I Dared to Call Him Father

A Story. Bilquis Sheikh was a wealthy Pakistan Muslim woman whose husband had abandoned her. She was living in her beautifully gardened villa, surrounded by servants, when one day Bilquis Sheikh met “a frightening Presence.” This experience awakened her to desire to know God, and she began to read the Qur’an. She began to realize that the Qur’an refers many times to Jesus and to the Bible. One day she asked her driver, a Christian, to get her a Bible. His eyes widened; he was clearly uneasy. She asked him on three occasions; he never delivered until threatened with being fired.

Word on pages of the Bible to which she opened would sometimes leap out at her. “It was as if my attention were being drawn to a verse.”[1] Then came the dreams: “I found myself having supper with a man I knew to be Jesus. He sat across the table from me and in peace and joy we ate dinner together.”[2]

Then came another dream:

The maid announced, in my dream, that a perfume salesman was waiting to see me. Opening his case, he took out a golden jar. As I looked at it, I caught my breath; the perfume glimmered like liquid crystal. He walked over and placed it on my bedside table. “This will spread throughout the world,” he said. As I awakened in the morning, I raised up and looked at my bedside table, half expecting to see the gold jar there. Instead, where the jar had been, now rested the Bible! A tingle went through me. What did it mean?[3]

This led Bilquis Sheikh to the previously unthinkable idea that should visit the local missionaries. And after getting acquainted, the question, “Mrs. Mitchell, can you think of any connection between perfume and Jesus?” She thought for a moment. “No,” I can’t think of any. However, let me pray about it.” The next day there was a note delivered to the house from Mrs. Mitchell. It said, “Read II Corinthians 2:14. “As I read, I caught my breath: ‘Thanks be to God who leads us, wherever we are, on Christ’s triumphant way, and makes our knowledge of Him spread throughout the world like a lovely perfume!’”

The continuing witness of the missionaries brought to Bilquis a hunger for a personal relationship with God. Then Bilquis shared some with  a nun in a hospital, and the nun leaned close and took Bilquis’ hands and said quietly, “Talk to Him as if He were your father.” “I sat back quickly. Talk to God as if He were my father! The thought shook my soul in the peculiar way that truth has of being at once startling and comforting.[4] This advice led to a breakthrough. “Oh Father, my Father…Father God.” And then a growing confidence until….He was there! I could sense His Presence. I could feel His hand laid gently on my head. For a long time I knelt there, sobbing quietly, I found myself talking with Him, apologizing for not having know Him before.”[5] This is the first of three encounters she describes, the other two being with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Bilquis Sheikh’s conversion led to a menacing attack by her family, intended to restore her to Islam. The talk in the town turned to carrying out the penalty required by Islamic law. But Bilquis Sheikh overcame by love—she threw open her home to a week-long Christmas party for the Muslim community, she comforted as best she could the bereaving, and began a worship meeting in her home. It resulted in conversions.

But the storm of persecution came back stronger—someone attempted to burn her house, and the rumors continued that something must be done to her, the “traitor-Christian.”

On the advice of faithful friends, Bilquis Sheikh left Pakistan and moved to America in 1972. The narrative of her book ends there, but her life and faith continued and grew. She became a well-known speaker. Her bio on Wikipedia is here.

Bilquis Sheikh’s story brought to mind a poem by Jean Ingelow:

I sought the Lord and afterward I knew

He moved my soul to seek Him seeking me.

It was not I who found, O Savior true,

No, I was found by Thee.

References Cited

[1] Bilquis Sheikh and Dick Schneider, I Dared to Call Him Father (Lincoln, Va.: Chosen Books, 1978). 32

[2] Ibid. 35

[3] Ibid. 38

[4] Ibid. 49

[5] Ibid. 52