Middle East Resources

Brother Rachid Interviews Brother Jibril Saleh, A Yemeni Convert

Introduction

Bassam Michael Madany

My radio, literature, and correspondence ministry began in June, 1958. It was directed to the Arabic-speaking world stretching from Morocco to Iraq. When I retired in 1994, my taped messages continued to be aired for an additional five more years.

In the aftermath of the Second World war, radio broadcasting became a powerful and necessary means to spread the Gospel, as newly-independent Arab countries put restrictions on conventional missions. Another tool, the transistor radio made it possible for Arabs living in remote areas that lacked electricity, to use battery-run radios to listen to broadcasts coming from distant lands. During the thirty-six years of the radio ministry, around 200.000 letters were received from every Arab country, as well as from Arabic-speaking people living in the Diaspora. Half of the letters came from Eastern Christians; the other half from Muslims who were interested to learn about the Christian Scriptures.    

After our retirement in 1994, my late wife Shirley and I began a new ministry on the Internet. This time, it was done in English; its goal was “The Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.” The URL for the website of Middle East Resources is www.unashamedofthegospel.org

Just as Greek was the international language in the New Testament times, English now plays the same role. Thanks to the Stat-Counter that monitors “hits” or “visits” to our website, posted materials reach a global readership! Our former ministry may be described as an intensive daily work of “sowing” the Gospel. Our support came from the Christian Reformed Church in North America, through its Back-to-God Hour radio ministry.

The 21st century has ushered a new era in missions to Muslims. The Internet, and Satellite Television are powerful means for the spread and defense of the Gospel. New Christians, or Muslim-born believers (MBB) have now joined as heralds of the Good News!

Recently, I met Brother Rachid, a Moroccan convert; he preached at Bethel Christian Reformed Church, in Lansing, Illinois, on the 17th of July, 2016. I was overwhelmed with joy as I listened to him expounding the Gospel and describing his weekly ministry on Al-Hayat (LIFE) Satellite TV. We had a wonderful visit on the following Friday. He gave me a copy of his book in Arabic, and asked me to review it. The Review is posted on my website:                                                       

“ISIS and Islam: Through the Eyes of a Former Muslim

http://www.unashamedofthegospel.org/review-brother-rachids-book.cfm

The telecasts of Brother Rachid began in 2007; they are archived on YouTube, and can be watched anytime. The program consists of an Interview with an expert on Islam, or with a convert from Islam. It lasts for 90 minutes; halfway in the telecast, listeners can contact Brother Rachid by telephone, or by email.

As of October, 2016, there are 450 archived shows. They are mostly in Arabic, and may be accessed through the following URL:

http://islamexplained.com/UVG_0_ar/UVG_video_list_0_ar/TabId/90/CategoryId/5/-.aspx

I have had the great joy of watching a few of the programs that are known as Sou’al Jaree’     (A Daring Question) Converts from Islam are called ‘Abiroon, an Arabic term that signifies those who have “crossed over” to the light and freedom of Jesus Christ!

What reasons they give for “Crossing Over” to Christianity?

Muslims grow up being taught that both Judaism and Christianity that had a “Heavenly Origin” had become corrupt; their Books, the Torah and the Gospel, have been altered, and are no longer trustworthy. Allah sent his last Messenger, Muhammad, and gave him by direct revelation, the Qur’an.

Islam is engraved on the Muslims’ mind, from their earliest days. Allah is high and lofty; he is unknowable, he is “wholly other.” He commands the good, and forbids evil. Man, is a “slave” of Allah. Muslims develop a great fear of Allah, a phobia that is accentuated by the horrors of Hell.

“Crossing over” takes place when a Muslim, man or woman, becomes disillusioned with Allah. He or she, may meet a Christian witness, or read a copy of the Bible in Arabic. The discovery of Allah, as a loving Heavenly Father is such a contrast with the Qur’anic despotic Allah!

Converts, having memorized portions of the Qur’an in their youth, now become avid memorizers of the Bible, such as “The Sermon of the Mount,” and parts of John’s Gospel.

The Person of Jesus the Messiah (Al-Massih) captivates their souls; what a contrast with the person of Muhammad! ‘Abiroon seek membership in Arabic-speaking churches in the Diaspora, and are in raptures after they receive Baptism.

Having listened/heard/watched several shows of Brother Rachid, I can’t help but feel sorry for those Western missions’ experts (known as Missiologists) who have concocted un-Biblical theories for Missions to Muslims, such as advocating that converts need not join national churches, but return to their cultures, and witness for the Messiah from within the culture!

Such theory sounds attractive to Westerners who want quick results in missions. However, no convert who had tasted salvation by faith in the Savior, has ever “bought” into such fanciful and purely abstract theories!

Converts love their Arabic Bible! It was the greatest gift to the Arab World, by the pioneer Presbyterian Missionaries. We praise God for the Rev. Elie Smith, and the Rev. Cornelius Van Dyck who did one of the greatest translations of God’s Word! What a thrill to listen to the ‘Abiroon, reading portions of Matthew 5 – 7, and John 5, 6, and 14! 

The following is based on a dialogue in Arabic, between Brother Rachid and Brother Jibril Saleh, on the 10th of June, 2016, and telecast on Al-Hayat TV:

Brother Jibril Saleh is from Sana’a, Yemen. Growing up as a practicing Muslim, he eventually entertained several doubts about Islam. After listening to the program of “Daring Question” of Brother Rachid, on the Satellite TV Station, Al-Hayat, he left Islam and adopted faith in the Messiah of the Holy Scriptures.

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Brother Rachid
Welcome Brother Jibril Saleh, this is my first interview with a convert from Yemen. Please, give us information about your background, and journey to the Christian faith.

Brother Jibril
I was born into a Sunni family in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. My family was rather conservative. I began attending the local mosque early in my life. After the Salaat al-Maghreb (Service at the Mosque at sunset), I took part in special meetings known as Halaqat, where we memorized Surahs from the Qur’an, and discussed religious subjects.

BR
Who led the Halaqat?

BJ
They were conducted under Sheikhs, with each Halaqat bearing the name of one of the Sahaba of the Prophet, such as Halaqat Ali, or Halaqat Mus’ab, etc. (Sahaba denotes those followers of Muhammad who left Mecca with him in 622, and settled in Medina)

BR
How old were you at the time?  

BJ
I was in my early teens. I had several questions in my mind about the subjects being discussed; but I dared not ask them openly. We were warned not to ask deep questions. One question was, “Who created Allah?” I feared Allah, especially the punishments of hell, and the torments that begin after death in the grave. Still, I clung to my faith in the Qur’an; in fact, I developed a way by which I would not accept a Hadith if it conflicted with the plain teachings of the Qur’an.

BR
What was the incident that sparked your quest to think deeply about life issues?

BJ
It happened in 2011; I was living in western Yemen. A hurricane hit the town causing lots of destructions, including several casualties. Prior to that event, I had not reflected on any existential issue; however now, I wondered about my future. In fact, as the powerful storm hit the town, I imagined the Hour of Judgment had come. I became terribly scared! My questions increased. I wasn’t sure that, had I been killed, I would have made it to Heaven! What if my good works were outweighed by my transgressions?  It was very hard to live with a lack of assurance regarding my eternal destiny!

BR
Did you share your questions and doubts with anyone?

BJ
I used the Internet and Facebook; I became more religious. Working at a gas station, I asked for permission to do my 5 prayers, at the appointed times. Eventually, my devotions did not help; the ritualistic prayers became meaningless, due to their repetitious nature. So, I embarked on a quest of comparing Islam with other religions; and began dialoging with Christians and with Malahidat (those who left Islam, and had become unbelievers.) My quest was for my eternal fate and for the truth. I became bolder in my questions on Facebook: ‘Did the Apostle Muhammad really marry a woman, just after killing her husband and her son?’

Muslims invoke divine maledictions on the Kuffar; nevertheless, their conditions remain worse than those of those Infidels who prosper and do much better in life!

One day, I came upon the satellite TV Station, Al-Hayat airing “A Daring Question” that was critical of Islam. At first, I thought the speaker was wrong, interpreting Qur’anic passages out of their historical context. Yet, when he referred to those violent texts such as striking the necks men, they were the very passages that Da’esh (ISIS) quote when they commit their violent acts.

I continued my research in the Qur’an, I found Surah 9, Al-Tawba (Repentance) Ayah 29, sanctioning violence:

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor in the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

Then I came across Surah 47, Ayah 4, that convinced me that Islam cannot be the Truth! These words encourage horrific acts of violence, and cannot proceed from Allah!

“So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds, and either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them] until the war lays down its burdens. That [is the command]. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken vengeance upon them [Himself], but [He ordered armed struggle] to test some of you by means of others. And those who are killed in the cause of Allah – never will He waste their deeds.”

So, I left Islam and became an unbeliever. I thought at the time, that all religions were the same. I had in my possession a copy of the Holy Bible that I had not read. One day, I decided to read it beginning with the Gospel of Matthew. I found these words of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount. They showed me that I had been following the wrong path. I went on reading the Gospel and came across these words of Jesus Christ: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

And this advice from the Messiah about prayer:

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as he heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

I had found the Truth in Christianity, and made known my conversion on Facebook.

BR
What was the reaction of your family, friends and acquaintances?

BJ
I was threatened with death. ‘Should you ever returned to Yemen, we’ll kill you!’ I was shocked! My former friends turned into implacable enemies!

Then, adding to my horror was what happened to a 17-year old acquaintance who had placed on Facebook some of his free meditations, such as, ‘I see Allah in flowers, and not in tombs.’ Islamists considered that as blasphemy. He was abducted and murdered in Aden. Not only that, but they made a video of him breathing his last! They wanted to terrorize anyone who strays from the Path!

BR
What are some of your present activities?

BJ
I have discovered several Yemeni believers, both inside and outside Yemen. I’m in touch with them, strengthening their faith. Several Yemenis have left Islam, and are living as unbelievers. Having been disappointed in Islam, they imagine that all religions are the same!

BR
What about your growth in your new-found faith?

BJ
Having managed to immigrate to America, I looked for an Arabic-speaking church. I found one, and joined it. The first thing I asked for was to be baptized.

BR
How did you feel after your baptism?

BJ
It was the best day of my life. It was a wonderful spiritual event. I said goodbye to my past, I found the real Allah, I sensed the love of Christ.  Our God is love; while in Islam’s 99 names of Allah, not one is Love! I learned how to live my faith and to love my enemies; not to swear in my speech! Of course, the change is taking place gradually, having lived so long in Islam!

BR
Are your parents and relatives aware of your conversion?

BJ
Everybody knows about my becoming a Christian. Mother tried to bring me back to Islam, and warns me, ‘Don’t ever say Christ is Allah.’ She pleads with me to return to Islam! My brother calls me ‘majnoon’ (insane), adding that had I opted for unbelief, he would still respect me; but not for becoming a Christian! A young cousin told me that I deserved to be killed for my apostasy!

BR
What about the future?

BJ
I am hopeful about the future. The Lord willing, change is coming. Many Arabs are now critiquing Islam. Nowadays, it’s much easier than in the past. Several young Arabs acknowledge that Muhammad was a pretender, not a true prophet. He led a life of violence, raids, and captivity of innocent women and children; he couldn’t have been a true prophet of Allah.

Of course, Yemen has its insurmountable problems. Illiteracy rate is around 50%; marriage of young girls is very high. A relative of mine has organized a shelter in Aden for young brides who had managed to escape their deplorable conditions! It’s very difficult to combat this awful custom, since Muhammad had married Aisha when she was 6 years old!

BR
What’s your message to the ‘Abiroon? (An Arabic term, it refers to those who have crossed over from their past condition, and arrived safely at their destination with their Lord and Savior Christ Jesus!)

BJ
Hold fast to your faith, be of one mind, work together, be patient. Be wise in the use of the Internet and Facebook. Manifest the fruits of your faith by living in love and in peace.

END OF INTERVIEW

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