Astir grew up without her father present. Attempting to make sense of her life, she sought answers, but completely rejected the idea of God. Yet when she encountered Christians, she discovered a kind of love and acceptance that she had never before experienced, and found healing from her brokenness.
Astir’s story is featured on Women Of God, a TV program produced and funded by Horizons International. Women of God features interviews with Muslim women who share their experiences of persecution and suffering under Islam, and their stories and testimonies of how they have found freedom in Christ. This 13-episode show is aired in Muslim-majority countries through satellite TV, so that these women can share their stories with millions of people who also need Jesus.
Astir: What changed my life and my family’s, was actually a series of events. It started with my father’s absence. This caused my mother to become the head of the house, and it prevented her from playing the role of “mom”.
We paid the price, I guess, of what my dad had done in his life. He neglected his responsibilities towards us. In our culture, the languages that express love and care are almost nonexistent and are unacceptable among men. This produced more stiffness in him and more hate in us towards people.
We did not find comfort in anyone, even our relatives. So it was difficult for us to understand that God exists when you’re deprived of love, mercy, and affection from anyone. And you have no relationship with God.
But because of my age and since I was the youngest sibling, I had the chance at the age of 14 or 15 to seek God. This happened after my siblings left when they got married.
When they got married, I felt I lost my only source of security. This pushed me to search for other sources to fill this emptiness in me. This is when I started to search for God to find refuge in Him.
People and “God” showed me very well that I am guilty. They gave us this idea and it rooted deep down in our minds. This caused me to live very frightened.
And then my oldest sister – who is married – sensed my feelings and totally rejected what I was doing. This is why she brought me to her place and taught me so many things. I read many books about atheism and many other theories.
So it was very easy for me to grasp these concepts; the Universe, the Big Bang theory, Darwin’s Evolution Theory. These helped me understand the world and gave me better answers than those I found while searching for God.
I also tried to nurture my skills to fill the emptiness, that void within me. But I couldn’t.
Host: What would you do?
Astir: I read so many literature books, I’d draw, paint and play music. When I came to Lebanon, I wanted to pursue my studies. That was my main reason for coming.
But after a short while, my mom told me that the situation had become worse and they came here too. This is why I was forced to quit my studies.
Then, the hate inside me started to grow. I reached rock bottom, and then? What comes next? This hate and this weariness caused me to truly search and seek. I needed to find answers.
I was anti-God in general. And concerning Islam, as I previously mentioned, I tried to follow the rituals that I knew to reach God. But since I read books that proved the fallacy of these things, I drifted in a direction opposite to Islam since I knew its negatives and positives; and the negatives outweighed them.
Host: Who stood next to you during this phase?
Astir: During that time, I met some people as I told you. These individuals were from a Muslim background and they would always show me love and respect while I’d be showing total rejection and persecution.
I persecuted them a lot. I’d show them that they were so naïve to believe in such concepts.
But when our house caught fire, I started asking myself: “Where is your God? The One you’re telling me about? The One you told me about once or twice?” At that moment, I was weeping and crying out from the inside. It was the first time I expressed myself in front of everyone; my weaknesses.
But then I started to understand because something inside of me was changing. I had to fill that emptiness and with the right thing. Nothing else was going to fill it.
So I received my first Bible as a gift from that person, and he challenged me: “Since you’re a secular person who judges according to evidence, take this book as my proof to the existence of God”.
So I took it, but neglected it because the first two verses I read said that God opposes the proud. However, the second verse that touched me said that God is love. And I confronted one of them, he was a guy.
During that phase, many tried to approach me and several asked for my hand
Host: in marriage?
Astir: In marriage, correct. So I told him: “If you’re expecting me to become a Christian or accept you, then you’re very mistaken.”
He broke my pride in a way through his reply when he said: “You think that you are a very important person and that’s why we do all of this for you, but you’re wrong. All that we do is for our God who showed us love and asked us to reflect it to all people, regardless of their religion.
We never told you anything except that God is love”. This changed me drastically on the inside. I started breaking down these walls inside of me, and then I desired to go to Church for the first time.
In my first visit, during worship time, it was the first time I witnessed people worshipping God, praising Him in songs with all their hearts.
Before Christ, believe me, I wasn’t sociable. I disliked everyone. I considered myself someone who was very tough. Yet I was too weak inside and totally empty.
But now? My life changed! I became full of love and peace, certain that I am created in the image and likeness of God. I prayed the prayer of salvation. I started praising with all my heart and experienced absolute freedom.
This freedom allowed me to look at people in love and compassion. This freedom led me to forgive my father, finally, after all these years. This same freedom led my dad to ask me to pray for him. And he came with me to Church once and received his salvation and asked me to forgive him for the first time in his life.
This freedom that I experienced proved to me that God is alive and is with us. This caused many of my family members to see that change in me, in my behavior, my love.
And, though I did not announce my faith, they started asking me “What changed in you?” And this is how I gained many brothers and sisters, who now have put their faith in Christ.