Although Naeem Fazal was raised as a Sunni Muslim in Kuwait, he is now the pastor of Mosaic, a Christian church near Northlake Mall. Fazal describes the transition in his new memoir, “Ex-Muslim: How One Daring Prayer To Jesus Changed A Life Forever.”
Fazal will give all his book royalties to the Mosaic Hope Center, which serves practical needs in Lake Norman and Charlotte.
Fazal’s unique faith story includes war, a demon, family division, religious asylum and hope, but it not hatred toward Muslims.
After the Gulf War broke out in Kuwait in the early 1990s, Naeem Fazal came to South Carolina to live with his brother, Mahmood, who was attending the College of Charleston. Mahmood had become a Christian and invited Naeem to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting.
A few nights later, after Naeem cynically prayed for God to prove his existence, a demonic presence pinned Naeem to his bed and told him he would kill him. Naeem asked for Jesus’ help, and the evil presence disappeared. With his brother, Naeem prayed to invite Jesus into his life. Later that night, something again began to shake him. He sat up and looked into the eyes of very different being, a being who introduced himself as Jesus Christ.
Naeem converted to Christianity in 1992 and became an ordained pastor in 2001.
Difficulties as an ex-Muslim
Naeem’s other three siblings eventually became Christians also, but his parents remain Muslim. Naeem says that family dynamics have been “rocky.”
Still, he has dedicated his book to his parents, writing, “Thank you for courageously allowing me to become the person I was created to be.”
Naeem can never return to Kuwait because he would be in danger under the country’s Sharia law, which deems him apostate. The U.S. granted Naeem religious asylum and considered him a refugee for 10 years before granting him citizenship.
Fazal and his publisher went back and forth on the book’s title because they worried some would interpret “Ex-Muslim” as “anti-Muslim.” Fazal makes sure to say in his author’s note that he loves Muslims.
“Islam is a very good religion, a very moral religion,” he said. “Obviously there are extremes, but the culture is very hospitable, kind, and they are very passionate about what they believe.”
The biggest difference between the two religions, Fazal said, is that: “The Koran tells us of how you can be worthy of heaven. But the Bible tells a very different story about God. The Bible tells the story that God is a father and a friend. The Bible tells the story of what God will do to reach you and pursue you.
“I don’t say Allah is a different God," Fazal said. "I tell Muslims it’s the same God, but I think you got his character all wrong. He is not waiting for you to prove yourself to him. He’s going to come down to you.”