In East Africa, a hard road from Islamic scholar to follower of Jesus

November 4, 2019 by Christopher Summers in Africa

Abdul Razak* is an Open Doors trainer who lives in East Africa—but he has not always followed Jesus. And he did not accept Jesus easily. His journey was long and tumultuous, and worsened by Christians’ inability to answer his questions about the faith.

 

But the Holy Spirit made the words of John 3:5 (“‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.’”) stick in his heart, and prevented him from giving up his search for truth.

 

Today the frustrations that made his road to Jesus so difficult drive his passion to equip Christians to defend their faith—and to offer the best possible help to Muslims seeking the way, the truth and the light.

I was born into a Muslim family, and was training to be a staunch and well-learned imam. I started attending a madrasa to study the Quran, and all the rules of Islam, while in elementary school. By the time I finished elementary school, I taught other children.

I also became a disciple of an imam who was feared by all. One day, shortly before his death, this imam told me something very upsetting: “I had a vision in which I saw you leaving the ways of Allah.” I was shocked and pleaded to know more, but he was not ready to tell me. He passed away before he could.

After his burial, people expected me to fill his position but I wanted to finish my education first. It was during this time that I attended an open-air evangelistic event. I am not sure why I went, because I hated Christians and saw them as evil pagans. But that day I heard words that changed my life forever. The speaker preached from John 3:5: “‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.’”

As much as I tried, I could not forget those words. They burned in my heart, and took me on a long, winding, and very frustrating road in search of the truth. I went back and forth between the mosque and Christians, searching for answers. For a long time, I found none.

When I asked Muslims about this verse, they dismissed it as typical Christian talk. They warned me: “Christians are bad people. If you listen to them, you will be like them.” They told me to challenge Christians about their belief in Jesus and the Trinity, but that did not help me find the answers I was looking for. They even tried to prove from the Bible that Christianity was false.

When I went to Christians about my confusion, they could not answer me either. One pastor offended me greatly when he claimed things about Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. This caused even more questions, which mosque leaders were unable to answer.

There was one thing I noticed in my back-and-forth thinking, though: Whenever Christians prayed for me, I experienced peace. From childhood, I had been tormented by recurring nightmares and visions about a terrifying snake. Sometimes I could physically feel its horrible presence with me. When they prayed, the snake was gone, and I had peace. I wanted that peace to last.

That drove me even more to search for answers. I asked a Christian to take me to church, but the moment that church leaders saw I was a devout Muslim, they would be too scared to receive me. We went from church to church, and it was always the same. At one church a pastor nervously asked me, “Do you want to become a Christian?”

I was shocked. “No—God forbid!” I answered. “I just want to be baptized so I can enter the kingdom of God and continue in Islam.” That closed the door immediately.

Finally, I came to a church where people patiently answered my questions. For two months, we debated faith. Eventually they gently told me the truth. “You are looking for the way to salvation in Islam, but it is only found in Christ,” they said.

They started teaching me about the divinity of Christ from John’s Gospel. I still went back and forth between the church and the mosque, confused, and in desperate need of answers. Then, one day, the group of Christians told me that I had a choice to make, and fervently prayed for me.

Afterwards, peace filled my heart. That night I dreamed about the snake again, but this time a light consumed the snake. It died.

Afterwards, even though there were still some things that confused me, I was sure that I had found the right way. I was baptized and stayed inside the church compound for my own safety.

Risking it all for the truth

The pastor gave me a Bible and I attended Bible classes over the next two years. This was a very precious time for me: The snake that tormented me all my life was no longer there. The desire to enter the kingdom of God was fulfilled, and, above all, I could see Islam for what it really was. It was as if it was something hidden in a bottle that had been poured out.

I started attending evangelistic events, sharing my testimony. I also started to preach. I wanted Muslims to know the things I had struggled with, and be able to make their own choices. Many people came to Christ. I felt so happy.

Then someone who knew me attended one of these meetings and told my family. That night, my mother called me and ordered me home. When I got there, she told me, “I don’t know what you did, but people from your mosque came here and threw words at me that I can’t even interpret. What did you do?”

I told her I had become a follower of Jesus, a Christian. “The snake is dead, mom,” I said.

She knew exactly how much these visions had tormented me. “Who killed the snake?” she asked. I tried as best I could to explain my journey, but it all confused her too much.

I was summoned to the mosque to answer the leaders’ questions. For hours they grilled me, challenging me with verses from the Bible and the Quran. When they spoke about the Bible, I knew I had a lot to learn. But when they spoke about the Quran, they were out of their depth. They were older than me, but I was their teacher.

“We know, according to the scripture, that there is firewood which will be used to burn people on the last day. You are that firewood,” they told me, as we parted ways.

I returned to the capital to finish my studies. At the same time, I preached the gospel. My family hated this and disowned me. I was no longer welcome at home. My older sister, who had helped pay for my studies, withdrew her support.

But the Lord provided. A Christian offered to pay for the remainder of my studies, and later even paid for me to attend Bible school in another country. It was not easy, but God helped me.

Eventually, as I shared my faith with my family, they began to follow Jesus, one by one. And then, one day, when my father—who had been an imam!—was very sick, I took him to the capital for medical care. This gave me the opportunity to share my faith with him too. He also believed in Jesus. Now my entire family had become Christians!

Helping others avoid an unnecessarily difficult journey

I encountered Open Doors during my time in Bible School outside of my country, and, after I came home, I attended many of their seminars. Afterwards I became one of their trainers.

Together we work to make people aware of what Islam teaches, and the impact it has on the lives of people. We want people to be alert, and to not be ignorantly drawn into Islam.

Our courses have helped Christians understand their own faith more clearly. Radical Muslims visit our area at least twice a year to preach Islam, and say things about the Bible and the church that confuse Christians. But now local believers see that their faith is so great and that Jesus is so big, even if He is despised by these Muslim preachers.

We also tell these Christians how they can share the gospel with Muslims. We have seen an increase in Muslim seekers. They ask many questions about Christianity, sincerely desiring to know the truth.

Help support these critical projects!

Projects like the one that Abdul runs around East Africa happen because of people just like you—people who are inspired to give to their sisters and brothers who risk everything to follow Jesus. Right now, Open Doors needs critical help before the end of the year to fund projects like these. We believe these projects are so vital for God’s people, which is why we’re asking for your support.

We need your help to meet these needs! Will you help?

Give now

We see Jesus coming into the lives of people. We see Jesus clearly intervening. Jesus is there for us. People are brought to Christ. Even though they are chased away by their communities, they still have hope. We thank God that in all that we are suffering, in all that we are going through, Jesus is there giving us assurance, and He intervenes for us in a very special way.

We know He does that through people like you, so we ask that you continue supporting us.

Pray with us

  • Please pray for me to have the strength and protection to continue doing this work. It is not easy. I want Him to use me more, so I need prayers that will help me reach new places.
  • Pray for those who have not yet become Christians. They are without Christ and without hope, and they know nothing about Christianity. Pray that God will open their hearts that they may see this light that we now have, so that they can accept Jesus Christ too.
  • Pray for others too who preach the gospel in Muslim-dominated regions. Pray that God would strengthen them, and remove fear and discouragement so that they can continue with the mission.
  • Pray for believers who converted from Islam. Life can be tough for them in this region: some are kicked out of their homes, left without their school fees, abandoned; some have had their farm land confiscated, and others lose custody of their children. Pray for them to be strong, that God may wipe away their tears and give them the assurance of salvation. Pray for their families to become Christians too.
  • Pray also that the strategies of Islam to draw in many people through offering money, opportunity, and relief aid, etc., will fail. Pray that Christians will understand the snares set to catch them.

*Representative names and photos used to protect identities.

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