Before I came to saving faith in Christ, I depended on my father so intensely that I would cry just at the thought of him leaving this world.
He was my anchor through the storms of life, always able to put me back on solid ground. My father was a devout Muslim, and though my conversion was initially hard to accept, his love for me as his daughter never changed. He was still my biggest supporter, whether it was giving business advice for managing the ministry or watching my testimony on the "700 Club."
As my relationship with the Lord grew in strength and I was blessed to start a blended family with my new husband, I began to experience what God commanded for a couple to leave their parents' home and "become one flesh." I knew the Lord was calling me to "leave my parents' house" so I could grow in faith, but I never expected that my father would soon become gravely ill. In less than a year, a virulent strain of cancer metastasized across my father's body, and he left this Earth last month.
While at the hospital, I passionately pleaded with my father to accept the free gift of salvation. He would always listen attentively and smile. After several of these conversations, I had peace that I delivered the good news of the Gospel, and it was now between him and the Lord. Once the doctors determined the cancer was not treatable, we brought my father home to enjoy his remaining time surrounded by family. In just three days, with all the family present, my father passed. It happened so fast and so dramatically none of us could emotionally prepare for what would happen next.
At his bedside, I saw the last breath leave his body, and almost instantly, I lost emotional connectivity to his flesh. I kissed his forehead and left the room. However, I was well aware that this time of passing of a soul until the body is buried can be pretty emotional for all my Muslim relatives.
In Islam, there is no guarantee of eternal life or Heaven. The minute a person dies, they prepare for the judgment of God. A portion of the soul remains in the deceased, so great care is taken with the body. A ritual washing is performed within 24 hours, the body is wrapped in a white cloth with the face covered and then placed in the grave without a coffin. That evening it is believed, two very menacing angels appear to the deceased and question him about his faith and deeds, both good and bad. All this is accepted by faith and can be quite traumatic for the family of the loved one.
The next couple of days are spent praying for the deceased in hopes he would receive mercy, yet there is a lingering fear about what will happen in the afterlife. I could see the agony on their faces and the pain they were experiencing from that uncertainty. As the grief and fear swirled around the room, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the surety of saving faith in Christ. The gift of salvation was suddenly so real to me. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I knew I would not need anyone to pray over my body because my trust in Jesus guaranteed me eternal life.
Over the next couple of days, preparations were made for the burial and the reception, including who would give a eulogy. I became so convicted about why we are commanded to preach the Gospel regardless of the personal cost. I desperately wanted my loved ones to avoid that fear of uncertainty for their own lives and wanted them to know only Jesus could lift that burden. My father's reception was held in the Islamic center he founded more than 20 years ago. The room was filled with more than 500 Muslim family members and friends, most of whom were male. I knew I had to testify to the power of Christ in my life and hopefully plant a seed of hope to whoever had ears to listen. Yet, I was petrified about how angry some would be that I dare mention salvation through Christ.
Nonetheless, I walked to the podium, and the Lord gave me supernatural strength and courage. I spoke of the beautiful qualities my father taught me — patriotism, hard work, education and unconditional love. I explained the love he demonstrated most profoundly by accepting my salvation through Christ. I told them how afraid I was to lose my earthly father, but I now had the love and protection of my Heavenly Father. Then I read from Psalm 23: "Even though I walk through the shadow of death I shall fear no evil for the Lord is with me. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Amazingly enough, all I heard from people afterward was how proud they were of my courage, and some confessed they had also accepted Christ several years ago.
I may never have certainty whether my father accepted Christ in his remaining days or if someone in the audience that night was touched by the Scripture and led to Christ. However, I do know I have no regrets. "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." John 17:3
Hedieh Mirahmadi was a devout Muslim for two decades working in the field of national security before she experienced the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and has a new passion for sharing the Gospel. She dedicates herself full-time to Resurrect Ministry, an online resource that harnesses the power of the Internet to make salvation through Christ available to people of all nations, and her daily podcast LivingFearlessDevotional.com.