Middle East Resources

Crossing Over from Darkness into Light

Maryam al-Uteybi’s Conversion

30 November 2021

Bassam Michael Madany

In the 1960s, the British colonial presence ended in the Arabian (Persian) Gulf. The countries of Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, got their independence; the smaller Gulf principalities formed the United Arab Emirates (UAE.) While the British colonial presence was still active in these areas, they needed people to administer the smooth running of the government. The British brought in various groups from India and other parts of the Middle East, and they settled in the various locales in the Gulf. Having come from various religious backgrounds, they were allowed to practice their faiths in churches or temples. However, that concession did not apply to Kuwaitis who were predominantly Sunni Muslims.

A person who changes his faith in Kuwait, as in most Muslim countries, is liable to be punished for the sin of Radda, i.e., going back on Islam. It’s even a greater sin if a Kuwaiti woman becomes a Christian. 

The following vignette honors one Maryam al-‘Uteybi, a Kuwaiti lady who converted from Islam to the Christian faith. She belonged to a family and extensive tribe which was spread all around the Arabian Peninsula, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

At school in Kuwait City, Maryam had a variety of studies, including Islamic Law. A teacher introduced her to 19th century Russian literature! At the secondary school, she continued her religious subjects.

While researching Islamic History, she was shocked by the sectarian divisions between Sunnis and Shiites. She discovered that there were Mulhideens (Atheists) of Muslim background! When she sought to have her many questions answered about the Muslim faith and practice from the Ulema (Islamic religious teachers,) she was rebuffed and warned not to ask such questions. That afront prompted her to begin a serious reading of the Qur’an. Her research and reading caused her to cast doubts on the Muslim belief system. For one year she lived in Ilhad (Atheism,) then she became a Deist, and a Human Rights activist. At the University Library, she discovered that in the past, some Muslim philosophers, in particular Ibn Sina, and Ibn Hazm, were open-minded and tolerant.

One day, Maryam met Carlos who gave her a copy of the Injeel (New Testament.) She was struck by the Ayat (Verse) in the Injeel that proclaimed “The Lord is Love.) She decided to go to a church in Kuwait City, where almost immediately she felt at peace. To facilitate making her Kuwaiti identity unnoticed, she spoke with the Syrian dialect. She was able to receive Christian books from outside the country. She met many people who had crossed over from Islam to the Christian faith and she was warmly welcomed into their circles. Eventually, Maryam was able to migrate to the United Kingdom where she now fellowships with people who have crossed over from the darkness of Islam to the light and freedom found in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Universal Community (The Church)

Maryam al-Uteybi’s conversion to the Christian faith reminds me of these wonderful words from God which Felix Mendelssohn put to music in his Oratorio, Elijah: 
“If with all your hearts ye truly seek me, Ye shall ever surely find me, Thus saith our God.”