A few nights ago on Omegle I ran into an Islamic Egyptian and we had quite a riveting conversation about faith and culture. I got to hear from a man following Islam in a war-torn country, and he got to peer into the twisted psyche of the comfortable Western world.
If you haven’t heard of Omegle then you’re probably not missing out on much. It’s just another online, anonymous chat service that allows you to talk to people matched with you either by random or based on an interest. I wouldn’t encourage readers to go there because most people are either what you call trolls or desperate men looking for nudes.
Therefore Omegle is not for the faint of heart and also not family friendly. However, I am desensitized and used to such internet shenanigans, so I brave the brutal lines of text and meaningless conversations to find the occasional chat partner who is interesting and worth learning from.
Here I will share a conversation with one of those conversational partners. Note that I cut out some confusing, unnecessary, and boring parts of the conversation as well as personal information. Obviously the “me” is me (in the chat it says “you” but I have edited it for reader convenience), and “stranger” is the random person I am talking to.
Also note that sometimes there is a delay in conversation and the answer to one question is answered several lines down. This is because in online chats it is common for both people to be typing at once and answering each other at the same time. I have made no attempt to re-order the conversation lines topically, what you see is how we naturally communicated.
You’re now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!
You both like bible, and christianity.
You (Me, Tennyson): Hi!
Stranger: Not Much.
Stranger: Are you Christian?
Stranger: I’m Muslim.
Stranger: I have read the bible.
Me: Ah, interesting. Where are you from?
Stranger: hbu? [how about you?]
Me: Ah, I mourn for the turmoil in your country. :/ Many of us Christians are praying for Egypt and countries near you.
Me: I am American.
Stranger: Thank you so much.
Stranger: have you read anything of the Quran?
Me: I must admit that I have not.
Stranger: We have many things in common.
Me: Isn’t it illegal for you to have Bibles and seek Christianity in Egypt?
Me: We do, I suppose, especially if we both share some of the same scriptures.
Stranger: Not at all, I have a copy of the Bible in my house and there are many book stores [that] sell the bible.
Me: Ah, I was just looking at a map I have from a persecution relief organization… It says Egypt is a restricted nation for Christianity. [The map is from Voice of the Martyrs, but here is more information about Egyptian religious law.]
Stranger: Well, in Islam we believe in Jesus Christ the Messiah, but we only worship the Father.
Me: There are many forms of Islam, I do not think they are all that way.
Stranger: Absolutely, yesterday I was at the barber. He is a christian and we chatted about Jesus and the Bible.
Me: My (admittedly very limited) understanding of Islam is that many Islamists believe in Jesus merely as a prophet, but not as God incarnate, the Messiah.
Stranger: The Christian population in Egypt is about 10 million.
Me: Very interesting… Is there not persecution of Christians going on right now in your country?
Stranger: Yes, we do not believe that Jesus Christ is God, part of God nor a biological son of God but we believe that He is the word of God, The messiah and also believe in His miraculous virgin birth.
Me: You are reminding me just how little I know of Islam.
Stranger: There is no persecution for Christians, but sometimes there are terrorist attacks on the churches.
[I assume he means there is not overt government persecution, but there are militant groups who persecute Christians]
Stranger: as same as the terrorist attacks on the mosques in the US.
Me: How can someone believe Jesus is the Word of God and the Messiah without believing He is God incarnate? To me, it does not make sense. Will you help me understand?
Stranger: Can I copy few verses from the Quran for your reference?
Me: Hmm.. I am wondering if my map is inaccurate. :/
Stranger: Hold on
Stranger: Quran 3-42 And [mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.
Stranger: 43 O Mary, be devoutly obedient to your Lord and prostrate and bow with those who bow [in prayer].”
Stranger: 44 That is from the news of the unseen which We reveal to you, [O Muhammad]. And you were not with them when they cast their pens as to which of them should be responsible for Mary. Nor were you with them when they disputed.
Stranger: 45 [And mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allah ].
Stranger: 46 He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous.”
Stranger: 47 She said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.
Stranger: 48 And He will teach him writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel
Stranger: 49 And [make him] a messenger to the Children of Israel, [who will say], ‘Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allah . And I cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead – by permission of Allah . And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.
Stranger: 50 And [I have come] confirming what was before me of the Torah and to make lawful for you some of what was forbidden to you. And I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear Allah and obey me.
Me: I do find it interesting and indeed it is very similar to my Bible. However, I must say that it does not answer my question.
Me: Do most Islamists believe that Jesus was sinless?
Stranger: We believe that all prophets are sinless, they make mistakes as humans but they never commit sins.
Me: Including Isaiah?
Stranger: we believe in all OT prophets, but they were clean and immaculate.
Me: I see…
Stranger: Also in Islam there is no original sin, there is original forgiveness.
Stranger: The story of Adam is quite simply outstanding in the Quran.
Me: Indeed, you have piqued my interest. I have long had an intention to study other faiths including your own but I am still studying my own Bible for now. 🙂
Stranger: 2-30 And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.” They said, “Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?” Allah said, “Indeed, I know that which you do not know.”
Me: May I ask, why do you have Christianity marked as an interest, and why do you read the Bible? For intellectual stimulation?
Stranger: I like to talk to different people..
Me: That is very wise of you.
Stranger: Just read the story of Adam and will talk about the bible if you want.
Stranger: 31 And He taught Adam the names – all of them. Then He showed them to the angels and said, “Inform Me of the names of these, if you are truthful.”
Stranger: 32 They said, “Exalted are You; we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed, it is You who is the Knowing, the Wise.
Stranger: 33 He said, “O Adam, inform them of their names.” And when he had informed them of their names, He said, “Did I not tell you that I know the unseen [aspects] of the heavens and the earth? And I know what you reveal and what you have concealed.”
Stranger: 34 And [mention] when We said to the angels, “Prostrate before Adam”; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers.
Stranger: 35 And We said, “O Adam, dwell, you and your wife, in Paradise and eat therefrom in [ease and] abundance from wherever you will. But do not approach this tree, lest you be among the wrongdoers.”
Stranger: 36 But Satan caused them to slip out of it and removed them from that [condition] in which they had been. And We said, “Go down, [all of you], as enemies to one another, and you will have upon the earth a place of settlement and provision for a time.”
Stranger: the original sin in Quran described as a slip.
Stranger: 37 Then Adam received from his Lord [some] words, and He accepted his repentance. Indeed, it is He who is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.
Stranger: 38 We said, “Go down from it, all of you. And when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows My guidance – there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve
Stranger: That’s all.
Me: It is eerie how similar the texts are.
Me: Islam believes that the Bible is a corrupt text, am I correct?
Stranger: Verse 38 is the crux of our worldly life in my opinion.
Stranger: The word Bible means a collection of books.
Me: Indeed. When I say Bible, I merely mean the Christian version of the Bible which comes from the Catholic church.
Me: Genesis thru Revelation.
Stranger: In Islam we believe that God revealed the Torah to Moses, Psalms to David and the GOSPEL TO JESUS.
Stranger: So to me the Bible contains the word of God, words of prophets and Historians.
Me: So I suppose the main difference between Islam and Christians is that Islam says the gospel was revealed to Jesus to prophesy it while Christians believe that Jesus himself is the Christ AND the gospel itself.
Stranger: I mean no disrespect when I use small letters with Bible and Jesus. My English isn’t very good, sorry.
Me: I take no offense.
Me: Semantics don’t concern me 🙂
Stranger: Thank you brother.
Stranger: The Gospel means the good news I think.
Stranger: If you take it that way no problem that’s agreeable.
Me: May I ask your opinion, and the opinion of most peaceful Islamists, on violent extremist Islamists who commit global atrocities? I know it is a sensitive subject but I am very curious to hear your answer. I know that Islamists who are terrorist do not represent the majority of Islam.
Stranger: I forgot to say that we believe that God saved Jesus from crucifixion and he was raised a life to heavens and he will come back again.
Me: Ah, yes, I think I remember hearing that somewhere.
Stranger: The overwhelming Majority of Muslims is against harming civilians, I think those groups are no different from the crusades.
Stranger: I would like also to highlight that the governments who claim to fight terrorist groups have killed civilians more than the terrorist groups.
Me: Yes, I am aware of that. [At the very least, I am aware of that argument. I am unsure as to whether or not that is indisputable.]
Stranger: Quran says there is no compulsion in religion.
Me: It is a nasty habit of Americans, particularly American Christians, to lump all Muslims together and not differentiate between the different forms of Islam. It’s quite regrettable.
Me: Especially since 9/11. 🙁
Me: In fact I would like to apologize on behalf of ignorant Americans… perhaps some whom you have met here.
Stranger: You don’t need to, we are all brothers in humanity.
Stranger: Quran 60- 8 Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.
Stranger: Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion – [forbids] that you make allies of them. And whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers.
Stranger: Do you know the purpose of humans creation?
Me: From my understanding it is because it is within God’s nature to create – He is a creator – and thus he crated. For His glory, and for His majesty.
Stranger: I agree, we are manifestations of God’s attributes, but God also created the angels who don’t disobey him before humans.
Stranger: So why humans who have the ability to disobey God?
Me: If we did not have the ability to choose whether or not we shall obey God, then we are not free willing creatures and merely mechanical beings.
Stranger: Yeah, that’s stated in the Quran.
Me: If God forces us to love Him… we do not truly love Him at all.
Stranger: And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed – all of them entirely. Then, [O Muhammad], would you compel the people in order that they become believers?
Stranger: the second reason is this
Stranger: 49-12. O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: And spy not on each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, ye would abhor it…But fear Allah. For Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.
Stranger: sorry, I quoted other verse [I think he intended to quote the below verse, and not the above verse]
Stranger: 13. O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).
Stranger: I talked too much, I would love to listen to your views.
Me: Oh, no, it’s okay. I am very curious to learn.
Me: Do you have any questions about Christianity, or America, or English? xD
Stranger: Why do many people convert to atheism these days in your opinion especially in US and Europe?
Me: In short I think it is because of traditionalism and dead religion. Many people in the US have families who have been Christian for generations, yet could not summarize for you the basic fundamentals of their own faith. We have people who attend church and follow rules, but do not pray nor read their Bibles nor strive to understand. It is quite a tragedy.
Me: There are other reasons, but that is largely what I see.
Me: Also our culture is very much about individualism. Much of the East and near-east, and even in parts of Africa, there is a big focus on collectivism and honoring your family etc. In the western hemisphere, we pursue what is best for the individual. I don’t think that is a direct cause, but I do think it is a relevant factor.
Stranger: I see.
Stranger: Do you listen to atheists like Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchen..?
Me: I am familiar with most of them, although I have not read any of their work.
Me: I am considerably more interested in classical atheism than modern, new-Atheism. Classical Atheists merely do not believe, and they argue based off of that. New Atheists have replaced one religion with a religious fervor for atheism. It is quite the oxymoron.
Stranger: I agree, what’s your best argument for providing evidence for Gods existence?
Me: I can’t say I have a singular “best” argument. There are many to me. Most are subjective. I would go about it differently depending on the person I am speaking with.
Stranger: Same here.
Stranger: For me, God is an axiom which is self-evident, we have an innate disposition to believe in God, God is instinctive, we are programmed to believe in God in the same way birds programmed to travel.
Stranger: The Islamic concept of God is unquestionable.
Stranger: God is the one and only the absolute, the eternal refuge, He neither begets nor is he born and there is none like unto Him.
Stranger: There are 99 attributes of God in Islam.
Me: Amen. 🙂 [other than the whole “nor is be born” thing, which I didn’t catch at the time.]
Me: Does Islam believe that the Allah and the God YHWH of the Jews are one and the same?
Stranger: Also many of then stated in the bible, here o Israel our lord is one God.
Stranger: Yes, Arab Christians and Jews call God Allah.
Stranger: So the 1st verse in the bible written as follows, in the beginning Allah created the heavens and the earth.
Stranger: Also in Aramaic, Jesus’ language, God is called Allaha.
Stranger: Did you know that?
Me: I thought that was true, but had not ever confirmed it.
Stranger: He is the same God, Yahweh, Jehovah, the father, Allah.
Me: So where we disagree is essentially about the personhood of Jesus and who he is.
Stranger: There is a chapter in Quran called Mary (Jesus’ mother) and Jesus was mentioned 25 times by name, Muhammad only mentioned 5 times, and his mother, daughter, wife, father nor anyone from his family mentioned in the Quran.
Stranger: brb [be right back, he did not respond for a brief period]
Me: I have greatly enjoyed our conversation but I must retire to bed. It’s is 3 in the morning here in Central US.
Stranger: Let’s talk about Jesus from the Gospels.
Stranger: Oh, ok.
Me: I would very much like to. :/
Me: But perhaps I will catch you on Omegle again!
Me: Or… Do you have a Facebook?
[we friended each other]
Me: Was very good to meet you!
Stranger: Same here, brother.
Stranger: Peace be with you.
You have disconnected.
I really wish I could have stayed around and discussed more about Jesus with him, but I really did need to sleep. Yes, I was really up that late. Chronic pain, what can you do? Maybe we will talk more on Facebook.
The internet is great about connection people from different cultures worldwide. When you can have an actual conversation instead of the kind of political debates we see on social media like Facebook and Twitter, people can learn so much about one another.
You can study up on Islam, or people from Egypt, or issues in the near-east. But it’s all so two-dimensional until you actually speak to someone in the midst of all that. It makes it easier to realize that we’re not so different after all.
Not to be all Kumbaya and whatever. Don’t me wrong; we certainly have our differences. But can you think of any misconceptions most Americans think about Muslims in which this conversation seems to debunk? I can.
Anway, that’s all for today. But I plan to make a series of posts with more conversations like this. What do you think? Comment below and let me now. Thanks for coming by the Bible Boothe. God bless <3