The following is a personal account of how Jesus saved someone from North Africa. Our hope is that, through this interview, you too will come to see the importance of having your sins forgiven through Jesus Christ. It is possible that some may think this has been invented, but the person’s story is true, and is reproduced in his own words.
Yes, very much so. My parents are practicing Muslims and I was brought up to know and follow the principles of Islam. I observed the five pillars, though I never had the opportunity to go on pilgrimage. I prayed five times a day and fasted during Ramadan every year. My father encouraged me to memorise many chapters (Surahs) of the Qur’an. I frequently led prayer times for my fellow students when I was at university.
How old were you when you started going to the Mosque?
I started going to the Mosque when I was very small. My dad was keen to take me with him, especially on Fridays. I also went to Islamic classes every day during the school holidays. I still remember the Fakih (Qur’anic teacher) tapping us on the head with his long stick! My mum often prepared breakfasts for us to take to share with the other children.
Tell us a bit about what your parents taught you.
Every Muslim hopes to go to paradise. That was my dream too. But how could I get there? My parents taught me that the way to paradise is to work hard and to live as a good Muslim.
Can you explain that in more detail?
As a Muslim I believed that there was an angel on each side of me. The angel on the right recorded all my good works. The one on the left recorded all my bad works. On the Day of Judgment, my works would be weighed in a balance. My hope was that my good works would outweigh my bad ones. For that to happen I had to pray a lot, fast, help the poor and so on.
Does that mean that an earnest Muslim can be sure of going to paradise?
No Muslim is sure of going to paradise.
They must do their best and wait for the Day of Judgment. Even if their good works outweigh their bad works, it will still be up to Allah to choose whether to let them into paradise.What is the Muslim view of paradise?
Paradise in Islam is a place where every man will have many beautiful women to serve him. Wine will no longer be forbidden. There will be a nice river…You can understand why I longed for paradise!
I thought wine is forbidden by Islam!
Yes, but it will not be forbidden in paradise.
How can Allah forbid things on earth but allow them in paradise?
It is a reward for Muslims who exercise self-control in their life!
Now you are a Christian, how do you think of paradise?
Paradise is so amazing that no one can fully imagine it. One thing I know is this: In paradise I will see God face to face and have a perfect relationship with Him. I will live eternally there in His presence. There will be no sin there. I will love and worship God with all my heart, soul and strength. That’s why I look forward to it.
Let’s go back to your life before you became a Christian. Did you fear that you would not go to paradise?
Oh yes. Though I tried hard to be a good Muslim, I never had peace of mind. In fact, I was always afraid of death. To be honest, I had no idea where I would end up.
Did you ever doubt Islam?
I remember one incident that occurred when I was 15. I was in an Islamic lesson at the college where my dad worked. That day we were studying a passage from the Qur’an which speaks of the Day of Judgement. It says that Allah will choose certain Muslims to go to paradise, but reject other Muslims. I remember feeling that if that was the case, I could have no certainty of going to paradise. I protested, ‘But it’s not fair! If I’m doing my best to please Allah, why won’t he promise me paradise?’ The teacher was very angry. He told my dad what had happened!
What happened afterwards?
I had to do more prayers and fast for a few days so that Allah would forgive me for doubting
What did you know about Christianity at that time?
Nothing. All I knew was what I had seen in films. I thought that every European is a Christian by birth.
Do you still think that?
When I understood what it really means to be a Christian, I was shocked to realise that, in fact, only a small percentage of the European population are genuine Christians.
What do you mean by ‘genuine Christians’?
No one is born a Christian. People become Christians. A Christian is someone who believes that Jesus died for his or her sins. He believes that he can be saved through what Jesus did on the cross. A Christian trusts Jesus and receives Him as Saviour and Lord. So not every European is a Christian. In fact, sadly, most people in Europe live as if God doesn’t exist. That’s why there is so much immorality in Western society.
What was your view of God when you were Muslim?
I had always believed that the universe has a divine Creator. Allah was that Creator. I believed that Allah was all-powerful, all-knowing and present everywhere. But I also believed that he was unapproachable, incomprehensible, and that we should not even attempt to describe Allah with human language. I believed that Allah revealed himself in the pages of the Qur’an, and to a certain extent through creation. But Allah was hidden, inaccessible. He could never be known in a personal way
What about Jesus and the Bible…?
Jesus is respected by Islam as a great prophet, but only a great prophet. He is called the Messiah. I believed in His virgin birth and in His miracles, but to say that He died on the cross was a blasphemous idea. I believed that someone else took Jesus’ place on the cross, while He was taken up to heaven. I also believed that the Torah, the Psalms and the Gospels, as well as the Qur’an, are revelations from God. However, Christians and Jews are accused of distorting and falsifying their Scriptures. Consequently, I did not believe that the Bible as it is today is a true revelation from God.
Were you looking for God, or was that not something that concerned you?
I had always believed in a divine Creator. What I was really looking for was peace with God and the assurance of a place in paradise. I tried hard to please Allah by my own works – to be a good Muslim. But I felt that I could never succeed. The heart of the problem was the problem of my heart! I was often afraid of death, knowing that I had nothing good to bring before God
Tell us how you heard about Christ.
My brother was the first person to tell me about Jesus. He moved to Europe and gave his life to Christ eight years before me. Like most North African immigrants, he returned to North Africa for the summer holidays. One year he spoke to me about Jesus. Since I reacted angrily, the only thing he could do was leave me an Arabic New Testament (Injil) before he went back to Europe. I remember that day well! At first I didn’t realise that the book he had given me was a Bible. He phoned me later to tell me what it was.
How did you react?
I was very afraid at first! I ran and hid it from my parents. But although I kept the book, I didn’t read it. A year later, I went to Europe to continue my post-graduate studies. There I started studying the Arabic Bible. I also met other Christians who helped me to understand the Word of God. Seven months later God opened my eyes and I trusted in Jesus Christ for myself.
You rejected the Bible at first. What made you want to read it later?
Before I went to Europe, I had trouble getting a Visa to travel there. My brother often emailed to encourage me. He also said that his Christian friends were praying for me. I was amazed that people who had never met me were concerned enough to pray! Where did they get that love for others? Surely there must be something good in their Injil. I wanted to find out what their book said. But that wasn’t my only motive in reading it. I also hoped to find faults in the Injil so that I could argue with my brother!
What did you discover in the Bible?
I knew I could never be good enough to merit paradise. When I started reading the Bible I found that it told me exactly that! I read verses like “there is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). It told me that I could never be good enough to go to heaven. Left to myself, I am without hope, because I am a sinner. But it also told me that there was someone who was sinless. He never did anything wrong at all. He alone was pleasing to God in every way.
Who was that Person?
Jesus Christ. As a perfect man He lived the life that I should have lived. He died the death which I deserve. He died in my place because that was the only way for me to escape God’s anger and judgment. He bore the wrath of God so that I won’t have to. For the first time, I could see the sure way to heaven.
Was there anything else about the Bible that struck you?
I was very surprised to discover that the Bible includes the Tawrat, Zabur, the writings of the prophets, and the Injil! I thought that Christians only have the Injil (the New Testament). There was something else that amazed me: The Bible says that we can know God personally through Jesus Christ. That was a completely new thought to me. I could have a personal relationship with God! Me, a poor sinner!
What is your view of God now?
The God of the Bible, in whom I now place all my confidence, is a God who is holy, just, trustworthy, faithful, honest and gracious. I believe in a God who is love; an approachable God who can be known personally. He has revealed Himself in the Bible and in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
How would you describe your first experiences of the Christian life?
There is no moment more joyful than when you first know that you have been saved. I remember how I was beforehand, and I know how I am now, and I see that I am a different person. I have peace deep in my soul now. It’s wonderful to know that all my sins – past, present and future – have been forgiven through Christ’s death on the cross.
Can you share a moment of great joy that you have spent with Jesus?
I had been hearing the Gospel and studying the Bible for seven months before I gave my life to Jesus Christ. Although I was convinced that the message was true, I was afraid to submit to it. People said that I should pray. But I didn’t really know who I should pray to! Was it possible for me to pray to any God other than Allah?! One night I prayed a little prayer, saying, ‘Jesus, if you are the true God, help me to give my life to you. Take away the obstacles in my heart. Allah, if you are the true God, please forgive me for my doubts. If you are the true God, I will serve you with more zeal than ever before.’ The next day I woke up with the assurance that Jesus had heard my prayer.
Did everything go well afterwards?
Unfortunately, no! What would my family and friends say? Of course, the devil often tried to attack me with doubts about what I had done in giving my life to Christ. ‘Can’t you see the danger of what you are doing? Don’t you understand the consequences of your decision? Is this really the way to reward your parents for all the support they’ve given you over the years?’ These questions and many others came into my head time after time.
How did your family react when they heard that you had become a Christian?
A year after my conversion, I went back to North Africa to see them and tell them about my conversion. First, I tried to speak to my mother and my two sisters. Once they realised what I was saying, my oldest sister stood up angrily and called me a Jew. My mother started to cry. She asked me to go back to Europe straight away because she was afraid that my father might try to harm me physically if he heard the news. I went back to Europe without telling my father, but he found out later and cut off all contact with me. I continued to write to them once a month, but I never received a reply.
Why did they reject you?
A Muslim who becomes a Christian is viewed as an apostate, a traitor who deserves punishment. For a Muslim family, it’s a real shame when one family member becomes a Christian. They also thought that becoming a Christian would make me forget my parents, my family and my culture. They thought I would start getting drunk and live an immoral lifestyle.
Why did your family think that?
They did not know what the Bible teaches. They thought that every European is a Christian, so they also thought that the immorality in Western countries is caused by Christianity! There is widespread confusion about the West and Christianity. The Holy Bible is in reality against all forms of evil and impurity. Later, my parents were very surprised to see how seriously the Bible talks about moral issues.
What helped you to overcome these difficulties?
Prayer! One of my Christian friends prayed regularly with me, and God answered our prayers in wonderful ways. I began to have financial problems because I had depended on my parents’ support for the completion of my studies. So when I became a Christian my source of money was cut off. I really didn’t know what to do. But God kindly provided a way for me to support myself. A school asked me to give private tutoring to pupils on Saturdays. After two years, my parents did contact me again and I have had a good relationship with them.
A word of encouragement for those who are in the same situation?
Perhaps you are convinced that the message of the Bible is true, but you have not yet given your life to Christ. Maybe you fear the consequences that could follow your conversion. Perhaps you fear the reaction of your friends and family. Remember one serious thing: On the Day of Judgment, when Christ will be the Judge, you will face Him alone. Your family and friends will not be there. What will you say to Him? The Lord is knocking at the door of your heart now. Will you let Him in?
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