In Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, devout Muslim-turned-Christian apologist Nabeel Qureshi presents a compelling narrative of his journey to Christian bIn Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, devout Muslim-turned-Christian apologist Nabeel Qureshi presents a compelling narrative of his journey to Christian belief. As a professional apologist for Christianity, Qureshi’s arrangement of the details of his story certainly has an evangelistic orientation and aim. He is not merely sharing an anecdotal personal tale of existential individual crisis and conversion—rather, he presents himself as seeking ultimate truth, and finding it. He encourages other seekers and skeptics along the same journey, believing that they, too, can choose to follow the truth to its logical conclusions, and believe in Jesus. There is much to appreciate in Qureshi’s testimony, and we will assess these positive benefits first in our review. However, there are also problematic elements in Nabeel Qureshi’s understanding of the role of apologetics and the path to faith, which we hope to consider as well. Overall, Qureshi’s Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is a fascinating account of one Muslim’s encounter and embrace of Christianity, shedding light upon some of the unique challenges Christian converts with a Muslim background may face.
Qureshi’s writing is clear and concise, and the style very accessible. Avoiding technical terms unless absolutely necessary (e.g. Islamic religious terms in Arabic) and setting aside cumbersome metaphors, the book reads almost like a popular-level conference presentation (incidentally, Qureshi’s current vocation). Thus, the audiobook format of this book, read by the author, communicates clearly and memorably as well. An Islam-to-Christianity conversion narrative, including many of the more thorny theological concerns of a transition of that nature, is highly relevant and important in the current cultural environment of the Church. Various forms of Islam seem to be on the rise around the world, and we may find an increasing number of our neighbors and acquaintances to be Muslims, even in a Western context. The church needs to know, from those who have come from Islamic backgrounds, what the critical issues of plausibility are for Muslims who may be doubting their own religious beliefs, or who are exploring Christianity for other reasons. Accordingly, Qureshi’s book is a timely guide in investigating such questions.
As may be difficult to avoid in autobiographical accounts, though, we can observe Qureshi find himself in the narrative as a self-appointed hero, whether intentionally or not. One of the more profound themes from this book is the idea of sacrifice, and the (potential or actual) cost of following Christ. For Nabeel, he faced the shame and disappointment, even potential of being disowned, by his family and Muslim friends. When he dwells on that idea in a more personal way, some of the weightiness of the sacrifice is conveyed, but even then, it seems like less of an existential crisis than a rational, straightforward albeit difficult, decision. At points, the personal depth of his questions seems to get lost in his apologetics agenda: “Would it be worth it to pick up my cross and be crucified next to Jesus? If He is not God, then, no… A million times over, no! But if He is God, then yes. Being forever bonded to my Lord by suffering alongside Him? A million times over, yes!” (253). The plausibility of such an understanding of the cost and a willingness to take it before actually embracing Christ seems difficult to accept and leads to questions about the extent to which humility is appropriately displayed in the narrative.
Qureshi describes the role of apologetics and argumentation in his journey in this way: "All my life, barriers had been erected that kept me from humbly approaching God and asking Him to reveal Himself to me. The arguments and apologetics tore down those barriers, positioning me to make a decision to pursue God or not. The work of my intellect was done. It had opened the way to His altar, but I had to decide whether I would approach it." Theologically, Qureshi appears to sit squarely in the evangelical camp, with his emphasis on personal decision, over against God’s sovereignty in electing and effectually calling those whom he will save. Yet the overarching redemptive-historical framework of Scripture shows God to be a covenant God who sets forth his covenant in the offer of the gospel, to which people respond in faith, repentance, and obedience, or unbelief and disobedience. Ultimately it is God who draws men to himself (John 12:32). In addition, as a result of the fall, the ability of human beings to properly discern truth and assess the facts as perceived by them is limited (Rom. 1), and the evidentialist apologetical approach Qureshi embraces neglects to account for the underlying presuppositions and the widespread noetic effects of the fall that Scripture clearly describes. Accordingly, some of the resultant cogency of his arguments are diminished for someone coming from the theological understanding that one cannot of their own accord be led through rational argumentation to the point of making a ‘decision’ for Christ, without the Spirit’s work.
Despite these somewhat significant critiques, however, it is edifying to read and rejoice in the testimony to God’s goodness in bringing another sinner to repentance and faith. Each story is unique, and the benefit of Nabeel Qureshi’s narrative is the understanding, insight, and hopefully empathy for Muslims that Christians can develop from it. He brings out many of the theological distinctives of Islam—though his specific tradition of Islam is a very small representative of the whole—much of the general tenets of belief would still apply to many others in Islam. It is also important to remember that God leads us and calls us in various ways—but the truth of the gospel remains the same. Nabeel Qureshi’s background, growing up as a Westernized Muslim in the United Kingdom and the United states and attending a Western university presented modern challenges to his faith. This context (and these particular difficulties) will not be shared by all Muslims around the world. Qureshi has shared his story with us, but that does not mean that rational argumentation about the deity of Christ will be the way that all other Christian converts from Islam will come. The Christian life is a life of growth for all of us, and, perhaps, Qureshi may find himself realizing that God had more to do his decision to ‘pursue God,’ than he originally thought. In the meantime, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is a thought-provoking account of one man’s struggles with Christian doctrine and belief, within the context of Islam. ...more