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From Islam to the Cross
Born and raised a Muslim, he knew nothing of Jesus until a series of encounters changed his way of thinking.

I was born in Pakistan in 1958. When I was seven, my father passed away, as did my mother seven years later, leaving me an orphan at 14. I was placed in the care of my aunts.

Imran Ali

Despite their loving care, I got into some mischief during my teens. It may seem tame now, but I was staying out late and getting into a bit of trouble.

My aunts wrote to my older brother, who was studying in England. “You have to do something,” they implored. At that time, my brother was in the process of immigrating to Canada, which he did in 1973. As soon as he could, he sponsored me, and I came to Canada in 1976 and lived with him at his home in Orillia, Ontario.

After a year, I moved to Toronto to look for work. I found a job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant, working my way up to assistant manager in three years.

While there, I met my future wife, who was working as a waitress. I was quite taken with her and persuaded her to go out with me for a coffee. We fell in love and got married. Her parents were initially against the match because we were of different faiths, but they saw how much I loved her and eventually gave their approval.

Something more

While we were married in a church, my first real introduction to Christianity occurred six months later, when we were invited to a friend’s wedding.

I was still a practising Muslim in the sense that I believed in Allah, but I didn’t attend a mosque. I wasn’t adamant about converting my wife and she wasn’t adamant about converting me. We loved each other and that was all that mattered.

At the wedding, we were seated with a gentleman who was a Christian. In the course of our conversation, I mentioned my faith.

“Jesus loves you,” he said, “and He died on the cross for you.”

How strange, I thought. How could Jesus love me? He’s dead. As a Muslim, I was taught that Mohammed was a prophet, a holy man, the last prophet in a chain of prophets.

In my mind, Jesus was one of those prophets.

The man continued, “Jesus died for your sins and He rose again on the third day.”

After that evening, I started questioning my faith and my life’s purpose. There has to be something more.

“You seem different”

I had gotten into the habit of driving my wife’s grandmother to church on Sunday mornings, and I’d wait for her in the car until the end of the service. But as the weeks went by, I started waiting in the back of the church, and I’d listen to the minister’s sermons.

He talked about the purpose of life, why we are here and how God died for us. He was answering questions that had been bothering me! How does he know all this? I wondered. Who has he been talking to? It couldn’t be a coincidence. Of course, I now realize the Holy Spirit was working through him to speak to me.

One Sunday, the pastor was particularly eloquent. “Jesus is the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to God except through Him. You won’t find the purpose of life unless you find Jesus. You’ll be going about in circles until you do.”

Then he asked those who believed to approach the altar. Something inside of me knew I had to go up there. And I gave my heart to the Lord that day.

When I returned home, my mother-in-law said, “You look different. What’s happened to you?”

“What do you mean?” I replied, taken aback. How did she know?

Where will I go today?

From that time on, a peace has filled my heart. That doesn’t mean my life’s problems are over. I still have to earn a living, but I now need to tell people about Jesus. I’ve travelled to 17 countries in Africa and Asia, and I’ve taken Bible and theology courses, but it’s when I am on the job and talk turns to faith that I’ve had some wonderful conversations.

God has given me peace. Every day, I pray, “God, where will you bring me today?” And I’m never disappointed.

Originally published in Faith & Friends, April, 2009.




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