“Let’s just say Christianity were true. Just for a moment, imagine with me that Jesus really is God and that he really did die on the cross for your sins and that he rose from the dead. He loves you and he wants you to live your life following and proclaiming him…. Now if it were the case that Christianity were true, would you want to know it?” 1 (144)
In his autobiography Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi describes his long and tumultuous spiritual journey out of Islam. The journey started even before he was born when his Pakistani parents immigrated to America. Belonging to a minority Islamic sect, they knew the dangers of living in a country under Muslim law.
Nabeel’s father was hired by the US Navy and, as a result, their family lived a mobile lifestyle. While growing up in the United States and Europe might have broadened his horizons, it also resulted in minimizing social connections.
His sheltered lifestyle was accented with affection and love. “Abba” and “Ammi” tenderly raised him and his sister Baji, faithfully providing for their physical needs and diligently training them in Islam.
Nabeel narrates the greatest physical trauma he experienced during those carefree, innocent years. One day he and his sister were playing and he decided to crash his toy car against the open window. The raised window pane came crashing down on his tender hand, gashing open one of his little fingers. His ever-caring mother rushed him to the nearby clinic where he got a few stitches. All throughout the procedure, Ammi was by his side reciting Islamic prayers in Arabic and Urdu, their native language. Nabeel writes that “her steadfast reliance upon Allah, even in the face of a screaming child and judging eyes, was a testimony of her faith that I have never forgotten” (33).
This accident pales in comparison to the heartrending trauma years later, when he parted religious ways with his sincere parents. Those scars run much deeper than the small, two-inch mark on his hand.
A Glimpse Inside Islam
This book gives the reader a glimpse into one Islamic family; it is important to remember that there are many cultures and religious sects represented within the religion of Islam. The Qureshis belong to the Ahmadiyya sect, which is sometimes referred to as the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” of the Muslim faith. Often considered as Kafir (infidels), they have suffered violence and murder at the hands of Orthodox Muslims.
This minority sect argues that they recite the shahada2 and diligently observe the Five Pillars of Islam3, just like any other adherent. However, the claims of the sect’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, set them apart and provide for vehement discussion. He proclaimed himself as the returning Messiah, and a prophet after Muhammad. Having experienced the terrors of Islamic jihad, Ahmadhis stand united for peace.
The Journey Begins
Nabeel describes his inner turmoil as he began to see the chasm between the eastern and western worldviews. At home, he was taught to believe, asking no questions. At school, he was forced to think critically and question his belief system in light of fact and reason.
Amidst the pressure of secularism, he was determined to be a faithful representative of Islam. He began studying Christian teachings and relished every opportunity to pit Islam against other belief systems. Every challenge only pushed him to research more, and to speak up more confidently as an ambassador for his religion. However, his worldview was about to be shaken.
The world looked on in horror as the Twin Towers crumbled—icons of capitalist America and all that it stood for. Day after day, the media aired countless reruns of the gruesome attacks, which were supposedly carried out in the name of Allah. Finally, Nabeel couldn’t bear it any longer–he had to learn the truth once and for all.
A Christian Friend
I needed a friend, an intelligent, uncompromising, non-Muslim friend who would be willing to challenge me. Of course, not only would he have to be bold and stubborn enough to deal with the likes of me, but I would have to like and trust him enough to dialogue with him about the things that mattered to me most. Little did I know, God had already introduced us, and I was already on a path that would change my life forever (117).
During his first year of college, Nabeel met David Wood, a fellow freshman student. With many similarities in personality, yet few resemblances of upbringing, they hit it off almost immediately. Though Nabeel didn’t realize it, David was just the friend he needed at just the right time. Amidst studying, hanging out, and goofing off, they would always come back to topics of disagreement. The days, months, and years ticked by as they faced the issues head-on: Who is Jesus? Has the Bible been corrupted? Did Jesus die and rise again? Is He God in the flesh? Is He the Son of God?
What Nabeel had been taught all his life was now being cast in the shadow of doubt. More determined than ever, he devoured book after book in search of a credible foundation for Islam and its claims. As he dug, the distance between his head and his heart grew. In his mind, he admitted to the serious evidence in favor of Christianity, yet his heart reminded him of the implications involved.
Finally, Nabeel reached the end of himself. At the prodding of David, his loyal Christian friend, he asked God to reveal the truth. Crying out for Divine guidance, he submitted himself to God’s enlightenment, however and whatever it might be. And God answered his prayers.
Through a series of three dreams, God confirmed to Nabeel what David had been sharing with him over the previous three years of college. However, the battle still raged inside. How would he tell Abba and Ammi?
In vivid detail, Nabeel describes the agonizing night that he shared his newfound faith with them. To this day, the pain he heard in their voices and saw in their eyes remains etched in his memory. It was in this dark valley that God opened his eyes to see everything in a new light. He had found Jesus, which meant he had a message to share with those around him!
While this book does not claim to represent all conversion experiences, it provides a powerful example of how God works in the lives of true seekers. Throughout the story, one sees how God used His people to speak truth and demonstrate love. The long, excruciating journey involved many individuals, and many hours of investment. Yet without a doubt, one has to conclude that only the Holy Spirit can do the convincing, saving work.
If you care about the 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, and the millions living in North America, this book is for you. It will give you a unique look into the Islamic culture, social fabric, and family life. You will come to understand the intense spiritual journey that Muslim-background believers experience, and will admire the sacrifice they make to follow Christ. Ultimately, it will challenge you to consider your own spiritual journey, and will call you to a deeper level of conviction and commitment to follow Christ, no matter what it may cost.
|Ian Miller lives in Brooklyn, NY and volunteers full-time with a non-profit organization. He is earning his BA in English through College Plus, which he hopes to use to teach ESL, both at home and abroad. He is passionate about urban, cross-cultural church planting, and verbal, personal evangelism.|
2 The Muslim shahada is the following confession, “There is no true god (deity) but God (Allah), and Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God.”
3 The five pillars of Islam are:
- The testimony of faith (shahada).
- Prayer (five times a day).
- Alms (giving a set percentage of one’s wealth).
- Fasting (the annual, thirty-day fast of Ramadan).
- The pilgrimage (a journey to Mecca at least once in a lifetime).