Saturday, May 3, 2008

search for truth 2

- more true stories from the Cape

In this edition of SEARCH for TRUTH the real aspect for converts with an Islamic background of persecution and suffering comes more to the fore. The Bible teaches that every true follower of Jesus must be ready for innocent suffering and persecution. That is part and parcel of healthy growth in faith. In fact, the Christian believer who never experiences difficulties and/or suffering because of his faith - at least from time to time - should really check out his relationship to the Lord (Compare 2 Timothy 3: 12). Almost every Muslim who comes to the Lord experiences some form of ostracism and all too often much persecution from family and friends – even in a democracy like South Africa. The testimonies in Part 1 of this booklet will surely illustrate that.
Another aspect that gets more attention here is supernatural divine interventions. Quite often the Holy Spirit prepares Muslims through dreams and visions. Occasionally this brings them to final conviction.
Part 2 endeavours to give Christians an insight into the background of Islamic doctrine and Part 3 demonstrates how Christians in South Africa have a collective historical guilt in respect of Islam. The time to pay back is long overdue. How could we do it more convincingly than sharing the love of Jesus to them in all sorts of practical and compassionate ways?

The academic substantiation for parts two and three can be found in published books on Church and Islamic History as well as books and theses of Cape (Islamic) History.

‘Whoever acknowledges me before men… I will acknowledge him before my Father in heaven ... (Matthew 10:32)

Culturally Mixed Marriages seen from another perspective
That Christian girls get married to Muslim men has become very common in the Western Cape. It is sad that hardly anyone of them has been prepared properly for the major change in their life. The nominal Christian usually has no problem initially.
Too often the emptiness of the Islamic religious ritual sets the person in question on a search after truth. The really big problem starts when such a person seriously wants to follow Jesus. It sometimes ends in divorce. When the children in the marriage are already teenagers and the husband fails to support the family, the issue becomes a tall order.
The lady who had to face all this, almost lost her sanity in the process, but she experienced supernaturally that Jesus strengthens, if you put your complete trust in Him.

Once I took a scant look at my co-patients, completely shocked.
My whole being rebelled: ‘I don’t belong here!’ My hair had
turned white. I had become an old lady within a few years.

Raised in a Christian home, I fell in love with a Muslim young man. When we decided to get engaged, I thought that I might as well embrace Islam in the meantime. My mother was buying her meat at the Muslim butcher, where she got to know my future in-laws. The latter couple was thus reassured that the meat would be hallal at our home. Accordingly, they approved of the relationship of their son to me.
I had no clue what the Islamic religion entailed, but for that matter I had no notion of the Christian faith as well. My parents had no objection to my moving in with my in-laws after our marriage. This happens very often in our culture. Looking back, that was possibly the biggest mistake of my life. Suddenly things changed. I was not allowed to see my family any more and my in-laws insisted that I should now only be called by the Muslim name that they gave me.
I did not know that one could have a personal relationship to God through faith in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. A challenge came my way when I heard that my elder sister had accepted Jesus as her Lord. But I would not have anything to do with those ‘born again’ people.
In our marriage we were blessed with three precious children, but soon my husband started to abuse me. The increased freedom of having a home of our own brought little comfort. Often I considered leaving my husband, but for the sake of our children I hung in there to keep the marriage alive. After 15 years of wedlock I had enough of it all. A lady friend, who had a living relationship with the Lord, allowed me to move in with them. But her husband had the habit of abusing her verbally and emotionally. My children would then cry and longed after their own father. After a while I decided to return to my husband.
Soon hereafter this Christian friend with whom I had lived, told me about some marriage seminar that was going to take place at the local Civic Centre. I longed to go there but it was just before ‘labarang gadjji’, the big Muslim feast where we celebrate how Abraham was required to sacrifice his son.
I very much wanted to attend that seminar. But how would I be able to break away from the preparations at home? I told my husband that I was going to visit my sister. Instead, I went to the Civic Centre. With my scarf and Muslim clothing, I was very self-conscious among all the Christian people. Cautiously I took a seat at the back of the hall. I thought, “If it would get too hot under the collar, then I could easily slip out again”.
The female speaker invited the audience to write on a piece of paper everything in which they have failed God. I had no problem filling the paper, writing up all the bad things including “I am no good wife to my husband’. In the eyes of the world I was a good wife all right, but when God’s Word was ministered, I came under conviction that I was falling so far below God’s standards. Then we were invited to receive the forgiveness, which Jesus has achieved for us through his death on the cross of Calvary. As a visible sign of our repentance we had to tear up the paper with all the wrong things we had done. I had no problem to do this, but when we were invited to come forward and throw the snippets of paper in a bucket, I stayed put. I wanted to go forward, but my feet felt like lead. Instead, I cried and cried. A dear believer came to me after the meeting and she led me to a personal faith in Jesus as my Saviour.
After the meeting there was a general rejoicing and hugging in the hall with which I was not so familiar. But my heart was bubbling over as well. I would have loved to stay for tea with the other people, but I was now so guilt-ridden about the lie I had told to my husband. That was new to me. Before this I had no problem to lie without a blush. If my husband would go to my sister to find me there, there would of course have been trouble. I simply returned to him to continue the preparations for ‘labarang gadjji’.

Spiritual Growth on my own
Inside me I was yearning to share with someone what had happened to me. I looked for a Bible for I knew that I needed it to grow in my newfound faith. I was very happy so that I could hardly wait to tell everybody about it - also to my husband. He was shocked and reacted in the fashion that his religion - and mine up to that point in time - prescribes: persecution! I got no money from him to buy food for the family. I was told: ‘Ask your Jesus to give you and the children something to eat!’ Also the electricity and the water were cut and the phone was unplugged. My husband now really went all out to make life miserable for my children and me.

My baby sister murdered
The Lord intervened in a strange way. My youngest sister, who had also become a born-again follower of Jesus - and the one whom I had silently admired - was brutally murdered. A complete numbness took hold of me. My own husband was abusing me, but I didn’t feel it. It was if I was anaesthetised. He also ordered other people, e.g. a Muslim neighbour, to spy on me. Thus he could tell about almost every single movement I had made while he was at work.
This just could not go on very long. I broke down, soon to be admitted to Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital. For three long years I was in and out of this institution, especially suffering from the pain of separation from my three children again and again. Their visits were therefore always a real tonic.
At home during one of my visits there a most vivid memory occurred at this time when our eldest daughter put her head on my lap. A deep feeling of intense happiness overwhelmed me: ‘they still love me!’ That was so encouraging at a time when my faith was under attack as well.

Discharge without freedom
Once I took a scant look at my co-patients. I was completely perplexed. My whole being rebelled: ‘I don’t belong here!’ A look in the mirror completed the shock. My hair had turned white. I had become an old lady within a short time. Then a quiet voice came to me: ‘You are here for a purpose!’ I knew it was Jesus reassuring me. I got courage to stick firm to my faith in my Lord and Saviour.
I was ultimately discharged from the Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital, but at this time the most difficult trial came my way via our daughter when she put the question to me: ‘Do you think that it is right that we must suffer for your faith?’ There were all the symptoms that also the Christians seemed to have rejected me. I decided to make an end to my misery: I took an overdose of the tablets that I had to use. Under normal circumstances it should have been fatal. But the Lord had his hand on me. I slept for three days on end, but survived. I received a new lease of life. Hereafter my husband unexpectedly gave notice of his intention to divorce me. On top of it, I had become addicted to the drugs given to me.
Somehow I regained my faith in the Lord although I had no fellowship with other believers. I decided that I had enough of all these drugs. The Lord would have to help me. For two weeks I wrestled through all the symptoms of ‘cold turkey’ with constant shivering and other horrible experiences. I just kept praying. I sensed that the Lord was bringing me miraculously through the ordeal of it all.

A sense of humour
I was blessed with a sense of humour when everything seemed to continue turning ugly on us. When we had no food in the house and the beds had been taken back because the instalments had not been paid, I announced bravely: “Let’s play camp”. I still had a few marsh-mellows, which we burned over the candles!

Under these circumstances our eldest daughter had a very difficult time. She was so ashamed of the putrid conditions at home. She was now more or less the breadwinner with a casual job at a supermarket. When a young lad with whom she was working came home with her, it seemed as if she wanted to disappear into the earth for shame. But I told her that if he was really interested in her, he should be prepared to take into his stride whatever her home conditions were like.
My husband then challenged me with an ultimatum: “You must return to Islam or I will divorce you”. However, when my husband started to bring other women into the house, I thought that I now had a biblical reason to file for a divorce myself.

The wheels started to turn
Slowly the wheels started turning. The biggest joy of a mother came my way when our youngest daughter asked me: “Mommy, how does one accept Jesus?” What a slice of glory it was to lead her to the Lord. Now I had a co-believer in the home!
When I got a few casual jobs with some window-dressing here and sewing there, I had money to spend! I felt like a queen! Someone gave us some hake and from another quarter we got a gift of chicken. It seemed as if the sun was really breaking through the clouds!
The devil must have been furious. My husband refused to leave the house, hoping that we would leave. It was very difficult when our daughter wanted to know what the other lady was doing in our house. But we had nowhere to go. At night my husband started carrying out our furniture. He also tried to use witchcraft to get me back into Islam. I had grown in faith by now. He started chanting Arabic verses from the Qur’an while he burned every Bible in the house on which he could lay a hand. I quietly rebuked the devil ‘In the name of Jesus’. At my husband’s taunts I simply responded with ‘Jesus loves you’. Obviously I was strengthened in my heart that I was enabled to react in this way.
I was now attending a near-by church although I did not experience real fellowship. I was just sitting there week after week, surprised at the shallowness of the other Christians. The persecution and suffering had moulded me. I could not bother about material things any more. When an announcement was made in the church about a seminar that was to be held in Bloemfontein, about 1000 km. away, I just listened without even remotely considering going there. Where would I ever get the money for such a trip?

A seminar in Bloemfontein
When I got home a few days later, I discovered that there was a piece of paper in my coat with the following words written on it: ‘You are being sponsored to attend the seminar in Bloemfontein’. I was so surprised that the people in the church had shown an interest in me. Well, I was overawed at the prospect, but the practical problem was what I would do with my three children. What would happen to them if I went to Bloemfontein? I decided to take the matter to the Lord in prayer. My faithful Saviour heard my cry. My mother volunteered to look after the children in my absence.
The Lord supplied not only my bus fare and the conference fee, but also ten Rand as pocket money. I could just praise him. The seminar was one big blessing. The devil was almost honour bound to hit back at my return... The threat of eviction from our home was real because of massive arrears of the rent and the electricity.
Out of the blue the Lord intervened by way of a big cheque. It was a social grant from the Department of Coloured Affairs. (I had almost forgotten that I lodged an application for maintenance. Initially it had been turned down because my husband was working. With the fact of divorce and a compassionate official, quite a lump sum accumulated.) I couldn’t wait to change the cheque to go and pay the bills.
The residential area where we stay had become completely islamised by this time. Our home was sticking out like a sore thumb. Stones were thrown on our house, evidently intended to intimidate us. In prayer I simply rebuked the perpetrators. One family especially earmarked our house for irritation and persecution. I rebuked them in the name of Jesus. They soon noticed that you couldn’t play around with my Lord without getting hurt yourselves.
By now our house was completely ransacked. I wanted to buy linoleum for the kitchen floor, which looked really horrible. The carpet of the living room was full of holes. A big surprise came our way when my Muslim brother-in-law asked me to refrain from buying the linoleum for the kitchen. He did not only buy that for us but also for the lobby, the toilet and the bathroom. He even tiled the kitchen himself. There were no strings attached. It seems as if a few relatives were ashamed of the treatment my husband had given us as a family. They had noticed that I was getting stronger in my faith in spite of the trials. They had evidently noticed that my faith does not depend on material things. But the other Muslim relatives still shunned me.
When my eldest daughter wanted to get married, I warned her not to go through life and into marriage without Jesus as her Saviour. What a blessing it was when she decided to follow Jesus shortly before the wedding.
My son is still a Muslim. It broke my heart to hear how he was taunted and beaten by his Muslim friends: he was a thorn in their flesh because in their view he is a “ ‘n kris met ‘n slamse naam” (a Christian with a Muslim name’). I am proud of my son and blessed that he stuck to me although I did not share his religion. I trust that at heart he has already understood what a living faith in Jesus is all about.
It broke my heart when my youngest daughter left our faith to marry a Muslim. But I continue to pray that all my children will one day follow and serve Jesus. Every day is a new challenge. I look forward to the day when we may serve the Lord as a united family.
A Gangster discovers that Jesus is alive

The wages of sin is death but the gift of
God is eternal life… (Romans 6: 23)

The issue of gangsterism
Gangsterism has already been a problem in the days of District Six, the vibrant area of Cape Town that was to become a White residential suburb in the wake of the Group Areas Act. After the enforced evictions and removals of people because of that notorious law, the ‘Coloured’ community was thrown into disarray. The problem area of gangsterism was one that grew into a crisis dimension. Stable families were unsettled and many youngsters from upright Christian and Muslim homes found their way to gangster peers. In due course drug dealing and gangsterism became the domain of Muslims. The leadership is predominantly in Islamic hands, to the dismay of the religious part of their community. Hardly a family remained which was not affected in some way or other.
To this day the problem of gangsterism has not been solved, but many a gangster has been challenged, especially in prison. Also Muslims came to a living faith in Jesus while in prison. Not all of them continued the life with Jesus after their discharge. We have included the story of one of the ex-gangsters who somehow managed to stay out of prison, whose conversion and commitment has been used by God to touch many a life.

I was eager for revenge, rejoicing when my
brother stabbed the opposition gang leader.

We had been a Christian family when my father decided to have another wife. So the whole family became Muslim. I got embroiled with gangsters at the age of 13 years after a gang had beaten me up. The young ruffians had been trying to get hold of my brother, who was the leader of the ‘29’ gang at that time. The emblem of the ‘29’s was the hammer and sickle, which led to them being called the Communists. I was eager for revenge, rejoicing when my brother stabbed the opposition gang leader. This became my introduction to the gang. I left school prematurely because there was not enough money to go around to keep me there. All in all we were twenty-two children, eighteen from my mother and four children with the second wife of my father. Soon I was a gang leader myself, heading the ‘Dirty Marbles’ of the township of Silvertown. In the running battles we often used petrol bombs.
When I was seventeen I almost killed another gang leader with an axe. For the ensuing court case a ‘doekom’ (witch doctor) was approached who would keep me out of prison. Because my parents had no money to pay him, I did not get the required ‘treatment’. I resorted to something I never otherwise did, viz. praying to God (We perceived this as different to calling on the aloof Allah to whom we would make our Arabic duah’s that we very seldom understood). I defended myself in court, using self-defence as an excuse. I was acquitted but I completely forgot about my prayer to the living God. I just returned to my life-style.

Do you love Jesus?
By now I was employed at the Reckitt and Colman factory in Ndabeni where I had started to work in 1971. Some sort of revival was taking place at the Anglican Church of Manenberg at the beginning of August 1974.[1] Because of that, one of the church members was soon singing choruses in our factory. ‘Aunty Rose’ would also sing a chorus playfully at work where the names of different workers were inserted. The other workers seemed to have no problem to reply to the question ‘… do you love Jesus?’ To be honest, when on the 7th August 1974 ‘Aunty Rose’, the Christian lady, came to me in the butchery of the factory with the same strange question: ‘Mogamat, do you love Jesus’, I had no hesitation to say ‘yes, I love Jesus’. It was part of my life-style to lie anyway. I had no qualms to shake her off a second time. When she however came with the question a third time, she put it even more emphatic: ‘Mogamat, do you really love Jesus?’ Now I became really angry. I started swearing fiercely and left the butchery in a rage. But a voice came to me out of the blue that I instinctively knew had to be the voice of Jesus - in my own dialect of Cape Afrikaans: ‘Djy sê djy’t my lief, maar djy lieg’ (You said that you love me, but you lie.’) I went to the cloakroom, took out my cigarettes and started to smoke. Again the same voice was on hand: “Dink djy dis die regte ding om te doen?” (Do you think you are doing the right thing?) I felt like a hunted criminal. God was on my case. I knew I could not hide myself.
I was unaware that my girl friend accepted the Lord as her Saviour that same day at a midday cottage meeting at their home. But when I saw her the next day - her birthday - her face was shining. I immediately knew something must have happened to her. I complained to her about the spirit that haunted me but she only reacted by inviting me to go to church with her that evening. I had my reply ready: “Djy’t jou geloef en ek het myne! (You’ve got your religion, I’ve got mine!)”
To be very intimate with my girl-friend was quite normal to me. We already had a son from our relationship. When she now however refused to co-operate because she was converted, I was furious: “The first night you go to church and you come back with this nonsense. I’m sure you met some man at the church.” And I was really convinced of that.
I agreed to go to church with her on the Sunday morning. I wanted to set that chap straight. Dressed up with ‘collar and tie’ - that I found very strange however - I joined her to the wood and iron Pentecostal church building where her family worshipped. I had my packet of cigarettes from which I wanted to offer to the brothers when I heard Satan speaking to me in a deep awful voice: “As djy gaan roek, gaan die mense net vir jou priek, want al die mense in dié kêk is bekeer.” (Don’t smoke here, otherwise the people are specially going to preach at you because everybody in this church is converted.)

There was no new boyfriend at the church as I surmised but the chorus they sang about Jesus of Nazareth, stuck in my mind: “Something good is happening to you.” The familiar voice of Jesus said to me: “Give your life to me or your child will die.” I hereafter burst out in tears, crying throughout the very long service. I hardly listened to the message. I only came to my senses at the altar call to which I responded immediately. As I went forward, demons from within me were screaming: “Please don’t let these people pray for you.” I turned around from the altar at the front of the church and walked back to my seat. A church brother came to me saying “We didn’t pray for you!” When prayed he for me the demons disappeared immediately.
That evening I made up my mind: This Christianity is not for me. I did not feel like missing all my fun. I shall just terminate the friendship with the mother of our child. The same Sunday evening I told my girlfriend. “Let’s break up. I love the pleasures of the world too much. I perceived the life of a Christian to be dull and dreary.

Fast and pray or else!
The next morning however, – the Monday - there was the voice of God once again, this time with a stern warning: “Fast and pray or else!”. My heart reacted: “ I am only 19 years old. What about my life?” How wrongly I thought that being a Christian is drab. But at that moment the white wall in front of me turned ‘dark’, coming towards me. I sensed that this was God’s warning. Without him I was facing a dark future. The voice reminded me of my previous encounters with Jesus at the factory and at the church. I did not mind the fasting part of the command. As a Muslim I did that during the month of Ramadan. But praying? I only knew the ‘Our Father” which I had learnt at school.
I now simply converted an air-conditioned room at the factory that was hardly used into my prayer room, starting with the Lord’s Prayer. When I came to the sentence ‘Thy will be done’, a deep sense of my sinfulness overwhelmed me. I just could not continue. Some of the wicked things I had been doing, came over my lips. Later I learnt that I was actually ‘confessing my sins.’ I felt so much better after the prayer. This ‘praying’ went on for two weeks. Every time I came to ‘Thy will be done,’ other sins came up in my mind that I had to confess. How real 1 John 1: 9 became – ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ I felt so pure and clean. More cleansing was to come in the spiritual battle every time I tried to pray the Lord’s prayer.
Gradually I developed a personal relationship with Jesus. A month of seeking the face of God followed about an issue that was bugging me. I ate only at night, thus practising fasting as I used to as a Muslim.
Early one Saturday morning at about 3 a.m. I woke up crying fiercely. I asked my brother “Why am I crying?” The Holy Spirit now spoke to me: “Lean not on the arm of flesh.” I had no clue that this was actually a Bible verse, just wondering what it meant. I went outside when a sense of guilt overcame me. I asked, “Lord, where did I fail you?” But there was no reply. I went into the toilet to pray. As a Muslim this would have been unthinkable. A loud beautiful voice now came to me almost like thunder: “Do you believe that my Son Jesus died for your sins?” I said, “Yes, I do”. I knew that this must have been God himself. And then a second voice came to me that I thought was the Holy Spirit: “Do you believe that I died for your sins?” I understood in this way how very close the Holy Spirit actually is to Jesus.
How different it was the very next morning. When I woke up on Sunday morning, I felt like a new person, as perfect as Adam must have been after he had been created by God. It dawned on me: ‘Jesus is real. He is alive’. If you seek Him with all your heart, he will reveal himself to you. The thought came into my mind that John 3: 16, which I knew by heart, is found in all Bibles - not in only that of any particular church.

My bodily ‘perfect’ feeling had a special touch because I was actually suffering from leukaemia for four months, attending Groote Schuur hospital at that time. That diagnosis was like a death sentence – leukaemia was killing in months rather than years.
Soon after my conversion the realities of life set in. I was not allowed to pray at home and my Christian friends were not allowed to visit me. Even my girl friend was banned from our home. Yet, my mother noticed the difference in my life because I was not going to shebeens and hotels for alcohol. In stead, I was coming home with my full salary.
On the health level, I was going through a trying time. In three months I had lost so much weight that I had hardly any clothes that were still fitting me. I felt that I would die soon. But what a difference in how I experienced the prospect of death! A few months prior to this I still feared death so much during our gang battles. Now I was ready to die and I was actually praying “Lord, please come and fetch me.”

God had other plans in store for me. One Monday evening when I attended a prayer meeting the lady pastor who led the meeting, came up to me. She did not know I was suffering from leukaemia and possibly she had no medical knowledge. Yet, she announced prophetically: “The Lord says, ‘the white cells kill the red cells.’ To-morrow you’ll see what God will be doing for you.”
The next day however, I was terribly sick. When I started the machine at work I felt as if I was going to die. But then suddenly, the Holy Spirit came over me. I just had to praise the Lord there and then. The other workers thought I was getting crazy. But I sensed that God was healing me.
The miracle happened. At the end of that month, October 1974, I went to donate blood. The medical officer said that mine was the best batch of the day! God gave me a new lease of life, because that was almost thirty years ago. I praise him from the depth of my heart for his goodness.

Tears were my daily bread

“Anyone who loves his father or mother
More than me is not worthy of me…”(Matthew 10:37)

Islam is more than only a Religion
Islam is much more than merely a religion. It is a life-style. In fact, the life of its adherents is often completely governed by it. However, it is not always pleasant, e.g. when children are not free to play like other children. Occasionally the Islamic duties are experienced as a choking burden, even to such an extent that teenage suicide is considered.
Marriage is in such a case experienced as liberation. On at least one occasion, it turned out to be a fata morgana, only leading to more bondage. The ‘freedom’ started for the female in this instance when she thought that a suicide attempt with no chance of failure was the only solution. She found a way out that however included a very steep and thorny road, definitely not a convenient one for someone with a suicidal tendency. She discovered that Jesus could carry one through also under very difficult circumstances.

My husband would have to be enabled to see the
broken pieces of my body. I was going to give him
what he wanted:a broken, dead person. I was going
to jump out of the train where every morning
an express train came in the opposite direction.

Being born into a staunch Muslim family, I was about 5 years old when my religious “duties” commenced in all earnestness. I was put under constant pressure to be a good Muslim as well as a good student at school. I was only allowed to play during interval at school and during school holidays.

Daily ritual Prayer
A normal day started for me at daybreak to perform salat for Fajr (the pre-dawn prayer). This I could only do after the prescribed ritual washing, abdas. Then I would either go back to bed, study, do homework or recite the Qur’an. At seven o’clock I had to get ready for school. After school, I had to eat quickly, take abdas and rush off to Muslim school (Madressah), which was at the local mosque in Bonteheuwel, one of the first Cape townships on the Cape Flats that came into being after the Group Areas community upheavals. Upon my arrival there, I had to “pay back” (recompense) my midday prayer(salat for Jhur). I was in debt with Allah because it was not done on the required time, i.e. at the right time of the Midday Prayer. At that time I had been at school.
We were taught that we would earn a greater reward if we would stay at the Mosque for this prayer. If Madressah got finished earlier, I had to rush home to help my mother prepare supper. The dusk prayer was then performed at home. I had to stay on the Musalah (prayer mat) and recite the Qur’an until about an hour later when it was time for the last prayer of the day, Ishaa. Only after Ishaa, I was allowed to undress, eat, listen to the radio or do my homework and/or get ready for bed. If we had visitors, my parents would brag with me, “showing off” by letting me recite from the Qur’an for the guests.

An extremely miserable jealous Child.
During school holidays, Madressah started in the mornings, and I could squeeze in some time to play. Also over weekends I had little time to play. The result of all this was that I became an extremely miserable jealous child. Soon, I used to fight with the neighbours’ children when I did get some time to play. I hated them because of all the time they had to play, swim and climb trees. They could also show off their beautiful hair, while I had to hide mine under a scarf. At the age of fourteen I attempted suicide for the first time.

At the age of seventeen I met my soon-to-be husband. When my parents found out two weeks later that I was befriended to a male, they insisted that my boyfriend’s parents would come and speak to them. After a long meeting, the two families decided that it was best that we marry. I was thrilled. This meant that I was now a grown woman. My fiancé also hated all the Islamic rituals. I would be free from all these enforced duties!

Marriage did not turn out to be what I thought it would be. It was horrible. My husband expected me to be an example to our children, while he did as he pleased. Pretty soon, I was a frustrated, fat housewife. He used this as an excuse to have extra-marital affairs. Soon tears were my daily bread! During this time, I committed five more suicide attempts. I was extremely depressed. I realised that I had to do something with my life.

Studies towards a career in education
One day I made up my mind to complete study towards a career in education. I attended evening classes and finally passed matric with an exemption. My husband did not want me to go to college as a full-time student, because I would then be away from home during the day, the children had to go to a crèche (day care centre for toddlers) and his meals would not be on time. Last not least, it would also cost him money. My parents offered to pay my registration fees and my mother would look after the children. My spouse was now completely upset. On the evening before my first day at college, he assaulted me so badly that he broke my spectacles. I went to college all bruised. My parents paid for my new glasses and even financed my travelling expenses to college and back.
A whole new and exciting world opened up for me. Every morning I had to board a train on which I soon became a very sceptical listener of the Christian sermons in the train. I had 14 subjects at College, a lot of homework and assignments. One of these subjects was Biblical Studies. Now - I argued - if I sat in this specific carriage where the train ministries’ sermons were held, I could listen to the Bible readings and its explanations every day. This would certainly shorten my study time, for I would get a lot of the information I needed. It worked!
At college I was extremely happy, because I was amongst naughty, lively young people. In this way, I could catch up on my lost youth. I could now also learn a little about sport and comradeship. After college, I rushed home, cooked and cleaned in a hurry, took care of my children and saw to my husband’s needs. That would usually last till at least midnight. My husband made it clear: He did not want any hassles because of my studies. Instead, he found fault with everything I did; I got my beatings on a regular basis.

Another suicide attempt
One morning during the half-yearly examinations in my first year he cursed me and then assaulted me badly on top of it. He did not want me to go to the college, but I was determined to write my exams. On my way to the station, I felt so depressed and tired that I decided to have a final suicide attempt. I wanted to make absolutely sure that it would succeed this time. I was going to end my life in the weirdest way possible. My husband would have to see the broken pieces of my body. I was going to give him what he wanted - a broken, dead person. Then, I thought, he could get all the women he wanted. I was going to jump out of the train at Phillipi station where every morning an express train came in the opposite direction.

I took off my rings and threw it on the railway track before I boarded the train at Kapteinsklip station. I scribbled a suicide note and put it in my bag. Before the train pulled out of the station, the Christians in the carriage began to sing the chorus: ‘I know the Lord will make a way for me...’ They followed this up with ‘Because he lives, I can face tomorrow’. I cried as my miserable life started to flash before me. The second chorus was a favourite of my dear uncle. He was a Christian and a delightful person. On top of it he had a wonderful relationship with his children. I had very little contact with him, because the family saw to it that I was kept away from the “Nasarah” (Christians).
Soon I was thinking of this uncle whose life was so different. My thoughts must have been very deep, because all of a sudden a student colleague said that it was time to leave the train. I had forgotten all about my suicide mission! Afterwards I understood that this was the Lord’s doing.
Early in the next term, I had to complete a study assignment about the monotheistic religions i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Seven library books were borrowed for that purpose. Long after the assignment was handed in, I still studied these books. Eventually I was convinced that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. Muhammad was an excellent warrior, yes! But Jesus was completely different. He conquered without fighting!
I borrowed a Bible from someone. Now I learnt that only the blood of Jesus could cleanse one from ALL sin. This answered many of my questions. I had always wondered why people needed thousands of Rands to complete a pilgrimage in order to get their sins forgiven. I wondered why I first had to perform a ritual washing before I could bow before Allah or read the Qur’an. I always needed to be clean and my clothes had to be clean. But - I thought - what about my mind, my heart?

LOVE as the one missing word
LOVE is the one word that was missing in the vocabulary of so many Muslims I knew. This was the one thing I have been longing for all my life. With Jesus I could relax, because he loved this miserable, fat, frustrated me. I did not have to rush like a mad person to “pay back” debt. He loves me unconditionally; He is forgiving. He does not look at my faults, but he sees my needs!

It slowly dawned on me that I needed the freedom Jesus had to offer. At that stage, my marriage seemed to have stabilized. My husband started his own business and he was gradually accepting that I was a student. He was now even paying my travelling costs!
I did not dare to confront him with my new discovery! Although he was not a good Muslim, he was fanatic about his religion and he would surely kill me this time. Also I did not want to sacrifice my family for Jesus. They would reject me. I soon dropped the idea of becoming a Christian.
I passed my first year at College and my husband seemed to have become proud of me. He soon made a lot of money and we could now afford to keep up with the Joneses - in this case his family. My sisters-in-law did not like the new, half-liberated woman I had become. Soon a fierce exchange of words ensued and a physical fight also followed. I stabbed my sister-in-law and was thereafter badly beaten by my sisters and brothers-in-law. My husband sided with them and left the house around the New Year of 1990.

I was now without money and a husband. I struggled to make ends meet and did a bit of ironing for friends in order to keep the pot boiling. At this point in time Jesus made Himself noticeable at every corner. But I was determined to get my husband back and would not risk becoming a murtat (an apostate). Yet, I was now in great need of Him (Jesus). I had my back against the wall and Jesus was knocking furiously at my heart’s door.

Sermons in the train
Morning after morning the sermons in the train made me cry. Here was a loving Jesus waiting with his arms open wide, while I chose to wait for a heartless husband. In May 1990 I heard that my husband had married someone else by Muslim rights while he simultaneously filed for divorce from me. I went to the Imam who married us. I was shocked and cried when the Imam told me there was nothing I could do. That was the lot of a Muslim woman. I just had to accept the other wife in his life. Meanwhile I had scant information about my husband’s whereabouts. I only heard about him through our attorneys.

We (my children and I) went to bed without food for many a night. Finally I could no longer ignore Jesus. The last Sunday evening in May 1990 I was alone in my bedroom and cried out to Jesus. I begged for forgiveness and told Him all about my misery. Immediately, the next day, already there was a great difference. Even before I told Christians about my acceptance of Jesus as my Saviour, they came swarming to me with food and money. They told me not to worry but to complete my studies. Christians supported me faithfully. The train ministry paid the municipal rates for our house while I had to stretch the change of my bursary from the college to cover the rest of our needs. Hereafter we never suffered hunger, for there was assistance from all sides.

My divorce was finalised in October of that year, after which my husband returned to me with the request to get reconciled. I told him about my conversion to Christianity. He did not accept it and once again assaulted me. The beating did not change my mind. (My stepfather had died a month prior to the divorce.) I actually wanted to tell my mother myself of my decision. I was just waiting for an appropriate time to do it. I love her and knew she was still mourning my stepfather’s death. But my husband smashed everything in the house and then promptly told my mother that I was a Christian.
My mother went berserk. She pleaded, cried and threatened to commit suicide. I cried too, but I was determined not to go back to the bondage of Islam. I was no longer going to live my life in any way that pleases only others. I was now determined to live for Christ and enjoy my newfound freedom.
My family rejected me completely, but Jesus saw my need. A family in Bellville South took us to their home every weekend and every holiday. The couple became like my own brother and sister. They were there for me 24 hours a day. The wife’s mother and father became my parents and happily functioned as grandparents to my children. They assisted me in raising my children for many years. We are such a part of each other. We share all our love, ambitions, disappointments, touching moments of our souls and most of all a loving Father in Heaven.

The conversion of an Imam

Remember those in prison as if you
were their fellow prisoners…
(Hebrews 13: 3)
Combination of Trading and Religious Activities
Imams at the Cape have not been full-time clergymen traditionally. Trading and artisanship have almost been in the blood of Muslims from the very early beginnings at the Cape. Crooked dealings unfortunately were sometimes part of their practice, not condemned outright by Cape Islamic society. One of these Imam-cum-traders was however caught out by the arm of justice and thereafter given a prison sentence. His conversion in 1992 – and that of his wife - was a demonstration of the lived out testimony of followers of Jesus Christ combined with the power of prayer.
Before his conversion, our Imam frustrated the evangelistic efforts of Christian inmates. As a disciple of Ahmed Deedat, a famous South African Muslim polemic author, the former Imam utilized his time in the prison of Caledon fully, not only to set up meetings for Muslim inmates, but also to win over many Christians to Islam. Our Imam was well read in the Bible and the literature of Ahmed Deedat, his former hero. Three of those Christian inmates decided to take him on through prayer and fasting. When the Imam studied the Bible - in order to fight the Christians even better - he was bowled over when he compared the narration of the near sacrifice of Isaac with the Qur'anic version. He knew that the Bible had been written long before the Qur’an was ‘revealed’.

Being as studious as I was, I naturally asked which
Scripture is correct. I had to face the fact that the
Bible had been written years before the Qur’an.
That meant that we as Muslims have been misled.

I was raised as a staunch Muslim. I studied our religion intensely. In due course I was the junior imam at two mosques. Soon I was more or less running the affairs of the house mosque in Belhar, one of the newer Cape townships at the time when where there were only a few Muslims. I was also trading, dealing fraudulently - not much different to the way others had been operating - but I was caught out and sentenced. That they incarcerated me at the prison in Caledon – almost 100 Km away - was far from convenient, but my wife and the family nevertheless visited me there faithfully.

The devout Muslim I was, I soon negotiated with the prison authorities and gained their respect to get a separate venue for religious exercises. Soon Christians were joining us there. In the discussions with them they were no match for me because I had been studying the da’wah (Islamic mission) literature published by Ahmed Deedat intensely. Quite a few of them were soon joining us, some embracing Islam. Our cause was aided by the fact that many gangsters were Muslims. This gave the impression that one could just continue with a sinful life-style and engage in some fasting at Ramadan, along with occasional visits to the mosque to show that one is still a Muslim.

There were also some born-again inmates who had their meetings on Saturday meetings on the open square of the prison yard. Their informal meetings could not be compared to the sedate events in our Islamic meetings of which I was quite proud. The message they proclaimed was hardly attractive to the rank and file prisoner, expecting the new Christian to break with his criminal habits and life-style if one would become a believer like them.

Yet, there was something that they were radiating, that made me very curious. I started befriending them to find what it was. Their jovial Pentecostal meetings made me jealous. They used a guitar and were overtly enjoying their worship,. Soon I adapted my gadats (religious meetings) to bring in some joyous elements. But it didn’t work. Their bubbling excitement was not to be copied. I noticed that their joy came from within. What I did not know was that they were actually fasting and praying for my conversion. In arguments they could not thrash me! For that I was far too clever. I continued studying the Bible - in order to fight the Christians even better. I loved the Bible book of Proverbs especially.

One day my Bible fell open at Genesis 22. There I read the story of Abraham who had to sacrifice his son. I was excited as I discovered that this was almost exactly how we were taught and how I was narrating the event with the knife and other little details. Well, not quite because I did not notice that Abraham sensed something special on the third day; that the resurrection of Jesus was actually pre-figured in Genesis 22. (Only many years later I found out that Hebrews 11: 19 was actually speaking of Abraham’s resurrection hope, that Isaac could be brought back to life). But what really hit me was that the boy in Genesis 22 was Isaac, not Ishmael as I had always believed and taught. This troubled me. Being as studious as I was, I naturally asked myself which Scripture is correct. I had to face the fact that the Bible had been written years before the Qur’an. That meant that we as Muslims have been misled. This was very humiliating but I just could not go on like that. The inmates were shocked when I told them they had to go on without me, that I could not continue serving them as an Imam. My doubts in Islam were now followed by a search, which ended in me accepting Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. Thereafter all hell seemed to break loose!! In prison I still had to go through a major learning curve. But God brought me through wonderfully.
God in his mercy stepped in when I wanted to break the news to my wife by phone. She should tell her part of this experience herself.

The wife of an Imam
Being the wife of an Imam of a small house mosque did not mean so much to me as just to be a Muslim. All around us were Christians, some of whom actually invited me to go with them to their church. But I never even considered these invitations. ‘I was born a Muslim and I shall die a Muslim!’ That was my vogue, and nobody was going to change that. In our home there was a special rakam – a beautiful handcrafted image of the Ka’ba in Mecca.
One day a dove flew into our house to go and sit exactly on the Ka’ba. This was so very special to me that I wanted to shout it from the rooftop. Imagine my excitement when my husband phoned from prison just that day! He had something special to tell me. But I insisted to be first to break the special news about the dove. After I finished my story, he only reacted coolly with ‘So the dove brought the news to you. I accepted Jesus as my Lord!’ In a rage I threw down the phone, wondering how I was going to raise my children. To me divorce would be the automatic result. I was not going to live with a Nasara, a Christian (religious meetings). In my education we were taught to keep away from the Christians, let alone having one of them as a spouse.
For the moment I knew what I had to do. My husband was not going to get any visits in prison from the family and me. And I would not allow him to come into our house after his discharge.

When it however happened – the discharge - I had no heart to leave him on the street. I decided to allow him into the house for some time. For six months we lived separate lives. Secretly I hoped that he would return to the Islamic faith. But for the rest, I would see to it that his life would become as miserable as possible because of what he did to us! I objected fiercely of course when he had the temerity to pray for our children. I told him in so many words that he had to leave because ‘you are making us bad luck!’ He remained quiet, hardly responding to my vicious outbursts.
Yet, I could not overlook how he changed. It bugged me that he was going to church and getting more and more involved with the group ‘Prisoners for Christ’.

At that time I was still smoking. One day as I was having a good puff, a clear voice came to me in a commanding tone: ‘Woensdag is daar ´n diens in julle huis.’ (‘On Wednesday a cottage meeting is to be held in your home!’) I knew that a Christian house service was meant. When my husband entered the home, I obediently echoed the voice of the Lord: ‘On Wednesday a cottage meeting is to be held in your home!’ He could not believe his hears and jumped for joy. He and his church people had been praying for us as a family. I made no objections when my husband and his cronies starting removing the ‘rakams’ from the wall including the beautiful one of Mecca. The Holy Spirit had been breaking down my resistance when I saw how my husband was changing for the better all the time. It was not long before all of us served the Lord Jesus together as a family.
That was however only the start of a trying time for us, especially after 1995 when my husband started to give his testimony in churches. He was threatened more than once. We heard via the grapevine how the fact that our children still has Muslim names, saved my husband’s life. When PAGAD (People against Gangsterism and Drugs) were ravaging the Cape, we really never knew whether that would happen which we all feared. But my husband just prodded on bravely, prepared to give his life in the service of Him who gave his life for us.

I went to Mecca twice

A time is coming when you will worship the Father neither
on this mountain nor in Jerusalem...
(John 4:21)
The ultimate dream of the Muslim
To go to Mecca is seen as the ultimate dream of any Muslim. The pagan origins of the Ka’ba in Mecca, the ancient shrine of pre-Islamic Arabia with its black stone is not generally known. Hubal was the Lord of the Ka’ba with Al-lat, the major goddess of the shrine. Allah, who had been known as an Arabic god before, was made the sole deity when Muhammad wanted to stress the monotheism, which he had embraced, destroying 360 idols of the shrine. The founder of Islam wanted to emphasise that in the new religion they were worshipping only one god that he suggested to be identical to Yahweh, the sole Deity of the ‘People of the Book (the Jews, the Christians and the Sabeans).
Many Muslims are quite surprised when they don’t have a special experience at the sacred place. A similar trauma usually follows when they compare the Qur’an, their sacred book with the Bible, which had been written much earlier. Christians are advised to be compassionate and loving when they refer to this matter. Here now follows the story of a lady who experienced many traumas as she searched after inner peace with God.

My husband and I went to Mecca once again, but
this visit really increased my doubts about Islam. I
had none of these special feelings that I was supposed
to experience there. In fact, I was still my horrible self.

I grew up as a staunch Cape Muslim from influential stock. At a young age we moved to our grandfather in Wynberg. Next to our home there was a church, the Gospel Hall. From a very young age I watched the people attending the church closely. They had something that attracted me. I loved the hymns that came from the church. After some time I knew many of the hymns by heart.
I studied to become a teacher, a profession I really loved. I was very fortunate to get a teaching post, because in those days that was not so easy. At a school where there were predominantly Muslims, it was of course easier for me to get a post. Eventually I married the school principal. As a good Moslem I had aspirations to go on pilgrimage to Mecca. I was overjoyed when my husband announced: ‘Look, it is time for our furlough! Let us go to Mecca!’ I was elated. Now I could fulfil the last one of the five Islamic pillars. Being the staunch Muslim I was, reciting the five prayers per day belonged to my way of life. This included the creed, another one of the pillars. We were generous in giving alms, especially during the fasting month of Ramadan, that I upheld meticulously.

Two visits to Mecca
The visit to Mecca however did not fulfil my expectations. In fact, it created only more questions. As a committed Muslim I resolved however that I would not question my religion. Instead, I would rather question myself. One can bluff anybody, but one cannot fool oneself.
Things at the school were not going very well because I started taking over some of the responsibilities of a school principal. That was not good for the discipline in the school. I decided that it was time for a change. So I went to go and teach in Lavender Hill, an extremely poverty‑stricken residential area, actually more or less a squatter camp. Although every child came from a poor home, I was extremely happy here.
I now also had to teach Bible Stories. Oh, how I loved them! My own children were growing up and heading for matric. I decided that I should also get that certificate. (In the old days one could also go to training college after Standard 8 (Grade 10). I had even passed Standard Nine (Grade 11). As one of my subjects for Matric I chose Biblical Studies. This wetted my appetite to go for tertiary education. Once again I took Biblical Studies towards a degree.

Deep in my heart I was still searching for the ultimate truth. I loved to compare the Bible and the Qur’an. Also I questioned Christians on issues like the reason for burying their people in coffins and eating pork. I wanted them to tell me where that could be found in the Bible. I was definitely not trying to corner them nor did I want to be difficult. If ever there was genuinely a case of a sincere seeker after truth, I was one. But there was nobody around to help me.
In the meantime I had piercing questions with regard to the religion of Islam as well. We had rules “from the womb to the tomb”. Increasingly, the Islamic customs left me very unsatisfied. In fact, it only made me doubt more. We were for instance expected to believe that we would get punishment for our sins when we are in the grave one day. I was taught that an angel on our right and left shoulder is respectively constantly recording our good and bad deeds. My eternal destiny was constantly haunting me. I was so afraid of going to hell! Also the notion of punishment in the grave tormented me.
One day I asked my husband: “How long is the punishment in the grave going to take?” He replied: “As long as there is a body.” I could not accept this answer because that would mean that Allah would be grossly unfair. I argued: ‘Those people dying near to the equator where the corpses would rot quickly and they would thus have a short punishment while those living at the North Pole would almost be punished forever! And what about people who were not buried, those who were bombed or burnt? Would they then have no punishment?’ My husband was serving on all sorts of committees, also serving as an imam. I didn’t dare to put my searching questions to anybody in the Muslim community. How would it look like if the wife of an imam comes up with such questions? On top of it, it did not belong to Islamic custom to question our religion in any way. One just had to believe what one was taught.
We had two children who were not small anymore when a third one, a baby daughter, our laat lammetjie (literally late little lamb), was born. My husband and I went to Mecca once again, but this visit merely increased my doubts about Islam. I had none of these special feelings, which I was supposed to experience there. In fact, I was still my horrible self. I didn’t feel like playing around in make-belief!

Terrified by the prospect of dying
The real crunch came however when my husband suddenly died. What happened to him? That was the question, which now really plagued me. I was specially terrified by the prospect of dying. In Islam one has no certainty where one goes after death. I went to a Muslim doctor who gave me all sorts of sedatives. I could not share with him of course that I was considering becoming a Christian. I started to read the Bible secretly. The certainty that some Christians seem to have - knowing where they would go to when they die - was very attractive. But it was scary at the same time because I did not have that assurance. One day I read in the Bible: ‘For there is one God and one mediator, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men...’ That was exactly what I needed. I was desperate and eventually I found my way to the doctor once again. I requested him to refer me to a psychiatrist. “Why do you need a psychiatrist?” was his logical question. “I must speak to someone”, I replied.

He offered that I could speak to him. But I insisted to speak to someone who does not know me. I was surprised that the Muslim doctor referred me to a real born again psychiatrist ‑ not even a nominal Christian. I sensed that this man had a personal relationship to God. But he was a real gentleman. He never tried to inf1uence me in any way.
I was at my wits end. He thought of course ‑ I deduced ‑ that it was because of the loss of my husband. Of course, that was a part of the cause. But then he said: “Mrs. O., that is not your problem!” Well, that was so true. And then I simply blurted out: “Doctor, I don’t want to be a Moslem any more!” I watched his reaction closely. But he was just sitting there jotting down notes. I was very surprised that he did not seem perplexed at all. Neither did he try to talk me out of this radical decision, nor did he try to give an explanation.
At every one of six sessions with him I was just crying the whole time. Suddenly I was reminded at this juncture of what I had been teaching my first‑graders at school, viz. that one could speak to Jesus. Then I thought by myself: “Why should I pay the doctor every time a big sum of money?” And that just to talk to him? Haven’t I been teaching the children in Lavender Hill a song of Jesus being a friend? Then I might as well speak to him myself.” I started speaking to Jesus as a friend.
Soon hereafter I had a dream of a man whose hands were covered with blood. I noticed that there were holes in the hand palms. The man just said: “My blood, my blood!” Something strange happened at this time. My daughter came to me with the question: “Mom, why do you want to become a Christian?” This was very strange because I have not spoken to anybody apart from the psychiatrist ‑ and to the Lord ‑ about my inner struggle. Silently I prayed: “Lord, help me! What shall I tell my daughter?” And then, in a split second I had the answer. I told her: “Sweetheart, there is only one way to God, through Jesus!”

And then, on the 27th July 1992, I was challenged by a Bible verse, Joshua 24:15. “Choose ye this day...” I shall never forget that day. I committed my life to the Lord Jesus.
I felt that I should phone my mother. I told her that I was sorry to hurt her, but that I was not apologizing for my convictions.

Persecution set in with full force
Hereafter the persecution set in with full force. Abusive phone calls streamed in and the windows of my house were smashed. In the end I could not take it anymore. I just had to get away from it all. But I was definitely not prepared to denounce my new‑found faith, which gave me such a deep joy from within. I took a Christian name to indicate my complete break with Islam. I sold our seven-bedroom mansion for a paltry sum. With this money I bought a much smaller house.
I now discovered how relative material things could be. In spite of all our wealth, I had a constant emptiness. Now with my modest home, I was happy as never before.
I was a born‑again Christian but I didn’t have any fellowship with other believers. One Sunday evening I decided to go to a church. I do not know how I got it in my head that the church should start at six o’clock. When I arrived at the sanctuary where I felt I should be, there was only one person present. It was the organist practicing. But I was determined to wait till the service would start.
Two days later two church members visited me. They cried with me. I sensed how real Christian fellowship could overcome all boundaries. However, my decision caused all sorts of problems within my family. The rift to my two older children became complete.
The inner pain was very severe when my eldest daughter married and I was not invited. On the other hand, a wonderful relationship developed to my youngest daughter. Soon hereafter I was baptised. It was very special that a believer who had been raised as in the Jewish faith was baptised during the same service.
For the first time in my life I now had to battle financially. But the Lord was teaching me to depend on Him for everything. In very special ways he supplied all our needs. The next big blow was when my daughter had a baby, but I was not allowed to see my grand‑child. I yearned with an aching heart to hold the baby only once.
“What a friend we have in Jesus.” I took also this desire to the Lord in prayer. One day there was a knock on the door. It was my daughter with the baby. My heart just bubbled over for joy when she said: “This is your grandson!” Of course, I was allowed to hold and even to cuddle him.

Now, quite a few years after my decision to accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, it is still very much of a thrill to see how He provides my every need. I am only sad that I had to wait such a long time to find Him - the way, the truth and the life. I have resolved to tell everybody wherever I come that Jesus loves him or her so much that He died for us. I challenge all Christians who know Jesus as Lord, to do the same!

A glimpse into the heavenlies

‘My power is made perfect in weakness’
(2 Corinthians 12: 9)

Dreams and Visions
Quite often God speaks to Muslims through dreams and visions. It seems that this is a prime divine method to get through to Muslims because they are usually quite resistant to the Gospel. On the other hand, they are often quite proud about their own religion, believing it to be superior to any other one. According to Islamic teaching the Qur’an is the final revelation. The idea of progression is very strong. The Qur’an, the sacred book of Muslims, is according to this view the ultimate scripture after the Law (Tawrat) that had been revealed to Moses, the Psalms (Zabur) that was given to David and the Gospel (Injil, in the singular) that was brought by Jesus. Muhammad as the instrument of the final revelation is therefore also regarded as the greatest prophet.
Many believers with a Muslim background, who came to faith in Jesus as their Lord, were at some stage of their lives challenged by a dream or vision. This is not very surprising, because Muhammad, the founder of the religion, received the Qur’an in a supernatural way as a result of visions. In another dreamlike experience that was very real to him, Muhammad believed he was taken from Mecca to Jerusalem and back by Jibril in a matter of seconds. (Paul, the apostle, refers to a similar experience in 2 Corinthians 12 that was so real to him that he did not know whether it was physical or not.) The woman whose story follows, came to experience her faith as a very special relationship with Jesus after a supernatural glimpse into the heavenlies.

As the clouds seemed to fold up, the angels
also disappeared. Suddenly a big figure in
white appeared on another cloud. Instinctively
I knew that the man must be Jesus.

Born out of wedlock, I was only two years old when my mother married. I could never understand why my ‘father’ was so cruel to me. I was a good pupil at school, but he would tear up every diploma or report I brought home. Quite a few times he would throw me out of the house.
When I was about 13 years old, I heard from a neighbour that the man I had grown to hate was not my real father. Shortly hereafter, when he beat me again, I told him: “You have no right to hit me. You are not my father!” This just made things worse. When a teacher suggested that I should just get married, I thought that this would possibly not be such a bad idea. I was yearning for love. Before long I was pregnant – only 17 years old, but still not married. I was soon roaming the streets with my little son, contented when I could stay with someone for a few days and doing some odd jobs and chores as I went along.

How glad I was when the man I fell in love with, wanted to marry me. That he was a Muslim was no problem, because I never really had a religion before that. I was 22 years old when we got married. Soon I was going through the daily Islamic rituals like ceremonial washing and praying on the musalah (prayer mat) in the direction of Mecca. Only the fasting during Ramadan I never kept. I openly took my bread parcel to the place where I was working at that point in time. I was not going to be hypocritical by eating secretly like others!

All set to leave my husband
I was emotionally damaged already and my husband also came from a broken marriage. My flight into matrimony on such a brittle basis was therefore quite risky. Our marriage was on the verge of breaking up when God stepped in. I was all set to leave, determined to be gone when my husband would return the next morning. As he was leaving the house for his night shift, I started packing my belongings.
My clothes had already been packed when God started speaking to me very clearly. That night, while I was sleeping, my ‘spirit’ led me to go outside. I heard beautiful music, and I wondered where the singing was coming from. I thought, perhaps Christians were having an open-air service but for that possibility, the time early in the morning would have been rather strange. Or was it some party extending into the early hours of Sunday? As I went to our front door, I felt driven from within to look up towards the sky.
My eyes were soon glued to the clouds, which had strange formations. I sensed that the singing was coming from there. Angels on the clouds were singing the most beautiful tunes I had ever heard!
As the clouds seemed to fold up, the angels also disappeared. Suddenly a big figure in a white robe appeared on another cloud. Instinctively I knew that the man must be Jesus. He looked at me so compassionately, yet humbly. There was such an authority, and yet such a humility and love radiating from him, that I felt so filthy and unworthy. Nevertheless, he looked at me so lovingly without any accusations.
After a few minutes - it might even have been seconds, but it felt like hours - the heavenly scene changed. The cloud with Jesus folded up and then I saw a huge book, with light shining from it onto a road. I saw my husband and myself walking on that road with our youngest son. And we were so happy, whereas my marriage was really no bed of roses. Other people were singing and rejoicing on the same road. Next to the road in the darkness, which really was pitch black, I saw the silhouette of a demonic figure with a little devil next to him. It was very frightening, but I felt safe on the road, walking in the light coming from the book.
Then the vision disappeared and I went back into the house. I saw myself lying on the bed. It must thus have been my spirit or soul, which had gone out of my body. My Christian background came back because I went to kneel next to the bed. I knew I had to ask the Lord for forgiveness and commit myself to him. I sensed an indescribable peace and joy coming over me, such I had never had experienced before.
When my husband came back from his work, he was quite surprised to see me. He had seen me packing my belongings, ready to leave him. He was really shocked by my reply: “I must go to a church!”
A verbal tussle followed: “You can’t do that. We are Muslims! I cannot live with a Christian”, he exclaimed. I responded assertively: “If you want to divorce me, just go ahead. I saw angels and demons. I must get to a church.”
Knowing that a neighbour with whom I had grown up, was attending the church nearby, I went to her with a clear question: “At what time does your church start? I want to go with you.” She was quite surprised because she knew that I was a Muslim. After I had told her about my vision, she agreed to take me along. At the church she immediately told the pastor about my vision.
In the church it was my turn to be perplexed when the pastor called on ‘the Muslim lady’ to come and share her supernatural vision. When my friend had suggested this initially, I protested fiercely: “I have never before spoken to a group of people.”
However, something strange happened to me. It seemed as if I was lifted from my seat. Before I knew where I was, I was walking to the front of the church. I told the congregation how Jesus had revealed himself to me.
My decision to follow Jesus seemed to encourage my husband to be an even better Muslim than before. But he did not divorce me. As God started changing me, our marriage got better and better.
All this started to happen just less than four years ago. After my conversion an extraordinary gratefulness to the Lord overwhelmed me. I just wanted to serve him with my whole being. The Lord gave me more visions. One of these was the challenge to start a shelter for abused and homeless mothers as well as abandoned babies. My husband picks up the story from here.

The husband speaks
When my wife came with the story that her Lord had spoken to her, to go and look for a certain Maria near to Woolworth’s to come and help us, I really thought that she was getting crazy. I was definitely not prepared to take her on a wild goose chase when she asserted that she had ‘heard’ of a Woolworth’s branch in Wynberg. But she was determined, taking a taxi to get there.
I was completely perplexed when she pitched up with her ‘Maria’, a vagrant who had been living on the street. But that was only the start of so many miracles. Matthew, a little boy who had been put in a refuse bag after birth, was one of these miracles.
I was not fully convinced yet, but I saw how my wife was continuously changing for the better. Her perseverance and courage broke my resistance little by little. Only one area was my holy of holies, my garage. And in the home there were of course still the ‘rakams’, the picture of the Ka’ba and framed posters with Qur’an excerpts in Arabic. I was proud that I was so tolerant to allow my wife to put up Bible posters like the one of the broad and the narrow road.
God was now speaking to me as I met other followers of Jesus who were also Muslims. One Saturday afternoon I got the fright of my life. A Christian friend brought me home after I had done a few practical jobs at their home. In the car he explained to me why the Black stone of the Ka’ba was actually idolatrous. He also gave me a small New Testament. The first ‘surprise’ came just as I entered our home. A very special ‘rakam’, the picture of the Ka’ba, came down crashing from the wall - almost on my head. And then a few days later, I was suddenly able to read the little New Testament. I had attended the School of Industry in Roeland Street when we were living in District Six, but my ability to read had by this time completely vanished. I simply never read anything, not even a newspaper. To be able to read was to me no less than a miracle. But I was far from ready to become a Christian. Instead, I now attended mosque more regularly, trying to outdo my wife in terms of being pious. But she won hands down as I saw how God used her. When she was e.g. praying with sick people who came to our home, they got healed.
Before long, not only my garage but also our back yard was converted into space for accommodating abused women and little stranded children. A container from Holland gave more space, which opened the hearts of generous people to donate two more containers. Within a few years our humble abode became a fully-fledged Shelter. The Lord even opened a door for us to move out to a double story house - another miracle!
I was still a Muslim, but I had little problem to stand with my wife in this venture. When I saw how God performed one miracle after the other, e.g. many a time God providing food when we had nothing to eat or to feed the mothers and babies with, my resistance was broken down. (Although we had been registered with the government for a long time, we still did not receive any finances from the Social Services). At Christmas 2001 I gave up my resistance, committing my life to the Lord.

Now we praise God as a family, giving him the glory for taking us out of darkness and bringing us into his glorious light!

Drugs and Alcohol filled my life

‘If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’
(John 8: 36).

Crime and Drug addiction, scourges of Cape townships
At the turn of the 21st century hardly a Cape Muslim family exists which has not been affected by the drug scourge in some way or another. Whereas addiction to alcohol grew alarmingly in the new townships in the ‘Christian’ families on the Cape Flats, the average Muslim home now had to cope with drugs. In the struggle against apartheid the police had a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with the gangsters: they were given a free hand in their peddling in lieu of information about anti-government activists. There were also other causes of the spiralling of drug abuse. Unstable family life has been one of the main ones. The death of a mother disrupts any family. Things like these do not stop at the door of certain homes, e.g. that of an Imam. When the father leaves his children in the lurch as a result of this, the hardship is not difficult to imagine. Eight boys were left on their own. That they resort to crime is then almost a natural result. To then get sucked into drug abuse can happen in any family. Peddling is also in other cases of deprivation a good source of income, much more lucrative than legal employment. To get out of such a life-style is not easy at all. The following true story relates how someone was supernaturally set free from drug addiction.

Drugs and alcohol had started filling my life.
my home became a haven for drug abusers.

I grew up in a staunch Muslim home. We lived in Bo-Kaap and Aspeling Street, District Six before moving to Bridgetown on the Cape Flats. My father was an imam and my mother a hadjji, i.e. she had been on pilgrimage to Mecca. My seven brothers and I were brought up with all the rituals and customs of Islam. When my mother got sick and later passed on, the wheels of the stable family came off. Our father could not handle the situation, sometimes simply staying away from home because there was no one to cook. Soon his periods of absence became longer and longer. With no income at home, very soon the electricity and water were cut off. We boys would simply live from ‘vrietangs’, wild fruit that grow on the meadow. The hard life welded us eight brothers into a close-knit family of children without parents. We discovered later that we could ‘earn’ some cash by allowing gangsters and other gamblers to use our premises in exchange for something into our ‘tickey box’.

In my teenage years I took to the street where a life of vice started. I discovered that it was just as easy to go and work on the ships, travelling the world. After a few years, during which I committed every crime in the book except killing someone, I decided to return to a more stable life. I got married, hoping that my happy childhood days would return.

That was not to be because drugs and alcohol had started filling my life. I found employment, but very little if any of my salary reached my family at home. Instead, my home became a haven for drug abusers. All my ‘friends’ knew that they could come and smoke ‘buttons’ (mandrax) there without any harassment. My wife was apparently quite content because I was not roaming the streets or involved in other criminal activity.

When I turned 45, I got tired of that life-style. I called on Allah, but I never had the impression that he ‘heard’ me. I cried to the ‘Lord’ whom I perceived to be different to Allah, although I could not really place Him.

Soon hereafter something strange happened. I was smoking in our yard with my friends on Sunday 19 March 2000 when I heard a voice speaking to me: “I am here, my child!” Because I was not religious at all, I did not know what this meant. A second time the voice came to me, but I still did not link the voice to my desperate prayer. From my previous faith I was definitely not conditioned to think of God as a father or a mother.
After about an hour a lady neighbour, whom I knew well, came up to me. This lady used to drink alcohol with my wife before she became a ‘born-again’ Christian. Thereafter her life-style changed drastically. Before I could say anything, she said to me “The Lord loves you!” I now immediately sensed a connection between this incident and my prayer of frustration because of my miserable life. She went on telling me that the Lord had instructed her to request permission that her Christian fellowship could come and have a cottage meeting in our home on Tuesday evening. This was really strange because apart from the fact that our family was known to be Muslim, our drug abuse was also well known in the area. Sick and tired of my life, I was willing to grab at any straw, which could bring about change. I had no hesitation to say ‘yes’ to her, without thinking about the consequences. Yet, I was not sure at all whether I would be there the Tuesday evening. In fact, I hardly had any intention to attend the cottage meeting.

A supernatural light
On the agreed evening one of my friends came along with ‘good news!’ He had money...! Without any ado, we were on our way to the drug merchant. But just after we left, I saw a Microbus coming towards our home. I saw a supernatural light hovering over the people in the vehicle. Becoming a little unsure, I told my friend he must go to the merchant without me. The same voice that had spoken to me told me once again: “Here am I, but it is still your choice. You must decide!”.

When my friend returned with the mandrax, he must have been very surprised that I refused to smoke with him. That was the first time ever that I refused to join in the addictive ‘fun’.
God had already started to change my life. That I stayed at home to attend the cottage meeting was the next miracle. When an invitation was given at the evangelistic meeting to accept Jesus as one’s personal Saviour, it was the most natural thing for me to respond. A massive burden seemed to roll away when I committed my life to Jesus. Shortly hereafter I was baptised, attending the fellowship that had helped me on my way to become a follower of the Lord Jesus. I have never smoked since then. That was more than three years ago.

Seek first the kingdom of God
Because of my life-style, I did not see payment of house rent as a financial priority. Thus the debt on this score and the account for water accumulated out of control. A letter from the City Council instructing us to vacate our house by the end of April 2000 brought me into deep distress and into a frame of mind that I rather wanted to commit suicide.
At this time I was lying in my bed when God stepped into my life supernaturally. ‘I’ was taken out of my body. Through the roof of the house I could see myself lying there on the bed. I was taken higher and higher. Then I was brought to a beautiful valley where people were worshipping. There was also a huddle around something like a throne on which someone was sitting. I could not see the face but a warm love radiated from this throne. The threatening letter of the Council was however still very strong on my mind. Sensing that the people were Christians, I called: “Brother, come and help me please!” Look, a few of them were sent to me on a cloud. They listened to my story and went back to the throne. They returned with a message from the man on the throne: ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will be added to you’. I did not know until much later that this was a Bible verse. Hereafter my soul returned to my body.

My brothers visit me
Shortly hereafter a few of my brothers visited me. One of them had become a tablighi, a Muslim evangelist. Having heard that I had become a Christian, they came with the intention of taking me back into the Islamic fold. Compared to me all of them had become relatively successful in material terms by this time. Knowing what we had endured together, I had real hope that they would now help me out of my predicament.
When I showed them the letter containing the threatening eviction, they were immediately ‘eager’ to help - on condition that I would return to Islam. Even though I was still very weak in my new faith, I instinctively knew that I could not compromise. They were equally determined only to help me if I returned to my former religion. I got special grace to refuse the blackmail offer.
I had no other option but to turn to the Lord. The church fellowship helped me with some cash but this was only a fraction of the amount I owed the City Council.
With feet that felt like lead I went to the Cape Town Civic Centre. As I looked down from the bridge going over Hertzog Boulevard, the urge was strong once again to throw myself in front of the cars driving there below. However, some extraordinary power overwhelmed me and enabled me to go to the Council office with the paltry sum.
The Lord must have taken control because the gentleman not only accepted the meagre amount as part payment of the debt, but he also suggested a monthly instalment that would normally have been quite affordable, that is if I had employment. The Lord Jesus proved himself so faithful. Over a long period he enabled me not only to find casual employment with which I could significantly start paying off the debt, but He also inspired believers to enable me to attend an evening Bible School. After three years I miraculously also got regular employment.

I now have a deep yearning to serve God with all of my being, perhaps to serve some of those men one day who are addicted to drugs as I once also have been. Yet, I know that I would only be able to do these things with the help of the Lord by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. That is why I try to keep a close personal relationship with God intact. I want to give him all the honour and the glory for what he has accomplished in my life.

The fitting attitude of the Church of Jesus Christ in South Africa towards Muslims is one of love and extreme humility. The first reason for this is because the Saviour gave His love for the whole world, and that of course also includes Muslims. A second reason is that it does not behove us as Christians at all to have a negative attitude towards Islam because well nigh every single doctrine, in which Muslims differ with that of Christendom, can be derived from either the bickering of learned theologians of the Great Catholic Church before the time of Muhammad or they originated with Christian heretics.

That Muslims have problems with the belief in the Deity of Jesus - that He is God - can be derived from the wrangling of Christians. Already in the Bible it is reported how Jesus had to correct people who wanted to elevate his mother Mary. Information about Mary that is recorded in the gospel of Luke was predominantly handed down orally in those days. Especially the ‘Magnificat’ in Luke 1 obviously made a deep impact at a time when women were hardly recognised in society. Words like “blessed are you amongst the women” (Luke 1:42) were special. Also, Scripture actually gave the early Christians the cue to bless, to honour Mary (cf. Luke 1: 48). This however soon led to her being put on a pedestal unbecomingly, although Jesus had made her rightful position quite clear. She was his mother and nothing more. Mary herself also showed the way, making it clear when she said very early in Jesus’ ministry according to the Gospel of St. John: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2: 5), thus clearly confirming His authority.

1.1. Roots of Mariolatry – the worship of Mary
Before long however, Mary was worshipped almost like a god, especially when pagans joined the ranks of the church. An idolatrous veneration followed. The practice was later to be imitated also in respect of ‘saints’. As a rule these personalities were devoted Christians who themselves had pointed people to Jesus. They could of course not do anything about the idolatry around their personalities that happened after their death. This was unfortunately not heeded. Saintly believers like Francis of Assisi demonstrated a Christ-like lifestyle, but they were all too often revered unbecomingly. (Muhammad objected to him being idolised. This was picked up massively and successfully in the 20th century by his followers when they objected being called Mohammedans. All around the world they are now only called Muslims.)
Before anybody glibly discard the Mariolatry as the guilt of the Roman Catholic Church, we must keep in mind that this is part and parcel of our common Christian history. It occurred many centuries before the church schism - when the Orthodox Church with Constantinople in the East became independent of Rome. And that was long before the 16th century Reformation that is generally seen as the beginning of Protestantism. The idolatry of Mary is thus an integral part of our common Christian heritage and guilt.
Muhammad’s understanding of Jesus as a partner to God (and Mary as a suggested cohort) comes through quite clearly in the Qur’an, e.g. Surah 6: 22, ‘One day shall we gather them all together: We shall say to those who ascribed partners (to Us): “Where are the partners whom ye (invented and) talked about?”

1.2. The Divinity of Jesus
The fact that a significant sector of the church did believe that Jesus was uniquely born was almost completely obliterated when the theologians argued so vehemently. This caused a lot of confusion. In a further development, they gave Mary the title theotokos, i.e. bearer of God at a major church council in 431 C.E. In this way - possibly with good intentions - they evidently wanted to give simultaneous recognition to the fact that Jesus was to be regarded as Divine, as God incarnate - having come in the form of ‘flesh’. That the Lord could forgive sins and that He performed exceptional miracles could have put everything beyond any doubt. He e.g. displayed Divinity when he did not even pray to quieten the storm (Matthew 8: 23-27). Yet, the Divinity of Jesus was also disputed quite early. His contemporary religious leaders especially took offence that he performed miracles of healing on the Sabbath. To them this was demonic rather than divine. In fact, he was accused of having been inspired by Beelzebub, another name for the devil.
Some of the Ebionites, a Jewish Christian group that developed within the peace-loving Essenes, debated his virgin birth. This was reason enough for some to also doubt his Divinity. The studies on the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran of recent years revealed a big overlap between the Essenes and Ebionites. The beliefs of the latter group display remarkable parallels with Islam (see below in 2.1).

1.3. The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity
The theological controversy around the belief in the Holy Trinity is another tenet of our faith, which became a major stumbling block to Muslims. Jesus himself spoke of the works that the Father has ‘granted me to accomplish’ (John 5:36, also John 14:10). On the other hand, words like ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’ (John 14:10) have led theologians to try and explain the relationship. In the aftermath of the Council of Nicaea (325 CE) there were theologians who affirmed with the creed the Son’s identity of essence with the Father, but who still had problems with the Holy Spirit as part of the supreme Godhead. The Spirit was placed at the summit of the created, angelic order and God was called the primus inter pares, the first among equals. All riddles are however not solved with that statement.
1 Peter 1: 1,2 gives some indication that the Trinitarian issue may have been discussed already in the first century: The letter was written ‘to God’s elect, strangers in the world… who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ...’ The problem became acute when theologians tried to explain the Trinity. The efforts of capable early church scholars like Irenaeus and Origen were unfortunate, speaking of the Son and the Spirit as the ‘two hands’ of God. Worse was that others had suggested that the ‘beasts’ of Habakkuk 3: 2, which the Greek translation of the OT, the Septuagint - mistranslating - had placed on each side of God, represent the Son and the Spirit. The so-called Cappadocian Fathers of the fourth century hardly changed things for the better doctrinally, using all sorts of learned words. Certain scholars meant to emphasise the fact that Jesus was born in a human way and not supernaturally conceived. The end result was more confusion.
In the common day-to-day talk Mary also became known among Christians as the mother of God. In the fairly authentic Essene Gospel of Peace – one finds a Trinity of Divinity described as the heavenly Father from whom the Spirit is born; the earthly Mother, from whom man is born and the Son of Man. From here it was only a minor step until many Christians understood under the Trinity: God the Father, Mother Mary and Jesus the Son.

1.4. Is Jesus the walad, the literal Son of God?
Some Christians of Muhammad’s day – like the Collydirians - believed in Tri-theism, i.e. in three gods. Orthodox Christianity rightly objected to this concept, which was nothing else than veiled polytheism. Then there were the Maryammiyya cults – pagans who believed that the creator had a wife called Venus or Al-Zarah whom they regarded as the ‘queen of heaven’ and that she and Jupiter had a son by procreation. This is exactly the perception that the Qur’an, the sacred book of the Muslims, opposes fiercely. The Qur’an stresses that Jesus was ‘not begotten’ in the natural way. The Qur’an significantly does not object to Jesus being the ibn, the figurative Son of God. Following from this it was only logical that John 3:16, arguably the most ‘central’ verse of the New Testament, became resented by Jews and Muslims alike because it was often translated as God’s ‘only begotten Son’. The intention of the Greek word monogenes in the original text is better reflected if Jesus is described as the unique or one and only Son of God, as it has been done in the NIV.

Some theologians argued fiercely that Jesus was ‘created, not begotten’. Similar phrases can be found in the Qur’an, quite a few times, albeit from a different point of departure. The Qur’an rightly objects to the notion that the Merciful could have offspring (Surah 19: 35, 92), or that God could have a consort (Surah 72:2). The Bible never even vaguely suggested something like that. Jesus was supernaturally born from the Virgin Mary! From here it follows that he was not the walad, the Son of God in the legal sense. The misunderstanding is also behind the problem that Muslims encounter, seeing Jesus as the literal Son of God. It is disputed that He is the walad of Allah, the literally and physically birthed Son of God.
In the Qur’an - albeit always in protest against the concept of a literal son born out of a physical relationship between Mary and God – it is repeated again and again: ‘God does not have a son’, ‘ God does not beget’ (e.g. Surah 2: 116; 6: 68; 19: 35; 23: 91). Surah 3: 45 lets angels - in the plural - bring the message to Mary. Furthermore, the words ‘Son of God’ and ‘Son of the most High’ do not occur in the Qur’an. Of course, this is consistent with the rest of the Islamic sacred book in which it is disputed that Jesus is the walad of God, the physically birthed Son of God. This is however something that the Bible does not teach. The Word of God speaks of Jesus as the ibn, the figurative Son of God. It is recorded twice (in Matthew 3: 15 and Matthew 17: 5) how the voice from heaven referred to Jesus as ‘my Son, whom I love’ - in both cases with witnesses present - with no allusion at all to the physical birth of a child.
The argument against Jesus being the Son of God has often been directed at his supernatural birth. There is no doubt that the New Testament teaches clearly that Jesus is the Son of God, but it was not based on his birth at all. That he is the figurative Son of God is very central in the NT. The cue is the divine voice from heaven at his baptism saying “This is my beloved son!”
In the Lukan NT tradition the baptism of Jesus is interpreted as a coronation. Jesus was thus enthroned at his baptism as the ‘Messiah’ and the ‘Son of God’ in the view of the Ebionites and other early church Christians. Jesus did however veil his identity from his enemies, using the title ‘son of Man’ when he spoke to them. In fact, in the initial stages of His ministry Jesus stopped his disciples from proclaiming this message far and wide. Denying himself, He always nevertheless honoured the Father. According to the New Testament, even demons reckoned with Jesus as the Son of God. When Peter proclaimed not only that he was the Christ but also the Son of the living God at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16: 16), Jesus admitted it, stating that ‘this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven’ (verse 17). In the parallel reference of Mark (8: 30), Jesus charged the disciples not to tell anyone about that he is the Messiah. In both Gospels this profound announcement by Peter is followed by Jesus’ prophesy of his death and resurrection (Matthew 16: 21 –23 and (Mark 8: 31). At the actual crucifixion of Jesus the Roman centurion who had oversight at the proceedings, was deeply impressed remarking ‘Surely this was the Son of God’ (Matthew 27:54) and ‘Surely this was a righteous man’ (Luke 23: 47). Once again, the bickering theologians caused simple believers and hence Muhammad and the Muslims, to stumble.
The concept of Jesus as the Son of God is not a peripheral but a central teaching of the NT. In his first epistle John even uses the tenet as a test of the Antichrist. Whoever does not believe in Jesus as the Son of God, reflects the spirit of the Antichrist (1 John 2: 22). Those writers, who thus contradict the concept, have to be regarded as false prophets (1 John 4: 1) according to John.
1.5. God as a Father
If God does not have a son, it follows logically that God cannot be a Father. The belief of the Jews, understanding Yahweh as their ‘Father and King’ somehow did not penetrate to Muhammad. His abhorrence of the idea that God could have a physical son prevented this.
From its roots, Islam is steeped in the occult. From the beginning Muhammad - the founder of the religion - understood that idolatry is sinful, but somehow he was not able to wean the pagan Meccans away from idolatry completely. A further complication had occurred already in the Meccan period of Muhammad’s life. The bulk of the Meccan inhabitants not only rejected his message, but many also persecuted Muhammad and his followers. He deemed it fit to encourage them to flee to Ethiopia in 615 C.E. Many of them heeded the exhortation. After Muhammad had become the undisputed leader of the Muslims in Medina, he went back to Mecca to destroy 360 idols of the Ka’ba in 630 C.E. A tragedy was that Muhammad finally basically settled for a compromise, albeit perhaps unwittingly. Muhammad suggested that henceforth the God of the Ka’ba was to be identical with Yahweh, the biblical Deity. He evidently wanted to stress that his followers had to worship one Supreme Being. That was typified by the name Al-lah, which means the God, signifying one deity. Previously Hubal – with its etymological link to Ha-baal that means the god and the idol often mentioned in the Bible – was the God of the Ka’ba along with Allat, the chief goddess of the shrine in nearby Ta’if, where a stone was likewise covered by a cloth. The close link to Al-ilah that had been one of the 360 idols, which he had destroyed, had no chance to be accepted by any Christian or Jew. On top of it, his compromise with the pagan heritage in Mecca he left the idolatrous Ka’ba with its Black Stone – the symbol of Hubal (that he identified with Allah), the Lord of the shrine intact. He even gave the example to Muslims to kiss the stone – only black stones were kissed in pre-Islamic Arabia -when they are on pilgrimage. (We compare 1 Kings 19: 18 where God encouraged Elijah, by stating that there were still seven thousand ‘whose knees have not bowed to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.’) Yet Muhammad could be given the benefit of the doubt that he probably thought that the idolatry could be reformed by destroying the 360 idols.[2]

2. Jewish Roots of Islam

It is well known that Muhammad was deeply influenced by Judaism. Monotheism, the belief in one Deity, which became the hallmark of his preaching in Mecca, was a tenet that the prime Islamic prophet had seen among the Jews and Christians. Almost every snippet found in the Qur’an that differs from the Old Testament, can be either found in Jewish literature, e.g. in the Talmud (oral traditions later written down), in the Apocrypha (books not accepted as part of the canon because of some spurious content) or the Pseudo-epigrapha (devotional material written under the name of a well-known biblical personality). Muhammad’s converts included Jews - amongst others a rabbi – a wife and one of his concubines were Jewesses.

2.1.Tradition valued highly
Ibn Ishaq recorded the Islamic tradition how Muhammad met a Jew named Ibn al-Haijaban, who was asked why he had come to the arid Hijaz, leaving his fertile home country. The reported answer of this Jew was just the confirmation Muhammad needed to convince him that he himself was the prophet on whom the Jews were waiting: “I have come here, because I have been waiting on a prophet whose time will come soon and he will appear here...” It seems as if al-Haijaban was simply awaiting the Messiah like all other Jews. During the Meccan part of his ministry, i.e. before he fled to Medina in 622 C.E., Muhammad was very favourably disposed to the Jews and the Christians. This gradually changed to animosity when these groups refused to recognise him as their leader and as a divinely ordained prophet. Judaism attached great value to the oral traditions. In the first centuries of the Common Era rabbis recorded these traditions.
The public recital of Scripture, accompanied by a verse-by-verse Aramaic Targum or commentary became the ‘text-book’ for the schooling of young and old in the eastern Mediterranean world. The oral handing down of these traditions in the synagogues became the source of midrash, the exposition and teaching of the Torah (Law) and the unwritten Torah. The teaching of the rabbi’s was later written down as mishnah, by Scribes dubbed the Tanaim, from circa 200 B.C to circa 220 CE. The rabbis and scribes called the Amoraim, who wrote from circa 220 CE to circa 500 CE, recorded the Gemara. The Talmud consists basically of the Mishnah and Gemara. The Beth Midrash (house of study) became the madressah (Qur’an school) under Islam..
In the church traditions played an increasingly bigger role, until in 1562 at the Council of Trent tradition was ascribed an authority equal to Scripture.[3] The Muslims emulated the practice of recording oral traditions. The ahadith is a variation of recorded tradition. They consist of the words and deeds of Muhammad, the supreme Islamic prophet, where reliable witnesses had been found.[4]
Two of the main personalities who influenced Muhammad in the Meccan part of his life died within months of each other, his wife Khadiyah and Abu Talib, his guardian. Thereafter it seems as if the gifted Arab lost his composure. Especially in the Medinan period, the proximity to the central Scriptures gradually decreased and autobiographical features increasingly entered the revelations. According to Islamic tradition the original text of the Qur’an was reviewed seven times by Jibril. It is striking that the final review includes a consistent omission of everything pertaining to Jesus’ death on the cross although three references in the Qur’an do mention the death of Jesus. OT Scripture references, which point allegorically to the atoning death of Jesus as the Lamb of God - like the blood on the door-posts at the exodus out of Egypt (Exodus 13: 17 – 14: 31) or the serpent on the pole (Numbers 21: 4ff) - do not appear in the Qur’an. The only Qur’anic verse, which clearly alludes to the Calvary event, is a firm rebuttal of the claim that the Jews could have killed Jesus (Surah 4:157). A possible explanation for the disparity could be that Muhammad accepted the death of Jesus (more or less reticently?) in the Meccan period of his life and that the often quoted verse followed the rejection by the Jews in Medina. It is indeed striking that the final revelation of the Qur’an does not even include the equivalent of Yahweh once. Elohim is literally understood to be the majestic plural form of God (or plural of god). Yahweh is used in the Bible 6823 times.

2.2. Ebionite Christianity as a forerunner of Islam
Interesting about the reported facts about the Ebionites are the parallels with Islam. The Ebionites prayed in the direction of Jerusalem at a time when this was not customary Christian practice at all. It is known that Muhammad also had Jerusalem as the qibla (prayer direction) before he changed it after his quarrels with the Jews approximately 624 C.E. That the Ebionites held stubbornly to the Torah and to the circumcision of male babies was not so very special with their Jewish background. But they also discarded all passages attributing human characteristics to God. This viewpoint runs counter to the (orthodox) Jewish understanding that God is ‘Our Father and our King’. The Ebionite doctrine of God as non-human possibly developed into the Islamic doctrine that God is unchangeable, only transcendental and aloof. This is contrary to biblical faith, which makes it clear that God is also immanent, that He can ‘change his mind’ if men repent. Further common ground about the Jewish Ebionites and Islam is the fact that less praiseworthy stories about the representatives of true prophecy were discarded. Thus Adam’s sin, Noah’s drunkenness, Abraham and Jacob’s polygamy are argued away. Islam offers no satisfactory explanation for their doctrine of the infallibility of the prophets.
The Ebionites furthermore thought that Jesus was the Saviour who would come to reward each according to his deeds. The aspect of punishment and rewards is important to Muslims although they don’t believe in Jesus as a Saviour. That the Ebionites believed in Jesus as a Messiah is also paralleled in Islam, although the Qur’an is not clear at all what is meant by the title.
The mission of Jesus included the eradicating of sacrifices. The Ebionite and the other traditions of Muhammad’s age definitely denigrated the sacrifice cult. It is more than probable that this teaching came through clearly to the Ebionite Church and thus to Waraqah bin Naufal, the cousin of Khadiyah. Islam could then have followed the Ebionites’ example. The religion now have only two occasions when sheep are slaughtered, viz. Eid al Adha, the commemoration of the sacrifice of Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his son and at Aqeeqah, when an animal is slaughtered at the birth of a child. Ahadith (the recorded words and deeds of the supreme Islamic prophet) related to these rituals come very near to the atonement concept of blood in the NT e.g. ‘the son of Adam does not do anything of the actions of the day of sacrifice which is more pleasing to Allah than the shedding of blood’. This surely is closely related to Hebrews 9:22 (‘without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness’).
Quite profound was the indirect Jewish influence in Muhammad’s life. Waraqah was surmised to have been a leading figure in the Ebionite Christian Community. A Lebanese author, Abu-al Moosa, even suggested that Waraqah bin Naufal was an Ebionite Church bishop, who saw in Muhammad his possible successor. There is indeed compelling indication that Waraqah – in many ways accepted to have been a mentor to the prime Islamic prophet - might have been an Ebionite priest. The Ebionite Gospel, which he possibly attempted to translate into Arabic, however accepted Jesus as the Son of God. In this extant excerpt the voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism is quoted twice and the second time, it is emphasised: ‘Today I have begotten you’. This is actually a quotation from Psalm 2:7, a coronation psalm. (The biblical Gospel of Matthew also reported twice how the voice from heaven referred to Jesus as ‘my Son, whom I love’ [Matthew 3:15 and Matthew 17:5], both cases with witnesses present.) In fact, at Jesus’ baptism quite a few people appear to have been present according to the reports of Matthew and Luke, with the result that the event was possibly the talk of the region. We have to state categorically that this seems to be an instance where either Waraqah failed to instruct Muhammad properly or he himself was confused.
2.3. Jesus – an above average candidate for Messiahship
The baptism of Jesus was widely seen by the early church as a watershed event. There had been quite a few miracle workers and healers around at that time. Some of them made claims to be the expected Messiah in the resistance against the Roman oppressors. Some of Jesus’ disciples regarded their leader as one of the zealots, who was going to set up a kingdom. From Luke 22: 24 one can deduce how they strived to get honoured positions – so to speak as some sort of cabinet ministers. This is shown in the verbal ‘skirmish’ at the last supper.
John the Baptist was also one of these zealot preachers. He called the nation to repentance in the desert, and thereafter baptised them in the Jordan. Apart from Jesus no other personality in this category is known that experienced an audible voice with witnesses in support of his messianic claims. (Through the centuries various people have claimed to have experienced some supernatural visitation but there were never any other people present who witnessed it.) On top of it, the well known John the Baptist testified on behalf of Jesus: ‘He must become greater and I must become less’ (John 3: 30).
To sum it up: in doctrinal matters, we have every reason to be compassionate and loving towards Muslims, because their forebears in the Middle East have been misled by the bickering Christians, our spiritual ancestors.

According to Islamic tradition Muhammad began travelling to Syria with trading caravans with his guardian Abu Talib at a young age. On one of these journeys he met Bahira, a Nestorian monk who stated that Muhammad was a prophet. It is reported that Bahira looked at Muhammad’s back where the ‘seal of prophethood’ was reportedly found on a place between Muhammad’s shoulders.

3.1. Method smacking of the occult
This method Bahira used either smacks of the occult or it is legendary. The lad Muhammad was said to have been at the receptive age of approximately 12 years according to his testimony when this happened to him.
The combination of these factors sent his originally Christian wife Khadiyah and her priest cousin Waraqah on a very unfortunate track. After the first meeting with the supernatural figure that introduced himself as Gabriel, Muhammad was completely confused, thinking that he was demon-possessed. Some authors have pointed out that the suicidal traits of Muhammad, after his initial meeting with the supernatural being, were indeed pointing in this direction. Rodwell, a translator of the Qur’an, states that ‘it is clear that Muhammad borrowed in several points from the Ebionites, Essenes and Sabeites...’ It seems indeed very striking that almost every allegorical pointer in the Old Testament to the crucifixion of Jesus is omitted in the Qur’an. The denial of the atoning death of Jesus is a common denominator among sects and anti-Christian religions. The allusion to the Cross is consistently denied or worked away in the ‘final review’ of the Qur’an, thus completely in line with anti-Christian sentiments of late Medinan Surah’s. In the run-up to John 3: 16, Jesus prophesied in John 3: 14 that he would be lifted up, just like Moses elevated the snake in the desert. Although the Qur’an has so many references to Moses as one of the major Islamic prophets, this narrative from Numbers 21: 4ff does not occur anywhere. In the light of all this, the aversion Muhammad had to the symbol of the cross is not surprising. Al-Waqidi, one of the earliest biographers of the life of Muhammad, passed on that the prophet had such a repugnance to the form of the cross that he broke everything brought into the house with the symbol upon it.
The occult element, e.g. Muhammad’s fear of being demonically influenced after the first revelations, has sometimes been stressed too much because some writers evidently tried to blacken the great founder of Islam. This practice of defamation must be condemned completely. It is ethically despicable and totally unchristian. On the other hand, the occult influence on Muhammad has not received much attention by Islamic theologians. It is sad that Muhammad fell prey to the compromise with the occult. This especially occurred through the retention of the big shrine at Mecca, the Ka’ba with its black stone.
Waraqah and his hanif (monotheist) colleagues of Mecca warned Muhammad against the veneration of a stone that could not hear. From two other people he heard the same message, i.e. that the worshipping at the Black Stone in the Ka’ba was idolatrous. He rationalized the idolatry by suggesting that he was merely recovering the practice, which Abraham had instituted. Worse was Muhammad’s inducing of ‘revelations’, like the spurious Surah 2: 158 that was clearly intended to defend the pagan pilgrimage tradition of the running between the hills Safa and Marwa.

3.2. Misleading guidance given to Muhammad
Muhammad was misled to believe that the being, which appeared to him, was identical to the biblical angel Gabriel: The information in the traditions about Waraqah’s roll is quite scant and yet confusing. Muhammad was more or less illiterate (Surah 7: 157) and not sure whether all his revelations were from God or not (Surah 21: 5; 44: 14; 16: 103; 37: 36). There were seven revealed forms of the Qur’an, which differed to some extent (Mishkat Vol. 3, p.702-705 or Tafsir of Al-Baiz on Surah 3: 100; 6: 91; 28: 48). This induced Muhammad to imply that the Qur’an be checked against the Bible (Surah 4: 82).
Khadiyah, said to have been a Catholic or Nestorian Christian, has to take much of the blame for misleading Muhammad when she encouraged him when he doubted the source of his inspiration. In Khadiyah’s favour must however be said that when she was unsure of the origins of the supernatural being that visited Muhammad frequently, she did some effort to test it. But she had insufficient biblical knowledge. All the more it is sad that Waraqah, a Christian priest, was not more discerning. Although it was reported from various sources that he was ‘well read in the Old Testament and the New Testament’, his understanding of Scripture appears to have been very warped.[5] Waraqah’s dubious interpretation of the covering of the head of females because of the angels (1 Corinthians 11: 10) possibly deceived Khadijah instead of helping her. He must have cited and interpreted 1 Corinthians 11: 10 so distortedly that Khadiyah used this for her infamous ‘test’ to discern whether the supernatural being that appeared to Muhammad was divine or demonic.
People well versed in the New Age movement have pointed out that Muhammad was by far not the one and only person who thought that he had been visited by an angel. These supernatural beings inter alia purported to be Jesus or Paul. (The ‘angel’ Maroni who visited Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, is perhaps the best known in modern times). It is evident from the content of the revelations that Muhammad received, that the Qur’anic Jibril is not identical to the biblical angel with that name. That the first revelations displayed some similarity to Old Testament appearances of supernatural beings, is typical. The archenemy has often tried to enslave his victims by copying Divine intervention. He also tried it with Jesus (Matthew 4: 1-11). Paul described the phenomenon very aptly that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11: 14). It is tragic that Muhammad was not helped for almost three years when he was so clearly in need of proper guidance. We cannot put any blame on Khadiyah who can be regarded as more or less innocent in his continued deception. From Waraqah bin Naufal one could have expected more.
It seems improbable that either Khadiyah or Waraqah bin Naufal were aware of this biblical teaching to be able to give Muhammad the appropriate guidance. By contrast, Khadiyah and Waraqah encouraged Muhammad in his role as warner to the Arab people. They believed he was a divinely ordained prophet. Waraqah spoke about a Namus, which he seemed to have regarded as the Holy Spirit. Waraqah possibly only possessed the Gospel to the Hebrews, which was a somewhat shortened version of the Gospel according to Matthew. Muhammad became aware of the possibility of Satan influencing revelations. A compromise with idolatry around three gods of the Ka’ba, the prime pagan shrine of pre-Islamic Arabia – Allat, the chief goddess and her two daughters – was included in a revelation that Muhammad discerned had been inspired by Satan. The Meccan controversy around those verses highlighted to him the issue. He was truly remorseful. A subsequent revelation advised his followers to confer with the people of the Book - understood to be the Christians and Jews - in case of doubt (Surah 10: 94,95).

3.2. Insufficient correction to Muhammad
A problem was that there were not so many people around who knew what was in the Bible, which was not available in Arabic anyway. Evidently nobody taught about the anathema, the curse on any message that was contrary to the one that has been handed down “even if it was brought by an angel” (Galatians 1: 8,9). Of course, there was also no Arabic translation of the Scripture available to enable Waraqah to test the revelations. After Muhammad’s conflicts with the Jews and the Christians, he laid the charge that they had changed the Scriptures (Centuries later this did happen, e.g. when the Jehovah’s witnesses changed certain words or phrases to suit their distorted interpretation of Scripture). It is a tragedy that instead of loving correction and teaching, Muhammad experienced rejection and ridicule as the predominant experience from the side of the Christians and Jews. Considering Jesus’ example and teaching, it should not basically alter our attitude in any way that Muhammad appears to have been quite ambitious and proud occasionally.

It seems as if Muhammad did not recognise fully that his compromise with the Ka’ba and its Black Stone was tantamount to accepting idolatry. In fact, the emulation of pagan practices like the sleeping in temples was uncritically taken on board (In one tradition Muhammad said that he was sleeping in the mosque on the occasion of his night journey to Jerusalem). Till today animist groups and Hindus induce trance-like conditions to get into a spurious ecstasy that e.g. enable them to walk through fire without being burnt.
Possibly unwittingly, Muhammad opened himself to demonic influence in this way. No wonder that many of his compatriots regarded him as demon-possessed – the accusation occurs no less than 11 times in the Qur’an. His own defence - e.g. Surah 81: 22,25 is not very convincing. ‘And (O people!) Your companion is not possessed... nor is it the word of an evil spirit accursed’. In fact, it seems as if Muhammad was uncertain about the nature of Jibril himself. Not surprisingly, Yusuf Ali, the well known translator of the Qur’an, deems it necessary to comment: ‘After describing the credentials of the Archangel Gabriel - of no archangel in the Bible this is done - the Text now appeals to the people to consider their own companion, the Prophet.’ [6]

Ibn Ishaq, one of the earliest biographers of Muhammad, had already pointed to the three possibilities of demon possession: Experiences of suffocation, confusion and demonic influence. Muhammad had evidence of all three these conditions. What is especially sad is that Islamic theologians who did see the light, were not allowed to speak their minds freely, so that the deception can continue unchecked.
4. Islam as the Heritage of Christian Heretics

Muslims do not believe that the Lord Jesus died on the cross. In Islam it is taught that He did not really die, but that it only appeared like that to the onlookers. Probably as early as the end of the first century, serious doctrinal clashes occurred within Christianity. We mention three heretics that can be regarded as precursors of Muhammad.

4.1. Cerinthus
Cerinthus is a first century heretic who came up with doctrine that sounds almost Islamic. John, the biblical apostle, was already opposing him. We find Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, opposing already in 112 C.E. the concept that Jesus suffered in mere appearance, a notion that was first formulated by Cerinthus.
One of Cerinthus’ views was his belief that Jesus reached the dignity of Messiahship only at his baptism when the power of the Christ – in the form of a dove - entered into him. Up to that point in time he was a normal man according to Cerinthus, albeit ‘more righteous, prudent and wise than other men’ He suggested that Jesus became a prophet of a new order after his baptism, to proclaim the unknown Father.
Eusebius, an early church historian, noted that the Ebionites’ opinions were similar to those of Cerinthus, e.g. that they ‘...adore Jerusalem as if it were the house of God’. (The city is meant and not the temple.) This is comparable to the veneration of Mecca by Muslims, with its ‘temple’, the Ka’ba.. Striking is also that Cerinthus preferred to identify the ‘God of the Jews’ with the Angel who delivered the law. We compare this to the Namus of which Waraqah spoke, which was later thought of as Gabriel and who was yet later equated with the Holy Spirit in Islamic Theology.
Cerinthus and the Ebionites held nothing of Paul, who was regarded as an ‘apostate of the law’. This was nothing special for that time. The Nazarenes (who were sometimes equated with the Ebionites) - those of the school of James, the brother of Jesus - held e.g. also to that view. Interesting is in this regard that Klausener, a Jewish author and academic,[7] calls James ‘this Ebionite observer of the Law’. That James was thus seen as an opponent of John brings him in line with Islam. The most remarkable thing about Cerinthus in the context of Ebionite-Islamic similarity is his eschatology, his views on the last days. He stated that ‘the kingdom of Christ will be on the earth, and that the flesh, dwelling at Jerusalem, will once more serve lusts and pleasures.’ In the Quran the fortunate men will enjoy the pick of many virgins and young lads serve luscious eatables (Surah 56: 11-37).

4.2. Elkesai
‘Elkesai’, whose real name is not known, was not a learned man. The extant fragments of his book did not show the slightest evidence of his having studied the Jewish Scriptures. Interesting is also the supposed origin of the Book of Elkesai and the beginning of it: ‘The Elkesaite missionaries with whom Origen was acquainted, are said to have held that it fell from heaven.’ A few centuries later Muhammad had similar perceptions about the revelations that he received from Jibril (Gabriel). The theory goes that Elkesai ‘the prophet’ uttered his oracles, commandments, decisions etc. that were then written down upon separate sheets and distributed among his followers. Also in this regard Elkesai displays a remarkable similarity with Muhammad. He required his adherents to practise circumcision and to live according to the Jewish Law. The Ebionites and Nazarenes, as well as a large portion of the pre-Catholic Christians of Syria, yielded their allegiance to Elkesai. Among the Jews the sect of the Essenes is reported to have accepted the teaching of Elkesai. Their fathers had already discarded burnt offerings, even while the altars of the true God were still burning in Jerusalem. It is interesting that Elkesai apparently ordered a prohibition of turning to the East in prayer. The Essenes however ‘observed the qibla towards Jerusalem’.

4.3. Mani
Mani is the third heretic personality to whom we draw attention. He began his public propaganda on 20 March, 242 CE. Already as a child he had visions. He recalled that he ‘was protected through the might of angels’ who ‘nurtured me with visions and signs’. When Mani was twelve years old he enjoyed a first revelation of his ‘Heavenly twin’, which he described as the ‘most beautiful and largest mirror image of my own person.’ Eventually Mani related this supernatural being ‘closely to the Holy Spirit’. The close proximity to the biography of the founder of Islam and Muslim teaching about the Islamic Jibril is striking.
It has been pointed out that Mani grew up in a Jewish Christian background and that he expected from his followers strict ascetics and vegetarianism – both elements of which were typical Ebionite teaching. Mani claimed that he was the last in the succession of messengers of God and his followers called him the ‘Seal of the Prophets’. In Surah 33: 40 Muhammad was called thus. Manichaeism, the religion that Mani founded, knows the ascending importance of prophets, as well as a geographic-ethnic allocation. In the series of divine revelations Buddha (India), Zoroaster (Persia) and Jesus (in the lands of the west) preceded Mani. He wrote: ‘After this came the revelation, and prophecy manifests itself in this latter age through myself, Mani, the messenger of the True God in the land of Babel’. He also believed that the Jews crucified someone else in the place of Jesus.
Because of his hostility to paganism through the strict prohibition of idolatry, Mani could surely be described as a proto-type of Muhammad. He foreshadowed Islamic doctrine by suggesting that Jesus could not have been killed as a ‘quasi-divine redeemer’).

5. Pagan Roots in the Church

From the earliest times there had been Semitic belief that every region had its special divinity, a Baal or an El. In Canaan a wooden pole, an ashera, which was often erected near the altar, sometimes replaced the sacred tree. Similarly, the sacred stone sometimes was a rocky ledge or a single stone, which became an object of worship.

Among the Arabs the stone cult survived with the various local divinities, worshipped by one or more tribes of the vicinity. The most famous of all the stone fetishes of Arabia is the Black Stone in the sanctuary of Mecca. Muhammad took the Ka’ba for his new religion, elevating the pilgrimage to Mecca – including a few pre-Islamic pagan customs – to one of the pillars of Islam.
That Muhammad held on to the shrine as such was basically idolatrous. (Compare in 1 King 3: 3 how the compromise of Solomon to worship on the heights was judged unfavourably by God. It became the opening for the Israelites to backslide into idolatry.) The pagan worship in a shrine around a (black) stone was quite common in the region, but biblically outlawed. Klaus Müller, a German cultural historian, points to the similarity to the shrines at Ta’if and Petra. Also in other places the main goddess became more important than the male. This also happened in the medieval church where the mother of Jesus was venerated into something like a goddess. The main gods of the Ka’ba was Hubal

Collectively the church has incurred a debt in respect of Islam at the Cape of Good Hope. By different means – oppression, neglect, convenience, discrimination, racial prejudice indifference and biblical distortion in the twentieth century - Cape Christians have become ‘guilty’ from the early beginnings right into the present.

1. Colonialism and Slavery

The effect of colonialism was the direct cause of the establishment of Islam at the Cape. The double monopoly of trade and religion made the rule of the Dutch East India Company very repressive. Nobody else was allowed to compete in trade and no other religion was permitted in Dutch territories other than the Dutch Reformed brand of Christianity. Shaykh Yusuf from Macassar in the Indonesian Archipelago was sent to the Cape. He was held as a religious and political convict on the farm Zandvliet that belonged to Reverend Petrus Kalden.[9] Shaykh Yusuf died in 1699, but his grave in Macassar was to become a shrine, a Kramat. This was the name given to the tombs of Muslim saints. This was the first of a circle of shrines called Kramats on the heights of the Cape Peninsula.
Shaykh Yusuf was the first of quite a few Muslim convicts who were sent to the Cape. Some of them were devout representatives of their religion at a time when they were not allowed to practice it freely. In the 17th and 18th centuries the Muslims were meeting secretively, at first e.g. in the Constantia Forest conducted by Muslim convicts and later clandestinely held in houses. Often the meetings were led by freed political religious convicts like Tuan Said and Tuan Guru. Of both Muslim leaders there are kramats (shrines) in the Tana Baru cemetery in Bo-Kaap. The first mosque was opened in 1794 in the Upper Dorp Street in Bo-Kaap, the part of the town where the slaves were living predominantly.

The history of slavery at the Cape is a very sad one. It is immaterial that Islam had a similar bad history in the Middle East or that the Qur’an seems to condone slavery to some extent. The bad treatment of slaves was a factor towards the spread of Islam at the Cape. A law intended to protect baptised slaves was promulgated in 1770 in the Statutes of India nut also applied at the Cape:
The Christians are held bound to instruct their slaves... without compulsion in the Christian Religion, and have them baptised ... and such as may have been confirmed in the Christian Religion, shall never be sold...

Many slave owners at the Cape interpreted this decree as a threat to their property, believing that their slaves would become free if they were Christianised. As a direct result, the colonists hereafter encouraged their slaves covertly - but sometimes also actively - to become Muslims. In the church itself - only the Dutch Reformed Church was allowed to function at the Cape till 1780 - the slaves felt rejected. The saying soon went around in slave circles: ‘De zwarte kerk is de slamse kerk’, implying hat the mosque was the church of the slaves. By the end of the 18th century the pews at the back of the Groote Kerk - which had been reserved for slaves - were empty every Sunday.
The concern of the church was in keeping with the spirit of the time. In a letter from the church council of the Dutch Reformed Church at Stellenbosch dated 4 June 1792, the Kerkraad (Church Council) e.g. asked their superiors in the Netherlands whether slaves could be baptized, with the proviso that their freedom would not have to follow.

2. Kramats (Shrines)
Shrines originated in Jewry and the church where the believers should have known better. The intention was to venerate certain ‘holy’ people, but it was little more than ancestor worship. Biblical teaching is quite clear: Jewish and Christian believers are not permitted to pray to the dead. Prayers at shrines are a veiled form of ancestor worship.
As early as the 1740’s an Islamic prophecy was verbalised about a circle of shrines around the Mother City that would come into being. These graves of prominent Muslim leaders - in the form of a crescent on the heights of the Peninsula stretching from Macassar to Simons Town on the other side of the ocean through to Robben Island, had the effect of keeping the city in spiritual bondage. Satanists also have their strongholds on the heights, amongst others at the fittingly named Devil’s Peak and at Rhodes Memorial (Cecil John Rhodes, a 19th century Cape Prime Minister, was known to be a freemason at a time when many clergymen saw nothing wrong in the movement. The demonic roots of freemasonry have been exposed in recent years, e.g. by David Tidy, a former freemason.
These shrines are all situated on the heights of the Cape Peninsula. This reminds us of the idolatrous worship at places like these that the Old Testament prophets lashed. The Islamic community is divided on the value of prayers at the kramats.
Tuan Guru (Mister Teacher) is the name that was given to one of the prominent Muslim leaders whose shrine is on the Tana Baru cemetery in Bo-Kaap. He was brought to the Cape as a State prisoner in 1780 from Tidore, which was a flourishing Muslim Sultanate in the Moluccas. Tuan Guru had a thorough understanding of Islam, in contrast to other Capetonians who hailed from Indonesia. One of his first accom­plish­ments was the writing of the Qur’an from memory for the use of the Cape Muslims.
With the increased awareness of spiritual warfare in Christian circles, the power of occult strongholds have also been recognised more and more.

3. Church leaders unwittingly assist the forces of the arch enemy
It was surely laudable that Reverend Wrankmore as a Christian called for an inquiry into the death of Imam Haron. He used the spiritual weapons of prayer and fasting to meet the injustice. After the refusal of his church authorities to use a church building, the Muslims allowed him to pray at the big Kramat near to Lions Head as the venue of his activity. His choice was surely not strategic in terms of spiritual warfare. Compare this with a similar effort when Dominee (Reverend) Dawie Pypers retreated for prayer and fasting before his encounter with Ahmed Deedat on 13 August 1961 on the Green Point Track. (He prayed and fasted at Bains Kloof in the mountain not so far from a Kramat, but sleeping in a tent.) At that occasion in 1961 Satan appeared to pull out all the stops, using the erecting of the wall in Berlin on the same day. This distracted the attention of the world as the threat of another world war loomed. Instead of supported, Reverend Pypers was attacked by leading members of his church.
The distribution of Abdullah ben Yussuf; or the story of a Malay as told by himself a poor 19th century testimony of a convert from Islam on 13 August 1961 played into the hands of the arch enemy. In hindsight this well-intended but unwise move unfortunately assisted to perpetuate the Islamic bondage of thousands in South Africa. Church leaders became bedfellows with forces of the enemy in yet another way, using a biblical principle wrongly. The Bible does call for unity, but not at all costs. In the Unity Movement of the 1950’s and especially in the UDF of the 1980’s ‑ the United Democratic Front ‑ there was no eye for the spiritual dimension of the unity of the body of believers. Church Ministers protested with leaders from other religions and communists as if this was the most natural thing on earth. The seed of New Age Theology was sown, where the unique Christ was driven into the background.

4. The sad role of the DRC and government legislation
After the Group Areas Act had been passed by parliament in 1950, many Coloured communities living around Cape Town were destroyed. In 1961 large areas of the city were declared ‘White’ group areas. This resulted in many Coloureds moving into District Six. Many who did not know anything about Islam, now got to know Muslims, who somehow spread the message that ‘we have the same God’.
A major uproar followed the declaration of 11 February 1966 when District Six was to become a White residential area as part of the implementation of the notorious Group Areas Act. The opposition to the District Six declaration reverberated till well into the 1980s, possibly causing the government to go slow on the demolition of Bo-Kaap, which was deceptively called the ‘Malay Quarter’. However, apartheid legislation turned the suburb into a Muslim stronghold with ensuing religious bondage as Christians and their churches moved out.
The ideology of apartheid had strong support in the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) through distorted exposition of the Bible. The enforcement of the ideology enhanced the spread of Islam at a time when the religion was on its last legs in the country. When the former residents of District Six were evicted, that was tantamount to the starting gun for the spread of Islam throughout the Peninsula: mosques were built in all the new townships. Former ‘Christian’ areas like Surrey Estate and Lansdowne became islamised.

The apartheid ideology favoured Islam in the City in three ways: a) Christians who got involved in evangelism skipped Muslim homes, because the ‘Malays’ were considered to have their own religion; b) The entire Bo-Kaap was declared a residential area for ‘Muslim Malays’ already in 1952. The enforcement however only took place in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. By 1990 the area had become a Muslim stronghold without its equal anywhere in the country. Churches moved out of Bo-Kaap offering only feeble resistance with a few exceptions c) Jews left District Six even before 1966. Christians were the next to leave, also allowing their churches to be bulldozed down. The Muslims however stuck to their guns, not permitting anybody to raze their sacred buildings to the ground.
Also in other parts of the Peninsula the enforcement of the Group Areas Act caused a lot of resentment and embitterment. An unknown number of nominal Christians embraced Islam in protest because the apartheid laws were perceived as the dealings of a ‘Christian’ government. A similar development can be discerned among the Blacks.
When Imam Haron, a Muslim clergyman, was incarcerated and died while in police custody in 1969, no reason was given. It seems that his major ‘contravention of the law’ was his contact with the inhabitants of the Black townships Nyanga and Langa. No inquest was held regarding his death in detention. The effort of Reverend Bernard Wrankmore, was notable. This Anglican priest fasted for many days at the shrine on Signal Hill in 1971 to try and enforce a judicial inquiry. But it was of no avail on the short term. It did however slow down the number of sinister deaths of political prisoners while in police custody.
After the black uprising in Soweto in 1976, the clampdown of the government had a significant backlash. Islam hereafter made its first meaningful inroads into the Black communities.
Whereas the previous government displayed a predilection for laws implementing racial discrimination, the secular government that was elected into office in 1994 appeared to have a liking to remove all restraints on sexual morality.
Because quite a few Muslims were involved in the struggle against the oppression in the apartheid years, Islam appeared to get preferential treatment in the new regime, having been an influential part of the resistance among the ‘formerly disadvantaged communities.’ Muslims exploited the favourable climate to the full, by e.g. systematically buying property in different parts of the Peninsula, Islamising whole residential areas in the process.

5. Restitution?
The Cape Muslims have a special place in South African history. At this time, when restitution is being discussed in various quarters, their suffering at the hands of people who professed to be Christians, should be looked at. It is significant that so many apartheid laws and practices had its precedent in the attitudes and measures against the Cape Muslims of the colonial days. But also legislation and practices of our new South African government drove them further away from a living relationship Jesus Christ.

It’s high time that we make amends. Are we willing and prepared to put those church traditions and practices on the altar which actually hinder Muslims in coming to Christ? If we are, we may find many Muslims open for the Gospel of the crucified and risen Jesus.

Glossary of some words used in (Cape) Islam and a few abbreviations

C.E. – Common Era, in former years referred to as AD, meaning Anno Domini
dawa – Islamic missionary work
duah – a free (not a ritual) prayer in Islam
doekom – a Muslim witch doctor
gadat – a religious meeting
Hajji – someone who had completed the pilgrimage to Mecca
Imam – a Muslim clergyman
Kramat – the word karamat is literally understood to refer to a Muslim saint.
– The shrines at the tombs of such saints at the Cape were later called kramats.
Labarang gadjji - the big Muslim feast, more generally called (e)id-ul-adha, where the sacrifice of
Abraham is commemorated.
Murtat – a Muslim apostate.
Nasara – a Christian.
rakam – posters and pictures on the walls of houses, often with Islamic images and Arabic script.
Rampie-sny’ – an occasion for the ladies, when orange leaves are being cut as part of the celebration
of the birthday of the prophet.
Ratiep – a practice of Eastern origin, whereby knives pierce body parts without the spilling of blood.
shaykh – a learned clergymen, who studied in the Middle East. The equivalent of Maulana, who
studied in Pakistan or India
shebeens – houses where wine could be bought at all times, i.e. also after hours.
surah – a chapter of the Qur’an, which is divided into verses called ayat
tablighi – a Muslim evangelist
ulema – the collective term for Islamic clergy.

Footnotes ??

Manenberg was one of the first townships on the Cape flats to which the former inhabitants of our beloved ‘mother township’ District Six were sent because of the resented Group Areas Act.

The so-called ‘verligte’ (enlightened) Afrikaner theologians also thought that the demonic apartheid ideology could be reformed.

This was possibly more of a reaction to Martin Luther’s sola scriptura – only the Scripture.
Some ahadith were nevertheless sometimes mutually contradictory.
Only an evil spirit could purportedly bear such a sight.

Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an, Lahore, 1934, (note 5990), p.1696

Joseph Klausener, From Jesus to Paul, translated from Hebrew, Menorah Publishing Company,
New York, 1979: 280

Some scholars take Hubal to be the counterpart of Baal mentioned in the Bible.
The area was later renamed Macassar.


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