In the narration of my story I have arrived at a point where it may be suitable to pause a little and to give a few outstanding facts of my spiritual experience gained during this period. Later in life some good Christians, because of their peculiar view as to the nature of the new birth and the manner of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, have tried to create doubt in my mind as to the validity of my early Christian experience, suggesting that I still lacked the fullness of the Holy Spirit which must be accompanied with a certain visible sign. Such suggestions sometimes are disturbing to the new found peace and joy of a convert. When believing the Lord Jesus Christ to be the Son of God and accepting Him as my Saviour I received my baptism, the Spirit bore "witness with my Spirit," and gave the assurance that I had become a child of God, and that I was born of the Spirit. I was no longer under the "spirit of bondage" which formerly made me go through religious duties with fear and trembling, and in a state of uncertainty as to my being worthy of God's mercy, and with no hope as to my future. I knew that the Spirit of truth was guiding me to the knowledge of God. It was an experience such as the prodigal son had on his return to his father's home. I could with St. Paul exultantly shout and exclaim: "What things were gain to me," my prayers, fastings and the practices of mysticism "I count loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." I wished that with St. Paul I could also add "for whom I
have suffered the loss of all things." The Lord in His all-protecting care, aware of my weakness has not allowed His child to have the privilege of suffering and going through the loss of all things. In spite of my leaving home, He so favoured me that I coutinued to retain the love of my parents and brothers. My people, though grieved and pained because of my decision to become a Christian, nevertheless continued to love me in greater measure than they had done when I was with them. I began to receive abundant tokens of their affection, indicating that I was still an object of their care. It was only the attitude of the Muslim neighbours which made in difficult for me to be allowed to live with them and share their life, and necessitated my living away from home. Moreover, the Lord had rewarded me by giving me a kindly and an affectionate godfather in Mr. Hickinbotham, and a loving friend and brother in Mr. Steinthal, and good companionship with my fellow students, whose fellowship brought an immense joy and pleasure to me. Thus, visible and invisible tokens of God's grace and favour, the wealth of spiritual experience and the abundance of material comfort, all indicated, that, because of my frailty I was an object of His special care.
Let it not be understood that God did not permit any sorrow or sadness to darken my life, and that I had no sin to separate me from His own presence. There were many dark valleys spiritually, and sometimes physically as well, that I had to pass through; there were many lonely and miserable hours in life's experience, many griefs to bear and many pains to suffer, many disappointments to meet and many temptations to fight, but they, excepting sin, never marred the peace which reigned in my heart, it
was the peace of God which passeth all understanding. Once a dear relative of mine in his attempt to prove that I had lost that spiritual power which I possessed as a Muslim, said to me: "You can no more write such effective and powerful tawiz, charms, as you were able to do when you were a Muslim." My answer was: "I do not need charms now, for my God is not one who needs coaxing to attend to my wants; my God is my father, and the Lord of the Universe, and all that it contains is His, and I am His child, I have now free access to Him for everything that I desire."
This new experience did not mean freedom from capacity to sin. God did not deprive me of the free use of my faculties and powers which He has given me. In other words, He did not turn me into a machine of which He was the driving power. In fact, some of the bitterest temptations came after I had received Christ. The period which followed my baptism coincided with the time when morally and physically I was growing into manhood, and was getting susceptible to surrounding temptations. The Lord allowed me to retain freedom of choice, and in the hour of temptation I had the full liberty of either saying "No" to it, or yielding to it. The Lord did not incapacitate me so as to make me unable to turn against Him and sin, for I now see that this would have meant that by making me His child He turned me into something lower than man, a machine, a mere tool with no freedom of choice or will. But He did the thing which was of far higher value than making me merely mechanically virtuous. At every temptation He gave me His grace to resist it if I decided to do so. He would not allow even His grace to interfere with the freedom of my will. When
choice was made in favour of sin the grace was withdrawn. On God's part, the withdrawal of grace however, did not mean the forsaking of His sinning and rebellious child, but bestowing of another grace, the grace of repentance, provided a decision was made to repent and accept the forgiveness of God through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. Let not a reader presume from what has just been said, that because God does not forsake His sinning child but bestows His grace upon him to repent, therefore it implies that sin may be allowed to be committed by a regenerate man. Far from it,- a man born of God cannot commit sin wilfully aud impudently. For of such the Scripture rightly says: "It had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it happened unto them according to the proverb the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to the wallowing in the mire. (2 Pet. 2:21,22)." When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour I learnt what sin is in the sight of God. This new conception of sin was very different from what I had been taught in Islam. When I was a Muslim, sin meant to me merely an external act to which God had attached a painful result, which, as a consequence of it, I was to suffer in hell. In other words, sin was not essentially evil, but only evil by God's decree. He has pronounced certain things to be good and they are good, and certain other things to be evil and they are evil, and such an act of pronouncing certain things good and certain other things as evil, was regarded by me to be for governmental purposes, and thus of an administrative nature only. I had no real understanding of holiness or
of sin as an orthodox Muslim, though my idea of ethical morality was improved when I became a mystic. Nevertheless, the moral teachings of Islam were regarded by me as matters only of regulations, and hence, I believed, that God could legitimize actions that once He had pronounced to be illegal, and illegitimize things that He had decreed to be legal.
On accepting Christ as my Saviour, I came to know the true nature of sin, and that it was something essentially evil, and a rebellion against God, and that it carried its consequences with it which were inherent in it. Its chief consequences lay in separation from God and death to the soul and destruction of all that is pure, holy and good. I learnt all this by going into the garden of Gethsemane and witnessing the agony of the Lord, and by standing at the foot of the cross. I was led to this experience after the Lord had bestowed upon me the grace of repentance, and receiving forgiveness through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ which cleanseth us from all sin.
As a Christian I was led by God into another experience, by which I came to know, that if I required God's grace to be forgiven of my sin, I also needed, every day of my life, His grace to be kept from sinning. If it was His wonderful grace which saved me from the eternal destruction of sin, I needed His more wonderful grace to save me from the powerful temptations of life; the one I needed to be saved from the guilt of sin, and the other from the power of sin. it was through such experiences that I came to understand the true significance of the angel's announcement "Thou shalt call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sin." Thus the Lord led me to the twofold experience of His grace, the grace of
repentance, and through repentance the joy of receiving His forgiveness, and realizing in life that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin; and secondly the grace of God which protected me from the power of sin; "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for His seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." I John 3:9. Later, when I grew more in the new relationship which existed between Christ and me, the more I came to realize the nature of holiness, and at the same time the fearful nature of sin, the more God granted me of His grace to make me sensitive to the approach and the presence of sin. I know now how terrible are the consequences which sin carries in itself. I know now what the writer of the Hebrews meant by what he expresses so strongly: "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, aud the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open Shame." The same writer speaks again: "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who bath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" Hebrews. 6:4-6; 10:26-29.
After such a declaration of the nature of sin in God's sacred Scripture, how a Christian can wilfully commit a sin, is staggering to human understanding.
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