Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity Paperback – April 19, 2016
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About the Author
Nabeel Qureshi was a speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He earned an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University, and an MA in religion from Duke University.
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The extended epilog written by Nabeel before he entered Glory, gives additonal information about his famly and their circumstances since the writing of the first edition. Nabeel also gives suggestions to future converts and those who minister to Muslim. Others who contributed additional writings in this edition are Abdu Murray, David Wood, Mark Middleberg Daniel Wallace, Keith Small, Gary Habermas, Josh Mcdowell, and most remarkably, Michelle Qureshi. Also included are several appendixes to assist the reader in the study of this book.
I highly recommend that the reader of this review purchase this book. You will not regret it!
Part 2: Nabeel mentions that his family moved back to the US from Scotland, and how his mother explained to him that people in America will always see him as a Muslim. This is most likely true. 72% of Americans consider themselves Christians who have little experience with Muslims; so they tend to be a bit uncomfortable with them. Nabeel states: “My mind was being shaped to think critically, but that shape did not fit into our culture.” Critical thinking doesn’t fit well into any religious culture (including Christian culture) where you are expected to believe things without demonstrable, verifiable, objective evidence. Nabeel speaks of a female cousin who fell in love with a Hindu and was berated by her family. This is nothing new, people are tribal and do not like it when members join another tribe. Nabeel states, “People from Easter Islamic culture generally assess truth through lines of authority, not individual reasoning.” Join the club. Many people believe things based on authority and poor reasoning, especially religious beliefs (like the authority of the Bible). Nabeel speaks of how Muslims don’t believe Jesus is god and gives an explanation as to how he didn’t die on the cross. (I also don’t believe Jesus was god due to lack of evidence.) Nabeel speaks of he and his father being invited to a Christian church to see a play about accepting Jesus as god or go to hell. Nabeel’s father explains that Christians can sin all they want and if they accept Jesus they go to heaven (good point – substitutionary atonement is not moral). Islam teaches you get to heaven when you do more good than bad. Nabeel mentions that the Quran is perfect, the hadith and the bible are works of men in which there is divine truth but there is also corruption. (In reality they were all written by men and can be interpreted differently by different people.) Nabeel tells a story of praying to find his old friends and when he opened his eyes silver and gold colored lines in his vision lead him to his friends. Nabeel felt this was proof of the existence of his god. I have my doubts about this story. The most likely explanation is it coincidence. If he hadn’t found his friends this incident probably would have been forgotten. It seems in Nabeel’s world god is willing to perform minor acts of magic upon request. But, this personal experience pushed him from 99% sure a god exists to 100%. Nabeel states that authority in Western culture is reason itself. I disagree as many people in western culture hold irrational beliefs; 72% of Americans claim to be Christians. However, I agree that there is a lesser emphasis on authority in Western culture. There is more focus on personal opinion than the opinion of authority. Nabeel speaks of 9/11, how it was done in the name of Allah, and it caused doubt in his faith. He decided to find a friend to hold him accountable as he honestly assessed his Muslim beliefs. This is a good plan; more people should do this. But, he selects a devout Christian; someone with a different set of irrational beliefs.
Part 3: Nabeel states, “Effective evangelism requires relationships. There are very few exceptions.” Relationship is important on an emotional level; what is more important is facts. Nabeel finds a friend, David, who is a devout Christian. Nabeel starts a conversation with David and mentions that changes have been made to the bible. Not surprisingly, David knows more about the bible than a Muslim. David states that the bible hasn’t been altered and Nabeel decides he needs to investigate more about the bible. I really don’t care about any changes to the gospels, or anything in the bible. What needs to be demonstrated is the factual accuracy of the stories contained within the bible; especially the extraordinary supernatural claims. So far no one has been able to provide evidence these claims are true. But Nabeel already believes in most of the supernatural events in the bible, as he has mentioned that Muslims believed Jesus performed miracles and in the old testament. So, he already holds irrational biases. Nabeel asks David about the bible “…how do I know that what it says is accurate?” Finally, a good question! But, David replies, “Doesn’t the Quran say the Injil is the word of Allah?” No evidence-based reply, just one book of claims claiming another book of claims is accurate. David says, “As objective (no, they are not objective as they already have presuppositions about Jesus, god and miracles) investigators, if we are going to learn about Jesus’ life, we must turn to the gospels because they are the most likely to be accurate.” NO! The gospels must be demonstrated to be accurate. Then David uses a standard apologist argument that the gospels were written closer to the time of Jesus’ life than the written account of the life of Alexander the Great. Here is the difference. Historians do NOT rely exclusively on the written accounts of Alexander the Great to prove he was a real person. We have large amounts of physical evidence of his existence (coins with his name and image, monuments with his name, cities named after him, statues of his image which all look like the same person, etc.). This allows us to understand with a high degree of certainty that he was, IN FACT, a real person. We have NONE of this for Jesus. Also, even with all of the evidence we have of Alexander, no rational person believes he was born of a virgin and his father was Zeus; as it has been claimed. Remember, the oral stories that were circulating about Jesus were not attempts to accurately record history; they were used for proselytizing. Humans exaggerate stories, this is natural. All other religions have supernatural claims, it would be difficult to convince anyone to follow your religion without them. David mentions the claim that the gospel of Mark was based on Peter’s eyewitness testimony, but this is another claim which must be demonstrated to be true. NONE of the information in the gospels is information recorded by actual historians using the methods of historians of that time. As a matter of fact, not a single contemporary historian from that area of the middle east recorded anything about Jesus; not even the supposed earthquake, sudden darkness, and raising of many dead people that happened in Jerusalem during the crucifixion. Ultimately, we do not know who wrote the gospels as the writers never provide their names in the gospels; we also don’t know who provided the verbal information for the gospels; and we certainly don’t know the factually accuracy of those original oral stories. Therefore, the information in the gospels is NOT evidence, it is a bunch of claims that must be demonstrated to be factually accurate. Don’t get me wrong. I’m willing to tentatively accept that there may have been an iterant, apocalyptic preacher named Jesus roaming around the area of Israel on who the character of Jesus described in the bible was based; BUT all extraordinary claims made in the gospels must be demonstrated to have actually happened in reality. Dave then suggests that Nabeel be as skeptical of the Quran as he is about the gospels, which is great advice! David then states that there is no such thing as absolute certainty in the real world. To some extent he is correct as we could be living in the Matrix. However, here is my definition of truth: the extent to which a proposition comports with our understanding of reality and can be adjudicated by its predictive power. If we can all agree that we have to live within our understanding of reality that can be verified with other humans we can reach a very high degree of certainty for thing which have sufficient demonstrable, verifiable, objective evidence. David then states, “So, the best explanation by far is that the gospels are a reliable source for Jesus’ life, unquestionably more reliable than anything else we have.” NO, the gospels are NOT reliable sources until they are demonstrated to be so; and we really have nothing else (other than claims by Paul). Then David states, “Even science is inductive, relying on observations and best explanations, not always deductive conclusion.” Hypotheses can be inductive, but the scientific method provides demonstrable, verifiable, objective results.
Part 4: David convinces Nabeel to consider Christianity is true by inviting he and his father to attend a meeting where people discuss religion; specifically, they will discuss if Jesus died on the cross. Nabeel & his father have a conversation about Jesus dying on the cross. First, there are NO contemporary records of the torture and crucifixion of Jesus, by the Romans or anyone else. However, I’m willing to tentatively accept that a real preacher named Jesus may have been crucified by the Roman authorities most likely for inciting crowds. However, the gospel stories are claims which must be demonstrated to be true. They are NOT evidence of the truth of the stories. Nabeel notices that Muslim books about Jesus started with the conclusion, find facts that supported their position, and then make their case. I’m not surprised. Christian apologetics do the same thing. They start with the assumption that the Christian god exists and try to provide information to support their presuppositions to make their case. At one point there is a claim that Jesus’ resurrection was a “historically verifiable event.” NO. It absolutely is not. The bible claims that Jesus resurrected, and this claim must be demonstrated to have actually happened in reality. Then Davide says, “then ‘I already believe something’ is not good reason to continue believing it. You need better reasons, ones that are grounded in objective facts.” Yet David never provides objective facts about his Christian beliefs. In this section it is strongly implied that history alone can prove the factual accuracy of supernatural claims. This is not true. Historians can only record the claims made that supernatural events occurred. History alone is NOT evidence that these events occurred in reality. This would require demonstrable, verifiable, objective evidence. Then it is claimed that the best explanation is that is that Jesus rose from the dead. This is an absolutely ridiculous claim. We have no verified examples of any human being ever coming back to life after biological death. We have MANY examples of humans making claims of people coming back from biological death, with no evidence. Nabeel brings in a Muslim scholar to debate the Jesus resurrection story. Note: Debate proves nothing. Facts are required. Mike starts with Jesus died by crucifixion. Yes, the character of Jesus written about in the gospels died by crucifixion. We have no way to determine if the any of the supernatural events attributed to him are factually accurate. Yes, in the narrative of the story the tomb was empty. We have no actual evidence to show this is is the case. Next, the testimony to the resurrection. Again, we only have claims that Jesus resurrected.
Part 5: Mike gives Nabeel a book to read, More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell. Nabeel reads the book, but the book attempts to use the bible (the book of John) to prove the bible is true. This is text book circular reasoning. The book of John must be demonstrated to be true, not simply asserted to be true. Nabeel argues against the accuracy of John because it was the last gospel written. I would argue it was the most exaggerated. If you read the gospels horizontally the differences become clear. Mike asks Nabeel where he got his information and Nabeel states Bart Ehrman (who is a biblical scholar). Mike replies, “Bart Ehrman is not a Christian.” This comment speaks volumes. Mike is only interested in scholars who are biased toward Christianity. Mike then gives Nabeel another massively biased book, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict (I have read and posted a review on Amazon for Evidence That Demands a Verdict. It was not convincing.) Nabeel is looking for proof that Jesus claimed to be god, yet this is irrelevant. What we need is evidence that Jesus was, in fact, god. Nothing in the bible is evidence for this. The bible is a book of claims which must be demonstrated to be true. They then focus on Jesus calling himself son of man was indicating he was calling himself god. Yet again, this is using the bible to prove the bible true; circular reasoning. Mike states: “There are writings from before the gospels that prove Christians saw Jesus as God.” I agree, Christians believed Jesus was god. Yet, this does absolutely nothing to demonstrate that Jesus is, in fact, god. They go on to speak of Paul. Yes, Paul was the founder of Christianity. Yet Paul never claims to have met a physical Jesus. Nor do the writings of Paul provide any evidence of his claims about Jesus.
Part 6: Nabeel speaks of how his Muslim teaching stated that the teaching of the trinity is false. Nabeel hears from a professor that atoms are a combination of protons, neutrons and electrons yet make up a single atom. This confirms the idea of the trinity for Nabeel. Yet this is a false equivalency. The trinity is 3 separate and distinct intelligent entities which, at the same time, are all one entity. Sorry, but this is just an unproven assertion made by Christians. Can you demonstrate this claim is factually accurate? We human can demonstrate that molecules are made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. The same cannot be said for your god claims. Nabeel gets a roommate who is a Buddhist, Zach. One day Nabeel brings up substitutionary atonement. First, substitutionary atonement is not moral. Having someone else pay a penalty for your crimes is morally wrong. Second, if god wanted to forgive us he had the power to simply do so without a sacrifice. Third, it makes no sense. God sent part of himself to earth to do some magic, preach a bit, and then sacrifice himself to himself to atone for transgressions we committed against rules he created and could change at any time. Again, simply forgiving us without the torture would have made more sense. Then, on top of this issue, he did not just forgive. There is a stipulation that you must accept Jesus as lord and savior or suffer for eternity. How is that moral?
Part 7: Nabeel makes his arguments for Mohamed and the Quran and the Christians poke holes in his arguments. This leads Nabeel to take a deeper look at his beliefs. Nabeel does his research and finds issues with the stories of Mohamed. As Nabeel continues his research he finds Muhammad was not the peaceful prophet as he was taught. Mohammad had committed atrocities. As Nabeel continues his research he reaches the conclusion that Mohammad could not be a prophet of Allah.
Part 8: Nabeel does more research and concludes that the Quran is not a perfect book and it does not contain any compelling prophecies, and other things he had been told about it were not true. Nabeel continues to research and finds that Muslim apologists are biased toward Islam and are often not providing accurate or complete information. Nabeel continues to research and discovers the Quran had not been passed down exactly as originally written. Nabeel continues to research and discovers the Quran condoned rape. (The bible condones slavery, killing homosexuals, and genocide; is that any better?)
Part 9: Nabeel realizes he needs more to believe Jesus is god. David then tells him “Your parents see dreams, and god has directed you with supernatural signs in the sky. You know full well that if you ask him to reveal the truth to you, he will.” Really? How can we differentiate between a god actually revealing the truth to someone or someone just believing a god has revealed the truth? At this point Nabeel gives up on his intellect (critical thinking) and relies on his emotions. Nabeel realizes that if he becomes a Christian he will lose his relationships with his family and be ostracized by his Muslim culture. He also worries that if he is wrong Allah will be condemned to hell. Nabeel begins to beg god to reveal himself. This puts him in a mindset to expect supernatural occurrences (confirmation bias). Nabeel continues to beg god to reveal himself on a regular basis. He asks specifically for god to give him dreams. Not surprisingly, Nabeel, while in a sleep deprived state, has a vision about a field of crosses. But he doubts the vision (as he should) and asks god for a dream.
Part 10: Not surprisingly, Nabeel has a dream full of symbols. Nabeel calls his mother to help him interpret the dream, because she read a book about dream interpretation. She interprets the dream and Nabeel concludes it may have been a dream from the Christian god. (Can he demonstrate this to be factually accurate?) Nabeel then asks god to give him 3 dreams, and if they all point to Christianity then he will become a Christian. He has another dream he interprets as being for Christianity. He has his 3rd dream and concludes it is a message from the Christian god and the message was for him to accept the gospel. Nabeel is afraid to confess to his family that he is rejecting Islam and accepting Christianity. He then begins reading the bible and finds comfort in the passages he reads. Nabeel feels joy, the joy of meeting god himself. He reads the bible a lot. He accepts Christianity completely. Nabeel confesses to his family and they were, not surprisingly, upset and confused. Nabeel is upset but continues to remain a Christian. He goes on to become a Christian apologist.
My Last Comment: It is too bad Nabeel didn’t use the same level of critical thinking to assess the claims of Christianity that he used when assessing the claims of Islam.
I really appreciated the introduction that Qureshi gave me to Islam. You can tell from his recounting how very much he loved his family and the life they had created in Muslim communities wherever they lived. His story reinforced the respect I have for the sense of community, accountability and religiosity that Muslims have. Qureshi talks specifically about how an itjema (a tournament that tested both physical and religious prowess) “and other gatherings like it caused us to grow deeper in love with Islam and deeper in community with one another.” I may not agree on Muslims about religion, but with respect to community they have Christians beat.
After the background that Qureshi gives us on Islam, both from a cultural and personal perspective, one would think that his conversion to Christianity would be quite dramatic. Even though we know from the outset that Qureshi converts, knowing what he is giving up makes it seem like it is going to cause a massive schism in his life. It was indeed heart wrenching and caused him many years of pain, but after following him through his years of searching and reasoning it not only makes perfect sense that he would convert, we also feel his solace in the Word when he realized that the pain he was feeling was misplaced and that this was not about him at all, but something much larger – serving God.
The Appendix to the book contains essays by several expert contributors which were very interesting. I particularly liked the one by Josh McDowell on “Dreams and Visions.” As Nabeel navigated the Eastern and Western worlds and their differences, he noted that Westerners are very much driven by reason. I liked the reminder of McDowell in his essay to open to the mystical. Sometimes it can be as good an answer as any other. It is part and parcel of faith after all. It was good for me western mindset to chew on that.
I was sad to hear that Nabeel died last year and I hope that the comfort and joy he found in this life he also finds in the next.
Top international reviews
Amongst the important insights that Nabeel Qureshi reveals, high on the list is the exploration of how Muslims come to know their religion, such as the strong emphasis on recitation in Arabic rather than self-discovery and understanding. The self - the individual - is sacrificed to the collective, starting with deferring to, submission to, authority figures when it comes to understanding the meaning. This extends to what attitudes to take on a whole range of issues. Qureshi went back to the drawing-board in order to discover things for himself.
Another important insight is that beliefs and attitudes are very deeply rooted and embedded in people's way of life, and in order to challenge attitudes and beliefs, it is necessary to get to know people and develop trust, which is a slow process. The problem we have is that people are either friendly but unchallenging or challenging but unfriendly, neither of which gets us anywhere. Reading this book ought to help enormously.
Easy to read and fascinating to hear about his experiences. His family are wonderful people. The love within the family really shines out. Nabeel's journey is interesting and shows a man that wrestled with the deep questions around faith and God,. Also showed the intersections of faith, family and culture. The book also helped me to understand key elements of Christian doctrine. He explained the trinity very well. Also explained some of the elements of the Muslim faith that I had no idea about! Well worth a read!!!
His story of his background and conversion is quite amazing and so well worth a read.
Nabeel Qureshi earnestly sought the truth and found it.
The book is in excellent condition. Paperback, but pretty solid.