The Cost of Following Christ

To Follow Christ is costly. Jesus clearly warned His Disciples that this would be so. The cost of following Christ is especially high for converts from Islam. By leaving Islam to embrace Christianity they will be regarded as having committed apostasy.

According to the Shari'ah (Islamic law), the punishment for apostasy is death for adult males who refuse to return to Islam. Shari'ah is a complex subject with different schools of law and interpretations, but all are clear and agree on this central point. Indeed, some schools of Shari'ah extend the death penalty to female apostates too. This death penalty for apostasy is incorporated into the national laws of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Mauritania, Yemen and Qatar, although it is rarely practised.

There are also complex regulations in the Shari'ah concerning the property rights and family situation of an apostate. In effect, anyone leaving Islam loses any property and inheritance rights. Also, apostasy results in the annulment of any marriage and a loss of children. Often members of the extended family will intervene to ensure the separation of the spouse and children from an apostate. If both parents leave Islam, the children may well be taken away by other family members in order to be brought up as Muslims.

Anyone committing apostasy is regarded as a traitor to Islam and brings shame on the extended family. Following the tone set in Shari'ah, reactions are likely to be hostile, if not violent. So a convert to Christianity normally experiences great loss and suffering. For some there will be intense pressure and coercion to return to Islam or complete rejection by their wider family. Others face persecution and harassment from governments, officials, employers and others in society. Some converts have been killed, either following official trials in some Islamic countries, or more commonly, assassinated by Islamic extremists or even by members of their own family. These things have been the experience of converts from Islam to Christianity for the last 1400 years and they continue today as the following examples demonstate.

Executed in Iran

In Iran apostasy carries a legal death penalty. In December 1990 Hossein Soodmand, a Christian convert from Islam, was hanged for apostasy in a state execution. His body was buried in a cemetry for outcasts.

Killed by her own brother

Even where there is no official law on apostasy, the family may take action against a convert. Rahila Khanam was a 22-year-old Muslim woman from Lahore in Pakistan. She began attending Bible studies with a Christian friend. When her family discovered what was happening, they quickly began to make arrangements for her to marry a Muslim. Rahila fled into hiding but was found by her family some weeks later and on 16 July 1997 she was shot dead by her brother. He readily admitted this act, saying that he had done his religious duty by killing an apostate from Islam.

No peace - even in death

Even in death a convert from Islam may not be left in peace. In an Asian country, a man converted from Islam to Christianity. He married a Christian wife and lived for many years as a Christian. When he died in 2001, his Muslim brothers turned up and demanded his body for burial as a Muslim. His wife and Christian friends refused to comply and, once the brothers had left, they hastily buried the body, safe in the knowledge that disinterment was illegal in that country. However, one of the brothers was determined to reclaim the body and obtained permission from a Shari'ah court to exhume it. So a few weeks later he returned, dug up the body and re-buried it in a Muslim cemetry. The widow was not allowed to know the new burial site and was warned not to try to get the body back or her young teenage daughter would be taken away and brought up as a Muslim, in accordance with Shari'ah.

A crackdown on converts

Severe pressure is applied to converts to try to force them to return to Islam. In June 1998, the government of the Maldives, which claims to be a 100% Islamic state, launched a crackdown on Christians. Expatriate Christians were expelled and up to fifty Maldivians suspected of being Christian believers were arrested and subjected to interrogation and imprisonment. They were held in solitary confinement on an island near the capital, Male. The conditions were very poor and restrictive and they were denied visits from family members. Pressure was applied to make them convert back to Islam, including being forced to perform the daily Islamic prayers and to read the Qur'an. Two women who openly acknowledged their Christian faith were subjected to particular pressure, including physical abuse. One was told that she would not be released until she renounced her faith. After considerable international pressure the detainees were released in November 1998.

Shamed by her own father

Family pressure for converts to return to Islam can include physical violence and intimidation from relatives. In 1996, a young woman in a West African country was stripped, beaten and led naked through her home town by her father when he discovered that she had converted from Islam to Christianity. She fled and was looked after by Christians in another part of her country. It was only five years later that she was able to visit her home and family again. Happily on this occasion, her father welcomed her and accepted her Christian faith.

A costly commitment

The decision that an Egyptian man and his wife made to follow Jesus has proved extremely costly. Relatives took away their land and property and even restricted the food available to the family. When this failed to persuade them to abandon their faith, the relatives put rat poison into the food of the favourite son of the family, then aged eight. The poison did not kill him but caused severe and irreversible mental and physical disabilities. He suffered greatly before his premature death aged just 24, some two years ago. After eight years of persecution in Egypt the family were able to move to another country. Some time later, economic hardship forced the father to return to Egypt to seek work. He was arrested at the airport and held in prison for eight months. During this time in prison he was mistreated and tortured in an attempt to make him renounce his Christian faith. Such a brief summary hardly does justice to all that this family suffered because of their decision to follow Christ and recent news indicates further problems for family members.

Not safe - even in the West

In Britain in 2000 a young woman Muslim convert to Christianity, was snatched from off the street outside her church and bundled into a van by several people including some of her own relatives. As the van sped away she was beaten and given a copy of the Qur'an and ordered to recite the Islamic creed in an attempt to force her return to Islam. She refused and instead began to sing worship songs glorifying Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. After several hours of this she was dumped from the van, badly injured. After being taken to hospital she went into hiding.

Freedom to change religion

Article 18 of the Universal declaration of Human Rights says that "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion" and specifically states that "this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief". This freedom does not exist within Islam.

(This article comes from the Barnabas Fund magazine and is reproduced here with their kind permission).

The Barnabas Fund believes it is important to draw attention to this problem, not as an attack on Islam, but as a human rights issue, on behalf of converts from Islam, many of whom live in fear today as a result of Islam's attitude to apostasy. The Barnabas Fund are preparing a booklet on the teaching of apostasy in Islam and its current impact on converts from Islam to Christianity. It will also include suggestions for practical action which Christians can take to raise awareness of this issue and to help the situation of Christian converts from Islam. We would invite you to pray with us for converts to Christianity from Islam who are suffering because of their commitment to Christ and to support the Barnabas Fund as we draw attention to this problem in the months to come.

Here at Museltof Christian Ministries we would like to commend the excellent work of the Barnabas Fund to all of our visitors. Please visit their website which is here;
You will find considerable information on their work, contact details etc on their site. If you are able to help the Barnabas Fund in its work of loving care towards persecuted Christians, they would appreciate it.



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