In his book "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus" Nabeel Qureshi describes his dramatic journey from Islam to Christianity. A former devout Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi became convinced of the truth of the Gospel through historical reasoning and a search for God. Now a speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, he holds an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University, and an MA in religion from Duke University.
Growing up Muslim:
Growing up, Nabeel learned to pray the five daily prayers and by the age of five he memorized the last seven chapters of the Qur'an, reciting them regularly. He also finished the entire Qur'an in Arabic by the age of five. His parents came with some presuppositions about the west. They saw the immorality, the adultery, the way people dress immodestly on television and therefore attributed this to Christianity, as they saw the West as a Christian culture. Nabeel was taught to defend himself against Christianity, trained with arguments to challenge and respond to the gospel.
How was your childhood different from American kids growing up?
Nabeel: For us, Islam was our identity. We knew Islam, we were Muslim, and that's what we were representing wherever we went... My mother, she would wear the burka so obviously whenever someone saw her immediately they are thinking Islam. I realized that the other kids didn't really own their faith. Yea, they might called themselves Christian, yea they might go to church, but that didn't affect the way they lived, it didn't affect the way they thought. And so that was something that made us more proud as Muslims we thought we are following the true God, he affects and permeates every aspect of our lives whereas in the West people realize their faith is false, and that's why it doesn't really affect the way they live. That is kind of how we subconsciously thought.
How did a friendship introduce you to Christianity?
Nabeel: Something I did regularly was challenge people on the Gospel. Friends would say to me "Nabeel do you know Jesus?" and of course Muslims have a very developed view of Jesus. They believe he is the messiah, they believe that he's a miracle working man, he's sinless, Muslims believe Jesus is going to come back at the end of time and so I would have a script ready to give, and I would challenge people on their view of Jesus... What I realized very early on is even the slightest challenge on the Bible on the reliability or compilation of the Bible, on Jesus Deity or the trinity especially, no one really knew more than what they were told to say. They didn't really know why they believed, what they believed, didn't know how to defend it, and so part of me honouring Islam I would challenge Christians. Muslims see the trinity as polytheism, and that's offensive to Muslims. For the first time, this was as a freshman in college, for the first time someone was actually able to respond to my challenge and I realized this guy, not only knows some information about his faith but he actually cares about his faith. We developed this friendship, which resulted from me challenging him on the Bible, and that's how I began to get introduced to the power of the Gospel.
The Power of Relationship:
Nabeel: Jesus says "Unless you're willing to pick up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of me. The gospel is not just "Hey do you want to live a better life?" it's "Are you ready to die for the sake of the Gospel?" If I ask someone to lay down their life, but they don't know they can trust me, why would they ever listen to me? You need to have a relationship with someone when you're sharing the gospel with them if they are going to hear it. By far and away, the most powerful way to share the gospel is through relationships.
Difference between Islam and Christianity:
Nabeel: For a Muslim raised in the west, devote Muslims, a lot of it is apologetics and with truth. "What is the truth?" Islam very clearly denies some things about Jesus. Yes, Jesus is miracle working, he is the messiah but it denies that he ever died on the cross; it denies he ever claimed to be God. And if he never died on the cross, how did he raise from the dead? Islam denies the death, deity, and resurrection of Jesus. But according to Paul what do you need to believe in order to be saved? [Romans 10:9] If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (Deity) and believe in your heart that God raised him (resurrection) from the dead (death) you will be saved. The very three things that Islam denies, you have to believe in order to be saved. So for me it was a matter of trying to prove that those things didn't happen in order to establish a case for Islam. As I was trying to disprove those things, I realized the evidence for Jesus death, deity and resurrection was really strong. I turned to Islam and tried to find the evidence for Islam, and found it was much weaker in comparison.
Muslims, Dreams and Salvation:
Nabeel: Generally, Muslims don't believe you can commune with God. The traditional way God has been taught is that he is removed from you and the only way you can get guidance directly from him is through dreams. Muslims have a prayer where they specifically ask God to give them dreams for guidance. So I asked God for visions and for dreams. Approximately 50-70% of Christians that were former Muslims came partially through visions and dreams.
Nabeel: I had a vision, a symbolic dream and one that was very powerful but this dream is the one that convinced me. In this dream, I was standing at the threshold of a narrow door just large enough to fit me. On the other side of this doorway was a room that was set with a feast, people were sitting down with nice clothes, it was like a wedding feast. I knew that was heaven, I wanted to get into that room, but I couldn't because at the other end of the doorway was my friend David. He wasn't blocking me, per say, he was looking forward. I turned to David and said "David, I thought we were going to eat together" and he said "You haven't responded" and in the dream I knew right there I needed to respond to the invitation David was giving me in order to come into Heaven. When I woke up, I told my friend David the dream and he said "Nabeel, this dream is so clear, just go to Luke 13" I went to Luke 13, I had never read that before, and there was a section there titled The Narrow Door [Luke 13:22-30] and when is saw it, my heart dropped. It said Jesus was going through the towns and villages, preaching the good news and the disciple said "Lord, are many going to be saved?" and Jesus said "Make every effort to enter through that narrow door because many will try and few will be able. You will see people sitting inside at the feast of the Kingdom of heaven, make every effort to enter before the owner comes and closes the door." I knew God had given me a dream straight out of the bible and he left the decision up to me. It was clear what I had to do.
Choosing to Sacrifice and Comfort Found:
Nabeel: In order for a Muslim to become a Christian, they have to be willing to give up a lot. Their family and identity is usually wound up in Islam. So it wasn't just me saying "I'm going to change my beliefs" it's saying "I'm going to leave my family and everything they've stood for, all the way back to Muhammad's time. My last name is Qureshi , if Muhammad had a last name it would be Qureshi. My mother is the daughter of a Muslim missionary. I had to give up all that. I'm the eldest son in my family; I'm the one who is supposed to bring Honour to the family. If I become Christian, that is the worst thing that could happen. Not only am I giving up my family, I am consigning my families reputation to the flames basically. I needed a lot of time to wrestle through, and pray through. It wasn't until I read God's word, Mark 10:29, and the encouragement to make this decision.
Nabeel: In the Qur'an there is nothing that says "I am giving you comfort if you're hurting" the Qur'an says "Do this, do that" but there in the bible "Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted" in the beatitudes, my heart was electrified into life from reading that and my life has never been the same.
Nabeel: If God came into this world to take our sins, that means he loves us even though we sin against him. And then he takes a look at us, while he's on the cross bleeding and dying for us, the words we should remember "As I have loved you, so love one another". That is the call we are given as Christians. He has given us everything we need in this life and this afterlife, so all we have to do is follow him and pour ourselves out for the sake of those around us and that transformative life is the message of the gospel.