Jamila has lived in an abusive marriage for more than three decades. Raised as a Muslim, she was forced by her father into an arranged marriage with a harsh Muslim man.
“I got married not because he was nice or good,” she said, “but because I had to.”
From day one, Jamila’s husband viewed her more as a possession than a person, and before long he began to physically attack her. Amid the continual beatings and threats, Jamila’s heart ached for goodness and truth. She had wrestled with questions about Islam for years, and when a Christian TV broadcast pointed her to the truth of Christ, Jamila found the answers she had been seeking. The faith in God that brought her peace, however, seemed only to intensify the violence in her home.
An Unlikely Upbringing
Though Jamila is a citizen of a Middle Eastern country, she was born in a Western nation, where her Muslim father was posted as a representative of his Arab government. After her mother died, when Jamila was five years old, her father sent her to a Catholic boarding school. There, she was taught by nuns and required to attend chapel services that honoured Jesus Christ. The seeds of those early lessons took root in her heart: Jesus Christ was real, and He loved her.
When Jamila turned 18, her father sent her back to the Middle East. Having lived in a Western nation all her life, she felt as if she had been dropped in a foreign country. She moved from one relative’s home to another, barely understanding the language and not at all the culture of her surroundings.
First Jamila was sent to an Arabic school to improve her language skills and gain the ability to read the Koran. Then she was sent to Saudi Arabia for Islamic religious training.
“I had so many questions about Islam,” she said. “It is very clear in the Koran: hate Christians, hate Jewish people. I asked directly why that is written in the Koran. Why do you hate people? They ignored my questions. They didn’t give me the real answer.”
Finding the Answers
While studying in Saudi Arabia, Jamila had a dream in which she saw a light so bright that she couldn’t open her eyes to see its source. When she returned home, she turned on the TV and began to search through satellite TV channels. As she came across Christian channels, her first impulse, trying to be a good Muslim, was to rush past them. But she felt as if something or someone was holding her hand, preventing her from pushing the button to move past the channel. She watched with interest as an evangelist challenged Islamic teachings and gave a clear presentation of the gospel. Jamila, who had so many questions about Islam, was surprised to see someone openly asking similar questions on TV — and providing answers.
Wanting to find the answers on her own, Jamila began to compare the evangelist’s teachings with those in the Koran and other books and on the internet. In the end, she did not find the answers in Islam. Determined to learn more about the Bible, and recalling the nuns and her childhood lessons, she headed for the local Catholic church. But when she got there, she was turned away by church leaders who feared that inviting a Muslim woman into their midst would cause problems. Then a friend helped Jamila connect with the pastor of an evangelical church. He gave her a Bible, and Jamila made the costly decision to read about Christ for herself.
Christ, Her Defender
Jamila’s husband had been abusive since the first days of their marriage, but he began to treat her even more harshly after he learned that she was pursuing the truth about Christ. He provided food for their children but at times would not let her eat. When she was sick, he prevented her from getting treatment. The beatings continued. But Jamila felt that she had a defender in Jesus Christ.
“I went through the darkness of Islam between a husband and wife, how the husband sees his wife as a slave,” Jamila said. “My husband beat me for very small things. Any kind of thing, he would make a big issue and beat me. [My husband and relatives] threatened to kill me. I told them, ‘I don’t care; do what you would like to do. I take Jesus as Saviour; He will protect me.’”
Since then, Jamila’s grown children have stepped in, and she has seen God protect her.
“The Lord never left me,” she said. “He was always with me. I faced some challenges, but the Lord reminded me how He has been with me.”
When asked why she stays in an abusive marriage, Jamila said, “I want to take care of my kids.” She is determined that her teenage daughters will not be forced into an abusive Muslim marriage, as she was.
For encouragement and hope, Jamila looks to Paul and Silas’s promise to the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:31: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” She is trusting in Christ for the salvation of her children and husband.
“I believe in this verse,” she said. “The Lord stands up with me. I have seen His hand in all my life!”