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The Torn Veil: The Best-Selling Story of Gulshan Esther


A Muslim girl, imprisoned by her religion, her strict upbringing, her womanhood and her severe disability, is set free by God.

The Torn Veil, the classic true-life story of Gulshan Esther, who on becoming a Christian was miraculously healed, was first published in 1984 and has sold over 200,000 copies worldwide.

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A Muslim girl, imprisoned by her religion, her strict upbringing, her womanhood and her severe disability, is set free by God.

The Torn Veil, the classic true-life story of Gulshan Esther, who on becoming a Christian was miraculously healed, was first published in 1984 and has sold over 200,000 copies worldwide.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781936143115
  • Publisher: Christian Literature Crusade, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/12/2010
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 816,623
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Gulshan Esther was born in Pakistan. She now lives in Oxford and travels widely speaking about her faith.

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Read an Excerpt

The Torn Veil

The Best-Selling Story of Gulshan Esther
By Gulshan Esther Thelma Sangster


Copyright © 1984 Sister Gulshan Esther and Thelma Sangster
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-310-25688-7

Chapter One

to Mecca

I would not, in the ordinary course of events, have wanted to come to England that spring of 1966. I, Gulshan Fatima, the youngest daughter of a Muslim Sayed family, descended from the prophet Mohammed through that other Fatima, his daughter, had always lived a quietly secluded life at home in the Punjab, Pakistan. Not only was this because I was brought up in purdah from the age of seven, according to the strict, orthodox Islamic code of the Shias, but also because I was a cripple and unable even to leave my room without help. My face was veiled from men, other than permitted kinsfolk, like my father, two older brothers, and uncle. For the most part, during those first fourteen years of my feeble existence, the perimeter walls of our large garden in Jhang, about 250 miles from Lahore, were my boundaries.

It was Father who brought me to England - he who looked down on the English for worshipping three gods instead of one God. He would not even let me learn the infidel language in my lessons with Razia, my teacher, for fear I should somehow become contaminated with error and drawn away from our faith. Yet he brought me, after spending large sums in a fruitless search for treatment at home, to seek the best medical advice. He did this out of kindness and concern for my future happiness, but how little we knew of the trouble and sadness that waited round the corner for our family as we landed at Heathrow airport that early April day. Strange that I, the crippled child, the weakest of his five children, should have become in the end the strongest of all, and a rock to shatter all he held dear.

I have only to shut my eyes, even now in maturity, and a picture rises before me of my father, dear Aba-Jan, so tall and lean in his well-tailored, high-necked, black coat trimmed with gold buttons, over the loose trousers, and on his head the white turban lined with blue silk. I see him, as so often in childhood, coming into my room to teach me my religion.

I see him standing by my bed, opposite the picture of the House of God at Mecca, Islam's holiest place, the Ka'aba, erected it is said by Abraham and repaired by Mohammed. Father takes down the Holy Quran from its high shelf, the highest place in the room, for nothing must be put on or above the Quran. He first of all kisses the green silk cover and recites the Bismillah i-Rahman-ir-Raheem (I begin this in the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful). Then he unwraps the green silk cover - he has first carefully performed Wudu, the ritual ablutions necessary before carrying or touching the holy book. He repeats the Bismillah and then places the Holy Quran on a rail, a special x-shaped stand, touching the book only with his finger tips. He sits so that I, propped on a chair, can also see. I too have performed Wudu, with the help of my maids.

With his finger Father traces the sacred writings in the decorative Arabic script, and I, anxious to please, repeat after him the Fatiha, the Opening, words that bind together all Muslims, everywhere:

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Creation, The Compassionate, the Merciful, King of Judgement-day! You alone we worship, and to You alone we pray for help. Guide us to the straight path The path of those whom You have favoured, Not of those who have incurred Your wrath, Nor of those who have gone astray.

Today we are reading from the Sura The Imrans:

Allah! There is no God but Him, the Living, the Ever-existent One. He has revealed to you the Book with the truth, confirming the scriptures which preceded it: for He has already revealed the Torah and the Gospel for the guidance of men and the distinction between right and wrong.

I am doing what every Muslim child brought up in an orthodox family does from early childhood - reading through the Holy Quran in Arabic. It can only really be understood in the Arabic in which it was written. We Muslims know that it cannot be translated, as if it were just any book, without losing some of its meaning, because it is sacred.

When I finish reading it through for the first time - around the age of seven, regarded as the age of discretion - there will be a feast to celebrate. We call it the "ameen of the Holy Quran", and members of the family, friends and neighbours will be invited. In the central open courtyard of our bungalow, where the men sit separated from the women by a partition, the mullah will recite prayers to mark my arrival at this important new stage of life, and the women, sitting in their part of the courtyard, will hush their gossip to listen.

We have reached the end of the Sura. Now comes my catechism. Father looks at me with a smile hovering about his lips:

"Well done, little Beiti [daughter]," he says. "Now answer me these questions: Where is Allah?"

Shyly I repeat the lesson I know so well: "Allah is everywhere."

"Does Allah know all the actions you do on earth?"

"Yes, Allah knows all the actions I do on earth, both good and bad. He even knows my secret thoughts."

"What has Allah done for you?"

"Allah has created me and all the world. He loves and cherishes me. He will reward me in heaven for all my good actions and punish me in hell for all my evil deeds."

"How can you win the love of Allah?"

"I can win the love of Allah by complete submission to his will and obedience to his commands."

"How can you know the Will and Commands of Allah?"

"I can know the Will and Commands of Allah from the Holy Quran and from the Traditions of our Prophet Mohammed (May peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)."

"Very good," says Father. "Now is there anything you want to know. Have you any questions?"

"Yes Father, please tell me, why is Islam better than other religions?" I ask him this not because I know anything about other religions, but because I like to hear him explain our religion.

Father's answer is clear and definite. "Gulshan, I want you always to remember this. Our religion is greater than any other because, first of all, the glory of God is Mohammed. There were many other prophets, but Mohammed brought God's final message to mankind, and there is no need of any prophet after him. Second, Mohammed is God's Friend. He destroyed all the idols and converted all the people who worshipped the idols to Islam. Third, God gave the Quran to Mohammed, after all the other holy books. It is God's last word and we must obey it. All other writings are incomplete."

I listen. His words are writing themselves on the tablets of my mind and my heart.

If there is time I ask him to tell me again about the picture in my room. What is it like to go on pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, that magnet towards which every Muslim turns to pray five times daily? We turn too in our city, as the muezzin calls the azzan from the minaret of the mosque. The sound ricochets along the avenues, above the noise of traffic and of the bazaar, and enters our screened windows at dawn, noon, dusk and at night, calling the faithful to prayer with the first declaration of Islam:

La ilaha ill Allah, Muhammad rasoolullah! There is no God but Allah: And Mohammed is the Prophet of God.

Father explains it all to me. He has been twice on pilgrimage - once by himself and once with his wife, my mother. It is every Muslim's duty to go at least once in his life - more often if he is rich enough. To go on pilgrimage is the fifth of the basic Five Pillars of Islam, which unite millions of Muslims in many different countries and ensures the continuance of our faith.

"Will I go to Mecca, Father?" I ask. He laughs and stoops to kiss my forehead.

"You will, little Gulshan. When you are older and perhaps ..."

He does not finish the sentence, but I know what he wants to say, "When our prayers for you are answered."

From these instruction periods I learn devotion to God, an attachment to my religion and its customs, fierce pride in my ancestral line from the Prophet Mohammed, through his son-in-law Ali, and an understanding of the dignity of my father, who is not only the head of our family but, as a descendant of the Prophet, is a Sayed and a Shah. He is also a Pir - religious leader, and a landlord with a large estate in the country and a commodious bungalow surrounded by gardens on the edge of our city. I begin to understand why we are so respected as a family, even by the mullah, or maulvi, who comes to ask questions of my father, religious questions, which he himself cannot answer.

Looking back now I can trace a purpose in those captive years, when mind and spirit unfolded like the rosebuds in our well-watered garden, tended so lovingly by our gardeners. My name, Gulshan, means in Urdu, "the place of flowers, the garden". I, a sickly plant to bear such a name, was tended in the same way by my father. He loved all of us - his two sons, Safdar Shah and Alim Shah, and three daughters, Anis Bibi, Samina and me, but although I disappointed him in being born a female, and then when I was six months old, being left a weak cripple by typhoid, Father loved me as much, if not more than the others. Had not my mother given him a sacred charge on her death bed to look after me?

"I beg you, Shah-ji, do not marry again, for the sake of little Gulshan," she said with her dying breath. She wanted to protect me, since a stepmother and her children could reduce the patrimony of a first wife's daughter, and could treat her unkindly if she were ailing and unmarried.

He had promised her those many years ago, and he had kept his word in a land where a man might have up to four wives, according to the Quran, if he were rich enough to treat each one with equality and justice.

Such was the undisturbed pattern of my life, until that visit to England when I was fourteen. It changed everything in subtle ways, setting in motion a chain of unintended consequences. I had no premonition of this of course as I waited with Salima and Sema, my maids, in a London hotel room on the third day of our visit. We waited for the verdict of the English specialist my father had heard of during the search for treatment in Pakistan, who would settle, once and for all, my future.

If I could be cured of this sickness that had paralyzed my left side when I was an infant, then I should be free to marry my cousin, to whom I had been betrothed at three months, and who was now at home in Multan, Punjab, awaiting news of my recovery. And if not, my engagement would have to be broken, and my shame would be greater than if I had been married and then divorced by my husband.

We heard the footsteps coming. Salima and Sema jumped up and arranged their long, scarf-like dupattas nervously. Salima pulled mine right down over my face, as I lay on the coverlet of my bed. I was shivering, but not from cold. I had to grit my teeth to stop them from chattering.

The door opened and in walked my father with the doctor.

"Good morning," said a pleasant, very polite voice. I could not see the face of this Dr. David, but he carried with him an air of authority and knowledge. Firm hands pushed up my long sleeve and tested a limp left arm and then my wasted leg. One minute passed and then the specialist straightened up.

"There is no medicine for this - only prayer," said Dr. David to my father. There was no mistaking the quiet finality in his voice.

Lying on my couch, I heard the name of God used by the strange English doctor. I was puzzled. What could he know of God? I sensed from his kind and sympathetic manner that he was dashing our hopes of my recovery, and yet he had pointed to the way of prayer.

My father walked to the door with him. When he came back he said, "That was good for an Englishman, telling us to pray."

Salima turned back my dupatta and helped me sit up.

"Father, can't he make me better?" I could not keep my voice from trembling. Tears were gathering behind my eyes.

Father patted my lifeless hand. He said quickly, "There's only one way now. Let us knock on the heavenly door. We will go on to Mecca as we intended. God will hear our prayers, and we may yet return home with thanksgiving."

He smiled at me, and I tried to smile back. My sorrow was equally his sorrow, but he wasn't in despair. There was renewed hope in his voice. Surely at the house of God or at the healing spring of Zamzam we would find our hearts' desire.

We stayed at the hotel for a few more days, while Father arranged for the flight through to Jeddah, the airport used by pilgrims to Mecca. He hadn't done so before, since he was waiting the outcome of any treatment that might be recommended. He had planned this visit to fall just before the annual month of pilgrimage, so that after treatment we should be able to go to Mecca to give thanks.

During those days of waiting, Father went out to see friends in the Pakistani community or they came to see him. Ordinarily the women of those families would have visited me. But I felt the shame of my condition and was not accustomed to meeting strangers at home, so few of the ladies knocked at my door. Who would want to see withered limbs, with the skin turned black, wrinkled and hanging loose, and with whatever fingers there were sticking together with all the muscular strength of a piece of jelly? At an age when my peers were beginning to dream of the day when they would wear the red wedding dress with the gold embroidery, and go jewelled with a fine dowry to their husband's home, I was facing a lonely future, cut off from my own kind, a non-person, never to be a whole, proper woman, behind a veil of shame.

We were on the second floor of the hotel, in a comfortable room next door to Father's. It had thick carpets and its own bathroom. Apart from tending me and washing our undies in the bathroom by hand, Salima and Sema, who slept in my room on a folding bed, sitting up in shifts to protect me and see to my needs, had little to do. But time passed quickly enough with my books, the five prayer times and with the ordinary details of washing, dressing, eating, which always take longer when a person is disabled. At other times I listened to the entertaining gossip of my maids. They made occasional forays to the lobby downstairs, but were too frightened to go out alone. Most of the time they contented themselves with a view of the world outside the window, reporting to me what they saw. Their reactions were those of typical village girls of Pakistan, and they made me laugh:

"Oh, see the beautiful city." (This from Salima) "So many people are walking up and down and there are so many cars."

Then there would be a cry from Sema: "Oh, the women have bare legs.


Excerpted from The Torn Veil by Gulshan Esther Thelma Sangster Copyright © 1984 by Sister Gulshan Esther and Thelma Sangster. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1 To Mecca 7

2 The Hajj 21

3 The Water of Life 31

4 The Wedding 45

5 Death's Sting 55

6 The Car 67

7 Fame 81

8 The Book 95

9 Baptism 109

10 Sisters 125

11 Trapped 137

12 The Tempter 149

13 The Candle 159

14 The Witness 175

15 Conclusion 187

Afterword: The Story Goes On and On 197

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2005

    One of the best books I have ever read

    I am was so moved when I first read this book and acknowledged the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the type of book that lift the faith of people either a believer of Jesus Christ or not. Sister Esther does not come from a Christian family and did not hear the Lord's name from any Christian but only read in the Koran that some one who heals is available to her. I am currently praying for a child who is 16 yrs old with similar problem but in this case she also has some mental problems too, and this book has made my faith in Christ rise to a very high level.

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