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Deacon Fawzi Assissi (Al-Mahdi)
Fawzi Assissi has been born to Catholic parents who live close to the “Mary Georges," church in the city of Zagazig Egypt. They were very hopeful that their son Fawzi would become a priest of the Church. The children will be honored to kiss his hand; and adults confess to him. The priest after all is God’s representative on earth; whose forgiveness and pleasure are sought.
When Fawzi has reached the age of twelve, his parents took him to church for baptism. The Reverend has chastised them harshly for delaying their son’s baptism until he has reached such advanced age. He told them: Haven’t you known that your son has been a Muslim all these years?
Fawzi completes his baptism story by saying: I heard that once baptized, the Holy Spirit comes unto you. He exclaimed after his experience: Where is it? He hasn’t come unto me. I don’t feel any changes?! What would have my destiny be if I wasn’t baptized? What would I have been if I was born non-Christian? To these questions and others, the baptizing pastor couldn’t find answers. He ignored them and consoled the boy saying: “You ask many questions; you deserve to be a deacon in the Church.”
If the baptizing pastor has omitted to answer some of Fawzi questions; then we refer him to the words of the great Christian scholar Augustine. He believes that man inherits the sin; the latter won’t be redeemed unless saved by Christ. However, the proof of belief is baptism. So, whoever has been baptized, he has been ransomed and saved. And whoever hasn’t received the sanctification won’t be saved even if he was a child.
The world-famous Catholic scholar Thomas Aquinas asserts in his book “The Summa Theologica”: the children who have died before baptism are deprived of enjoying the kingdom of the Lord; meaning paradise.
The boy Fawzi worked hard towards achieving his parent’s expectations of him as pastor. He worked as a deacon in the church. He visited villages to instill faith in the people of the Church in Christ God, and the Holy Trinity.
During his work at the church, Fawzi faced tough questions that he didn’t dare reveal. Simply whispering such questions will be sufficient to expel him from the church or imprison him in the monastery. That means shattering the dream of his parents. So he saw fit to lock up these questions deep in his bosom. Perhaps father time will take care of them, crack their riddles and solve their mysteries.
The young Fawzi didn’t like the communion ritual a lot, where the pastor puts the crumbs of bread in the mouths of Christians. After dipping them in a wine vessel, the church claims that this bread is sacred. It turns into the body of Christ, while the wine turns into his blood. How will such a thing appeal to the mind of Fawzi? After all, he is unable to understand this secret transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.
He wondered if this was true, why we have to eat the body of Christ and drink his blood. Don’t we know where this food and drink will end up after leaving our bodies? Is it worthy to belittle Christ in this dirty and menial place? For all these reasons, Fawzi has performed this ritual only once in his life.
The third dilemma that faced Fawzi head on and refused to leave his mind is what they call the sacrament of confession. The Christian confesses what he basically doesn’t want to remember or think about (his sins) to the priest. This action reveals what God has hidden away. However- under this canon- he is required to confess to the priest to receive forgiveness of a sinful chaplain who in turn needs the bishop’s forgiveness. The latter will confess to the Pope to obtain God's forgiveness and mercy.
One day Fawzi entered the church’s confession booth and asked the priest: I confess my sins to you; you confess them to the archbishop; the latter confesses to the Pope. To whom will the pope confess his sins? Who will forgive him? The priest replied: God!
With spontaneity and innate intelligence, Fawzi replied, wouldn’t be enough for me also to confess directly to God? Why does the church force me to compromise myself and unveil my flaws to others?
Fawzi asked and questioned himself thoroughly: why do we need confessional rites? Hasn’t Christ taken care of all our sins on the cross?
Furthermore, if Christ is God, how did humans succeed in crucifying him? Why? Wasn’t God able to forgive our sins without subjecting him to crucifixion, suffering, and humiliation? Why was the blameless Christ crucified instead of the sinners? Is not one of the first requirements of justice and common sense that a person should not be punished for the sins committed by others? Allah mentions this fact in Sura An-Najm, verses 36-41: (Nay, is he not acquainted with what is in the Books of Moses- (36) And of Abraham who fulfilled his engagements?- (37) Namely, that no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another; (38) That man can have nothing but what he strives for; (39) That (the fruit of) his striving will soon come in sight: (40) Then will he be rewarded with a reward complete; (41)). In addition to all this, if Christ couldn’t save himself from crucifixion, how will he save us?
However, the big dilemma that has robbed Fawzi his sleep and added to his worries is the equation of the unified Trinity claimed by the Church. While Christianity says that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three different people in their existence and their attributes; it surprises the listener saying: The three are one God. This is contrary to the most basic axioms of mathematics, which says: (1 + 1 + 1 = 3), while the church says: (1 + 1 + 1 = 1).
After he has been consumed by doubts and confusion for nine years, Fawzi has decided to give up his old dream of becoming a priest. He has always imagined people walking behind him asking his blessing and holiness. Dozens of sermons he had delivered in the church didn’t intercede for this decision. They couldn’t extinguish the fire of doubts raging in his inner depths. So he took the resolution to study Islam by reading the Qur’an and some religious pamphlets. His heart trembled, and his eyes welled with tears as he read the following words of Allah: “(And behold! Allah will say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah'?" He will say: "Glory to Thee! Never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For, Thou knowest in full all that is hidden. (116) "Never said I to them aught except what Thou didst command me to say, to wit, 'worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord'; and I was a witness over them whilst I dwelt amongst them; when Thou didst take me up Thou wast the Watcher over them, and Thou art a witness to all things. (117))” The Quran has been able to utter the truth that lies within Fawzi conscience.
Fawzi has found in the Qur'an the answer to what the priests have been repeating in the Church about the divinity of Christ. They claim that he is the Son of God. That is through his immaculate conception without a biological a human father. God says in Sura Al-Imran, verse 59: “(The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: "Be". And he was.)” Jesus was a creature of God. However, in an unusual way, he is like Adam peace be upon him, but he – is certainly - not the son of God.
Fawzi went to Ismailia to perform military service. The availability of extra time to think and read, led him gradually to Islam. This also has brought him to the doorstep, but decided before gaining access, to grant Christianity a last chance. He went to the church in Ismailia, and let the priest listen to many of his old questions. He even added newer ones about the difference between the cleanliness of the Muslims and the Christians. Then he asked the pastor: Why don’t we wash from the impurity or make ablution to pray like Muslims? In addition, fasting should not be limited to refraining from eating meat, and why don’t we fast like them?
The Pastor replied: Are you reading the Qur’an Fawzi? That you may not do before becoming a priest, you are only a deacon!
Fawzi eyes welled with tears, and he found himself drawn to the ground. He found himself prostrating like the Muslims do. He began conversing with his Lord and asked him to show him the proper path and illuminate his heart. “Lord… you know my confusion and uncertainty; if the Christian faith is correct, make the Holy Spirit comes into me now. However, if Islam is the right one, open my heart to it.” He didn’t raise his head from prostration until he has determined to convert to Islam. The Lord answered his prayer; He is always near to those who call on Him.
Fawzi announced his conversion to Islam in 1991, and took the name Fawzi Mahdi. The news has not met with the church’s liking. It has sent him an offer of marriage and assistance to immigrate to America. Such proposals will make young men drool. However, he kept fast to his faith, and rejected their offers. They spread the news of his conversion to Islam and rejection of Christian was because of his love for a Muslim girl. It was hard for them to admit the truth for which Fawzi has chosen Islam.
One of his old church’s friends visited him, and they sparred long about religion and faith. Then the friend arrived at the antidote claiming that will restore Fawzi to Christianity; he said to him: The devil speaks on your tongue. Fawzi replied: Don’t you exercise people? Then get this alleged devil out of my body.
His buddy put his hand on Fawzi’s head, and spluttered and muttered everything he knows from the sacred texts and what’s not holy. However, no trace to this alleged Satan has been found in the heart of the guided Fawzi. What has transpired from those readings added to his certainty in Islam and reassured him of the right decision taken?
Fawzi’s sister embraced Islam followed by her father; he traveled to Saudi Arabia, to learn there his religion. He became a teacher of the Muslims; he led them in prayer in mosques and gave Friday sermons and instructed them. He has fulfilled his childhood dream preaching people and instructing them to do good. However, it is happening in the shade of Islam, not Christianity, and in the niches of mosques; away from the church bells.
We ask God to support him on the right path; He is the Most Generous.
Dr. Munqith Bin Mahmoud Al-Sakkar
Researcher at Muslim World League
Translated by Sadok Salehi
Translator at Muslim World League