A Pakistani convert to Christianity who nearly blew herself up in the name of Allah says a spiritual journey that began with a dream transformed her from being a jihadi-minded teen into a devout Christian who's making disciples for Christ.
Born in 1982 to strict Muslim parents in a 97 percent majority Muslim nation, one of the things Esther (a pseudonym used for security purposes) ever wanted was for her father to accept her. But that acceptance never came.
Even though she did well in school, Esther and other women in her community were not allowed to pursue a high school education unless they had approval from their fathers or closest male relatives.
But the only way Esther's father would approve of her going to school was if she agreed to join a socially conservative Islamic political organization whose goal is to turn Pakistan into an Islamic state ruled by Sharia law.
That organization, which her father had joined about three years earlier, is Jamaat e-Islami.
"When I first joined, they taught us to do everything Allah commands you. One day ... they said whoever will give his or her life for Allah, Allah will repay that fully and also their parents will get into Heaven," Esther told The Christian Post in a phone interview.
"My intentions were to make my father happy because he didn't accept me. I thought, this way, I could show my father that because of a girl, he will get to Heaven. That is why I raised my hand to be a volunteer to go for Jihad."
Although Esther was set on being a suicide bomber, killing herself and murdering a few Jews or Christians all to please Allah, as she recounts in her new book Defying Jihad, a dream completely altered the trajectory of her life.
Since the book's release on June 2, it has become the No. 1 new release on Amazon's religious intolerance list. The book comes not long after Pakistan was ranked as the fifth worst persecutor of Christians in the world, according to Open Doors USA's 2019 World Watch List.
When Esther joined Jamaat e-Islami in high school, she told CP that she believed at the time the organization was out to do good in the world through its social work and providing education to those who can't afford to go to school.
But as she got more involved in the organization, Esther said her eyes were opened to the reality of what Jamaat e-Islami was out to accomplish.
"Whenever they were teaching, they always say Christians are the enemy and Jews are our enemy," Esther recalled. "So we have to make this Earth clean by killing them or make them give tax or make sure they accept Islam."
While Jamaat e-Islami won't admit that they have an affiliation to terrorist entities, Esther was adamant that the group does have ties to terrorists.
"They support them and do all kinds of stuff," she asserted.
When Esther went home to tell her parents that she had volunteered to go for "jihad," her parents were happy to hear the news that their teenage daughter was going to kill herself for the glory of Allah.
Esther said her parents told her that everyone is going to die someday and the way she would be dying is considered a "privilege."
The light man
But about two days before Esther was set to go on her suicide mission, she had a dream where she sat in a dark graveyard. The dream came after she fell asleep during her early-morning Muslim prayer.
"I was in a graveyard. Everywhere was darkness. I was looking for a way out of the darkness. ... As I was looking to come out from that graveyard, I saw a light appear," she recounted. "And the light has arms, hands and face. I asked, 'Is this a man made of light?' I have never seen a man made of light. If it is an angel, there should be wings behind it. But there are no wings, just a man made of light."
Esther said she called out to the light man, who responded with the words: "come and follow me."