Children of Abraham
Late one very dark night, I stood with my friend, Ibitsam, under a streetlight in Chicago. She held before me a picture of her son, Mohammed, so I could see how he had looked a few short months before when he had still seemed healthy. She said he was no longer recognizable to anyone. We held each other and wept for her son, who died only a few hours later.
Ibitsam, she was well named, for her name means Smile in Arabic. I had seen her glorious smile when we first met and had seen how it transformed a rather plain face into a thing of great beauty. She was also intelligent and kind. Her husband, Abdul Aziz, came to get me the morning of Mohammed’s death and said he wanted me to come and “look” at his wife. I thought he meant for me to help her in some way, but he literally wanted me to “look” at her, to “see” her. In her exhaustion she lay across the bed, passed out like a small, broken bird. Abdul Aziz said a simple thing as he gazed lovingly at her, “Isn’t she beautiful?” Oh, yes. They flew home that afternoon so that was the last time I saw her.
Over many years I have met and grown to love other Arab women, and many of their husbands and children, including almost all of Ibitsam’s ten brothers and sisters. I also believe I was “adopted” as a member of an extended family when the highest ranking clan chief pulled me into his arms and kissed me on both cheeks in front of all the adult males and females in their group. I, who had been told never to touch or shake hands with an Arab male, was stunned and never figured out for certain what had happened. But thereafter the women accepted me as one of their own, insisted I share their food, and in all ways treated me as family. Some of them even removed their veils in the presence of my husband.
Now when I hear arguments raised for and against Islam and/or Arabs, I am torn. Because of the ones who are now my friends, I fear for them when their homes are wracked by war and I weep for their losses. But I also stand with the Jews, and Israel as a nation. I do think we will pay a high price, not just in the United States, but all around the world, for the impression that we have turned against Israel and accommodated Islamic militancy.
I have met Arabs who are evil in their disdain for us, the Great Satan, even while taking advantage of all that America has to offer. Do I think even those I call friends would hesitate to behead me and mine? I’m not sure, but I fear that some, if called upon to do so, would indeed go ahead and kill us all. There is always a small uneasiness that makes me question even those I think of as friends. I am very sorry for that.
Once for several days my daughter and I helped keep a death watch over the most beautiful and engaging child I have ever met, an almost four-year-old Arab boy named Haitham. His body was rejecting a lung and kidney transplant and his great will to live made for a long, grim struggle. His absolutely devoted father finally could not bear to see his pain and was physically unable to visit without totally breaking down. We periodically sat with Haitham’s mother until one day she also could no longer bear the pain. The task of watching this death was not for the faint hearted, yet it was also a precious and holy time.
Haitham’s death led me to ponder on him, and all Arabs, as children of Abraham. After his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac on the mount at Moriah The Lord God told His friend Abraham, “. . . in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is upon the sea shore. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” because thou hast obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:17-18).
Christian’s are taught that ” . . . if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29) In these days Christians and the children of Jacob, who became Israel, are still sundered from the children of Abraham’s son Ishmael, and Jacob’s twin, Esau, but as we accept Christ we are of Abraham’s seed. Perhaps these groups must reach a point where they all accept Christianity before they can become the blessings they were meant to be to “all the nations of the earth.” To many people these are obscure matters from an ancient history that doesn’t mean much to them, and the enmity between us seems insurmountable, yet God’s words are eternal.
Even in my uneasiness about these Arab people who are my friends and brethren, as a Christian I know that the Lord God’s promises to Abraham are true, and that each of us who are of Abraham’s seed will yet bless all the nations of the earth. How that will eventually come to be I cannot comprehend, but in the Lord’s own time it will surely happen.