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Allah's Shadow

At semester's end, one of my students (whom I will call A.) inadvertently provided some Advent uplift by telling me her mother's story. The details are spare, in virtue of the circumstances under which the essay was written, but sufficient to the purpose, and which I now offer with A's express permission.

Her mother was born of teenage parents into a very poor family. She was the oldest of thirteen brothers and sisters. Her own mother, A's grandmother, was married at the age of twelve to an eighteen year old boy, an occurrence, says A., which was "supposedly a normal thing to do in Singapore at the time." A's mother spent all her time taking care of her siblings and "selling food to the neighbors" to help make ends meet. She did manage to stay in school through 10th grade while all of her brothers and sisters dropped out sooner, by middle school at the latest. At the age of seventeen, she met an older man, twenty-eight years older to be exact: he was forty-five. He was also a Christian. It was this, and not his age, that incurred her family's severe disapproval. He converted to Islam so that he could marry the girl. A's older brother was born of this union which, though the husband provided "a wonderful life," didn't last. She doesn't say for how long it did last, or how old her mother was when she met A's father.

This new husband was also a Christian, and an American. He would not convert, for which the woman's family hated him. He was not himself very serious about religion, but liked his Christian background and was determined to stick by it. Her family's wrath notwithstanding, A's mother loved the man too much to leave him, married him in the end, and ultimately moved with him to America, ending up in Hawaii. (My student spells it Hawai'i). A was their first child, later supplemented by two brothers. Her dad, she says, "wanted the best for me," so he enrolled her in a private Christian school, against his wife's vehement opposition. Now, although the mother was not particularly attached to her own religion (nor the father to his; says A, "religion was only important to their families"), she "hated Jesus Christ and Christianity," a loathing no doubt absorbed from the culture in which she was raised. (I am making a presumption here.) But there was another side to her character: "she loved helping others, especially if it had to with cooking." So she volunteered at the school's church "to cook and give out food to the homeless people in Honolulu." The course of her duties required sitting through the Bible study lessons that accompanied the meals, and gradually her mind began to open concerning "this whole Christianity thing."

One night she had a dream. In it, Jesus and Allah were in two different buildings. Allah seemed to her like a shadow, while Jesus was vividly and concretely "there," so she went into Jesus' building, whereupon he "pointed his finger at her," which she took to mean that he wanted her to be with him. So she went to him and then woke up. The next day she knew she would have to convert to Christianity, in consequence "accepting Jesus as her Lord and Savior."

That was seven years ago. A's mother's dedication to God in the person of Jesus Christ has apparently inspired her father at last to start taking his religion seriously. "This whole process," says A, "is the best thing that has happened to our family." However, her mother still hasn't told her family about her conversion, in fear that their hatred will deepen, and that she will be disowned. They think she is still Muslim. She plans on telling them eventually, but it is a daily struggle. She reads frequently, to herself and sometimes aloud, the bible verse which cautions that "if you deny me before men, I will deny you before my Father in heaven."

A. obviously loves her mother very much, convinced that "she is a very gifted woman, and that God will use her talents to glorify Himself." She concludes on a note I don't see much in evidence among the young: "I do not deserve the love she pours out on me."

Well, I think you do.

Comments (11)

Lovely story! Thanks for sharing, Bill.

A wonderful story for the Christmas season. Merry Christmas to all.

Three cheers for the Christian school.

By the way, this is the second plausible story I've heard about a person converted from Islam to Christianity by means of a dream. The first was told to Ravi Zacharias, and the dream was even more dramatic, inasmuch as the person reported its coming nightly for a year. I don't know what to make of it, but I wouldn't put it past God to work in this way with people from a Muslim background.

Amazing how God works in people's lives, sometimes. Well, always, but it is not always as obvious.

Bill, is there some special reason that A's mother needs to "inform" on herself to her family? If she wasn't all that much of a Muslim earlier, and her family didn't care about that, then why must either they or the mother think that they have a "right" to know that she has converted? Why can't she just let sleeping dogs lie? At least, for now, that is. Eventually, (especially if some of the family visits from Singapore) I suppose that it will naturally come out. But that's just the point - when it naturally comes out, that is natural, it is God's way of arranging it. And by that time (maybe after several years) she can say something like: I was a Christian last year when I sent you those gifts, and you didn't hate me then. I was a Christian 2 years ago when we laughed so much on the phone that I dropped the call, and you didn't hate me then. I was a Christian 3 years ago when X happened, and you didn't hate me then either. So what has changed is that now you hate me, not me, I am the same lovable person that you loved last year.

I think that the fact that they are in Singapore and she is here makes a difference. It would be one thing if they lived down the street from her and if she were saying, "Kids, don't tell Grandma and Grandpa that we go to church, okay?" or running around hiding the Bibles when they come for a visit. There the "denying me before men" thing could quite plausibly be cited. But merely refraining from calling them or e-mailing them all the way in Singapore to tell them about her conversion isn't quite the same thing.

That being said, I can well imagine that she feels a desire to share her faith with them. The Great Commission seems to have special urgency with one's own immediate family. If her mother or father were to die not even knowing she was a Christian, how would she feel?

So I can see arguments both ways.

There is a website dedicated to Muslim converts' stories of their dreams about Jesus: www.morethandreams.org

"Abu Daoud," an Anglican missionary in Muslim lands I once met, writes of one survey:

"As with Paul and Cornelius in Acts, visions and dreams played a role in the conversion of many. More than one in four respondents, 27 percent, noted dreams and visions before their decision for Christ, 40 percent at the time of conversion, and 45 percent afterward"

I am not sure I ever had a religious dream myself.

I am surprised to realize that lately I cannot remember my dreams at all. Perhaps this is a sign of spiritual sterility (temporary, I hope).

Tony, you're asking for some of those details that cannot be gotten without sitting the student down for a long interview. I did ask a few questions, but the situation did not allow much time.

For example, that "she wasn't all that much of a Muslim" is the kind of thing that might not have become obvious until she fell in love, and she seemed to have a thing for falling in love with non-Muslims. Second, I don't know that she feels a need to "inform" on herself. Remember, she had already married a Christian man who refused to convert, so the family since that time has been pretty bent out of shape about it. They hate him and are no doubt angry with her; that's why your hypothetical phone conversation seems improbable. It seems more likely to me, with their daughter off in America married to a Christian, that they have already asked if she were still a Muslim, or at least have threatened her with consequences ("disowning") should she ever cease to be one. It's possible A's mother has been lying to them, trying to figure out the right way to break it without losing her family. Or she may indeed feel the need to "inform" on herself because of an overly scrupulous reading of Jesus' words: "If you deny me...etc." It seems to me that a prudential silence is not sinful, but that, if she is asked directly, she is bound not to lie about it, for that would constitute the denial Christ warns against. And yes, there's the missionary spirit, or the urge to witness Lydia mentions, the zeal for which can sometimes overpower prudence. But she's kept it hidden for seven years; it's hard to imagine that she hasn't been asked the question directly.

It may be that there are no circumstances under which this family can bear this good news, and that A's mother, for the sake of her own conscience, will have to resign herself to surrendering those to whom she was "born after the flesh." It's hard (I would imagine) to leave family behind.

Thanks for the links, Kevin.

That's interesting, Kevin. It's always somewhat satisfying when one conjectures a trend based on a small sample and then it does turn out that there is a larger pattern that is statistically significant.

I've prayed for A's mother. May she have the strenght to confess Christ to her infidel family.

What's wrong with disowning a child because you disagree with there religious beliefs?

If your child told you he was an atheist after everything you had raised him in and taught him, then it would be hard for you to retain the same feelings for them.

If it was the other way round and they were converting to Islam or Judaism or became an atheist, would this still bother you in the same way. Yes, I know that the disowning of children is more prevalent in Islam, but its does happen within Christianity as well. When people give up on Christianity they can lose there friends and family because of it, or are at least no longer as close to them due to there decision (the same goes for Judaism).

I'm sure a lot of you would be ok with disowning a child if he was engaging in behavior that you thought was wrong or harmful to them (this includes there sexual behaviour), at least until they saw sense. If you believe someone's religious beliefs may lead them into eternal damnation, then isn't disowning them, at least in the hope that the loss will make them see sense, a morally justifable action?

MB, the parable of the prodigal son comes to mind . . . .

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