The Introduction to The Price To Pay: A Muslim Risks All to Follow Christ by Joseph Fadelle (Also available as an Electronic Book Download)
What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:31–39)
Amman, December 22, 2000
Your sickness is Christ, and there is no remedy. You can never be cured of it.
My uncle Karim pulled out a revolver and pointed it at my chest. I held my breath. Behind him, four of my brothers looked at me defiantly. We were alone in a desert valley.
Even at that moment I did not believe it. No! I did not want to believe that the members of my own family, including the uncle whom I had served faithfully in the past, could really intend to kill me. How did they come to hate me so much—me, their own blood, the one who had played with them as a child and had been nourished by the same milk?
I did not understand it.
I did not understand either why, of all people, Karim, my beloved uncle, was the one threatening me now—the man whose skin I had so often saved when he got into trouble with my uncompromising father, the head of the family clan. Why? Why could my family not simply accept my new life? Why did they want at all costs to make me become one of them again?
Little by little I began to understand with dismay: they were willing to do anything to get me back—me, the heir of the Musawi tribe, the favorite. I recalled the beginning of that incredible scene.
Karim started by saying, “Your father is sick. He insists that you come back. He authorized me to tell you that he would like to forget the past, everything that has happened.” My brothers had not haggled about the promises made by my father: one simple little yes on my part, and once again I could have the house, the automobiles, and the revenues. In exchange, I had to forget the harm that they [the Christians] had done to me!
How could I forget? And it was not just a question of forgetting! It was a question of my faith.
“I cannot return to Iraq. I am baptized.”
“Baptized? What is that . . . ?!”
I had become a Christian; my life had changed. I could not go backward now. My name was no longer Muhammad. My old first name no longer meant anything to me. But I saw very well that they did not even understand what I was saying to them. For them there was only a problem that could easily be settled with money. Everything depended on the sum to be offered. But all of their attempts ran into a wall: I refused to become Muslim again. To them I was an apostate.
We had already spent three hours discussing it at the side of the desert road. We had not made an inch of progress; each one was still encamped on the position that he had taken up. I was psychologically drained by the questions from every side.
Suddenly the tone intensified. The aggression became palpable, menacing: “If you are not willing to come with us, someone will kill you. In any event your body will be repatriated. And your wife and children will die of hunger here; they will come back to their country on their own.” For a brief moment I forgot the distressing situation that I was in and attempted a vague interior smile tinged with sadness. How could that Shiite Iraqi imagine for one second that an Arab woman would manage to earn a living by her own efforts, without the help of a man?
In the absence of a counterargument, my uncle Karim’s eyes showed hatred and his expression hardened.”
“You must have undergone brainwashing”, he remarked coldly.
I could tell that he too was at the end of his patience, that he did not want to talk anymore. An evil like this called for a radical remedy: Islamic law, Sharia.
“You know our law. You know that there is a fatwa against you. This fatwa orders us to kill you if you do not become a good Muslim again like us, like before!”
I felt nauseous. My stomach clenched into an even tighter knot. I knew what was going to happen. In recalling that death sentence, Karim was obliged to follow through or else be considered an unbeliever or, worse, a renegade. My last support had just slipped out from under my feet. Confronting the inevitable, I exploded: “If you want to kill me, go ahead! You came with weapons and used force, but I would like to use reason and speak with you. Read the Qur’an and then the Gospel, and after that we can have a real discussion. Anyway, I do not think that you really have the courage to shoot me!”
The wave of anger and fear had made me talk too fast. What did I have to gain from such provocative language, like the swagger of the man sentenced to death who defies the firing squad one last time? Maybe I thought that, being foreigners in that country, they would not dare to alert the nearby localities by the noise and thus risk being arrested. The detonation was deafening, with endless repercussions in the valley. By what miracle had Karim not succeeded in hitting me? In the depths of my soul I heard something like a female voice that whispered to me, “Ehroub. Flee!” I did not try then to explain this strange occurrence but took to my heels and dashed off as though escaping from a brush fire.
As I ran I heard bullets whistling around me. There were certainly some aimed at me, and aimed to kill me, judging by the trajectories, which came very close to grazing me. The seconds seemed to pass like centuries, until I managed to get far enough away that I could no longer hear their voices.
Since I was still running and thinking of the last minute that I had left to live, I did not feel the pain caused by the bullet. I just noticed that my foot became airborne, as though propelled by an incredible force. When I realized what was happening, I was on the ground, in the mud, with the sensation of a hot liquid running along my leg. But since I was completely wet, I could not tell whether it was blood or mud. My last thought was to notice the silence that had fallen. The weapons had stopped, no doubt when they saw me fall. Then I lost consciousness.