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Jeff's Afghan Diary: A Devout Muslim
June 24, 2007

      I have spent a good bit of time lately talking with one of our interpreters, who goes by the English nickname of “Ricky.”  (He chose this nickname because Americans kept screwing up his real Afghan name, so “Ricky” was suggested because it began the same as his Afghan name, and he agreed to it.)  Ricky and I often work with each other on learning words (English for him, Pashto for me) and pronunciation (English language uses vowel sounds not used in Pashto or Dari, as well as some consonants, and Pashto similarly has consonant sounds not used in English).  Once in a while, we talk about religion.

      Ricky is a devout Muslim.  He prays five times a day, and has worked at memorizing much of the Quran.  He has told me many times that Muslims respect Jews and Christians and their holy books, although they believe the Quran supercedes them (the Muslim teaching is that God spoke to the Jews, then the Christians, and lastly to the Prophet Mohammed, so the Quran is the final word of God to mankind).  Ricky is fully convinced his faith is the true faith.

      He is also convinced that Muslims should not attack non-Muslims except in self-defense.  He tells me the Taliban are wrong for doing what they do.  He said today that Muslims should not attack anyone unless either they are defending themselves, another person, or their property, or unless their country is occupied.  In Ricky’s view, if the US were to occupy Afghanistan without the expressed permission and desire of the Afghan people, the Afghans should fight to expel the US.  Since we are here by invitation (at least ostensibly), we are welcome to stay without fear of attack.  As long as we are here to help and not to occupy, Ricky thinks what we are doing is a good thing.

      I had a chance to listen briefly to an AM radio, and found a BBC station.  The program featured a speaker who stated that most Afghans did not want the US in their country.  I asked Ricky if this was true, and he said it was quite the opposite – most Afghans are glad the US is here.  I think most Afghans are looking forward to the day they can stand on their own and not have to have the US here, but that’s another matter.  I asked the ABP commander if the BBC was correct, and he also said they were wrong.  Perhaps it’s a good thing most of us don’t get too much radio or TV over here!

      Ricky had an interesting Islamic story he told me: there was a man who was an Islamic scholar, who had memorized the whole Quran and read it continuously every day.  He resided in the local mosque, and prayed at least five times daily.  He was very knowledgeable and very devout.

      One day, Allah told one of his angels to go and kill this devout man.  The angel returned, telling Allah he could not kill him, because he was continually reading the Quran.  So Allah sent another angel, who returned with the same reply.  A third angel was sent, who also returned, saying the same thing.  At last, a fourth angel went, and took the man’s spirit from him, so he died.

      The man stood before Allah at the Judgment Seat.  He asked Allah why his spirit had been taken from him – he was devout, and read the Quran repeatedly every day.  Allah replied to him that his fault was not that he read the Quran; it was that he had learned all this knowledge of God, but had not bothered to share it with those who did not have this knowledge.  He had not taught it to others.

      It is an amazing story; quite powerful.  I shall ponder it for a long time.  It will motivate me to work even harder to share what I know.

-- Jeff Courter

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

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