Friday, January 25, 2008

Muslim Became Christian (Farooq Ibrahim - Pakistan)

I was raised in a typical Muslim family, where we would go to the mosque on Fridays and on special occasions; fast for the month of Ramadan; and celebrate the typical festive holidays of Islam. When I was a teenager, I completed the recitation of the Quran; and that in essence was a confirmation of the duty of a Muslim youth. Later, in my teen years, I was not satisfied with just reciting the Quran in Arabic; a language I could only read, but not comprehend. So my father got me a Study Quran by Abdullah Yusuf Ali and also a copy of the Sahih Bukhari Hadith collection. I studied it for a short while during my late teen years.

After I finished my twelfth year of schooling, I started studying engineering at an Engineering College in Karachi, but desired to study in the United States. My desire was to go to one of the best engineering university in the US. I had aspirations to do wonderful things for my people and country. Unfortunately, I was not admitted to my first choice of engineering university. Then in August of 1973, I came to the US and started in a community college. I lived a typical life in the States; spending time in getting my education and holding onto part-time or full-time jobs so that I could afford to put myself through college. My parents who were still in Pakistan helped, but there was not enough money to support the family and my education here. After a short while, I got plugged back into the local Islamic community and was involved with other Muslims in the study of the Quran and Hadith and its applicability in the local culture. After getting my 2-year associates degree from a community college, God in his mercy and grace provided for me to get into my choice of engineering university as a transfer student with an academic scholarship. By the time I had completed my BS degree, I had veered away from the daily practice of my faith, and focused my life's interest in the academic and secular things in life. After working for a short while to gain experience and decide what I wanted to do for further studies; I chose to get my MS degree. Once in the work place, I started doing what most typical men do in the US culture - start planning and working my way to the top of the corporate and financial ladder. I married a woman who had grown up in the States, had children, and life was typical and stressful. My eyes were focused on making a name for myself and getting all I could out of life - my earlier aspirations to do wonderful things for my people and country disappeared.

Then in March of 1987, I was in a bad accident and was very badly burned, while some others were killed. I had to take time away from work to recover. During this time, I had to face my mortality and deal with my blind ambition. I started to consider what legacy I was going to leave behind, and where was I going to go when I die. I wondered if I was spared from death for a purpose? Being a Muslim I believed that I would end up in heaven; but because of my life being the way it was - not actively performing the duties of a Muslim, I feared that I may perhaps be penalized in hell for a while? I then started again looking into the Quran and Hadith and Islam to find answers. This times my zeal to know my faith was fueled with the knowledge that there had to be a purpose to life; I was spared and had been given a chance. I wanted to know this Quran - which I believed to be the revealed word of God for all eternity, and the Prophet of Islam - his life and teachings. By this time I was back on my feet, starting to go back to work, but now I decided to take a job in the company that required minimum travel, so I would be spending a lot more time closer to home and with my family. I adjusted my priorities, and side stepped onto the slower track, away from the fast lane of the corporate world. Later on during this time, I was challenged by my Christian friends that Jesus was the only way to Heaven and that the Bible was the revealed and uncorrupted word of God.

So this challenge ignited an even greater zeal to study the Quran, Hadith and the life of Mohammad to prove Islam to be the true way and Christianity to be a false hope and Jesus being merely a man and not God. My desire was also to teach my children about Islam and to raise them Muslim. I spent the next few months studying the Quran and comparing it to the Bible. I compared the lives of Jesus both in the Quran and the Bible. Also compared the life and teaching of Mohammad and that of Jesus. I checked into the early history of Islam and Christianity and the sad but unfortunate atrocities committed by both religions, and the reasons why. I also read articles by others who denied the existence of God.

I reached a point where I was not sure how to deal with some of the difficulties in the Bible that were very unclear such as:

  1. Why four books to present the "gospel" and not one, as Quran teaches of one gospel.
  2. The whole issue of Sin and the need for shedding of blood and a Savior.
  3. Jesus being God and Man and the whole concept of the Trinity.
  4. Did Jesus really die on the cross and was he resurrected or not?
  5. How could followers of Jesus commit the atrocities that are part of the church history such as the crusades?

But also in my quest to use the Quran as my standard, and the teaching and life of Mohammad as a model for life, I had some significant difficulties, for example:

  1. The whole concept of "abrogation". That God chose to reveal verses in the Quran that supercede earlier revelation in the same Quran. How an eternal revelation of God could have such time bound revelation seemed at odds with the nature of God.
  2. The inconsistency of the messages, for example facing Jerusalem and then Mecca; or fornication being a sin, but one can have sex with many slave women that have no legal marriage status; tolerance and peace message of earlier revelation, but the command to fight all unbelievers in later revelation.
  3. The need for revisions of the Quran to standardize it and ordering the burning of all the older copies. Why this need to leave no trace of what the edited version did not contain and why.
  4. The unequal status of woman compared to men in area of marriage, rule of law, social etiquette, modesty, etc.
  5. Treatment of non-Muslims in the community and the command to Jihad.

At this point, I reached a place in my study that I could no longer defend the faith of Islam as it was clearly at odds with issues of truth and character of God as depicted in both the Quran and the Bible. However, I just was not ready to walk away from Islam. Christianity had its own set of issues, most of which revolved around the person of Jesus. At this point, I recalled from my childhood knowing some of the tenets of the Indian religions such as Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism. In all of my study of life and the sciences, it had become clear to me that there was a great creator and designer who had formed the universe and us. So there was no point in venturing into the philosophy of the Indian religions. I found they provided no answers that were consistent internally within it own teaching and externally consistent with the world around us.

Even though I had issues with Islam, I believed that there was a Creator God that I could and should pray to for answers. For me this was the God of Abraham (Ibrahim). I felt "safe" to pray to the God of Abraham as Abraham is highly regarded as a patriarch of Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. So, I ventured, that just as God had revealed the truth to Abraham, I would pray to this God to understand what was true and direct me on the right path. As I continued to regularly pray and meditate, I studied the passages in the Quran and the Bible on Mohammad and Jesus and reviewed books and articles by Muslim and Christian apologists.

Some weeks went by, as I prayed and reflected on Mohammad and Jesus. Finally, the evening of Good Friday of 1989, I was jogging and reflecting on the importance of this evening for Christians. Did Jesus really get crucified as taught by the Bible and some secular historians or was it some big hoax as claimed by Islam? What was this Sin that required payment by blood? As I prayed I sensed a burden lifted of me. I looked up, as it felt like some heavy weight was gone. I then looked down, to see if I was still on the ground. There was no external evidence, but in my spirit there was a clear sense, and this particular phrase came to life "Jesus is Lord" and occupied all of my thoughts. I responded in my mind, but what about Sin and the Cross? Did Jesus die on the Cross? The response in my mind came back loud and clear - "Jesus is Lord". I asked again, but what about the Trinity and this concept of three persons and one God, and again, the response was "Jesus is Lord". At this point, all that I had read in the Gospel accounts of Jesus came together. It was as if a veil had been lifted. That is why the Jewish Council had condemned him to death, because he claimed to be God, - blasphemy; that is why this Jesus had authority to forgive sins; that is why he told the Pharisees, before Abraham was I am, etc. He truly is God. Now the same old words in the Gospel that seemed to be vague about his deity, were suddenly crystal clear. Jesus is God. His crucifixion and resurrection were the ultimate calling card of this God-Man. It all started making sense, and I was at total peace accepting Jesus as Lord. At this point, I also realized it did not matter that for so many years I had been a Muslim, that my brothers, sisters and some of my best friends were Muslim; I now believed - Jesus is Lord, and I would follow him. Soon thereafter I understood what had happened to me. Jesus talks about this topic as to his real identity and what people misbelieve about him in the Gospel of Matthew 16:13-17: ‘Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven."’

That has been the start of a journey, of getting to know my Lord Jesus better, accepting him as my Savior and his full payment for my sins. My desire has been to live my life worthy of my Lord as he empowers me.. My Muslim family did not accept me at first. They tried to convince me that I was wrong; while I tried to challenge them with the Truth of the Gospel message. When they realized I was convinced of my faith in Jesus being God, I was considered an outcast. Some time elapsed after which my mom's desire to bring the family together was resolved by them respecting my faith. Over the years, the mutual respect has resulted in a closer bond between us, and they have also been kind, generous and supportive as a family. During these years I also developed some very close friendships with Christians who challenged me as well as met some new ones once I got involved with a local church fellowship. I was welcomed as a brother. Also in the process, my character has changed over time. Some of the traits that he has exposed and dealt with me include pride, arrogance, anger, selfishness, and control among other sinful traits. He continues to change me from inside out to be more loving and kind to all.

Today, over 15 years later, having further studied the Bible, the Quran and various books and articles on Christian and Muslim Apologetics; and having discussed with many Muslims and Christians alike, I am sure of my faith in the Lord Jesus and continue to follow him, even more than at that day he chose to reveal himself to me and called me to him.

Please feel free to contact me with questions, comments or any thoughts you have at Farooq_Ibrahim@hotmail.com.

1 comment:

blakecock said...

god will bless you - inhopefully...