My father was a Sunni Muslim and a Kurdish chieftain. My mother was a Shi'ah Muslim and was from the royal Qajar family. When I was four years old my father was executed by the government.
At the age of seven I began asking questions about God and creation. I would ask my mother, "Who destined my life on this earth?" or "How were the earth and the heavens created?" Mother would usually answer, "When you grow up I will explain about your creation, but as far as the earth and the heavens the unseen God has created them."
My mother had completed her high school education in a prestigious Catholic school in Tehran. She was a wonderful mother. She also tried to live in accordance with the Islamic religious requirements. I became eager to be a good Muslim. When I was 12 years old I also began to observe the Islamic prayers and fasting. I felt the existence of the unseen God with all my heart. My mother had instructed me that if I were to reach God and enter paradise, I must, 1) perform the ritual prayers and fast, 2) not wish bad for others, 3) not steal, 4) believe in Mohammad as God's apostle and in the innocense of 14 persons (the 12 Imams, Mohammed and his daughter, Fatemeh, 5) give alms to the poor, and 6) take a pilgrimage to Mecca, the Muslims' most holy city. I carefully followed her advice because I desired to go to heaven. I even read the Qur'an regularly.
When I was 16 I met the man who later became my husband. He was a very wealthy man. Soon after our marriage, I asked my husband to hire a mullah (a Muslim clergy) to instruct me in the teachings of the Qur'an. For two hours every Thursday I studied the Qur'an under the guidance of this Mullah.
By the age of 27 my husband and I had five children. I had also studied the Qur'an for 10 years. Nevertheless I sensed that I did not know God personally and I found no peace in my soul. For instance, according to the Qur'an, I was required to wear the Islamic veil in front of the people who worked in my home every day. This proved to be impractical. However, my contacts with these people were unavoidable and it bothered me very much. At this point it occurred to me that if I made a pilgrimage to Mecca (the home of Allah), perhaps I could find the elusive peace I was seeking.
My husband was greatly surprised when I asked him to make arrangements for me to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. But he consented. He contacted a famous ayatollah in the city of Qum and soon my passport, the special clothing for the pilgrimage and all other details were arranged. I was the youngest female pilgrim in our company. I could hardly contain my joy.
In Mecca, I observed all the rites with much eagerness; I gave sacrifices of sheep for my sin and the sins of my dead parents and grandparents. I believed that I was even able to help the dead to go to paradise. Finally I was on the plane returning to Iran from Mecca.
I was quite content with my pilgrimage. A half hour before our plane landed in Tehran, I went to the restroom and took off the face and body coverings (the veil.) I put on a scarf and a manto (an ankle length overcoat). As I returned to my seat, the mullah who was the supervisor of our pilgrimage company came up to me and abruptly said, "What have you done hajieh (a female pilgrim)? Why are you wearing a scarf and manto? Are you aware that I can see your hair showing from under your scarf? Don't you know that with this violation you are going straight to hell?" I stared at him with astonishment and disbelief, and asked him "What kind of teaching is this? Isn't God supposed to be in a persons' heart?" The mullah said, "No! According to the Qur'an one gets close to God by observing the hejab (the Islamic dress code) and the Shari'a (the Islamic law) and not by one's heartfelt desires. It is Satan who resides in man's heart, not God!"
This discussion gave me a feeling of despair in my heart. I said to God, "Why every time that I try to get close to you I end up farther away? Show me a way to get close to you." Soon I began thinking about leaving Iran and living abroad. I discussed the possibility with my husband. He finally relented. And in 1977, my husband, children and I left for the U.S.
One day I shared my desire to go to church with an Armenian friend. As a result the following Sunday I went to her church with her. I requested the pastor of the church to find me a Persian language New Testament (Injil). He gave me the New Testament the following day and instructed me to begin reading from the Gospel according to Matthew. I followed what he said and when I finished reading my New Testament I knew I had found the Living, True and Eternal God. He was not the person I had been told about all my life. I thanked God for this and continued to study the Bible. Later, I placed my faith in the true God.
Soon after our arrival in the U.S., the government in Iran changed. We learned that our home in Iran had been confiscated. Even some of our family members had been executed. Then, my husband was recalled to Iran. Upon his arrival there, he was arrested and imprisoned. Due to beatings he received, he lost several teeth and suffered a broken leg.
Caring for my children in the U.S. made me feel very much alone. I did not know what to do. I surrendered all my worries to the Lord Jesus Christ. My Iranian friends, acquaintances and family members said that God had struck my family with all these disasters because I had abandoned Islam and become a Christian! However, I was sure that I had chosen the true path and that I had found a true relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I knew that every detail of my life was in God's good hands and took place according to His will. Thus I constantly prayed and gave thanks to God.
In the end, all our possessions in Iran were confiscated. However, praise God, my husband was released from prison and returned to us. We once again began our lives together in the U.S. We both worked until our children completed their education. Then two of our daughters married. Life seemed normal, but suddenly we suffered another blow. My husband who was only in his forties died of a heart attack, leaving me alone again.
But I had faith, and that was enough to hold me up. Through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and by His grace my children and I gradually overcame our difficulties. Life took on a normal routine once again. Soon all my children were now leading good lives on their own and I was the grandmother of several beautiful grandchildren.
Now I clearly see how our loving God has sustained my family and me through the difficulties of life. He has blessed us with true peace and joy. Salvation is my greatest wealth and this limitless wealth is God's gift.
I end my life's story with two verses from the Injil (New Testament):
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
Jesus said "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes me will live, even though he dies." (John 11:25)
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