Muslims and Passover

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If you could share one story from the writings of Moses with a Muslim friend, I wonder which you would choose?

Would you choose something they may be familiar with from their own Qur’an – such as the confrontation of Moses and Aaron with Pharaoh, and the miraculous turning of the staff into a snake which consumed Pharaoh’s magician’s snakes? Or would you look at the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and God parting the Red Sea for them? Perhaps you would want to focus on the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, or even the role of the tabernacle or sacrificial system, the design of which was revealed to Moses?

When I had the chance, I chose to focus on Passover – a story and a concept absent from the Qur’anic materials.

I’ve been gathering a group of four Muslims and four Christians together for a while now to examine ‘Prophet Stories’. At each meeting, we have looked at one story about one of the prophets we seem to share a belief in from our respective texts. We started with Adam, Noah and Abraham, and have now reached Moses. The structure is simple – my Muslim friend (who is an imam) prepares a passage about a prophet from the Qur’an, we read it together (in English). He explains it for about 10 minutes, and then the Christians ask him questions about that text. Then I (or one of the other Christians) presents a story about the comparable prophet from the Bible, and we all read that in English. I explain it for 10 minutes, and then the Muslims can ask us questions. Each group gets 45 minutes in total.

The choice of Passover in Exodus 12 was, of course, intentional. I wanted something that was both unfamiliar, yet highly significant; I wanted something that clearly pointed to Jesus. After the explanation, the main question my Muslim friends asked was regarding the justice of God in the killing of the firstborn, and how we could reconcile that with a just and loving God. Why kill Pharaoh’s son? Why not Pharaoh himself? I suggested that it was significant that we realise that earlier, God had referred to Israel as his ‘first-born son’ (Ex 4.22-23), and in that passage he had warned Pharaoh that if he didn’t let God’s ‘son’ go, he would kill Pharaoh’s firstborn. 

We regularly meet in our church hall, and I had forgotten that there are Scripture texts in calligraphy on the walls, one of which is John 3:16. At this point in the discussion, one of our Muslim friends said, looking up to the text on the wall, “How many sons has God got then?”! This led into a fascinating conversation about the concept of sonship, and what Christians really mean by Son of God, and how the Passover Lamb points forward to the Lamb of God, the Only Begotten of the Father, a once and for all perfect sacrifice by which our sins are covered.

After the group lapsed during Covid, it was my Muslim friends who initiated the re-forming of the group. After the Passover study, my imam friend expressed how much he had enjoyed the meeting, and really looked forward to our next meeting. 

We are going to think about David next. I wonder which episode of his life you would choose to focus on?

G Charles

July 2022

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