Book Review: I Dared to Call Him Father

This book tells a compelling, true story by Begum Bilquis Sheikh, a prominent Muslim woman who encountered God in the privacy of her home in 1966. At that time, she was 54 years old, divorced and raising her 4-year-old grandson Mahmud in her family’s ancestral home in Wah, Pakistan.

Bilquis, despite the numerous comforts afforded her by her elite societal status, was dissatisfied with her life and in search of higher purpose. She began studying the Quran and there, noticed that the prophet Jesus was cited frequently. This led to her decision to study His teachings as well. In a predominantly Muslim community, finding a Bible was challenging. So she commissioned her chauffeur, a Christian man, to bring her one, which he did reluctantly. This Bible began Bilquis spiritual adventure to knowing Christ.

Then, Jesus defense and forgiveness of the adulterous woman in the Book of John resonated with Bilquis because in Islam, the woman would have been stoned to death by everyone including her loved ones.

I think Bilquis fell in love with Jesus, becoming insatiably thirsty for His word and leading to her eventual baptism and conversion to Christianity. Most of her encounters with God happened in the privacy of her room, through vivid dreams which she translated with Scriptures she stumbled on. She made constant reference to the Holy Bible for Spiritual Guidance, and listened to what I believe to be her intuition but which she describes as God’s Direction, but maybe they are the same thing.

“Auntie, do you realize what this means for other people?” She broke into tears. “Have you thought of anybody else?” Her question was echoed in the brown eyes of my other niece who sat silently across from me.

I reached across the table and took the girl’s slim hand. “My dear,” I said sorrowfully. “There is nothing I can do but to be obedient.

A daughter and ex-wife to Public Office Holders in Pakistan, a country with a strong religious cast system, where non-Muslims were treated like beggars by the upper class, Bilquis encounter with Jesus was unexpected and forbidden.

However, she stopped at nothing to fulfill God’s Will in her life, despite the risk of being shunned by members of her family and her close friends, losing custody of her grandson and the risk of being murdered. She demanded a baptism and proclaimed her new Christian faith, prepared to be a martyr for Christ.

Mum, do you know what my friends said? They said that in the village people were planning to kill you. They will do it after Friday prayers.” He began sobbing. “If you die, I will kill myself!”

My dear child,” I said, “let me tell you a story.” And I recounted to him the tale of Jesus’ first sermon in Nazareth, when the crowd became so angry and determined to stone Him. “Mahmud,” I said, “Jesus passed through the midst of them. There wasn’t a thing anyone could do to Jesus until and unless the Father allowed it to happen. The same is true with you and me. We have His perfect protection. Do you believe that?”

“Do you mean we will never be hurt or harmed?”

“No, I don’t mean that. Jesus was hurt. But only when His time had come to suffer. We do not need to live a life of constant fear that something terrible will happen to us. For it cannot happen to us until our moment has come. And maybe that will never happen. We will simply have to wait and see. But in the meantime we can live in great confidence. Do you understand?”

Now, I wasn’t looking to read another spiritual book, all the fasting and Stations of the Cross had me in some sort of overdose. On the other hand, I had been stuck on Wheat Belly for over a month. It’s an enlightening book but reading it had become slow and agonising and I needed to move on. In search of something short and intriguing, and as Bilquis would have said, “God revealed this book to me”.

*****

First, I’ll admit my skepticism about her account. Maybe she was just bored and in a time of her life where she would have been open to anything rebellious, a life crisis of sorts. But then, who is to say that God must come at the high points of ones life? There are no rules to God’s intervention. He is God and whether her account is real or made up, it gives Him praise and glory. So, what’s not to like or disprove of?.
Next, I deeply admire the fervent way she followed her heart, to the point of baptising herself. She was obstinate in her decision to have a relationship with God despite the glaring consequences, trusting that He will protect her from harm and if not, give her the courage to brave even death for him.

Then, I learnt that talking to God like I would a real person isn’t me going mad from desperation. Bilquis talked to God a lot and prayed about every decision. In fact, it was common for her to say “Let me pray about it” to many decisions she had to make, committing every aspect of her life to an all-knowing God with absolutely faith that He is listening.

Finally, I felt a bit jealous of Bilquis, like in the story of the prodigal son. I know I shouldn’t have, but I did. I am born and raise a Christian and yet I don’t have any fancy, life-changing testimony or Calling to write about or share to God’s glory with. I’ve always hoped that God might use me for more, but I’m in a place in my life where I don’t know what His plan for me is. But like Saul, God calls whoever He wants, when and how He wants.

Published in 1978, this book is a Christian Literature, not primarily because Bilquis was converted to Christianity, but because it teaches us Christians a new way to experience God in earnest, follow our heart and seek him individually through the Holy Bible, and also learn to completely give up our lives and those of the people we love to His care.

It’s an old book but a recommended read as we celebrate our faith in our Risen Christ. You can listen to this book Audible for free here
Happy Easter!

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