A former Muslim describes his encounter with the beauty and truth of the Holy Scriptures
Ramadan Mubarek. This month of fasting is an especially good time to think about the reasons for true and genuine faith. True faith is not something you're just born into. It's something you have to choose. That’s my belief and my own story.
In the mid 1990's Iraq was not the happiest or the healthiest place for a boy in his mid-teenage years. At that time Iraq was not heard about much in world news and one could still manage to live "normal" life by some standards. We did not have car bombs or militias. We did not have assassination groups and death squads. No IED's were set off in children’s schools or crowded bazaars.
But actually these things were happening just under the surface.
It’s true that terrorism was not visible then. Blood did not stain the streets of Baghdad. Death did not yield its horrible smell—and yet this was all being preached in mosques every Friday. It was being taught in the schools, spoken of on TV, and written about in the government newspapers and the nationalist and Islamic books.
I did not want to be part of that, to hate in the name of manhood, patriotism and religious zeal. I did not care if Islam was true or not, but I couldn't accept a faith that could not obtain peace anywhere where it rules. Yes, the Qur’an talks about peace but it has been abrogated by violence. It also teaches self-discipline through continuous prayer and fasting, especially during Ramadan. But that self-discipline is empty in my view. The Muslim world is one of the least self-disciplined among all other nations. Islam gives you a law but not a heart.
When I was in high school I yearned for beauty. Back then I read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies, searching for anything that can have the genuine beauty that I craved but which my religious community has never known. Eventually I got a Bible and read it, and in its pages I found true beauty. I also learned that much of the good literature I had been reading was influenced by the Bible. I realized that this book was the source of all the beauty I had been longing for. This was the beauty of goodness, a goodness that includes many virtues such as self-discipline, self-sacrifice, peace, integrity and kindness.
The Bible is not only beautiful and good, it's actually true. True enough to bet everything on it!
Yes, the Bible is filled with truth. There is far too much factual information to make it a work of imagination. It talks about real places, real times, real events and real people in such a way that it challenges any unsuspecting reader to believe and trust it. (Being from Iraq made me familiar with the biblical world.)
Moreover, the Bible is supernatural. In it, holy men of God gave prophecies well in advance and performed miracles in public, with confident language that is too broad in scope, far-reaching, and personal for anyone not to feel directly addressed by its message of redemption through Christ crucified, risen, and glorified.
That is the Bible’s one message, that Jesus Christ is your only hope. Believe in His work, obey His gospel, and be eternally saved from sin and the wrath of God. That is the main purpose of the Bible’s message called the gospel—to lead the lost and blind to heaven with Christ.
Jesus commanded his people to love. Yet His followers have been hated, tortured and even murdered throughout the history of Christianity. Jesus came to give life, but he also prophesized that following Him will not be easy. My mom gave me her daily "Why are you doing this to me?" talk and I started to lose my friends. The religious authorities in my neighborhood started to threaten me and search my mail. At that time I wanted to be baptized to become a Christian, so I searched for a church to baptize me. But even the ones I visited did not receive me.
– For 12 long years.
Then I became discouraged. I began to think that maybe it was never a good idea to follow Jesus in the first place. Maybe even God was a work of fiction, I thought. I came to a point where I tried to reverse everything I started. I even renounced Jesus and gave away my Bible. But apparently the Holy Spirit would not give up on me.
During that period He persistently reminded me of the riches of the Bible. As hopeless as I felt, I could not stop thinking about what I had discovered in it—beauty, goodness and truth, and I especially saw them in Christ. My heart yearned for these things. In time the Spirit opened my eyes to see that only God could be the author of this book. So I became convinced that the God of the Bible is real, and He had another plan for me. Then I claimed God's promises in the Bible as my own, and now I would not exchange the hope that I gained with all the riches in the whole world.
Yes, the Bible is supremely beautiful, good, true, and supernatural. For all these reasons it's also reassuring. It reassures me of eternal life that’s promised to me by trusting Christ.
After all those years, and in His perfect timing, the Lord sent a man to baptize me in a bathtub. After that, against all odds, He arranged for me to travel to the U.S. where I went to college to study His word, the Bible. And now He honors me with the ministry of preaching His gospel, the good news— that even sinful people can be reconciled to a holy God through faith in Jesus.
I used to hide my faith to stay alive but now I share it openly. That's how real God is, how loving His Son Jesus, and how powerful His Spirit to bring a sinner like me to salvation.
That’s my story, and it can be your story too.
Visit this website: muslimsletstalk.com to find out how, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.