I laid down my Islamic privilege to preach Jesus around the world

How a direct descendant of Muhammad met Christ on a crowded Pakistani sidewalk.

I was born in a Sunni Muslim home in Bangladesh, where I learned the meaning of stern discipline from my father, a major general in the military with responsibilities in the intelligence service. We lived on different army bases in elaborate quarters reserved for officers and their families.

Servants catered to our every need. The business and political elite of Bangladesh and Pakistan frequented social events in our home.

I grew up attending an Islamic madrasa (religious school), where we studied the Qur’an and learned classical Arabic from an imam. My father could trace his lineage back to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (the name derives from Hashem, grandson of the prophet Muhammad’s great-grandfather). His heritage qualified me as a direct descendant of Islam’s founder.

I was respected for my holy ancestry. Yet my childhood was often painful, especially after my parents divorced and my father remarried unexpectedly. I was eight years old, feeling abandoned and missing my mother.

My stepmother regularly abused me mentally and physically. Screaming curses, she would hit me with a cricket wicket or dig her sharp fingernails into my ears, which caused them to bleed. Sores peppered my body. My father ignored my pleas for help and beat me for supposedly lying about the abuse.

When I turned 13, I joined a prestigious air force college as a cadet aiming at a career like my father’s. However, I left the military in 1975 when I was 21. Unhealed wounds from my childhood sent me into a downhill spiral. Suicidal thoughts haunted me. Then a seemingly random incident changed my life forever.

Willing to die

While walking in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, to buy an electric water heater, I noticed a Caucasian man on a street corner giving out gospel tracts. Wearing scruffy jeans, he looked like a hippie. He was well over six feet tall and stood out from the normal rush of shoppers, honking autos, weaving motorbikes, three-wheeler taxis, donkey carts, and pungent aromas from food vendors. Curious about his demeanor, which radiated inner peace, I approached him and asked, “Who are you, and where are you from?”

He said he was a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ from England. He belonged to a street evangelism team from the Jesus People movement, known for traveling around the world during the 1970s. From my Muslim upbringing, I had only encountered Jesus as a prophet who appeared before Muhammad. And I didn’t believe he had died on a cross—the Jews, we were told, had crucified Judas instead.

After exchanging a few words with this Englishman—later, I learned his name was Keith—I walked away, about 50 yards or so, before returning. Although I believed in Islam, I wanted to know more about his own faith. Keith told me Christ would set me free and give me a new life. Though I doubted his God was interested in my despair, or even existed, I bowed and prayed to receive Christ on the crowded sidewalk in front of a shoe store.

I sensed this was what I had been waiting for all my life. It felt like a huge boulder had been lifted off my back. I saw everything in technicolor, and I wanted to sing and laugh.

Keith and I arranged to meet the next morning at the Lahore YMCA so I could learn more about the Christian faith. I waited there for several hours, but he never appeared—and he didn’t show up the next day either. Returning to the YMCA on the third day, I sat in the lobby for a while before spotting a couple sorting and arranging the same tracts as Keith had. They were from the same evangelism team, I learned. When I asked about Keith, they told me he had left the country straightaway because of a family emergency. I never saw him again. [Source: Christianity Today]