I don’t recall the last time I read a book in one sitting, or indeed, if I ever have read a book from cover to cover all at once. Before you put I Dared to Call Him Father on your wishlist, let me add that I had nothing particularly pressing to do the afternoon I sat down to read it. Notwithstanding, I heartily recommend this autobiographical account of how Bilquis Sheikh, a wealthy Muslim woman from a prominent family, came to trust in Christ. In what I hope isn’t a slothful review, let me offer some observations:
First, this story is one of the power of the Word of God to accomplish the work of God.Though Bilquis did converse with Christians before her conversion, her conviction largely came simply from reading the Bible. The book opens with her having strange supernatural experiences and unsettling dreams. After failing to find assurance in the Quran she turned to the Bible, which the Quran often referenced. The first words she read—as a result of opening the book at random—were from Romans 9:25-26. She would go on to read more of Romans and John’s gospel before daring to call the God of the Bible ‘Father’.
Second, faith needs cultivation. After her conversion, she had to deal with a family boycott, threatening phone calls and someone attempting to burn down her house with her in it. It was through such trials that she learned to stop relying on her ingenuity and her political and family connections for protection. She had to choose to trust in God each day of the seven years she lived in Pakistan after becoming a Christian.
Third, by their fruits you will know them. The transformation in her life was evident for all in the village where she lived to see. She who had once been a bitter recluse (because of the humiliating divorce she’d been through) read Luke 14:12 and invited the widows, orphans, unemployed and poor people in the village to her Christmas dinner. On another occasion, she issued an open invitation to the children to climb her prized loquat trees. One of her household servants put it this way: “Begum Sahib, do you know that when you start talking of the Lord your whole appearance changes?” (p. 134).
Fourth, God is a wonderful Father. In the afterword written for the 25th anniversary of the book’s publication, Synnøve Mitchell, the first missionary Bilquis talked to tells how her visit came at a time Mrs Mitchell was considering quitting the mission field. Isn’t God delightful in how He provides reassurance for His weary servants?
On the negative side, there seemed to be a lot of lucky-dipping as far as Bible reading was concerned. Additionally, there was a mention of ‘secret Christians’, citing Nicodemus (who came to Jesus at night) as an example. What was left out is that by the end of John’s gospel, Nicodemus came out as a disciple of Jesus when he helped Joseph of Arimathea with the burial. I have no idea what it means to risk your life for being a Christian, so I shall leave it at that. (Addendum: The gospel of John isn’t too kind towards secret disciples.)
Bilquis passed away in April 1997, still loving the Lord. May we also hold fast to the end!