A Muslim’s Search for God
by Abraham Sarker
Until God opened my eyes to see the truth, I was one of the 1.2 billion Muslims blinded by Islam. I was born in a devout Sunni Muslim home in the green, fertile nation of Bangladesh. My father, an Islamic leader with a prominent Islamic political party, and my mother, an Islamic schoolteacher, together reared me to be a model Muslim boy and future Islamic leader. Their dreams for me seemed to be coming true until a miracle took place, and their world came crashing down.
In the 1800s, Muslim missionaries settled in Bangladesh and brought the religion of Islam with them. Islam offered a system the Bengalis eagerly embraced. They heard that once they became Muslims, they would be equal, not segregated by caste, regardless of their family background. Eventually Islam claimed a majority of the country’s citizens, and in 1988, Bangladesh became an Islamic nation.
My Devotion to Islam
Although Muslims consider age seven to be the age of accountability, every child born into an Islamic household is automatically born a Muslim. When I reached age seven, my parents, wanting to make sure I was a Muslim, required me to repeat the shahada, or creed of Islam: “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger.” From that time on, I recited the shahada at least five times a day in my prayers.
In addition to the prayer rituals, I memorized much of the Qur’an, a book that contains messages reportedly given by Allah to Mohammed, the supreme prophet of Islam. I remember how much I struggled with fasting during the month of Ramadan, especially those stiflingly hot days of summer. We were told that if we wanted Allah to accept our fasting, we could take no food or water from sunrise to sunset. Hence, my mother would not give me even a drop of water to drink.
At the age of 13, I joined the Jamati Islamic Party, an Islamic mission organization.
JIP trained me to be an Islamic leader and a missionary. I took the Islamic message to the villages in Bangladesh and gave the prayer
call every day five times a day. My heart was devoted to Allah and his cause. Still, when I read the Qur’an, I would often fear Allah’s severe punishment for wrongdoing. I taught others that their only hope of attaining heaven lay in doing good deeds; yet deep inside me, I feared the capricious nature of Allah. Though I had lived as a very devout Muslim, trying to obey all of Allah’s commandments, I was not sure that if I died I would go to heaven.
My Disturbing Dream
At age 15, one night I had a deeply disturbing dream. I dreamed I had died, and when I went to heaven, Allah threw me into a lake of fire. All around me I could see nothing but blazing fire. I felt the searing pain of my body. I began screaming in my bed until my parents came rushing in to wake me. “Satan is trying to disturb you,” my parents said. “You’re not to worry; you’re a good Muslim.”
A few nights later, I had the same disturbing dream. And again, a third time, I had the terrifying dream. This time I knew only one thing to do: go to the mosque, pray, and ask Allah to reveal the meaning of my dream.
I knelt down on my prayer rug with my head to the ground and desperately sought God to tell me the meaning of my dream. I pled, “God, please speak to me and tell me the meaning of my dream. What have I done that you are not pleased with me?” All night passed, and I did not hear from God. My heavy heart ached with disappointment.
Suddenly, something mysterious happened. At first, I heard a noise like a rushing wind. Drops like rain began falling where I sat. The drops had fallen all around me, on my Muslim attire, on my head covering, and on my prayer rug. When I rubbed the drops on my hand, they felt like oil. The whole mosque was filled with a sweet fragrance that I had never smelled before or since. At that moment, a tremendous peace came over me. I still didn’t know the meaning of my dream, but it no longer terrified me. My family and friends noticed an immediate difference in me.
A couple of weeks after the mysterious incident of the falling oil in the mosque, a second unusual event happened. After evening prayers as I walked alone to my home, I suddenly heard a voice in my Bengali language say, “Go and get a Bible.” I looked around, but there was no one there. Before this moment, I had never thought about reading a Bible because Muslims are not permitted to study it. However, an irresistible desire for a Bible came over me. For four years I looked for a Bible. I looked in bookstores and libraries but never found one. I never saw a church and never met a Christian.
My Journey to America
My father decided I should go to America to share my Islamic faith and finish my degree. My mother expressed her doubts about my living in America, “Be careful, my son; Americans eat pork and drink alcohol, and they even put pork in their cookies!” With such wisdom ringing in my ears, I flew to America. I joined with several fellow Muslims who had the same goal of representing Islam to non-believers.
One day I visited a nearby university library and asked at the front desk where I might find a Bible. I was directed to one of the Christian organizations on campus where, to my amazement, I was given a brand new Bengali Bible. I hurried back to my apartment and opened my new Bible in private. What I read astonished me. I found that many of the stories were not the same as in the Qur’an. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus said, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God is one” (12:29). I began to wonder, “If Jesus taught that only one God exists, what is the difference between Islam and Christianity?” I began to compare Jesus and Mohammed. I would often kneel down beside my bed at night and pray, “God, if Jesus is greater than Mohammed, why should I follow Mohammed instead of Jesus?
God, please lead me in the right direction.”
My Decision for Christ
One afternoon, in search of answers, I decided to visit the office of a professor on campus whom I thought to be a Christian. I introduced myself and asked him quickly, “What do you believe about Jesus?” At that moment, a young man named Peter walked into the professor’s office. I was introduced to Peter, and as we talked, it was clear Peter was well educated in Islam. Peter suggested we take a walk together, and as we sat on a bench beside some large trees, he described the person of Jesus. I can never forget what Peter told me that day.
“Our God is a personal God,” Peter declared. He described a God who could talk to me, understand me, and who wanted to have a close relationship with me. My heart was overjoyed to know that I could have a personal relationship with my Creator. “Our God is a loving God,” Peter continued. He insisted that God loved me unconditionally. “Jesus is the Savior,” Peter further declared. He explained that Jesus came to give me the assurance of salvation, the hope of eternal life with God in Heaven.
My new friend explained that Jesus is the Savior of the world and that He came to save me from my sins and make a way for me to go to Heaven. He quoted a verse from the Gospel of John: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (3:16). What tremendous news all of this was to me! I longed to have such a close relationship with the loving God Peter was describing to me. I had been trained to defend my Islamic faith and to reason with a Christian about the superiority of Islam; but what Peter said about Jesus calmed my heart. I drank in each word, like a thirsty man who has found a spring in the desert. Deep inside me, I knew that Peter spoke the truth, and I knelt underneath the shade tree and prayed to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior and receive His eternal salvation.
That was April 14, 1992—the day a miracle took place. And my life has never been the same. Following Christ cost me many Muslim friends and a close relationship with my family. But God has given me a spiritual family and a loving wife who shares my passion for the Lord and for the lost. Eight years after I came to know Jesus personally, I had the privilege of leading two of my brothers to Christ. Recently my father and I were reunited after eleven years of separation. He began reading the Bible for himself, and the Holy Spirit touched his heart. He could not resist the truth about Jesus and finally came to faith in Christ.
I still have Muslim family and friends whom I love dearly, so much that I want them to know the hope they can find in Jesus. My prayer is that you too might gain a love for Muslims, a burden to pray for them, and a longing to share the good news of Christ with them.
“That your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations” (Psalm 67:2).
[Excerpts from Abraham Sarker, Understand My Muslim People, Barclay Press, 2004.]