The story of Mosab Hassan Yousef was one I’d been eager to read since I first heard about him. A member of terrorist organization Hamas works as a double agent for the Israelis and finds Jesus in the process. The story is too preposterous for a fictional Hollywood script. It sounds just like the foolishness of God.
Still, my joyfulness at finally beginning the read faded as Yousef begins with his abusive arrest by Israel. It was a stark reminder that Israelis are as violently human as the rest of us. All of us fall short.
Even Muslim, Palestinian Yousef says he thought:
Why are you beating me like this? … I felt a deep sadness before losing consciousness.
A must-have history lesson
The book is ultimately Yousef’s testimony of coming of know Jesus as his Lord and savior. Yousef is moved to act with mercy and kindness more and more as the story progresses because he is believing the words of Jesus more and more.
While testimonies of faith always encourage us, it is the history lesson and insight into the Muslim mind that makes this book even more valuable.
Yousef opens with this thought in the preface:
Peace in the Middle East has been the holy grail of diplomats, prime ministers, and presidents for more than five decades. Every new face on the world stage thinks he or she is going to be the one to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. And each one fails just as miserably and completely as those who have come before. The fact is, few Westerners can come close to understanding the complexities of the Middle East and its people.
The beauty is that Yousef understands the region and both sides, and he is eager to explain it to us. He breaks down the history of Hamas, which began with more peaceful attempts to use Islam to free the Palestinians. He sketches for us where the vision goes sideways into suicide bombings. He explains why the different Palestinian organizations — Palestinian Liberation Organization, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and more — don’t get along (will probably never get along). If you read Middle East headlines and still can’t make sense of them, let the Son of Hamas help you decode them.
Love for the father
The book is very effective in conveying the contradiction within Islam because Yousef uses the story of his father to demonstrate the dilemma.
Yousef portrays his father — one of the seven founders of Hamas — as the nearly perfect Muslim, a man who loves Allah with all his heart and loves his people. The image is almost too good. I wondered for a bit if Yousef was being too generous. But he shows that his father takes the Koran at face value, and that is where the man of virtue runs into a problem.
My father had never taught me to hate, but I didn’t know how not to feel this way. Though he passionately fought the occupation, and though I don’t believe he would have hesitated to give the order to nuke the nation of Israel if he had had the bomb, he never spoke against Jewish people, like some racist leaders of Hamas did. He was much more interested in the god of the Qur’an than in politics. Allah had given us the responsibility of eradicating the Jews, and my father didn’t question that, though he personally had nothing against them.
“How is your relationship to Allah?” he asked me every time I visited him. “Did you pray today? cry? spend time with him?” He never said, “I want you to become a good mujahid [guerilla soldier].” His admonition to me as his eldest son was always, “Be very good to your mother, very good to Allah, and very good to your people.”
Islamic life is like a ladder, with prayer and praising Allah as the bottom rung. The higher rungs represent helping the poor and needy, establishing schools, and supporting charities. The highest rung is jihad. The ladder is tall. Few look up to see what is at the top. … The day my father first put his foot on the bottom rung of the ladder, he could never have imagined how far from his original ideals he would eventually climb. And thirty-five years later, I would want to ask him: Do you remember where you started? You saw all those lost people, your heart broke for them, and you wanted them to come to Allah and be safe. Now suicide bombers and innocent blood? Is this what you set out to do?
If you pray for Israel, the Palestinians, the Muslims, this is a must-read. It will give you insight into the mind of those who persecute Israel and Christians. It will remind you that Israel is not perfect, but God loves her anyway. It will give you hope that even those mired deepest in the cycle of violence and hate can be released by Jesus and transformed to love and forgive their enemies.
And if you pray for Yousef, he gives a guideline at the end of the book:
Instead of looking at me as a spiritual trophy, pray for me, that I will grow in my faith and that I won’t step on too many toes as I learn to dance with the Bridegroom.