I ate every meal for six months with a Muslim family - every single meal. . .besides eating more chocolate than I EVER want to see in my whole life time again, this is what else happened.
We read the New Testament.
We compared the Koran with the Old and New Testament. We asked good questions and and weighed the Koran against itself and found it confusing and contradicting according to the whim of history at best.
I learned that most Muslims have not read the Koran in a form of comparative study it is only referred to in pieces when necessary. What was the mainstay of their faith was word of mouth. . . stories. . . stories handed down and changed and changed until they do not have much in common with the original.
So the Old Testament was used to show the original.
By the time I left - they were amazed at what they THOUGHT was in the Bible and what actually was in it. They started reading the Bible.
Was this worth eating with them daily for six months? Was it worth putting aside my own choice of foods (I was sooooo salad hungry when I got back to the States.) and food preparation . . . to sit with a family who worshiped a different god?
I'll let you be the judge. . .
But if I had to do it again, I would. Without reservation. Food opens so many conversations and trust in so many different cultures. If you can share a meal then words might be easier to swallow, as well.
What you have done is what a mature in the faith and firmly grounded Christian is capable of doing by the grace of the Lord. It is quite beautiful and inspiring, may God increase his grace upon you!!! In situations like that your influence can be felt by them spiritually speaking, and they can be lead to the Truth, by pursuing their inquiry. They have now stepped out of being totally convinced that the Quran is unquestionable, towards questioning it and even better towards reading the bible that by itself is an incredible achievement! Glory be to God! May he continue to guide them towards Orthodoxy!
The intimacy of sharing a meal, with non believers can be done by the spiritually strong / mature among us, without them being spiritually harmed, it is in fact one of the methods of evangelizing that has been used by Our Lord himself and the apostles as well. However for the young in the faith, it is a traitorous road.
If we think about it from the perspective of a higherarchial pastoral duty over and towards the faithful, the society of Christians must answer in how they must deal with an aggressive ideology that challenges Christianity with its imitation of scripture and figures in scripture. The church has dealt with judaisers, and pagans initially however, Islam is a new ideology that equips itself with a seemingly abrhamic religion like Judaism but stands in complete opposition to it, as well as to the incarnation, not to mention its political ambition. Therefore, as Christians with the duty of bringing the Good News to all, we must be wise in how we chose to do it without losing some the wolves that will infiltrate harnessing every opportunity. How to balance Christian charity with appropriate caution in the protection of the young among us needs to be addressed. While separation of the meal time prayer, and the meal itself might seem drastic, in the case of the situation in Ethiopia( where meals are served in a common plate for the majority of the country where all gather around it and pray and give thanks and partake together from the single plate, it represents a sign of brotherhood in faith, unity), both Muslims and Christians have found it necessary and helpful to stress in the union of sharing a meal should be done with those common in faith, and if there is a guest of different faith to allow him or her to serve and eat in a different plate if so wished. This is not to say that there are no exceptions, I am just explaining the norm and the reasoning behind it, it must not be understood as a dogma, we have a saying if you have no alternative “ bilawina teqedes” /”eat what they serve you and glorify God”. However if there is a choice and you are facing a dilemma between eating this food and not eating it “ adle’ewa’ le Tsome”/ “ judge in favor of fasting or abstaining from it”. The main guiding principle is our Lord’s Commandment of Love in not harming a brother (Charity toward the young).
While you were successful in making those Muslims question the Quran, by harnessing the attachment formed in sharing meals and spending time together, the reverse has been known to happen also with dire consequences. Some have lost faith in Christianity and any other religion; some have joined Islam, because from the Muslim’s side when one meets those who are indeed educated of their faith and are devout practitioner who are also actively engaged in missionary work, there are apologists among them also well versed with our scripture enough to confuse if not to convince a young believer. For this reason among others, the blanket protective measure is taken pastorally with the spiritual welfare of the weakest member taken into consideration. This is being in the same mind as St. Paul when he speaks of never eating meat again for the sake of youngest brother! Even though he personally has been many things to many, he was also careful to advise caution from forming uneven associations.
If it was dealing with Apollo or Athena, it might have been an easier ideology to deal with for a present day Christian, but to deal with someone who calls on the name of Abraham, Mosses, Jesus, and has a book to show you that claims to be the right book, the confusion ensues for many. Islam has been known to infiltrate in a quietly manner through trade and social interactions as well, to protect the young the pastoral care makes it necessary to advise caution, While it is within the right of a Christian to associate with a non believer, one must do it with caution, being wise like the serpent, and meek like the dove, because the wolves are at work.Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive.1 Corinthians 10:23Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14
Then in the case of Islam many argue that the prohibition that applies to food that is offered to idols applies to Islamic foods as well. Whether we agree that the Allah is the same as the Christian and Judaic Allah or not, if one of us believes that to be a meat blessed in the name of an idol, then because of that person’s conscious we will abstain from it together. If one believes the meat to be slaughtered for an idol then both the apostles and the Lord warn us from encouraging people to eat it, not because it will defile them in a ritualistic sense but what associations or spiritual union will form and what spiritual harm will follow from it. If we ask ourselves why the apostles forbade people from eating food that was sacrificed for idols , and why in the revelation 2:20 the lord warns the Church in Thyatira, we know that it is not the food in itself that is the problem but the prayers and the formation of immediate or gradual spiritual unions, why the apostle St. Paul warns the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 10:20-21, and how he forbids eating food offered to demons ( some have argued that since idols like Zeus did not in reality exist what harm is it to eat whatever people might have sacrificed in her name, but here the apostle says although those idols of wood and stone do not in reality exist but the one behind the scene are demons who are leading people astray with their teachings of falsehood, from worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel) by using a similar argument, the Muslim Allah is not God but a demon who lead people astray away from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. Thus anything done in his name they refuse to partake of. Again this is not a new argument, and it is left to each individual to decide whether or not the Allah of Islam is God, and then take from there.
I for one knowingly will not eat meat known to be of a Muslim slaughter, not only for the sake of others but for my own conscience as well. However ,I absolutely do not demand that others do the same .
Like all things in Christianity knowing How to keep the balance of using Christian freedom and the necessary caution while living our daily Christian life in this world and carrying out the Apostolic work the Church then is the key.The early Church has done it with Judiasim and Paganisim, we can learn a lot from that and do the same in evangelising the muslims as well. for instance St Paul advises not to investigate about what you are buying from the meat market, or the meal you are being served when called into the house of an unbeliever 1Corinthians 10:25_27. But if you do know then it is time to apply Christian wisdom that not only focuses on what one can successfully do, but also on the effect of the action on the youngest brother who sees it.
Now I am only sharing my views on this matter, not telling what others should or should not do. Forgive me if I have sounded like I am lecturing, I am merely pointing out how I look at things and why. I am also open to hear the opinion of others on the matter. I will not be around this weekend SoI wish Blessed Nativity for all those that will celebrate it first. God be with us all.