Yesterday I wrote about Jeremy and Monica, and how they invited some Muslim acquaintances over for a meal. I promised to provide some tips today about how you could invite your Muslim neighbors over.
That may have been premature.
I wrote to some of my interfaith friends yesterday and asked if they could help me come up with a list of suggestions. One of them put me on to an organization called Peace Catalyst International, that promotes “Love Your Neighbor Dinners” between churches and mosques, but it didn’t say anything about what you might serve for dinner. Another friend promised to send me something by the end of the day, but it’s 7:30 on Saturday morning and I still don’t see anything in my inbox. It’s possible that he has more important things to do than contribute to my blog.
So, let me see what I can do on my own.
First of all, you might remember that both Christians and Muslims are “children of Abraham.” Christians trace their religious ancestry back to Abraham through Isaac, while Muslims trace theirs through Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar. Abraham was famous for his hospitality. When three strangers showed up in front of his tent one day, unannounced, he hurriedly prepared a meal for them (Gen. 18).
One of them turned out to be God.
Hinting at that event the writer of Hebrews says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2). And so, when that nice Muslim family moves in across the street get up (as Abraham did), go across the street, knock on the door, and invite them to dinner.
What should you serve? Well, faithful Muslims follow some fairly strict dietary guidelines. They don’t eat pork. They don’t drink alcohol. And so you wouldn’t want to invite your new neighbors over for beer and barbecue. But you could do this: you could get take-out from a nearby Middle Eastern restaurant. Just ask if the food is “halal”—the Muslim equivalent of “kosher.” Or you could make a vegetarian meal. My friend Ammar Amonnette, Imam at the Virginia Islamic Center, says “Fruits and vegetables of any kind are an easy way to offer hospitality.” Whatever you do, don’t let the risk of serving the wrong thing keep you from inviting your neighbors over. Just tell them, “I’m kind of new at this,” and ask for their help. Soon they will be more than neighbors; they will be friends.
And heaven will have come a little closer to earth.