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Woman tells of turning from Islam to Christ


By Ava Thomas

NORTHERN AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST — Mahfuzah* thought no one knew she believed in Jesus — until the day her mother beat her.

“She said, ‘Something is different about you — what is it?’ I told her I was the same,” Mahfuzah said. “But then she went to the fortune teller, and the fortune teller told her that I had become a follower of Jesus.”

So Mahfuzah’s mother beat her teenage daughter.

“I was surprised — she had never done that to me before,” Mahfuzah said. “She said I had to come back to Islam, and I told her I can’t.”

That was 20 years ago. She says she still can’t. “My heart is all with Jesus, not with Islam anymore.”

Before she left Islam, Mahfuzah was riding in the car with her cousin one day and heard someone on the radio talking about the life of the Messiah and the cross.

“I asked what in the world he was listening to, and he told me about how Jesus died,” she said. “At that time, I was just a normal Muslim — I read the Quran and prayed. I thought he was crazy, but I wanted to know more.”

Mahfuzah’s cousin encouraged her to read.

 “I read all the Gospels, and I saw that they were different and beautiful,” she said. “The biggest difference was God’s love.”

In the Gospels, Jesus said for all who are weary and heavy laden to come, and Mahfuzah counted herself among that lot.

“I sat and cried a lot because of all the years I had gone without knowing these things,” she said.

She bought a small radio, and at night while pretending to be a sleep, she would hold it to her ear with the volume low.

“From the radio, I learned how to pray and how to line my life up with God,” Mahfuzah said. “My eyes were opened.”

But the beating she received was only the beginning of her troubles.

“My mother wouldn’t speak to me, and she wouldn’t allow my sisters to speak to me. None of them would eat with me — I was unclean to them,” she said.

Mahfuzah’s mother also kept her locked in her room and only let her out to go to school. When she found a job, her mother wouldn’t let her take it.

“This went on for three years,” Mahfuzah said. “I prayed, ‘God, I don’t want to leave them — please show me the solution.’”

And then she learned that the young man she had been interested in before she believed in Jesus had the same change of heart she did.

“We started praying about when to get married, but my mother caused problems — she didn’t want us to get together,” Mahfuzah said. “I felt like when I got married, I got out of the lion’s mouth. I still call my family and try to talk to them, but they are still unwilling to listen.”

Christian women have it hard in her country, Mahfuzah said. It’s a male-dominated society, but women still have the honor of being the “keeper of Islam” for the family. Christian women don’t even have that, she said.

“There is much persecution,” she said.

Now Mahfuzah and her husband have a teenage son who’s learning the hard way how to grow up as a Christ follower in a Muslim country.

“He’s not free to be open about who he is — not free to be himself,” she said. “He’s lived in eight different flats in his life because of problems with security. He doesn’t get to have an extended family because of our faith. He goes to a school of all Muslims, but at home he is a Christian.”

One night, Mahfuzah heard him yelling into a tape recorder his name and who he really is, because he feels like most people he knows can’t know everything about him.

“It was like he had to tell someone,” she said. “He is strong in his faith and in Jesus, but it is hard for him sometimes.”

Mahfuzah tells him God is everything he needs.

“God was with us in the beginning, and He is with us today,” she said.

The family has had close calls, meetings with police and state security, threats and harassment from neighbors, Mahfuzah said. But the family still actively shares their faith with others.

“Fear is ugly, and it will keep people from sharing,” she said. “We aren’t afraid.”

Please pray for women in North Africa and the Middle East:

  • that many other Muslim women will have the same opportunity that Mahfuzah did to hear and respond to the Gospel.
  • for Christian families like Mahfuzah's to be strong and steadfast in their faith despite the persecution they face.

*Name has been changed. 

Ava Thomas is a writer/editor for the International Mission Board based in Europe.

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