Here we are and we’re back with an exciting interview today with Nabeel Qureshi again. He’s the author of Seeking Allah and Finding Jesus – a devout Muslim encounters Christianity. And I am really eager for Nabil for you to have your story shared with our viewers today.
My parents are from Pakistan. I was born and raised in the States and being that they’re from Pakistan it was their desire to raise a devout Muslim child here in the States. So growing up I learned how to pray the five daily prayers, prayed them regularly. By the age of five I had memorized the last seven chapters of the Quran and recited those regularly in my five daily prayers. And I actually finished the entire Quran recitation in Arabic by the age of five so it was a very devout Muslim life but my parents also came with some presuppositions about the West. They see the immorality. They see the the way people commit adultery and they see things on TV and in the immodest dress and they impute all of that to Christianity because they see the West as a Christian area. So not only was it me practicing Islam but they had also kind of taught me to defend myself against Christianity and that’s a common thing for Muslims around the world to come to the West with. And so growing up then I was a devout Muslim yes but I was also trained with arguments to challenge and respond to the gospel.
How did that affect your childhood then, growing up compared to like other American kids? You’ve kind of spoken out a little bit but just flush that out a little bit more.
You know what I really noticed was for us, Islam was our identity, like we knew Islam, we were Muslim and that’s what we were representing wherever we went. My parents really had no choice. My mother she would wear the burqa so obviously whenever someone saw her immediately they’re thinking Islam. And I realized that the other kids didn’t really own their faith. They might call themselves Christian, 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 even more proud as Muslims. We thought we were 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’s kind of how we subconsciously thought.
So then for your whole childhood this is the how you were brought up, this is your thinking, these were your convictions, again this was your identity which really stuck with me as well but there was one particular friendship that you developed and maybe you can tell us what age that was and how that over time started to introduce you to Christianity.
Absolutely. It was something I did regularly was I would challenge people on the gospel. Friends would say to me Nabil do you know Jesus and of course Muslims have a very developed view of Jesus. They believe he’s the Messiah they, believe that he’s a miracle-working man, he’s sinless. Muslims believe Jesus gonna come back at the end of times and so I would have a script ready to give and I would challenge people on their view of Jesus.
And by the way, how did Christians generally do when you did challenge them on their faith?
Miserably. What I realized is that very early on was that even the slightest challenge on the Bible, on the reliability or the compilation of the Bible or on Jesus’ deity or on the Trinity especially, no one really knew more than just enough to say 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 as part of me honoring Islam, I would challenge Christians because you see Muslims see the Trinity as polytheism and that’s offensive to Muslims and so in so challenging one specific Christian for the first time and this is when I was a freshman in college, for the first time someone was able to actually respond to my challenge and I realized this guy not only knows some information about his faith but he actually cares about his faith and so we developed this friendship that resulted from me challenging him on the Bible and that’s how I began to get introduced to the power and truth of the gospel.
His name was David, is that right? And I love about in your book you talk about David was loving to you, patient with you, became a friend to you which meant so much to you. Wasn’t just this all just about this one conversation, there was more, the heart of Christ behind that, maybe talk about that a little bit.
I really do think that well I believe what Jesus says. Jesus says that unless you’re willing to pick up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of me so the gospel is not just hey do you want to be saved, hey do you want to live a better life, it’s are you ready to die for the sake of this message and that’s something that requires someone to lay down their life. Now if I’m telling someone hey lay down your 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’re going to hear it. Now of course I’m not saying that street preaching doesn’t work. I’ve preached on the side of the street – and that does work at times but by far and away the most powerful way to share the gospel is through relationships.
Right so through this friendship and relationship with this man David, you were driven to a point of really just a decision between Islam and Christianity. Tell us about how that happened and what happened.
For a Muslim raised in the West, devout Muslims, a lot of it has to do with apologetics and with truth. What is the truth? Islam very clearly denies some things about Jesus. Yes Jesus is miracle-working, he’s the Messiah but it denies that he ever died on the cross, it denies that he ever claimed to be God and if he never died on the cross how did he rise from the dead? So Islam denies the death, deity and resurrection of Jesus. Well according to Paul, what do you need to believe in order to be saved? If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, so the deity, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. The very three things Islam denies you have to believe in order to be saved. And so for me it was a matter of trying to prove that those things didn’t happen in order to establish the case for Islam. Well as I was trying to disprove those things, I realized the evidence for Jesus’ death, deity and resurrection was very strong.
So that must have been difficult for you again in your devout faith at the time and all of a sudden restlessness began?
It wasn’t overnight. It took years for me to see this evidence and for it to compile and for the tectonic shifts to happen in my mind and when I realized the evidence was strong then I turned my eyes to Islam and I said: how strong is the evidence for Islam? And to my shock it was far weaker. When I leveled the same criticisms I had leveled on Christianity on Islam, the foundation fell apart and so that’s when it became a matter between me and God of actually asking him to show me the truth.
So how did you actually come to Christ? Dreams were a fundamental part of what God used and that’s even as Muslims grew up they take dreams very seriously. Tell us about that. It’s fascinating, exciting.
Well most Muslims don’t believe they can commune with God. Some modern Muslims do and some Sufi Muslims do but generally in history and the way this Islamic traditionally has been thought taught is God is kind of removed from you and the only way you can really get guidance directly from him is through dreams. And Muslims have a prayer, it’s called salat where they specifically ask God to give them dreams for guidance and so I asked God for visions and for dreams and I’m not alone in that. Approximately 50 to 70 percent of former Muslims who are now Christians came partially through visions and dreams.
Wow, that’s awesome. And you had one very specific dream. Tell us that.
This dream was the one that convinced me. I had one that was very symbolic and then I had a follow up dream and also had a vision but this dream was powerful. In this dream I was standing at the threshold of a narrow door. This door was just wide enough to fit me and just tall enough to fit me. I mean in my dream it’s like wow this door is narrow and at the other side of this doorway was a room that was set with the feast. Then people were sitting down in nice clothes at these round tables and it was like a wedding feast and I knew in my dream that that room 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. Now he wasn’t blocking me per se, he was looking forward. In fact all the people in the room were looking forward waiting for the owner or the speaker to come and start the event but I couldn’t get in because he was blocking the way and so I looked at him and I said “David, I thought we were going to eat together” and he says “you haven’t responded”. And in the dream right there I knew I needed to respond to the invitation David was giving me in order to come into heaven but this is where it got crazy. When I woke up I told my friend David the dream and he said “Nabeel, this dream is so clear. Just go to Luke chapter 13” and I went to Luke 13 for the first time. I had never been to Luke 13 before and when I opened it up there was a section there that was titled the narrow door and when I saw it my heart just stopped.
I bet it did.
And I’m gonna paraphrase it. Basically what it says is: Jesus was going through the towns and villages preaching the good news and the disciples said “Lord, are many going to be saved?” and he said “Make every effort to enter through that narrow door because many will try and few will be able and 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 that door.” And so I knew that God had given me a dream straight out of the Bible and he placed me inside a parable, showed me exactly where I was and he left my decision up to me. It was very clear for me at that point what I needed to do.
So then what did happen from that point because again your story is amazing in the sense that it wasn’t just necessarily that day but it took a while for you to actually give your life.
You know Ravi, in order for a Muslim to become a Christian, they have to be willing to give up a lot depending on how devout their family is. Their identity is usually wound up in Islam so it wasn’t just me saying I’m gonna change my beliefs. It’s me saying I’m going to leave my family and everything they’ve stood for all the way back to Muhammad’s time. I mean my last name is Qureshi. If Mohammed had a last name it would have been Qureshi. He was part of the Quraysh tribe and so I had
to give up everything. My mother was the daughter of a Muslim missionary so I had to give up all that. I’m the eldest son in my family. I’m the one who’s supposed to bring honor to the family. If I become Christian that’s the worst thing I could possibly do and so I have to think not only am I giving up my family, I am consigning my family’s reputation to the flames basically. And so it was something that I needed a lot of time to wrestle through and to pray through and I asked God to comfort me through it and it was when I read his word that I received the promises of God. Mark 10:29 and also the encouragement from God to go ahead.
You went through a whole time of mourning in this too and remember you came to Matthew chapter 5 and the Beatitudes and blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted and so that was one of the turning points as well.
I can’t tell you how beautiful that message was. You know in the Quran there’s nothing that says I’m giving you comfort if you’re hurting the Quran says do this, do that, do this, do that but there in the Bible: blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. It was like my heart was just electrified into life when I read that and my life has never been the same.
Wow I love that and even now today you are now serving with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and now you’re an apologist speaking about the gospel and defending the Christian faith to those who would oppose it. Tell us a little bit about that maybe if you want to.
Well for me it’s a matter of sharing the truth and beauty and transformative power of the gospel. I mean this message changes everything. If God came into this world to take our sins that means he loves us, 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 are: as I have loved you so love one another. That’s the call we’re given as Christians. He’s 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. There’s nothing like that.
That is so encouraging to me and I know for our viewers here right now and I just love when the Lord had you in a place where you were defending the Muslim faith against Christians and now God has transformed you and now you were defending the gospel
for those again who need to find the answers and it’s a privilege to do so. Nabeel Qureshi again with us right now. So excited again. The author of Seeking Allah Finding Jesus and his encounter with the Christian gospel. This book is available on our East door and I hope you’ve been encouraged as I have been as well desiring to learn more and be encouraged and Nabeel again thank you so much for being with us today. What a blessing.