I grew up in a Muslim home in a highly populated Arab/Muslim area in the United States. I would not characterize my upbringing as an extremely religious environment, however, the Muslim tenets were highly important at home and were to be abided unequivocally. I recall looking forward to Ramadan every year, and waiting for the annual Ramadan grocery store trip when my parents would stock up on what looked to my young self as enough groceries for a year. I always checked to see if they brought the apricot paste that I loved so much, and they always did. I remember watching my parents pray and hearing my father begin every dinner with Bism Allah Al Rahman Al Raheem (In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful) right before he took a bite. I remember the discipline that was required at home, not just religiously, but morally, and socially. Life was not complicated, albeit, until I started realizing as I grew up that there were questions I never had the answers to about Allah. Who was He really? Does He float the sky watching over us? Would He really do the things that I heard He would do on the day of judgment to those who sin? Why can’t I feel close to Him? Why do I not feel anything when I pray to Him? How could Jesus not have been crucified?
I did not know that I would one day grow up and question the very bedrock of everything that I thought I was, my faith. I did not seek to ever question all that I have ever known, but Allah sought me first. I recall one day, just a couple of years ago sitting with a friend, (and now partner in life) asking him why he forgave someone that did something so incredibly terrible. He said he had no other choice, that it was what God wants him to do. I could not wrap my brain around this person, and I mistook his forgiveness for weakness. I observed him over overtime and noticed something was different about him, and I could not resist my curiosity to understand why. Little did I know, the Spirit of God was with me, showing me something I had never seen before, giving me glimpses of God. Kindness and mercy that I scoffed at growing up. I also did not know that I was in the middle of a spiritual warfare and I could not ignore it. I felt compelled to ask my then friend questions about Christianity and the Bible that I was curious about for years, and I asked these questions with confidence that he would not be able refute my questions successfully. The very first thing I asked was, “how can you say that God has a son? God does not give birth nor was He born from anything or anyone.” I got a satisfactory answer. I finally understood what “Son” actually meant. I then asked, “How can you believe in a book that has been corrupted, written by so many different people. I mean the Quran has been the same since its inception, the Torah too, but this Bible, it just seems fabricated.” He then answered my question, and I actually learned that the bible does in fact include the Torah, I learned what the New and Old Testament are, and the thousands of manuscripts that support the accuracy of the bible, as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls. I then confessed my disbelief in one of the main Islamic beliefs: I did not believe Jesus was not crucified. I had never believed it because it seemed that God would be responsible for so much division between faiths. It just didn’t make sense that He would confuse people.
After further discussion and more discovery of Allah and Jesus, I decided this was a conversation I was going to try to forget, even though my heart told me otherwise. I tried for weeks ignoring this new information that I learned because I was afraid to challenge Islam. It was the greatest sin I could ever imagine. That is when my dreams began. I began to see Jesus in my dreams, directing me to what is to come, showing me the joys and the sufferings that will come along with knowing Him. I could not pretend anymore that something was not happening in my life, and as scary as it was, it was joyful and peaceful at the same time. I decided I would further my studies and my pursuit of knowing Allah and Jesus. I remember praying for the first time one night to Jesus, partially to disprove that the prayer would work. It was a miracle what happened after that prayer. I prayed again, and again, and I was seeing miracles before my eyes. I felt that I finally had a relationship with Allah and that I was thirsting for my whole life, and I was more and more inclined to believe that Jesus is more than a prophet. I eventually saw that Jesus was in fact Divine, He was one with Allah and Allah’s Spirit. As soon as I began to know Him, my life came together. It was full of challenges and sacrifices, some I still face to this day, it has not been an easy journey. So much of my culture which was imbedded in my faith was being challenged and I did not know how to deal with it. In some ways, I am still figuring it out. But I know that Jesus is there for me, that He loved me so much and saw the day I would come to know Him. He will always be by my side, even when I don’t see it. His sacrifice is the reason I have a chance, a life beyond this one. What love is this? It is a love I am still trying to understand. I am so grateful to Allah for the journey He has led me on, and for knowing and understanding who Isa Al Masih truly is in my life. I pray that more Muslims have this journey and taste the richness of Allah’s love for each one of us.