Mojdeh Fard's dramatic conversion from a strict Shia Islamic family to Christianity demonstrates the incredible power of the gospel in the heart of a true seeker. For a young Muslim woman in Iran to convert to another religion carries the most serious of consequences. Hadith 9:57, quoting the prophet Mohammed declares, "Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him!"
Despite the risk to her own life and the ridicule of her family, Mojdeh bravely accepted the consequences.
Here is her incredible story!
I was born in the city of Qom, Iran's holiest city, the seat of Shia Islam, into a very strict Muslim family. As a child, I loved the Prophet Mohammed, the Imams, and all of the Islamic rituals. Religion was at the center of my life. I pursued Allah with all of my heart in order to gain the righteousness required for salvation. In my quest to prove my worthiness to Allah, I surrounded myself with books and immersed myself in the daily rituals. I loved to read books and being at the library had literally become my second home.
The school where I attended was holding a contest for its students to learn the laws of Islam, the laws for purity and cleanliness, and how to perform our daily prayers. I was very excited to participate in this contest and show my classmates how well I understood our religion, so I began reading many books on this subject.
When a Muslim wants to study the traditions of Islam on rituals of cleanliness, washings and preparations for prayer, the Hadith is the best source for this, since it contains the sayings and actions of the Prophet. I began reading the Hadith. I was zealous to learn and understand the rituals. I wanted to not only please my teacher, but my family as well. During my intense study, I came across a quote from the Prophet Mohammed, that would change my life forever! In Islam, a Muslim is to worship only Allah. To worship or prostrate oneself before anything else would be considered blasphemous. In commenting on the Muslim duty of worship, the Prophet made a very interesting observation:
"Had it been permissible that a person may prostrate himself before another, I would have ordered that a wife should prostrate herself before her husband."
(Narrated by Ibn Maajah (1853) and Al-Bayhaqi)
When I first read this saying of the prophet, I was shocked. I couldn't believe it was true! My first reaction was "this is unfair" for any Muslim woman to have to endure. This obscure quote in the Hadith was the beginning of my intense research into the rights of women in Islam.
After researching the Hadith, I next consulted the Quran and came across another quote that I was unaware of. It was found in Surah 2:282. The context of this Surah was the testimony of women in court cases about a financial debt.
"But if two men are not there, let there be one man and two women, as witnesses from among those acceptable to you."
I was outraged! I felt that this chapter in the Quran was belittling to women. It required two women to equal the testimony of one man. A woman's testimony in court only equaled half that of a man's. I concluded that a woman's worth is only half that of a man's. Women are less than men in Islam!
My research had ignited a passion deep inside me for justice. I firmly believed that that there should be equality between men and women in Islam. All of my life, I had believed that this equality already existed, but now I knew the truth! For the first time in my life, I was unhappy with my religion. It seemed so unjust. I was now on a quest to find out the truth about Islam, so I began studying the history of Iran and was shocked to discover that Muslims had killed many Iranians when they refused to convert. I immediately realized that my ancestors didn't become Muslims by choice but rather by force. I became so angry at this injustice!
I remember one night listening to a podcast teaching the history of Iran and how Muslims killed my people because they refused to convert. This was a defining moment in my journey for the truth. I could no longer accept or tolerate this injustice. In Shia Islam, we have a specific tradition in our prayer time where a person prostates himself by placing his forehead down upon a small piece of clay. In anger and frustration, I stomped down with my foot on this piece of clay shouting, "I can no longer be a Muslim anymore!"
I began investigating other religions, in particular, Zoroastrianism, which was one of the pivotal religions in early Persian history. The more I studied, the more dissatisfied I became. I felt hopeless and very depressed and made a conscious decision that God probably didn't exist. I remember praying, "God, if you exist, please show yourself to me. If not, then I will be sure you don't exist!" For four years, I had no belief in God, but my family maintained their religious zeal, forcing me to still do my prayers. During this time, they forced me to go on my Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca which is a required of every Muslim at least once in their lifetime. They did this hoping I would repent and return to Islam. Unfortunately their plan didn't succeed. I still didn't find God there!
In 2009, during the violent election protests, when Iranians took to the streets speaking out against a rigged election, we finally decided to buy a dish and begin watching satellite tv. We were tired of just watching the government version of the news and wanted to understand what was really happening in the world. My brother and sister and I discovered the Christian channel and began watching a pastor on a daily basis who was speaking out against Islam. While he was critical of Islam, he always made sure that he gave a positive view of the God of Christianity. When he said, "God is Love," my heart was warmed inside me. The statement, "God is Love," was a revolutionary, life transforming statement for me! I had never heard that in Islam! I had been reading the book, "The five love languages," by Gary Chapman and this statement by the pastor reinforced within me just how important the subject of love was! Next the pastor proclaimed, "Jesus is Lord! I thought to myself, "That is very beautiful." As I continued watching this Christian program, I realized that my depression was starting to leave. For the first time in four years, I was emerging from my pit of hopelessness and was beginning to feel at peace once again. At the end of his sermon, the pastor invited the people watching to believe in Jesus and asked them to repeat a prayer. In my heart, I repeated this prayer along with him. I felt that Jesus was very good. I believed in Jesus, but still didn't believe in God.
I didn't have a Bible. I wanted to understand more of what the Bible taught and after watching the movie, "The Jesus Film," based on the gospel of Luke, I was very hungry and thirsty for the truth. Watching this movie together with my brother and sister was an incredible turning point in our lives. Our relatives and families immediately noticed the differences in our lives. Now we were totally happy and full of joy. "A light had invaded the darkness in our lives chasing away the hopelessness and despair." I was careful not to share my new found faith with my parents right away. But as I began studying the Bible, I realized that this was no longer an option for me.
"So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before my father who is in heaven."
Telling my parents about becoming a Christians was a big step of faith for me. My mother became outraged, screaming that I must return to Islam, but I gently informed her, "I can't go back mom. I can't deny Jesus!" My mother disowned me and my father stopped financially providing for my studies at the university. I was now forced to scrape up coins for a taxi fare.
While at university, I began sharing my faith with my a couple of my friends and they told me that they were eager to watch the Christian channel on satellite tv. However, my zeal to share was met with harsh consequences. One day, I was called to the office of intelligence. They wanted to ask me some questions. My friends had warned me that they expect you to support Islam and the Supreme Leader. I replied to my friends, "I believe in Jesus. I will not deny him. That is my red line!"
I sat nervously before a lady who began interrogating me:
"We heard that you are evangelizing, spreading other religions in our university. We heard you are promoting Christianity or Zoroastrianism."
I took a nervous deep breath. I firmly believed that God had spared me from a very dangerous confrontation. The lady who was interrogating me had paused after mentioning Christianity and then added Zoroastrianism. This provided me a convenient way of escape.
"Yes I have been studying Zoroastrianism, I replied, but I did not convert to it."
Unfortunately, the interrogations didn't end there. Next they called my father into their office and confronted him about my behavior.
"Your children have converted to Christianity. Aren't you ashamed of that?"
My father was shocked and taken by surprise. He nervously stuttered and replied:
"Oh no. They are researching. They are not sure."
The Interrogator didn't believe his story and firmly warned him:
"Either you return them to Islam or we will do it ourselves!"
I was now in a very serious life crisis. I knew it was not possible to practice my Christian faith in Iran. It was far too dangerous. Desperate for a new life, my brother and sister and I escaped from home fleeing toward the border of Iraq. When we called to inform our parents, they begged us to come back and promised to make things better. We reluctantly returned, but nothing ever changed. We knew we were constantly under surveillance. My parents had lied to us. They confiscated our passports and locked the doors. Once again we managed to escape in the night, leaving home without our passports and without shoes, we traveled by taxi and bus, crossing the border into Iraq. We became ayslum seekers and for the next six years, we had no ids, no passports, and no jobs. Even the Christian church in Iraq refused to believe our stories. They didn't trust us. This was heartbreaking! It was then that I realized the reality of my commitment to Jesus. I had given up everything to follow Jesus! I had left behind my family, my law career, and all of my friends. I had no money, no job, all I had was Jesus. But that was all that I needed, Jesus was everything that I needed. He was the treasure of my heart.
Yet, God was faithful! He rewarded my suffering. He honored my uncompromising commitment to him. An international church finally agreed to sponsor us and after six long and grueling years, we finally found a new home in Canada.