Answering Malaysia Islam - moderate Muslim
My name is Rogayyah, a Malay woman from Malaysia. My Primary School days were in the mornings and I attended Islamic Studies at the Religious School in the afternoons. I was taught to read, memorise and to understand Quranic verses. I attended the religious school until I achieved the qualification of Ustazah, i.e. I qualified as a female Islamic religious teacher.
During religious classes, we were taught that prayer is the only way to bring us closer to God, and in our daily prayers, we always had to recite Surah Al-Fatihah, the first chapter of the Quran. Verse 6 of this chapter states: 'Show us the Straight Path'. For years on end, I have been reciteing this verse over and over but I never found the so-called Straight Way! On questioning my religious teacher, Ustaz, his response was always to accept what is taught and to never question. Whereas in the Morning School, where everything was taught in English, I always had the habit of asking from my teachers, whenever I was in doubt. There was also another verse that each Muslim should recite at the end of every prayer. That is to ask Allah to save Muhammad. I had believed and understood Muhammad to be an Apostle of God, a messenger of His message and a man of God etc. So, he should have been saved at least by his faithfulness as an apostle/prophet of God. So this also I inquired of my Ustaz, who became angry with me and branded me a 'kafir' (unbeliever). In fact, this ustaz disliked me for asking him 'too many questions' with regard to the Quranic verses, and he likewise failed to give me specific and satisfactory answers ! This made me quite unhappy and to look for my answers elsewhere.
My anscestors were 'bomohs' or shamans and I inherited their abilities. I had the ability to heal people who were sick through evil spirits or who suffered from fits. I was able to do this by the 'spirits' (orang halus) handed down to me from my grandmother's side. To my amazement, I came across verses from the Qu'ran that could be used to attract the opposite sex, and also to cause harm to others. This created more doubts in my mind on the good virtues of Islam. This initially led me to follow a Hindu classmate to the temple, but, when I saw there lots of unnatural-looking idols holding spears, I was put off. Moreover the language spoken was Tamil, which I did not understand!
Later, I followed some Christian friends to church services on Sunday. There, I saw no idols, and the language was English which I understood. I continued to attend prayer meetings at one of my English school teacher's home, and was treated with love and respect that was never experienced in my own home. One Sunday afternoon, I had returned home with a picture of Jesus Christ and this was found out. I was given a belting. Being fearful of more beatings, getting chased out of the house and possibly having my schooling stopped, I decided to continue following my religious duties as a Muslim just to please my parents.
As I continued to study the Quran, I discovered in Surah al-Zukhruf verse 61, which said: "And (Jesus) shall be a sign for the coming of the Hour of Judgement. Therefore, have no doubt about the Hour, but follow ye, Me (Jesus), and this is the Staright Path." Verse 62 says: "Let not the evil one hinder you; for he is to you an avowed enemy. Verse 63: "When Jesus came with clear signs, he said: 'To you with wisdom, and in order to make clear to you some of the points on which ye dispute; therefore fear God, and obey me.'" When I questioned my ustaz about this verse, he said that at the end of life's journey, we would meet Muhammad. But he had actually deviated from my question! On and off, I would make visits to church on Sundays by myself. This included a Catholic church. It was there that I eventually met Richard, who became my husband.
Richard was initially a Roman Catholic, always had a rosary in his pocket and also wore a Buddhist charm on his arm for 'strength'. I followed him to Sunday church services whenever he attended them. I found the Catholic services similar to the Islamic ones that I attended—formal and ritualistic. There were times I reminded Richard that it was like idol-worship but he never argued with me about that. So, I would join him when I liked it, and on Catholic Feast Days, I would always follow him to church. This went on for some years until he fell quite ill and had to be warded into Hospital. Even after his discharge from the Hospital, he had to be on medication. The medicine, however, never made him better and he became thin and weak. Then I tried treating him by reciting certain Quranic verses over a cup of water, which I gave him to drink. Even that treatment failed! This fact disturbed me, as I was a bomoh (Muslim faith healer) and our neighbours in the area where we lived also recognised me as one!
Eventually, a friend of my husband introduced a Christian Pastor to us. The pastor showed us from the Bible how Jesus had healed sick people in His day, and how He still heals sick people freely, today! If only we would believe in Him and ask for the healing by faith. That was the first time we, as a couple, held the Bible, read it and prayed fervently together. And within weeks of prayer, I began to see changes in my husband's health! Hallelujah!
After having understood the true message of the Gospel and what salvation actually is all about, both Richard and I decided to accept this free gift of salvation from God, given through His Chosen One, the Messiah Jesus Christ. We also decided to attend church to learn more from God's Word the Bible. My husband and I enjoyed the refreshing services and sang the songs of worship and attentively listened to the sermons expounded by men of God.
There was a particular meeting, when at the end, the pastor invited people with problems and other needs to step forward to be prayed for. The Pastor also specifically called for my husband, Richard to come forward, and he did. When it came to Richard's turn to be prayed for, he fell prostrate on the ground after he was prayed for! Being a little sceptical about that, I questioned him later on about why he also fell down like the others after they had prayed for him. He replied that, he did not imitate the others who were there, but that he actually saw a bright light during the prayer, and he fell down spontaneously in awe of it! Personally, I found that hard to believe. So I challenged Richard that the following week, I too will go forward during the altar call to be prayed for. But, instead of falling to the ground, I would still be standing up!
So came the following week and we attended the church service. True enough, Pastor made an altar call and I went forward to be prayed for. When it came to my turn, I stood as stiff as possible and would not be moved. Suddenly, a bright light appeared before me, in the shape of a Cross and I did not know what happened next! It all happened all so fast. The next moment I was there lying on the floor of the church and people were praying over me! I was overjoyed! All the way home I was speechless with the joy of the Lord. This was an experience of a lifetime which cannot be erased from my memory.
As we continued with our Bible studies, to my amazement I discovered that the verse in the Bible where Jesus Christ said : "I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life, no man can come to the Father (i.e. God), but BY ME," (John 14 verse 6) is the very verse that was described centuries later in Surah al-Zukhruf verses 61-63 as well as in Surah 1 verse 6 i.e. 'Show us the straight path...' From that point onwards, I was assured that my salvation only comes through believing in Jesus Christ, who is now both my Saviour and my Lord!
Just one year later, God blessed us with a baby boy! Two weeks after his birth, when we had already registered his birth certificate, we had a group of 'uninvited guests'. At about 11.00 pm one night, a group of people from the Jabatan Agama or Religious Department, came by, they were both men and women, in police uniform as well as plain-clothed. They wanted to know why I had become a Christian. That gave me an opportunity to share with them from the Quran that 'Isa or Jesus is the al-Masih or Messiah, and He will also return as the coming Judge, deciding the destinies of men and women for all eternity. Whereas Muhammad was only a messenger, who is himself at the mercy of God on the Day of Judgement. I also reminded them from Surah 35 (Fatir), that my 'conversion' was my sole responsibility, that I alone will answer to God Almighty on judgement day and nobody else can do that on my behalf. I feel that sometimes the Muslim religious authorities over-reach themselves in trying to determine other Muslim people's destinies. That's probably why they even threaten ex-Muslims with death for leaving Islam. After hearing my explanation, the people from the religious department left. As for me, I thank God for the boldness and clear mind that He gave me to face them.