Catholic Attending Chaand Raat?

Hi everyone,

My Muslim friend and I are very open to each other about our faiths. Today she asked me if I’d want to go with her to Chaand Raat next week with her and her family. It will be in her mosque, and she told me it is a large celebration for the end of Ramadan. I don’t think I’d be comfortable attending, but is it morally permissible? Thank you! God bless!

It’s my understanding that Catholics are generally permitted to attend worship services of non-Christian faiths as long as 1) it’s not an anti-Catholic service, 2) the Catholic does not actively participate in the service, does not say the prayers, etc. and 3) the Catholic does not substitute some other church’s service for a required attendance at Sunday Mass.

It’s also my understanding that Chaand Raat might be more of a celebration akin to a Christmas Eve party than a “worship” service per se, as sometimes it is observed outside in malls, etc. but you should probably ask your friend if this is a religious service or just a celebration party and if you would be expected to say any prayers, etc. while you are attending. I’m guessing it may be more like a celebration party, which is why she would feel free to invite persons of other religions. After finding out from her exactly what would be going on, you could ask your priest if he thought it would be appropriate for you to go.

Thank you for your thorough response! I’ll ask her and my priest!

It’s not a prayer service, although prayers and blessings will be recited. It’s joyous, with food and activities, and thanksgiving for the New Crescent Moon. Kind of like a community celebration. GO! Celebrate with them! Learn and be happy with them.

I would attend but with a third non-Muslim friend or family member (possibly preferably male), so that when the group is praying, you are not left alone, nor forced to pray along. What sect is your friend?

You are being naive. There is one, and only one, reason a non-Muslim would be invited to any Muslim gathering: to convert you. If you think that’s crazy, I’d like you to do three quick searches:

  1. do a Google search on Islam + obligation + da’wa (da’wa = propaganda). This will take you to a host of Muslim websites, all of which emphasize that every Muslim is obligated to try and convert non-Muslims. Again, I’ll emphasize this point: these are Muslim websites, by Muslims for Muslims.

  2. go to youtube and search on Islam + convert You will see yet another host of videos by people who have converted to Islam. If you listen to a few of these, you will see a common thread–they had Muslim friends who invited them to the mosque, gave them a Qur’an, discussed religion with them, etc. etc. An awful lot of these are Catholics, all too often pious Catholics who said the rosary daily, etc. Females between 15-24 constitute 75% of converts to Islam in the West. (This figure comes from a Muslim anthropologist.)

  3. Have a look at “Duties of Muslims Living in the West,” by one of the most-quoted imams today, Yusuf al-Qaradawi on islamonline.net
    archive.islamonline.net/?p=1008

“Muslims in the west ought to be sincere callers to their religion. They should keep in mind that calling others to Islam is not only restricted to scholars and Sheikhs, but it goes far to encompass every committed Muslim. As we see scholars and Sheikhs delivering khutbas and lectures, writing books to defend Islam, it is no wonder to find lay Muslims practicing da`wah while employing wisdom and fair exhortation.”

Of course when confronted, Muslims or Muslim organization will deny they are trying to convert anyone. They will insist they are simply trying to further mutual understanding, etc. etc. If you do some research, you will find that’s simply not true.

Here’s a cute “How to convert a non-Muslim” in 11 easy steps, with illustrations!
wikihow.com/Convert-a-Christian-to-Islam Recognize any of the steps? You should.

So if you insist on going, be aware of what you are walking into. And if you still think your Muslim friend has no interest in converting you, why not ask them to come to Mass with you so you can discuss religion? I bet I know what her answer will be!

I think you are way off here. Search Google and see sites like this for just about any faith community. Like the OP’s example of an invitation, there are invitations from people of differing faiths that show hospitality and generosity, as well opportunity to get to know who they are. When was the last time you were invited to an Eid meal, or a Passover seder? Break bread together and be grateful that we have the freedom to do this in a peaceful and gracious environment.

I am Catholic, recently confirmed. In the past, I have been to Muslim friends’ Eid’s celebrations at their home and they have been to my Christmas or Easter celebrations at my home. We also say “Happy Eid” or “Merry Christmas” to each other. The same thing applies with friends from other religions.

Once I was invited to the mosque to attend Eid’s celebration, including the service before the celebration. It was a small town, so I knew most people there, including the imam. I was the only non-muslim there. I sat at the back waiting for the service to finish before mingling. I didn’t (and still don’t) see them as trying to convert me, even if it was an attempt to get me to convert. The question “why don’t you join us?” never surfaced, explicitly or implicitly. Anyway, I see it more as a way to strengthen our interfaith relationship.

I understand that the experience may differ from person to person, from community to community. What I’ve shared is my personal experience, but your mileage may vary. I think if you and your friend are open and respectful about each other’s faith and you both are secure with yourself about your faith, there should be no issue about celebrating each other’s holidays.

I should add these Qur’an verses as well:

Qur’an 5:51 “O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends: They are but friends to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them is of them.” (However, “friends” can also be translated as “protectors,” “supporters,” or “helpers.”)

Qur’an 3:118: "“O you who believe! do not take for intimate friends from among others than your own people…”

Worse is Qur’an 3:28: "“Let not the believers take for friends or helpers unbelievers rather than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah: except by way of precaution, that ye may Guard yourselves from them…”

The usual Muslim response (in modern times) has been to say that “these verses refer to the period in Muhammad’s lifetime when Muslims were battling Jews and Christians. They don’t apply now.” However, if you research the topic on Muslim (again, I’m stressing Muslim here–by Muslims for Muslims) websites, you will find long, long explanations of that modern Muslim response. The length of the responses–on all the Muslim websites–shows that this is an issue that comes up in the Muslim community, and that Muslims themselves are not sure how to interpret the verses. There are, of course, some imams that take these verses literally–esp. the last one, 3:28, and it’s last phrase “except that…” which they interpret as “You can take them as friends, but only with the intention of converting or deceiving them.”

For those of you who think I am “off base” or nuts, or whatever, all I can say is that you simply don’t understand Islam. More than that, you don’t understand their method (at least in modern times!) of conversion. They are not heavy handed–they don’t come at you and say “Islam is the only true religion! You must convert!” Far from it. The common strategy (which is explicitly taught!) is to befriend you, to be kind to you, to become your best friend, to invite you to their mosque and other Muslim gatherings to show you how wonderful they all are. And when the talk turns to religion, to stress how how similar our religions are, how much Muslims revere Jesus and Mary, etc. etc. It’s only after you have accepted them as good friends, after you accept Islam as a well-meaning faith similar to Christianity, etc. etc. that they start discussing what they see as the weak points of Christianity: the Trinity and the belief that Jesus is God. They are actually quite good at this–in Q&A sessions after presentations they have at universities, they can argue rings around ignorant “Christian” or “Jewish” students, quoting the Bible by heart. Of course their arguments are specious, but you have to know both Islamic and Christian theology to refute them, and nowadays almost no one does.

Not really to start any arguments here. The way I see it, we Christians use a similar strategy (if we don’t, we probably should). As I understand it, we are called to be Christ’s disciples and fishers of men by way of deeds (the way we live). So the first part is pretty much the same (befriend, be kind, invite to gatherings, etc), since these are expected from us as humans anyway. The next part about discussing the strong/weak points of each other’s faith can be a double edge. It could convert you or it could deepen your faith (since you could do research of your own faith to answer the supposed weak points of your faith: ask your pastors/priests, re-take the RCIA class, etc).

I have been in respectful discussions with those same friends about each other’s faith. I wasn’t motivated enough to do my research, so I couldn’t answer some of the questions. Even so, “why don’t you convert?” and “your faith is not as good as ours” never came up, explicitly or implicitly. I just was not quite deeply rooted in Catholicism at the time, but enough to say I would not convert to another easily. Now, I can definitely say Catholicism is my home. Again, your mileage may vary.

It’s hard for me to fault a devout Muslim for befriending people hoping maybe they will convert. A lot of Catholics do the same thing.

However, I also think a lot of people in USA befriend people because they work together, they are friends. Maybe there is a mutual interest in each other’s cultures and religions. I just got done sitting through over an hour of diversity training (with more to come) on how appreciating each other’s cultural similarities and differences is important for making our workplace more productive and inclusive and making sure everyone works together well and contributes their best ideas.

If someone gets heavy-handed about conversion, it’s easy enough to just tell them they are not respecting your own religion and walk away from the friendship. Nobody goes to a celebration party to “argue” with people anyway. I do not “argue” my religion with others, I’m not that way. I just tell them whatever argument they want to have, have it with themself and I am out of there. If they want to respectfully discuss, then I am happy to talk with them. And I’m not concerned at this point in my life that I will change my religion from listening to someone else’s “argument”. Not gonna happen. I’m not some easily influenced 12-year-old.

I see no point in being hysterical about people of other religions reaching out and acting like they are all some kind of brainwashing cult.

I didn’t realize I was being “hysterical.” I would say “concerned.”

In any case, I’ll add two more things and then leave everyone alone to do some serious internet reading.

First, the tactics–I’m afraid it’s not like Christianity at all.

Hadith from Sahih Bukhari, vol. 2, book 24, #573:

Narrated Abu Mu’adh (the slave of Ibn Abbas): Allah’s Apostle said to Mu’adh when he sent him to Yemen, “You will go to the people of the Scripture. So, when you reach there, invite them to testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Apostle. And if they obey you in that, tell them that Allah has enjoined on them five prayers in each day and night. And if they obey you in that, tell them that Allah has made it obligatory on them to pay the Zakat, which will be taken from the rich among them and given to the poor among the. If they obey you in that, then avoid taking the best of their possessions, and be afraid of the curse of an oppressed person because there is no screen between his invocation and Allah.”

In other words, tell the truth, but not the whole truth. Reveal Islam bit by bit. And even after people convert then you add more and more. This model from the early 7th c. is still the model used today. Go to any number of ex-Muslim web sites and read what they have to say. This is exactly what they complain about–that they were misled because they never got the whole story. It was bit by bit. And in fact there are imams who advocate actual lying to achieve conversion. See this video of an Egyptian imam on TV in 2009: youtube.com/watch?v=8-N5onnfEnQ

Second, earlier this year I attended a talk on Islam by a prominent imam (I won’t name him here, but he is nationally known). He was invited to give a talk on Islam to a Catholic parish in the name of ecumenicism, etc. etc. There were approximately 150 people (all potential converts to Islam…) in the audience. I took detailed notes throughout the hour and a half presentation. He brought up exactly 19 topics; some were fairly simple statements (a Muslim invented the concept of zero) and some were much more complex issues (Islam honors and respects women). Not once (!) did he make a statement that coincided with the truth. Whether he was simply ignorant of the truth or was deliberately lying I cannot say. Only he knows. However, the important thing is that his misstatements all made Islam look attractive and admirable. How could he expect to get away with that? Because the general public is ignorant about Islam. Why bother? Because he had 150 potential converts to convince. He did an excellent job.

I understand your concerns. I think the basic strategy is pretty much the same, whether it is to garner followers to Islam, Christianity, or even to cults. Whether my muslim friends used our friendship to achieve that kind of goal deep down in their hearts, I have no way of knowing. It is not my place to judge. I put my trust in Christ to protect me, a sheep among many.

Using fear to prevent these potential converts from actually converting may have the opposite effect and pick their interests in learning more of the other side and not their own faith (which, as per your concerns, may lead them to learn only the “sugary” parts of the other side if not research properly). So, rather than fear, I think it is better to re-educate these potential converts with the Good News that is Christ, in order to deepen their Christian faith.

Please let me share another piece of my life. My eight-year old likes to help around the kitchen with cutting vegetables since she was five. If I keep saying “Don’t play with knives! You could hurt someone or get hurt yourself!”, chances are she’d like to try to find out what happens if she plays with knives. I know I would. Rather, I’d say “Please be careful when using knives. These are not like your other toys. These cut for real. It would hurt if we get cut.” I hope to instill the same knowledge and a sense of responsibility. Both have positive intention behind them and both come out of my concerns for her well being, just different in delivery of the message.

I apologize for my rambling. This is my opinion and I hope you’d understand. Ultimately, it is my daughter’s decision to play with knives or use them responsibly. All I can do is prepare her and pray that Christ will give her wisdom to be responsible. By the same token, it is also these potential converts’ decision. All we can do is prepare them and pray that they find God’s truth. So I pray for us Christians to be strong in our faith in our Good Shepherd, that we feel secure in Him and not easily swayed towards the neighbors’ field and can find our way home when invited to the neighbors’. And I pray for us, from all walks of faith, to be able to open our eyes and ears, hearts and minds to Christ so that He dwells in us.

God bless.

I agree. Conversions to Islam took off like a rocket after 9/11. The same happens after every major terrorist attack. It’s not that these people support the terrorists, but they see the news and they investigate. My attempts here are much like you telling your daughter “the knife is sharp.”

And yes, the best way to defend against this is explaining our own faith, particularly the two areas that are always attacked: the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus. Sadly, I bet less than 1% of young (15-24, the target age) Catholics have a clue how to explain or defend these doctrines. I can’t tell you how many videos by converts I’ve watched where they say “I asked the priest, but he just told me not to worry about it” or “My teacher couldn’t explain why we believe in the Trinity.”

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