From Jesus Freaks, pages 52-55, published by ‘The Voice of the Martyrs’, 1999.
“When you catch the infidels, beat them! Allah will be pleased,” Zahid encouraged them. The crowd of young men, the youth group of his mosque, waved their sticks and iron bars and cheered in agreement. Zahid’s arrogance and hatred swelled. He felt he was doing well as a young Muslim leader. His parents would be proud. He had rallied a rather large group for this outing and they were nearly ready to go. Within minutes they would be combing the streets of their village for Christians to ambush.
Zahid had a proud heritage in Pakistan. His father and older brother were both leaders in the local mosque. As expected, Zahid had followed in their footsteps. His hatred for Christians began to show itself as he rallied his followers against them.
To Zahid, as to many Muslims, Christians are heretics and should be punished. His government is becoming more influenced by Sharia law in some provinces. Sharia law calls for the death of anyone found guilty of blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed or the Koran. To these Muslims, rejecting Mohammed’s teachings by becoming a Christian is the highest form of blasphemy.
When their fervor peaked, Zahid led his group into the streets. It was not long before they found a group of young Christians to attack. As the mob descended upon them, the young boys ran, one of them dropping his Bible. One of Zahid’s group stopped, picked up the Bible, and opened it to rip out its pages. Zahid had always told his followers to burn all the Bibles they collected, but this time Zahid felt strangely compelled to keep it and study it in order to expose its errors to the people of his mosque. He quickly snatched the book from the man, encouraged him to chase the fleeing Christians, and tucked the Bible into his shirt for later.
Zahid reported in his own words what became of keeping that Bible:
I was reading the Bible, looking for contradictions I could use against the Christian faith. All of a sudden, a great light appeared in my room and I heard a voice call my name. The light was so bright, it lit the entire room. Then the voice asked, `Zahid, why do you persecute Me?’ I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. I thought I was dreaming. I asked, `Who are you?’ I heard, `I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ For the next three nights the light and the voice returned. Finally, on the fourth night, I knelt down and I accepted Jesus as my Savior.
Zahid’s hatred was suddenly gone. All he wanted to do was share Jesus with everyone he knew. He went to his family members and those in the mosque and told them what had happened to him over the last four nights, but they didn’t believe him. His family and friends turned against him. They called the authorities to have him arrested so he would leave them alone about this Jesus. According to Islamic teaching, Zahid was now considered an apostate, a traitor to Islam, a man who had turned from his faith and accepted stupid lies. Thus, he was a criminal.
Zahid was locked up in prison for two years. The guards repeatedly beat and tortured him. One time, they pulled out his fingernails in an attempt to break his faith. Another time, they tied him to the ceiling fan by his hair and left him to hang there. Zahid said:
Although I suffered greatly at the hands of my Muslim captors, I held no bitterness towards them. I knew that just a few years before, I had been one of them. I too had hated Christians. During my trial, I was found guilty of blasphemy. According to the Sharia law, I was to be executed by hanging. They tried to force me to recant my faith in Jesus. They assured me that if I cooperated there would be no more beatings, no more humiliation. I could go free. But I could not deny Jesus. Mohammed had never visited me; Jesus had. I knew He was the truth. I just prayed for the guards, hoping that they would also come to know Jesus.
On the day Zahid was to be hanged, he was unafraid of death as they came to take him from his cell. Even as they took him to his execution and placed the noose around his neck, Zahid preached about Jesus to his guards and executioners. He wanted his last breaths on earth to be used in telling his countrymen that Jesus was “the way, the truth, and the life.” Zahid stood ready to face his Savior.
Suddenly, loud voices were heard in the outer room. Guards hurried in to tell Zahid’s executioners that the court had unexpectedly issued an order to release Zahid, stating that there was not enough evidence to execute him. To this day, no one knows why Zahid was suddenly allowed to go free.
Zahid later changed his name to Lazarus, feeling that he too had been raised from death. He traveled in the villages around his home testifying of his narrow escape from death. Many of the Christians did not trust him at first. But soon they saw his sincerity and received him into their family. They now assist him as he travels from village to village preaching Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life.”
“I live in a land ruled by the false teaching of Islam” Zahid said. “My people are blinded, and I was chosen by God to be His voice. I count all that I have suffered nothing compared to the endless joy of knowing Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life.”
John 14:6a — Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
Acts 9:4-5 — He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.
Romans 8:18 — I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may move every human heart, that the barriers which divided us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease, and that, with our divisions healed, we might live in justice and peace; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–Lutheran Book of Worship, 1978, (#167).