Islam is not just a set of religious beliefs. It is an all-encompassing identity. It is inconceivable to change that identity, even for those who barely practice their Islamic faith. To do so is like suicide. It kills the identity of the convert and leaves the rest of the family in a state of shameful mourning.
Nabeel Qureshi has given us, I think, not only an outstanding memoir of conversion to Christianity from the Islamic faith, but a formidable work of apologetics, in his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. It makes an excellent companion work to Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ (indeed, Strobel provides the introduction to this expanded edition).
If you’re expecting a story of a man who longed for freedom from Islamic bondage and found it at last, you will be disappointed here. Nabeel Qureshi is more like C.S. Lewis, “dragged kicking and screaming” into Christianity, a “most reluctant convert.”
Nabeel was raised in a loving, even somewhat indulgent home of Muslims of the Ahmadi sect. He adored his parents, loved his mosque, and was proud of his Islamic community. His family was Muslim-American, his father a Navy officer. Nabeel spent much of his childhood in Scotland, where his father served at a naval base, before relocating to the US. Like most Muslims, he believed Muhammad self-evidently superior to the Prophet Issa (Jesus, whom he nevertheless revered), and the Quran (preserved without error) much nobler than the corrupted Christian Bible. Islamic culture, of course, was obviously the most perfect in the world.
The Ahmadis are evangelical Muslims, and Nabeel’s parents encouraged him to talk about religion with his friends. This is how he made friends with a young man named David Wood at Old Dominion University. David was a recent Christian convert, and the two young men spent hours and hours discussing the differences between their two faiths. Their strong friendship and trust in one another allowed them to remain close in spite of their arguments. David was in a position to call on some pretty heavyweight Christian apologists (like Gary Habermas) to support him. Nabeel was surprised – and disappointed – to find that his Muslim mentors could not summon compelling arguments to defend the Prophet or his book – Islam came down, in the end, to bald appeals to authority.
The story of Nabeel’s struggles with the idea of leaving Islam is heartbreaking. It meant not only abandoning his very concept of himself, but it meant hurting his parents, who were extremely fine and loving people. It says much about them that they have managed to maintain a relationship with him, even an affectionate one, since his apostasy.
This edition includes several appendices, in which the author and other contributors go more deeply into the arguments and evidence that Nabeel worked his way through on his personal pilgrimage. This material will not only help Christian readers understand their Muslim neighbors better, but it will impress them with the level of rational evidence supporting the Christian narrative (especially when compared with claims for Islam and the Quran, which have generally been left alone by critical scholars until recently).
The element of dreams and visions, which forms a large part of the story, will be a challenge for some Christians. But I understand it to be a not uncommon phenomenon in Muslim conversions, and I’m not going to criticize it.
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is a highly impressive autobiography and apologetic work. Most highly recommended.