Is Barbie Islamic?

Barbie

Mattel has just released its latest Barbie modelled on Ibtihaj Muhammad, the bronze-medal winning Olympic fencer. And why not? A woman who can handle a sword is really cool. Making dolls in the image of super-fit, agile, sword-wielding Olympians is the kind of thing I approve of.  So I was puzzled when I read Muhammad’s tweet earlier this week:

Twitter screenshot

‘Now little girls everywhere can now play with a Barbie who chooses to wear hijab!’?

The hijab makes her cool? Not the Olympic, blade expert female Zorro part? Oh. Well as long as Barbie’s happy, that’s the main thing. Are you happy, Barbie? Was it not enough for little girls to fashion a hijab for you out of an old hankie if they didn’t think you were dressed appropriately? Barbie? Oh, wait: Barbie’s a toy and can’t talk, let alone exercise choice. Bit like the 40 million women in Iran who can’t choose whether or not to wear the hijab either, except they’re not made of plastic. But this is not about Barbie’s Right To Choose, rather Mattel’s need to tell the world how much they love success and female empowerment and Muslims too, Mr Trump! Love success – good; love Muslims – good too (though not their religion); but female empowerment? When will corporations cotton on to the fact the hijab represents the opposite of female empowerment? That in Islamic countries, like Somalia and Afghanistan even if it’s not actually illegal not to wear it, in practice it is  impossible for women to go outside without covering because of the harassment they experience. Where there’s no choice, there’s no empowerment.

But if Ms Muhammad, a Muslim who obviously chooses to wear the hijab, used this opportunity for a little da’wah, so what? After all if Mattel wanted to make a Lizzie Schofield Barbie, I’d make sure she wore a cross necklace and tweet that it’s because Barbie knows in her little plastic heart that Jesus died for her. However I wonder if Ms Muhammad realises that it’s a matter of debate among Islamic scholars whether girls playing with dolls is even allowed? (Notice the gender: for boys it’s haram, end of.)

Some say it’s OK, because it helps little girls develop their maternal feelings, and because Muhammad’s child wife Aisha used to play with dolls.  According to Sahih Muslim, ‘she was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her.”  Yet many scholars agree that playing with dolls in only appropriate for pre-pubescent children: by the time they reach puberty, they can understand that dolls are images of humans, and human images are haram. (The fact that she had dolls  with her demolishes the argument that Aisha had reached puberty by the time of her marriage.)

Muhammad Ibn Adam of Darul Iftar, Leicester, takes the view that Aisha’s dolls would have been primitively made, without features, unlike the dolls of today. He writes

Picture-Making of animate things has been prohibited by many narrations of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). In a Hadith recorded by Imam al-Bukhari in his Sahih, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said:

The most severely punished on the day of Qiyamah will be those who make (animate) pictures.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

Therefore, if the dolls are fully structured, meaning they have the head with the eyes, ears, mouth, etc, then it will be impermissible to acquire them, give them as a gift or for small children to play with them. However, if the dolls do not have a head, meaning they do not have eyes, ears, nose and mouth which make them incomplete, then it will be permissible to make them and give them to small children.

Does Barbie have a head, eyes, nose and mouth? Hmmm. So for Barbie to be truly Islamic according to Muhammad Ibn Adam, she needs serious maiming, if not beheading. If she ‘chooses’ to wear the hijab after that, she should continue to wear it round her neck, as that is her juyubihinnya (Arabic for body, face, neck and bosom, according to Sura 24:11) and still requires covering. Or maybe, in her little plastic heart, she might decide Islam isn’t for her.

Salvation in Christianity and Islam. Part 2: Repentance

Jesus said repent

by Lizzie Schofield

I said in part 1 that I would write about salvation in Islam in part 2, but there are a few thoughts I wanted to add on the Christian side before moving on. Apologies, and watch out for part 3.

In part 1, I asserted that salvation in Christianity starts from the basis of belief in Jesus, in his death on the Cross for our sins. But belief doesn’t simply mean unqualified theoretical assent: after all, even the devil believes in God. James 2:19:

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.”

Belief that leads to salvation isn’t simply a matter of intellectually affirming that something is true, but is something we act upon: I get on the plane because I believe the pilot can fly it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t get on the plane. So if we say we believe in Jesus, but allow Him to have no impact on our lives, we don’t really believe Him. When Jesus announces the start of his public ministry, he couples belief with repentance: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) If we say we are Christians, and have not taken our sin seriously enough to repent, we need to examine ourselves to see if we are really in the faith, just as Paul meant in 2 Cor:13-5-6.

Repentance is the bit we like to skate over because we feel awkward about the sin part.  Let’s skip to the good bit, the assurance of eternal life. Thank you Jesus!  Why dwell on the negative? But this is dangerous. By glossing over how catastrophic sin is, we gloss over God’s drastic, radical, uncompromising, torturous solution to it is – the Cross – and how it is the only cure to a deadly sickness that affects us all. Let’s not pretend that just because we’ve never punched anyone and always submitted our tax return on time that our sin isn’t that bad – the Cross says it is. Let’s not pretend that the unarticulated bitterness towards a family member doesn’t matter because it stays in our head – the Cross says it does. We might have been a Christian for years, but find some sins just too comforting to give up. The Cross says “I gave up my comfort for you.” And then this one (James 4:17): “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” Anyone else starting to feel a bit uneasy?

It is unfashionable to talk about sin these days, even in church. When not completely ignored, it is hastily brushed under the carpet,  The emphasis of church these days is inclusion. People need to understand how inclusive Jesus was. This did the rounds on Facebook recently, as an example of the “best’ church welcome notice ever (courtesy of All Saints Lutheran, Aurora, Colorado):

“We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, black and proud, y no habla Ingles.

We extend a special welcome to those who are new-borns, poor as dirt, skinny as a rail, got a hitch in their git-along, or just plain can’t sing. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up, or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Lutheran than Luther, or more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Maria’s confirmation.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 40 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters, and people who stay up too late at night. If you’re having problems, or you’re down in the dumps, or you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too. If you blew all your offering money at Black Hawk, you’re welcome here.”

This church wants to welcome everyone because  Jesus meets us where we’re at! Grace for all, right? Because Jesus died once for all this means I can believe and then 5 minutes later carry on sinning as much as I like, right? (This objection is frequently raised by Muslims.). Hebrews 9:26 says no, you can’t:

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”

A church that is faithful to Christ welcomes people as they are, but should never expect them to stay that way. A Biblical church doesn’t water down or ignore Jesus’ call to repentance.  God isn’t a heavenly waiter who hovers ready to meet our spiritual demands. If we say we believe him, but carry on in our sins, it’s like saying you love your wife while having an affair with the neighbour and wondering why she might have a problem with that. Our sins cost Jesus His life; hence we should own up to them, and deal with them actively, ruthlessly. Who do you need to apologise to? What habits do you need to confront? (Personally, I can think of at least one in each category.)

And yet it is also true that Jesus died “once for all” (Hebrews 10:26). When we repent and believe in Christ, his sacrifice is enough for the sins of tomorrow as well as those of today. The fact I will (no doubt) sin tomorrow doesn’t change my salvation: but will I acknowledge my need of Christ to cleanse me on a daily basis in order to please him? Wilberforce used to keep a list of character flaws which he would pray through and monitor on a weekly basis.

The 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon put it this way:

“Too many think lightly of sin, and therefore think lightly of the Saviour. He who has stood before his God, convicted and condemned, with the rope about his neck, is the man to weep for joy when he is pardoned, to hate the evil which has been forgiven him, and to live to the honour of the Redeemer by whose blood he has been cleansed….A spiritual experience which is thoroughly flavoured with a deep and bitter sense of sin is of great value to him that has it. It is terrible in the drinking, but it is most wholesome to the bowels, and in the whole of the after life.” Spurgeon, c.1890, autobiography.

The fact that God cares so passionately about sin is good news. He hates the anger, greed, lust, slander and malice that ruin His world and there will be no sin in heaven because Jesus has dealt with all of it. He wants us to hate it too. Allah on the other hand, is not bothered by sin. As the South London Imam told the audience during a discussion on the topic last week, sin to Allah is in fact “not really a big deal.” So what exactly are Muslims saved from? How is sin dealt with? And what are the implications for Islamic paradise?

More in Part 3.

 

 

 

Salvation in Christianity and Islam

The point of any religion is to make sense of life’s big questions: why does the universe exist and what is it for? Does God exist and if so, what is He like? Do we all just get one short, eternally meaningless life before being eaten by worms? Christians and Muslims share similar starting points: we believe in God and in life after death, ultimately in heaven or hell as determined by God our supreme Ruler and Judge. The sticking point is what YHWH/Allah’s criteria are for where we end up. Let’s start with what the Bible teaches on salvation.

YHWH of the Bible is a God with a rescue plan. He rescues his people from slavery in Egypt, he rescues His people from the Midianites and the Philistines (and other tribes), he rescues his people from exile in Babylon. But these rescues are just a foreshadow of his ultimate rescue, which is predicted at the very beginning. After the fall of man, when sin comes into the world and all our problems begin, the LORD God speaks to the serpent (Satan) in Genesis 3:15:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

In other words, a male offspring of a woman (he), will one day come and crush the head of Satan. Is a mere human creature powerful enough to crush the head of Satan? This must be referring to a He who is both human and divine! Who does it sound like? Hint -it can’t be Muhammad, who bent over backwards to stress his humanity: “I am only a mortal like you” (S18:110), “Am I anything but a man, a messenger?” (S17:93)

In contrast, notice what the New Testament says about  Jesus Christ:

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8)

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

We fear death. But YHWH God doesn’t want us to be slaves to the fear of death!  That’s why he sent Jesus, Hebrews continues, “in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.”  If God himself has paid for our sins, how should we respond? Hebrews again, and note the repetition of belief:

“See to it brothers, that none of us has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12)

The Lord Jesus says it Himself:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not die, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the Name of God’s one  and only Son.” (John 3:16-17)

How will we respond to what Jesus has done for us, with belief or with scepticism? Will we believe he really died for our sins? If we do, Jesus tells us, we will have eternal life. If we don’t, we stand condemned. Prayer,fasting, helping the homeless, volunteering at the food bank, paying the right amount of tax: none of this makes a difference to our eternal destiny. YHWH God teaches your eternal destiny is not affected by what you do, but by whether or not you believe Jesus died to save you. Paul agrees:

“But now a righteousness from God apart from the law, has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:22) On the other hand, God

“will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and the majesty of his power, on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10.)

No one today likes hearing about condemnation, hell and judgement, and they didn’t like it in the first century either. But that didn’t stop Jesus talking about it, not because he enjoyed scaring people, but to show them that by believing him, they have a clear, guaranteed way of escaping it. It is His kindness and mercy that makes Him so black-and-white. If you’re reading this and you’re not a Christian, why not respond to Jesus now in your heart? Don’t leave it too late.

We’ll look at salvation in Islam in Part 2.