I posted on Friday about an ex-Muslim friend of mine who has become a Christian. My friend lives in Lansing. Three days after the post, he received a phone call from a 517 (Lansing) area code threatening to kill him. The caller was speaking in Farsi, my friend’s native language. The caller specifically told my friend they would kill him like the Qur’an says because my friend was disrespecting it. Yesterday another ex-Muslim friend of mine who became a Christian and also lives in Lansing received a Google Plus message from a Muslim threatening to kill him because of his association with my friend I interviewed. This is obviously very disturbing. We’ve reported these things to the police, who honestly haven’t done much with them besides file a report and tell us to call back if anything else happens. Please pray for my friends and pray that the light of Jesus will shine, especially to Muslims, that they will see how much Jesus loves them. I would like to keep the post available to be read because I think it’s an incredible story and a chance for Muslims to be drawn to Jesus’ love, grace, mercy and forgiveness the way my friend was and millions of other former Muslims are during these times.
My friend is 32 years old and has lived in Lansing, MI for the past seven months as a refugee from Iran. He grew up as a Muslim for the first 23 years of his life. In 2006, he became a follower of Jesus and began attending a secret basement church in Iran, where Christianity is illegal. The Iranian government found out about his church and imprisoned his pastor, Farshid Fathi (who was recently freed from Iranian prison after 5 years!!). My friend was one of the leaders in the church and made the decision to flee to Turkey as a refugee rather than give up his faith in Jesus. My friend lost everything: his job, his house, his car, his country, and his family. If my friend returns to Iran, he will be sentenced to 13 years of prison.
Talking to My friend about Jesus feels like talking to one of the 1st century disciples. Like one of those Jesus referred to when he said in Matthew 10:21-22, 39 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; …You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved…and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
My friend’s native religion, Islam, has dominated the news headlines in recent months. Terrorist groups like ISIS/ISIL, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and many others continue to set the rest of the world on edge. The news media refers to these groups as “Radical Islam” or “Muslim Extremists” and those who refer to themselves as “Moderate Muslims” continue to call Islam a religion of peace. The tale of someone who grew up in Islam tells a different story about these labels, and gives hope to the world in the midst of dire circumstances.
My friend learned about true Islam from what seems like an obvious place, but as it turns out, is a place many Muslims are entirely unfamiliar with: The Qur’an, the Muslim holy book.
Spending his entire childhood studying the Arabic Qur’an in school, mosque and at home, my friend began reading the holy book in his native language, Farsi, as a teenager and began to ask questions. His Muslim father instructed him that God had made the entire world for Muhammad, the founder of Islam. At age 19, my friend began to question this logic. Muhammad had sex with 6-year-old girls. My friend was 19 years old and would never think of doing the evil act of having sex with 6-year-old girls.
This made my friend better than Muhammad, and if God made the whole world for Muhammad, My friend was therefore better than this God.
This was the first thing that changed my friend’s mind about Islam. He couldn’t imagine doing this to a child, yet Islam says God made the world for Muhammad.
As my friend continued to read the Qur’an in his native language, he noticed all of the commands about killing. There are 109 of them to be exact.
When Muslim people say, “No, we are friendly,” my friend says, “No, it says right here…” and he pulls out his Qur’an and points to any number of these 109 passages, which are listed in English here, and in Arabic and Farsi here.
Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”
Quran (2:191-193) – “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And [disbelief or unrest] is worse than killing…but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more [disbelief and worshipping of other gods] and worship is for Allah alone.”
Quran (5:33) – “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement”
Qur’an (5:38) – “As to the thief, Male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime: and Allah is Exalted in power.”
In response, Muslims tell my friend, “No no no, you don’t know. Islam is a very good religion.”
My friend replies, “No, here’s the Qur’an, this is what it says.”
They say, “No, this is just from the Internet.” Or they say, “This is a wrong translation.” So he makes sure to open his hardback Arabic Qur’an and show them the actual texts. To which many simply don’t know how to respond.
My friend estimates that 75% of Muslims don’t actually know what is in the Qur’an.
As a 19-year-old, my friend asked his father about the killing verses in the Qur’an. His father replied, “Allah created people. If you don’t believe in Allah, people can kill you. This is not crime. This is a blessing.” The more my friend questioned that logic, the more his mind changed.
So why is Islam still called a religion of peace by so many? My friend explains that Muhammad’s early teachings in the city of Medina were indeed filled with love and peace and equality amongst men and women. This is how he gathered his followers and gained power, because this was an attractive message. He then moved to Mecca with all of the soldiers he had compiled and threatened to attack if they didn’t surrender to him. Mecca did surrender. In Mecca, since Muhammad already had his power and his following, his teachings then began to be about killing non-Muslims and oppressing women. Everyone who believed Muhammad was safe, but anyone who didn’t believe would be killed and Muhammad would take his wife.
So the people who say Islam is a religion of peace are only looking at the Medina verses, not the Mecca verses.
From My friend’s extensive study of the Qur’an, he believes ISIS are the true followers of the Qur’an. They are the true Islam. They are the ones doing everything the Qur’an says. If a “moderate” Muslim disagrees with this, my friend thinks they are a liar, because you can’t disagree with this and also agree with the Qur’an. The Qur’an says “kill” and ISIS is “killing”–it’s as simple as that to him. They are obeying the Qur’an. He says you can’t select the part of God you like and the leave the part you don’t. While many “moderate Muslims” would adamantly disagree with this, many know deep down that it’s true. The irony is, their holy book itself says exactly what My friend is saying: you can’t pick and choose from the Qur’an, while it also adds that doing this will receive the most severe penalty of all:
Qur’an 2:85 Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? But what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life? And on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For Allah is not unmindful of what ye do.
Meanwhile, while My friend is reading all of this in his Qur’an as a 20-something and has rejected his Muslim faith as a result, he gets introduced to Jesus. While Muhammad consistently taught “kill, kill, kill,” My friend found that Jesus only taught, “love, love, love.”
My friend isn’t the only native Muslim who has converted to following Jesus, they just don’t all show up on the stat sheet because they worship in secret basement churches and cannot reveal their new identities, even to their closest family members.
My friend estimates that there have been at least there one million converts to Jesus in Iran since 2006, and he believes this to be a very conservative estimate.
Muslims are simply seeing what the true Qur’an truly lived out actually looks like, and it is turning them away in droves.
They are seeing it as a sex and power hungry religion created by a man who had military and political domination on his mind, which is also why it’s so hard for them to leave it. Not because they are drawn to the political/military power or the promise of 72 virgins in heaven, but because their entire family, social and economic lives are tied to it–look what happened to My friend and his pastor! It is a religion that at its very foundation says, “If you don’t believe this, at best you will be exiled and at worst, tortured and killed.” This is a pretty effective retention policy. You don’t have to be a scholar of the Qur’an or a devout Muslim to know it’s in your best financial, health, life, and overall well-being interest to walk the walk and talk the talk of Islam when you are born and raised into an Islamic country.
The advice that My friend gives to Muslims is this: for just one minute, allow yourself to think about what the Qur’an says and then ask, “is this really what God says?” Does God want you to love or to kill? The Qur’an says to kill, the gospel of Jesus says to love. After you find this, you can find Jesus. Just allow yourself to think about this for one minute, no more.
My friend says if he gets to heaven and God says, “Sorry, Jesus is a liar, Muhammad is true,” My friend will reply that he would rather go to hell with this loving Jesus. He would say that he doesn’t want to spend heaven with this God who demands that he kills and who gives him 70 women to have sex with in heaven.” That this is a crazy God.
My friend believes that if Muslims stop for one minute and hypothetically consider that there’s no Muhammad and no Jesus, no Bible and no Qur’an and ask, does God want you to love or to kill? He thinks you would select to love, and that’s when you’ve selected Jesus. He feels if you select to kill, you have a problem in your mind.
In America and in much of the secular world, it’s very popular to think that “all religions are the same.” To this, My friend says, “Don’t speak about my God like that. Your God says kill, my God doesn’t say this – this is certainly a different God because my God loves me and I love him because my God forgives me even though I’m guilty and he says you need to forgive people who are guilty. Your God says ‘He’s guilty, cut off his hand.”
My friend says, “Jesus is true. This world is finished, money is finished, only Jesus can save you and help you. I used to say ‘I lost everything,’ but I realized ‘I found everything.'”
Matthew 5:43-44 (Jesus speaking) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
1 John 4:7-12 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
Colossians 1:22 But now (God) has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation
John 13:34-35 (Jesus speaking) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 8:31-32 Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Pray for Muslims. Love Muslims. Pray that they read their Qur’ans as my friend did and they see that this is not God’s word. Pray that they are drawn to Jesus’ love, grace, mercy and forgiveness the way my friend was. Pray that they will see the gift of Jesus as more valuable than anything this world can give them. And pray for the many Muslims and non-Muslims who are being killed, imprisoned, persecuted and tortured by the Islamic groups carrying out the Qur’an’s commands of murder and violence.