On the way to my Muslim mother’s grave, which I was visiting for the first time just a few days after her death, the taxi driver I hired to take me was engaged in a political discussion with my companion Radi who was leading me to the grave site.
I noticed that the driver was educated, and he revealed that he was a social worker in a school and drives the taxi for extra income because his day job does not make enough for his family to survive.
My companion, who works for a friend of mine, insisted on calling me doctor, from the days I was doing a PhD at the university. The taxi driver, curious to know about his silent passenger, started asking me questions, and I tried to be short with my answers with him.
Being a student of philosophy, I could not resist correcting him when he identified Socrates, Plato and Aristotle as social scientists. I had to tell him these are philosophers, not social theorists like Emilé Durkheim, which to my surprise he was not familiar with.
When he figured out that I was doing a PhD in the philosophy of religion, he seemed intrigued, as some stereotypes in this culture associate philosophy of religion with the enlightened knowledge of the true religion (Islam, of course).
The man assumed of course that we are Muslims, because we were heading to a Muslim burial site. He told me how he watched Ahmed Deedat’s famous debate with Jimmy Swaggart on video in the 80’s; I told him I did the same, and we found that we are almost the same age.
So he asked me if I know “everything” about all three of the “heavenly” religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), since I am in the field of religion and philosophy. I answered that I do know some, and I tried to correct him that they should be called Abrahamic religions, not “heavenly,” because other religions like Hinduism claim that they are also “heavenly” religions.
He tried to dismiss this by talking about the only “true” three heavenly or Abrahamic religions, and to his shock I told him that Abrahamic religions could be more than three, at least four if he counted Baha’i faith.
He dismissed the Baha’i faith as a new arrival, a man-made religion and not approved by the previous religions, so I argued back that Christians then will say there are only two Abrahamic religions sent from heaven, as they do not consider Islam to be true and they look at it as a man-made religion, the same way he looks upon the Baha’i faith.
The man was in shock and he tried to prove that Islam is a true religion quoting the Quran: “Do they not consider the Quran? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy.” (Quran 4:28)
I told him that his argument is not valid since he is quoting a scripture that is not considered to be authentic by Christians. I asked him if he believes the Bible is corrupted, and he affirmed that it is.
Then I quoted for him from the Bible: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19)
I asked him if he considered what I just quoted a proof that the Bible is not corrupted, and he said it does not count because it is not true scripture. So, I asked him why he wants to compel a Christian who does not believe in his Quran to take at face value his quoting from the Quran as a proof of the Quran’s validity?
The guy started arguing about the scientific miracles in the Quran, and I countered him with scientific errors in it. He was shocked again. He even quoted the wisdom of the Quran to forbid eating pork because it has proven to cause disease by recent scientific research, and I told him that almost the whole world, West and East, eat pork and they have no issues with that. Eating a sick lamb will cause him disease in the same way as eating a sick pig. Quoting Jesus Christ I told him: “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Matthew 15:11)
He tried to show the superiority of Islam by telling me it forbids men from wearing gold, which is scientifically proven to be harmful to men. I asked him to show me these studies, as I do not believe that there are such findings. Muslims love to invent lies and wholeheartedly believe in them to prove their religion is superior to other religions and they are the best nation brought out to mankind, the leaders of the world, while they are just consumers and followers of the world’s advancement and inventions.
Ironically, he told me that most of the real scientists in the world are Muslims. I asked him to tell me how many Muslims won Nobel Prize (from a billion and half Muslims in the world) vis-à-vis Jews (less than 20 million)? I told him that if he wanted to talk about a certain religion’s followers’ impact on the world, then the Jews win undisputed.
The man in a desperate attempt talked about Islam forbidding alcohol. I was shocked when he did not know that Muslims used to drink alcohol until it was forbidden later during Muhammad’s time as a prophet. I tried to remind him of Quranic verses which prove my point, and he is not aware of its context like: “O ye who believe! Approach not prayer while ye are drunk, until ye well know what ye say” (Quran 4:43), which was abrogated later by: “Only would Satan sow hatred and strife among you, by wine and games of chance, and turn you aside from the remembrance of God, and from prayer: will ye not, therefore, abstain from them?” (Quran 5:91)
The man was puzzled and he asked me if I believe in Islam? I told him “of course I do not believe in Islam.” He went silent looking at me not believing his ears or eyes. He never met someone who was a Muslim and rejected Islam, not to mention someone he thought is well-versed in religion and its philosophy, as the stereotype of that culture goes, that if you studied religion further then you become anchored in it.
He learned for the first time that the grave we are visiting is my mother’s grave, who just died a few days ago. He asked me when I left his taxi as we arrived, and he was waiting to take us back, if I will read over her the Fateha (the first chapter in the Quran). I nodded with a smile. When I came back from the grave, he and my companion Radi asked me what I said at my mother’s grave as he noticed me being silent and moving my lips. I smiled and said it was not, of course, the Fateha, which I do not believe in.
The man in another desperate attempt asked me where I want to be buried if I die? I told him: “Why do I care where I will be buried, since I will be dead then? Does it matter, if my body perishes after I die, where the corpse is buried? Or do you think that what resurrects is the body and not the soul?”
The discussion in this way back moved into resurrection and life after death. I told him that Islamic salvation methods are not for me. A balance scale at the Day of Judgment to weigh my good deeds vs. my bad deeds is not exactly a way to ensure eternal life.
I asked him about a famous female belly dancer (belly dancing is forbidden in Islam because the woman causes the men who watch her to sin due to the sexual content and nudity of the dance). This belly dancer dances 11 months a year and when Ramadan, the month of fasting arrives, she put on the veil, prays five times a day, fasts the entire month and gives charity; she also performs pilgrimage to Mecca every year. Then I asked him if he thinks this woman would end up in heaven?
The man, laughing at the silliness of this belly dancer, said that of course she would not go to heaven. Then I argued back that she is doing what Islam taught her, increasing her good deeds so they may outweigh her bad deeds at the Day of Judgment. He still dismissed what she does as silly and insincere and not saving her from hell fire.
I told him that actually Christianity is a better deal than Islam, if he is concerned about his after-life. He asked me how? I responded with a question about Adam, and if he had to die when he lived in paradise (i.e. Eden) before his fall. He answered that he was immortal.
Then I asked him if Adam continued enjoying this immortality after he disobeyed God and ate from the tree and was expelled into earth? He said that he no longer lives forever but dies. So, I argued without receiving much resistance from him that Adam received death as another punishment for his sin (besides being expelled from paradise and being cut from God’s fellowship).
I continued with a rhetorical question: “if we were born into Adam before his sin in paradise, would not we also enjoy that immortality like him? But now, we are born into him on earth after he sinned and received death. We die like him, which means we inherited his death and we inherited his punishment. Because God is just, nobody could claim that they are without sin, because we all inherited Adam’s ability to sin, even Muhammad.”
I do not want to go deep into our discussion about Muhammad’s sin, but I proved to him from the Quran that Muhammad was forgiven for his sins, and only a condemned person could be pardoned, not an innocent man, quoting a verse from the Quran like: “And we unloaded your load (of sins). One that burdened your back.” (Quran 94:2-3)
The ticking bomb was about to explode in the heart and mind of this taxi driver and my companion Radi. I told him (quoting Romans 5:12): “by one man, sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”; is it possible that with one man’s righteousness we could be restored back into eternal life?
He did not know what to say; he was perplexed, but it seemed logical enough for him to nod his head. Then I asked him who is like Adam? Your Quran says in 3:59 “Truly, the likeness of Jesus, in God’s sight, is as Adam’s likeness.” Do you know if Jesus ever sinned? Does not Islam teach that He was sinless, i.e. innocent?
At this point, we had arrived to our distention and we were sitting for few minutes until I finished my thoughts. He said to me: “I am not leaving you today and I do not even want to work. Could we go to a coffee shop so I have to smoke some water pipe to digest what you been telling me?”
We ended up having some Turkish coffee, and he and Radi smoked a water pipe. I think they needed it to balance all the shifted chemicals in their brains after this hot discussion. Mostly they were digesting what I said and suddenly a Muslim call for prayer broke the meditation silence. I looked at both of them and said: “Are not you going to pray?” A shy smile on their faces admitted that they do not really pray. So I continued with a knock-down punch: “So you are members of this silly belly dancer party? You do good deeds when it is convenient for you and expect that you are going to heaven?”
I do not recall when I told him this in the course of the conversation, but I believe it was toward the end that I said something like if his faith as a Muslim is a leap in the dark, then it would be better to leap into a more secure summit to God than Islam. A summit that could bring him into heaven with more certainty than just leaping into the mercy of Allah and the balance scale of his good vs. bad deeds. I added that he may want to think of the righteous second Adam (Jesus Christ) and what He could do for him to restore him back into eternal life after reconciling man and God through His obedience.
I added that my job is to throw a rock in the stagnant water of his mind to cause him to think seriously about what he is born and raised to believe. That is all that I could do for him, to help him to critically think of what he believes to be absolute truth. I never identified myself to them as a Christian, just as someone who trusts the reconciliation of Jesus, the second Adam through His righteousness. This made me avoid a lot of sidetrack discussions about the Trinity, Son of God, the corruption of the Bible (as Muslims believe), etc.
The taxi driver left and said he is heading home because he has a massive headache after all of this discussion. I tried to pay him and he refused; he said he should pay me for what he learned. So I doubled what I was offering him so he could really go home and not need to work this day and meditate on what he heard and forced him to take the money.
I am thankful to the Holy Spirit for His leading. I was not planning or even desiring by any means to evangelize at this moment of personal sadness, as I was trying to focus on my own loss of my mother on my way to her grave where she was just buried a few days ago. God forced me out from my selfish thoughts into a unique opportunity I never could have imagined or planned for to share His message. He uses us as strong witnesses when we are powerless and broken.
Please pray for him and Radi (the companion). I realized after the taxi driver left that I forgot to ask him for his name, though we spent over four hours in discussion. God knows his name, and I believe my job as a messenger was done. It is up to the sender (God) to convince the receivers (the taxi driver and Radi) with His Good News of salvation through the righteousness of the second Adam Jesus Christ.
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Romans 5:19
To read my conversion story please click here.