Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Doug Coleman Book Reviews, Islam 7 Comments

Seeking Allah Finding JesusIn Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi tells the story of his conversion to Jesus after several years of deep intellectual and emotional struggle. Qureshi was born in the United States to parents who had emigrated from Pakistan. Although Nabeel’s father served in the U.S. Navy, Nabeel was raised as a devout Muslim and came of age in post-9/11 America.

In the early chapters of the book, Qureshi portrays his family as sincere, tender and loving Muslims with parents who cared for their children and actively sought to teach them about Islam, the Qur’an, the hadith, and the life of Muhammad. In fact, among Qureshi’s immediate ancestors are multiple generations of Muslim missionaries. In this part of the book, Qureshi aims to “tear down walls by giving non-Muslim readers an insider’s perspective into a Muslim’s heart and mind” (p. 15). Some readers may find this section uncomfortably positive, but this is by design. Qureshi confesses that while his descriptions may even seem “pro-Islamic” at times, they serve to convey his past love for his former faith (p. 16).

Qureshi’s faith struggle begins when he enters university and meets David Wood, a devout Christian who not only practices his faith but is also willing to challenge Nabeel’s beliefs, sometimes even forcefully. Rather than driving Nabeel away, David’s sincerity and passion gain Nabeel’s respect, although Nabeel is solidly convinced his own arguments will win the day.

Over the course of the next three years, the relationship—and debates—between Nabeel and David would grow deep. Through this relationship, Nabeel would attend debates and conversations with such well-known Christian and Muslim advocates as Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, and Shabir Ally. These events and relationships drove Nabeel to investigate topics like the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the deity of Christ. However, David’s challenge to Islam also eventually led Nabeel to investigate Muslim literature, particularly the hadith and the life of Muhammad.

After coming face to face with both strong evidence in favor of Christianity and with disturbing aspects of Islam and Muhammad in Muslim literature, Nabeel reached a point where he was largely persuaded intellectually, but emotionally distraught. He knew that rejection of Islam and acceptance of Christianity would be torturous for his family. This led to months of distress, searching, and crying out to God.

During this time Nabeel begged God for direction, specifically via dreams, a medium that is highly valued in many parts of the world. Through a series of three dreams, one of them quite complex and detailed, Nabeel became convinced God was telling him Christianity is true, and Nabeel at last embraced the gospel.

The anticipated emotional pain was indeed realized. Nabeel writes about his father’s reaction:

Though Abba (my father) did not say much, what he did say has haunted me ever since. The man who stood tallest in my life, my archetype of strength, my father, spoke these words through palpable pain: “Nabeel, this day, I feel as if my backbone has been ripped out from inside me.” The words tore through me. It felt like patricide. I had not given up just my life to follow Jesus, I was killing my father. He has never stood as tall since that day. I extinguished his pride. (p. 274)

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is first of all a life story. It is well-written, engaging, and compelling. But as a story it is not intended to be a comprehensive, detailed apologetic for Christianity or against Islam. Yet it gives a good introduction to the main questions and objections Muslims typically offer against Christianity and the gospel: the claim that the Bible has been changed, objections to the deity, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the unacceptability of substitutionary atonement, among others.

Beyond these, however, the story provides a helpful description of other important factors. For example, Qureshi describes how authority functions in societies based on position (rather than reason) and in which honor and shame are primary concerns. These realities affect not only social practices such as child brides, honor killings, and the like, but also how Muslims establish the reliability of the hadith (traditions about Muhammad), which are grounded in isnad, or the chain of reliable individuals who transmitted the particular tradition.

This authority structure leads to a reluctance on the part of many Muslims to question much of anything about the Qur’an, the hadith, the life of Muhammad, or Islam in general. For the average Muslim, much is simply accepted based on the word of “authorities,” be they ancient or modern. As a result, certain plausibility structures are often established in the Muslim mind. These structures typically rule out a priori anything but what a Muslim has been taught regarding the falsity of Christianity and the truth of Islam.

This reality appears several times in Nabeel’s story. For example, at one point David asks Nabeel, “If Christianity were true, would you want to know it?” In the ensuing discussion Nabeel answers positively, but then quickly writes: “Even as I spoke, a wave of defiance swept over me. I came to my senses and turned to David. ‘But it’s not like any of this speculation matters. Christianity is not true. Islam is the truth. Will you be willing to admit it when you realize it, David?’” (p. 141)

Similarly, commenting on his research about the Qur’an, Muhammad, and Islam, Nabeel notes, “It is not even a remote possibility in most Muslims’ minds that the Quran of today might be different from the Quran of Muhammad’s day.” (p. 232, emphasis added) Yet, Nabeel’s research ultimately led him to conclude that even Muslim literature contains evidence of various Qur’anic manuscripts early in Islamic history.

These plausibility structures often lead to an emotional—rather than intellectual—objection to any challenge. The emotion stems from the fact that rejection of anything but the established “truth” would mean not only rejection of well-accepted authority structures, but also a high relational cost. In a particularly transparent revelation, Nabeel writes:

What many do not realize — what I did not realize when I was making these decisions — is that these costs are not considered consciously. They form part of the knee-jerk reaction against the gospel. I never said, “I choose to remain Muslim because it would cost my family if I were to follow Jesus.” Far from it, I subconsciously found ways and means to go on rejecting the gospel so I would not be faced with what I would have to pay. (p. 245)

One element of the book that may prove troubling for some readers is the role of dreams in Nabeel’s story, particularly for those who hold the position that God does not communicate through dreams today (a view I do not hold, by the way). Even those who accept the validity of dreams today, however, may have questions about Nabeel’s portrayal. Discussion of dreams and visions often turn to Cornelius (Acts 10) as a paradigm. In that story, the visions play an introductory role while the preaching of the gospel by Peter and the sign of the Holy Spirit seem to be more decisive, final, and authoritative, although it is impossible to entirely separate the two.

In his own story, Qureshi clearly engaged with Scripture at a significant level, but it seems that dreams played a final, confirming role, at least as the story is related in Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. For some readers, this may raise a question about the nature of authority in relation to dreams. Nabeel seems to place strong weight and authority in the Christian Scriptures. However, Nabeel would have helped his readers with a little further discussion on the relationship between the Scriptures and dreams in terms of authority.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is a helpful book in many ways. In his own description of the book, Qureshi states that he set out to communicate certain things about Islam and the gospel. After compiling a list of these ideas, each of them was developed into a chapter for the book. These cover a wide range of topics, some dealing more directly with Islam and others more with the case for Christianity. Furthermore, the book includes a number of contributions from experts in various fields touching on topics such as faith and doubt, dreams, the reliability of New Testament manuscripts, the historical Muhammad, and a number of other relevant issues.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is not only helpful for Christians seeking to reach Muslims. The tone of the book also makes it a suitable gift to give for English speaking Muslims as an evangelistic tool.

Finally, Qureshi has become an active and sought out speaker for Ravi Zacharias ministries. Numerous videos of his presentations and interviews can be found on the internet.

Doug ColemanSeeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Comments 7

  1. Mark

    And… I have a new addition to my Kindle. BTW, as of today this Kinde edition book was only $3.79 and with the kindle purchase you get the Audible audio version for only $3.99.

    No, I don’t work for Amazon, but a great deal is a great deal!

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  2. Mark

    Ok, so now that I have read this book I have some questions in relation to a more Eastern (in world-view) Muslim, and how apologetics, critical thinking, and authority structures can play a role in discipleship (I prefer this term over conversion, but I am referring to the process by which a Muslim becomes a follower of Jesus).

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      Doug Coleman

      Mark,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. In regard to your previous comment, I agree that Westerners who have not lived outside of the West or interacted with non-westerners typically do not understand the importance others give to dreams. So, this may take some adjustment and learning on our part. Therefore, we need to be good anthropologists. And we also need to think carefully about the role of dreams in salvation, particularly in terms of their degree of authority.

      Second, what questions arose for you after reading Qureshi’s book?

  3. Mark

    Well, you hit on one of my questions. I have searched for a scholarly treatment of biblical texts concerning dreams and visions, but cannot find any. Particularly I would be interested in researching how the biblical accounts relate to the present phenomena of Muslims coming to faith in Christ. Like the Qureshi book, everything that I have found that deals with dreams and visions as it relates to Muslims who are being saved is anecdotal. Do you have any suggestions?

    I will say this about the “degree of authority” that dreams and visions play in a MBB’s salvation: it seems that they are highly authoritative to the convert. They seem to act as either a final nail in the coffin for a Muslim who has been investigating the truth in Scripture (like the Qureshi account), or they act as a spur for the Muslim to seek out the gospel. Paul seems to think that his vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus was authoritative. I would however be highly suspicious of any account of Muslim who was ‘won’ to Christ through a dream alone.

    But a dream or vision given to a Muslim seeker bypasses the roadblocks to the gospel message in an Eastern Muslim worldview, no? This is because the messenger carries more weight than the message in Islamic cultures. Ideas which might not otherwise be possible become plausible to the Muslim if the messenger is trustworthy.

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      Doug Coleman

      I am not aware of a book length treatment of biblical texts concerning dreams. Maybe that can be your research project. 🙂

      Regarding dreams and authority, I think we may not always be able to neatly categorize the experiential reality as much as we might like. Perhaps asking a couple of questions might bring some clarity.

      1. Is someone basing their salvation solely or largely on a dream or vision they have had? Many of the stories I read don’t seem to fall into this category. A dream or vision may have been a significant turning point, but the dream often leads them to a believer who shares the gospel with them, or to read the Bible. This seems to be the case with both Saul (Acts 9) and Cornelius (Acts 10). The dream or vision is quite significant, and both men seem to respond as if it is authoritative. But in neither case does it seem to be the sole or primary basis of their salvation. Personally, if I encountered a professing believer who seemed to base his or her salvation solely or largely on a dream, I would want to point him/her to Scripture and work and pray to gradually see Scripture move to a place of higher and final authority in their lives. This leads to a second question.

      2. Does the dream or vision seem to carry equal or greater weight than Scripture? In my opinion it is more difficult to answer this question than it may first appear because there is some subjectivity in how an evaluation is done. In some cases it may be rather clear, in others not so much. Also, Paul referred to his own experiences of visions on a few occasions, and the way he refers to them indicates they were quite significant for him. Does this mean, however, that they were more authoritative for him than Scripture? Also, if we believe in a closed canon, does that change anything in regard to this question?

      This is one of the areas of Qureshi’s book that needs some clarification, in my opinion. Qureshi was interacting with Scripture heavily prior to his final struggle. It seems that the dreams played a very important role for him at that point, even finally persuading him that Christianity is true. Anecdotally, this is simply how it appears to have happened for him. I would be interested to hear him speak to this question now, about 9 years after his conversion. I suspect he would say that the dreams did play a very significant role in him overcoming the final hurdles, but I also suspect he would say Scripture is his ultimate and highest authority.

      On a side note, many dreams and visions in Scripture aren’t related to an individual’s salvation. Many of them are for warning, direction, etc., etc. Think, for example, of both the OT and NT Joseph.

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