Rashid Pinched a Gospel


It happened more than twenty years ago – Rashid picked up that gospel in a library and promptly put it in his pocket. His search for the truth had started. Then, when he had found the truth, the pinched Gospel even led to his involvement in a translation, not just of one of the gospels, but of the whole Bible for his own people


   Rashid grew up in a country that was strictly Muslim and Islam was the pattern of his life. “I faithfully kept all the religious decrees and duties. At times I even surpassed my own family.”

His father had an important function in an adjacent country, which eventually got them to move and live there as a family. Rashid attended a school with a Christian foundation and English as the medium of communication. His new friend Paul shared all the same classes, except R.E. – religious education. Paul, being from a Christian family, was obliged to follow Christian instruction, while Rashid had Islamic instruction.


Rashid didn’t get much pleasure from his religious classes. “Our teacher was an angry man with a white skullcap, and a stick in his hand. Whenever you made a mistake, the stick would come down on your fingers. I was always relieved when the class came to an end.”

Paul, as it appeared to Rashid, was much better off. They sang in his class, got to make things like cut-and-paste jobs, etc, and they listened to Bible stories. Paul always emerged happy from his class.

Paul told Rashid many things and showed him what he had made. It so captured his imagination that one day, plucking up all his courage, Rashid approached his religious teacher to ask for permission to accompany Paul to one of his Christian classes. The effect was explosive: “My teacher boiled with rage and immediately got me to see the principal, who in turn informed my parents. In other words, at home another storm broke on my head. It was a painful experience.”


His curiosity about the Bible had been awakened, but Rashid remained a devout Muslim. Much later, when his country was under threat of communism, he felt called to join the resistance. “I wanted to fight for Allah and my country.”

He really wanted to go and fight the communists on the frontline, but he didn’t gain access to the military training since his condition wasn’t good enough. “The training was, indeed, exceptionally heavy”, Rashid concedes. “One of the things you had to learn was walking a 40 km distance with another soldier on your back.” So Rashid was put to work where the resistance was headquartered – there was translation work and he had to do the rounds with foreign reporters. However, after a time things got too risky for him and his family and he was advised to go to a western country. The project was to get the resistance properly represented abroad. This involved fundraising and recruiting new members.


Rashid followed the advice, but his heart wasn’t really in it. “For many people it was a dream to be able to go to a western country, but I would rather have stayed close to home.”

With a number of others he traveled to Holland, where after a few days, a relief organization assigned them a cheap hostel in the center of Amsterdam, called ‘The Shelter’, bang in the middle of the ‘red light’ district. He didn’t know it but ‘The Shelter’ was part of a Christian mission, catering for mostly foreign students on their way through. Rashid won’t easily forget his first day there. As he entered the reception area, he saw a Bible-study announced on the bulletin board. That was his chance, he thought! Memories of his years in school came back and of the rage of his religious teacher. He also remembered the suspicious looks he used to get when on occasions he had asked his religious teachers about the Bible. But here he would be able to study the Bible in complete freedom!

And so he attended the Bible study and enjoyed it. But his friends, who looked for other pleasures in the seedy surroundings, were less than happy with Rashid’s new pastime. “If you attend those meetings again we’ll make sure to tell the resistance organization and your parents”, they threatened. Rashid was afraid they might carry out their threat, and so, with sadness, he stopped attending. However, his search didn’t stop. One day in the library, to his great surprise, he found a Gospel-of-John in his own mother tongue. Resolutely he put it in his pocket. Later in his room he read it through at least ten times. “John is the ‘evangelist’ of love. And love was precisely what I so desperately longed for at this time.”


In the mean time Rashid continued a Muslim. He started traveling the country to get other Muslims fired up for the resistance cause in his country. At the same time he tried to convert non-Muslims to Islam. “Fortunately I wasn’t very good at that…”

Then, hunting for a room, a newspaper ad got Rashid in touch with an elderly couple. It would turn out they were Jewish, yet when he went to see them, they surprisingly did not ask for money. “In their opinion, as a refugee, I should get a chance to build up a new life with the least possible hassle”, Rashid says, sounding surprised even now. “Such an attitude completely clashed with the image I had of Jews. At home and especially in the resistance, I had learned that Jews are monsters and bloodsuckers. They were rapacious and only out to line their pockets with your money.”

The lady was the only member of her family that had survived the concentration camp of Auschwitz. At some point she showed Rashid videos and other documents about the holocaust. “Never before had I been confronted with these horrible facts. In my room I shed many tears of shame.”


Finally Rashid obtained his residence permit. He decided to move to another city in order to start studying. Yet the contact with the Jewish couple continued. “I still meet them. The man is kind of a spiritual father to me.”

Doing all he could to remain on good terms with his compatriots, it was uncanny how he kept on meeting born-again Christians. His friends viewed these contacts – that were slowly growing into friendships – with suspicion. “They would talk behind my back. The story went that I had become a Christian, but in reality I was still a Muslim and kept all the Islamic rules and rituals, even while my compatriots watched movies late into the night and drank alcohol.”

Rashid had a sense of being deserted, yet often found support with his new friends. “They didn’t argue with me, they simply showed me love. One night, feeling lonely and depressed, I called a friend. He responded by driving for hours in the middle of the night in order to be with me! I realized: this is not ‘acting’. This is real love – the love described by the apostle John.”


Yet the hard, indifferent attitude of his compatriots was causing an inner conflict, so persistent, that one night Rashid was at the end of himself. He would have jumped from the balcony of his student apartment, if at that moment another student had not walked in and stopped him.

The college administration was informed and Rashid was sent to a psychiatrist. This man soon drew his conclusions: “You are having an identity crisis, and it is your Christian friends who are to blame. They are trying to convert you. I suggest that you visit them one by one in order to terminate the friendship. You tell them: ‘This friendship is not doing me any good. I want people to respect my self-esteem and my faith’. Then, once you’ve done that, come and see me again.”


Rashid was shocked. He felt let down by the Muslim community and now he had to break with his Christian friends as well. Eventually he did visit one of his Christian friends. “I stayed with him for a week, but couldn’t bring myself to break off the friendship. I just couldn’t.”

One evening during that week Rashid was alone and looked at a film on the Christian TV channel. It was the story of a blind boy with great musical talent. In one scene the boy plays the song ‘Amazing Grace’ on the piano.

“The lyrics of the song, every stanza, every line cut right through my soul”, Rashid says. “I dropped to my knees and cried. For hours. I was suddenly convinced and arrested by the truth of the Gospel… Right there and then God gave me the assurance that I could trust in Him completely, even if my compatriots should desert me.”


Eventually, Rashid, now a Christian, found a job and he got married to a Christian young lady. “I had known her before my conversion, and at one point I had even told her: ‘If you become a Muslim, I’ll marry you’, but that was not the way it was meant to be…”

Life as a Christian was not always easy and there were threats, yet God’s protection was real. “Looking back, I can see how wonderfully He has been leading all the way. First He delivered me from my hatred for the Jews and later from the evil and loveless power of Islam.”

Some years back now, Rashid was deeply involved in the translation of the Bible into his mother tongue. Since then he’s been back to ‘The Shelter’ to officially present that new Bible for their library. He grasped the opportunity to publicly ask forgiveness for his theft of the Gospel of John… “That forgiveness was readily granted!”, he says.


The Bible in Rashid’s language – the version he helped make a reality.

 This article and photograph have been taken from De Oogst Magazine, Amsterdam, by permission.  ‘Rashid’ is a fictitious name, adopted for security reasons.