In the Valley of Tears
I am Ibrahim who, for the sake of my family's security, go also by the nickname Timothy Abraham. I am a simple Egyptian from the Delta region. Farms surrounded me from every side with streams of the luxurious Nile River endowing life with fertility. I had a strong Islamic upbringing in my childhood, studying in the village shop for teaching the Quran (al-Kutaab). They taught me to fear God (Allah in Arabic) who created the Heaven and the earth in six days. There was not a single reason to doubt a religion which emphasized fearing God, doing good work and living a moral life. The recitation of the Quran was meant to produce a sense of tranquillity. I enjoyed the Sufi circle of worship, as they adored the person of Muhammad. This was Abu-al-Azayem's group. I was searching for more closeness with Allah Almighty.
One evening around 7:00 p.m. in al-Mahatta mosque, having finished praying al-Maghrib prayer, I was introduced to Muhammad Imam and Sulleiman Kahwash. They were vitally influential in incorporating me into their group "The Muslim Brotherhood -- i.e., al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin." They encouraged me to be a devout Muslim and fast on Monday and Thursday of every week and break the fast with them in the mosque where we ate bread, cheese, palm dates (tamr), and delicious salad. I diligently imitated every thing the Prophet Muhammad did, even the sitting posture of the Prophet as he was eating. They were so kind to me. They also saw in me the potential of being an eloquent speaker. Therefore, Sulleiman Hashem, the leader at the time, approached me gently, "Ibrahim, you are called by the Quran's teaching to proclaim the message of Islam "da'awah." "My Allah!" I pondered. "I am just 14 years old and I am easily intimidated." Nevertheless, Sulleiman gave me a stack of books to study in preparation for the sermon I was to deliver the next day. From then on, it became customary for me to preach a sermon on the first Monday of every lunar month. I was filled with zeal as my leaders had arranged for me to go across the neighboring towns, preaching from mosque to mosque. I zealously wanted everyone to follow the Tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, and subsequently, my sister had no choice but to obey my Quranic command and wear the veil which indicated modesty. I needed my father's approval. I wondered if he had ever heard his son, the 14 year old Muslim evangelist preach. To my astonishment my father was sharply criticized by people for having a son who was now a "fanatic." The Islamic Brotherhood was regarded as a religious gang by the majority of regular Muslims. My father, therefore, became wrathful over my Islamic radicalism and thoughtlessly punched me in the teeth. Today my front tooth is a fake one. It reminds me of my former perseverance to the point of death to be a zealous Muslim fundamentalist and my willingness to be persecuted for my commitment. My father burnt my Sunni (mostly wahabi and salafi) Islamic library. He knew quite well that Mohammad Mansour, a security police informer, was recording my sermons from the bathroom in the mosque. I was so strict in the fashion of the sunnah of Muhammad that I did not shake hands with women. I simply wanted to be a devout Muslim. Having finished their prayers in the mosque, my father stopped one of the leaders in my group, Sulleiman Hashem and asked him pleadingly to leave me, his son, alone. When my father swore an oath of divorce (hilif alaya bi al-talaaq) that I will not be permitted to enter the mosque where the Islamic Brotherhood is praying, I obeyed my father, but asked for mercy in letting me hear their sermons while sitting outside the mosque.
I was never daunted by any of this and continued to preach Islam everyday in the morning parade (taboor as-sabah) as well as in every mosque where I went to teach. It never occurred to me for a second that Islam could be wrong. In my pursuit to propagate Islam everywhere, a magazine came into my hands which had pen pal addresses from the United States. I chose one at random and wrote, hoping to convert the man into Islam. I wrote to John from Pennsylvania, USA back and forth for two years, each trying to convert the other. I read every book I could get hold of to refute the Bible. To make things worse, I had no respect for the Bible as I put my feet and shoes on it since the Quran taught me it was corrupt.
Then John surprised me by coming to visit me in my village. That was the first time I saw a real Christian. His sincerity, frankness, genuineness, and openness impressed me. John stayed with me for two months. He had an amazing prayer life which served as a model for me in my latter life. I did not know that Christians prayed until I saw a "living epistle" right in the middle of my house, a man from a far off land who became one of us and genuinely incarnated the love of Christ. John had an amazing prayer life, for he prayed more than he talked, speaking the words of the Bible. I became jealous of John's intimacy with God and increased my recitations of the Quran.
Islam is a religion that has to be credited for teaching its followers to be virtuous, chaste, and benevolent. There is no doubt that Muhammad remains a genius in history. One has to also note that a Muslim may do as many good works as possible in this world and on the Day of Judgment God weighs the deeds of every individual in a "balance." The good deeds will be placed in one pan of the balance, and the evil deeds in the other. If the good deeds are heavier, then the believer will go to the paradise described in Quran as a place of sexual pleasure and frolicking with the wide-eyed huris (sura al-Waqia 56:20-23). However, Christ our Lord said "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven" (Matthew 22:30). My Muslim friend, according to Islam, if your evil deeds are heavier, you will be cast into the fires of hell. It looks like you would need to be only fifty-one percent good to get into paradise. Yet you remain absolutely unsure whether or not you are going to heaven. All you say, my Muslim friend, is, "Only God Knows!" You hope for the mercy of Allah and hope that the angels or the Prophet will intercede for you in the last day, so you will be saved from Hell.
I was like you, my Muslim sister or brother, right in the same boat until I knew that you can be absolutely sure of going to Heaven. Tears well up in my eyes just to recall how lost I was and now that I am found. While trembling in tears, seeing the majesty of God, I rejoice to know that I have eternal life for certain.
God in the Bible is both just and merciful. His justice requires that everyone be punished in Hell, for He is perfect 100 percent. No matter how hard we try to please God, we always fall short of His perfection. Our good works will not bring us closer to God. God saw our insufficiency, and decided to pay the penalty Himself. He sent His Word Isa Al Masih (Jesus Christ), who is absolutely sinless and faultless to carry the punishment of our sins on the cross. What can you say to the Judge when He chooses to pay your penalty for you? The Bible says in John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." It is because God loves us that He sent His Word, Jesus Christ, to die for us. Islam never grants us the assurance of going to Heaven, but Christ absolutely does! Praise God! Thank you, my Lord, for sovereignly choosing to pay the price Yourself in the Person of Your incarnate Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the express revelation of the nature of Allah Almighty.
After John left, his influence stayed. I thought I would depress John by saying, "John, your visit made me a stronger Muslim in the faith and do not try to convert Muslims anymore." Yet John prevailed in his supplication and prayers. His intercessory prayer moved the LORD to wake me up in the middle of the night as I had no sleep or rest. Inner conflict reached its zenith. Restless, I reached out to my Bible and opened it at random. I found, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" I remember one day in the heat of a debate between me and John, I made fun of the Bible and said, "John, your Bible is the most absurd thing! How can you believe the story of Saul who became Paul, the servant of the Gospel?" John said, "The story is true, and that is why I am patient with you. You will be another Paul one day!" I replied, "John, you must be out of your mind to think for a second that I could leave the religion of all religions, Islam!" Reflecting on "Saul, Saul ..." I said Lord! Me? Me persecute You? I did nothing to You in person ... I remember I turned in a female medical student to the police ... but I did nothing to You. Is it true that He who touched one of Your people touches the apple of Your eye?"
Islam denies the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ because the Quran intended to deprive the Jew of the victory they claimed was their in Jesus' death. The Quran asserts that God put somebody who looked like Him on the cross in the place of Jesus. Now my Muslim friends, God is not in the business of fraud, for if he had wanted to deliver Jesus from the cross, He could have done it miraculously without having to deceive and put Jesus' likeness on someone else. This Quranic error is too blatant, and proves that the Quran has no divine origin. What is more, the Quran is self-contradicting, for while it claims that the Jews did not really kill Jesus it also affirms very distinctly the reality of Jesus' death in the sura of the family of Imran (3):55 as it states in the first part of that verse:
When God said:
"OH JESUS, I SHALL CAUSE YOU TO DIE,
AND THEN I SHALL RAISE YOU UP TO ME."
My Muslim friend, my goal is not here to proselytize you, but to raise the ultimate questions, Who is Christ? Was he crucified? And how does this affect you? If the whole history of humanity revolves around Christ, then my entire life and existence should revolve around Him too. Denying the cross of Christ is contradicting history itself. Muhammad himself is claimed in the Quran to have been urged, by God, to refer to the People of the Book (the Jews and the Christians) is he in doubt concerning the Quran?:
"And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which we reveal unto thee, then ask those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee." Sura Yunus 10:95
For the first time in my life, I began asking the question "why?" and challenged everything I took for granted. All postulates were critically examined. This got me into trouble in an authoritarian society. Questions, they say, fly in the face of Allah. Obey. That is All. In the Islamic Brotherhood, our motto was "samaana wa ataana" i.e. "we have heard and obeyed." After years of study, I came to two logical conclusions: The Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and Jesus is the Word of God. I began to see it was possible for Jesus to be God. Intellectually, I accepted all the claims of the Christian faith, but in my heart I still feared being struck dead for calling the Almighty God "My Father." I needed a miracle! The Bible teaches us that no one can say, "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). No wonder every Salvation experience is one of a miracle of birth out of death into eternal life!
From the depth of my heart, in the midst of inner conflict, I cried out to Allah, even in the mosque, "Lord, show me the truth! Is it Jesus or Muhammad? Could it be that You are my Father? Show me the truth, and the truth you lead me to I will serve all my life whatever the cost may be!" I burst into tears since I knew the cost could be outrageously too high for a weak, thin person like me. For how could I afford to be cast out of my family and sleep on the streets like a homeless person? And what if my leaders in the Islamic Brotherhood would find out about me? And what if they, in their Islamic righteousness and zeal, rush on to defend Islam and kill me? According to the Islamic religion, an apostate should be given a three day opportunity to recant, and after that the infidel's blood is legitimately shed in the name of Allah! The words of the Prophet Muhammad kept ringing in my ear, "Any person (i.e., Muslim) who has changed his religion, kill him." This tradition has been narrated by AbuBakr, Uthman, Ali, Muadh ibn Jabal, and Khalid ibn Walid. Yet I persisted in asking God to guide me.
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak, but Thou art mighty.
One night Christ appeared to me in a dream and said with a tender sweet voice, "I love you!" I saw how obstinately I had resisted Him all these years and said to Him in tears, "I love You, too! I know You! You are eternal for ever and ever." I woke up with tears all over my face filled with abundant joy, believing that Christ Himself touched both my mind and my heart, and I yielded. I was filled with great passion for Christ, jumping up and down, singing praises to His name and talking to Him day and night. I would not even sleep without God's inerrant Word, the Bible, next to my chest.
I experienced what a "spoiled child" of God would: God would give me anything I ask for in prayer. But then the Lord wanted me to love Him and worship Him for His own sake, not for what I get from Him. I tried to keep my faith secret and so was baptized secretly in a pastor's house.
Filled with the joy of salvation I could not hide or deny Christ anymore. Therefore, when my childhood friend asked me if Christ was crucified, I answered, "Yes!" and explained why. He prayed with me to receive Christ. He was shaking and perspiring every time he prayed with me. He could see how mighty the name of our Lord Jesus was. My former leaders in the Islamic fanatical group, desiring to know who the spearhead was, threatened to kill him if he would not tell them everything about my evangelism. Sadly, he betrayed me and I was beaten up in front of the mosque where I had formerly preached Islam zealously. In their sight I was a blasphemous infidel who deserved to be killed unless I would recant. They regarded my conversion as the most horrendous form of desecrating Islam and the Quran.
Since my secret conversion was now made public and Muslims plotted to kill me, I had to flee. I was hunted by Muslims from my village in the Delta, to Ismailia until I arrived in Cairo where my Christian friends lived. Yet Christians were not willing to shelter me and I had to go back to the village, seeking refuge in His protective hands. I came back from Cairo and found an angry mob of Muslims filling up our house. My mother was wearing the garment of mourning, dressed in black as is the custom in Egypt. To them by deserting Islam, I was dead!!! Muslim women yelled at me, "Your mother doesn't deserve all this from you. Why cause her all this grief?" Another woman lamented, "Poor mother! Her son left her for the Christian infidels. If I were her, I would kill my son for running after the infidels like a dog." I received a letter from a friend in Jordan who reported that my father was walking down the streets in Jordan weeping bitterly as Muslim laborers there reproached him severely. He stayed sick in bed for a month because of this until he and I talked on the phone.
It is absolutely unforgettable that outraged Muslims broke into our house barbarically. My mother knelt down at the feet of our neighbor "Sayed" begging him to spare my life and kill her instead. In such indescribable agony, my mother disowned and disinherited me before all people in my village. I love my mother more dearly than any person in this world, but no human power, regardless of how gigantic it is, can separate me from the love of Christ. I will always live for Jesus.
My Bible, all my Christian books, and music tapes were confiscated and burnt. I decided to flee from the Delta region to Cairo. Even though the police were tracking me down, the Lord blinded their eyes and protected me. In Cairo, I was hiding at M.'s, an Egyptian Baptist friend who was comforting me all the time. I broke down when he read,
"So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name" (Acts 5:41)
I am grateful to God for providing this friend, M., who discipled me, teaching me to live a victorious life rich in worship and thanksgiving. He gave me a pocket Arabic New Testament and told me frankly that his parents were afraid. Also I was told that if they continued to hide me they would be in jail forever. I had nowhere to go. So, upon the advice of my secret pastor, I went back to the village, hiding the Arabic New Testament in my socks, praying that it would not fall out. I was eventually arrested and released repeatedly. I learned what it means to have God as my only Hiding Place. In prison, my Savior knows I have come to experience true peace. I was not shaken because I saw Christ in prison, not myself. I sang songs of joy in the midst of tears, anticipating the shining Morning Star to come and deliver me. I decided to hide the Bible in a place where the police could not confiscate it -- in my heart by memorizing it. I have since made it a habit to sleep with my Bible by my side. Five years later, I managed to flee Muslims' attempts to kill me and I was shocked to find out that there are some professing Christians in America who attack the Bible for which I was willing to die. God's word has given me promises of faith which I apply as a little child and pray them through in confidence. The gates of Heaven open as we pray through God's Word. His word speaks life!!!
Once when I went to give my mother a Mother's Day gift, she asked me rhetorically, "Mother's Day gift?" I answered, "Yes" every time she repeated the question. She looked at me with such crushing grief and said, "My son, whom I waited 15 years to have and finally was born is now dead. I disown you till the day of judgment, Ibrahim." I cried but Christ touched my heart and said, "I am your family now! I am your father, brother, mother, sister, friend, and everything to you, Timothy, now." I cannot forget those days when my mother would call the police to arrest me. She even went to a witch to put a curse on me and bring me back to the fold of Islam. The witch said, "Your son is following a path which he will never forsake and he will be victorious all his life as long as he walks in it." These words, from the mouth of a witch, brought my younger brother to know Christ. The testimony of demons about our victorious Lord renders skepticism and unbelief absurd (Please read Romans 8:35-39). You also can be more than a conqueror through Christ, your Victor who loves you! Believe it!
I lost my Bible and all my Christian books were confiscated. All I had was the radio. I went sneakily to get my radio to listen secretly to Voice of Hope, searching for some comfort-songs in the night. (By the way, I speak now publicly over Voice of Hope since I live in a free country, America). Yet my mother caught me and she immediately snatched the radio out of my hand and beat me on the head with her shoes. I was just 20 years old at that time. I prayed for a Bible and the Lord heard me. I went to pick up a Bible package from the post office. The head of the post office, Kamal, slapped me forcefully and punched me in the face. I saw all kinds of terror...I was crying from the intensity of pain. He said to me,"You just go after these Christian infidels, leave Islam and we will wipe you out. We will send you behind the sun!" I felt trapped praying fervently to leave Egypt and practice my faith in Christ. Father of comfort, you never left me. Please remind me of your Son hanging on the cross crying out in the depth of agony," My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" Lord Jesus, they all forsook you, and yet You found rest in Your Father. I need to depend on the Father as you did".
After 3 years, I decided to move to Cairo which was not any safer. The last time the police had arrested me they said, "According to us, you are an infidel who has committed high treason. Next time we arrest you, it will be capital punishment." To make it worse, the "Christian" landlord told me he could not shelter a fugitive criminal anymore. I was not welcome in my own country anymore. Nevertheless, the Lord intervened, and a Palestinian evangelist, Anis Shorrosh, introduced me to Dr. Paige Patterson. He began to help me apply for a visa to the United States. At first, I was denied the visa, but Dr. Patterson did not give up. Finally, I was granted an entry visa, and I was supernaturally able to leave Egypt. Lord, You never deliver your children out of bondage to bring them back into it...Help me to live somewhere to practice my Christian faith without the police harassment. Lord, please do whatever it takes so I don't have to live in an environment where people would force me to go into the mosque. You want your children to worship freely even if this means fleeing for their lives like me so that Christ becomes all in all.
If it had not been for Dr. Patterson, I would have been history today. I was scheduled to be executed, and God saw that He had more work for me to do. So, he used Dr. Patterson in supernaturally rescuing my life. God Almighty is a Father of the fatherless (Psalm 68:5), and when my father and mother forsake me, as David declares, the LORD holds me to Himself. Is God the Almighty, Your Heavenly Father, my friend? (Galatians 4:6) God the Almighty and Majestic One delights in you personally (Proverbs 8:31).
Having fled to the United States, I was still afraid that I would have to face the Egyptian police authorities someday, especially in view of the fact that I came on a student visa, which could expire any day. According to the Egyptian government I am an infidel who has defamed Islam as well as caused national disunity. Allah alone knows how I have no hard feelings towards either Egypt, the motherland, or Islam. Preachers offered to hide me in ranches, if worse came to worse. I just wanted to live and not to be the scapegoat of somebody's religious wrath. One ministry organization sponsored me and sent a petition for my permanent residency. After six long years of waiting, the Lord honored my request by giving me permanent residence a few days before the wedding day, April 18,1998. I did not want anybody to falsely accuse me that I married a woman so that I may get a green card. I have married Angela for her own sake, and not for the sake of getting a green card. I give Angela all of me, for the source of our love is divine. It is never a fleeting emotion, but a covenant in which the LORD is the Witness between me and the wife of my youth, my partner and my best friend. (Malachi 2:14)
Here it is the time for me to praise God for the gift of marriage. It is when I abandoned myself to God and the godly desire of marriage that he brought along Angela. Angela is the angel of God to my heart. She is beautiful both internally and externally. We both share the same vision in manifesting the love of Christ to our Muslim brothers and sisters. I did not compromise for less than what I knew Allah wanted me to have: Angela is a woman of prayer, caring affectionate, hospitable, giving and gregarious. She is perfect for me. I revel in the fact that she loves my parents and gives sacrificially to them. Lord, what did I do to be treated with such extravagant kindness of yours that you give me a wife who loves me and my family? The Lord honored me for putting Him above my desire to have a wife, and now we are a praying couple. Indeed, our Creator and Redeemer is our ultimate Matchmaker.
Lord, may I never be secure or seek easiness in life at the expense of union with You. Didn't you tell us Lord, "And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved" (Mark 13:13)? Please don't let me rush your salvation, Lord, in the midst of trouble, but please give me patience so I can endure hardships as a soldier of the cross of Christ! Lord, may Your love consume me to such an extent that the doing of your will would be the real bread of my life. In Christ's name, amen!
My friends, please feel free to contact me by email here.