Down a small dirt alley hidden in the middle of the city are old broken down apartment buildings with no running water, no toilets and no central heating or air. My friend, Li Hua, lives in one of these small studio apartments. Half of the apartment is taken up by a kang, a wooden box that is used as a bed as well as place to eat and sit. A small wood stove sits in the middle of the room surrounded by a few stools. Then the other side of the room has a counter for cooking as well as storing food and all the rest of the family’s earthly belongings.
It had been a few weeks since I had seen Li Hua, so I decided to go visit her. She has been out of town visiting family, and returned home today. Currently, Ramadan is being celebrated by Muslims across the world. I know Li Hua is also celebrating which means she is fasting during the daylight hours (from 4:30 a.m. to 8:40 p.m.), so I begged her not to put food out for me to eat. It is very uncomfortable eating in front of your host especially when you know that she is also hungry and thirsty. But, as is the hospitality of Muslims here, she insisted on putting out a mutton dish and some bread. After refusing many times to eat in front of her, she finally put food in my hand and insisted I eat.
As I ate, so as not to be rude, we talked and caught up on our families. In her one room home, I could see everything that she owns. Her prayer rug was hanging by her kang (or bed). I asked her how she as a Muslim woman worshipped since only men go to the mosque, and she opened up and shared her prayer ritual. She worships in her home. She showed me her prayer rug and laid it out in the direction she prays, toward Mecca. Then, she showed me her black gown that she puts on over her clothes to pray. She does this because she needs to be fully clothed so no bare skin is exposed. In my mind she was already fully clothed as she was wearing long pants and a long shirt, but evidently that is not enough.
My friend grew up in the countryside and did not attend school. She does not read or write. She can not read the Quran, so I asked her how she knows what to do. As a little girl she remembers sitting watching her father pray and recite the ritual prayers. As I sat there, it occurred to me that everything she does or says during worship was given to her by her father. For the rest of her life, she will rely on what was instilled in her by her father when she was a young girl, memorized rote prayers and the timed bowing of her heart toward Mecca, in her home alone, five times a day for the rest of her life. She does not know what she recites, but she believes God hears her prayers.
For Li Hua this is what it means to be Muslim and to honor her parents. When times are tough which is most of the time, Li Hua finds hope in her daily ritual that her father passed down, and she clings to it. For her to be Hui is to be Muslim. If she rejected Islam and turned to Jesus, she would bring shame upon her father as all of her family would argue that rejecting Islam is the same as rejecting her father and all that he taught her.
- Pray the Holy Spirit will open Li Hua’s eyes to see the truth that Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life.
- Pray that during the last few days of Ramadan that Li Hua and many other Hui will question the point of fasting daily and begin to ask questions about Jesus.
- Pray that Li Hua and many like her will hear the Gospel, believe it and turn to Jesus even though they will likely be rejected by family and friends.