I was born in Iran in a fairly devout Muslim family. From an early age, we were taught the basic principles of Islam and I was encouraged to believe and obey them. I remember from the age of 4 or 5, I used to get excited when the month of Ramadan (the month when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset) was approaching, because I could fast. Although boys are not required to fast till the age of 15, I was eager to do it.
As I grew up in the community, I became known as an upright and religious boy (although I did get up to all sorts of mischief secretly with a few close friends). At school we use to begin our day with reciting the Quran and prayer every day, and I was one of the three who were responsible for leading the rest of the school in prayer and reciting the Quran. I was eagerly trying to please Allah (god) by trying to keep his commandments during my youth; I knew about sin, judgment, heaven, hell, etc. But I knew very well that I was not the person that everyone thought I was. I was very much aware of my sinful nature and my specific sins, which were many. Gradually, the weight of sin and guilt grew upon my soul, especially from the age 11- 12. It became so heavy that it drove me more to religion, in order to get forgiveness and peace. Outwardly, I looked very happy and smiley to everyone around, but inwardly I felt so dirty and rotten. But the more I sought Allah and his forgiveness, the more desperate I became simply because I couldn’t find any and I heard nothing from him. Within 3-4 years I lost all hope of forgiveness and pardon in Islam and Allah, because I had prayed and prayed, and read the Quran… but I received no assurance of forgiveness at all.
By the age of 16, I was sure of one thing: that I was going to hell if I died and there was nothing I could do about it. Allah was not hearing my prayers; I could not find any substantial comfort in Islam or the Quran. All I was offered was this: that you pray, follow the rules, try to be good and you will find out on the judgment day whether you will be going to heaven or not, because in Islam no one can be sure about his or her eternal destiny on this side of life. And obviously I knew myself, and, more importantly, my sin was before me all day long. Having said that, I was still zealous about my religion and carried on with my duties as usual.
In September 2000, I left Iran as an asylum seeker, desiring to go to Germany. But I found myself in London. Within a month of my arrival, I received a Bible in my own language from someone, an Iranian in Holland. I didn’t know there was a book called the Bible until then. With it was also a letter telling the testimony of the sender. I didn’t know anyone in Holland. I cannot remember much of the letter or even the name of the man, but I remember reading that God can speak to me, that Christ is God-made-man, and that He is able and willing to forgive sin – which seemed ludicrous to me. There were also instructions about how to read the Bible, beginning with the New Testament. I was taught in Islam that the Torah (the Jews’ book) and the Gospel (the Christians’ book) have been changed and are therefore not trustworthy, and I was a believer in that. So I started reading it, but when I got to the Old Testament I thought there’s no way I can keep these laws, and I felt more condemned. I threw the Bible in a corner and gave up reading it. Two weeks later, to my surprise, I was invited to go to an Iranian church, which happened to meet close to where I was staying. Reluctantly, I went. As the service began, something happened that I can’t really explain, but I felt as though I couldn’t stand on my feet any longer. When the meeting was over, I asked the pastor whether they were the only cult who had this book, the Bible. He kindly explained that all Christians in all ages had been using the Bible, and it is really just one book. I started to think that maybe we had been lied to all these years and that only Christians have the gospel – but I didn’t want to accept that! So I set my face to find out whether the Bible is trustworthy, hoping eagerly and zealously to prove it otherwise.
I had a lot of free time in those days and I used to gather different translations of the Bible in English and other languages and study and carefully compare them together. Iused to study a lot, sometimes 15 hours a day non-stop without any food. In June 2001, I was moved to Cardiff and used to travel almost every weekend to London to get to my church. Within 6 or 7 months, contrary to my desires, I came to know the truthfulness of the Scriptures as God’s Word. Therefore, I changed my religion: meaning that I started to please God by doing all the things that Christians were doing – praying, going to church, reading the Bible etc. I started to call myself a Christian, because I was doing all those things and believing them too. But I always knew that those people in the church had something that I didn’t have. They were talking about Christ in such an intimate way that I couldn’t understand. Everyone in the church believed I was a Christian because of my Bible knowledge, zeal, commitment to the church and passion for reaching others for Christ. It was all the works of my own hands, yet deep down I didn’t have any assurance of salvation and, more importantly, I had some reservation about the Deity of Christ. I could not say that at one specific point in my life I had actively and effectively turned to Christ for salvation, and He had saved me. Meanwhile, I got deeply involved with the Jehovah’s witnesses, not knowing anything about them, which left me quite confused. Without anyone telling me about their Bible translation, I found lots of problems with it and mistranslations of many verses, which didn’t match with other English translations and Bibles in other languages.
To cut the story short, on 27th May 2002 I got to the end of my resources: I couldn’t carry on any more, I knew very well the teaching of the Bible about Christ, the gospel, faith etc., yet I was not saved or born again, to use Jesus’ words. On that morning, I got up at 7am and began to study the Bible again, as was my custom, but I couldn’t do it anymore. I took the Bible and threw it in the bin and cried out to Jesus for salvation. I was on my knees and I knew Jesus had to save me and wasn’t willing to let Him go. I can’t remember how long I was in that state, but somehow I picked up my Farsi Bible again and opened it. It happened to open on Isaiah 55. I had read that book many times in the past, but verses 8 and 9 of that chapter struck me and the Lord spoke to me, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts”. Suddenly I got it. It was like being in a dark room and suddenly someone switched on the lights. I could see everything now. The reality of the cross, that Christ died for me and paid for my sins, was so clear that I felt like the heavy burdens on my shoulders were lifted up and hanged on that cross, and that there was nothing left over me. I was utterly astonished that the Lord of the heavens and the earth spoke to me directly; this concept of God speaking was not just foreign but impossible to me or any Muslim. I was astonished to see Christ and His work all over the Scriptures, New and Old Testament. I began highlighting those passages and by 4 pm my Bible pages were blue. A few hours later, in the midst of this heavenly joy, somehow I heard the reciting of the Quran from a cassette. I think a man who was living on the flat above was playing it – something that had never happened before and that did not actually happen after that day either. But this brought such fear upon me, the like of which I had never experienced. The thought was this: you are leaving Islam and Allah is calling you back; at the same time, I was thinking it may be Satan trying to stop me and I was reminded of what I was told in the letter I received from Holland: that Satan is a real being who comes to deceive and to destroy. I saw myself utterly powerless; what could I do in such a situation? I just called on the name of Lord Jesus and asked Him to deal with it. He spoke to me so vividly: “Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed: neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame: for you will forget the shame of your youth”. This was so powerful that fear vanished and was replaced with joy and peace.
From that day, my walk with Christ started and I haven’t looked back. I have gone through deep waters, experienced hardship with friends, family and others, but since then the Lord Jesus have been my Saviour and will continue to be to the end. I have failed and sinned many times since then, but constantly I have been brought back to the same place: the cross of Christ and His empty tomb.