Title: Defying Jihad
Author: Esther Ahmad
Major Themes: Autobiography, Christian Living, Faith, Islam, Persecution, True Stories
Synopsis: After years of trying to please Allah with good works, Esther met the Savior—and her life was never the same again.
Some books become instant favorites—almost like friends—when you read them. For me, Defying Jihad was one of those. I’ve been interested in Muslim missions and salvation stories for years; I remember reading a book named The Torn Veil by Gulshan Esther years ago, and being struck by how the Lord can work in even the more difficult and unlikely places for His glory. It was quite the blessing to me! When I first saw this book, I thought it looked interesting, but felt like I had too many other review books on my plate to take on another one. A few weeks later I happened to spotted this again, and decided I would go for it. What a story!
Esther hasn’t always carried the name of a courageous Biblical heroine. When she was born, her father rejected her, and though she was called by the name “Zakhira”, meaning “wealth”, she never felt the approval of her father because she’d been a daughter when he wanted a son. As time went on, she worked hard in school to get his attention, and also devoted herself wholly to Islam, trying to find approval from Allah. When the opportunity came up for her to make the ultimate sacrifice—to go on jihad and die for her faith, thus securing a good life in heaven for herself and her family—she took it. However, fear still bound her, even though she felt like she was doing the right thing. Then, one morning not long before she was supposed to leave, she had a vision. A man of light, joy, and peace appeared to her a dark graveyard, called her by a new name, and told her he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He then led her to a beautiful place of light and power. Her life was irrevocably changed.
Stories like the one here in Defying Jihad give me the chills when I read them, because I know how much of a change the Lord brings into our lives. It’s so encouraging to read about others whose lives have been touched by His goodness. Yes, the path may not be easy, but I loved seeing how He led Esther every step of the way. Through rejection of her family and eventually having to flee or else die for Christ’s sake, Esther clung tenaciously to the Lord and drew her strength from His own. She was also able to witness to her mother and siblings, and they, too, became Christians because of her testimony.
This is an amazing true story, and if you are interested in a glimpse into the modern Muslim world, this would be a great one to read. I’m very thankful to have had the chance to read it, and think it would be a good encouragement to all Christians. Highly recommended!
I was given a complementary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: Due to the circumstances Esther grew up in, a lot of cruelties are described of necessity in the story. Her life is threatened multiple times, and she discusses some of the horrors of Islam just to give context to her story. Although all descriptions are only as much as is necessary without over-dramatization, some of it could bother people. Here are the specific instances: Different ways people could be killed are mentioned in the prologue, ch. 14, and ch. 18. Cruel tortures are mentioned in ch. 1, 3, 5, and 18. People killed or hurt badly are mentioned in ch. 3, 7, 8, 18, 23, and 25. Weapons are mentioned in ch. 3. A child is hurt in ch. 27 and 28. A man beating a woman is mentioned in ch. 7, and a woman beats another woman in ch. 16 (somewhat descriptive). A woman’s cycle is mentioned in ch. 9, and 11. There is lying in ch. 13, 24, and 26. A woman is threatened with rape in ch. 15, and a mention of a little girl who was basically raped is made in ch. 23.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults