[by Dean Smith] Mario Joseph is a Catholic teacher/evangelist living and ministering in India. He differs from a priest in that he is married with children. He also differs in another respect — he was a Muslim imam before his conversion.
He grew up in an area of India that was predominantly Muslim and Hindu with few Christians. His family were strong Muslims and Mario was sent to Qur’an school at the age of 8. By the time he was 18, Mario was serving as an imam in his local mosque.
In this video, Mario provides the fascinating details of his conversion from Islam to Christianity. It starts, oddly enough, because of question asked in a mosque where he was teaching.
He was telling those gathered that Jesus was not God, when someone shouted out: “Who is Jesus?”
It was because of this question, Mario searched the Qur’an to find out more about Christ. What he discovered puzzled him.
According to Mario, the Qur’an only mentions Mohammad four times, while Jesus Christ is mentioned 25. Secondly, Jesus’ mother Mary is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an. Not even Mohammad’s mother received that honor.
The Qur’an also associates a number of miracles with Jesus. Some of them were not Biblical, such as Jesus speaking two days after birth and how He formed a bird out of mud, blew on it and it became alive. But others had a Biblical foundation including healing people of blindness and leprosy.
The Qur’an also does not believe Jesus died on the cross. It says the disciples only thought He had. It says that Jesus never died and that He went to heaven, is still alive and will one day return. As well, it describes Jesus as the Word of God, the Spirit of God and the Christ.
According to Mario this is in stark contrast to Muhammad, who performed no miracles, died, and has no promise of returning. Neither is he called the Word of God.
So as a Muslim cleric, Mario realized Jesus had a more prominent role in the Qur’an than Mohammad.
When he talked about his findings with the lead imam at the mosque, Mario started getting into trouble, because he was questioning Mohammad’s supremacy over Christ.
After being rebuffed by his mentors, Mario remembers lying on his bed, with the Qur’an on his chest. He prayed to Allah about his dilemma.
“Allah, what should I do because your Qur’an says Jesus is still alive and Muhammad is normal (dead). You tell me who should I accept.”
Shortly after that prayer, Mario opened the Qur’an to an interesting verse in chapter 10:94:
So if you (O Muhammad SAW) are in doubt concerning that which We have revealed unto you, [i.e. that your name is written in the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] then ask those who are reading the Book [the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] before you. Verily, the truth has come to you from your Lord. So be not of those who doubt (it).
This verse encourages those who are doubting to turn to the Bible (Old Testament and Gospels) to find out about Allah. So that is exactly what Mario did. He got a Bible and began reading it. He saw how the Bible called Jesus the Word (John 1:1), just as the Qur’an did.
He then entered a strange time in his life when he began to treat the Qur’an and Bible as equal. He said one day he was a Muslim and the next day a Christian. He was flipping back and forth between the two and didn’t think that was a problem.
As he waffled back and forth, a verse caught Mario’s attention, because it delivered a message opposite of the Qur’an. It was through this verse Mario saw the difference between Allah and the God of the Bible.
According to Mario, the Qur’an teaches Allah is the master and people are his slaves, and Allah can do whatever he wants with them. There is no love between Allah and people.
But John 1:12 said a person could become a child of God, not a slave, if they believed on Jesus:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, (John 1:12 NASV)
God would be his father, his Daddy. Mario realized he wanted God as his loving Heavenly Father. It was at this point, he fully embraced Christianity, leaving behind his Muslim faith.
This did not go over well with his family, particularly his father, who Mario describes as a Muslim “hardliner.” While Mario was attending a Christian retreat, his father and family came to the center to confront Mario about his decision. They violently attacked Mario, knocked him out and carried him back to the family home.
When Mario came too, he was naked and chained in a locked bedroom. His father had smeared chili in Mario’s eyes, nose and mouth and on his open wounds. For the next three weeks he was basically ignored by the family. They provided him no food and barely enough water to survive.
He recalled one time his brother coming in and giving him urine to drink.
He was lying asleep on the floor when his father entered the room. When Mario awoke, he saw his dad standing over him with a knife. His father removed Mario’s chains and told his son he could live if he came back to Islam. His dad warned:
“If you want to be a Christian, I have to kill you.”
Mario had no doubt his dad would do this, since he was simply obeying the Qur’an which says kill the apostates.
But Mario decided in his heart not to forsake Christ. At that moment, Mario was hit with a surge of power and screamed out “Jesus.” His father collapsed to the floor foaming at the mouth and in the fall cut himself on his chest with the knife.
The family convinced their father was dying rushed him to the hospital. In the confusion they forgot to lock the bedroom door and Mario was able to escape and made his way back to the retreat center where he was hidden.
Later his family held a mock funeral for Mario called an ‘outcasting.’ They carved a small statue representing Mario and buried it in a nearby graveyard. He was dead to the family. The date of his death was the day he was baptized.
“A Christian friend, he passed that way. He took a photo of that grave and sent it to me. That is how I know I have a grave.”
Mario is still estranged from his family, who he misses dearly.
Because he left Islam and converted to Christ, Mario’s life is in constant danger from extremists. But he believes God is preserving his life. He has even preached in the Middle East without trouble.
Though his life has been threatened, Mario continues on because he does not fear death. He says it is foolishness to fear death because we are all eventually going to die one day, and when we do we are with Christ.
- Mario Joseph website
- The Dangerous Road from Imam to Catholic preacher: An interview with Mario Joseph: http://www.aleteia.org
Feature image credit: naimfadil/Foter/CC BY-SA