It was a glorious morning and Shaadi was on her knees offering the Salaat.
“Allah is Greatest. Praise my Lord the Great. Praise my Lord the Most High. I bear witness that there is no God other than God. Praise be to God who has never begotten a son, nor does He have a partner in His kingship, nor does He need an ally out of weakness Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.”
Her prayer finished, she rose to her feet, walked to the window, and pondered the heaviness in her heart. Morning Salaat should bring joy to her heart but instead she felt a heaviness and anything but a joyous spirit. She turned and pulled a Bible out of her nightstand and opened to a favorite part: Psalm 16
“Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing…”
“Shaadi!” Her ten year old sister, Nayyer burst in.
“Nayyer! “Haven’t I asked you not to burst into my room like that?” scolded Shaadi.
“You’re reading it again, aren’t you! Read some to me!” Nayyer begged.
Shaadi closed the bedroom door quickly. “I will if you promise to keep it a secret. Papa must never know!
Nayyer nodded her promise. The idea of a forbidden book was too exciting for words.
“This is my favorite part, it makes my heart soar, Shaadi told her sister; her voice barely above a whisper and finished reading Psalm 16. When she finished her eyes were shining with joy, the heaviness she had felt after her Salaat was long forgotten.
“Nayyer, you see why I love these words……..” Shaadi’s eyes grew wide with shock and not a little fear when she saw her father standing in the doorway.
In a soft voice that hid the fury raging inside him he commanded. “Shaadi, give me that book of lies.” His hand was held out and his eyes were steel. A sob caught in Shaadi’s throat as she walked toward her father with downcast eyes and placed her greatest treasure in her father’s hand.
“Nayyer, you will leave this room. Shaadi, you will remain. I suggest you offer prayers of confession to Allah and hope you can be forgiven for this sin.”
The door shut and Shaadi heard the lock turn. She was locked in her room! A prisoner in her own home! She did pray, as her father suggested, but not to his god, Allah. She prayed to the God of the Bible. She prayed for mercy, safety, rescue.
“Why would He listen to me?” she thought. “I am not even a Christian and a female at that.” She had forgotten one of the biggest lessons her friend, Moriah had taught her. Jesus loved her just as much, as anyone else, she would be a bridesmaid to Jesus once she came to a saving knowledge of and belief in Him.
Sometime later her door opened. Her mother and father were both standing there. Her mother’s eyes were downcast. Tear tracks streaked her face. She carried a tray of water, dates, grapes, bread and cheese and carefully placed the food on Shaadi’s desk. Her father, Farookh, addressed her formally.
Shaadi Yasmin Tavannah, you have sinned against Allah and your family. After much prayer and conference with Imam Yosef it has been determined that you will marry. Your sin has been forgiven as we believe you have been left to your own devices for too long. With a husband to care for, you will not have time to be curious about forbidden things. Your husband has been chosen for you and you will be introduced to him tonight. You will be wed in two weeks. Your future husband’s name is Sargon Zamani. After your wedding it is Sargon’s wish the two of you return to Iran. You will lack for nothing as he is most successful. You will live like a princess and should consider yourself very fortunate; Allah has looked upon you with great mercy.”
Shaadi’s mother took a step toward her, arms outstretched but Farookh stopped her. She ran from the room sobbing.
Farookh continued “My child, I love you; but your actions cannot be overlooked. I do this to save you.”
Shaadi fell to her knees, eyes on the ground tears splashing all about. Farookh closed her door softly. His heart was heavy but he had done all he could to protect Shaadi. He walked into his den and in curiosity, he picked up the Bible and turned to the Psalm she had been reading. He felt his heart soar in his chest. He turned to the New Testament and began to read the Gospel of Matthew. He marveled at what he read and his heart told him the words were true. On the inside of the cover there was a name and phone number. He dialed the number. “Hello, Pastor Flynn? I am Shaadi’s father and I have some questions for you about what is in this Bible. I found Shaadi reading it earlier today….Yes, yes. About 9:30 would be excellent. I will see you then. ….. okay, yes. Thank you, Pastor. Good Bye.”
Shaadi rose and moved to her window praying: “Almighty God, Allah. I do not wish to sin or give offense, but in my heart and in my mind I am confused. There can be but one Almighty God. Allah, you say you love me, your daughter, but say in the next heartbeat I have not the value of a man. God the Father, You say you love me and sent Your Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross so that I might spend eternity in heaven. My heart breaks, I am to be wed to a man I do not know and taken to a country I fear. What am I to believe? Give me peace. Please, show me the way.” She crumpled to the floor in a flood of tears and eventually fell asleep in that very spot.
Later in the day her cell phone rang. It was her friend Moriah from the Christian church around the corner. They had met in school and Shaadi had challenged Moriah’s faith. Moriah had a gift of sharing God’s Word and had, over time, brought Shaadi to an understanding of the Bible. Moriah’s pastor had also talked with Shaadi and showed her the truths of Christ’s true identify from her own Q’ran. Shaadi had devoured the message of the Bible with a hungry heart. She had kept her move prized possession, her Bible, hidden away for almost six months before her father discovered her reading it.
“Shaadi! You missed the party! We thought you were coming, what happened?”
“Moriah! My life is done, it is over! My father found me reading my Bible to Nayyer and took it from me! I have been locked in my room and am to wed a man I have never met a week from Saturday and leave this country for Iran! I shall surely die!”
“Oh no, Shaadi! What can I do, how can I help?”
“There is nothing to be done, my friend. I am confined to my room. I meet my future husband to be this very night. I will spend my life in a Berkah with my heart belonging to your Jesus! My life if over!” Shaadi broke down, sobbing again.
That night, wearing plain clothes with all but her eyes covered by her niqab veil, Shaadi met her future husband. Her father loosed her niqab to allow Sargon a view of her face.
“Farookh, you have a very beautiful daughter and I believe she will be a fine wife.” Sargon address Shaadi’s father but ignored her. She was left to replace her niqab and go to the kitchen. Sargon was a very conservative Muslim and followed the stricter interpretations of the Q’ran. Her role at dinner was simple, serve, do not speak, return to the kitchen. When she served, she stole glances at this man who was to be her husband and had to admit, he was very handsome, but as she listened to his conversation she learned how conservative he was and she knew her life with him would be anything but free and she would be little more than a slave.
He did not acknowledge her for the rest of the meal. Once dinner was ended and she was able to return to the solitude of her room she took off the extra clothes that had been required as well as the niqab. She again prayed, but this time her confusion was gone. “Lord Jesus, I am a sinner and do not deserve your love or forgiveness. I know I can do no good thing but through you. I humbly ask if you will forgive my sins, cover them with the blood you shed on the cross. I ask you to come into my heart and soul and be my savior. If it is Your will I am wed to this man, Sargon, and live as his wife in Iran, I will follow Your Will. I beg you to save me from this fated, if you are willing. I wish to live openly loving You and worshiping you. Please save me.”
Once her prayer was done she looked up, sensing a presence. There, once again, her father stood. This time there were tears in his eyes. “My child. May Allah forgive me, but I cannot allow you to be in such misery. What is it that would draw you away from Allah? Without fear of punishment, please tell me.”
Shaadi pulled out her Q’ran and turned to the passages Moriah’s pastor had shown her. Haltingly, in a whisper, she read them with her father and they talked. She shared the truths she had learned and the way the praises in the Bible made her heart sing with a joy she had never known praying to Allah. The doorbell rang and Farookh got up quickly.
“Thank you, Shaadi, for sharing with me. You have given me much to ponder. I must go. ” Farookh told his daughter. He kissed her on the forehead. “Sleep well, my beautiful Shaadi. Have no fear of tomorrow.”
His words comforted her and she fell asleep before he had even finished closing the door.
In the morning, as the sun burst through her window she got up and automatically began to offer the Salaat and caught herself. She dropped to her knees and gave praise to her new God, Jesus Christ. Just as she was finishing up, Farookh knocked on her door. “Shaadi, will you please come downstairs with me?”
Speechless, Shaadi followed her father down to the living room not knowing what to expect. To her utter shock, there sat Moriah’s pastor. He looked tired and drawn but happy.
“Shaadi, this man, Pastor Flynn, has been discussing and debating with your mother and I throughout the night. He has talked to us through the Quran. I became angry several times and threatened…..well, I was wrong. I hoped you would join your mother and I in praying a new prayer, one to Jesus who our own Quran shows is divine.”
Speechless, Shaadi sank into a chair and then onto her knees. Pastor Flynn prayed the sinner’s prayer while Shaadi and her parents repeated his words. A small voice seemed to echo the words of the prayer and when they had finished, Nayyer, crept out. In a voice barely audible she said, “I have been going to that church on Wednesday and listening in Awana. I asked Jesus into my heart when you prayed Papa. Can I be a Christian too?”
Farookh held his arms out to his second daughter and held her tight. “ It seems this family is about to make some changes! Allah, oh, forgive, God is Good, He is so so Good and I praise Him for His gift to us.”
“Papa,” Shaadi said, “What about the wedding? What about Sargon? He will take this as a great insult.”
“I will deal with Sargon, my child. It is nothing for you to be concerned with. You will not be married to him, rest assured.”
Shaadi turned back to Pastor Flynn, “ May we please pray and thank our Lord Jesus Christ for He has answered my prayer in ways I never would have guessed. He has not only given my my life but has returned my family to me! He is truly the God of Truth!”