Grace and Truth
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03. BASIC DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY
2 - THE CALL FROM THE MINARET: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Servants of the Lord
In many areas of the world, including an increasing number of Western countries, mosques with minarets are being built at a breathtaking pace. What are the consequences of this building activity and what does the Muezzin call down to Muslims from the top of the Minaret when he calls five times a day to come to prayer?
2.01 -- THE CALL FROM THE MINARET: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Servants of the Lord
You will know the Truth,
When oil, under the effect of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, rose to four times its normal price and continued to become more and more expensive, the assertiveness of the Muslims increased. According to Islamic law (Shari’a), 20 per cent of the net income of the oil production must be invested in the support or the propagation of the Islamic religion (Sura al-An’am 8:41). Ever since then, Mosques have been springing up like mushrooms on all continents.
Every morning, at the break of dawn, as soon as “one can distinguish between a white and a black thread”, the muezzin calls from the minaret to worship Allah. In towns and villages, their loudspeakers sound loudly over the housetops: “Prayer is better than sleep!” Fife times a day the summons to prayer descend from the towers: at daybreak, at noon, at mid-afternoon, at sundown and at dusk (two hours later).
The word “minaret” is derived from the Arabic “manarat”, meaning “lighthouse”. Just as the beams of the navigational light should prevent the ships from running aground or driftage, so the minaret would lead all Muslims in the vicinity to the set way of Islam and summon all the straying non-Muslims to repent and choose “the straight path” to paradise. Islam considers itself to be “the religion of the call”, inviting all men (Din al-Da’wa), and has a convinced and forceful missionary ideology (Suras al-Baqara 2:193; al-An’am 8:31; al-Saff 61:9-11).
Since the calls which sound millions of times from the towers of the mosques must always be in Arabic, we will first translate the prayer which is spoken by the Muezzin:
Allah is greater! Allah is greater!
The introduction consists in the fourfold call: “Allah is greater!” The last line repeats this assertion twice. All other injunctions are repeated twice. In the following, these central tenets of the Islamic faith will be explained.
2.02 -- Allah is Greater!
This summary of the Islamic creed is repeated six times in the call of the muezzin and is proclaimed from the minarets thirty times a day. This affirmation is often mistranslated as “Allah is great!” or “Allah is the greatest!”. If Allah were only “great”, there might be some greater being (than he). On the other hand, if he were called “the greatest”, he would be in one category with his own creatures. No, Allah is great beyond comparison!
a) Allah is exalted above all his creation: The implications of the Islamic call of faith are as follows: Allah, the Almighty, is the creator of the universe (Sura al-Zumar 39:5; al Mulk 67:2-3; etc.)! His are wealth and riches. His possessions and authority are beyond limits (Suras Luqman 31:26; Muhammad 47:38). To him belong the power and the glory. Dominion and worship belong to him only (Sura al Rahman 55:27). He has more knowledge and wisdom than all philosophers (Suras al-Baqara 2:282; al-Tauba 9:60; etc.). He is more dreadful than all nuclear and hydrogen bombs (Suras al-Hadid 57:2; al-Taghabun 64:1; al-Mulk 67:1-2; etc.). He is fairer than the most beautiful vision. He is exalted above all suffering, injustice, and disasters. Allah is always greater!
b) Allah is greater than all the spirits in the supernatural world: Death is allegedly under his control. Nobody dies by chance. Allah kills whoever he wills (Suras al-Rum 30:40; al-Mu’min 40:68; etc.). Even Satan is his slave as all other creatures (Sura al-Furqan 25:2). Allah’s will is to fill Hell with human beings and spirits (Sura al-Sadjda 32:13)! All angels are under his command. The Koran speaks of the Holy Spirit as Allah’s slave too (Suras Bani Isra’il 17:85; al-Qadr 97:4). As “Djibril” (Gabriel) he is supposed to have delivered the revelations of his Lord to Zacharia, Mary, Christ and Muhammad. Koran-believing spirits are called Muslims. However, they have no access to heaven (Sura al-Djinn 72:8-14).
Muslims believe that when Neil Armstrong left his space shuttle and set foot on the moon, he heard the call: “Allah is greater”. When later questioned on the phone, Armstrong answered that he had heard neither a voice nor any sound at all. Nevertheless, Muslims are still convinced that the call “Allah is greater!” fills the whole universe!
c) Allah is greater than any understanding of him: All thinking, knowledge and writing about the creator, Lord and judge of the world seem inadequate in Islam. Every theological statement falls short of reality and is in the end false. Several of the 99 most beautiful names of Allah contradict each other, so that, according to al-Ghazali, Allah must be everything and nothing. He is incomprehensible. He remains totally different; the great, far-off, unreachable god, beyond human categories and emotions (Sura Muhammad 47:4-5).
He remains just, even though he leads astray whoever he wants. He guides in the right path whoever he wants (Suras Al ‘Imran 6:39; al-Ra’d 13:27; Ibrahim 14:4). He replaces his former revelations through better ones, which suit the prevailing situations. Over 240 verses in the Koran have been annulled by later revelations (Sura al-An’am 16:101-103). The Almighty is able to destroy his servants, his messengers and the agents of his revelations when he sees fit to do so. According to the Koran, Jesus also belongs to the category of persons, whom Allah could exterminate at any time, should he so wish (Sura al-Ma’ida 5:17). Allah is beyond human ideas of justice. He is the most crafty one of all (Suras Al ‘Imran 3:54; al-Anfal 8:30)! He is accountable to no one.
d) Allah is even greater than the Christian faith: In Islam the son of Mary is not called Jesus, but ‘Isa. With this change of name he was robbed of his deity, his eternal existence and his saving power (Suras al-Nisa’ 4:171; al-Ma’ida 5:72; al-Tauba 9:30). The Koran presents ’Isa as a created spirit of Allah, which was breathed into Mary (Sura Al ‘Imran 3:47,59). All his miracles are supposed to have occurred by the permission of the Almighty and with his spirit’s assistance (Sura al-Ma’ida 5:110). According to Islamic theology, ’Isa was not crucified, but gently fell asleep and was born up to his Lord alive (Suras al ‘Imran 3:55; al-Nisa’ 4:157-158). According to tradition, he will return at the end of time to kill the antichrist and to convert godless humanity to Islam. Allah is incommensurably greater than ‘Isa, who remains eternally his servant.
In Islam, the Holy Spirit is not holy in himself, but is only called “a spirit of the Holy One” (Suras al-Baquara 2:87.253; al-Ma’ida 5:110; al-Nahl 16:102). As Djibril (Gabriel) he is under the authority of the Sublime and on Judgment Day he will have to stand in a long line together with all the angels, silently awaiting his sentence (Sura al-Naba’ 78:38).
Allah in Islam is not God the Father. He neither begets nor is begotten. He has no equal (Sura al-Ikhlas 112,3-4). He is not a God of love, wanting to establish a personal relationship with the Muslims, in order to make a covenant with them. He shows compassion to whoever he chooses, but always remains at a distance to his creatures. Allah is not present in Paradise or in the heaven of the Muslims. He soars high above them and remains inaccessible throughout eternity.
Any thoughtful reader who compares this brief outline with the Koranic references will come to the conclusion that Allah in Islam is not the God of the Bible.
2.03 -- There is no God but Allah
After the fourfold “magnification of Allah” (takbir), the muezzins confess with loud voice their Islamic faith. In so doing, they are not initiating a theological discussion, but instead, representatively for all Muslims, they are confessing the foundation of their religion and culture. Whoever hears this call, ought to repeat the Islamic declaration of faith with his lips or in his heart. Wherever this confession is called out, heard and accepted, Allah’s reign has begun, according to Islamic understanding.
Whoever consciously pronounces this witness twice before Muslims, has hereby become a Muslim! The repetition of this article of faith not only constitutes the first part of the Islamic Creed, but it also has a far-reaching, legally binding character.
The Muslim bears witness that there is no God but Allah (Sura al-Haschr 59:23). In so doing, he enters the same conflict as Moses and the Old Testament prophets. Muhammad wanted to abolish polytheism in the Ka’aba in Mecca and establish modern religion consisting of a syncretism of Judaism, Christianity and other religious communities. He believed in the one and only god, as the Jews confessed him and strictly denied the possibility of three in one (Sura al-Nisa’ 4:171; al-Ma’ida 5:73,116). Muhammad condemned the faith in the Holy Trinity as an unforgivable blasphemy. The mystery of the love of God which became incarnated in his son Jesus, so that all who believe in him, should receive his Holy Spirit, did not fit in with the concept of the Arabic prophet (Sura al-Tauba 9:29).
The call from the minaret implies therefore a flagrant rejection of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit! The witness of the muezzins contains an antichristian and an antispiritual message, which tears all the humanistic dreams of the Enlightenment to pieces. Allah in Islam is never ever the father of Jesus Christ! The call from the minaret is a thousand-fold repeated attack on the belief of every Christian! Unfortunately, there are only few who understand this.
2.04 -- Muhammad is His Messenger
The muezzins not only profess their faith in Allah, but also their faith in Muhammad, who, according to the Islamic confession, is not only a prophet, but the messenger of Allah. Initially, Muhammad understood himself as a watchman warning people of the coming Judgment (Suras al-Ra’d 13:7; Sad 38;4,65; Qaf 50:2; etc.). He testified to the Islamic law (Shari’a) as the only possibility for his disciples of being saved from condemnation by the eternal Judge. Muhammad never called himself a savior, a redeemer or a mediator, instead saw himself as Allah’s messenger and representative, trying to drive all Muslims into Paradise with the scourge of his law (Suras al-Fatiha 1:6; al-Ma’ida 5:48; al-Djathiya 45:18).
Muhammad not only required from his followers trust and faith in himself, but also unconditional obedience and submission to his authority (Suras al-Nisa’ 4:59,150-152; al-A’raf 7:158; Muhammad 47:33; al-Hudjurat 49:14; al-Hadid 57:28). Many idealists believe that Islam teaches only faith in Allah. This is a mistake. The Koran also demands a complete obedience of faith towards Muhammad. Every Muslim should live as his prophet lived. He should, so to speak, “put on” Muhammad! His way of life (Sunna) constitutes the second source of the Shari’a. Muhammad thus becomes the standard and the aim of his religion.
Islam is not a religion in the sense of the Enlightenment, but an ideology in which religion and politics, worship and Holy War, faith and legislation should constitute a unity. The aim of Islam remains the religious state (Suras al-Baqara 2:193; al-Anfal 8:39; al-Hudjurat 49:14). The law requires an executive authority, as well as the Islamic state needs a law too.) For this reason, religion and politics should be a unity. Muhammad understood himself both as a prophet and a statesman. Moses was one of his most important role models.
Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt, taught that a believer who prays, fasts and pays his religious tax still falls short of being a good Muslim. Only when the Shari’a is enforced in the state in which he lives, has his faith reached perfection. All other religious practices are only preliminary stages of the real Islam. For this reason, the faith in Muhammad always aims at a religious state.
2.05 -- Come to Prayer!
Ten times a day, the Muslims hear this call by their muezzins. This does not mean that they are called to quiet personal prayer, but to five worship services in the mosque. Whoever is unable to go to the mosque, can perform the compulsory ritual prayer at home, in the airplane or in public places. The prayer ritual should be spoken in Arabic if possible. It is the duty of all Muslims to pray, since the worship of Allah is prescribed by law!
Each prayer time is preceded by an ablution according to the prescribed ritual (Sura al-Ma’ida 5:6). Muhammad Hamidulla describes this ritual in his book “Introduction to Islam” as follows: “The first step is to formulate the intention of purification, say “bismillaah” (with the name of God), wash the hands up to the wrists, rinse the mouth with water, clean the nostrils with water, wash the face from the forehead to chin and from ear to ear, wash the right arm and then the left one up to the elbows (inclusive), pass the wet fingers on the head and in the ear holes (and according to some schools also the neck), then wash first the right foot and then the left one up to the ankle – doing each act thrice (unless water is lacking, in which case even once is sufficient)”. In case the order of succession of the ablution is not correct, the prayer of the individual becomes invalid. If water is completely lacking, one may wipe his face and hands with sand or stones (tayammum) as declaration of intent and replacement for the ritual self-purification. After the ablution until the end of the ritual prayer, except for his breath and words, nothing ought to come out of the body of a Muslim, otherwise his worship becomes invalid!
A Muslim knows that he cannot come before Allah just as he is. He must purify himself from head to foot. The renewal of the mind and the purification of the heart are unknown in Islam. Therefore, the daily purification for prayer remains external and “superficial” and does not produce a deep repentance or a change of character, or a sanctification of the will.
The five official prayer times of the Muslims involve practically no personal communication with God. They consist of prescribed liturgies, whose aim is the glorification of Allah and the surrender of the individual to his lordship. A confession of sins or an intercession for those in distress are completely lacking in the ritual prayer.
Initially, the worshippers in the mosque line up in rows and concentrate on what they should say or do. Then, they confess at the beginning of the first prayer cycle that “Allah is greater!” After that, they silently recite for themselves the Fatiha, the main prayer of Islam (Sura al-Fatiha 1:1-6), or the Sura of faithfulness (Sura al-Ikhlas 112:1-4), both containing a direct denial of the Trinity.
The worshipers summarize their silent prayer with the call, “Allah is greater!”, bow their heads while they stand and speak silently: “Glory to my Lord the Great!”
Afterwards they stand back up again and say, „Allah listens to any who glorifies him!”; whereupon they repeat, “Allah is greater!”, kneel down and prostrate themselves, touching their forehead to the ground (Suras al-Isra’ 17:107; al-Hadjdj 22:77; al-Fath 48:29). Then each worshiper says thrice, “Glory to my Lord the Most high!”
Still kneeling, they raise the upper part of their bodies again and confess, “Allah is greater!”
Then, they bow down to the ground the second time repeating thrice the doxology of Islam, “Glory be to my Lord, the Most high!”
Having finished the first prayer cycle, the worshipers stand up again and start the next cycle with the call “Allah is greater!” repeating exactly the same words and gestures.
According to the order of the Malikites, which includes most of the African Muslims, this fixed liturgical prayer is repeated twice at the break of dawn, four times at high noon, four times in the afternoon, thrice at sundown and four times at night. Altogether, this same prayer liturgy is performed 17 times a day.
At the close of every prayer session the worshipers confess their Creed in an extended version, which confirms their rejection of the deity of Christ and the deity of the Holy Spirit. Finally, each worshiper wishes his neighbor to the right the peace of Allah.
In this way, in the course of one day, Muslims say up to 100 times, “Glory to my Lord, the Most High!”, 68 times they confess, “Allah is greater!”, 51 times they repeat, “Glory to my Lord, the Great!”, 17 times they affirm, “Allah listens to the one who praises him!”, 5 times they recite the Islamic Creed, and reiterate the greeting of peace, which is for Muslims only. Here, a principle of Islamic education becomes evident: Frequent repetition leads to consolidation and fills the subconscious mind! Rational thinking and individual prayer are rarely furthered; instead a simple liturgy is meant to help illiterates to glorify Allah and surrender themselves to him.
The worship of Allah culminates in the prostration of the Muslims, bowing with their foreheads to the ground. During the five prayer times they prostrate themselves before Allah up to 34 times daily. The aim of this practice is to lead their whole life towards the Creator, Lord and Judge. To him only they belong. A Muslim is no longer a free person. He has put himself into the hands of Allah. He is bound to him. He is his slave and his property. Islam means devotion, surrender, submission. In the daily times of prayer submission becomes a reality. Official prayer is the backbone of this religion.
Allah in Islam, however, is not the Father of Jesus Christ. He is another deity than the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This means that, when Muslims surrender to Allah, they are delivering themselves into the power of an antichristian spirit, who takes possession of them. This is the reason for the corporate bondage of most Muslims. Their daily prayer ritual confirms them in their slavery and drives them to blind obedience to the words of the Koran.
2.06 -- Rise to Success!
Nine times a day the Islamic hope is set forth in the call of the Muezzin, “Whoever prays, is successful.” This means primarily that the sphere of everyday life will be blessed: good health, examinations well-passed, effectiveness at work and prosperity in business, bountiful harvests, traveling mercies, good luck in love, the birth of many sons, successful planning in politics and economy and glorious victories in the so-called Holy War. The full scope of the Muslim’s earthly wishes is included in the call, “Rise to prayer – rise to success!”
Regarding the life beyond, this call to prayer seeks to achieve the forgiveness of sins through the regular worship of Allah. Another purpose of adoration is the visible success in the spread of Islam. Furthermore, the intention of such prayer is the manipulation of spirits (Djinn) for personal aims and the specific cursing of enemies (Sure Al ‘Imran 3:61). The worshipper hopes, through his devotions, to obtain a mild verdict on the Day of Judgment, to be delivered from the flames in Hell (Sura Maryam 19:72), to have access to the delights and pleasures of the garden of Paradise (Sura al-Tauba 9:111).
It becomes clearly evident, from what has just been said, that Islam is a form of justification by works. The salvation it offers is not based on grace, but rather on personal religious achievement. A Muslim hopes that his good deeds will outweigh his evil ones (Sura Hud 11:114). He believes that he will be justified by the adoration of Allah (Suras al-Ma’ida 5:12; Fatir 35:29-30; etc.). Keeping the fast during the month of Ramadan, paying the religious taxes as well as giving alms are the expression of a deliberate and calculating self-redemption. Prayer is a deal with Allah who, swifter than a computer, registers the number and intensity of the worshipper’s devotions and weighs them against his sins and omissions (Suras al-Nisa’ 4:6,86; al-An’am 6:62; al-Nur 24:39).
The five times of prayer are neither voluntary nor spirit-guided: they are a duty, an obligation and a law. The times are set and the liturgy is fixed. Every Muslim must submit to the requirements of the Shari’a. Their exact observance, it is said, can save one from Allah’s judgment. Islam is a religion under the law and is not founded on the grace of a Savior (Suras al-Ma’ida 5:9; al-Hadjdj 22:50; al-‘Ankabut 29:7; al-Ahzab 33:35; etc.).
Herein lies the great mistake of Islam. As the ritual ablutions before the times of prayer can only purify the skin and not the heart, so prayer in Islam does not produce a full salvation. The Muslim has not realized his own depravity because he does not know the holy God of love. He gropes in the mist because he does not walk in the light of the Bible. He imagines that he is good enough to save himself from Allah’s judgment. He does not know that he is born in corruption and that all that he does is tainted with sin (Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Psalm 51:5). He rejects his Savior Jesus Christ and refuses the salvation, built on the free grace of the Father, which has been prepared for him. The Muslim cannot understand the praise of the apostle Paul who wrote the following hymn:
Praise be to God,
Christians do not pray that they might be saved or be successful in time and eternity; instead they thank their Father in heaven because he has already saved them through his son Jesus Christ. After the atoning death of his Son on the cross, he opened wide the gates of heaven for his worshippers and his opponents (Acts 2:17-21). The purpose of our prayers is to express our thanks for complete salvation and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. We are not worshipping God so that he will have compassion on us, but rather we love and praise him because he has already justified us and revived us through his Spirit. We pray that our whole life may be to the praise of his glorious grace (Ephesians 1:13-14).
2.07 -- Allah is Greater!
At the end of their summon to prayer the muezzins call out twice again, “Allah is greater!” Altogether Allah is magnified 98 times a day from the minarets and the mosques.
This worship of Allah can occasionally lead to a split within a tribe if some of its members refuse to convert to Islam. The partisans of the Hezbollah are supposed to have received a special portion of Allah’s spirit, because they preferred the community of the Muslim to the ties with their unbelieving relatives. Should these relatives persist in their resistance to the Islamic faith, then the guerilla fighters are required to forsake or attack them (Sura al-Mudjadila 58:22).
a) Allah is said to be greater than a liberal Islamic state which refuses to apply the Shari’a in its integrity. The muezzin’s call incites the hearer to revolt, if a Muslim government denies the authority of the Shari’a. In a non-Islamic state, believers are supposed to consecrate the unbelieving society around them through Allah’s name in order to infiltrate it from the inside.
b) Allah is also supposed to be greater than the fear and the hesitation of most Muslims to challenge the enemies of Islam under overwhelming odds. They are promised the assistance of angels in case of battle. They are called to trust in the victory of the Islamic minority against every anti-Islamic majority. Not they will conquer the enemies of Islam, but Allah himself will fight against them and destroy them by their intervention (Sura al-Anfal 8:17). This verse opens wide the door to terrorism by defining every vicious and deliberate act of violence as service to Allah.
c) Allah is supposed to be greater than all idolaters, unbelievers, half-hearted believers, Jews and Christians. All are challenged by the muezzin to take part in the daily prayers. The prostration before Allah becomes the outward sign of their conversion. However the Koran declares a war without mercy on any who refuse to accept the faith (Suras al-Baqara 2:191-193; al-Anfal 8:60; al-Tauba 9:5,12-14,29). Jews and Christians, however, if they submit, have the privilege of being treated as second class citizens in an Islamic state.
d) Allah is supposed to be greater than all gods. His authority over the universe is unchallenged. The two missionary commands in the Koran require the Muslims to use armed violence until there is no more temptation to apostasy and the submission to Allah pervades the entire world (Suras al-Baqara 2:193; al-Anfal 8:39).
Painful and humiliating penalties in this world and in the next await those who try to check the Islamic advance (Suras al-Baqara 2:7; al-Tauba 9:101; al-Ahzab 33:57; al-Djathiya 45:9; al-Mudjadila 58:5.16; etc.). In Indonesia dozens of Muslims shouted „Allah is greater“ before they raped Christian Chinese girls as a legitimate punishment for their resistance to Islam. Saddam Hussein wore a bullet-proof vest while he prophesied Allah’s victory over the USA and England. On the wall behind him there was nothing but a flag with the slogan, “Allah is greater”. For him and Ben Laden, the use of ABC-weapons of mass destruction constituted a service to Allah.
e) Is Allah also greater than Islam? The abbreviated form of the Islamic faith contains some dangerous pitfalls. The Sufis (Islamic mystics) in their associations (turuq) try to experience a greater personal awareness in their worship beyond the rigid ordinances of the Shari’a and the monotonous liturgy in the mosque, as for them Allah greatly surpasses his own laws and religious decrees. Some of them even try, through the practice of meditation, to enter in contact with Allah himself, to penetrate him or to reach the sphere of the spirits “beyond” him. They consider the traditional understanding of Allah an external shell, which they wish to penetrate. They overlook the fact that many of them, in the process, become possessed (Suras Al ‘Imran 3:7,23; al-Ma’ida 5:59; al-Nur 24:35-36; etc.).
f) Is Allah greater than himself? Allah, in the Koran, calls himself the Proud or the Arrogant (Sura al-Haschr 59:23). The call of the muezzins and the prayer liturgy would suggest that Allah is not only great, but that his greatness is constantly expanding. Is this spirit of pride not the sin of Satan, which will finally lead to a great fall and carry away all his followers with him?!
Jesus is the very opposite. He emptied himself and became a baby in a manger (Luke 2:9-12). He took the form of a slave and made the following recommendation, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). He humbled himself to the point that he was utterly despised by all; he was spat on and tortured and finally died on the cross in our place (Isaiah 53:3-12; Matthew 26:66-67; Luke 22:63-65). Because he descended and abased himself, God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:6-11).
The meekness of Jesus frees his followers from the arrogance of Satan and teaches them, that the true God is not haughty but humble. The cross delivers us from a strenuous justification by works and opens the door to a life under grace. The gentleness of Jesus Christ shows us, that a fellowship in the Spirit of his love is stronger than a modern army full of treachery and violence (Matthew 5:44; 26:52). The crucified and risen Christ himself is the answer to the call from the minaret. He has changed our prayer from the anxious worship of a judgmental God to the praise and adoration of the Holy Trinity.
2.08 -- The call of the church bells
Long before the emergence of Islam, Christians had daily calls to prayer and reflection. Many steeples have two, three or more bells, the pealing of which conveys concrete messages.
The death knell rings at the departure of a deceased member of the church community and reminds us of the prayer of Moses, “Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom” (Psalm 90:12)! At the same time, its ringing is a call to repentance, a change of heart and a homecoming to God. Its message would penetrate both ears and hearts: Repent and return – while God still gives you time to change your lifestyle! (Matthew 4:17).
The crucifixion-bell rings in many places at 9 a.m., the time when Christ was nailed to the cross (Mark 15:25; John 19:14), at 11 a.m, the hour when darkness fell (Matthew 27:45) and at 3 p.m., the moment of Christ’s death (Mark 15:34), in order that we should understand that our sins nailed our Lord and Savior to the cross! At the same time, the crucifixion-bell announces the victory of Jesus Christ over God’s wrath, the accusation of Satan and the power of sin, so that we may gladly and gratefully accept this free grace as well as our completed justification (John 19:30; Hebrews 10:14).
The call of the prayer-bell sounds at daybreak, noon and evening in order to prompt us to thanksgiving, worship, petition and intercession, to confession and faith, so that we may consciously spend the whole day before the countenance of our God and Father. This same bell, when it chimes at 12 a.m., is also called the bell of resistance in some congregations because it challenges everyone to withstand the temptations of the antichrist by prayer, the word of God and peace within the fellowship of believers (1John 2:22-25; 4:1-5).
In addition to these, many churches have a baptismal bell, which loudly and joyfully peals when a child or an adult is baptized, because through faith and baptism, the eternal life of God’s Son comes to dwell in us (Matthew 16:16; 28:19; John 3:3,5,16).
Occasionally, large churches have a “Dominica”-bell, which rings before the services on Sunday, to remind the congregation of the resurrection of Christ and proclaim his triumph over death. At the same time, it testifies to the sure hope of eternal life for the followers of Jesus Christ (1Peter 1:3-7).
Some Domes and Cathedrals also possess a “Gloriosa”-bell. On special holidays, it carries the sound of the never-ending praise of the redeemed for their salvation by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit into all the houses in the cities and villages (Luke 2:14; Revelation 7:9-12).
Before the main service on Sunday, all bells (except the “Gloriosa”) chime together and call to repentance and grace, to prayer and worship, to trust in God’s faithfulness and to acceptance of his eternal peace.
Any attentive listener will recognize that the day is punctuated up to seven times by the ringing of the bells, summoning us to the presence of the Holy Trinity: the morning chimes at the break of dawn, the pealing of the bells at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 a.m., 3 p.m., vespers and evensong. This ordinance of the national church of Württemberg, dating from 1956, is not a fixed sequence, but rather a privilege and can be altered or reduced by the individual parishes.
One thing, however is sure: the bells do not call us to keep a law with the aim of obtaining self-righteousness through personal achievement. Nor do they rouse us for the Holy War in order to institute a theocracy. Instead, they contribute to the glory of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit within the Holy Trinity (Ephesians 2:4-10).
What comes to our mind when we hear the sound of the bells? Who understands their ringing as a warning and an encouragement to quiet prayer? And who intercedes for the many people in the neighborhood, who have forgotten how to pray? Who thinks of the foreign workers and the Muslims in our immediate vicinity? When the bells in our country no longer ring, as was the case in the USSR for many years, many will feel that, in the stress of our everyday life, something essential is missing.
2.09 -- Q U I Z
as an encouragement for his/her future services for Christ. It will be appreciated if you include the Qur'anic references in your answers.
Every participant in this quiz is allowed to use any book at his disposition and to ask any trustworthy person known to him when answering these questions. We wait for your written answers including your full address on the papers or in your e-mail. We pray for you to Jesus, the living Lord, that He will call, send, guide, strengthen, protect and be with you every day of your life!
Yours in His service,
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