A Yemeni’s Pilgrimage to Christianity
A Yemeni’s Pilgrimage to Christianity
By Jacob Thomas
28 October, 2016
Satellite TV and the Internet have made tremendous inroads into the Arab World. Some of the telecasts are of a political nature, while others expound Islamic or Christian subjects.
Recently, I came across Al-Hayat, a Satellite TV station devoted to spreading and defending the Christian faith. One of the speakers is Brother Rachid, a Moroccan Christian whose program is known as “Sou’al Jeri’” (A Daring Question) heard every Thursday evening, and archived on the website of http://islamexplained.com
The following is based on a dialogue in Arabic, between Brother Rachid and Brother Jibril Saleh, on the 10th of June, 2016. Brother Jibril is from Sana’a, Yemen. Growing up as a practicing Muslim, he eventually entertained several doubts about Islam. After listening to Brother Rachid, on the Satellite TV Station, he left Islam and adopted faith in the Messiah of the Holy Scriptures.
Brother Rachid: Welcome Brother Jibril Saleh, this is my first interview with a convert from Yemen. Please, give us information about your background, and journey to the Christian faith.
Brother Jibril: I was born into a Sunni family in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. My family was rather conservative. I began attending the local mosque early in my life. After the Salaat al-Maghreb (Service at the Mosque at sunset), I took part in special meetings known as Halaqat, where we memorized Surahs from the Qur’an, and discussed religious subjects.
BR: Who led the Halaqat?
BJ: They were conducted under Sheikhs, with each Halaqat bearing the name of one of the Sahaba of the Prophet, such as Halaqat Ali, or Halaqat Mus’ab, etc. (Sahaba denotes those followers of Muhammad who left Mecca with him in 622, and settled in Medina)
BR: How old were you at the time?
BJ: I was in my early teens. I had several questions in my mind about the subjects being discussed; but I dared not ask them openly. We were warned not to ask deep questions. One question was, “Who created Allah?” I feared Allah, especially the punishments of hell, and the torments that begin after death in the grave. Still, I clung to my faith in the Qur’an; in fact, I developed a way by which I would not accept a Hadith if it conflicted with the plain teachings of the Qur’an.
BR: What was the incident that sparked your quest to think deeply about life issues?
BJ: It happened in 2011; I was living in western Yemen. A hurricane hit the town causing lots of destruction, including several casualties. Prior to that event, I had not reflected on any existential issue; however now, I wondered about my future. In fact, as the powerful storm hit the town, I imagined the Hour of Judgment had come. I became terribly scared! My questions increased. I wasn’t sure that, had I been killed, I would have made it to Heaven! Wat if my good works were outweighed by my transgressions? It was very hard to live with a lack of assurance regarding my eternal destiny!
BR: Did you share your questions and doubts with anyone?
BJ: I used the Internet and Facebook; I became more religious. Working at a gas station, I asked for permission to do my 5 prayers, at the appointed times. Eventually, my devotions did not help; the ritualistic prayers became meaningless, due to their repetitious nature. So, I embarked on a quest of comparing Islam with other religions; and began dialoging with Christians and with Malahidat (those who left Islam, and had become unbelievers.) My quest was for my eternal fate and for the truth. I became bolder in my questions on Facebook: ‘Did the Apostle Muhammad really marry a woman, just after killing her husband and her son?’
Muslims invoke divine maledictions on the Kuffar; nevertheless, their conditions remain worse than those of those Infidels who prosper and do much better in life!
One day, I came upon the satellite TV Station, Al-Hayat airing “A Daring Question” that was critical of Islam. At first, I thought the speaker was wrong, interpreting Qur’anic passages out of their historical context. Yet, when he referred to those violent texts such as striking the necks men, they were the very passages that Da’esh (ISIS) quote when they commit their violent acts.
I continued my research in the Qur’an, I found Surah 9, Al-Tawba (Repentance) Ayah 29, sanctioning violence: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor in the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”
Then I came across Surah 47, Ayah 4, that convinced me that Islam cannot be the Truth! These words encourage horrific acts of violence, and cannot proceed from Allah!
“So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds, and either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them] until the war lays down its burdens. That [is the command]. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken vengeance upon them [Himself], but [He ordered armed struggle] to test some of you by means of others. And those who are killed in the cause of Allah – never will He waste their deeds.”
So, I left Islam and became an unbeliever. I thought at the time, that all religions were the same. I had in my possession a copy of the Holy Bible that I had not read. One day, I decided to read it beginning with the Gospel of Matthew. I found these words of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount. They showed me that I had been following the wrong path. I went on reading the Gospel and came across these words of Jesus Christ: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.”
And this advice from the Messiah about prayer:
“But thou, when thou prayest, enter thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as he heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
I had found the Truth in Christianity, and made known my conversion on Facebook.
BR: What was the reaction of your family, friends and acquaintances?
BJ: I was threatened with death. ‘Should you ever returned to Yemen, we’ll kill you!’ I was shocked! My former friends turned into implacable enemies!
Then, adding to my horror was what happened to a 17-year old acquaintance who had placed on Facebook some of his free meditations, such as, ‘I see Allah in flowers, and not in tombs.’ Islamists considered that as blasphemy. He was abducted and murdered in Aden. Not only that, but they made a video of him breathing his last! They wanted to terrorize anyone who strays from the Path!
BR: What are some of your present activities?
BJ: I have discovered several Yemeni believers, both inside and outside Yemen. I’m in touch with them, strengthening their faith. Several Yemenis have left Islam, and are living as unbelievers. Having been disappointed in Islam, they imagine that all religions are the same!
BR: What about your growth in your new-found faith?
BJ: Having managed to immigrate to America, I looked for an Arabic-speaking church. I found one, and joined it. The first thing I asked for was to be baptized.
BR: How did you feel after your baptism?
BJ: It was the best day of my life. It was a wonderful spiritual event. I said goodbye to my past, I found the real Allah, I sensed the love of Christ. Our God is love; while in Islam’s 99 names of Allah, not one is Love! I learned how to live my faith and to love my enemies; not to swear in my speech! Of course, the change is taking place gradually, having lived so long in Islam!
BR: Are your parents and relatives aware of your conversion?
BJ: Everybody knows about my becoming a Christian. Mother tried to bring me back to Islam, and warns me, ‘Don’t ever say Christ is Allah.’ She pleads with me to return to Islam! My brother calls me ‘majnoon’ (insane), adding that had I opted for Ilhad (unbelief,) he would still respect me; but not for becoming a Christian! A young cousin told me that I deserved to be killed as I have become a Murtad (Apostate).
BR: What about the future?
BJ: I am hopeful about the future. The Lord willing, change is coming. Many Arabs are now critiquing Islam. Nowadays, it’s much easier than in the past. Several young Arabs acknowledge that Muhammad was a pretender, not a true prophet. He led a life of violence, raids, and captivity of innocent women and children; he couldn’t have been a true prophet of Allah.
Of course, Yemen has its insurmountable problems. Illiteracy rate is around 50%; marriage of young girls is very high. A relative of mine has organized a shelter in Aden for young brides who had managed to escape their deplorable conditions! It’s very difficult to combat this awful custom, since Muhammad had married ‘Aisha when she was 6 years old!
BR: What’s your message to the ‘Abiroon? (An Arabic term, it refers to those who have crossed over from their past condition, and arrived safely at their destination with their Lord and Savior Christ Jesus!)
BJ: Hold fast to your faith, be of one mind, work together, be patient. Be wise in the use of the Internet and Facebook. Manifest the fruits of your faith by living in love and in peace.
END OF INTERVIEW