I raised my hands to God in prayer: "O God, Thou knowest that I am and was born a Muslim, and that generation after generation of my ancestors were born into this religion and have died in it. In it I, too, have received my education, and in it I have been brought up. Therefore, now, remove every obstacle that would prevent me from discovering Thy true way, and show me the way to Thy salvation that, when I leave this transitory world, I may not be displeasing to Thee. Amen."
Sultan Muhammad P. Khan
During Ramadan I felt that I was the holiest man in the world. I wore the Muslim garb and I spent hour after hour praising Allah. I wanted to obey Allah as the prophets obeyed him.
My life was dominated by a fear of incurring his wrath on the great day of judgment. I tried to do everything that was expected of a devout Muslim. Fasting, praying, almsgiving, the repetition of the kalima, and the hope of making a pilgrimage to Mecca - these were the central concerns of my life. I even became a muezzin and called people to prayer day after day. The mosque was like my second home, so often was I within its precincts and in its minarets.
I thought I was holy when I was performing the religious duties of Islam, but I had no true joy. The holiness I had achieved was, in reality, self-righteousness. I was proud of my religious accomplishments and legalistic virtue. But my life was devoid of real knowledge of God. I had no genuine fellowship with him and I sensed his absence and distance from me.
In the Quran, Allah is depicted as the Creator who is not only far above the world he has made but is also far from every human being. He is the one who keeps an accurate record of our deeds so that he can recompense us with final rewards or ultimate punishment on the last day. This filled my heart with terror and dread, for I knew I had often fallen short of the requirements of true virtue and righteousness.
According to the belief of many Muslims, when we die an angel stands ready to assist us. But each one of us has to face judgment alone, on the basis of his own achievements and failures. At the judgment there is a bridge over which everyone must walk. It is only one-seventh of the thickness of a hair. If one's good deeds are greater than his evil deeds, the bridge widens to enable him to go across to heaven. Otherwise, he will fall into hell below.
Islam has many adherents in Java, where I have lived all my life. At the age of twelve, I made a conscious resolve to follow Islam with wholehearted determination. I went to the mosque almost every day, and I received instruction in Islam with great eagerness. Of course, I memorized long passages from the Quran and I learned all of the prescribed ritual prayers. I tried to obey Allah as faithfully as Muhammad did. Nothing was more important to me than preparation for the final judgment. My constant preoccupation was the fulfillment of the will of Allah in my daily affairs.
At the age of sixteen I had such a strong desire to become a teacher that I decided to leave home. I was even willing to attend a Christian teachers college in Jakarta. There was an opening for me there - and besides, I was so well-established in my Islamic convictions that I had no fear that anything could deflect me from them.
When I arrived at the college and was assigned a room in one of the dormitories, I continued to pray five times a day. This annoyed the other students, especially since I was the only one who did it. Profound dissatisfaction in my heart could not be expelled by such means, however. I knew there was something missing at the very root of my being.
One evening a man came to the dormitory to talk to all the students about Christ. He had a warm and genuine smile that radiated an undeniable inner joy. I hated Christians, and so I concealed my feelings of envy at his peace and happiness. Instead of listening with respect and sincerity, I mocked him. He was a fellow Indonesian, but that was not as important as the fact that he was not a Muslim. To me he was an unclean heathen. My resistance was intense, and my questions were designed to provoke him to anger. But he never lost his composure. He continued to smile and patiently answer my questions. I tried to do everything possible to upset him, however, and eventually he left with obvious regret over my belligerent attitude.
After that encounter with a radiant Christian, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I could not shake the image of his kind and happy face from my mind. I knew that he had something in his life that I didn't have. And yet, on the other hand, I was confident that he was a purveyor of error and an enemy of God. I was especially disturbed by his quotation from the Bible: "Jesus answered, `I am the way - and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'" (John 14:6). The claim that Christ is the only way angered me more than anything. But it also made me uncertain about my own beliefs. This confusion was increased by the fact that the students who were sincere Christians lived good lives. They were different from all the rest of us. There was one in the dormitory whose life greatly attracted me to the Christian faith. My doubts concerning Islam began to increase.
My friend in the dormitory kept the Christian faith before me, not only in words but in his character and actions. He had joy in his life, and I did not. I was a very religious man, but I was not happy. Even when I did what was expected of me by Islam, I still did not have joy. When I saw Christians smiling and happy, I knew that there must be something good and true in the Christian faith. I tried to act as though I were indifferent and hostile. But my excuses and defenses were slowly crumbling. I couldn't forget what I had heard that evening. That Christian man made it very clear that the Bible teaches that every human being is a sinner, and yet God loves us and through Christ he can forgive and save us.
There was so much I did not understand about Jesus. I had heard that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23), but I did not know what it meant. My Christian classmate told me that his joy came from trusting in Jesus as his Savior and Lord. He not only told me about God's holiness and justice in judging sin, he also told me about God's love. When he told me that God demonstrated his love by coming in the person of Christ to give his life on the cross for our sins, I was amazed. I had never heard anything like that before. It was wonderful, even overwhelming, to think that God is like that and that by trusting in Jesus Christ one could have all of his sins forgiven. Now I could begin to understand why my Christian friend had so much joy. He did not need to fear the judgment of God. He had his sins forgiven because Christ took those sins on himself when he died on the cross.
I wondered if all of this could be true. I thought about it very much - in fact, I thought about it for three months. I then decided to go to church with my classmate I went with him because he was a real friend, and his sincere interest in me touched me very much. At that church meeting I was more impressed by what I saw than what I heard. What affected me most of all was the attitude of the Christians. They had joyful faces and they were loving people. They were so kind to me that I was astonished. It was difficult for me to believe that they would be that way with a person of another religion.
My friend showed such love and kindness to me that I could not understand why. I continued to go to church because of the great joy and sincerity I saw in the people there. One day my friend could not go with me, so he told me to take from his wallet whatever money I needed to go there. He wanted me to have enough money for transportation and he did not care whether I ever repaid him. I took some money because I had no doubt that he was sincere and that he wanted to help me. He trusted me implicitly. By his gracious and generous life I saw the love of Christ made real before my eyes. My friend was a true friend and the first one to demonstrate God's love toward me. It was this and the wonderful fellowship I saw at the church that affected me most deeply. After several months of inner turmoil over the question of the truth of the Christian faith, I finally concluded that I must forsake Islam and put my entire trust in Christ as my Savior and Lord.
It is impossible for me to describe the change that Christ brought in my life when I turned from everything else and put my faith in him. I felt that a great burden had been removed from my heart. I experienced the same joy that other Christians had. It became a personal reality to me and no longer something I only saw and envied in others. Jesus said that he came that we might have life and have it in all of its fulness (John 10:10). Now I discovered what he meant. He also gave me the desire and power to do what was right. Before I trusted in him, I frequently told lies. When I would make mistakes, I would try to cover them up because I was afraid of the consequences. After I believed in Christ, I did not care what would happen to me. I had to tell the truth, and only the truth.
I also discovered that I was no longer afraid to die and meet God. Even though I had been a faithful Muslim, I never lost my fear of death. But when I believed that Christ loved me and died for my sins and conquered death by his resurrection, the fear of death was taken away. Now I know that "to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21), for to depart from this life is to be with Christ which is far better. But I also came to learn that God left me in this world because he has something special for me to do. His loving purpose for my life became my main motivation and goal.
My heart had previously been dominated by fear and hate, but Christ cleansed me of these base and corrupt attitudes and replaced them with assurance and love. I found that I had a great desire to tell my people about the wonderful Savior whom I had met. I went home and told my adoptive parents about my faith in Christ. My father had died when I was four years of age, and while I was still young I was adopted by another family. When they learned that I was sincere about my commitment to Christ, they used a variety of pressures to reclaim me for Islam. They were very fearful that the rest of the children in the family would be influenced by me. They denounced the Christian faith as evil and foolish.
Every Sunday my mother tried to keep me from going to church by asking me to do something for her at home. So Saturday night I would ask her what she wanted me to do the following day. And when she would tell me what task I was to perform on Sunday, I would arise early in the morning and finish it in time for me to go to church. My mother became very angry one day and said, "Son, you have to choose between me and Jesus Christ."
I replied, "I am sorry, Mother, I have to follow Christ. It does not mean that I hate you; I love you, but I must put Christ first in my life."
She kept silent. Then I told her that I was going to become a Christian preacher. My father and mother both stood against my decision. He was the ambassador to a European country and he could give me many advantages. The choice before me was clear. They said that I must choose them or Christ. They warned me that I would lose all the privileges and opportunities that they could give me: a European university education, a car, travel in the West.
It was not an easy decision for me to make. A conflict raged in my mind. I wondered what would happen to me if they disowned me. Where would I get the money I needed for my education? Was I being a fool for giving up all the advantages I knew were in the palm of my hand? I was still young and dependent on my parents' support. And I did not want to hurt them, for they had been kind to me and I loved them very much. But I had to determine whether or not Christ was worth the renunciation of all things. After careful consideration and agonizing reflection, I decided to let nothing be more important to me than Christ. There was no alternative, for he gave all for me - he died for me and he is coming again for me. I knew I must put him above everyone else. I wanted to serve him and tell others about his power to forgive and reconcile* them to God. I was convinced that no other endeavor in life could compare with that joyful calling. By the grace of God, my decision was made. There was no turning back.
I finished my studies at the teachers college and then taught for three years. After that I went to study in a theological school so I could be adequately prepared to preach the gospel of Christ and teach others about his love. Some of my Muslim friends ridiculed me for becoming a believer in Christ. One of them who said I was insane later agreed to go to church with me. He came out of curiosity. He wanted to find out what it was that attracted me. But he had no intention of becoming a believer. However, he too was overwhelmed by the love of Christ and put his trust in him. To this day he is living for him and serving him in sincerity.
I never regretted the decision that I made to serve Christ and proclaim his word. It was a privilege and joy for me to give up all temporal things for him. And that joy has been multiplied by my seeing many others come to Christ. I was thankful to have a small part in the great work of God that brought several million Muslims into the Christian faith in the last few years in Indonesia. I went to various parts of Java to preach about Jesus Christ, and I was amazed as I witnessed hundreds of people turning to him with tears and deep sincerity. Most of them had never heard the wonderful truth that God loves them and forgives every sin through Christ.
A number of hajis have had a deep transformation in their lives as a result of believing in Christ. Some of them had been leaders in Muslim communities and they knew Islam both in terms of its literature and its practices. They also saw its most sacred city when they made their pilgrimage to Mecca. Yet they found something in Christ that Islam could not give them. Only genuine Christians know the peace and joy that come from fellowship with God and with other believers in Christ.
Many persons have asked me why I became a believer and committed my life to Christ. One of the most important reasons was that Christ alone could give me the assurance that I am accepted by God and that I have nothing to fear. It is a glorious experience to have this certainty - to know that all of my sins are forgiven.
If I were to count my sins, I would not be able to conceive of how they could be forgiven - except by Christ who died for my sins on the cross and rose from the dead. No other religion knows a God of love such as the God who is revealed* in Jesus Christ. He loves sinners, not in the sense that he approves their sins but in the sense that he loves persons even though he does not love the evil things they do. And God's love is not just a matter of words, for the Bible says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
In Islam I had no certainty and no peace. I was always in a state of anxiety and frustration. But in Christ I have assurance and rest in my heart. The most important thing to me is the love of Christ and the love he puts in the hearts of those who sincerely believe in him and know him. True Christians love Muslims. If anyone calls himself a Christian and hates anyone else, he is self-deceived, for he does not truly know Christ. The Bible warns against all of those who think that by persecuting and killing others they are doing God service (John 16:2).
When I became a believer in Christ, I lost my family and relatives, for they rejected me. But Christ has taken care of me, and since I came to know him I have found that I have hundreds of brothers and sisters in Christ all around me - and many more all over the world. I lost my family, but God gave me a greater family. In fact, God gave me far more than I lost.
Some time after I became a believer in Christ, I went to see a former Christian teacher of mine. I had given him much trouble, for I was a proud, argumentative, mocking student. When I went to his home, I found that he had heard about my turning to Christ. As soon as he saw me, he arose and came to me and embraced me. My astonishment at this only increased when he sat down next to me and spent several hours talking with me. He had nothing but love and forgiveness in his heart. It was another evidence to me of the power of Christ. My former teacher said, "You were my foe, but now you are my friend."
I have thought again and again about that statement - "my foe, but now my friend." My classmate had been a faithful friend and now my former teacher had become a wonderful friend. I realized that the sincerity of their friendship was a reality because of the ultimate Friend whom they knew and loved - the Lord Jesus Christ.
I also realized that I had been an enemy of God and a foe of Christ because of my sin and rebellion. But now, because of what he had done for me, I was no longer his foe but his friend. The very words of Jesus tell us that those who love him are not merely his servants but his friends (John 15:15). And now I knew and loved him, too. I belonged to him - heart, mind, body, and soul - because in him I had discovered the one true Friend who will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).
I was impressed with the high ethical teachings of the gospel. If the Christians were to corrupt their book, the standard of its ethical teachings would have been lowered. The narratives of the gospel studied under this light suggested no motive for alteration or corruption in the text. The story of the crucifixion was an outstandiny event in all the narratives concerning the life of Jesus, which completely contradicted the idea of the gospel being corrupted. No follower of religion would intentionally invent a narrative which would attribute to his leader or founder such a shameful treatment at the hands of his enemies. It is no matter of pride to be a follower of one who was shamefully put to death. The appearances of Jesus subsequent to His death were confined to His disciples only, and hence they made no redeeming feature of His ignominious death. The enemies remained triumphant over his death. Why? If the Christians were to alter or expurgate anything from the gospel, the account of the crucifixion would have been the first thing to be removed or modified.
J. A. Subhan
The True Path: Table of Contents & copyright notice
Answering Islam Home Page