As an ethnic Malay, Hizam* knew that his duty was to be a faithful follower of Islam. Year by year he worked his hardest to fulfill the requirements and make his family proud, but he always seemed to come up short. He couldn’t fast for the whole month of Ramadan. He knew that there was no way for him to fulfill the five pillars of Islam. He made mistakes many times in his prayers.
Hizam felt like a failure in his family, especially when his parents measured him against his two older sisters who seemed to get everything right. Eventually, depression set in, and Hizam found himself searching for a way out of it.
“I thought that my life on earth was hell, and when I die I know I will go to hell as well,” said Hizam.
He began looking for God. He read the Qur’an but couldn’t find God there. He knew somehow that Buddhism and Hinduism did not hold the answers, so he decided to read the Bible online. Starting with the Old Testament, Hizam felt something different.
“I liked the Old Testament, so I decided to read the New Testament too. Again, I was surprised. I liked Jesus!” Hizam remembered.
But Hizam did not yet believe, and after continuing his search for happiness, he decided to just give up. In a last attempt, he typed, “God, please help me” into a Google search engine. What came up changed his life forever.
He was directed to Isaiah 41:10, which reads, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” This link led Hizam to a website that explained the gospel and how to have sins forgiven through salvation in Jesus Christ.
The website included a prayer, and Hizam prayed the prayer. Instantly, he said, his depression was gone, and his life began to change. However, life for Hizam was far from easy.
The same website told Hizam to go to the nearest church and tell all of his family and friends about his new decision to follow Christ. Hizam knew this could bring him a lot of trouble in his ethnic Malay family. He said to God, “If my mom asks me if I am a Christian, then I will tell her.”
Not long after that, Hizam’s mother found his browsing history and was appalled to see he had been reading Christian materials. When she confronted Hizam, he told her he was just researching. But then later when his mother tried to get him to go to the mosque, she became frustrated with his reluctance.
She asked him, “Are you still a Muslim or are you a Christian?”
And he had to tell her the truth. For two years Hizam was completely cut off from his family. They told him that he had shamed them, disgraced them. When Hizam invited them to his wedding, they said they would not go unless his new wife agreed to become a Muslim. She wouldn’t, so Hizam’s family missed his wedding.
With time, Hizam’s family has been more willing to associate with him again, although there is still a lot of hurt between them. While they do still feel ashamed of Hizam, they have at least agreed to see him and his wife occasionally. They still do not support his decision to follow Jesus.
Many ethnic Malays who are searching for answers like Hizam are afraid to leave Islam because leaving Islam means leaving their families, communities, and all they’ve ever known. Pray for people like Hizam who are searching for God to find peace in Jesus Christ.
Carrying a Malay language Bible around is often too risky for ethnic Malays who want to learn more about Jesus. Online and electronic Bibles attract much less attention and offer access to Scripture in multiple languages. Pray for more Scripture to get in the hands of Malaysians through their phones, computers, and tablets.