Akbar al-Masih was a Muslim-background believer from Afghanistan who I met in Rawalpindi. As a member of the Pushtun people group, Akbar had known war all his live – his people had fought the Russians, then neighboring Shi’ite tribes only to become a refugee in Pakistan as a result of the US invasion in 2012. But it was in Pakistan that Akbar met a Christian family who discipled him and helped him rebuild his life. I asked Akbar to tell me how he had come to faith in Jesus.
“My name at birth,” he said, “was Muhammad Akbar.” The name meant ‘Muhammad is the Greatest.’ It was also the name of a Pushtun hero who had driven the British out of Afghanistan in the 19th century. Many Afghan families had named their sons Muhammad Akbar.
“It was between the wars,” Akbar said, “that I was in an open country looking for a job. One day I came upon a cinema that was showing a movie about the life of the Prophet Isa (Jesus). I decided to go inside.”
“I watched the movie alone, and learned many things about the Prophet Isa that I did not know. I was broken-hearted when I saw how they beat him and nailed him to a cross. I said to myself, ‘Now Isa will have his vengeance! He will call down the fires of heaven to destroy these evil men!’
“Instead, Isa looked down at them with compassion. Isa said, ‘Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.’
“It was at that instant,” Akbar said, “that I said in my heart, ‘That is for me.’
“That is when I became a follower of Isa. I knew that this is what my people were missing. We were always seeking revenge, ‘an eye for an eye.’ But Isa al-Masih (Jesus the Messiah) showed me a different way.
“And that is why I changed my name,” he said, “from Muhammad Akbar to Akbar al-Masih, ‘the Messiah is the Greatest One!'”
How to Pray
- Pray for the war-torn nations of Western South Asia. Pray that they will find a new path forward through the Prince of Peace.
- Pray for courageous witnesses like Akbar al-Masih and the missionaries who discipled him.
- Pray for the 300 million Muslims of Western South Asia who do not yet know the peace that passes all understanding that Jesus offers to them.