This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint.
TITLE: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity
AUTHOR: Nabeel Qureshi
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014, (304 pages).
Christians are not the only people who evangelize. Muslims do too. In many cases, Muslims are better trained in casting doubts on the Christian faith in order to influence more to believe in Islam. Sometimes, I have found Muslims to be relatively more prepared in winning any debate between the merits of Christianity vs Islam. Reading this book reminds me once again that Muslims are quite formidable in their religious heritage, in their arguments against Christianity, and in their knowledge of the New Testament. Sharing about his own religious search, Dr Nabeel Qureshi gives readers a glimpse about the inner workings of the upbringing of a Muslim child, the way Muslims are trained in their honor and authority observance, and the differences between the Eastern and Western perspective of things Islam, religion, and culture. After describing his pious upbringing and a background of devoutly seeking Allah, he reveals how he had a change of heart after being stumped on several occasions by his best friend David, who had not only defended key tenets of the Christian faith, but also exposed the fallacies of the anti-Christian arguments used by many Muslims. As his eyes become opened to the weaknesses of the "swoon theory" and the problems underlying the substitution explanation. More importantly, as he becomes open to the reality of the gospel, he soon takes on a new perspective: Finding Jesus. Qureshi turns from obstinate opponent to passionate proponent for the gospel of Christ. He notices that the arguments he had adopted, the apologetics used against Christianity were all "polemical," that is, they all started with a conclusion. He then attempted to use Western methodology with Eastern passion, and slowly discovers that Christianity is more water-tight than he had previously argued against. One by one, his walls of resistance crumbled. He learned to see both sides of the picture. It was the Resurrection debate between the Muslim Shabir Ally against Michael Licona and Gary Habermas that tilted the balance. While Ally won the rhetoric and stage presence, Qureshi acknowledged that from the argument standpoint, Mike and Gary were far more convincing. With incredible detail of his journey from Islam to Christianity, Qureshi finds his initial resistance melts away, his doubts grow into faith, and his U-turn from skeptical disbelief to fervent faith.
This book begins with a touching dedication to the author's parents, a plea for forgiveness and acceptance. It underlines the tensions felt within a family when one member changes their religious affiliation, in particular, from Islam to Christianity. Armed with degrees in medicine, religion, and now, Apologetics, the author has since embarked upon a journey of sharing his own life conversion, how in the process of seeking to be a better Muslim, ended up meeting Jesus. What makes this book unique is the insights and perspectives Qureshi brings, to educate the rest of us what a Muslim thinks about Christians, how Islam views Christianity, and how and why Muslims are particularly incensed whenever one of their own starts to follow Jesus. Even the very writing of this book has invited fierce criticisms and created enemies for the author.
Let me provide five reasons why you ought to read this book. Buy it if you can. First, this book is an insightful look into the Muslim mind. We learn that there are significant differences among Muslims from the West and from the East. The former sees things more from a reasoning angle while the latter tends to follow authority structures and the esteemed position of honour. The more Western readers can understand the perspective of both West and East Muslims, the better they can relate to the cultural nuances. I learned a lot from the glossary of Islamic terms and definitions. It is one thing to be taught by a Christian professor trained in Islamic studies. It is yet another to learn from a devout Muslim. Second, Qureshi has highlighted very important arguments Muslims often use against Christianity. For all its force and formidable rhetoric, it cannot overturn the facts of the Christian faith, in particular the Resurrection. The problem among many Christians is that they are ignorant of their own faith in the first place. By knowing what they believe, they will be better prepared to defend what they believe. Third, there is incredible honesty and powerful struggles on the part of the author. Honing his analytical mind and reasoning skills, readers will realize how difficult it is for Muslims to convert to the Christian faith. It is more than simply a religious belief. It risks being excluded from one's very own family and community. Perhaps, by understanding the difficulties of Muslims, Christians will learn to care more for them and to see winning arguments as secondary. For caring and loving them must remain primary. For evangelism is not about foistering Christian beliefs upon non-believers. It is caring for them enough to share the love of Jesus with them, trusting that the Holy Spirit will convince them in God's time. Fourth, I learn about the clash of cultures and how big a role it has meant to evangelism and outreach in a pluralistic culture. Often, we tend to think of outreach as Apologetics and debate. With such a mentality, people naturally gravitate toward training and knowledge within the classroom, learning from renowned professors and practitioners, and then assume we have all the knowledge needed to convince people about Christianity. No. Reaching people requires us to understand not only the message but the surrounding contexts of people. How do we reason with a Muslim from the East and a Muslim who had been educated in the West? What informs their staunch beliefs in Islam? Are we more interested in our own arguments or do we care for them more as people that God loves? Finally, I am reminded that Apologetics must be done humbly and gently. If Qureshi had not met David Wood as his best friend, he would not have been that open to Christianity. It demonstrates to me that any evangelistic outreach is less about the message but more about the messenger. I remember Mahatma Gandhi's famous words about Christians: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Read this book well. Learn from it. Use the information appropriately but above all, be humble and gentle, knowing that conversation is our responsibility. Conversion is God's responsibility.
Rating: 5 stars of 5.
This book is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.