Stories of how people come to faith in Christ can be moving and powerful. In the earliest days of the Church, for example, we read of the amazing conversion of the Apostle Paul (Acts chapters 9 and 22). Paul was a man deeply committed to a religion (first century Judaism) but came to believe in Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Paul had misunderstood and opposed the Christian message, but one day he met Jesus personally and his life was changed forever. As a result, he became a great missionary for Christ. God still saves people like this, even out of religious systems that totally oppose the gospel. Jamel Attar’s little book, I Believed in ‘Issa*, I Met Jesus, tells such a story. It is written with simplicity but is an amazing and powerful testimony of his own conversion from a religion to a person, Jesus, the Son of God. Today Jamel is a pastor in France and an effective witness for Christ.
Pastor Attar lays out his purpose in writing this book in the introduction. He wants to offer his experience as an example of a Muslim who found the truth in Jesus. He wants to help Muslims understand the truth of Christianity as opposed to what their religion has misled them to believe. And, finally, he wants Christians to understand the challenges that confront Muslims when they hear the gospel. This is why the author spends about half of his short book helping Christians grasp what Muslims believe. He does this in an accurate way that is easy to understand.
Attar’s account of how he was born into Islam and then gradually came to discover it for himself is quite moving. As a young boy, he wanted to please God and be the best Muslim he could. He discovered the Qur’an and other Muslim writings and devoted himself to mastering them and trying his best to imitate Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. His hope for salvation was in his good works, the mercy of God and the intercession of Muhammad. But there was a problem: the young Attar could never be sure he had done enough to please God.
Sadly, what Islam taught Jamel Attar about Christianity was simply not true. His Muslim teachers distorted what Christians believe and only made reference to it to confirm what Islam taught. They taught him that Christians believed in more than one God, which was the worst of sins. Jesus, they instructed him, was only a prophet and did not die on the cross, nor did he rise from the dead. His message, they argued, was simply the same as the message of Islam.
In the Lord’s providence, Jamel went to France to study at a university. Here he met Christians for the first time. When challenged by some kind believers to consider the gospel, the young Muslim decided to read the Bible so he could refute them. But in the process two amazing things happened: first, Pastor Attar found many of the stories from the Qur’an already in the Bible; and second, he was confronted with the person of Jesus. Gradually Jamel came to understand the gospel. He was especially captured by the truth of God’s love for him in Christ. He writes, “The brilliant shining love of God in Jesus Christ began to pierce through the opaque armor of my Muslim faith which had kept it hidden from me.”
This little book joins a growing number of written accounts of how Muslims have come to faith in Christ. Another good read, for example, is Nabeel Qureshi’s book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, which came out in 2016. Nabeel was a brilliant apologist and this is reflected in his books. Nabeel went home to be with the Lord this year, but he left behind a wonderful legacy of not only his conversion but his kind engagement with other Muslims. Jamel Attar’s book, however, is also well worth the read. In many ways it is a much simpler account. But for this very reason it is powerful and wonderfully clear.
There is an attending human-interest story that goes with Jamel Attar’s conversion. The Christian pastor in France that led Jamel to Christ had a daughter. Eventually Jamel married her, and not only this, but he himself became the pastor of her father’s church. The Lord works in wonderful ways to bring people to himself, even a lost Muslim boy from Morocco.
This book is worth reading and sharing with your friends. Perhaps the Lord will even allow you to pass it on to a Muslim seeking the truth.
Daniel Ebert is president of The Christian Training and Missionary Fellowship and adjunct professor at Trinity International University. He can be reached at [email protected].