The Dawning


The Dawning

The Dawning

The Story of Aishath
and Her Quest for the Truth of God

(This comes from the pen of an 18-year-old homeschooled student. You will find it worth reading)

It was late in the afternoon, and the hot sunshine blazed down on the Pakistani village of Kamalia. Little barefooted, brown-skinned children ran about on the dusty road, shouting in their play. The slender, graceful form of a young girl bent over the village well, filling two aluminum pails. Aishath took a sip of the cool, refreshing water from her cupped hands, and splashed the rest over her hot face. She wished the refreshing water could also wash away the turmoil within her, as it washed the perspiration from her brow. She rose, gathered the pails and slowly started home along the dry, dusty road.

Normally cheerful and energetic in her work, today Aishath thoughtfully made her way home along the narrow village streets. She hardly noticed when she passed the Sheik’s house. There was too much troubling her young mind.

Aishath was the daughter of an influential, well-to-do man. She was among the few girls to go to Koranic school in their village. There she learned to read and she memorized the entire Koran. Aishath had grown up immersed in her parents’, her people’s, her country’s religion. She lived by all the laws governing Muslims. She prayed five times a day and she fasted during the month of Ramadan. She even gave rupees (coins) from her personal allowance to the poor beggars whenever she passed through the marketplace. But something was missing. There was a nagging doubt, a fear of the future. Bilquis, her mother, said that she should not worry about it. She was only a girl. The men knew the Koran and could tell their families how to live.

Still, Aishath wanted to know more. What was beyond this life? Muslims were forever fasting and praying and doing good deeds so they could enter paradise, yet no one actually knew that he would be forgiven. Paradise was full of lovely virgins to satisfy the men, but what was there for the women? Allah was such a distant, untouchable god. In school, Aishath was taught to believe in all of Allah’s prophets: Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and his children, Moses, Jesus and the others, and finally Muhammad. Yet there was an inconsistency. The Jews, who followed Moses, and the Christians, who followed Jesus, were considered unbelievers because they did not accept the last prophet, Muhammad. All these perplexing thoughts clouded the bright sunshine from her eyes as she neared the gate.

Inside her own courtyard, Aishath’s mind returned to her work. She poured the water into a large pot for making the evening tea, and set about helping to prepare the meal. Tomorrow her father would be returning from his hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy city. Maybe he would have learned something new there and could answer some of her questions. She would ask him then.

There was great rejoicing among the family and close friends of Abu Sadar when he returned to his village from the long journey to Mecca. Aishath did not have a chance to speak to her father about her unsettled thoughts that day. She was busy helping the women prepare the feast for that night. Friends from the village would be coming to celebrate “Haji” Abu Sadar’s return, and the Sheik and his son would be there as well. Aishath ran many hurried errands to and from the well and marketplace that day. Anticipation crowded out her thoughts of doubt.

The Sheik was the first to arrive. When Aishath saw him entering the gate, she quickly drew her dupatta, or veil, more closely over her head, and tossed the end across the lower part of her face. She needed to be most proper and respectful around the grim old man, for she was engaged to his youngest son, Abdul Ibrahim. She must not displease him in any way, for he was to be her father-in-law.

When the Sheik’s son arrived, she blushed and turned to help serve the food. Abdul Ibrahim had a piercing gaze just like his father. However, his eyes were kind and with his bright smile, he seemed much more friendly. Though Aishath sat with the women during the meal, she could feel him watching her. Since their marriage had been arranged two months before, Aishath had begun to like this frank young man. She wondered what he would think of her questioning of the truth of their Islamic beliefs.

The next morning as she poured her father’s tea, Aishath hesitantly spoke to him. “Father,” she began, “How can we know that we will enter paradise?”

“What put such a thought into your head, child?” he asked in surprise. “No one knows where he will go, but if we are faithful to Allah and to his messenger, then maybe Allah will forgive us and reward us in paradise.”

Aishath recalled her father’s narration about the hajj the night before. In Mecca, all the pilgrims circle the Kaaba, a large cube that holds the sacred black stone, seven times. Then they go up and kiss it. The people carry out their pilgrimage with such a religious fervor, for that is an important event in the life of every devout Muslim. Everything swirled around in her head, just like the throng of pilgrims surging in an endless stream around the Kaaba in Mecca. She feared to ask her father any more questions about their unquestionable religion, for she could not sort out her own thoughts.

“Don’t worry about it, Aishath.” Abu Sadar broke into her thoughts. “We are Muslims and we will remain Muslims. Our ancestors have been Muslims and nothing else. You will be okay as long as you do not renounce Islam like those wretched infidels, the Jews and the Christians. Obey the Sheik, and you will have nothing to fear.”

The vehemence with which he spoke against the Jews and Christians disconcerted her gentle heart. It was said that they worshipped the same God that the Muslims did, but why then the harsh words? Aishath’s confusion and distress of mind were only heightened, so she said no more.

The marketplace in Kamalia was a bustle of sounds, colors, and smells. Goats and sheep bleated along the street where they were tied, waiting to be sold. Scrawny assortments of chickens floundered and squawked in the dust, their legs bound together with twine. Merchants shouted to each other across the way, and called out to the people in the street. Sellers of silk and cotton fabrics displayed their wares in a rainbow of colors under the shanty roofs: white, fuchsia, plum, green, and tangerine. Glittering brass and copper trays and candlestick holders brought many admirers, but few buyers. There were booths that sold spices, their aromas tantalizing all who passed by.

The Dawning

All these Aishath passed as she headed toward the food market, beyond the other noisy vendors. She stopped at the stand where she had been a regular customer for the last two months. A poor family with young children sold vegetables there. They always seemed happy and content, and never had a harsh word or contemptuous glance for the filthy beggars who roamed the streets in search of handouts. They were friendly to everyone, and Aishath knew they never cheated their customers. Aishath enjoyed chatting with them, despite the difference in economical station. Today Aishath noticed again how happy they seemed. The girl several years younger than she came to the front of the shanty to wait on her. As Aishath counted out the money to pay for the onions, tomatoes, and mangoes, she commented, “You are always so cheerful.”

“Oh!” replied the girl with a pleasant laugh, “You see, Jesus has forgiven me and now I am a child of God. I am happy because He is with me.”

Aishath started a little at this unexpected answer. “Oh! Are you . . . a . . . a Christian?” she asked softly as she leaned slightly forward. The fear of speaking with an “infidel” played on her face, but Aishath was transfixed. Her purchases were forgotten and the noise of the marketplace drowned in her swirling thoughts. She must learn more!

“Yes, I am a Christian. My parents are, too. Jesus has saved us from our sins, and now we know we will go to live with him in heaven someday. He has given us such great peace and joy, that it does not matter to us anymore that we are poor. I know that Jesus will take care of us.”

The girl said this with such a friendly, open, and trusting smile, that Aishath longed to pour out all her questions and confusion to her. Though this girl was younger than she, Aishath was drawn to her because of her peaceful, yet earnest, demeanor.

“What is your name?”


“I am Aishath. Oh, Hasina, I wish I could be sure about what I believe. I wish I could be sure that I would not enter the Fire. I wish I had peace and joy like you do.”

The girl at the vegetable stand smiled knowingly and pityingly. “I, too, know what it is like to live in fear and uncertainty. But Jesus has taken away my fear.”

Aishath knew she was risking her reputation and her parents’ wrath to speak about such matters to a Christian, but she was compelled to go on. “How may I learn about your religion, so I may know the truth and find the right way?” she asked Hasina.

The girl answered by pulling a little book out of her pocket. “Do you know how to read?” she asked.

“Yes,” answered Aishath eagerly, looking at the book in the girl’s hands. “I learned how to read in school.” She did not know what to think of the poor farmer’s girl asking her this, for only the wealthier families sent their girls to school.

“This is my beloved book.” Hasina grasped her little Bible tenderly, debating the wisdom of her intent. Aishath saw the depth of the girl’s emotion linked to her little, shabby book. A cloud of inner struggle and loss darkened Hasina’s lowered face, but this was replaced with a calm resoluteness. Looking again at Aishath, Hasina said, “Take it. In here you will learn of God’s love and mercy. In here you will find the peace and happiness that I have found.”

“But . . .”

“Take it. You can bring it back next week. Jesus wants me to share it with you. My parents would also want me to.” Hasina brushed aside a creeping tear, and sighed to regain control of her emotions. What if the book was never returned? “It is the only book we have. It holds the words of God. It is our only source of strength. But please take it anyway. God will provide for us. I pray that you, too, will come to know the true Savior through this book.”

Hasina’s last words were spoken with such passionate fervor that even Aishath was almost moved to tears. “Thank you,” she whispered as she reached out a trembling hand to accept the sacrificed book. “Thank you,” she repeated, unable to voice the tremendous surge of unexplainable gratitude and appreciation that welled within her. Only Aishath knew the intensity with which she had longed to find purpose and truth. Now the keys to it lay in her hands–if the girl’s words were true.

She silently gathered her forgotten purchases into her basket and tucked the little Bible into her qamiz, a long blouse-like tunic. Smiling “Goodbye” to Hasina, Aishath set off hurriedly for home.

The whole way home, Aishath pondered the words of Hasina. The girl loved her book dearly. Muslims, too, revered their holy book, the Koran, but this was different. Hasina said that it was the only strength her family had to rely on. She held the shabby little book as life itself! Aishath could hardly wait to get home and finish the day’s work, so she could spend time alone to read. She hoped she would find the answers to all her questions in the little book Hasina had called “beloved.” For now, however, she must conceal it, so it would not arouse suspicion in her family.

That night as the family ate their meal together, Bilquis noticed that her daughter was not very talkative. “Aishath, you do not enter in our conversations. What is on your mind?”

Aishath flashed a smile as she glanced up at her mother. “Oh, was I quiet?” she asked absentmindedly.

“Why, ever since you came home from market you were so absorbed in your own thoughts that you did all your work like a machine. You must have met Abdul Ibrahim in the streets and now you are dreaming about him,” Bilquis said with a sly smile.

“No, I did not see him,” replied Aishath.

“Then why do you act so reserved, child?” prodded her father.

Not wanting to upset him, Aishath carefully measured her words. “The girl at the stand where I purchased tomatoes and onions this afternoon was so happy. She said she has no fear of the Fire because she is forgiven. She seemed so . . . free.” Aishath played with the broken piece of chapati bread in her hand as she awaited her parents’ reaction.

“That is foolishness, Aishath,” returned Abu Sadar, swallowing a big mouthful of food. “No one can know if he is forgiven until the Last Day. Your mind is soft and easily led astray. You must stay away from Christians, for they will deceive you with their false talk.”

“Listen to your father,” joined in Bilquis, “and let the men tell us which way to follow. Don’t trouble your mind with these little things. Soon you will be married, and then you will be happy.”

Aishath said no more. She felt as if no one could ever understand her. Inside, she felt new desperation. How would Abdul Ibrahim react to her questions? Would he also think her a foolish, silly, weak-minded woman? After the family had settled down for the night, Aishath quietly relit her lamp and stole the mysterious, little, black book out of hiding.

The Dawning

Not knowing where to start or what to look for, she began reading at the beginning. The Gospel of Matthew began with the genealogy of Jesus, went on to tell about his birth, and then about his miracles and teachings. Page after page, Aishath kept on reading. It was too captivating for her to put it down. As a Muslim, she had always been taught that Jesus was a prophet, but this book claimed that he was the Son of God. Not only was Jesus a great teacher and prophet, he was perfect; he healed the sick! All this was very disturbing to Aishath. Though she did not understand some things or know what to think about the book, something about it was wonderful. It was unlike all she had ever known about God or Allah’s prophet, Muhammad. Unlike the Koran, which was a jumble of unchronological events and contradictory commands, this book told the marvelous story of Jesus in an orderly fashion. Muhammad claimed to be the final and greatest prophet of Allah, but Jesus said he was the fulfillment of the law. Though the book contradicted Islamic teaching, Aishath noted that everything in it was good, for Jesus taught people to live good lives. At last so exhausted that she could no longer keep her eyes open, Aishath returned the book to its safe place and blew out the lamp. There was so much to ponder, but she felt sure now that the book would give her some answers and comfort. Aishath fell asleep that night with a new hope.

Every night that week, Aishath stayed up late reading the little, black testament. Its words filled her mind throughout the days, puzzling her and yet awakening a desire to know more. She longed to talk to someone about it, but she never mentioned the book to her parents or any of her friends–not even to Abdul Ibrahim. It would be a dangerous subject to bring up. After every day of intense wondering, Aishath settled down to read in the book of hope, feasting on every page. Aishath, prodded by her curiosity, determined to ask Hasina about all she had read.

Next market day found Aishath striding purposefully toward the vegetable stand that belonged to Hasina’s family. To her utter astonishment, Aishath found it empty. The shanty was ransacked, and all the produce was strewn and smashed on the rickety table, on the ground, and on the street. An angry mob had gathered, and men’s enraged voices filled the hot afternoon air. “We don’t want any Christians in our village!” “Get out of here, despisers of Allah!” “Return to Islam, and we will accept you!” The men picked up onions and tomatoes and hurled them at Hasina and her family with fury.

Aishath sobbed inwardly as she witnessed their cruel treatment. Hasina’s mother protectively clutched her little boy, trying to shield him from the onslaught. Hasina staggered as a large potato slammed into her head with a terrifying “whack.” She bravely tried to smile through the tears of pain and rejection as she gripped her young sister’s hand and helped her along. Hasina’s father, a small man, held his head high as he shepherded his family down the street. The young children whimpered and cried in fear, their dark, innocent eyes opening wide at the hate they had never before experienced. Aishath noted how Hasina and her parents did not retaliate or even try to defend themselves. Though she saw tears on their faces, no hatred or bitterness was harbored there. The whole marketplace had turned into an arena, as vendors and shoppers alike left their bargains to join in the throng. Insults and unjust accusations and stones and rotten potatoes now were being hurled in a continuous stream at the lone Christian family. Aishath heard Hasina’s father cry out to heaven the very words she had read the night before: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Perhaps that is what touched her most, for Aishath could no longer hold back the tears of righteous anger and pity. Her face burned as she stood there, dumbfounded. This family was acting more nobly than those who were accusing them!

Then Aishath saw Sheik Abdallah and his son, Abdul Ibrahim. In horror she realized that they were leading the mob! The Sheik wielded his rod vehemently as he cursed Hasina’s family, threatening punishment if they did not renounce their faith in Jesus. Aishath watched, aghast, as her betrothed joined in the attack, his face disfigured with hatred toward the people who had done him no wrong. He shouted and cursed at them, his voice hoarse with rage.

Hasina’s father directed his attention toward the Sheik’s son and said, “If only you could know the love of Jesus. He forgives!”

At this, Sheik Abdallah cried out, “They have no part with us. They have rejected Allah and his holy messenger! Since they will not renounce this heresy, we forbid them to drink water from this village’s well. They will contaminate our village!”

Aishath yearned to go and comfort Hasina, but that would put herself at the mob’s mercy. Aishath was faint from shock. She was glad no one recognized her or noticed her consternation. In their state of mind, angry men full of “jihad” (holy war) would certainly turn upon anyone who showed the least bit of sympathy towards the Christians.

Sickened and weak from the disquieting events of that afternoon, Aishath walked wearily home. The scenes she had witnessed that day tormented her tender spirit. Innocent Hasina, who had sparked a friendship with her only the week before, along with her whole family, had been driven out of Kamalia by the militant Muslims. Though it could have been worse–they could have been tortured or put to death–Aishath was shaken. The Sheik, and his son, whom she was to marry, had not only taken part in the mob but had led it and roused it to crueler anger. The Sheik had placed his seal of approval on the mob’s actions, and had taken an unmistakable stand against the Christians. This man was to be her father-in-law! Not only that, but her own betrothed had taken part . . . . Aishath shuddered again as she remembered the anger and hatred he had displayed as he shouted at the forlorn family and hurled stones at them. How could she ever love a man who would do that? Now she truly feared to speak to him about all that was on her heart. He would surely beat her if they were married. She had no one to turn to. Hasina was gone; her plans to speak to her that afternoon had been rudely arrested. Now she was even more desperate to pour out her emotions! Aishath clenched her teeth and tried to hold back the tears of frustration, of loneliness, and of turmoil from the afternoon’s calamity.

That evening, Abdul Ibrahim showed up at the door of Abu Sadar. The Sheik’s son had come to speak with her father, but since he was not yet in, he turned his attention to Aishath. His expression softened when he saw her, but Aishath could hardly bear to meet his gaze. She remembered too clearly the hate she had seen on his face earlier that day. Cheerfully addressing her, he began, “How’s my Aishath?”

Aishath’s dark eyes flashed as she turned to him. Ignoring his inquiry, she spoke: “I saw you in the marketplace this afternoon.”

“Oh, did you?” He raised his eyebrows. Laughing dryly, he continued, “We drove unbelievers from the village. Contaminants!” he spat out.

“But what had they done?” Aishath cried out. “How could they deserve such horrible treatment?”

“They rejected Allah’s prophet and his commands. They are our enemies. They are enemies of Allah,” he replied simply, but with a bit of irritation.

“They did not wrong anyone,” she protested.

The Sheik’s son responded with growing impatience, “You should not have been there. You are too sensitive to observe such things. You should not sympathize with the Christians, or something bad may happen to you, too.”

Aishath’s heart sank beyond hope at his words; she knew it would never be safe to speak to him about her talk with Hasina or the Bible she was reading.

That weary night when Aishath again got out Hasina’s book, the words blurred on the pages as she tried to read. Laying down her head with a shuddering sigh, Aishath recounted the events of the day. Her thoughts wandered to more questions. Why did Muslims hate Christians? They were good people, if they lived by the teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught about love and about righteousness. It puzzled Aishath that her own people, while claiming that Jesus was a prophet, did not follow his teachings. Somewhere, something was dreadfully wrong. Had not Jesus said, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”? Here, it was the Muslims who were enemies of the Christians; it was the Muslims who persecuted the Christians. Then her mind drifted to another thought. When Hasina and her family were driven out of the village by the Muslims, none of them retaliated in any way. They did not complain, or curse, or become angry. Instead, they had looked with compassion on their persecutors. Aishath recalled something else she had read. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” It did not end there as an arbitrary rule, but continued encouragingly. “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” So that was why Hasina took her family’s plight so calmly.

All that was written in the worn, black Bible, all Hasina had said to her, and all she had witnessed that day solidified her desire to be a Christian. She saw clearly that the way of Jesus was much better than that of the Muslims. But everyone was against her! No one understood her longing to find the truth about life and about God. To whom could she turn?

Exhausted in body and spirit, Aishath dropped off to sleep, the book open beside her on the bed.

After a night of fitful sleep, Aishath was rudely jolted awake by her mother. “What is this?” she demanded, in an agitated voice. Abu Sadar quickly appeared by her side. “Where did you get this?” he too demanded. Too groggy to answer, Aishath stared dazedly at her parents. As she came to her senses, fear gripped her heart. Hasina’s Bible! They had found her Bible!

The room was tense; Aishath saw that her parents were angry. “It is a Bible. It was given to me,” she answered quietly. Inside, she was trembling.

“Who gave it to you?” her father demanded, louder this time.

“The girl at the produce stand.”

“The ones who were driven out of the village yesterday? I have told you before to stay away from those Christians. I will not have my daughter deceived by such nonsense. You will bring curses upon our family!” he shouted. Snatching the Bible from his wife, he ripped off the cover, saying, “This is what will be done to anyone in my family who turns from the faith and becomes a Christian.”

Aishath gasped. She started toward her father to retrieve the precious book, but he swung his arm up out of her reach.

“I am going to burn this. It is a book of the infidels. I will not allow it in my home!” he ranted. Then he spat on the naked book, sealing his words.

“But you do not know what it is like!” she cried desperately. “You judge something you do not know! It teaches about the love of God. It teaches people to live right before God. There is nothing bad in it.”

Abu Sadar cut her off with a sharp blow with the book in his hand. “You ungrateful, rebellious daughter! Do not talk to me like that!” He struck her again with her book of love. Then he went out.

Aishath sank onto her bed and wept. “Allah, or God, or Jesus, of whoever you are, hear me,” she begged. “I want to follow you in the right way, but I don’t know how. And now I can not even read about you anymore. If you are a God of love, then help me, as Hasina said you would.” And she sobbed some more.

During the following weeks the troubling thoughts of eternity and truth and the words of Jesus never left Aishath. What could she do? She could no longer read about Jesus, and there was no one in whom she could confide. It was not safe for her to talk to anyone about her questioning of Islam. Every time she tried to figure it out, she just grew more and more desperate and dissatisfied. Perhaps her mother was right–maybe she should just forget the whole thing and not trouble her young mind with questions of religion. It would be so simple to accept her people’s religion just as she accepted her parents’ choice of a husband for her. But no! She had to know. Now that she had read in the book of God, she could neither forget nor dismiss its words. She could not live with herself if she blindly followed something she knew to be false. Yet, how would she ever know? Day after day, Aishath tried to put these thoughts far from her mind, but to no avail. She tried to lose herself in each new task, only to have the thoughts pop up again and again. Anxiety afflicted her day and night.

One afternoon Aishath went to the village well as usual. Heavy clouds smothered the tropical summer landscape, foreshadowing a thunderstorm. The well was as deserted as she felt, but as Aishath drew closer, she was startled to discover a stranger sitting on a rock nearby. She could tell that he was European, for he was not wearing a turban like the Pakistani men. His light brown head was bowed over a little black book, just like the one Hasina had lent her, and he appeared deep in thought as he read aloud to himself. Pausing, she drew her dupatta carefully over her head and across her face before advancing to the well. She silently filled her pails with water, straining to hear his words. “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.” Gathering the sloshing pails of water, Aishath rose. At this, he looked up at her and smiled. “Hello,” he said pleasantly.

Aishath nodded her greeting, and after a moment’s pause, turned to leave. The man spoke again, causing Aishath to stop in midstride. “Excuse me; do you know of the family of Ali Eshaq?” he queried. At her blank look of confusion, he continued, “They had a produce stand in the marketplace here.” Then he proceeded to describe the family.

Aishath’s eyes lit up with recognition. Momentarily forgetting her reserve around unfamiliar men, she set down her pails of water and exclaimed, “I knew Hasina!” Upon his further inquiry, Aishath related the story of the riot and the family’s banishment. Though uneasy about speaking to the missionary, she sensed that this was the answer to her prayer. Finding in the man a sympathetic listener, Aishath longed to pour out the whole story of her questioning of eternity, her talk with Hasina, and her own persecution at home. As simply as she could, she told about her confusion after reading Hasina’s Bible, and about her craving to learn more. When she finished, the missionary began to find a scripture in his worn Bible to show her, but Aishath stopped him. “It is not safe for me to be seen with you, since you are a Christian. My mother will begin to worry about me since I have been gone so long. But I wish so very much to talk to someone about Jesus. This is what I have been praying for.”

The tall, kindly man rose slowly to his feet. “My name is Stephen. This is where you can find me,” he said, handing her a scrap of paper with his address and directions to his house written on it. “If you come when I am gone, my wife will welcome you and talk with you. Her name is Elizabeth. Please do not be afraid to come.” Then pulling another paper out of his pocket, Stephen handed it to Aishath, also. “I do not have a Bible to give you right now, but you can read this. It will help answer your questions about Jesus.” Aishath thanked him, picked up her pails again, said goodbye, and departed. She hurried her steps homeward to make up for lost time, hoping her mother would not ask about her long trip to the well. She rejoiced that God had heard her prayer, and that she was able to speak to someone about the longing in her heart, even though it had been somewhat awkward.

That night Aishath once more cautiously relit her lamp after everyone in the house was asleep. Because of her parents’ discovery of the Bible, she feared the consequences should they find her disobeying. She read the entire tract from the missionary. It showed that Jesus was more than a prophet; he was the son of God and the Savior of the world. Through the words of the prophets, it proved that God did have a son–Jesus. It explained why Jesus had to die on a cross, and revealed the Jewish prophecies that foretold that event. To Aishath it made sense. Yet it exposed the inconsistencies of her Muslim faith with great clarity. If Jesus was truly a prophet, as Muhammad had taught, then his teachings had to be true. If Jesus’ teachings were true, then they should obey them. If Jesus was who he claimed to be, then he was the “final and greatest prophet” (and more) rather than Muhammad. If that was so, then Muhammad was wrong, and everything her people believed was false.

It is very disconcerting to discover that everything one’s life has been built upon is false. In Pakistan, the lifestyle, culture, economy, and government revolve around one central religion. Islam forms the bond among the people of Pakistan. Family and village ties are built upon that common religion. Islam is not just a religion; it is a way of life. The intricate relationships within this provide the security for every individual. When Aishath realized that her Islamic beliefs were wrong, she did not know what to do. If she renounced Islam, she would have to give up the security of her family, her ties with friends, respect in the village, social status and prestige, even her proposed marriage to Abdul Ibrahim. She would bring shame and reproach on her family, and they would reject her. Aishath recalled her father’s angry threat that morning he had taken Hasina’s Bible from her: he would strip and expose any person in his family who would dare turn to Christianity. She would be abandoned, excluded, left entirely on her own. Then there would really be no one to turn to. Everything outside of the Muslim life was fearful and unknown. The possibilities loomed before her troubled mind. She would not be able to drink from the village well. She could be punished by the Sheik, beaten, or driven from the village like Hasina’s family had been. She would be utterly forsaken.

Aishath now mistrusted everything in her Muslim religion. However, she kept quiet and said nothing to her family, for that would do no good. She waited in fear, unsure of herself. She wanted to do what was right, but there were so many obstacles. What if she were wrong? The troubled thoughts about eternity recurred, gnawing at her guilty conscience. She had to do something. Her wedding was drawing near, and after she was married there would be no turning back. The strain of having to make a decision under such adverse circumstances weighed heavily upon her sensitive being. Every day she tried to pray–to Allah, or Jesus; she was too confused to know which was right. Was Allah really another name for the God of the Jews and Christians? Their characters were too different. Aishath’s inner struggle continued day after day, week after week, till this existence became months. The approach of her wedding intensified the mental and emotional battle that waged within her, until it finally reached its climax. She could not remain a Muslim, and she could not marry a Muslim.

The Dawning

Late one night, after all had been still in the house for about an hour, Aishath rose stealthily from her bed and wrapped a dark shawl around herself. She cautiously picked up her sandals and the lamp from beside the bed. After listening for any stirring in the house, she stepped out of her room. In her bare feet, Aishath slowly tiptoed through the house to the courtyard, and then out to the gate. The village lay sleeping around her. Stars shown brightly in the clear, dark sky, but no moon illuminated the path. She slipped out the gate and turned down the street that led toward the country. She could see the pale expanse of the wheat fields on the outskirts of the village. Once she reached the fields, Aishath stopped briefly to put on her sandals, since the road was more rocky there, and no one would be around to hear her pass.

The village where the missionary lived was four miles to the north. Aishath thought she could cover that distance in less than two hours, in spite of the darkness, the roughness of the track connecting the villages, and her unfamiliarity with the way. She knew it would be dangerous for a girl to be out unaccompanied at night on a deserted highway. However, the desire burning within her to learn more about Christ drove her on. If God had answered her prayer once, He surely would keep her safe as she traveled to hear more about Him. Once she entered a thick grove of trees, she lit her lamp. Her distance from the village would prevent anyone from seeing the light. Gnats and moths whined and flitted about her face because of the bright light, but she did not want to blow it out. It made her feel safer as she trudged along alone. The night had become cool and Aishath was glad for her shawl. She hoped the village where she was headed was not too far away, for she was growing tired; she thought it must be around midnight.

As she made her way along the hazardous highway, all sorts of fears flashed into Aishath’s mind. Could she return home before dawn? What would her parents do when they discovered her missing? She would certainly find herself in even more trouble this time, since she disregarded her father’s orders. Perhaps she had done a foolish thing. After going this far, however, she might as well continue on to the missionary’s house. If she did turn around and go home to save herself from her parents’ fury, she would never find the true peace she was looking for. She had to go on.

At last Aishath saw the village up ahead. She stopped to look at the directions on the scrap of paper the missionary had given her. Then she extinguished the lamp. She was relieved that his house was on this end of the village, so she would have few houses to pass. She did not want any dogs to bark at her. Again moving cautiously, Aishath walked into the village. Her heart beat faster. What if she knocked on the wrong door? According to the paper, she found his house, the fourth one into the village along the main street. It was a small house, and not a wealthy one. There was no gate leading into a front courtyard; the door of the house was butt up against the street. Aishath felt uneasy going to a stranger’s house, but this was her only chance to ease her troubled soul. Aishath paused a moment, then rapped gently. She was surprised when, moments later, the door swung open. In the darkness, she recognized the white missionary. Before she could say anything, Stephen beckoned her inside, shut the door, and said, “Welcome. I have been expecting you.” Lighting a candle, he went and roused his wife. Returning with his arm around her, Stephen introduced her. “This is my wife, Elizabeth. We are very glad you have come to us tonight. I remember meeting you at the well in Kamalia. What is your name?”

“I am Aishath. I am the daughter of Abu Sadar and Bilquis. In a month I am to be married to Abdul Ibrahim, the son of the Sheik. I came to you tonight because I am aching to know more about Jesus and the God of the Christians, and how to be a Christian. My parents and my betrothed laugh at me and do not allow me to speak to Christians or read their book. They do not understand why I want so much to know about your God, and they punished me for having a Bible. I came at night because that was the only way I could come. And now I do not know what will happen when I get home.” Here she stopped, despair sweeping over her. Her shoulders sagged with weariness.

“You must be tired and thirsty from the long trip,” spoke Elizabeth gently. “May I get you a drink?”

Aishath assented, and then said, “I am sorry to trouble you so late at night. Maybe I should not have come.”

Stephen replied, “We are servants of Jesus Christ. It is never too late at night for us to help someone. Do not feel bad about coming here.”

Though strangers, these people opened their home to Aishath. She felt safe with them. Aishath noted that Elizabeth dressed in the shalwar-qamiz and the dupatta, just like the Pakistani women. This missionary couple radiated love, holiness, and zeal for God. They were not the typical westerners who caused Muslims to despise Christianity.

Elizabeth returned shortly with a cup of water for Aishath, and Stephen opened his Bible. Beginning in the Gospels, he showed her that Jesus was the Son of God, and that he fulfilled the prophecies made about him. He explained to her why Allah is not the true, living God. Together, they taught her what it means to be a Christian. “You see, God is just and holy, but he is also full of love and compassion. He loved us so much that he sent Jesus, his only son, to earth to die as a sacrifice for our sins. The scripture says that ‘anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.’ Jesus was crucified on a tree, and so he took on himself the curse from all our sins. God turned his back on his son for a short time, so he could love us and forgive us. Because Jesus triumphed over death–he is alive again–we too can live forever with him.” They taught Aishath that people cannot earn their salvation by doing many good deeds. “We are commanded to obey him, but we are saved only by his grace,” Elizabeth pointed out. Far into the morning hours they taught Aishath and answered her multitude of questions. Aishath became so engrossed in all she was learning that the danger of the morning dimmed. The good news overwhelmed her, convincing her beyond a doubt that she must turn from her old religion and follow Jesus. At last she was finding the answer to her fundamental questions about life and eternity.

Suddenly realizing that dawn was nearing, Aishath broke out, “I can’t go home like this. Though I believe all you say, I will be just as guilty as I was before I knew. I must do something! What is there to keep me from becoming a Christian?”

“Nothing. The Lord is answering our prayers for you!” they replied with thankful hearts. “Yet,” continued Stephen soberly, “do you realize what this will mean? Your parents will punish you and maybe drive you out of their home. The man you loved will try to force you to give up Jesus. Your reputation will be ruined, and everyone will turn against you. You may be driven out of the village just like Hasina’s family, or you could suffer floggings from the Sheik. By becoming a Christian, you will give up everything.”

Rising to her feet, Aishath exclaimed passionately, “All this time I have been in agony, searching for truth and purpose. Now that I have found what my longing heart desired, nothing means more to me than the happiness I have finally discovered. I have considered those things. But if Jesus gave his life because he loved me, what can I not sacrifice for him?”

“Oh, Praise God! Thank you, Lord!” they cried together. Rising to his feet, Stephen said in a low voice, “You understand what we have taught you about Jesus, and what your decision will mean. Since you are ready, we must go down to the river before dawn, so that no one will see you.”

After gathering a few towels, the three slipped quietly out the back door and crept along the dark alley until they were past the houses. Then Stephen led the way down a narrow path that women used to go to the river to wash.

No one spoke, but Aishath was busy with her own thoughts. She thought of her parents, awaking to find her gone. She thought of the prestigious Abdul Ibrahim, whom she would not marry now, and of his father, the Sheik, who would certainly be furious beyond description. She thought about Hasina, and how her family had been driven from their village. It was dangerous to become a Christian, and it was scary. But Hasina had been happy. Both the girl and the missionary and his wife possessed what Aishath craved. She could not turn back now.

Presently, Stephen turned into the woods. There was no path, and Stephen held back branches for the women to pass. Elizabeth whispered to Aishath that they must find a secret spot.

At last they reached a bend in the river, where the water slowed and created a sandy bank. Mist enshrouded the river, as the grayness of dawn softened with each passing minute. Stephen took off his shoes and Aishath her sandals. Elizabeth squeezed Aishath’s hand before the girl waded out into the chilly water after her husband.

“Aishath, do you believe that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, and that he died and rose again to save you, and that his blood cleanses you from your sins?”

“Yes. I believe in Jesus with all my heart.”

“And do you now commit your life to follow him and to serve him?”

“I am ready to do the Lord’s will.”

“Then I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so that your sins may be washed away, and that you may die to sin and rise again to new life in him, that you may be a child of God.” And with that, Stephen laid Aishath back in the water.

When Aishath rose above the surface of the water, praising God, she saw that the eastern sky was beginning to glimmer with pink and gold, and the mist was thinning. It mirrored the joy and new hope inside her. Christ was now her strength, so she could not fear the rejection that lay before her. The new day was dawning, and a new day was dawning within Aishath’s soul.

(The author wrote this interesting story in the senior year of her home education when she was eighteen years of age.)

Concluding Comment by Richard Hollerman

Although the foregoing story is not factual, it could very well occur in real life today. There is a vital message for each of us in this account, one that will encourage and bless you, one that will instruct and warn you.

Just as Aishath found the truth of God in the Bible (2 Timothy 3:15), you also may find the truth as you search the Scriptures and believe its saving message. Just as Aishath came to see that Jesus is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6), so you may find in Him the answer to your spiritual needs and the cry of your heart. And just as Aishath learned that following Jesus will mean suffering, persecution, and rejection by family and friends (2 Timothy 3:12), so you may find that following the Lord is indeed costly. Won’t you, like Aishath the Muslim girl, search for the truth and then willingly and joyfully embrace it to find new life—a new life given by the love of God through Christ Jesus. Along with Aishath, a new day can dawn in your own life!

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