“Face to Face with Jesus”
A Former Muslim’s Miraculous Testimony
The book Face to Face with Jesus: A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love by Samaa Habib with Bodie Thoene is not exactly what you think — and I mean that in a good way.
Allow me to explain.
I’ll confess that I approached it with the Heaven is for Real mentality, which is another true account of someone who saw a glimpse of Heaven — and that book was all over Christian culture when the movie adaptation came out this past Easter. I was expecting something more like that, where much of the book involves describing the details of Heaven as told by the person who experienced it.
Samaa Habib’s book, however, puts the spotlight somewhere else: 1) the violence of living in a Muslim country caught in a civil war, i.e. radical Muslims killing Muslims; and 2) the brutal life of a Muslim-turned-Christian in that radically violent setting. Samaa and her family experienced traumatic violence and death long before any of them became Christians. Many Westerners don’t realize that the two opposing denominations of Islam — Sunni and Shiite — have a long standing blood feud that has fueled many civil wars. People who choose to become Christians in that environment assume that they will eventually die for their faith.
She describes many beautiful things too though, like the loving bond between her and her parents and the countless incidents of God’s miraculous provision, but she also tells truthful, unflinching accounts of the violence they witnessed in their neighborhood. It’s not for the faint of heart, and it’s not a book for youngsters. If it were a movie, the violence would be R-rated, in other words; but, frankly, it would be impossible to tell the story without disclosing how much they suffered physically and psychologically. In this case, the detailed account of certain atrocities is warranted. I was almost in tears while reading the first chapters, and she was still a Muslim; I hadn’t even got to the part where she became a Christian.
And, wow, when she becomes a Christian, things get even worse. A lot worse.
At the climax of the violence, Samaa is unknowingly standing a couple feet from a bomb that has been planted in her church by Islamic extremists. It kills her almost instantly. She immediately finds herself in Jesus’ presence. She then leaves Heaven as Jesus raises her from the dead. Many people were eye-witnesses to her very dead (and literally blown up) body coming back to life.
Some Christians aren’t comfortable with extreme miracles like that. Some Christians tend to assume the worst about people making those claims: “They must be lying, right? Obviously, that’s impossible.” Don’t misunderstand me — I believe in testing the spirits and holding everything up to the Word of God as the ultimate standard — but I’m convinced Samaa is telling the truth. A friend of mine in Africa prayed for a dead girl, and she came back to life. I’ve heard of some amazing miracles, and I’ve been an eye-witness to a few myself. I couldn’t be a Cessationist even I wanted to; I’ve seen too many displays of God’s power.
I won’t give any spoilers away about her experience in Heaven, but I will say that I read nothing that contradicted the Bible’s depiction of Heaven or Jesus or Christian theology.
Samaa, besides her amazing testimony, also paints a full portrait of her spiritual life, including a detailed look at what we might call the non-essential doctrines of the faith — the ones that deal with how we pray, how we do church, etc.
My stance on that stuff is this: we unify around essential doctrines, such as salvation by grace — faith in Christ alone and not by works — and we have patience with each other and show grace in the non-essential ones, preferring instead to unite around the common ground of the Cross.
Samaa’s presentation of the essential doctrines are not only foundational and common to born again Protestants across the Western world, but they restore a child-like wonder of the Cross. The saving power of the Gospel and the triumph of the Cross is set firmly at the center of this book.
And, finally, another gem about this book is the detailed behind-the-scenes look into Muslim culture. It fascinated me to no end. I couldn’t put it down for that reason alone. If she hadn’t gone to Heaven or experienced any miracles, the close-up view of a Muslim family still would have been worth the read. It’s a field manual for outreach to Muslims, and it is a must-read for anyone interested in ministering in Islamic countries or communities.
[Note: I received a copy of the book for free from the publisher for reviewing purposes, though this does not influence the content of the review. See our disclosure for our official policy.]
Correction: The author’s name, Samaa Habib, was misspelled several times in the initial version of this article. The error was corrected on 10/18/14. We apologize to the author, the publisher, and our readers for this error.