Worshiping Jesus in the Mosque
I went to an [evangelical] church after that, and I faced a cultural challenge as a Muslim. Everything was different—their way of worship, the way they sang songs, the way they danced. Nothing was familiar to me.
I have my own expression of worship. When it comes to greetings, I say, As-salaam 'alaykum ("Peace be upon you"), and I expect people to reply, Wa 'alaykum Salaam wa rahmatu l-laahi wa barakaatuh ("Peace to you and may God's mercy and blessings be upon you"). And we Muslims have a way of shaking hands. But in the church, it was totally different. Nobody liked my expressions. Brothers and sisters told me that As-salaam 'alaykum and Wa 'alaykum salaam were from the Devil, so it was hard for me to join and start life with members of the church.
One day the pastor came to me and said, "How are you?" I answered, "Alhamdulillah!" ("Praise be to God!"). The pastor was very angry. He said, "No, brother! No more Alhamdulillah. Your God is changed from Allah to God [using the tribal name]. You have to express your thanksgiving to God as a Christian, and we have our own expression of thanksgiving to God." He ordered me to say, "Praise the Lord" and "Praise to God." He asked me to not use the term Allah because Allah is evil, Allah is the Devil, Allah is the black stone, Allah is an idol. That was the first time I had heard [anyone say] that Allah is an idol or evil. I was shocked. When I do my spiritual duties, I think I am doing them for Allah. He is the one who created the universe, sustains the universe, and judges the universe. I couldn't in my mind imagine that Allah is an idol or evil.
The next day the pastor asked, "How are you?" I wanted to replace his words with my own Alhamdulillah, but since the pastor warned me not to, I didn't. I tried to say, "Praise the Lord," or "Praise to God," but for 33 years I had never used these words or the tribal name for God, and it was difficult to do so. So I stayed [in the church] without saying Alhamdulillah for more than three months. I simply said, "I am fine." I wanted to express my gratitude to Allah, but because of their understanding [of the term], I suppressed it.
Then I started questioning the justice of God. I asked him, "God, you are the one who put me in a Muslim culture; it was not my choice. They don't allow me to express [my praise] in the congregation. When they hear Islamic terminologies, they immediately rebuke me, so I prefer to keep silent. You like the Orthodox culture, you like the traditional African culture, you like Jewish culture, you like the European culture, you like cultures of other people groups, but you dislike the Muslims. So you are not just."