True Life Stories

“God guided me step by step” – Ali

My introduction to the faith of the Messiah Jesus son of Mary (Al-Maseeh Isa bnu Mariyam) was over a long period of time. I did my early schooling on my island. I read a book in my school library which had a section on how the people of England accepted the faith of Jesus. This was when I first heard of Jesus Christ. Some students said it was Isaagefaanu (Jesus Christ) and I went home and asked my family if that was true. They changed the subject. They probably knew what I must have read. Anyway some of my fascination with Jesus remained with me.

About a year before this, when I was in grade three, my school principal and the island chief started forcing students to go to the mosque to do prayers. Our community was rather relaxed about praying and few people thought it was really compulsory to do the prayers. So this compulsion did not go down well with many young people. Personally I never liked it and usually turned up late. One asr (afternoon) prayer I turned up very late to find even the mudhinbe (imam) missing. They had all finished and left the mosque. There were very few people living on my island. So the mosque emptied out very quickly. Anyway I decided to do the asr prayer but for some reason, in the middle of it, I turned away from the qibla direction of Mecca and knelt down with raised hands. I had absolutely no idea why I did that, but I never forgot about this. Years later, when I went to a gathering of believers in Jesus in another country, I found them praying in that posture. Later it dawned on me that all those years ago in that mosque on my native island, the Holy Spirit turned me away from Mecca and caused me to take a prayer posture typical of those who have faith in Jesus.

Anyway because of the many awkward questions I was asking about Islam, my family and their salafi-educated, fanatically Islamic friends started introducing really fundamentalist Islamic writing by radical clerics to me. I read their Islamic books in detail and became very passionate about Islam.

At about that time some foreigners who came to my island gave me a Bible. They must have been followers of the way of Jesus. I came home and read bits of it but the Islamic teaching from my early childhood that was taking hold of me got the better. So I ripped up the Bible and dumped it. I was fortunate enough to go abroad on a scholarship after finishing my school studies in Male. There were people of many religions there but I was always particularly hostile to Christians. By the time I returned to Maldives I was still very passionate about Islam. During the fasting month I found time to listen to the Siyarath (biography of the Prophet Mohamed) read out over the Voice of Maldives. My university training has meant that now I was able to reflect more critically on what I listened to. I had read the biography in English while I was abroad. For the first time, I was listening to it in Dhivehi and reflecting on it. I used to listen to it before I left my island but at that time I did not really take in what was read. Most people listened to it just for the supposed blessings from Allah from listening to it.

Biographies of the Prophet Mohamed written for western audiences are toned down. Now that I was listening to the Siyarath critically in my own language, I was shocked and horrified about the horrid details of what I heard. When I went abroad again for further studies I was still not ready to abandon most aspects of Islam. From childhood I was brought up to believe that Islam was the main part of my national identity. I blindly cheered when fellow Muslims around the world gained success in different ways. I was very upset, for example, when Indonesia lost East Timor. That was a body blow to Islam in my mind. And so I continued to regard myself as a proud Muslim.

While I was abroad, around one Christmas I received a letter from a believer in Jesus who did faith-related work at my college. He was just doing the friendly thing by mailing out to those who may be alone at Christmas. I was furious for his presumption that I could be interested in his religion. I nearly wrote a very rude letter to him but someone stopped me. Anyway the next year I came across another believer in Jesus at the college. I found that his friend who had written the letter had gone someplace else. All of a sudden I decided to make small talk with my new acquaintance. He was not pushy and was actually not interested in talking to me about his faith. That aroused my curiosity and I asked him if he could take me to his church. He told me that in his church there were a lot of older people and I might be a bit bored there. Again this man was refusing to push his religion to me, which made me even more curious. So I decided to do my own research on the faith of Jesus Christ, for the first time, from a non-Islamic point of view.

What I discovered was absolutely mind-boggling. Jesus assured us of eternal life. His love for us is limitless and, above all, unconditional. My unanswered questions about religious issues that I had been asking my family and friends were all of a sudden answered. It was finally clear to me. There was no going back from that point on. I kept going to meetings of followers of the way of Jesus. At first I was apprehensive but I found that someone invisible was telling me to keep going to these meetings. Sometimes, after college I would drop in to a prayer room close by. Many days I felt that someone invisible was actually leading me there and was walking with me. I spent a lot of time praying at that prayer room alone by myself and eventually accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Sometime later I became baptized as a sign that I want to follow the way of Jesus. That was such an awesome experience as I received God’s Holy Spirit! I felt tall and totally enveloped in love.

Contrary to what I was brought up to believe, I do not feel any less Maldivian just because I am a follower of the way shown by Jesus. I find that other followers of the way of Jesus in these islands are ordinary, humble people, very much Maldivian at heart and lifestyle. In many ways I find us to be more patriotic than many other Maldivians.

As a follower of the way of Jesus I am assured of God’s love as I know that long before I sought Him, He sought me all those years ago in that tiny mosque when I was in grade three. It is amazing that Almighty God knew me by name and was watching over little, insignificant me and guiding me step by step into a living relationship with Himself.

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