the late 1980s, two new leaders became prominent in radical Islam: Osama bin Laden from Saudi Arabia and Ayman al-Zawahiri from Egypt. Both of these men followed the ideology of a teacher named, Abdullah Azzam. The Investigative Project on Terrorism describes Azzam:

Azzam is more responsible than any Arab figure in modern history for galvanizing the Muslim masses to wage an international holy war against all infidels and non-believers until the enemies of Islam were defeated… Azzam helped bring about the mobilization of the Muslim Brotherhood movement more than any other leader. Today, the military wing of Hamas in the West Bank is called the Abdellah Azzam Brigades.

Al-Qaeda, which is Arabic for “the Base” was founded in 1988 by Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam recruited and trained thousands of “holy warriors” from more than fifty countries to fight in Afghanistan. Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, al-Qaeda began to attack western interests around the world.

Al-Zawahiri took over the leadership of Egyptian Islamic Jihad in 1993. In 1998, the group joined with five other radical groups including al-Qaeda to form the World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders. One of the first joint acts of terror was the bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

When bin Laden was killed in May 2011, Ayman al-Zawahiri became the leader of al Qaeda – and still is. He has spent his life in “jihad” and is responsible for many terrorist attacks. He criticized the Brotherhood in his book “The Bitter Harvest”, condemning them for “taking advantage of the Muslim youths’ fervor by … steer[ing] their onetime passionate, Islamic zeal for jihad to conferences and elections.”

ISIS, a Sunni jihadi terrorist group had close links with al-Qaeda until February of 2014. The split between the groups came after al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was unable to stop fighting between ISIS and another rebel group, Jabhat al-Nusra. ISIS is known for its strict interpretation of Islamic (sharia) law and brutal violence including beheadings, rapes, and floggings.

Modern day terrorism started with Hassan al-Banna’s desire to see the Caliphate restored and continue today through groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS. The techniques for domination may differ from the Muslim Brotherhood, but the goal is ultimately the same.

Prayer Point:

Non-Islamic nations have very little understanding of the basic teachings of radical Islam and the seriousness of their message. Pray that our leaders will receive teaching about the radical side of political Islam and respond with God’s wisdom and insight to deal with the challenge and protect the innocent.

The Root of Modern Day Islamic Terrorism – Part 1

2016 Ramadan GraphicTwo years ago on June 29, 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS, declared that he was the head of the Caliphate. A Caliphate is an Islamic state led by a religious and political leader called a Caliph. The Caliph is considered a successor to Muhammad, and he rules with absolute power and authority over the entire Muslim world.

Most Muslims certainly do not recognize Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the Caliph or consider themselves are part of the ISIS created Caliphate. However the rise of modern-day Islamic terrorism can be directly traced to the fall of a previous Caliphate.

From the beginning of the 14th Century the Ottoman Empire, under a Caliphate in Turkey, ruled a major part of three continents from their headquarters in Constantinople (Istanbul). They ruled for 500 years until the Caliphate began to collapse after the First World War ended in 1917. In 1924, the Caliphate, which was the seat of authority that had united Muslim controlled areas, was abolished and Ataturk was unanimously elected President of a secular Republic in Turkey. The Islamic stronghold had collapsed.

Four years later in 1928, Egyptian Hasan al-Banna, in response to the recent collapse of the Muslim Caliphate, called for establishment of a world Islamic state governed by Qur’anic law and ruled by a single Caliph (or leader). Meeting with his brother and four friends they swore to live and die for Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood, the first modern radical group was born. According to the remarks of their leaders, the Caliphate is to be expanded to cover the entire globe, erasing national boundaries under the flag of Islam.

Hassan al-Banna stated, “It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet.” This belief has not changed. The Muslim Brotherhood can be found in over 80 countries around the world and is the root of many Muslim organizations today.

Their creed states, “God is our purpose, the Prophet our leader, the Quran our constitution, jihad our way and dying for Allah our supreme objective.”

Another Muslim Brotherhood member, Sayyid Qutb wrote a book called “Milestones” in 1964 that is widely used by radicals today. He called for the revival of Islam and said Muslims are obliged to do two things:

  1. Wage jihad in defense of Islamic lands.
  2. Wage offensive jihad in order to liberate the world from the slavery to man-made law and governments.

The Muslim Brotherhood has always relied on a gradual approach to establishing a Caliphate, but its ideology and ultimate goal of world domination is the same as groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Prayer Point:

The teachings of Islam do not allow itself to coexist with other religions or political ideologies. Pray that both Muslims and non-Muslims will awaken to this reality and challenge this doctrine of supremacy within Islam.

The Jayvee Team Strikes Again

2016 Ramadan GraphicDuring the 2012 U.S. Presidential campaign, President Obama announced at a campaign rally in Wisconsin, “Al-Qaeda has been ‘decimated.’” A little over a year later, after ISIS had captured Fallujah, a reporter from The New Yorker pointed out that the flag of Al-Qaeda was flying over the Iraqi city. Obama responded, “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant…I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.”

Following the Orlando terror attack in June, President Obama’s administration was criticized for a failure to use the term “radical Islam.” The President said, “What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIS less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.”

An editorial in the New York Post explains why it is important to use the term radical Islamic terror rather than simply terror: “…using the word “terror” without a limiting and defining adjective is like a doctor calling a disease ‘cancer’ without making note of the affected area of the body — because if he doesn’t know where the cancer is and what form it takes, he cannot attack it effectively and seek to extirpate it.”

Part of the problem is that Western leaders fail to acknowledge the ideology behind the terror attacks. In 2014 the United Arab Emirates issued a list of 83 Islamists groups, which it classified as “terrorist organizations.” The U.S. Secretary of State lists 60 groups designated “foreign terrorist organizations” with the majority (approximately 48) Islamist groups.

Yesterday, at least 41 people were killed and 239 injured when suicide bombers attacked Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport in Turkey. As of now Turkish authorities believe ISIS is behind the attack. Today is the 24th day of the 30 days of Ramadan. So far there have been 175 Islamic terror attacks with 122 people killed according to The Religion of Peace website tracks which Islamic attacks around the world. This number does not include the attacks from yesterday.

Muslims believe the rewards for fasting during Ramadan are multiplied. In addition to fasting, “according to Islamic practice, sacrifice during Ramadan can be considered more valuable than that made at other times, so a call to martyrdom during the month may hold a special allure to some,” said a report by the US State Department led Overseas Security Advisory Council. Affirming the report, in an audio message released by the Islamic State, ISIS followers are urged to commit terror attacks during the month of Ramadan.

“Ramadan, the month of conquest and jihad. Get prepared, be ready … to make it a month of calamity everywhere for the non-believers” (ISIS audio message).

Prayer Point:

Pray world leaders will recognize that in order to defeat Islamic terrorism, they must be willing to name and recognize the ideology behind the attacks and that God will reveal the motives behind any organization hiding their true intentions.

Australian Convert Inspires Terror

2016 Ramadan GraphicThree of the most important Islamic spiritual authorities in the West are Australian Musa Cerantonio, British Anjem Choudary, and American Ahmad Musa Jibril. These three have been instrumental in encouraging jihadis to join ISIS by spreading the same fundamental Islamist message that ISIS adheres to.

Australian Musa Cerantonio was born into an Italian Catholic family as Robert Cerantonio. He claims he converted to Islam after a visit to the Vatican left him disillusioned with Catholicism. After his conversion he traveled to study Islam in Cairo with his school class at the age of 17. His status as a Western convert helped him to become popular on Islamic satellite television programs, which gave Cerantonio a global audience.

His most popular platform, other than his television programs, was Facebook. At times, he was critical of the terrorist group, ISIS, but he also referred to the group “as the best forces on the ground in Syria.” Cerantonio called for war against the United States. “If we see that Muslims are being killed by the tyrant leaders of the USA then we must first stop them with our hands (i.e. by force). This means that we should stop them by fighting them, by assassinating their oppressive leaders, by weakening their offensive capabilities etc. …This is not something that is beyond us at all.”

Cerantonio’s Facebook page was eventually taken down, but at the time it was removed he had about 12,000 subscribers. In 2014, he used a Twitter account to announce that he was traveling to Syria to join ISIS. After he tweeted that he had arrived in the Middle East to join with the terror group, he was actually discovered to have been living in the Philippines for about a year.Musa Cerantonio Facebook

Australian authorities cancelled his Australian passport, which left him without proper travel documentation so he was arrested and deported to Australia. He had kept a low profile until May 15, 2016 when he was arrested with four other men for making preparations for incursion into foreign countries (ISIS controlled areas) for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities.

An article about Cerantonio in The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed the jihadi and his family. The reporter said, “My routine explanation for why young me fall into dangerous situations doesn’t apply to Musa. He has a loving family. His parents didn’t separate until after he converted. He still sees his dad. He wasn’t an outcast at school. Bright, popular, good at sports, handsome.”

Cerantonio explained why he converted to Islam when he visited the Vatican. “”I mean, looking at the Sistine Chapel, seeing this old man with a beard, and they’re telling me that’s the God they worship? I’m like, ‘The Ten Commandments says you shouldn’t make images of God.’ I realized when we’d pray back in primary school, we’d say, ‘Holy Mary, mother of God’, and I was sort of like, ‘Hold on a moment. Mother of God? God doesn’t have a mother.’ And I was like, … this is pretty weird.’ I realized that the Catholic Church were absolute nut-jobs.”

Prayer Point:

Many Western Christians like Cerantonio may identify themselves as Christians, but they do not understand what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Pray for a move of God throughout the Church where those who have only a “cultural” knowledge of God will have a supernatural encounter with Him.

ISIS: Ideas Recruit Jihadis

2016 Ramadan GraphicIn June of 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS, announced the formation of an Islamic caliphate called the Islamic State. The Islamic State has been quite successful in its attempts to recruit fighters for its cause in Iraq and Syria.

In a New York Times article published on September 26, 2015, intelligence analysts estimate that around 30,000 foreign fighters from 100 different countries (including about 250 from the United States) have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq. Approximately 6,000 of the foreign fighters are Westerners. It is estimated that ISIS is recruiting in the United States at about three times the rate of Al Qaeda.

The conflict in Syria has been called the most “socially mediated civil conflict in history.” Few journalists have had direct access to battles within Syria. In fact in 2013, a year before the announcement of the formation of the Islamic State, Syria was considered “the most dangerous place in the world for journalists.”

Most television media has relied heavily on YouTube videos and citizen journalists to report what is happening. According to a report released in January 2014 by the United States Institute of Peace, “An exceptional amount of what the outside world knows (or thinks it knows) about Syria’s nearly three-year-old conflict has come from videos, analysis, and commentary circulated through social networks.”

ISIS recruits many of their members on social media and has been known to post as many as 55,000 posts per day. In addition a large number of the foreign fighters did not receive their information about the Syrian conflict through official channels of the fighting groups, but rather through individuals who are not affiliated with any of the terror groups.

Every act by jihadists are justified by radical Islamic scholars or clerics. The ideology behind terrorism is more important than the actual terror leaders themselves. Leaders of terror groups are replaceable. Ideas, however, continue to live long after a terror leader has been killed.

Anwar al-Awlaki was an American and Yemeni imam. A Saudi Arabian news station once described him as the “bin Laden of the Internet.” He communicated his message through a blog, a Facebook page, the al-Qaeda magazine Inspire and many YouTube videos. As imam of a Falls Church, Virginia mosque, al-Awlaki had ties to three of the 9/11 hijackers. He also influenced Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan and the Christmas Day Underwear Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmatallab. Al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011, however his teachings continue to influence Islamists in the West.

Three of the most important spiritual authorities in the West today are Australian Musa Cerantonio, British Anjem Choudary, and American Ahmad Musa Jibril. Through social media they have become new spiritual authorities to whom Western and European foreign fighters are looking to for guidance and inspiration.

Prayer Points:

Social media inspires radical Islamists, yet it also aids western governments to thwart many attacks as they identify and monitor those who follow radical ideologues. Pray that government leaders and law enforcement will have God’s wisdom and courage as they carefully balance freedom of expression with incitement to violence.

Required Ritual of Islam: Hajj

2016 Ramadan GraphicHajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca. It is a mandatory requirement for adult Muslims to make the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime if they are physically and financially able to make the journey.

The pilgrimage occurs from the eighth to the twelfth day of the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah. This year Hajj will be held from Friday, September 9 through Wednesday, September 14, 2016. If a Muslim visits Mecca at any other time of year, the ritual is called “umrah” or the lesser pilgrimage, but umrah does not remove the requirement of Hajj.

The Hajj is one of the largest gatherings of people in the world with more than two million Muslims from over 183 countries making Hajj each year. The pilgrims follow a route that Muhammad once walked, but they believe they are ultimately tracing the footsteps of Abraham and Ishmael.

Pilgrims walk 14.4 km (8.95 miles) to the plain of Arafat, passing Muzdalifah a few miles east of Mecca where it is believe Muhammad delivered his last sermon. There they spend the day praying and reading the Qur’an. Afterwards they walk 9 km (5 miles) back to Muzdalifah where they spend the night.

The next day they collect small pebbles and carry them to Mina where they throw the pebbles at three white pillars. This day’s ritual is called the Stoning of the Devil at Jamaraat. There have been deadly stampedes during this part of the journey. Despite improvements in the route by the Saudi Arabian government in recent years, last year 2,236 pilgrims were killed in a crowd crush. Because of this incident Iran has announced that it will not send pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year. Last year Iran reported that 464 Iranians were killed in the crowd crush.

Traditionally following the stoning of the devil, pilgrims sacrifice an animal to symbolize the ram Abraham sacrificed instead of his son, however more recently pilgrims are required to purchase a “sacrifice voucher” to have the sacrifice performed for them.Hajj Grand Mosque

Pilgrims return to Mecca and go to the Grand Mosque where the circle the Ka’aba counter-clockwise seven times. The Ka’aba is a cube shaped building in the center of the Grand Mosque in Mecca that Muslims believe was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. The Black Stone is in the eastern cornerstone of the building. Muslims believe Muhammad himself set the Black Stone in its current location five years before he began to receive his revelations. The Grand Mosque has three floors that each have a capacity of 750,000 people, however because of the volume of people circling the Ka’aba can take hours.

Other Hajj rituals include running back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah and drinking from the Zamzam Well. The Grand Mosque now encompasses the route so it is traversed by air-conditioned tunnels with special sections for walkers, runner and disabled pilgrims.

Although not required after the end of Hajj, many pilgrims will extend their trip and travel to Medina visiting the Mosque of the Prophet and location of the tomb of Muhammad.

Prayer Point:

Christianity is the only religion where God loves men and women so much that He reaches down to redeem man, rather than man trying to perform works or rituals to reach God. Pray that Muslims will have a revelation of His love.

Photo By Al Jazeera English (Al-Haram mosque) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons