Abdul Haleem was trained to be a Hafiz and then to be an Alim. He was then trained to be an Imam and served as an Imam in different places for six years. Then God moved in a mysterious through the most unexpected and unlikely events. This interview captures the mind of a former Imam who now serves the Lord God Jesus.
Jerry Thomas (JT): Welcome Brother Abdul Haleem to Sakshi: An Apologetics Network in India. Abdul Haleem (AH): It is a pleasure to be with you all. JT: Let us begin with your background. Your childhood and what you were doing until you became a Christian? AH: I was born to an orthodox Muslim family. I grew up following the strict principles of Islam. When I was six years old, I started reading and memorizing Quran. I was trained to be a Hafiz. So I memorized the entire Quran. Then I was trained to be an Alim. I successfully finished both the courses. Then I was trained to lead the prayer. I was an Imam in mosques; one year in Bangalore, three years in Mumbai, one year in Jaipur and one year in Aligarh. My childhood and early years of youth were thus spent on learning and teaching Quran and leading Muslims in prayers. JT: That is an excellent profile. For our readers who may not understand a few of these terms and its importance let me explain those. Hafiz is the one who memorizes the entire Quran. According to a few traditions, Hafiz is considered among the best of Muslims. Hafiz is also considered as a co-guardian of Quran along with the Islamic god Allah. And numerous Islamic scholars are of the opinion that one who is a Hafiz should also become Alim. Alim is the scholar of Quran. Surah 29:48 says: Nay, but it is (Quran), the clear Ayat, (preserved) in the breasts of those who have been given knowledge. This Ayat has been interpreted by many Muslim scholars as that one who memorize the Quran should also become an Alim. And Imam is the one who leads the prayer in a Mosque and teaches the Quran. All these are very significant from an Islamic point of view.
Brother Abdul, it is evident that you were in the ‘inner circle’ of Islam. Who approached you with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the hope of all true Prophets? We would like to know about that.AH: No one approached me with gospel of Jesus. I never heard any evangelical messages too. I came to be Christian by reading the Quran. JT: By reading Quran??? That is quite unusual and surprising. Now we are all the more eager to know which Surahs led you to the true God of all the true prophets. AH: Yes, that is quite strange even when I look back. It is Surah 3:55 which struck me “Behold! Allah said, O Jesus, I am terminating your life, raising you to Me, and ridding you of the disbelievers. I will exalt those who follow you above those who disbelieve, till the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is the ultimate destiny of all of you, then I will judge among you regarding your disputes.”This Ayat clearly says that those who believe in Jesus will be exalted above others. For a long time, I wondered what this Ayat meant until America launched a war in Afghanistan. For in Islam, the power of God is an irrefutable mark that He is the true God. So when America won the war, I thought I understood the meaning of this Ayat. But now I know that it is the love of God, unconditional love, is the mark of true God. JT: It is very true brother. For our readers who might wonder about this Islamic mindset, let me illustrate it. Ali Dashti, an Iranian Scholar in his book Twenty Three Years: A Study of the prophetic career of Muhammad, writes: After Mohammad’s conquest of Mecca at the head of several thousand men, Abbas B Abd ol-Mottaleb led Abu Sofyan to the presence of the prophet who exclaimed, “Woe on you! Surely you now understand that there are no gods except the One All-knowing Provider! “Yes,” answered Abu Sofyan, “I am gradually moving toward that belief.” Then the Prophet asked, “Do you still deny that Mohammad is God’s apostle? Abu Sofyan muttered, “I need to think more about that point.” Abbas said to him, You had better become a Moslem straightaway, Abu Sofyan! Otherwise the prophet will order them to behead you here and now.” So in desperation Abu Sofyan professed Islam in the midst of the encamped Moslem warriors. To a Muslim mind, these kinds of pictures of victory are a mark of the veracity of true God. Therefore, war, burning, murder etc becomes an act of God in revenge. However to a Christian mind, these are proofs for the lack of faith of Muslims in the sovereignty of True God who will avenge His enemies at the appointed time (Romans 12:19-21). Coming back to our question, when were you convinced about the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? AH: Yes, after being convinced about the power of Jesus Christ, I came to Hyderabad and attended one of our Christian brothers, whom we shall leave unnamed, training on Islam and Christianity. There I understood the real nature of the god and prophet of Islam. There were moments of crisis in my Christian faith after I left Islam. I thought of going back to Islam. JT: What were those crises that made you to rethink about the Christian faith? AH: I had a tough time in believing about the Trinity and Jesus as an incarnation. For me, even after I learned about Islamic god, Allah was the true god of all prophets. In Surah 4: 163, it reads “We have inspired you, as we inspired Noah and the prophets after him. And we inspired Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, the Patriarchs, Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon. And we gave David the Psalms.” This Ayat has been embedded in my mind from childhood and it was difficult to think otherwise. For any Muslim mind, God of the Jews and Christians is the same god of Islam. While Jews and Christians corrupted their understanding, it was the Muslims who kept the true faith. JT: Partially it is not the fault of Muslims. Many Christians themselves, without properly studying either the Bible (particularly the Old Testament) or the Quran erroneously think that God of the Old Testament is the god of the Quran. Nothing can be further from the truth. What did you differently understand about Muhammad when you learned from our Christian brother? AH: I will illustrate the difference in one point. Surah 21:107 says Muhammad is a mercy to the world. Most of the Muslims can never imagine that Muhammad can do something wrong. However, when I read the Hadiths with these brothers, I saw many things which are utterly shocking to me. I will share a few examples which will show this. Muhammad divorced five of his wives for no reason. These wives went on to beg in the streets and died a wretched life. Where is the mercy here? Or as our brother would say, Muhammad ordered to slay those who criticized him. Where is the mercy in this? If he was merciful, he should have allowed them to live. Even if they have done something wrong, then they would have got a chance to repent. The time that you allow them to live is an act of mercy. If they repent, they will gain eternity which is everlasting mercy. But if you kill them immediately where is the mercy. However, Jesus is also referred as a mercy from God in Surah 19:21. Whether you accept the Quran or not, when you read the life of Jesus, you will find mercy and compassion. JT: Yes, I have often found Islamic writings blatantly lying about Muhammad. The other day I was reading the book ‘Towards Understanding Islam’ by Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. He writes about Muhammad; Surrounded on all sides by cruelty, he himself has a heart overflowing with the milk of human kindness. He helps orphans and widows. He is hospitable to travelers. He harms no one; rather, he suffers hardships for other’s sake”. I was shocked to read such statements. When you read the early Islamic writings written by devote Muslims, the Muhammad presented there is hardly can be called as a mercy to mankind. These so-called scholars are misleading the ordinary Muslims. No wonder last year Pakistan banned Robert Spencer’s book ‘The Truth About Muhammad’ saying that is highly inflammatory though Spencer’s quotes were primarily from the accepted early sources of Islam. We need to correct this misconception of Muhammad to Muslims. Another question- I have heard from our brothers that you used to ask many questions in the Bible classes troubling quite a few students. What were those questions?
JT: How did you then accept the Trinity and Jesus as the LORD God?
AH: I should say that the Spirit of God worked in me to convince and convict. Biblically one of the most convincing arguments has been put forward by Jesus Christ Himself. In Matthew 22: 41-46 we read “While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, what do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he? The son of David, they replied. He said to them, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him 'Lord'? For he says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet. If then David calls him 'Lord,' how can he be his son?" No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.”
Here we have an Old Testament prophet speaking about the uni-plurality of God. And we have Jesus Christ interpreting t
AH: (Laughs). Yes, I used to ask the most famous question of Muslims- where did Jesus say that I am God? Why the prophets in the Old Testament did not believe in Triune God? How can God be one and three at the same time etc?
his verse. I was convinced that both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament God clearly revealed this.Philosophically, if God is love, the question whom was He loving before the creation can be answered by only accepting the plurality of persons within the Godhead. For me, God as love is very significant. So this question can only be answered by accepting the Trinity of God. JT: Amen. In fact in the very verse that Jesus quoted and convinced you we have the Triune God- the Holy Spirit (speaking by the Spirit), the Father and the Son (The Lord said to my Lord)!!! I know that you were recently tied up to a tree for preaching the Gospel in a predominantly Muslim village. You left your family, honor in the society and everything for Jesus Christ, and now even suffers for the Kingdom of God. Can you tell us what Christians could do better for many like you? AH: I work among the Muslims in villages. Recently I was speaking to an Imam in a mosque and we were reasoning together about the uni-plural personality of God. He understood where I am heading towards. He immediately asked me are you saying that Jesus is God? By that time, the time for Namaz had come and he had to leave. You see how important the subject Trinity is. It immediately leads to the divinity of Jesus. However, not many Christians are aware of it. I was attending a Christian seminar in Bangalore. They said that Trinity is very difficult to be understood and so on and so forth. I got up and told that it is not so. I explained to them the doctrine of Trinity. Also when a Muslim comes to Christ, they have many questions. We should not reject them. And their language, taste and culture are totally different. Many Christians did not accept me as a Christian because my slangs are from Islamic culture; my taste is from Islamic culture etc. It is very difficult to face rejection on these accounts particularly when we are without any support. JT: When I hear your testimony I remember the verse that “The wind blows where it wishes, and you can hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). You first read Quran, then heard the Afghanistan war- unlikely places to find the LORD Jesus Christ. But then God moves in a way that is mysterious to us. God bless you and provide you for all your needs. Thank you Abdul for joining us. AH: Thank you Jerry.
Note: This interview has been conducted in multilingual setting with translation as Abdul is not so fluent with English.