A Rebel for the Cause of Christ

A Rebel for the Cause of Christ

When Rahim was just 14 years old in 1989, he joined the Muslim separatist group el-Jihad in northern India but the teenager didn’t really believe in the cause. His home region, the Kashmir Valley, is 97% Muslim, while the rest of the country is predominantly Hindu. This religious and cultural imbalance has fostered longstanding tensions and sometimes violence as various Islamic insurgencies have waxed and waned in the region.

A Rebel for the Cause of Christ1
Rahim’s journey to faith in Christ began when a taxi passenger told him about the love of God.

The separatist groups scattered throughout Kashmir demanded local support, making life hard and even dangerous for families that would not send able-bodied men to fight. Although Rahim’s family was politically well-connected and on good terms with the Indian central government, he joined the insurgents to protect his family from the inevitable harassment that came to those who did not support the separatist cause.


Rahim felt coerced to join the insurgency, even though he didn’t identify strongly with the ideology driving it. “I didn’t know Allah,” Rahim said. “Whatever the mullahs, the teachers, would teach us, that is what we would keep doing. There was no inner peace. There was no satisfaction for the soul.”


In 1993 Rahim was captured by the Indian military and detained for four months. During that time he was harshly interrogated as they demanded information about the insurgency. And when he was released, he still felt only despair and dissatisfaction. He survived by doing odd jobs as a day laborer but the lack of employment was not his biggest problem.


“I couldn’t find Allah,” Rahim said. “That was a very important thing because [in the Muslim religion] the fear of Allah was always put on our minds. We were never told that Allah is your friend and loves you.” Rahim even considered suicide to escape hopelessness.

A House Divided

While working at a Ramadan event in 2002, Rahim met the woman he fell in love with, but there was a significant obstacle: Rahim was a Shia Muslim, while his beloved was Sunni.


The Shia and Sunni sects have long regarded one another as kafirs, or heretics. Rahim knew their families would not approve. His family eventually relented but hers was adamant that they should not marry. In the end, the couple had a civil wedding in court instead of celebrating traditional Islamic rituals.


The honeymoon was short-lived. When the family of Rahim’s new wife learned her whereabouts, they kidnapped her. It took police and court involvement to reunite husband and wife.


“And we lived happily ever after,” Rahim quipped, recalling that day. “But still there was an emptiness. I was looking for something beyond.”

A Passenger with a Message

Rahim needed a way to support his family, so a friend taught him to drive and helped him get a car to use as a taxi. The work provided not only a solution to Rahim’s financial needs but also an answer to his spiritual questions…


One day in 2004, a passenger, who sensed that the driver was unhappy, placed his hand on Rahim’s shoulder and said, “We should meet.”


When they next saw one another, pastor Ahmed asked Rahim, “Are you in touch with God?” Rahim felt all his old skepticism rising up. “Who can really know God?” He thought. “Ahmed told me that God is always with me,” Rahim said, “and whatever we have to share we can share with him. This touched my heart.”


Ahmed taught Rahim how to pray and how to draw near to God. Then one day he asked him, “Have you heard of Christ?” From Islamic teaching Rahim believed Jesus to be a prophet but Ahmed told him more about the life and teaching of Christ. Rahim’s views gradually shifted and he found his heart being drawn to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.


Then one night Rahim picked up a female passenger who was in deep distress — seven months pregnant and bleeding profusely. While driving her to the hospital, he began to pray in Jesus’ name for the woman and her unborn baby. By the time they arrived at the hospital, the bleeding had stopped. The woman was fine, the delivery went normally and the baby was healthy. “I was new to the [Christian] faith,” he said. “The Lord heard my voice and he answered my prayer. My faith really grew because God heard my prayer!”


By this time, Rahim and his wife were parents, and he began to tell their two children about God and prayer. When others in his family overheard him, their suspicions were confirmed that he was involved with Christians. “They said I had gone bad,” Rahim said. “that I had better leave [the home] and go.”


But what was intended as punishment Rahim turned to good. He used the opportunity of living away from his family to openly explain the Gospel to his wife. Though she was at first resistant and even angry, she eventually placed her faith in Christ as well.

A Shepherd’s Love

As Rahim and his family grew closer to Christ, the pastor, Ahmed, challenged them to take another step of faith. They enrolled in a three-month Bible training program in 2009 led by a bold Christian named Mohammed Bhat. Mohammed had also come to faith in Christ through Ahmed’s witness. “Mohammed was a very special person,” Rahim said. “He used to enter a mosque, stand on the first floor and pray in the name of Jesus. If some people were quarreling, he was the first one to intervene and try to stop them from fighting.”


Mohammed was known for helping the poor and vulnerable, his service a reflection of his deep faith in God. He was also an unflinching witness for Christ who patiently built relationships with Muslims and gently opened the Gospel to them. Rahim learned much from Mohammed’s example.


Upon completing the Bible training, Rahim joined Mohammed in outreach efforts to the local community, which was composed largely of Islamic fundamentalists. One day in 2011, a group of mullahs burst into a classroom where Mohammed taught the Bible and demanded to know what they were doing. The mullahs searched the room and found Bibles in a cabinet, prompting accusations that Mohammed and Rahim were engaged in illegal religious activities. The mullahs summoned the police, who then took them into custody.


They spent 13 days in a small, dirty cell with criminals and subjected to humiliation. “Whenever someone was passing by, they would look at us and spit,” Rahim said. “And they would say, ‘Be cursed, be cursed!’” While they were detained, Mohammed repeatedly encouraged Ahmed to keep his eyes fixed on God.


Local mullahs called in reinforcements — Islamic scholars and leaders from as far away as Delhi — to gather outside the jail and protest against Christian evangelism. Rahim said Mohammed was taken outside to answer their charges and demands.


“How dare you say you speak to God?” the protesters shouted.


“Of course, I speak to God,” Mohammed replied, reminding them that prayer is also part of their Muslim faith.


Eventually, police released the two Christians into the custody of the mullahs, who kept them locked in an Islamic school for five days. “During that time,” Rahim said, “they were trying to convince us that our faith was false.”


After days of pressuring the men to convert back to Islam, the mullahs changed tactics. They sent them home, periodically bringing them gifts of food and looking for any sign that they had resumed their Christian work.

Drifting, Then Drawing Near

Pressure and ongoing scrutiny from the mullahs didn’t discourage Rahim. But a sense of indifference from other Christians after his return home did have an effect. “Nobody called me to see about my well-being,” he said. Many Kashmiri Christians are distrustful of those they don’t know personally, even fellow believers. They experience so much insecurity in their daily lives that they are hesitant to reach out to others.


Rahim’s sense of abandonment by local believers was soon compounded by the loss of his livelihood. His taxi burned beyond repair and only Mohammed provided help. “Gradually I began to drift away from God,” Rahim said.


Then, on a wintery day in 2013, Rahim began to cough up blood. He was in and out of the hospital for a week as doctors sought a diagnosis. After finding that Rahim’s lungs had “ruptured,” the doctors gave him little hope.


Though he had drifted away from God, he recalled a song of prayer that he used to sing: “God, remember me; remember me, O Lord.” In his weakened condition, he began to sing.


Recalling the scene a decade later, Rahim’s eyes filled with tears. “Suddenly I felt a whiff of breeze just pass through me,” he said. “The doctors came and examined me. They said, ‘There are no issues with you.'”


Rahim was reawakened to the love and calling of Christ by what he considered a miracle. “God is not going to desert us, even when we go away from him,” Rahim said. “Now my life is constantly in the presence of God.”


Rahim’s life has not been free of problems and grief since his renewal of faith. His mentor’s martyrdom was heartbreaking. “When I saw the [news],” Rahim recalled, “I was very shaken because I had never seen anybody like Mohammed, the kind of faith he carried.” His example strengthened Rahim`s faith, and today he tries to emulate Mohammed’s commitment to prayer, evangelism and care for the vulnerable. He takes joy in walking through the hospital wards, praying in Jesus’ name for the sick and suffering there/ Rahim said he “preaches the Gospel to whoever it is possible.” And in doing so, he is following his mentor’s example of getting to know people, learning their stories and then speaking Gospel truth to them in the context of those relationships.


Rahim also sees that equipping a new generation of believers is a key part of being a gospel minister, so he makes sure he is raising his own children to be faithful. “I am trying to walk the path that the Lord has laid for us,” Rahim said. “I want my family to be very strong and firm in the faith. They need to be strong to carry forth the legacy.”