Living out her early childhood in Tehran, Iran, before moving to the United States at an early age, Nikta and her sister developed somewhat of a "rebellious streak" despite growing up in a "strict" Muslim household.
Nikta (last name omitted due to privacy concerns) told The Christian Post in a recent interview that she did not always feel "love" as a child. Her parents worked hard, but they often argued. After the family moved to California to seek a better education in a free country, Nikta said she tried her first cigarette at the age of 7 and drank alcohol in the eighth grade with the encouragement of her older sister.
A traumatic experience with one of her sister's friends drove her to drink "all the time" as a teenager. She also became interested in new-age ideas and collected crystals after starting to attend high school in California.
During her college years, Nikta began feeling suicidal and anxious, later growing into massive social anxiety, making it difficult to attend college in California. Her mom suggested that she and her sister travel to Iran for the summer so they could reconnect with family, insisting it would make her feel better.
"And I was like, 'Mom, I'm having such bad stomachaches, I really don't want to leave the house,'" Nikta recalled. "'I don't want to go. I really didn't want to go.'"
Although she didn't want to go, it was on this trip that she had a vision of Jesus that ultimately persuaded her to leave the Muslim faith behind and embrace a new faith in Christ, a decision that was costly for her at first.
A vision of Jesus
Despite her objections, Nikta's mother sent her to Iran anyway. She recalled that when she landed, she immediately wanted to go home. But now, Nikta sees that the trip was really part of God's plan for her life.
One night, while lying in her aunt's bedroom, Nikta said she saw a vision of Jesus. He had long, dark hair and a blue robe. She recalled that He was standing inside an old wooden church with stained glass windows.
"And He looked at me, and He communicated to me, 'Follow me,'" she said. "I couldn't audibly hear Him say 'Follow me,' but I know He said that."
Nikta searched for a picture of Jesus on Google. And to her surprise, the image she found was the same as what she had seen in her vision.
"And so I immediately started thinking, 'I have to become a Christian because I just saw Jesus,'" she told CP. "'OK, what is Christianity?'"
She texted her Christian boyfriend, and he offered to take her to church if she wanted to learn more about Jesus when she returned to California.
Nikta informed her Muslim grandfather about her vision and her plan to convert to Christianity. She thought her grandfather would be excited. But instead, he asked why she would leave Islam. Nikta's sister said she was "crazy."
"So it was just my first little taste of how the world does not accept Him like how we think they should," Nikta said.
When she returned to California, Nikta started attending church with her boyfriend. She said she found that the more she prayed, the more the Lord spoke to her. She recalled how everything felt "alive" after getting baptized. Nikta remembered how the God who "sees inside our hearts" filled her thoughts.
"I believe it was a sign that God was taking me into this new life where I could just see into the Spirit," Nikta commented.
Nikta has not returned to Iran since her conversion to Christianity. An Islamic Republic, the Iranian government, is known for persecuting the nation's Christian minority. Open Doors USA, an international Christian persecution watchdog, ranks Iran as the ninth-worst country when it comes to Christian persecution. Christian converts from Islam are most at risk.
Her family responds
Her parents received the baptism certificate in the mail. Nikta recalled her mother telling her that she was not the same daughter she raised and could not support her conversion, making Nikta feel disowned.
When Nikta left the house, she saw a vision of three angels traveling with her. She kept praying to God for comfort. She told her boyfriend what had happened, and he returned to the house with her.
Nikta's parents had been inquiring about her whereabouts.
The former Muslim felt scared, as she had heard stories of Muslim fathers beheading their daughters for becoming Christian. When she entered the house, Nikta said her father started yelling at her, pushed her and stomped on her head.
"And he was saying, 'You're worthless. Who do you think you are? Because you follow Jesus, you think you're so special,'" Nikta recalled.
Nikta ran out of the house and moved in with her boyfriend and his family. The couple married a few years later. They now have a child.
Though he was raised Christian, Nikta's then-boyfriend was not a practicing Christian at the time Nikta had her vision. But he still agreed to take her to church. Once he got there, she said he rededicated his life to Christ.
Nikta eventually restored the relationship with her family, and they even came to her wedding.
"They kept finding ways to reach out to me. I remember God speaking to me the day after the whole abuse happened, and He told me to forgive them," she said.
At first, she only met with her family in public. But over time, Nikta felt comfortable meeting them privately. Leading up to the wedding, her parents still weren't always supportive of her conversion and choice of spouse. But Nikta believes they now accept the "fruit of [her and her husband's] lives."
Nikta graduated college in California. She and her husband left the state a few years after marrying (location omitted due to privacy reasons), where they still attend church.
Sometimes, Nikta's family comes to church with her.
She says her dad is not as "resistant" to Christianity as he was before. Nikta said he is open to her praying for him, but she does not think he has "laid down his life" for Christ yet.
"They may not fully understand, but they don't try to stop me," she said. "And it's just a miracle that my dad's heart has gotten so much softer."
The website is a platform that allows Muslim-background believers to share their testimonies and provides a safe space for Muslims to have their questions about Jesus answered. Uncharted Ministries shares the Christian faith with Jews and Muslims in the Middle East and other uncharted parts of the world. Nikta's testimony will be available to view soon on the website.
Nikta is not the only former Muslim who claims to have seen Jesus in a dream or vision. In 2017, Open Doors USA published the testimony of a Palestinian convert identified as "Ismail" who said that Jesus visited him in a dream.
"I saw a white face and heard a voice: 'Follow Me.' Nothing more. But it was enough. I made the decision to follow Him," he said.
Ismail believes most "Muslims come to the Lord through visions and dreams, not through evangelists."
The late Nabeel Qureshi, a Christian apologist and author who immigrated to the United States from Pakistan and came to Christ after doing a deep analysis of both religions, previously told CP in an interview that dreams are deeply valued in Muslim cultures.
"In Muslim cultures, generally speaking, people don't see themselves as being able to commune with God. Communion is a very Christian concept and the idea that Christ has torn down the veil — in a lot of cultures, the veil is still up," Qureshi said.
"In Islam, for example, people don't expect to have God talk back to them personally, as the Holy Spirit isn't living in them. They ask God for guidance through dreams; that's like the one way that Muslims expect to hear from God."
"There is a hadith, a tradition of something Mohammed said, which says that 'The dreams of the faithful are prophetic,'" he added. "There's another one which says that 'dreams are 1/46th of revelation.' This does go back to Mohammed, as far as traditional Islam is concerned."