Growing up as a Muslim in East Africa, Arif felt unloved and uncared for by his parents. Feeling alone, he secretly started sneaking away from home to learn the alphabet with the Orthodox children attending the local church.
But when his grandmother caught him, she harshly rebuked him, saying, “Your religion doesn’t allow you to do this.”
Arif soon discovered the only thing to please her was to learn the Quran, so as a child he joined the Madrassa, learning Islamic teachings and sheria practices.
As an adult, Arif left the area to try his hand at business but, after failed attempts, returned home.
Angered by a friend’s salvation
At home, Arif reconnected with one of his childhood friends who now talked about Jesus. This greatly angered Arif because Islam taught Arif that his friend was now contaminated by the Gospel.
However, because he loved his friend, Arif didn’t want to anger him. Instead, he looked to take his anger out on the teachers, farmers and government workers who had spread the Gospel. Arif wanted to catch them and argue with them, asking, “What kind of mission do you have? God will punish you! Why do you confuse people?”
Outrage leads to searching
His anger led him to look to the Quran for answers about Jesus, salvation and the kingdom of God. “But after looking at the Quar,” states Arif, “a prayer that says, ‘Lead us through the right path,’ I told myself there is absolutely nothing sure and tangible here.”
Through visions, dreams and reading the Bible, God revealed himself to Arif. After reading Luke 1:26, where the angel Gabriel tells the good news to Mary, Arif says, “My heart was touched, but divided between two thoughts.”
But as he continued in his search, he read the Gospel of John where Jesus answered, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6, NIV).
Arif’s heart was once again touched, but this time, “I became captivated,” exclaims Arif.
Soon he was telling his friends what was happening in his heart and mind. He asked God to give them wisdom and understanding, too, and shared with them what was being revealed to him, leading three of his friends to repentance. “Until now we did not find life,” shares Arif. “Life is this.”
Persecution brings heartbreaking loss
“My main mission now is to preach the Gospel to all creation,” states Arif. “I study the Bible, visit believers, teach new believers and share Jesus with those who have not heard.”
With his new-found faith came persecution. At the time of his salvation, he had a wife and children, but with his conversion, her family considered him now ruined. “In short, I never thought I would not face challenges,” explains Arif. “However, beyond my expectations was the piling on of challenges. But God who called me is faithful and He is able to help me stand.”
When describing what happened with his wife, Arif shares how, “Because I accepted the Lord, they said to my wife ‘he is ruined and he is no good for you. If you want a husband, we will marry you off to a son of a Sheik.’” Sadly, explains Arif, “It was against her will and she had no other option because their last action was to kill her.”
New believers face much persecution
Along with losing his wife came family separation, including his relatives taking away his inheritance, saying, “Because you are ruined you don’t deserve it, or to be called by our name,” states Arif. “They isolated me.”
Also came community isolation, including being prohibited from finding a place for a funeral, and his children losing their right to attend school.
When walking through his community, he’s followed like a dog or madman, with people throwing stones at him. “The persecution is following me until this day, because I have accepted Jesus Christ,” explains Arif.
“My one child was badly beaten, my home destroyed, pressured at my work and I was also beaten and imprisoned for four months,” states Arif.
A need to stand with new believers
“It’s very important for the Church to stand beside new believers in times of trouble, and to support them,” states Arif.
Like Arif, millions of Islamic believers who accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior will face persecution as Muslims call them deniers. “The Muslim community will increase pressure on them, send them away from their homes and properties and make them lose hope,” describes Arif.
As well, explains Arif, “When they accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, their wives are taken away. And when a woman accepts the Lord, her husband’s family takes him away, so she loses her marriage.”
Yet he assures, “We have put our hope in the Lord and we are still here.”