1863-1942

Sa'eed

I want to bring you a brief picture of a national who led an exemplary life and was greatly used of the Lord.  His name is Dr. Sa'eed.  The title of the books from which most of this material is taken is Dr. Sa'eed of Iran, with the subtitle Kurdish Physician to Princes and Peasants, Nobles and Nomads, and also The Beloved Physician of Teheran.

Dr. Sa'eed was born on June 1, 1863 in the Kurdistan portion of Iran into a strongly fanatical Muslim family of the Sunni sect.  The name Sa'eed means "happy" or "fortunate."  He came from a long line of mullahs, who are the leaders of prayer in the mosque and also the teachers of the Islamic faith.  His father saw that he was a very keen, bright young boy; and he was raised in the strictest manner of Islam.  As a very small boy of four, he had already memorized a number of chapters of the Koran. 

One of the teachings of Islam is that at the age of four years, four months, and four days, a boy is to begin instruction in memorizing the Koran. Every Muslim family that has sons desires to have them memorize the Koran. The family hires an Islamic teacher to oversee this training. It is usually conducted during the farming off-season, when there is not so much work to be done. The teacher takes these boys from village to village, sometimes spending a considerable number of days in a village. During the daytime the students go out with their begging bowls (small metal bowls) and beg from the villagers. It is thought to be meritorious to give to these Koranic students-sometimes money and sometimes food, which they return to their teacher as a means of supplying their physical needs while they are being taught the Koran. While they are about the village, they also collect firewood. Toward evening they usually gather with their teacher under a large tree or in some sheltered place. As dusk comes on, they build a fire and gather around the blaze of the fire that supplies them light. With the Koranic wooden writing slate, they are taught to write portions of the Koran in the classical Arabic and then memorize them together-usually at the top of their voice. This goes on for hours. In many areas of the world, the students have no knowledge of the classical Arabic, so it is as if one is memorizing the Koran in an unknown language.   Sa'eed was also especially skilled linguistically, and at a very young age had already learned not only the Kurdish language but also Persian, Arabic and, a little later, Syriac.  He was a very diligent student and a very learned young lad with a retentive memory. 

His father died when Sa'eed was 13 years of age.  Sa'eed was already highly regarded by the Islamic community of his hometown.  Even at that young age, he was placed in the position of his father as a mullah, a teacher and a cleric, and was able to wear the distinctive white turban of an Islamic teacher and scholar.

There were, in his hometown, some Armenians and Roman Catholics who professed to be Christians, but he saw the lifestyle of these "Christians" and was turned against Christianity because of it.  Among other things, Islam teaches that alcohol is forbidden; yet he saw some of those who called themselves Christian drinking freely, getting drunk, and leading very ungodly lives.  This further prejudiced him against Christianity.  But he had a great longing for peace of heart, which he had not yet found in Islam. 

His first contact with a truly born-again believer came when he, at the age of 17, was encouraged in a very kind and gentle way by a visiting Assyrian national pastor to study the Bible, comparing it with the Koran.  This he did studiously, but in secret for fear of being found out by other members of his family.  He had a brother named Kaka who was six years his senior.  Although not nearly as bright and talented as Sa'eed, he, too, was a very fanatical and devout Muslim. 

After a number of months of spiritual struggles and intense searching of the Scriptures, comparing them with the Koran, Sa'eed came to faith through the effective witness of this Christian pastor. As previously mentioned, Sa'eed was linguistically talented.  During these days of indecision prior to his conversion, he learned Hebrew in order to better understand the Old Testament in its original writings.  The Koran teaches that the original Scriptures had been contaminated and corrupted by Christians; so Sa'eed wanted to read the Scriptures in the original language.

The pastor stayed in Sa'eed's hometown more than a year before returning to his own village.  After the pastor left, Sa'eed felt very much alone.  He continued his duties as a mullah, calling the prayer time from the minaret and teaching Islamic doctrines to the students in his mosque school; but in secret, he read the Bible and spent much time in prayer.  He lived, in a sense, a very deceptive life.  To the outside, he was a devout Muslim; but in his heart he knew that he had put his faith in Jesus Christ. 

He no longer said the prescribed prayers and oftentimes did not even show up to lead the mosque prayers. In their place he recited, in his own heart, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostle's Creed. He had had no instruction as to how to communicate with the Lord in believing prayer.

Because of many threats on his life, from which he miraculously escaped death at the hands of his fanatical townspeople, he began to question whether he should follow the Christian way and was persuaded by many to turn back to Islam.  But he found no peace in such thoughts.  He was encouraged when a Catholic merchant returned from Russia to his hometown.  This merchant, a God-fearing and broadminded man, was very  knowledgeable about the Bible.  When Sa'eed told the man that he had put his faith in Christ, he was asked this very difficult question:  "Are you willing to give up your own people and the honor you have among them and, if necessary, leave your home?  If not, you had better keep away from Christianity."  Sa'eed, deeply moved by this solemn warning, replied, "Neither honor, nor my people, nor the benefits of this world, nor even loss of life can make me forsake Christ, my Savior and my Guide to eternal life."

Sa'eed's older brother Kaka began to realize what was transpiring in the life of his younger brother and threatened to kill him.  On one occasion when he had drawn a pistol to shoot Sa'eed, a Muslim friend wrestled the gun away.  It was wintertime and desperately cold with deep snow on the ground, but Sa'eed was forcefully thrown out of his own home by his older brother.  He found refuge in the homes of some very poor and common people but was hounded by the townspeople with many a threat of death.  On one occasion Kaka waited in ambush with a loaded gun in order to kill Sa'eed; but the Lord redirected Sa'eed's path, and he did not come by the site of the ambush.  Later, somewhat reconciled to his brother, Kaka helped him flee from his hometown.

Sa'eed learned in a very real way the meaning of the words of Christ when He said, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).  A similar passage is found in Mark's Gospel, chapter 10, verses 29 and 30, where Jesus said, "Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecution: and in the world to come eternal life."

In his study of the Word of God, he knew it was the Lord's command that he should be baptized and that the Lord's Table was to be observed. There being no missionary or pastor to baptize him or to serve the Lord's Supper, he felt compelled to baptize himself by immersion, which he proceeded to do in a bathtub. He also observed the Lord's Table by himself, following the order as revealed in 1 Corinthians 11.

He fled many miles from his home to a town where there were American missionaries and was given the position of language teacher to an American missionary.  He was with him for some time and grew in faith through this contact.  It was in this setting that he also learned English.  During this time of association with missionaries, he became acquainted with a missionary doctor who tested his profession by making him a stable boy.  He learned a great deal of a medical nature and became skilled in this area of learning.  He saw that medicine was an effective way of reaching Muslims with the Gospel.

Because of his consistent, godly walk, even his older brother Kaka became softer to the Gospel and, in due time, became a Christian also.  Kaka was an evangelist for many years, passing out Gospel literature and engaging people in conversation concerning faith in Jesus Christ. 

Another crisis in Sa'eed's life occurred when he, a former Muslim mullah, married the daughter of the Assyrian pastor who had led him to the Lord and was now the national pastor of this new location. He had fallen in love with the daughter. She was a devout Christian and a very faithful helpmeet to Sa'eed through more than 50 years. There was an outcry both among the Assyrian Christians and the Muslims, for neither felt that a former Muslim should marry a Christian. The Assyrian Christians looked upon Sa'eed with some reservation because he had not been a Christian for a significant period of time. However, defying both opinions, in a very public meeting in which both Christians and Muslims were present, he was baptized a second time-again arousing the fanaticism of the Muslims, for baptism is a sign of a final break with Islam; and there were still some Assyrian Christians who were not convinced of his true faith in Jesus Christ. Death threats came from the Muslim community and were very real. This baptism (2nd) and marriage stirred up a mob of Muslim fanatics that threatened the young couple. Some Muslim friends of Sa'eed who were in high positions quelled the riot.

During this time, Sa'eed became very ill and promised the Lord that he would no longer conceal his faith.  Through some missionary contact, he eventually went to Europe to recover his health.  He spent some months in Scandinavia and then proceeded on to England, where he became associated with a very godly physician and family in London and studied medicine in several hospitals for two-and-a-half years. He then returned to Iran.

Dr. Sa'eed did not want to be supported with foreign funds, feeling that the Muslim people would accuse him of apostatizing for financial reasons if he did; so he remained independent of any mission or outside financial help.  He had an active medical practice and personal witness to each of his patients, expounding the Word of God and praying with them.   He received many offers to serve in high positions as physician to some of the outstanding leaders of Iran.  On one occasion, he spent nearly six months traveling as physician with an outstanding nomadic tribal chieftain who, with his clan of over 5,000 people and tens of thousands of camels, cattle, goats, sheep, donkeys and other animals, were migrating from one area of pasturage to another.  Through it all, he had many opportunities and was bold in taking them to witness of Jesus Christ.

At one time Sa'eed was asked to be court physician to the king but declined.  He wanted to be available to all-prince or peasant, noble or nomad.  He was called to many parts of Iran to treat outstanding tribal chieftains, traveling extensively through very hostile areas where he had been threatened with death.  The Lord always disarmed these adversaries by Sa'eed's clear unfailing testimony of faith in Jesus Christ.  Because of his outstanding skill and reputation, Dr. Sa'eed had many opportunities to share his faith with high and low and did so courageously, oftentimes at great personal discomfort and in very real danger from fanatical Muslims who wished to kill him.

Later, Dr. Sa'eed was able to return to England for restoration of his health and for medical studies in areas where he felt deficient.  It was during this time that he became acquainted with some of the most outstanding English physicians of that day. He was highly regarded for his medical skill and knowledge.  Some of these contacts continued throughout the remainder of his life.  It was at this time that he was awarded his M.D. degree.

Although Dr. Sa'eed's brother Kaka could no longer communicate with people because he had become extremely deaf, he continued his tract ministry, passing out Gospel literature, until his death at the age of 84.

Dr. Sa'eed was a deeply spiritual man with many talents. His rugged independence is best exemplified in his search for the truth.  While searching  the Scriptures, he saw the need for believing prayer and spent much time praying.  He had a very bold evangelistic spirit and was never one to be silent for fear of offending someone but ever ready to give a witness of his faith in Jesus Christ.  Once he had come to real faith in Christ, he could not be silent.   When in confrontation with Muslim scholars, he at times silenced them with his profound knowledge of the Koran, the Bible, and other religious writings.  He was fluent in eight languages:  Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Syrian, Persian, English, Hebrew, and Armenian.

Another trait that characterized him was his generous treatment of his enemies.  Many who had reviled and threatened to kill him were shown the same gentle, kind treatment as those who were his close friends.  When his wife of many years passed away, he was extremely lonely. One of his sons was an architect and had built a lovely home for them; but his wife Rebecca lived in that new home for only one year.

Sa'eed's daughter Sarah came to live with him and helped care for him following the death of his wife.  During his latter years, he limited his medical practice and spent a great deal of time in study and in writing.  Although his strength was abating, his mind was sharp; and he continued to study the Word of God and to write books into his latter years. 

When he was well past 70, Sa'eed was arrested and put in prison in Teheran for almost 100 days; but finally, much to the joy of his many friends and family, he was finally released without trial.  Members of his family had begun to leave Iran.  Two sons had immigrated (one to America and one to England), and his only daughter was left living permanently in Iran.  They had celebrated his 79th birthday, a joyous occasion, but his physical strength was waning.  When he arose on the 29th of July 1942, his daughter saw that he looked haggard.  He said he had not had a good night.  He gathered his books together into his favorite corner of the veranda where he liked to study and write and then took his morning walk.  Upon his return, he was in great pain and asked a grandson to run to the hospital for a stretcher to carry him to the American mission hospital just a mile from their home.  He was taken to the hospital and prepared for surgery; and while preparations were being made for the operation, he died on the operating table. 

The next day a large crowd of people of all faiths and ranks attended the funeral service conducted by some American missionaries.  It was a victorious time. 

This is a thrilling story of how one man, putting his trust and confidence in the Lord, was greatly used to live Jesus Christ in a very hostile environment in which his life was continually being threatened.  His life is the story of one who showed to the world the transforming power of the blood of Jesus Christ. 

 

JAD

8/11/04