Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ, Story #7

This excerpt from my dissertation is the conversion-story summary of Respondent Seven, a male from Nablus. Feel free to interact in the comments or download my dissertation as a free PDF!

The following is ©2014 University of Pretoria and Craig Dunning, and if used elsewhere, should be cited as:

Dunning, CA (2014) Palestinian Muslims converting to Christianity: effective evangelistic methods in the West Bank. Pretoria, South Africa: University of Pretoria, PhD thesis, pp. 323-326.

Respondent Seven – male – Nablus

Respondent Seven was raised in a very religiously observant Muslim family. Not only did he pray five times daily, he awoke early to pray with his grandfather who was the area sheik. At the age of twelve he had memorized half of the Qur’an, and fully intended to memorize the whole text. However, while reading and memorizing the Qur’an, he came upon some troubling things, which eventually led to his openness toward Christianity.

When the respondent came to the portion of the Qur’an that deals with the crucifixion of Jesus,[1]he noticed what he thought was a mistake. He mentioned to his grandfather that he had come upon a problem and asked if his grandfather could help him. Of course his grandfather said he would. The respondent explained to his grandfather that while reading the Qur’an he got the impression that the Qur’an teaches that “Allah tricked people so that they thought Jesus was crucified on the cross, but it was really someone else.” He said he asked his grandfather if that is, in fact, “what we believe.” His grandfather answered in the affirmative that “Muslims believe that Allah tricked those who thought it was Jesus who was actually crucified, and that Allah would punish those who believe the trick.” While the respondent’s grandfather was very proud of his grandson’s sharp mind, the respondent was very disappointed and troubled by this revelation, which he believed “made Allah look bad.”

In addition to the most serious problem mentioned above, the respondent started finding other problems within the Qur’an. Many of those problems he characterized as “contradictions.”Over the next couple years, while he was approximately thirteen to fifteen-years-old, he began to intensely study the Qur’an and seek out Islamic scholars who could answer his questions. He said, “I wasn’t looking for a way out of Islam; I was trying to get answers that would help keep me in.” He wrote to Islamic authorities at various centers and schools in a variety of countries, and only became more disappointed by each answer he received. This disappointment led him to be less observant, though certainly not an apostate.

About three years later he was introduced to some members of the Christian Student Association at Bir Zeit University. It was these students who presented the respondent with the first New Testament he had ever seen, which he read several times within a year. He explained his experience of reading the New Testament as a process of increasing attraction: “Though I read it from a Muslim mindset, each time I was more attracted to it than each previous time.” When asked what he meant by “Muslim mindset” he clarified: “Still believing in Islam and the basic teachings of Islam, especially that God can not be a man.”

After about one year of continuously reading the New Testament and becoming friendlier with the Christian students, the respondent thought it would be good to meet with a priest to get some answers. He made an appointment and eventually went to meet with a Catholic priest in Ramallah, who politely listened to his first few questions. Very quickly, though, the priest asked the respondent to go to the Palestinian Authority ministry of religious affairs to change his religious status from Muslim to Christian so that they could continue their discussions. The respondent refused to change his religion and demanded to know the answers to his questions. The priest’s response was to refuse to continue talking with the respondent. In hindsight, he suspects the priest was afraid of being accused of converting Muslims.

After the failed effort to get some answers from the priest, one of the Christian students offered to introduce the respondent to “a[n evangelical] scholar.” During their first meeting the scholar started to preach, saying, “You need the lamb whose blood protects us, the lamb who was resurrected after three days.” Because he had read the New Testament several times, the respondent understood that the scholar was talking about Jesus, but the approach was quite shocking. Additionally, he said, “I didn’t know how to believe in Jesus, so I asked him how can I believe?” The scholar’s answer was equally shocking and unhelpful: “Tell him you are a sinner and give him your sin,” he said. “But, how?” the respondent pleaded for clarification. The scholar gave another aggressive and unclear response: “Let’s pray! If you believe the words, accept them. If not, don’t.” The respondent followed in prayer not knowing whether he believed or not.

One thing became clear, though: there were some definite cultural and religious issues to overcome. “How could I view the Lord as my friend?” he asked. “Islam believes that God is untouchable, unreachable by humans. So, how could I relate to Jesus, who Christians believe is God, like a friend? It was hard enough to think about Jesus, a man, being God. But it was nearly impossible to think of him as a friend.”

Still unclear of his status, believer or unbeliever, the respondent “read the New Testament faithfully for the next three years, or a little more.” During this period, he came to think that he “already knew everything [he] needed to know,” so he was puzzled why it was “so difficult to follow Jesus.” As he thought through the decision, he decided to make a chart listing all that he might lose or gain if he decided to follow Jesus.

What he saw was a lopsided chart that revealed overwhelming risk and no gain, which helped the respondent push away the idea of believing in Jesus. But only temporarily because the thoughts of following Jesus continued to regularly resurface, often with thoughts of how his original chart was incomplete. On the gain side, he realized he should have listed peace, love, eternal life, forgiveness, and honor through humility. Finally, after four years of consideration, he firmly decided to believe in Jesus. At that time, the respondent called the scholar who he had prayed with previously and said, “I’m ready to believe.” Immediately, the scholar prayed the sinner’s prayer with the respondent.

When asked if there was a decisive event or specific information that changed his mind, the respondent said his conversion was dependent on several things: A personal problem with Islam; the willingness of Christians to give him a New Testament and his own desire to read it; the availability, willingness and patience of a Christian to answer his questions; and a Christian’s willingness to challenge him to believe in Jesus.

Themes that emerged in this interview: Personal Bible reading, Q and A, doubts about Islam/Quran, the kindness of Christians, the witness of a friend, meeting Christians/MBBs, the “sinner’s prayer,” and common objections to the gospel.

[1] See, Sahih International Translation, Quran.com/4 [Accessed 10 Sep 2012]. 4:156-159 “And [We cursed them] for their disbelief and their saying against Mary a great slander, (157) And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain. (158) Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise. (159) And there is none from the People of the Scripture but that he will surely believe in Jesus before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection he will be against them a witness.”

NEXT: Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ: Story #8

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