I Dared to call Him Father, by Bilquis Sheikh

I attended a Catholic mass Sunday. The scripture aboutJesus and his disciples in a boat during a storm was shared and expounded on. I’m not sure I believe that Jesus literally walked on water and that Peter literally took a few steps on the water before he started to sink, but it is a wonderful metaphor.

Walking on water, to me, is a metaphor for maintaining emotional equanimity. Both are difficult, perhaps imposible, or nearly so. When I’m in a storm of anger, fear or hurt feelings, like Peter I’m calling out, “Help me Lord I’m sinking!”

I read a book about a Muslim woman in Pakistan, I Dared to Call Him Father, by Bilquis Sheikh) who, through dreams and an inner voice, came to understand that she was to become a Christian. I don’t understand why she couldn’t have had Muhammad and Jesus too. Don’t Muslims accept the teachings of Jesus the way Christians accept the teachings of Moses? This book told of another formerly Muslim woman, who had accepted the Christian Faith and then had been murdered, most likely by her brother. No arrests were made. In a practice known as “honor killing,” a woman, who is judged by relatives to have brought shame on the family, is murdered by a close male relative such as a father, brother or husband, often with impunity. This is part of the culture in some parts of the world. One can imagine how intimidating that is for the girls and women living in such a culture. I read a book some time ago that discussed the situation for women in Jordan (Honor Lost: Love And Death In Modern Day Jordan, by Norma Khouri). It described the murder of a woman by her father for being in a relationship with a Catholic man. This regimentation of the lives of girls and women, enforced by murders rarely prosecuted, predates Muhammad and Islam. It is a pernicious cultural practice that is changing very slowly with the slowly increasing educational opportunities for girls.

According to the book, I Dared to Call Him Father, there are many secret Christians in Pakistan, people who secretly accept the salvation of Christ, while maintaining the appearance of being Muslim. The author, Bilquis Sheikh, was completely open about her conversion to Christianity. She did receive criticism and shunning from some family members, even some threats, but she prayed and lived a life of faith. She left Pakistan for awhile, then returned for the last few years of her life.

Honor killing takes place against people who change their religion, engage in promiscuous. or homosexual behavior, refuse an arranged marriage, seek divorce from even a violently abusive marriage, or became the victim of rape. Although it is a crime primarily against women and girls, being gay can get a man killed within the cultures that practice honor killing. A young man or boy may be coerced into killing his own sister.

Honor killings happen all over the world, but particularly in Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities. I read the article on honor killing in Wikipedia, which gives details by country. There are laws against murder everywhere, but honor as an excuse for murder is effective in many locales for the perpetrators to receive lenient sentences or even to avoid prosecution all together.

I admire the courage Bilquis Sheikh, a woman from a well-to-do family in Pakistan, showed when she felt the call from God to change her religion, and did so openly, even in the climate of fear created by the honor killings in her midst. The story, I Dared to Call Him Father, opens in the 1960s when Bilquis was in her 50s. She had been divorced and was the caretaker of a young grandson.

The Quran states that God (Allah) is not our father, that he does not beget. Muhammad was explaining that the figure of speech Jesus used to describe God was only that — a figure of speech. I do not feel that that negates it’s aptness as a figure of speech.

Some day religious bigotry and bias will end. True spiritually is universal, I believe, and a bigoted religiosity is not even spiritual.

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