The Story of Aishath
and Her Quest for the Truth of God
(Thiscomes from the pen of an 18-year-old
homeschooled student. You will find it worth reading)
It was late in the afternoon, and the hot
sunshine blazed down on the Pakistani village of Kamalia.
Little barefooted, brown-skinned children ran about on the
dusty road, shouting in their play. The slender, graceful
form of a young girl bent over the village well, filling
two aluminum pails. Aishath took a sip of the cool, refreshing
water from her cupped hands, and splashed the rest over her
hot face. She wished the refreshing water could also wash
away the turmoil within her, as it washed the perspiration
from her brow. She rose, gathered the pails and slowly started
home along the dry, dusty road.
Normally cheerful and energetic in her work,
today Aishath thoughtfully made her way home along the narrow
village streets. She hardly noticed when she passed the Sheik's
house. There was too much troubling her young mind.
Aishath was the daughter of an influential,
well-to-do man. She was among the few girls to go to Koranic
school in their village. There she learned to read and she
memorized the entire Koran. Aishath had grown up immersed
in her parents', her people's, her country's religion. She
lived by all the laws governing Muslims. She prayed five
times a day and she fasted during the month of Ramadan. She
even gave rupees (coins) from her personal allowance to the
poor beggars whenever she passed through the marketplace.
But something was missing. There was a nagging doubt, a fear
of the future. Bilquis, her mother, said that she should
not worry about it. She was only a girl. The men knew the
Koran and could tell their families how to live.
Still, Aishath wanted to know more. What
was beyond this life? Muslims were forever fasting and praying
and doing good deeds so they could enter paradise, yet no
one actually knew that he would be forgiven. Paradise was
full of lovely virgins to satisfy the men, but what was there
for the women? Allah was such a distant, untouchable god.
In school, Aishath was taught to believe in all of Allah's
prophets: Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and his children,
Moses, Jesus and the others, and finally Muhammad. Yet there
was an inconsistency. The Jews, who followed Moses, and the
Christians, who followed Jesus, were considered unbelievers
because they did not accept the last prophet, Muhammad. All
these perplexing thoughts clouded the bright sunshine from
her eyes as she neared the gate.
Inside her own courtyard, Aishath's mind
returned to her work. She poured the water into a large pot
for making the evening tea, and set about helping to prepare
the meal. Tomorrow her father would be returning from his
hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy city. Maybe he would
have learned something new there and could answer some of
her questions. She would ask him then.
There was great rejoicing among the family
and close friends of Abu Sadar when he returned to his village
from the long journey to Mecca. Aishath did not have a chance
to speak to her father about her unsettled thoughts that
day. She was busy helping the women prepare the feast for
that night. Friends from the village would be coming to celebrate "Haji" Abu
Sadar's return, and the Sheik and his son would be there
as well. Aishath ran many hurried errands to and from the
well and marketplace that day. Anticipation crowded out her
thoughts of doubt.
The Sheik was the first to arrive. When
Aishath saw him entering the gate, she quickly drew her dupatta,
or veil, more closely over her head, and tossed the end across
the lower part of her face. She needed to be most proper
and respectful around the grim old man, for she was engaged
to his youngest son, Abdul Ibrahim. She must not displease
him in any way, for he was to be her father-in-law.
When the Sheik's son arrived, she blushed
and turned to help serve the food. Abdul Ibrahim had a piercing
gaze just like his father. However, his eyes were kind and
with his bright smile, he seemed much more friendly. Though
Aishath sat with the women during the meal, she could feel
him watching her. Since their marriage had been arranged
two months before, Aishath had begun to like this frank young
man. She wondered what he would think of her questioning
of the truth of their Islamic beliefs.
The next morning as she poured her father's
tea, Aishath hesitantly spoke to him. "Father," she
began, "How can we know that we will enter paradise?"
"What put such a thought into your
head, child?" he asked in surprise. "No one knows
where he will go, but if we are faithful to Allah and to
his messenger, then maybe Allah will forgive us and reward
us in paradise."
Aishath recalled her father's narration
about the hajj the night before. In Mecca, all the pilgrims
circle the Kaaba, a large cube that holds the sacred black
stone, seven times. Then they go up and kiss it. The people
carry out their pilgrimage with such a religious fervor,
for that is an important event in the life of every devout
Muslim. Everything swirled around in her head, just like
the throng of pilgrims surging in an endless stream around
the Kaaba in Mecca. She feared to ask her father any more
questions about their unquestionable religion, for she could
not sort out her own thoughts.
"Don't worry about it, Aishath." Abu
Sadar broke into her thoughts. "We are Muslims and we
will remain Muslims. Our ancestors have been Muslims and
nothing else. You will be okay as long as you do not renounce
Islam like those wretched infidels, the Jews and the Christians.
Obey the Sheik, and you will have nothing to fear."
The vehemence with which he spoke against
the Jews and Christians disconcerted her gentle heart. It
was said that they worshipped the same God that the Muslims
did, but why then the harsh words? Aishath's confusion and
distress of mind were only heightened, so she said no more.
The marketplace in Kamalia was a bustle
of sounds, colors, and smells. Goats and sheep bleated along
the street where they were tied, waiting to be sold. Scrawny
assortments of chickens floundered and squawked in the dust,
their legs bound together with twine. Merchants shouted to
each other across the way, and called out to the people in
the street. Sellers of silk and cotton fabrics displayed
their wares in a rainbow of colors under the shanty roofs:
white, fuchsia, plum, green, and tangerine. Glittering brass
and copper trays and candlestick holders brought many admirers,
but few buyers. There were booths that sold spices, their
aromas tantalizing all who passed by.
All these Aishath passed as she headed toward
the food market, beyond the other noisy vendors. She stopped
at the stand where she had been a regular customer for the
last two months. A poor family with young children sold vegetables
there. They always seemed happy and content, and never had
a harsh word or contemptuous glance for the filthy beggars
who roamed the streets in search of handouts. They were friendly
to everyone, and Aishath knew they never cheated their customers.
Aishath enjoyed chatting with them, despite the difference
in economical station. Today Aishath noticed again how happy
they seemed. The girl several years younger than she came
to the front of the shanty to wait on her. As Aishath counted
out the money to pay for the onions, tomatoes, and mangoes,
she commented, "You are always so cheerful."
"Oh!" replied the girl with a
pleasant laugh, "You see, Jesus has forgiven me and
now I am a child of God. I am happy because He is with me."
Aishath started a little at this unexpected
answer. "Oh! Are you . . . a . . . a Christian?" she
asked softly as she leaned slightly forward. The fear of
speaking with an "infidel" played on her face,
but Aishath was transfixed. Her purchases were forgotten
and the noise of the marketplace drowned in her swirling
thoughts. She must learn more!
"Yes, I am a Christian. My parents
are, too. Jesus has saved us from our sins, and now we know
we will go to live with him in heaven someday. He has given
us such great peace and joy, that it does not matter to us
anymore that we are poor. I know that Jesus will take care
The girl said this with such a friendly,
open, and trusting smile, that Aishath longed to pour out
all her questions and confusion to her. Though this girl
was younger than she, Aishath was drawn to her because of
her peaceful, yet earnest, demeanor.
"What is your name?"
"I am Aishath. Oh, Hasina, I wish I
could be sure about what I believe. I wish I could be sure
that I would not enter the Fire. I wish I had peace and joy
like you do."
The girl at the vegetable stand smiled knowingly
and pityingly. "I, too, know what it is like to live
in fear and uncertainty. But Jesus has taken away my fear."
Aishath knew she was risking her reputation
and her parents' wrath to speak about such matters to a Christian,
but she was compelled to go on. "How may I learn about
your religion, so I may know the truth and find the right
way?" she asked Hasina.
The girl answered by pulling a little book
out of her pocket. "Do you know how to read?" she
"Yes," answered Aishath eagerly,
looking at the book in the girl's hands. "I learned
how to read in school." She did not know what to think
of the poor farmer's girl asking her this, for only the wealthier
families sent their girls to school.
"This is my beloved book." Hasina
grasped her little Bible tenderly, debating the wisdom of
her intent. Aishath saw the depth of the girl's emotion linked
to her little, shabby book. A cloud of inner struggle and
loss darkened Hasina's lowered face, but this was replaced
with a calm resoluteness. Looking again at Aishath, Hasina
said, "Take it. In here you will learn of God's love
and mercy. In here you will find the peace and happiness
that I have found."
"But . . ."
"Take it. You can bring it back next
week. Jesus wants me to share it with you. My parents would
also want me to." Hasina brushed aside a creeping tear,
and sighed to regain control of her emotions. What if the
book was never returned? "It is the only book we have.
It holds the words of God. It is our only source of strength.
But please take it anyway. God will provide for us. I pray
that you, too, will come to know the true Savior through
Hasina's last words were spoken with such
passionate fervor that even Aishath was almost moved to tears. "Thank
you," she whispered as she reached out a trembling hand
to accept the sacrificed book. "Thank you," she
repeated, unable to voice the tremendous surge of unexplainable
gratitude and appreciation that welled within her. Only Aishath
knew the intensity with which she had longed to find purpose
and truth. Now the keys to it lay in her hands--if the girl's
words were true.
She silently gathered her forgotten purchases
into her basket and tucked the little Bible into her qamiz,
a long blouse-like tunic. Smiling "Goodbye" to
Hasina, Aishath set off hurriedly for home.
The whole way home, Aishath pondered the
words of Hasina. The girl loved her book dearly. Muslims,
too, revered their holy book, the Koran, but this was different.
Hasina said that it was the only strength her family had
to rely on. She held the shabby little book as life itself!
Aishath could hardly wait to get home and finish the day's
work, so she could spend time alone to read. She hoped she
would find the answers to all her questions in the little
book Hasina had called "beloved." For now, however,
she must conceal it, so it would not arouse suspicion in
That night as the family ate their meal
together, Bilquis noticed that her daughter was not very
talkative. "Aishath, you do not enter in our conversations.
What is on your mind?"
Aishath flashed a smile as she glanced up
at her mother. "Oh, was I quiet?" she asked absentmindedly.
"Why, ever since you came home from
market you were so absorbed in your own thoughts that you
did all your work like a machine. You must have met Abdul
Ibrahim in the streets and now you are dreaming about him," Bilquis
said with a sly smile.
"No, I did not see him," replied
"Then why do you act so reserved, child?" prodded
Not wanting to upset him, Aishath carefully
measured her words. "The girl at the stand where I purchased
tomatoes and onions this afternoon was so happy. She said
she has no fear of the Fire because she is forgiven. She
seemed so . . . free." Aishath played with the broken
piece of chapati bread in her hand as she awaited her parents'
"That is foolishness, Aishath," returned
Abu Sadar, swallowing a big mouthful of food. "No one
can know if he is forgiven until the Last Day. Your mind
is soft and easily led astray. You must stay away from Christians,
for they will deceive you with their false talk."
"Listen to your father," joined
in Bilquis, "and let the men tell us which way to follow.
Don't trouble your mind with these little things. Soon you
will be married, and then you will be happy."
Aishath said no more. She felt as if no
one could ever understand her. Inside, she felt new desperation.
How would Abdul Ibrahim react to her questions? Would he
also think her a foolish, silly, weak-minded woman? After
the family had settled down for the night, Aishath quietly
relit her lamp and stole the mysterious, little, black book
out of hiding.
Not knowing where to start or what to look
for, she began reading at the beginning. The Gospel of Matthew
began with the genealogy of Jesus, went on to tell about
his birth, and then about his miracles and teachings. Page
after page, Aishath kept on reading. It was too captivating
for her to put it down. As a Muslim, she had always been
taught that Jesus was a prophet, but this book claimed that
he was the Son of God. Not only was Jesus a great teacher
and prophet, he was perfect; he healed the sick! All this
was very disturbing to Aishath. Though she did not understand
some things or know what to think about the book, something
about it was wonderful. It was unlike all she had ever known
about God or Allah's prophet, Muhammad. Unlike the Koran,
which was a jumble of unchronological events and contradictory
commands, this book told the marvelous story of Jesus in
an orderly fashion. Muhammad claimed to be the final and
greatest prophet of Allah, but Jesus said he was the fulfillment
of the law. Though the book contradicted Islamic teaching,
Aishath noted that everything in it was good, for Jesus taught
people to live good lives. At last so exhausted that she
could no longer keep her eyes open, Aishath returned the
book to its safe place and blew out the lamp. There was so
much to ponder, but she felt sure now that the book would
give her some answers and comfort. Aishath fell asleep that
night with a new hope.
Every night that week, Aishath stayed up
late reading the little, black testament. Its words filled
her mind throughout the days, puzzling her and yet awakening
a desire to know more. She longed to talk to someone about
it, but she never mentioned the book to her parents or any
of her friends--not even to Abdul Ibrahim. It would be a
dangerous subject to bring up. After every day of intense
wondering, Aishath settled down to read in the book of hope,
feasting on every page. Aishath, prodded by her curiosity,
determined to ask Hasina about all she had read.
Next market day found Aishath striding purposefully
toward the vegetable stand that belonged to Hasina's family.
To her utter astonishment, Aishath found it empty. The shanty
was ransacked, and all the produce was strewn and smashed
on the rickety table, on the ground, and on the street. An
angry mob had gathered, and men's enraged voices filled the
hot afternoon air. "We don't want any Christians in
our village!" "Get out of here, despisers of Allah!" "Return
to Islam, and we will accept you!" The men picked up
onions and tomatoes and hurled them at Hasina and her family
Aishath sobbed inwardly as she witnessed
their cruel treatment. Hasina's mother protectively clutched
her little boy, trying to shield him from the onslaught.
Hasina staggered as a large potato slammed into her head
with a terrifying "whack." She bravely tried to
smile through the tears of pain and rejection as she gripped
her young sister's hand and helped her along. Hasina's father,
a small man, held his head high as he shepherded his family
down the street. The young children whimpered and cried in
fear, their dark, innocent eyes opening wide at the hate
they had never before experienced. Aishath noted how Hasina
and her parents did not retaliate or even try to defend themselves.
Though she saw tears on their faces, no hatred or bitterness
was harbored there. The whole marketplace had turned into
an arena, as vendors and shoppers alike left their bargains
to join in the throng. Insults and unjust accusations and
stones and rotten potatoes now were being hurled in a continuous
stream at the lone Christian family. Aishath heard Hasina's
father cry out to heaven the very words she had read the
night before: "Father, forgive them for they do not
know what they are doing." Perhaps that is what touched
her most, for Aishath could no longer hold back the tears
of righteous anger and pity. Her face burned as she stood
there, dumbfounded. This family was acting more nobly than
those who were accusing them!
Then Aishath saw Sheik Abdallah and his
son, Abdul Ibrahim. In horror she realized that they were
leading the mob! The Sheik wielded his rod vehemently as
he cursed Hasina's family, threatening punishment if they
did not renounce their faith in Jesus. Aishath watched, aghast,
as her betrothed joined in the attack, his face disfigured
with hatred toward the people who had done him no wrong.
He shouted and cursed at them, his voice hoarse with rage.
Hasina's father directed his attention toward
the Sheik's son and said, "If only you could know the
love of Jesus. He forgives!"
At this, Sheik Abdallah cried out, "They
have no part with us. They have rejected Allah and his holy
messenger! Since they will not renounce this heresy, we forbid
them to drink water from this village's well. They will contaminate
Aishath yearned to go and comfort Hasina,
but that would put herself at the mob's mercy. Aishath was
faint from shock. She was glad no one recognized her or noticed
her consternation. In their state of mind, angry men full
of "jihad" (holy war) would certainly turn upon
anyone who showed the least bit of sympathy towards the Christians.
Sickened and weak from the disquieting events
of that afternoon, Aishath walked wearily home. The scenes
she had witnessed that day tormented her tender spirit. Innocent
Hasina, who had sparked a friendship with her only the week
before, along with her whole family, had been driven out
of Kamalia by the militant Muslims. Though it could have
been worse--they could have been tortured or put to death--Aishath
was shaken. The Sheik, and his son, whom she was to marry,
had not only taken part in the mob but had led it and roused
it to crueler anger. The Sheik had placed his seal of approval
on the mob's actions, and had taken an unmistakable stand
against the Christians. This man was to be her father-in-law!
Not only that, but her own betrothed had taken part . . .
. Aishath shuddered again as she remembered the anger and
hatred he had displayed as he shouted at the forlorn family
and hurled stones at them. How could she ever love a man
who would do that? Now she truly feared to speak to him about
all that was on her heart. He would surely beat her if they
were married. She had no one to turn to. Hasina was gone;
her plans to speak to her that afternoon had been rudely
arrested. Now she was even more desperate to pour out her
emotions! Aishath clenched her teeth and tried to hold back
the tears of frustration, of loneliness, and of turmoil from
the afternoon's calamity.
That evening, Abdul Ibrahim showed up at
the door of Abu Sadar. The Sheik's son had come to speak
with her father, but since he was not yet in, he turned his
attention to Aishath. His expression softened when he saw
her, but Aishath could hardly bear to meet his gaze. She
remembered too clearly the hate she had seen on his face
earlier that day. Cheerfully addressing her, he began, "How's
Aishath's dark eyes flashed as she turned
to him. Ignoring his inquiry, she spoke: "I saw you
in the marketplace this afternoon."
"Oh, did you?" He raised his eyebrows.
Laughing dryly, he continued, "We drove unbelievers
from the village. Contaminants!" he spat out.
"But what had they done?" Aishath
cried out. "How could they deserve such horrible treatment?"
"They rejected Allah's prophet and
his commands. They are our enemies. They are enemies of Allah," he
replied simply, but with a bit of irritation.
"They did not wrong anyone," she
The Sheik's son responded with growing impatience, "You
should not have been there. You are too sensitive to observe
such things. You should not sympathize with the Christians,
or something bad may happen to you, too."
Aishath's heart sank beyond hope at his
words; she knew it would never be safe to speak to him about
her talk with Hasina or the Bible she was reading.
That weary night when Aishath again got
out Hasina's book, the words blurred on the pages as she
tried to read. Laying down her head with a shuddering sigh,
Aishath recounted the events of the day. Her thoughts wandered
to more questions. Why did Muslims hate Christians? They
were good people, if they lived by the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus taught about love and about righteousness. It puzzled
Aishath that her own people, while claiming that Jesus was
a prophet, did not follow his teachings. Somewhere, something
was dreadfully wrong. Had not Jesus said, "love your
enemies and pray for those who persecute you"? Here,
it was the Muslims who were enemies of the Christians; it
was the Muslims who persecuted the Christians. Then her mind
drifted to another thought. When Hasina and her family were
driven out of the village by the Muslims, none of them retaliated
in any way. They did not complain, or curse, or become angry.
Instead, they had looked with compassion on their persecutors.
Aishath recalled something else she had read. Jesus said, "Blessed
are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely
say all kinds of evil against you because of me." It
did not end there as an arbitrary rule, but continued encouragingly. "Rejoice
and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven." So
that was why Hasina took her family's plight so calmly.
All that was written in the worn, black
Bible, all Hasina had said to her, and all she had witnessed
that day solidified her desire to be a Christian. She saw
clearly that the way of Jesus was much better than that of
the Muslims. But everyone was against her! No one understood
her longing to find the truth about life and about God. To
whom could she turn?
Exhausted in body and spirit, Aishath dropped
off to sleep, the book open beside her on the bed.
After a night of fitful sleep, Aishath was
rudely jolted awake by her mother. "What is this?" she
demanded, in an agitated voice. Abu Sadar quickly appeared
by her side. "Where did you get this?" he too demanded.
Too groggy to answer, Aishath stared dazedly at her parents.
As she came to her senses, fear gripped her heart. Hasina's
Bible! They had found her Bible!
The room was tense; Aishath saw that her
parents were angry. "It is a Bible. It was given to
me," she answered quietly. Inside, she was trembling.
"Who gave it to you?" her father
demanded, louder this time.
"The girl at the produce stand."
"The ones who were driven out of the
village yesterday? I have told you before to stay away from
those Christians. I will not have my daughter deceived by
such nonsense. You will bring curses upon our family!" he
shouted. Snatching the Bible from his wife, he ripped off
the cover, saying, "This is what will be done to anyone
in my family who turns from the faith and becomes a Christian."
Aishath gasped. She started toward her father
to retrieve the precious book, but he swung his arm up out
of her reach.
"I am going to burn this. It is a book
of the infidels. I will not allow it in my home!" he
ranted. Then he spat on the naked book, sealing his words.
"But you do not know what it is like!" she
cried desperately. "You judge something you do not know!
It teaches about the love of God. It teaches people to live
right before God. There is nothing bad in it."
Abu Sadar cut her off with a sharp blow
with the book in his hand. "You ungrateful, rebellious
daughter! Do not talk to me like that!" He struck her
again with her book of love. Then he went out.
Aishath sank onto her bed and wept. "Allah,
or God, or Jesus, of whoever you are, hear me," she
begged. "I want to follow you in the right way, but
I don't know how. And now I can not even read about you anymore.
If you are a God of love, then help me, as Hasina said you
would." And she sobbed some more.
During the following weeks the troubling
thoughts of eternity and truth and the words of Jesus never
left Aishath. What could she do? She could no longer read
about Jesus, and there was no one in whom she could confide.
It was not safe for her to talk to anyone about her questioning
of Islam. Every time she tried to figure it out, she just
grew more and more desperate and dissatisfied. Perhaps her
mother was right--maybe she should just forget the whole
thing and not trouble her young mind with questions of religion.
It would be so simple to accept her people's religion just
as she accepted her parents' choice of a husband for her.
But no! She had to know. Now that she had read in the book
of God, she could neither forget nor dismiss its words. She
could not live with herself if she blindly followed something
she knew to be false. Yet, how would she ever know? Day after
day, Aishath tried to put these thoughts far from her mind,
but to no avail. She tried to lose herself in each new task,
only to have the thoughts pop up again and again. Anxiety
afflicted her day and night.
One afternoon Aishath went to the village
well as usual. Heavy clouds smothered the tropical summer
landscape, foreshadowing a thunderstorm. The well was as
deserted as she felt, but as Aishath drew closer, she was
startled to discover a stranger sitting on a rock nearby.
She could tell that he was European, for he was not wearing
a turban like the Pakistani men. His light brown head was
bowed over a little black book, just like the one Hasina
had lent her, and he appeared deep in thought as he read
aloud to himself. Pausing, she drew her dupatta carefully
over her head and across her face before advancing to the
well. She silently filled her pails with water, straining
to hear his words. "Because of his great love for us,
God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even
when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have
been saved." Gathering the sloshing pails of water,
Aishath rose. At this, he looked up at her and smiled. "Hello," he
Aishath nodded her greeting, and after a
moment's pause, turned to leave. The man spoke again, causing
Aishath to stop in midstride. "Excuse me; do you know
of the family of Ali Eshaq?" he queried. At her blank
look of confusion, he continued, "They had a produce
stand in the marketplace here." Then he proceeded to
describe the family.
Aishath's eyes lit up with recognition.
Momentarily forgetting her reserve around unfamiliar men,
she set down her pails of water and exclaimed, "I knew
Hasina!" Upon his further inquiry, Aishath related the
story of the riot and the family's banishment. Though uneasy
about speaking to the missionary, she sensed that this was
the answer to her prayer. Finding in the man a sympathetic
listener, Aishath longed to pour out the whole story of her
questioning of eternity, her talk with Hasina, and her own
persecution at home. As simply as she could, she told about
her confusion after reading Hasina's Bible, and about her
craving to learn more. When she finished, the missionary
began to find a scripture in his worn Bible to show her,
but Aishath stopped him. "It is not safe for me to be
seen with you, since you are a Christian. My mother will
begin to worry about me since I have been gone so long. But
I wish so very much to talk to someone about Jesus. This
is what I have been praying for."
The tall, kindly man rose slowly to his
feet. "My name is Stephen. This is where you can find
me," he said, handing her a scrap of paper with his
address and directions to his house written on it. "If
you come when I am gone, my wife will welcome you and talk
with you. Her name is Elizabeth. Please do not be afraid
to come." Then pulling another paper out of his pocket,
Stephen handed it to Aishath, also. "I do not have a
Bible to give you right now, but you can read this. It will
help answer your questions about Jesus." Aishath thanked
him, picked up her pails again, said goodbye, and departed.
She hurried her steps homeward to make up for lost time,
hoping her mother would not ask about her long trip to the
well. She rejoiced that God had heard her prayer, and that
she was able to speak to someone about the longing in her
heart, even though it had been somewhat awkward.
That night Aishath once more cautiously
relit her lamp after everyone in the house was asleep. Because
of her parents' discovery of the Bible, she feared the consequences
should they find her disobeying. She read the entire tract
from the missionary. It showed that Jesus was more than a
prophet; he was the son of God and the Savior of the world.
Through the words of the prophets, it proved that God did
have a son--Jesus. It explained why Jesus had to die on a
cross, and revealed the Jewish prophecies that foretold that
event. To Aishath it made sense. Yet it exposed the inconsistencies
of her Muslim faith with great clarity. If Jesus was truly
a prophet, as Muhammad had taught, then his teachings had
to be true. If Jesus' teachings were true, then they should
obey them. If Jesus was who he claimed to be, then he was
the "final and greatest prophet" (and more) rather
than Muhammad. If that was so, then Muhammad was wrong, and
everything her people believed was false.
It is very disconcerting to discover that
everything one's life has been built upon is false. In Pakistan,
the lifestyle, culture, economy, and government revolve around
one central religion. Islam forms the bond among the people
of Pakistan. Family and village ties are built upon that
common religion. Islam is not just a religion; it is a way
of life. The intricate relationships within this provide
the security for every individual. When Aishath realized
that her Islamic beliefs were wrong, she did not know what
to do. If she renounced Islam, she would have to give up
the security of her family, her ties with friends, respect
in the village, social status and prestige, even her proposed
marriage to Abdul Ibrahim. She would bring shame and reproach
on her family, and they would reject her. Aishath recalled
her father's angry threat that morning he had taken Hasina's
Bible from her: he would strip and expose any person in his
family who would dare turn to Christianity. She would be
abandoned, excluded, left entirely on her own. Then there
would really be no one to turn to. Everything outside of
the Muslim life was fearful and unknown. The possibilities
loomed before her troubled mind. She would not be able to
drink from the village well. She could be punished by the
Sheik, beaten, or driven from the village like Hasina's family
had been. She would be utterly forsaken.
Aishath now mistrusted everything in her
Muslim religion. However, she kept quiet and said nothing
to her family, for that would do no good. She waited in fear,
unsure of herself. She wanted to do what was right, but there
were so many obstacles. What if she were wrong? The troubled
thoughts about eternity recurred, gnawing at her guilty conscience.
She had to do something. Her wedding was drawing near, and
after she was married there would be no turning back. The
strain of having to make a decision under such adverse circumstances
weighed heavily upon her sensitive being. Every day she tried
to pray--to Allah, or Jesus; she was too confused to know
which was right. Was Allah really another name for the God
of the Jews and Christians? Their characters were too different.
Aishath's inner struggle continued day after day, week after
week, till this existence became months. The approach of
her wedding intensified the mental and emotional battle that
waged within her, until it finally reached its climax. She
could not remain a Muslim, and she could not marry a Muslim.
Late one night, after all had been still
in the house for about an hour, Aishath rose stealthily from
her bed and wrapped a dark shawl around herself. She cautiously
picked up her sandals and the lamp from beside the bed. After
listening for any stirring in the house, she stepped out
of her room. In her bare feet, Aishath slowly tiptoed through
the house to the courtyard, and then out to the gate. The
village lay sleeping around her. Stars shown brightly in
the clear, dark sky, but no moon illuminated the path. She
slipped out the gate and turned down the street that led
toward the country. She could see the pale expanse of the
wheat fields on the outskirts of the village. Once she reached
the fields, Aishath stopped briefly to put on her sandals,
since the road was more rocky there, and no one would be
around to hear her pass.
The village where the missionary lived was
four miles to the north. Aishath thought she could cover
that distance in less than two hours, in spite of the darkness,
the roughness of the track connecting the villages, and her
unfamiliarity with the way. She knew it would be dangerous
for a girl to be out unaccompanied at night on a deserted
highway. However, the desire burning within her to learn
more about Christ drove her on. If God had answered her prayer
once, He surely would keep her safe as she traveled to hear
more about Him. Once she entered a thick grove of trees,
she lit her lamp. Her distance from the village would prevent
anyone from seeing the light. Gnats and moths whined and
flitted about her face because of the bright light, but she
did not want to blow it out. It made her feel safer as she
trudged along alone. The night had become cool and Aishath
was glad for her shawl. She hoped the village where she was
headed was not too far away, for she was growing tired; she
thought it must be around midnight.
As she made her way along the hazardous
highway, all sorts of fears flashed into Aishath's mind.
Could she return home before dawn? What would her parents
do when they discovered her missing? She would certainly
find herself in even more trouble this time, since she disregarded
her father's orders. Perhaps she had done a foolish thing.
After going this far, however, she might as well continue
on to the missionary's house. If she did turn around and
go home to save herself from her parents' fury, she would
never find the true peace she was looking for. She had to
At last Aishath saw the village up ahead.
She stopped to look at the directions on the scrap of paper
the missionary had given her. Then she extinguished the lamp.
She was relieved that his house was on this end of the village,
so she would have few houses to pass. She did not want any
dogs to bark at her. Again moving cautiously, Aishath walked
into the village. Her heart beat faster. What if she knocked
on the wrong door? According to the paper, she found his
house, the fourth one into the village along the main street.
It was a small house, and not a wealthy one. There was no
gate leading into a front courtyard; the door of the house
was butt up against the street. Aishath felt uneasy going
to a stranger's house, but this was her only chance to ease
her troubled soul. Aishath paused a moment, then rapped gently.
She was surprised when, moments later, the door swung open.
In the darkness, she recognized the white missionary. Before
she could say anything, Stephen beckoned her inside, shut
the door, and said, "Welcome. I have been expecting
you." Lighting a candle, he went and roused his wife.
Returning with his arm around her, Stephen introduced her. "This
is my wife, Elizabeth. We are very glad you have come to
us tonight. I remember meeting you at the well in Kamalia.
What is your name?"
"I am Aishath. I am the daughter of
Abu Sadar and Bilquis. In a month I am to be married to Abdul
Ibrahim, the son of the Sheik. I came to you tonight because
I am aching to know more about Jesus and the God of the Christians,
and how to be a Christian. My parents and my betrothed laugh
at me and do not allow me to speak to Christians or read
their book. They do not understand why I want so much to
know about your God, and they punished me for having a Bible.
I came at night because that was the only way I could come.
And now I do not know what will happen when I get home." Here
she stopped, despair sweeping over her. Her shoulders sagged
"You must be tired and thirsty from
the long trip," spoke Elizabeth gently. "May I
get you a drink?"
Aishath assented, and then said, "I
am sorry to trouble you so late at night. Maybe I should
not have come."
Stephen replied, "We are servants of
Jesus Christ. It is never too late at night for us to help
someone. Do not feel bad about coming here."
Though strangers, these people opened their
home to Aishath. She felt safe with them. Aishath noted that
Elizabeth dressed in the shalwar-qamiz and the dupatta, just
like the Pakistani women. This missionary couple radiated
love, holiness, and zeal for God. They were not the typical
westerners who caused Muslims to despise Christianity.
Elizabeth returned shortly with a cup of
water for Aishath, and Stephen opened his Bible. Beginning
in the Gospels, he showed her that Jesus was the Son of God,
and that he fulfilled the prophecies made about him. He explained
to her why Allah is not the true, living God. Together, they
taught her what it means to be a Christian. "You see,
God is just and holy, but he is also full of love and compassion.
He loved us so much that he sent Jesus, his only son, to
earth to die as a sacrifice for our sins. The scripture says
that 'anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse.'
Jesus was crucified on a tree, and so he took on himself
the curse from all our sins. God turned his back on his son
for a short time, so he could love us and forgive us. Because
Jesus triumphed over death--he is alive again--we too can
live forever with him." They taught Aishath that people
cannot earn their salvation by doing many good deeds. "We
are commanded to obey him, but we are saved only by his grace," Elizabeth
pointed out. Far into the morning hours they taught Aishath
and answered her multitude of questions. Aishath became so
engrossed in all she was learning that the danger of the
morning dimmed. The good news overwhelmed her, convincing
her beyond a doubt that she must turn from her old religion
and follow Jesus. At last she was finding the answer to her
fundamental questions about life and eternity.
Suddenly realizing that dawn was nearing,
Aishath broke out, "I can't go home like this. Though
I believe all you say, I will be just as guilty as I was
before I knew. I must do something! What is there to keep
me from becoming a Christian?"
"Nothing. The Lord is answering our
prayers for you!" they replied with thankful hearts. "Yet," continued
Stephen soberly, "do you realize what this will mean?
Your parents will punish you and maybe drive you out of their
home. The man you loved will try to force you to give up
Jesus. Your reputation will be ruined, and everyone will
turn against you. You may be driven out of the village just
like Hasina's family, or you could suffer floggings from
the Sheik. By becoming a Christian, you will give up everything."
Rising to her feet, Aishath exclaimed passionately, "All
this time I have been in agony, searching for truth and purpose.
Now that I have found what my longing heart desired, nothing
means more to me than the happiness I have finally discovered.
I have considered those things. But if Jesus gave his life
because he loved me, what can I not sacrifice for him?"
"Oh, Praise God! Thank you, Lord!" they
cried together. Rising to his feet, Stephen said in a low
voice, "You understand what we have taught you about
Jesus, and what your decision will mean. Since you are ready,
we must go down to the river before dawn, so that no one
will see you."
After gathering a few towels, the three
slipped quietly out the back door and crept along the dark
alley until they were past the houses. Then Stephen led the
way down a narrow path that women used to go to the river
No one spoke, but Aishath was busy with
her own thoughts. She thought of her parents, awaking to
find her gone. She thought of the prestigious Abdul Ibrahim,
whom she would not marry now, and of his father, the Sheik,
who would certainly be furious beyond description. She thought
about Hasina, and how her family had been driven from their
village. It was dangerous to become a Christian, and it was
scary. But Hasina had been happy. Both the girl and the missionary
and his wife possessed what Aishath craved. She could not
turn back now.
Presently, Stephen turned into the woods.
There was no path, and Stephen held back branches for the
women to pass. Elizabeth whispered to Aishath that they must
find a secret spot.
At last they reached a bend in the river,
where the water slowed and created a sandy bank. Mist enshrouded
the river, as the grayness of dawn softened with each passing
minute. Stephen took off his shoes and Aishath her sandals.
Elizabeth squeezed Aishath's hand before the girl waded out
into the chilly water after her husband.
"Aishath, do you believe that Jesus
is the Son of the Living God, and that he died and rose again
to save you, and that his blood cleanses you from your sins?"
"Yes. I believe in Jesus with all my
"And do you now commit your life to
follow him and to serve him?"
"I am ready to do the Lord's will."
"Then I baptize you in the name of
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so that your sins
may be washed away, and that you may die to sin and rise
again to new life in him, that you may be a child of God." And
with that, Stephen laid Aishath back in the water.
When Aishath rose above the surface of the
water, praising God, she saw that the eastern sky was beginning
to glimmer with pink and gold, and the mist was thinning.
It mirrored the joy and new hope inside her. Christ was now
her strength, so she could not fear the rejection that lay
before her. The new day was dawning, and a new day was dawning
within Aishath's soul.
(The author wrote this
interesting story in the senior year of her home education
when she was eighteen years of age.)
Although the foregoing story is not factual,
it could very well occur in real life today. There is a vital
message for each of us in this account, one that will encourage
and bless you, one that will instruct and warn you.
Just as Aishath found the truth of God in
the Bible (2 Timothy 3:15), you also may find the truth as
you search the Scriptures and believe its saving message.
Just as Aishath came to see that Jesus is the only way to
God the Father (John 14:6), so you may find in Him the answer
to your spiritual needs and the cry of your heart. And just
as Aishath learned that following Jesus will mean suffering,
persecution, and rejection by family and friends (2 Timothy
3:12), so you may find that following the Lord is indeed
costly. Wont you, like Aishath the Muslim girl, search
for the truth and then willingly and joyfully embrace it
to find new lifea new life given by the love of God
through Christ Jesus. Along with Aishath, a new day can dawn
in your own life!