My heart goes out to Dr Muhammad Taufiq Al Sattar, whose wife and three teenage children were killed when their Leicester home was set alight two weeks ago. As a father myself, I can only begin to imagine the grief he must be experiencing at the moment.
I also admire Dr Taufiq’s attitude at this most difficult time. He has paid tribute to the Leicestershire Police, for their thorough investigation of the tragedy, anComplaining to d has expressed his ‘delight’ that community relations in Leicester have remained peaceful.
Though deeply distressed, Dr Taufiq says that his faith in Islam has given him ‘strength’, and that his hope is that other families will not have to suffer similar incidents.
On reading this dignified account, my first thought was Dr Taufiq had responded exactly as I would hope a Christian would under similar circumstances. When he says, “It was God’s plan to take the life”, it is not so very far from Job’s confession: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21).
But is there anything further that a Christian might say or do, beyond the somewhat fatalistic response of “It was God’s plan to take the life”? Well, it strikes me that Christian faith offers some possibilities that I don’t think are available to the devout Muslim. And one of these is the possibility of questioning God: “Why did you allow this to happen?” The Muslim God is righteous and merciful. But he is remote and unmoved, and cannot be reasoned with. As Christians, we can bring to God not only our faith, but our doubts. Not only our acceptance of his will, but our complaints against it. We can believe that he not only acts, but interacts.
Where do I get this from? Well, from the Habakkuk, to name but one. That prophet complained bitterly to God:-
How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralysed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. (Hab 1:2-4)
And so began a painful sequence that led from questioning to listening, to waiting, and to listening again, and finally to peace of mind:-
Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. (Hab 3:17f)