Doing Salah in the Bathroom

   It does not take a Muslim scholar to figure out that saying any of the daily prayers in a bathroom would be forbidden. When I mentioned the idea to my wife yesterday, she immediately said, “What? Surely that isn’t allowed!” Given that my wife has never studied Islam, I can only assume it is a given that Islam would not allow Salah to be offered in an unclean place such as a bathroom.
   It is not surprising then that it is fairly easy to establish that from written sources. The Hadith of Al-Tirmidhi, 242, reads: Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) prohibited the observance of prayers in seven places: on a dung hill, in a slaughterhouse, in a graveyard, in the middle of the road, in a bathroom, in the watering place where camels drink and sit, and upon the roof of the House of Allah. Likewise, we read in Fiqh-us-Sunnah 4.53a, “…they cite the Prophet’s hadith: “The entire earth is a mosque except for a graveyard and a bathroom.” Anyone even slightly familiar with the materials that make up the body of hadith literature knows that ritual purity, and especially issues in reference to urination and defecation, are prevalent in Muhammad’s speech and thought.
   Why discuss something like this? I mentioned briefly at the beginning of the Dividing Line today that I had been informed that a clip would soon be posted wherein Dr. Ergun Caner, President of Liberty Theological Seminary, speaks of his conversion. And in the midst of this presentation he actually says he said his prayers in a bathroom at high school. About twenty minutes into the DL the YouTube video containing this clip was posted, and I was able to listen to it after the program. Here it is:

   My observations.
   1) To me the important element of this is the claim by Dr. Caner that he would take his prayer rug “and roll it out in the high school bathrooms.” Why? You only roll out your prayer rug to…pray, of course. But, any Muslim knows you do not offer Salah in a bathroom! Was he hiding from the other kids? That makes no sense, because he claims to have worn the traditional garb, even saying in one of his testimonies that when the pastor opened his eyes while preaching he saw Ergun standing in front of him “wearing a dress” (i.e., Islamic garb). Who wears the Islamic dress to school and then hides in a bathroom to do the prayers, in direct contradiction to Islamic practice and law?
   Why is this important? Listen to the clip again. Hear the passion? The emotion? Hear the amens in the audience? He’s wound up. He’s on fire. Sweatin’ and spittin and preachin’ up a storm, he’s headed for the invitation, and it’s time to close the deal. This is when Caner gets in trouble. This is when he starts making things up on the fly. This is when it is dangerous to be a former anything. This is when Convert Exaggeration Syndrome strikes, and once it hits you, and you succumb to it, it gets easier and easier to just go with the flow. If you get away with it for years on end, your resistance to it disappears…until you are so caught up in a web of exaggerations you can’t escape. Caner is trying to make a point: be diligent in witness, don’t give up. Great point. He was making a point about the centrality of Christ’s death to redemption when he decided to string together some Arabic sounding names, like, Shabir Ally, Abdul Saleeb, and Nadir Ahmed. All for a good cause, right? But truth is never adorned by the clothing of falsehood.
   2) His comment about roller skating in sand is meant to continue the “I’m from Turkey, we have lots of sand” persona. I think, however, they do, in fact, have some sand in Sweden…which is where he was born. I imagine there are some roller skates there, too. Snow is more of an issue than sand.

   3) Theology matters. It matters in feeling you have to pump your story with falsehoods to get the needed emotional result (gotta get those folks to come down front!). It matters in how you take gratuitous and consistent swipes at those you oppose. I called for Ergun Caner to admit the fact that he uttered lies about me on a national radio broadcast in January of this year. He has ignored all of my contacts on that subject. Here he lies about Calvinists in general, saying we have only two questions. But, just as no one could figure out how he could stand on his hands on a stump (his infamous anti-Calvinism sermon at Thomas Road Baptist Church a few years ago), Ergun gets tongue-tied and only comes up with one question, “Are you elect?” As if Calvinists evangelize in this manner. It’s not even worth a chuckle, but given the frenzied state of his audience, it works just fine. That is why he gets away with this so often. He has a legion of abettors, folks who aid him in his exaggerations and falsehoods by simply refusing to exercise a modicum of discernment.
   So once again we have sound reason to question Ergun Caner’s story. I do not doubt that a young boy witnessed to him. I do not doubt that sometime he went forward in a service (though there is confusion as to when this happened, sometimes he claims he was converted November 4, 1982, sometimes that is the date given for his brother’s conversion, which was supposed to be a year later—his oral presentations and the published versions are often at odds with each other). But I do doubt his post-conversion representation of what he was like before. It seems he is doing what so many have done in the past to increase their “convert value.” I remember twenty years ago asking Gerry Matatics, who likewise has engaged in the Convert Exaggeration Syndrome, “Gerry, you say you were an anti-Catholic before you converted, that you took all these people out of the Roman Catholic Church. Tell me, where can I read the books you wrote then against Rome?”
“I didn’t write any books.”
“OK, how about the tracts that you wrote?”
“I didn’t write any tracts.”
“Debates, perhaps?”
“Didn’t do any debates.”
“So let me see if I understand you, Gerry. You were this great anti-Catholic, yet, you didn’t write on the subject, debate on the subject, anything at all. In other words, you were a regular…Protestant.”
   See, just being a regular Protestant isn’t going to put you in the “Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus” group, so, you puff your history, make it a bit more pious, a bit more exciting. And that is what Ergun Caner has been doing for years now. Except, it seems the wheels have fallen off of the wagon. Will he admit all his exaggerations and tell the truth? I sure hope so. It would be great for all involved. Or will he follow the route he has charted since last week, preferring to dismiss his exaggerations and falsehoods as mere “misstatements” that were unintentional, and then claim he is going to just keep on with his “work” and ignore all the questions he has so far refused to answer in a meaningful fashion? Let’s pray he does the right thing.