This is part six of the series “Know Thy Hui Neighbor” based on the Know Thy Hui Neighbor (KTHN) training. This course is to train local and overseas Christians to share Christ’s love with the Hui.
The Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr) comes near the end of Ramadan (expected to fall this year on April 27 or 28), when Muslims have been praying and fasting every day throughout the month. It commemorates the moment their prophet Mohammed is said to have received the first verse of the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, through an angelic revelation.
The Hui have many names for this night; 盖德尔夜 (gài dé’ěr yè ) simply transliterates the Arabic name. It is also called “noble night” (高贵之夜, gāoguì zhī yè), “night of great forgiveness” (大赦之夜, dàshè zhī yè), and “night of destiny” (or predestination, 前定之夜, qián dìngzhī yè). Hui Muslims believe that “on this night, God determines the fate of each believer for the coming year” and that “prayers and charitable giving performed on this night will have greater value than those done for a thousand months. There is also special forgiveness of sins.”1
Hui people have spiritual dreams all year round, not only in their month of fasting. But this is the time of year when Muslims are most in tune with spirituality and when Christians who love Muslims pray most fervently for God to reveal himself to them in the person of Jesus the Messiah.
Dreams are important to Muslims everywhere and in all schools of thought and practice. So are spirits called jinn (镇尼, zhèn’ní) who can bring both good and harm. But so-called “orthodox” Islam is not always the primary source of what real Muslims believe, seek, and fear. As we have seen, Islam in China, especially in the Old School to which most Hui belong, has incorporated local elements. Moreover, being Muslim is about everyday life—food, family, and getting along in society—not a separate spiritual part of life. So, when Muslims dream, religious themes are not separated from the hopes and fears of daily life.
Dreams have power to draw people closer to Jesus, but they also have the potential to push people away.
Sarah2 is a Hui believer in Jesus, but her road to faith was rocky. One near-fatal bump in the road came in the form of a dream. In her dream, Sarah was raped. The perpetrator, in her dream, was Sarah’s real-life pastor. Shaken and confused, she confided in a Han Chinese “uncle” who was a leader in a different church. He listened and graciously replied: “Satan will do anything to push you away from Jesus, even disguise himself as someone who loves you.”
This wise and godly elder in the faith resisted the temptation to denounce Sarah’s pastor, despite his history of strong disagreements with the man. He didn’t resort to platitudes or pep talks or cliché memory verses, or rational arguments. He didn’t brush off the young woman’s dream as merely psychological or from eating bad food. Neither did he rush to cast demons out of Sarah. In his first response, it didn’t matter where the dream came from. He engaged directly with the content. It didn’t matter how good or bad the other pastor was. A precious little sister was afraid and doubting God.
Sarah’s dream hit all her sensitive nerves and typifies spiritual warfare in Hui lives: fear, promiscuity, purity, power, trust, abuse, shame, singleness, and pressure to get married all weighed on her soul as she considered the earthly cost of following Jesus and the eternal cost of rejecting him.
Post-enlightenment Western Christian thought has often inherited Platonic dualist philosophies. Many assume a “Kantian divide”3 between the sacred and the secular. God, religion, and the supernatural are “up there” while we live day-to-day “down here” according to sight, science, and evidence—or at least we think we do. In between is a space that Paul Hiebert called “the excluded middle.”4 This is the realm where supernatural powers interact with natural ones, the realm of angels, demons, spirits, and for Muslims, jinn.
Evangelists and disciple-makers among the Hui must interact with this middle layer. Christ gives us both the power and the command to do so. This does not mean we all need to take a course in exorcism or deliverance ministry. It does not mean so-called “power encounters” are the best or only way.5 It does mean we need to read our Bibles believing that spiritual beings interact with human beings, then wisely engage with our friends when they testify to this fact in their lives. This is the path Sarah’s “uncle” took.
Dreams of Jesus
David,6 a Hui follower of Jesus, came to saving faith through a combination of dreams, friends, and Bible study. He says,
When I was young, I dreamed of a man in white but didn’t understand. Much later, the same man appeared in another dream. This time I asked him who he was. “I am Ersa, (尔撒, Ěrsā),” he said. More time passed, and I found myself going with a Christian friend to study the Bible. I learned that the man the Christians call Yēsū Jīdū (耶稣基督, Jesus Christ) is the same one we Hui people call, in our language, Ěrsā Màixīhā (尔撒麦西哈, Isa al-Masih). He was the man in my dream! I put my faith in him that very day. I have been his disciple ever since.
David’s dreams brought him closer to Jesus, but Sarah’s almost scared her away. In both cases, God used a Christian friend to help light their paths to Christ. As the Night of Power approaches, we pray for the Hui to have dreams and visions of Jesus the Messiah. We pray, also, for God to send Christians who can shine the light of his word for them. If you are a Christian with a friend who is Hui, be encouraged: we are praying for you, too.
- China Silk Road’s Ramadan 2022 Prayer Booklet, Day 27, p. 35. Download here.
- Not her real name.
- Chan, S. (2018) Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News about Jesus More Believable. Zondervan. Chapter 2. (S
- Hiebert, Paul (2009). “The Flaw of the Excluded Middle.” In R. Winter and S. Hawthorne (Eds.), Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. (4th ed., pp. 404–14) William Carey Library.
- Kraft, Charles (2009). “Three Encounters in Christian Witness.” In R. Winter & S. Hawthorne (Eds.), Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. (4th ed., pp. 445–50) William Carey Library.
- Not his real name.
Image credit: After prayer by Evgeni Zotov via Flickr.
Julie Ma (pseudonym) is a graduate of Sydney Missionary and Bible College (SMBC) and a member of the Angelina Noble Centre for women in cross-cultural missions research. She left her home in Australia over a decade ago to serve Hui Chinese Muslims alongside her Chinese husband. After all these years overseas, …View Full Bio
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