"The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates
"I considered that all men agree that man, as his name indicates, is a bundle of forgetfulness, disobedience, and transgressions. His life never remains so pure as to be absolutely free from the stain of sin. Sin has become man's second nature. It is a true saying that `to err is human.' The question is how can one escape accountability and punishment? How is one to be saved? What does Islam have to say about it? And what is the message of Christianity? It is my duty to investigate this important matter honestly and without prejudice."
Sultan Muhammad P. Khan
What an amazing thing it was! I could hardly believe that I was all alone in a Muslim cemetery at midnight. Of all people, of all places, of all times! But there I was, on a night I shall always remember. Most people were afraid even to go near the graveyard at night - and that's why I was there. It seemed to be the safest refuge I could find. There wasn't even a remote possibility that anyone would look for me there. Worse than my nighttime retreat to the cemetery, however, was the awesome realization that I had left home permanently. More precisely, I was compelled to leave home.
I never expected the dramatic turn of events that so profoundly changed my life. I came from a good home and I felt that I had received the best of everything from my father. He was recognized as a man of scholarship and financial substance and, as a consequence, he wielded considerable influence in our society. Nevertheless, in spite of the intimate bonds that welded me to my family and community, I found myself painfully severed from all that I once held dear.
Although not many miles separate me today from the place of my birth, a village three miles from Gujrat, the distance in the vicissitudes of my experience is almost incalculable. When I was a young man, only seventeen years old, my grandmother pressured my father into having me married. Unlike the West, the East is still characterized by considerable family control over the decisions of young people, and this was especially so in my youth. I had almost no choice in the matter and so I submissively agreed to my grandmother's wishes. This step was to pose a serious problem later, but it would also become the means for revealing God's wonderful power to me.
The most remarkable experience of my youth occurred when the Bible* came into my possession. For weeks I studied it with care. One day when I was out, my father noticed it on my desk. When I returned, he asked me if had been reading it. When I told him I had been reading it for some time, he became angry and asked me why I would do such a thing. He urged me to stop reading it. In fact, I was surprised when he told me that if I continued reading it I would become a Christian.* This statement of his only spurred me on to read it more diligently.
I was amazed that my father, who was a scholar and knowledgeable in Islam, would warn me to stop reading it because he was certain that I would become a Christian as a result. Thus, I thought that there was reality at the foundation of the Christian faith and that it was true beyond doubt. I realized that my father was afraid of the convincing power of the Bible and that is why he asked me not to read it. I had started reading it out of curiosity about the Christian faith, but after that encounter with my father I read it with a deep longing to know the truth.
The Bible's message about the love of God revealed in Christ* touched me to the core of my being. It was not the kind of book I had previously supposed. In it I found good news - in fact, the most wonderful news a human being could ever receive. My life was radically changed by the power of Jesus Christ who loved me and gave himself for me on the cross.* And that he rose from the dead was demonstrated in his living power by which he made me a new person. Without the direct influence of any human being, I was brought to trust in Christ. The reading of the Bible led me to surrender myself to him unconditionally. I knew that my decision would mean separation from the family and friends I loved. But I also knew that Christ had said that if anyone loved family or friends more than him, he was not worthy of the Lord. There were many tears that day, but there was also a deep joy that I knew was from God.
It was a very difficult step to take, but the day came when I knew that I should give public demonstration of the reality of my faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.* I had heard about a Christian in a town that was forty miles away and I set out to find him so I could be baptized.* When I located him, he gave me a warm welcome. I told him that I had been raised a Muslim but that I had become convinced that Christ is the only way, and therefore I wanted to be baptized. I also told him that I wanted to be accepted into the fellowship of the Christian Church* so that I could work freely for the Lord.
He responded with understandable caution: "How can I baptize you when I don't know you? What brought you here?"
I reminded him that as a Christian he was concerned about reaching others with the good news of Christ, and I also told him that I had become a believer in Christ without being contacted by any Christian. I said, "I have come to you, so you should be happy that God has sent me to you."
He insisted, however, that he could not baptize someone he didn't know. I told him that I had not come to borrow money from him but simply to be baptized. At the conclusion of our three-hour talk, he finally agreed that I was ready to be baptized.
When some of the Christian elders examined me, they asked me what errors I had seen in Islam. I stated that it was not so much what is wrong in Islam as what is right in the Christian faith that brought me to my commitment to Christ. After clarifying the basis of my conviction and hope in Christ, I was glad to identify myself with him by being baptized publicly in his name.
When I returned home, I discovered that my father had already received word about my public profession of faith in Christ in the act of baptism.
Many deviations from religious and cultural norms could be tolerated in our society, but open conversion to the Christian faith as demonstrated in baptism constituted a decisive break in the view of virtually everyone. And it was unforgivable. My father knew about my bold step, but for three days he said nothing. The hurt and resentment were so deep that they seemed to paralyze his tongue.
Then one day he broke the silence - not in a violent outburst of rage but in a solemn statement of fact: "Son, I heard that you have become a Christian."
I knew that my father hated to utter those words. Even to let the term "Christian" pass his lips in any way but contempt and scorn was distasteful to him. I kept quiet. My silence was not a denial that I had become a believer in Christ. Rather, it was the only reaction that I could allow, for my profound respect for my father held me in check. I didn't want to hurt him.
Calmly and deliberately he said, "I know that you are young and you still do not know very much. I am sure that it is some outside influence that has brought this about. But I am confident that you will come back to Islam."
I knew I never would go back to Islam, however, because Jesus had bound me with a love that surpassed anything I had experienced or heard about in all the world. My assurance did not rest on my determination. It was simply a matter of knowing that the Lord would never let me go. I knew that I was weak and that I could not count on any of my own resources to keep me faithful to the truth. But I also knew that he was strong and that he would not forsake me. I did not doubt that he could give victory over every temptation. He has overcome everything and he has victory over everything. I was certain that as I trusted him he would give me that victory and cause me to remain firm by his grace.*
As soon as I told my father that I had taken a public stand for Christ and that I believed in him and his love with my whole heart, my father became furious. He grabbed a large stick and began to beat me. One blow after another struck my body in rapid succession. He beat me so hard that the stick broke in half. He went into another room of the house, perhaps to look for another stick with which to beat me. My relatives came into the room where I was and pleaded with me to flee before he returned with something worse than a stick. They feared for my life.
I paused and thought of how much I loved my father and how he had given me the best of everything in my life. But now he was enraged, and it seemed that nothing could tame the savage fury which he was venting on me. There appeared to be no option; I was compelled to leave home.
Before my father returned from the other part of the house, I had dashed out of the door. I cannot describe the anguish I felt. I knew that I was leaving home permanently. It wasn't like the other times I had gone on trips. This time it was a complete break that was forced upon me against my deepest desires. I asked myself where I should go. I had no money. Neither did I have time to take any of my belongings. I felt I could not go to any of my old friends, for they would undoubtedly take a hostile attitude toward me upon learning of my public commitment to Christ. I decided to get out of the town altogether - for my own safety.
It was then that I decided to go to the one place that I would not be found - the Muslim graveyard. Most people carefully avoided it even in the daytime. I stayed there until midnight. But it became so cold that I began shivering uncontrollably. I had to seek refuge from the cold night air, so I had no choice but to return to the city. Not only was the city entirely enclosed by a wall, but at that hour of the night its gates were also locked. And each gate was guarded by a contingent of sentinels. So I went to the main gate and began beating on it.
When the guards heard the pounding on the door, they shouted back, "Don't you know it can't be opened at this hour? It will be opened at five o'clock in the morning."
Nevertheless, I was insistent. I made my plea with unyielding determination. Finally, one of the guards agreed to open the gate, but he gave me advance warning that I would have to be locked up in the police station for the duration of the night. When he opened the gate and brought me into the light, he recognized me immediately. He was a friend of my father. He became very apologetic and asked me not to report him. I assured him that I wouldn't and then I thanked him for letting me into the city.
I went directly to a friend's house to see if I could spend the night with him. He was not at home. I went to another home where I felt certain there would be someone to welcome me. When they knew who it was at their door, they said, "We have heard through your servant how cruel your father was, and that is why we are sympathetic toward you. Come in."
First of all, I made certain that they would not send word to my father that I was staying with them. Armed with their promise, I decided to remain with them for three days. Yet I knew that I would have to find a job and provide for my own support. I set out for a nearby town. Everywhere I went, I inquired about a job - but to no avail. Then I began to pray earnestly and said, "Lord, I cannot find a job and I have never begged before. I am ready to work now. Lord, please open the door for me."
While I was waiting in that town, a British army officer came to me and asked me to be his servant. It was a menial job, and only those of the lower economic classes would consider doing it. I had come from a prominent family and I was used to all the benefits of a prosperous household. In fact, I had had my own servant, and during the years I was in school he looked after all my needs. It now seemed so ironical that I was being asked to become someone else's personal servant. I rebelled against the very idea. I was hungry, but it seemed better to starve than to lower myself to that extent. My only thought at that time was that there could be no way for me to escape the consequences of my Christian commitment. Indeed, it seemed to be the inevitable result of believing in Christ that one must take a lowly task and become a mere servant. The perplexity and distress I felt over this were not easily removed from my mind. In the inner struggle I experienced, I knew that God was teaching me a very important lesson. The Lord Jesus said that he did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. I, too, had to experience the meaning of serving in humility and lowliness.
In answer to prayer, God gave me the willingness and courage to accept the job. But then my thoughts turned to my father. He held a high government position in that district, and I knew that when it was discovered that I was working as a servant it would hurt him and bring reproach on the family name.
I reasoned that it was not right for a Christian son to hurt his father. So I told the British officer that I could not take the job, and I asked him if he had some other position that might be available for me. He told me that he could not help me because he was being transferred from that location to a place that was far away in Pakistan. I was happy and told him that it was good, because everyone knew my father in the local region.
I accepted the job as the officer's servant, and we left immediately on the long trip to the place of his new assignment. As God enabled me to be a loyal and efficient servant, I was asked to sit at the table with the officers. This was an unheard of honor for a servant, but I knew that God was taking care of me.
My officer said that we were no longer master and servant but friends. He confided, "I know that you were not meant to be a servant and that you are doing it for Jesus' sake. You see, I came from a Christian family, but I have never been to church. Would you please pray for me. Please pray to Jesus that he may guide me that I may know what he wants me to do for him."
We had become true friends. My officer told others about my sincere desire to live for the sake of Jesus. Some were true believers in Christ and they asked me to speak in a Christian gathering. I was overwhelmed and prayed, "Lord, I can't speak, but what I can do is tell them what Jesus has done for me." It was a great privilege for me. When I spoke the response was wonderful, for many Christians invited me to their homes and they showed true love and friendship in the way they received me.
When I left home under a cloud of bitterness and the threat of death, my father also sent my wife back to her own family. He never told them that I had become a believer in Christ. I had never ceased praying for my father and the rest of the family. And I prayed for my wife whom I loved very much. I contacted her family and told them that I was a Christian, but that I wanted her to come live with me. I assured them that she could remain a Muslim and that I would not talk to her about changing her religion. They agreed and sent her to join me.
My wife and I lived in one room. I read my Bible and prayed regularly. I felt I had to tell her the wonderful news about the Lord Jesus for her own sake and for her eternal salvation.* But I also knew that I could not break my promise, and, besides, she had asked me never to talk about these things. One day I decided to read the Bible aloud. She overheard me and asked me what I was reading. I replied, "I'm not supposed to tell you."
She said she liked what she heard. I told her that I could not tell her about it but that she could read the Bible for herself. Shortly after this, a Christian woman came to visit my wife regularly. Her kindness to my wife and little daughter had a deep effect on her. Her thoughtful ways and the reading of the Bible led my wife to put her trust in Christ a few months later. Forty years have passed since then, and during all of this time she has been a great help and encouragement in the ministry* God has given me. She has been a faithful and devoted Christian and wife all of these years, often showing great courage and wisdom in her life.
It was soon after my wife's decision to believe in Christ that we began devoting our full time to spreading the good news of God's love to people throughout our country. I was given no salary and I was employed by no foreigner or organization. I depended on God alone for the supply of all of our needs. And for forty-three years he has not failed us. In answer to prayer, God has done many wonderful things in our lives.
One time on an evangelistic* tour, my co-workers and I were surrounded by about six hundred people. They were very angry with us for preaching the gospel* of Christ. One of the main mischief-makers purchased a New Testament* from us. As soon as he took it in his hands, he began tearing it into pieces and shouting, "Beware of these Christians. They are out to deceive you. We have the only true religion, and that is Islam."
He was trying to stir up the people to harm us. But I knew that the Lord was with us and that he would protect us. A young co-worker was afraid, so I spoke to him: "Rest assured; the Lord is with us. No one can harm us."
The people were threatening and cursing us. Just as they were on the verge of attacking us physically, there was an unusual manifestation of Christ's presence with us. I sensed a supernatural peace and calm that came from God.
In a few moments the police were on the scene. The inspector came to me and asked, "What is your nationality? You speak Urdu so freely."
"I am a Pakistani," I replied.
He asked, "Don't you see what is happening here?"
"Yes," I said, "but I am not worried at all."
"What brought you here?" he asked.
"I have brought good news."
With puzzled nervousness, he then said, "Don't you know what they are doing?"
"Yes," I responded, "they are giving what they have to us, and we are giving what we have to them - and that is blessing, prayer, and good news."
"What good news?" he snapped. I said, 'The Injil.*"
"Who is it for?" he queried.
"It is for you," I affirmed.
He was amazed and said that they had been sent by the chief of police to investigate a report of trouble in the town. He offered to walk with us and guarantee our safety - for in Pakistan we are given freedom to preach by our nation's constitution. I gratefully refused his offer to escort us, because we wanted to depend on the love of Christ, not on the force of the police. The inspector decided to purchase a copy of the Injil.
I went to speak to the man who had agitated the crowd and stirred up the trouble. He started to run like a coward. The crowd rebuked him and asked why he was running away and why he would not stand up like a man. Then they began to come to us and ask for Bibles. I never saw so many sold in one day.
We had a wonderful confirmation of the power of Christ to provide for us, to protect us, and to use us as we trusted him. We would have sold very little under different circumstances, but that day we sold everything we had. We rejoiced, not for the sale of the literature, but for the distribution of the Word of God. We witnessed the living power of God again and again over the years. He is truly the Lord of all circumstances.
I want to tell all Muslims about the Savior who loves them. I have found that the happiest thing in all he world is to know and trust the Lord Jesus Christ. Muslims say they believe in the Injil, but they make a judgment about it before they have read it It is sad that so many read novels and worthless books and neglect the Injil. And of course many refuse to listen to teaching about the true nature of Christ, especially the meaning of his sonship. But I have found that they seriously misunderstand this doctrine and other truths in the Bible.
I know how difficult it is for Muslims to open their hearts to the truth of the Injil, because to become a believer in Christ in this part of the world is to degrade oneself socially, politically, and morally. Such people become outcasts and they have no place in their society.
In spite of all of this, however, interest in the Christian faith is growing, and many are inquiring into the true meaning of the Injil. Some say they believe, but the real proof of one's sincerity is seen only if he takes a public stand for Christ. He must publicly renounce trust in everything and everyone else, and he must be prepared to suffer persecution. Yet if he truly believes and publicly acknowledges his absolute trust in Christ as Savior and Lord, he will know an unspeakable joy, a surpassing peace, and eternal life in the presence of God.
I made that decision one day and I have never regretted it. I was a Muslim and I have lived all of my life in a Muslim society. For the sake of the love of Christ, however, I was glad to repudiate all that I had formerly boasted in and trusted. Christ has set me free from guilt and fear. He has set me free to love and serve the living God And I long to give my life for the sake of telling others about the love and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross for the sins of the whole world.
When a man desires earnestly to know God, it only indicates that he is responding to God's search for him, and such a desire, if sincere, must culminate in God's finding him . . . A copy of the gospel was given to me by a Muslim friend who himself had received it from a preacher or a colporteur. On a previous occasion I had torn it into pieces, for when attracted by its title "Injil," a term with which I was familiarized by the study of the Quran, I had taken it to my teacher. I was warned in all seriousess not to read it because it was not a true Injil of which the Quran testifies, but a corrupted form of it, and consequently containing blasphemous teachings, the very acts of pronouncing its words pollute the mind and the soul of a believer. My inner longing, however, to read the book revealed to Jesus was very great . . .
J. A. Subhan
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