Come back victorious or dead, Kareem’s mother told him.
“My mom used to pray for me and say, ‘Kareem, may I see you a leader one day coming with victory for Islam,’” he recounts on a One for Israel video, ‘or a leader who is coming back dead.’”
Kareem imbibed the fanaticism.
“In the Koran, we grow up with two things. First, you should give your life to (Allah). Second, you should defeat Jews and Christians,”
Becoming a martyr was the surest way to make it into Paradise, he thought. When he came of age, Kareem wanted his shot at jihad.
“I was dreaming of that day that I would get that fantastic opportunity when America attacked Iraq in 2002 – 2003,” he says. “I said to myself, ‘this is my moment where I will give my life to (Allah).’”
Through his connections through the Muslim community, he signed up for an operation to be taken to Iraq and fight the infidels. After waiting for days, finally the call came.
“I’m sorry, Kareem, the operation has been canceled.”
Kareem felt devastated, deprived of hope and vision.
“I felt that I’d lost everything,” Kareem remembers. “I felt that I am rejected by God. God rejected me.”
After days, a leader in the Muslim community in his hometown tried to encourage Kareem.
“Kareem, why are you so sad?”
“Because God didn’t choose me to die.”
“Maybe because he chose you to live.”
Kareem now believes the words spoken by that man were inspired by the true God. He was encouraged and came out of his depression.
“What should I do?” he asked.
“You should evangelize.”
This became Kareem’s new purpose. Kareem began proselytizing with great zeal.
In his intense desire to win converts to Islam, Kareem threw himself into the study of the Muslim apologists.
That’s where he hit a snag.
“Eighty percent of what they said was about how Christians look without the hijab,” Kareem admits. “Only 20% was about Christianity, and what they said about Christianity was not academically fair.”
To interpret a verse in the Koran, you had to study context and compare with what scholars have said about it.
They didn’t apply the same academic rigor when picking apart the Bible. Seeing his fellows come up short in their comparative studies of Christianity, Kareem decided to fill the vacuum.
He looked into the doctrines of Christianity.
As he was online (back in the days of dialup online internet), an ad popped up “Do you love Allah?” it said.
“I thought it was a Muslim website, so I clicked on it,” he recalls.
‘But it was a Christian website,” he adds. “It started from Genesis and went through the central prophets all the way to Jesus and his resurrection.
“It was amazing,” Kareem continues. “For the first time in my life, I said, ‘Maybe we are wrong.’”
As he weighed the evidence, he realized the Koran lacked evidence.
In fact, he started to even doubt that there was evidence for any god.
As a result, Kareem fell into atheism.
“When I was atheist, I did everything you can imagine,” Kareem confesses. “I got so tired. I was fed up. I could not bear myself.”
Tired of sin and disillusioned with purposelessness, Kareem entertained the notion that maybe there was a god after all.
He fell back to where he left off when he was conducting comparative religion: What god should he cry out to? So that’s what he prayed.
“God, you are so big for me. I cannot find you. Do something. I’m too small for you. Find me. It’s not hard for you to find me.”
That night, he dreamed a dream. Some trees were chasing him wanting to kill him. He ran and saw a man at the end of the road.
“Please help me,” he shouted to the man.
The man extended his arm and pulled Kareem up by his shoulder.
“I found out he was Jesus Christ,” Kareem says. “He looked deep into my eyes and said: It’s time for you to follow me.”
When Kareem awakened, he was troubled by the dream. Since his upbringing had instilled in him that Islam was the truth, Kareem rejected the dream.
“This is a hallucination,” he surmised.
But the next night, he had the same dream with Jesus again!
“This is not a joke,” he thought the next morning. He prayed that if Jesus were real, he would dream once more the same thing.
It happened. “Jesus looked deep into my eyes and said, Didn’t I tell you to follow me? Didn’t I tell you now it’s your time?”
Kareem was floored by the love of God.
“I was challenging him, and he didn’t feel attacked,” Kareem explains. “He wasn’t feeling insulted.”
Three years later, he got baptized.
“Since I was baptized, everything started to change,” he says. The hatred and murderous feelings of Islam ceded to the love of Christianity. “For the first time in my life, I learned that I can love somebody unconditionally.”
He began traveling and spreading the news of Christ.
Eventually, he got invited to speak at a synagogue, a Jewish house of worship. It was daunting. After all, he was coming from years of hating Jews.
As he stood in the synagogue to address the people, the Holy Spirit took over.
“For the first time, I can tell you God healed me,” he said to the congregation. “I can say that I love you.
‘God is love and he put his love in our hearts,” he added. “He poured his love into our hearts.”
If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here
About the writer of this article: Roxy Photenhauer studies at Lighthouse Christian Academy near Venice, CA.