In a culture where elders are to be obeyed, not questioned, and where abandonment of one’s religion can be punished by death, it is a significant challenge for a Muslim to walk away from his or her faith. Nabeel Qureshi outlines the long and often painful process that led him to do just that in Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.
He begins by describing a rather lonely childhood. He was born in Pakistan, but his family immigrated to the United States when he was still very young. His father was in the U.S. navy and was stationed in a variety of American cities as well as in Scotland for awhile. Wherever they went, Muslims were in the minority. Qureshi notes that he was always aware of being different and that his Muslim heritage was a deterrent for many would-be friends and their families (32).
The author notes that Muslims believe Christians are an immoral and promiscuous lot. For this reason, immigrants like his parents are fearful of their offspring being Americanized. Therefore, the Qureshis would not allow their son to spend time with non-Islamic children outside of school. It also meant that they spent a great deal of time and energy indoctrinating Nabeel and his older sister in the ways of Islam.
Nabeel chose to attend Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, simply because it was close to his home and he could continue to live with his parents. It was here that he met David Wood, a young man who was as passionate for Jesus as Qureshi was for Allah.
Qureshi’s maternal grandfather and great-grandfather had been Muslim missionaries and he saw himself in that light – as a missionary with the job of converting others to Islam. The logical place to start was with Wood. He began by asking why his new friend would believe what the New Testament said about Jesus given that it had been altered and re-written so many times.
Wood was ready for the challenge and explained why the Christian could rightly accept the reliability of Scripture. But he did one thing more. He challenged Qureshi to consider the Quran’s dubious history. Taught that it was a perfect book, dictated by God through the Archangel Gabriel to Muhammad and never changed at any point in history, Nabeel discovered that it had been altered time and time again, until finally someone decided to standardize one version of it and have the many other variations destroyed to bring unity to bickering Muslims (228).
Qureshi notes that his parents had always encouraged him to examine his beliefs, but that “examination” consisted only of learning how to defend them because it was an unchallengeable given that they were true (107). At school, he was taught to do the opposite, using reason to critically assess what he believed. While Islam dictated that he should never question authority, Western culture insisted that he should question everybody and everything to reach the truth. And that’s exactly what Wood was asking of him, too. Thus, the ball was set in motion, and Qureshi’s journey to Jesus began.
Initially, Qureshi was certain that, even if he didn’t have the answers to the challenges that Wood presented to his faith, Muslim scholars/leaders and his own father would. But they didn’t. A meeting with two of Christianity’s finest apologists, Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, made him understand that he had to put Christianity and Islam into historically investigable terms to determine which was most likely to be true (155). A debate between Muslim Shabir Ally and Licona on the topic of the resurrection showed him that Muslims tended to deny or ignore important data to make their case because they simply had no valid way to refute it (155).
Then Wood gave him Josh McDowell’s books – More Than a Carpenter and Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Qureshi had been taught to despise Paul as a hijacker of early Christianity (181), but now he started to ask himself why a devout Jew would turn Jesus into God. The core doctrine of Islam was the “oneness” of God. To call Jesus God was an unforgivable sin that led to hell. So this was a major issue.
Interestingly, it was his study of science at Old Dominion that made him realize that a Triune God was not out of the question. As he explains it, “One molecule of nitrate is three resonance structures all at the same time and never just one of them. They are three in one” (191). So why couldn’t one God be three persons at the same time?
He was further shaken by his study of the life of Muhammad. Allegiance to the prophet is allegiance to Islam and vice versa (203). Taught that Muhammad was a flawless man who all Muslims were to emulate, Nabeel discovered that, among other nasty things, Muhammad was a violent, petty leader who murdered without provocation, ordered his soldiers to rape the women they took captive in battle, and consummated marriage with a girl of only nine. What shocked him further was the fact that he got this negative information from Muslim sources, not Christian ones.
It was then that I realized the value of apologetics and what arguments had done for me. All my life, barriers had been erected that kept me from humbly approaching God and asking Him to reveal Himself to me. The arguments and apologetics tore down those barriers, positioning me to make a decision to pursue God or not (241).
But how could he hurt his parents by becoming a Christian? They had honestly done everything they thought was best for him. They loved him so much and he loved them equally in return. To abandon Islam would be to shame them in a way that they might never forgive. Would it be the end of his relationship with them?
He had to be certain he wasn’t making a mistake. Wood advised him to ask God for assurance. Qureshi did. The Lord’s answer came to him in the form of a vision and not just one, but three dreams. (For those interested in their contents, a detailed description of them can be found here: http://answering-islam.org/Authors/Qureshi/testimony.htm).
There was no doubt in Nabeel’s mind now. The time had come to acknowledge the truth to his parents. They were devastated, but their love for him outweighed all else. Only when he completed medical school and informed them that he would not be a practising physician, but was going into Christian ministry (he is currently with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries) did they cut their ties with him – but only for a year. They eventually resumed contact with him and Nabeel notes that, while his relationship with them remains strained, it still exists, for which he is truly grateful.
In the introduction to his book, Qureshi notes he wrote it with the following three purposes in mind:
- To tear down walls by giving non-Muslim readers an insider’s perspective into a Muslim’s heart and mind
- To equip readers with facts and knowledge, showing the strength of the case for the gospel in contrast with the case for Islam
- To portray the immense inner struggle of Muslims grappling with the gospel, including their sacrifices and doubts
Qureshi accomplishes these goals powerfully. He explains the Islamic mindset, something anyone who witnesses to Muslims must understand if he or she hopes to be an effective apologist. By taking the reader through his own process of conversion, step by step, he outlines the arguments that were most convincing to him and which others can apply in their own ministries to Muslims. He also creates a feeling of compassion for those raised in Islam who have so much to lose – yet even more to gain – in abandoning their religion for Christ.
The author includes an essay from a renowned apologist at the end of each chapter. He calls them “the hidden treasures of the book” (16). They include:
- Growing Up Muslim in America by Abdu Murray
- The Reliability of the New Testament by Daniel Wallace
- Defining Moments by Michael Licona
- The Deity of Christ by J. Ed Komoszewski
- The Historical Muhammad by David Wood
- Belief and Doubt by Gary Habermas
- Dreams and Visions by Josh McDowell
Qureshi notes that, on the night that he finally gave his life to Christ, he told God that he wished he could die right then because of the pain his conversion was going to cause himself and his family. He asked God why it had to be like that. God’s response surprised him. He said to the new member of his family, “Because this is not about you.” It was then, Qureshi says, that he realized that God was calling him to minister to Muslims in Christ’s name. With this book, he provides information that will help the rest of us do the same. For that reason, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is highly recommended.
Apologetics 315 Book Reviewer Mary Lou is a Canadian journalist who has just completed her Masters in Theological Studies. She writes fiction, poetry and plays as well as non-fiction.