Nabeel Qureshi. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.
Nabeel Qureshi was raised in a warm and loving Ahmadi Muslim home, which lived in the United States and Scotland. But he became an evangelical Christian and a Christian apologist as an adult. His book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, is about how that happened, and how his family responded.
I learned things about Islam from this book that I did not know before. For example, what exactly is Ahmadi Islam, and how is it different from the prominent Sunni and Shiite branches? According to Qureshi, Ahmadi Islam is controversial within Islam because it maintains that there was a prophet of God after Muhammad, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who claimed to be all of the prophets religions are awaiting to return (i.e., Jesus, Elijah, etc.). Moreover, while a number of Muslims hold that later revelations to Muhammad nullified earlier revelations to him, Ahmadi Islam accepts all of the revelations in the Koran as authoritative, seeking to harmonize them when they appear to disagree. Notwithstanding these differences, Ahmadi Islam overlaps with the rest of Islam on a number of beliefs and practices: that there is one God and Muhammad is God’s prophet, Ramadan, making a pilgrimage to Mecca, etc. I should also note that Ahmadi Islam is one of the peaceful branches of Islam. It sees Muhammad’s wars as defensive rather than offensive, and it praises Muhammad as a moral exemplar, who showed mercy to the Meccans after they had attacked him and his people.
Nabeel Qureshi talks about his Muslim family’s experiences of the supernatural through dreams and answered prayer, as well as his loneliness and alienation as a young Pakistani in the Western world. Nabeel also tells the story of his interactions as a boy with a Christian girl named Betsy, and how he and his father attended a play at Betsy’s church that presented the evangelical Christian salvation message (i.e., those who accept Jesus as their Savior go to heaven, while those who reject Jesus go to hell). Nabeel Qureshi’s father highlighted what he liked and disliked about the play, and he also encouraged his son to interact with people about religion in order to bring them to Islam.
Nabeel did not have any Christian friends with whom he shared his life until he met David, a fellow college student. Nabeel and David would discuss religion, and David introduced Nabeel to Christian apologists Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, who presented to Nabeel historical arguments that Jesus rose from the dead. Nabeel also read books, and he became convinced that Jesus claimed to be God, even in the earliest Gospel, the Gospel of Mark. What’s more, Nabeel became more open to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity after hearing a university lecture about atoms! Nabeel went on to research his own religion, Islam, and he learned from the hadith (which contains traditions about Muhammad) that the composition and transmission of the Koran were not as neat and tidy as he once thought, and that Muhammad was not the saint that he previously believed. Nabeel also concluded that the Koran contains scientific errors. Nabeel was not satisfied with the answers that he heard and read from Islamic leaders and apologists, and, after receiving a series of dreams (and discussing their symbolism with his mother), he concluded that he needed to become a Christian. Yet, he was afraid that doing so would cut him off from his family.
The book is a delightful and enjoyable read, even though there is also a solemnity to it, since Nabeel gave up so much to become a Christian. I think that the book is also important because it can counter Islamophobia, for Nabeel distinguishes among Muslims, and he also narrates the fear that his family experienced after 9/11.
In terms of any criticisms of the book, I have four. First of all, there were times when I was not entirely sure what Nabeel as a Muslim believed. Did he think that the Gospels in the New Testament were authoritative, for example, or did he not? I got both from the book. Second, I believe that some of the problems that Nabeel had with the Koran and hadith are arguably problems that the Bible has, as well: God’s people marrying prisoners-of-war, scientific inaccuracies, violence, etc. Nabeel explains in an endnote why he does not defend the Bible and instead chooses to focus on the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection and claim to be God, but, considering the importance of the Bible within evangelical Christianity, he should have touched on the troublesome passages in the Bible. Third, while I appreciated the Christian apologists’ historical-critical arguments for their position, I did not care for how David in the book failed to interact with Bart Ehrman’s scholarship, as he instead highlighted that Ehrman is not a Christian. Fourth, while I thought that Nabeel arrived at his conclusion that Jesus claimed to be divine through sound historical methodology and argumentation, my impression was that he left certain questions unanswered. Back when he was a Muslim and was debating Betsy, he noted that Jesus within the Gospels was unable to do miracles in certain places, that Jesus depended on his Father in doing miracles, that Jesus (unlike his Father) did not know the time of his own return, and that Jesus appeared to distinguish himself from God in his conversation with the rich young ruler, all as arguments that Jesus was not God and did not claim to be God. In my opinion, Nabeel in the book should have come back to those arguments after concluding that Jesus was divine, to see what he made of them.
Note: I received a complimentary review copy of this book through the BookLook Bloggers (http://booklookbloggers.com/) book review bloggers program. The program does not require for my review to be positive, and my review reflects my honest reaction to the book.