Last year author Tom Doyle and his wife JoAnn were guests on VOM's weekly radio program (You can listen to Tom's interviews here and here; listen to JoAnn here). One of the things both of them challenged listeners to do was to reach out to Muslims living right here in the United States by inviting them into our homes. Tom shared the joy of one Muslim family they'd invited over who said in seven years living in the U.S. it was the first time they'd ever been inside an American's home. But how do we make sure our hospitality is a blessing? What do we need to know to make our Muslim friends feel welcome and not trip over any cultural differences? Here's advice from "Anna," who lives and works among Muslims in the Middle East:
Did you know that the majority of Muslim international students living in the United States have never set foot inside a Christian home?
The home can be a place where hospitality is offered and deep values are communicated. When a meal is shared, it ups the stakes even more. For Easterners, to share a meal is to commit to one another in friendship. You can hear similar overtones in Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:20: “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends” (NLT, emphasis mine).
So what prevents us from sharing a meal as friends with Muslims? For me, it was the feeling that I wouldn’t “do it right.” My rented house was sparsely decorated and I didn’t know how to cook any Arabic dishes. And what about conversation – what would I talk about with students who were still learning English?
Your home will probably never be perfect for entertaining, and you’ll never say and do all the right things. But by learning some basics, you could drum up the confidence to invite a Muslim to your home.
Here are some basic guidelines when hosting Muslims:
On the table. Steer clear of pork products and all alcohol. Rice, curries, and roasted lamb or chicken will please almost any Muslim dinner guest. (Takeout from an ethnic restaurant is also a fabulous idea.) The larger the quantities of food you serve, the more honor you bestow on your guest!
What to wear. Modesty is important to all Muslims in differing degrees. Most will feel comfortable in your home if you dress modestly. For women, that could mean a long skirt or loose-fitting pants, and a high-necked shirt with sleeves. For men, long pants are more respectful than shorts.
In the doghouse. Dogs make some Muslims uncomfortable. If at all possible, keep your dog in another room while your guests are present.
Gender divide. Ask a Muslim couple if they prefer to segregate inside your home. If so, prepare a separate space for the women to sit - even an office or spare bedroom will do. (It should go without saying that single men and women should only invite Muslims of their same gender.)
I have found that Muslims almost always accept a meal invitation. Or you can begin gradually with tea or coffee together. They may bring a small hostess gift – chocolates or a trinket from their country – as a way of saying thank you. Don’t be surprised if they remove their shoes and take detailed notice of the room’s décor and pictures.
Perhaps the most important way you can prepare to host a Muslim is to bathe the visit in prayer. You could even place your hand on the chair your friend will sit in, praying for him or her to encounter Christ in a real way inside your home.
Don’t let fear or perfectionism hold you back. Can you think of a Muslim – a co-worker, an international student, or an employee at a store you frequent – that you might bless with the gift of hospitality? All you have to do is extend the invitation. In opening your home, you are sealing the bonds of friendship that can eventually point a Muslim to Christ.
Your Turn: Are there lessons you have learned hosting Muslims? What holds you back from welcoming Muslims into your home? Share in the comments to this post.
Read More: Both men and women can benefit greatly from the cultural insights shared in Joy Loewen’s book Woman to Woman: Sharing Jesus with a Muslim Friend. (Also available for Kindle.)
Anna loves Jesus and wants to see Him cherished by her neighbors and people everywhere. Anna is a pseudonym, and all names in her posts are changed for security reasons.
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