From Death to Life: An Iranian Muslim Woman’s Journey to New Life in Christ
February 9, 2021
Life in Iran
I was raised in a Muslim home, but my parents did not actively practice their faith. My dad basically stopped practicing when he saw what the government was doing in the name of Islam during the revolution. My mom prayed, but we were not forced to pray at home.
I was always curious about God. I desired a loving, relational God, but that was not the God of Islam that I knew. I used to ask, “If God is love, why do we have to pray five times a day and go to Mecca for pilgrimage?”
In high school and university, it was compulsory to study Islam. There were many rules that oppressed women. At the beginning of the revolution, it was worse; but it continued. That is the main reason that I eventually left Iran.
From Iran to the US
My family applied to live in Canada, but the process was slow, so I decided to apply to schools in the US. I also started watching videos and motivational speeches online. I remember coming across a message by an online preacher and it seemed to me that the God he talked about was kind.
As I pursued my master’s degree in the US, I sometimes felt very lonely. About two months after I had arrived, I was feeling particularly sad. A girl sat down next to me in the dining hall at school and started talking to me. After a short conversation, she asked if I wanted to go to church. I accepted her invitation and went to church with her that weekend. We started attending together regularly, and we would often go to this girl’s home after the service. I witnessed a lot of love at that church, and between her family members.
There were many other activities at different church groups around campus. My friend once warned me to be careful about certain individuals who might approach me on campus claiming that they are Christians but don’t actually follow the teachings of the Bible. I started going to a church that a classmate suggested. His family attended there, and since I lived near the church, I went every week. My mom said that it was alright for me to go to the house of God; but, because she was afraid, she implored me not to become a Christian.
I kept going to church every week because the people were very loving; and I felt so much peace. People gave me furniture, helped me with daily life, invited me to their home Bible studies. My classmate’s mom was a lady who was always ready to pray for me. I also once stayed with my friend’s grandparents for a few days. They never asked me anything about my faith-- they just loved me. I liked that they didn’t ask me anything because I didn’t feel judged. One time I asked the grandmother if the God of Islam was the same as the God of Christians. She said, “Yes, but the belief is different.” Her answer was a relief to me.
I do remember sometimes struggling inside though, as I didn’t know what was true. Who was this God? Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, had said that he had come to complete all of the other religions before him. In Islam, Jesus is only a prophet, like Moses. How could Christians say that Jesus is who he is; and where did Muhammad fit into it all? I listened carefully to people when they talked to me about Jesus, but I didn’t like to be pushed. I needed time to process things.
Once at a Bible study, the leader said that Muslims don’t believe in a “creator God” , and I knew that was wrong. I then asked myself the question, “Why do these people have to prove that Muslims are wrong to prove that they are right?” That made me step back a little; but the genuine love of the people around me kept drawing me closer towards Jesus.
I remember going to a retreat with a church group on campus and being the only non-Christian there. I enjoyed it so much, although I was so confused and lost. I remember crying a lot during worship time because I was amazed at being able to hear music and sing in church! I never went to a church in Iran, but I once visited a church in Armenia. I was captivated by the singing—it seemed divine. In the Islam that I knew, music was banned. After the sermon, I went to talk to the pastor and asked him to pray for me. He was so kind and non-judgemental. He did not say anything about Islam being wrong. He just talked to me and said that he had Muslim friends and that he had been to Iran once, which I found very comforting.
After attending church for about two years, I had a dream. It was not a regular dream, but one that some Christian friends and I believed was a sign to get baptised. However, I did not make any decisions at that time. I finished my studies and moved to Montreal to join my family, who had moved there from Iran a few months before. Before I left the US, a Christian friend asked me how I felt about church. I told her that I saw a lot of love among the people there. She told me that the reason for that was because of Jesus Christ. It was meaningful to me that because of Jesus’ love for them, they could deeply love others.
Life in Canada, the Alpha Course, and Surrendering to Jesus
In Montreal I started looking for a job, and for a church. I eventually found a church where there were a lot of young people like me. I joined a Bible study group and took the Alpha course. The Alpha course was instrumental in helping me understand what Christianity is all about. It was very important for me to hear the testimony of the man who facilitated the videos, knowing that he was a former atheist.
My Mom and I were arguing a lot at that time. I felt that she did not believe in me. One night I was very sad and crying, so I played some worship songs that really calmed me down. For the first time in my life, I prayed to Jesus to ask him to help me.
The next day at the Alpha session, the leaders asked us if anyone wanted to accept Jesus into their heart. I knew I was ready. I said the salvation prayer in my heart, and after that an elderly couple prayed for a few of us who had accepted Christ.
On the way home that night I thought to myself, “What have I done?” It was a big, scary move, and I knew that I had to make peace with everything that would happen when I told my parents, or went back to Iran. I had to decide that this was worth all of it, as I still had some fear.
A few days after that, in another Alpha session, the leaders prayed over us for the Holy Spirit to come. I cried a lot. I had been feeling very depressed for weeks; afterward I experienced a lot of joy and love for Jesus that I didn’t have before.
Not too long after, I moved to Toronto. I was praying and asking God how I could make friends again in yet another new city. As I was walking to church one day, I met a lady who invited me to sit with her. We became friends, and I ended up meeting many other new friends through her and her boyfriend.
A few months after attending my new church, I decided to get baptized. When I told my family, they thought I was crazy. My Mom said that I was putting my family in danger and that it was not only about me. She asked me to make sure that no Iranians were around who might persecute our family. I love my family dearly, and yet I know that Jesus says that we should love him more than we love our own life, and more than our own parents. I was baptized along with two other Iranian women at a private service. My fear of the Lord, and my commitment to obeying and trusting him, gave me the strength and courage I needed.
Not too long after becoming a follower of Jesus, I felt God leading me to leave my career as an engineer and become more involved in worship. I enrolled at a local Christian university in Toronto, where I am now studying. Though it was a hard decision at the time, I now believe that this is what God has called me to do. As I look back, I see Jesus’ footsteps with me through it all. Even though I thought I needed all the answers and proof to believe, God knew that I didn’t need any of that. I know him now, and I wait with anticipation to see what he will continue to do in and through my life as I surrender to him.