the faith journey of Bilquis Sheikh
The thing that struck me most about this lady's story was how she became comfortable speaking to God as a personal, concerned God rather than the austere and distant Allah. She grew up with a really warm and tender father who was very patient with her and obviously thought the world of her. The kind of father that is becoming less seen these days, but the kind of father everyone longs to have.
It was the memory of this father that enabled her to address God as father. She would recall how her dad would play with her and how he would put work aside if he was at his desk whenever she came in to see him. When she remembered how important and busy her father seemed she also remembered how he would drop everything when she made an appearance.
This struck me so much that when I had children I made a point of doing my best to imitate Bilquis' Muslim father's priorities for his children over his work. As we often project the nature of our father onto God (knowingly or not), I realised that I had an immense responsibility to portray God himself to my daughters. One day they might deeply wish to encounter God and I must provide a model that would encourage that, not discourage it.
Perhaps the story of this wealthy and influential woman might be an encouragement to you.
Below is part of the Wikipedia article on Bilquis Sheikh which you may like to read. Again, the book is available here and I encourage everyone to read it.
The first Bible verse that caught her eye was from Romans 9:25-26, "I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one. In the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people', there they will be called 'children of the living God.'" (NIV) This Bible verse deeply affected her.
Sheikh was intrigued by biblical passages that were alien to her Muslim faith and became drawn to research further. As she read the Bible alongside of the Quran, she began questioning her beliefs. She felt a sense of peace when she read the Bible, but was puzzled that she did not experience these same feelings when reading the Islamic texts. In response to her questions, she approached the home of some local American missionaries, David and Synnøve Mitchell, where she learned of Christianity for the first time. That night, she began experiencing a series of dreams and visions about John the Baptist; and God as the Father, as Jesus the Son, and as the Holy Spirit. These dreams contradicted the teachings of Islam, where she was taught that the trinity was merely Christian heresy.
Sheikh adopted her grandson, Mahmud, when his divorced mother remarried, opting to leave him behind with her. When the favored grandson began experiencing pain in his ear, she took him to a Christian hospital near Taxila. A Catholic nun, who was also the doctor, noticed that Sheikh had a Bible and asked why she would have a Bible, when she was a Muslim. Sheikh replied that she was in search of God. At this point, Dr. Pia Santiago suggested that Sheikh should pray to God and ask Him to reveal himself to her. She told Sheikh to talk to God as she would speak with her father. Sheikh had a very good and loving relationship with her father, so she prayed to God as if he was her father. She had never before thought of God as a "Father", but she found that this personal and intimate view of God began to transform her life. On 24 December 1966, in response to her prayer and search for God, Sheikh was converted to Christianity. Soon thereafter, she began attending a local gathering of Christians that met on a weekly basis. Christian baptism of a formerly Muslim individual was considered the defining moment in her culture, which signified a definitive break from Islam and identifies new Christians as traitors and infidels.
When news of her conversion came to light, she was confronted by her family. When she spoke with conviction and shared the news of her baptism, her family shunned her in response. She also began receiving threatening letters and telephone calls from unknown persons. She lost most of her Muslim family and friends. Those of her servants who were Christian, fled her home in response to rumors that she would be killed by religious elements in the area. She was considered a traitor and infidel, and many people were of the opinion that she ought to be killed for apostasy. At one point, her home was torched, but her remaining servants were able to put out the flames before the whole house caught fire.
Sheikh fled to the US for her safety, and that of her grandson. She began speaking about her conversion at churches and praying to God.