I live in the Middle East. I was born as a Muslim, and at the age of 18 I became a member of one of the Islamic groups, as I had a relative who was one of the leaders of this group. I thought I was doing everything I could for God as I knew him at this point.
After a short time I started to get some training in using guns and making explosives. I wasn't very comfortable with what I was doing - hurting people for God's sake. I thought that either I or the group had misunderstood the teachings of God. I started to study the Qur'an and the Hadith all over again, (with the help of one of the leaders of the group, without telling him my real reasons for studying) to see what I had missed. After a couple of years I was astonished at what I found. I found that Islam is not the peaceful path to God, as I used to believe; on the contrary, it's so violent. If *I* have to establish God's will by any means possible, even by killing people, I said it can't be the way to God.
I never considered myself leaving Islam for anything else, yet at this point I was sure that it wasn't leading me to God. I had a kind of breakdown for some time when I found that every thing I had believed in wasn't right; I started doing drugs, and not talking about God at all.
Then I met a Christian who didn't know much of the Christian theology but who was full of love to others, whatever and whoever they are. One of his friends (who was a member of the same group that I had been involved in) said about him that he must be killed because he was Christian and didn't pay "Jiziah" (tax levied on Christians and Jews in an Islamic state, according to the Qur'an), yet this didn't stop him loving this man or dealing with him professionally. Initially I didn't know he was Christian, and when I found out I was surprised; everything I had learnt all my life about Christians from my reading of Islamic writings and Muhammad's opinion about them put them down very much. I asked this friend if I could have a copy of the Bible.
After starting to read the Bible I found a very big difference between what is actually written in the Bible and what I had heard people (Muslims and even nominal Christians) say about it.
I was really struck by one thing in the Bible, namely the teaching that no one is righteous but Jesus; even those who were called God's people like David, Jacob and Abraham, the twelve apostles - everyone has done something wrong. The Bible is full of the sins and wrongdoing of all people, except Jesus. He himself said to his enemies "Which of you convicts me of sin?" (John 8:46a), and no-one responded. Even Judas Iscariot, who delivered him up to the authorities to be killed, said "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood." (Matthew 27:4) In addition, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who eventually did sentence him to death, said "Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no crime deserving death." And then a centurion who witnessed Jesus's death said, "Certainly this man was innocent!" He struck me as the highest example of a human being, one who really deserved to be followed. It took me some time till I finished the whole Bible. After about one year of hard struggle with myself, I decided that I wanted to follow God as He shows himself in Christ, not as anyone else says He is.
I prayed to Him and He was here; for the first time in my life I felt that God was here, and to say it was a very strange feeling for me would be an understatement. I was so happy, so sad. Happy to know he is here and sad for what I had missed. It felt very peaceful and I wanted this feeling to last for good. I still remember this very first time I prayed; I ran out of the room because for the first time in my life I felt the Presence of God. I have been following Him since then. He changed all my life. I went off drugs; I became a whole new person to every one that I know, but as I said before I live in the Middle East where every one thinks that he IS RIGHT and every one else is wrong, so I had some trouble with my family and they kicked me out of the house. As Jesus says "Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death" (Matthew 10:21) and that is what happed with me.
My father delivered me to the Security Forces and they arrested me and put me in prison for converting out of Islam. I had a very bad time there, as they tortured me to force me to return to Islam. They used electric shocks, beatings, and hanging me from my wrists all night. After few week of this I was put in solitary confinement for almost a year. But I couldn't deny the one that gave me life. Now I am out of jail and I have left my home country as I am still wanted there for apostasy from Islam. I am still walking with Jesus, and I love Him because He loved me first and put Himself on the cross for me. I knew from the very beginning that I was going to have some trouble; didn't He say about Paul "for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." (Acts 9:16)
Now I am free from everything. I have a lovely wife whom I met after getting out of prison, and who is supporting me in everything I do for God, but the most important thing for me is I have my eternal assurance that I am going to be with Him for ever, whatever might happen. And as a result I decided to spend my life telling people about his great love to us. As he ordered me "Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man shall attack you to harm you; for I have many people in this city." (Acts 18:9, 10)