Growing up as a Muslim in Syria, Karim Shamsi-Basha longed for a God of which he didn’t have to be afraid. In the Islamic world, such an ideal was simply difficult to come by.
After moving to the United States and experiencing a miracle and God’s infinite mercy, the concept became more of a reality to him.
In 1992, Shamsi-Basha suffered a sudden brain aneurysm that left him in a coma for a month. Doctors told his wife that he had less than a 10 percent chance of surviving past the first night.
When he came out of it, he began a journey—one that would take 20 years and see him endure incredible hardship—toward the full acceptance of Jesus as his savior.
His life experiences led him to write a book titled Paul and Me, including chapters about the apostle Paul, whose conversion to Christianity took place on the road to Damascus, Syria.
Shamsi-Basha told the Huffington Post U.K. that he practiced Islam “very seriously in his teenage years.” He prayed five times a day, walking to his mosque every day before sunrise.
“Throughout my growing up as a Muslim, I searched for a God I can love more than I can fear,” Shamsi-Basha told the Huff Post UK. “That was not available to me. Love is available in Islam, but it is not the main offering. In Christianity, it is the total offering. What I would like to say is this: Instead of turning my back on Islam, I opened my heart to the love of God, in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Shamsi-Basha told the U.K.'s Daily Mail that his neurosurgeon, following the brain aneurysm, told him he had seen very few people go on to make a full recovery and suggested that he find out why he survived. That led him on his long journey toward Christianity.
Along the way, Shamsi-Basha endured a divorce, the failure of another relationship, the death of a parent and a period of homelessness.
Meanwhile, following his father’s death, he told his family about his change in theology, and surprisingly, they were fine with it. Shamsi-Basha’s two sisters, one of whom now lives in New York City, continue to practice Islam including wearing a hajib, a scarf that covers a woman’s hair.
Carpe Diem—latin for “seize the day”—has become Shamsi-Basha’s daily motto, and he believes everyone should adopt it.
“If I have any ulterior motives with this book, it is to get you to seize your day,” he said.
Although his novel doesn’t say anything negative about Islam, Shamsi-Basha has a message for those practicing the religion.
“I would like to address any Muslim who might not agree with me,” Shamsi-Basha told the Huff Post U.K. “Love is mentioned in the Bible more than 500 times. A generous look at the Quran, and find out it is mentioned less than 30 times. I think it is worth investigating.”