I was overwhelmed by life from an early age, and I soon felt the need for a loving saviour. Yet, when I wanted to commit to Allah and began studying the Quran at the age of 12, I decided that God was too cruel to women and children, and walked away from the Muslim faith to agnosticism, then eventually dialectic materialism. By the age of 15, I was an active communist student in my secondary school, as were a large number of students in the eighties, and the only other thing which occupied my mind, apart from education and politics, was relationships.
One very ordinary afternoon between four and five pm, I was walking back from school, yards away from home, humming a love song to myself while thinking of nothing in particular. Then suddenly a voice; an internal one, spoke to me. This voice wasn’t audible, yet I knew that the speaker was of a male gender and that it was independent of me. It asked me if I believed the metaphysical to be nonexistent! I remember thinking; this was weird! A very faint memory made me question, for a second, if this was the voice of God, but I shrugged this off at once.
I, then, answered with an internal frown as a response to this unwanted intervention: “of course the metaphysical doesn’t exist!! Nothing else exists outside the senses. It’s simple.”
The speaker then, to my amazement, set me a challenge. He spoke to me, telepathically, saying: “ I will prove to you that there is more to life than what may be perceived by the senses. You now think that you are going back home to be welcomed by your mother as you have always done for the last ten years. I can assure you that on this occasion, your mother is not at home. ”
Being part of a lower middle class family enabled my mother to become a house wife (although we always had to live on a tight budget). Therefore, she was always available to welcome me home when I came back from school. As a result, a key was never cut for me. So, at the age of 15, I had developed enough trust in my mother’s reliability to believe that she will always be there for me when I came back from school, in the same way I developed trust in the coming of tomorrow and summer holidays.
At that stage of the conversation, I was already a step away from the door. I wanted to say to the voice that this was impossible. My mother never went anywhere without letting me know first, making proper arrangements for me to be able to access the house, or send for me to join her, wherever she was. But suddenly, I was filled with the knowledge, not only of my mother’s absence from home, but also of her location. I knew she was exactly two doors away from home.
What amazes me now as an adult, and at this stage of my life, is that although I knew (internally) that the content of the message was true (a fact), I still wanted to think about it rationally as a matter of principle, and put it to the test. This was perhaps due to the intense ideological and dogmatic teaching I was receiving from fellow communist students at the time.
For a few seconds, my hand was literally left hanging in midair, on its way to the door bell. I had a choice to make; whether to believe the content of the message and my internal knowledge which tells me that my mother wasn’t there (and therefore believe in the existence of the super natural and of God), or that I continue to disbelieve until I’m proven wrong. I was faced with that choice and I had to make my mind up in a few seconds. My final decision was that I test all information as a matter of principle so that I may seem rational and logical to myself. I then pressed the door bell.
It felt like the most futile action I have ever done in my life, as I was filled with all the knowledge that anyone would ever need to know that something had happened for sure, yet I still had to test the message. I didn’t just believe that no one will answer the door for me that day. I KNEW that no body was going to answer the door. This knowledge was above prediction and strong guess.
In terms of the biochemistry of my brain, it must have been a projection of what happens usually in the brain each time we discover the truth supported by hard core evidence, and seeing it occurring before our eyes.
When we do, “ the sensory inputs we receive from the environment undergo a filtering process as they travel across one or more synapses, ultimately reaching the area of higher processing, like the frontal lobes. There, the sensory information enters our conscious awareness. What portion of this sensory information enters is determined by our beliefs. Fortunately for us, receptors on the cell membranes are flexible, which can alter in sensitivity and conformation. In other words, even when we feel stuck ‘emotionally’, there is always a biochemical potential for change and possible growth. When we choose to change our thoughts (bursts of neurochemicals!), we become open and receptive to other pieces of sensory information hitherto blocked by our beliefs!”1
The problem here was that I haven’t signed up for ‘the change’ and still refused to radically change my belief even after I received the revelation. So, how come my awareness became highly altered so much so that I was able to see the unseen?
After my futile action of ringing the bell, I only waited for a minute or two (just to make a point) before heading to the host house. My mother was in a gathering that included all the women of the neighbourhood. She was invited a while ago but completely forgot to let me know. Realising that she didn’t tell me, she decided to attend the party, but sit facing the clock and come to get me when it was about my time to come home, instead of letting her host down. When she saw me, she was shocked for two reasons, first because she realised that she suddenly lost track of the time, only minutes before she was due to leave, and second, because she found that I arrived there early without being able to enquire from anyone else, since all the neighbours were in that household.
I think it is because of the nature of this experience that all its details were kept intact in my mind, while most other information from the same period was forgotten. For example, one of the details I remember about the voice was the particular style it had when asking the question. I concluded that the speaker was not angry or threatening. His knowledge was certainly higher than mine, yet he didn’t judge me. He was also gentle, kind and had a sense of humour. Moreover, if I could put a face to the voice, it would be a calm face, not necessarily smiling, but at the same time not serious either. These details I remembered all my life, though I wasn’t able to notice their significance back then.
After I was proven wrong, the voice never came back to make any demands or suggestions. It never invited me into a particular belief or told me who it was. It just disappeared for more than 28 years until the year 2011 when I had a very similar encounter but this I will talk about on another occasion.
So, due to my strong attachment to the ideology I believed in, I refused to admit or even think for a minute that my encounter was with a real heavenly being.
Still, this experience became part of my trusted knowledge, though I wouldn’t be able to prove it to others. And although this experience didn’t lead directly to my conversion, it certainly left me with a deep sense of wonder and the realisation that there was something else out there, greater than the senses. This experience stayed with me throughout my life and eventually contributed towards my conversion eighteen years later, when I was finally intellectually free and ready to accept Christ.
1= Articles from Indian Journal of Psychiatry are provided here courtesy of Medknow Publications