I am the son of a well-known politician family in an Islamic State in Southeast Asia. Islam was omnipresent and played a central role in our lives. My father was the minister of sports and culture. His father was the political leader of the state, descendant of a great sultanate, founder of the state Governor and Prime Minister. He initiated the construction of the huge State mosque as a devout Muslim he Islamized the country and hindered the minority religions in the multicultural state. Christians were persecuted, missionaries were expelled from the country. As patriarch of the family, my grandfather gave me my name translated from Arabic “foundation of faith”. For me, a kind of prophetic reference. My upbringing followed the Muslim principles. I learned the Arabic language, the Quran, the purification rules to pray and to fast. As a model Muslim family, we had to exemplify Islam especially well and do extra good works. I was not allowed to play with real or stuffed dogs. Around my neck, I wore a necklace with religious scriptures. Visits to the toilet were accompanied by religious rituals such as reciting the Quran. When yawning, I recited a verse to deny entry to the jinns. When sneezing, another Arabic formula offered protection. Escaping intestinal gas during cleansing and prayer required their repetition of the ritual. During the fasting period of the month of Ramadan, I was not allowed to eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset, not even to swallow my spit. These are just a few of the hundreds of rules I had to follow. The fear of doing something wrong was constantly present.
As a young boy I often traveled, lived in different countries and learned about other cultures and religions. I remember one incident. I was six, my father traveled a lot because of his high position. Often I didn’t see him for months. Once I missed him so much that I wanted to ask Allah to bring him back to me. I knew Arabic prayers and the purification rituals but I had no idea how to bring a special request before Allah. Allah was very far away for me, only reachable by deep penetration into the Quran with all its commandments and purification rules and that in correct Arabic. Christianity was different. As a young boy, films with Christians content had impressed me. In “Quo Vadis”, Christians were tortured and thrown to hungry lions. Nevertheless, they could worship their God and forgive the Roman henchmen. They were weak, yet strong. They died but they had certainty of eternal life. They knew they were accepted and loved by God. Their guilt was forgiven. Just as Allah was far away, the Christian God was close to them. They even called him “Father”.
I was both impressed and confused. Finally I dared to pray neutrally. My tradition to Allah and by heart to the loving Christian God. I decorated my prayer mat with a Christian symbol and prayed for my father’s return. The next day, the following day, there was a knock at the door. My father stood in front of it laughing and shouting “Surprise! My son.” I was thrilled God really exists and he answered my prayer but which God? That’s what I wanted to find out.
When I was a teenager, one of my best friends became a Christian. This suddenly transformed him into a kind, loving person. I was amazed. He visited me often and explained the good news of Jesus, which is summarized in John 3:16. “For God so loved mankind that he gave his only son for them. Everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Then my friend gave me his Bible. I first read the gospels (the “injil”). I became enthralled and learned the following: Before God, we are all sinners. All our own efforts are useless because God is holy. A single sin is enough to miss heaven. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, trying to keep the commandments. It is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8-9) And then Jesus also said “If you hold fast to my words and do what I have said to you, then you are truly my disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
One day my father summoned me to his office. The whole family was there. He said, “I heard that you have a Bible. Is that true?” I replied “Yes, I received it from a good friend and I tried it and I read it because I’m searching for the truth. In the Bible, Jesus says ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me. (John 14:6)’” At this, my father sent the whole family out of his office and said “My son, it is good that you are searching for the truth because I want you to find a good life. I didn’t. We are rich and famous but that has not fulfilled me. Neither has our religion Islam. To be honest, I was only really fulfilled and happy for two or three seconds in my life.
After that, my father and I became terminally ill. The doctors could not make a diagnosis, medication did not help, I was losing weight and felt weaker day by day. I felt my life was coming to an end. Then I prayed to Jesus who died on the cross for my sins and was raised to the new life after three days. I said “Lord, forgive me my sins that I may not perish but have eternal life with you. It was my desire to go to heaven.” During four weeks, I vegetated. Then I was admitted to the hospital. My father was already in the Intensive Care Unit. After futile examinations, the doctors diagnosed me with typhoid fever although they did not actually know it. My father died officially of heart failure but actually the doctors were in the dark. Most likely we had been poisoned. Relatives and servants could make a rhyme out of corresponding events. In the kitchen, blackmagic also seemed to have been used. We found dried frogs sewn into our clothes. Miraculously I started to feel better. As soon as I could, I fled to a distant land to escape this deadly environment. There an examination showed that I never had typhoid fever. It remains a mystery to this day what my father and I had contracted. My future plans were shattered with the death of my beloved father. I was sad, tried to numb myself with drugs, became depressed and hopeless. My depression culminated in a nervous breakdown. After a year, psychologists were at a loss.
Then I remembered God as he is described in the Bible. He met us humans in Jesus Christ. He makes the offer to free us from hopeless situations. Whoever believes in him finds the strength to love and forgive even enemies. Death is no longer a threat because we have the certainty that God will take us to himself. He can also save us from the deadly effects of poison and surely he can also cure my depression. Jesus says “Come to me all you who labor and suffer under your burdens. I will give you rest. Entrust yourselves to my guidance and learn from me. I treat you gently and look down on no one. If you do this, you will find rest for your lives. The yoke I put on you is easy and what I ask you is not difficult to fulfill.”
I attended the Christian event where prayers were specifically for the sick. There I decided to follow Jesus. The preacher prayed for my healing. Immediately I felt tons of burdens and heaviness fall away from me. I experienced what the Bible says “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” I found peace. Today, I live with this God and know that he is with me always and everywhere. As a Muslim, Allah was far away but through Jesus Christ, God has come close to me and I may be his child and call him “father”.
These events happened years ago. I came to know God and Jesus Christ more and more intimately. Because I had become a Christian, I was deprived of all privileges as a descendant of my Muslim family of origin. I was disinherited and all contact was cut off but God has always taken good care of me and of my family. I have never regretted becoming a Christian. Today the glory of my Muslim family is only recognizable in museums and memorials. Everything material is as one so melted away. The palace is in ruins, their Islamic party meaningless. The political influence is gone. Through my new status, I have received a spiritual family. Through My Savior Jesus Christ, I share in an inheritance with eternal value. Today I stand as my name prophetically foretold on this strong “foundation of faith” Jesus Christ. My mission today is not political but spiritual. I live to make known with enthusiasm the good news of the grace given through Jesus Christ among all people also among my dear Muslim friends and family.