All Muslims know Jesus is alive.
“I said, Allah, I am here and there are people watching me, and in my heart I honour you and you are my God, but I’m sorry, I have to say this prayer, so please do not get upset with me.”
Then came Abida Peltola’s arranged marriage and her one hope; “That he be taller than me.”
But…. “He stood up and he was shorter than me.”
Abida Peltola was born in India and raised in a strict Muslim family.
She eventually moved to Fiji for an arranged marriage to a husband selected by her older sister.
Abida soon realised the man she was to marry was not at all whom she was led to believe.
Back to the beginning. Abida had a strong Muslim upbringing with her father a parachute jumping instructor in the Indian air force.
We had a freedom from going to a Christian school because my mum wanted us to speak good English.
“The first six years of our lives were basically in a Christian Catholic school even though we come from a very strict Muslim background.”
Abida recalled memorising the Lord’s prayer and stopped when she realised that as a Muslim, they had never called Allah ‘Our Father’.
‘I said, ‘Allah, I am here!’
“I said, I wonder who this Father is and I liked the part where it said ‘Give us this day our daily bread’.”
“To me it was bread and I said I’m going to get some nice bread,” Abida admitted before saying she went and had a few words with Allah.
I said, Allah, I am here and there are people watching me, and in my heart I honour you and you are my God, but I’m sorry, I have to say this prayer, so please do not get upset with me.
This was her response to having to say the Lord’s prayer but Abida wasn’t anti-Christian but she accepted Him as he was described in the Quran, the Muslim holy book.
“There are four things I usually talk about. That Jesus is of a virgin birth as mentioned in the Quran.”
“Jesus has raised a person from the dead and His name in Arabic is Isa which means a prophet who can give life.”
‘Four truths I already knew as a Muslim’
“Also (in the Quran) He did not die a shameful death on the cross. Allah picked Him up alive so He didn’t have to suffer.”
“So all Muslims know Jesus is alive,” Abida said, and that Jesus is coming back on the day of judgment.
These are the four truths I already knew as a Muslim,” Abida confirmed and said,”Jesus is only a prophet in the Quran and not greater than Mohammad.
Before her conversion from Islam to Christianity, Abida believed a good angel was sitting on her right recording all the good things she was doing and an angel on her left was recording all the not so good things.
“We try to live our lives based on good works. We try to please people, please parents and love the poor.”
Abida would never forget her life in India where she saw many poor people begging with children who hadn’t eaten for three days.
“As a good Muslim I would share my food with them and at that time it was in my heart and I was seeking God.”
Compassion for her people
“I was seeking Allah, ‘Can you give me a gift so I can touch these lepers and have enough food for these people?”
Maybe I should have magic or something because I couldn’t stand to see the poverty, the pollution, and the population that was destroying that nation.
Abida ’s heart was full of compassion for her people. It inspired her to study so she could help make a difference.
But her father did not have the means to send her to college when she finished high school so Abida found a way to overcome this problem.
“I taught from 7am to 11am at the primary school then from 1 o’clock to 4pm I was at university but I still didn’t have enough money,” Abida commented.
Six sisters and brother meant times were tough in Abida’s household and It meant there was not enough money to pay for everyone’s education and food.
Selecting a husband
Abida had achieved good English levels at school so her parents suggested she add private tutoring to her workload to help make up the shortfall.
“From 6pm to 9pm in the evening on the bicycle I would travel to people’s homes and raise funds so I could go to college. That was my lifestyle.”
The result; two degrees; Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education.
Next came the job of a family member to select a husband as was the family custom in the Muslim culture.
The parents decided who I was to marry so it was an arranged marriage. My sister, two years older than me, had married a man from Fiji.
“He was originally a Hindu but had converted to Islam so my sister could be married,” Abida said, saying it was her sister who was given the opportunity to choose a husband for her.
‘I didn’t want a short husband’
Courting and dating was not even considered, after all it wasn’t part of the Muslim culture.
Subsequently the photo of the groom arrived and Abida’s dad gave approval for the marriage to proceed.
“I thought he looked good,” observed Abida who had one personal condition to the arranged marriage.
As long as he loved me the way I am. I would live in a small place on a beach. The only thing I wanted was that he be taller than me. I didn’t want a short husband.
So off flew Abida in 1978, very sad to be separated from her family in India and bound for Fiji, her new home country 10-thousand kilometres away, to marry a complete stranger.
Abida lived with her husband and cared for her sister’s children, but for Abida and her marriage, her heart was shattered.
“He stood up and he was shorter than me.”
‘I don’t read the Quran’
Although disappointed Abida accepted the decision and fully intented to respect it.
But Abida being a devout Muslim who had memorised many verses from the Quran, opened the book thinking her new husband would join her in prayer.
“When I did that he said, ‘We’re modern Muslims. We go to the mosque once a year when they celebrate after the 40-days of fasting.
I don’t read the Quran and I don’t pray in the morning.
It turned out Abida’s husband, who said India was a backward country, enjoyed drinking and going to nightclubs.
He was also controlling which conflicted with Abida’s desire to teach being a qualified teacher.
I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour!
Her husband, who wasn’t earning very much, wouldn’t allow her to teach and wouldn’t allow her to send a small portion to her family struggling in India.
The married couple had two children, and Abida, who had not had a happy relationship with her sister since arriving in Fiji, saw a different person who opened the door for her on one particular occasion.
Her sister had a smile on her face and offered her a refreshment which was out of character.
I said, ‘You look very happy. Has your husband given you another diamond ring?” “No, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour!
Abida was shocked to hear this from her sister. After all, all non-Muslims go to hell because they are not Muslims.
‘Are your prayers being answered?’
It turned out Abida’s sister had read the book ‘I’d Dared to Call Him Father’ by a woman who written about her conversion experience.
A series of events followed, one thing leading to another, and her sister asked Abida the question.
Are your prayers being answered?” The short answer – ‘NO!
Abida also saw an opportunity to go one up on her older sister, now a Christian. She knew if she told her parents, at long last Abida would become their favourite daughter.
“That’s the faith we grew up in. We cannot betray our parents.”
But that was not how Abida Peltola’s story ended. More revelations coming soon in Part 2.