Review: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus
Running in the digital circles in which I run, it has been virtually impossible in the last twelve months or so to miss the hype—both pre- and post-publication—concerning Nabeel Querishi’s Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity. When I first came across the pre-publication promo for the book, the title immediately intrigued me. What is not to love about a devout Muslim coming to faith in Christ? My enthusiasm waned somewhat when I read the blurb: “In Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Quereshi describes his dramatic journey from Islam to Christianity, complete with friendships, investigations, and supernatural dreams along the way.”
As a thoroughgoing cessationist, the mention of “supernatural dreams” was an effective dampener. Mentally, I filed this one away as a title I might read if I ever came across the book on sale at a ridiculously discounted price, or if the Kindle title was ever made available for free.
But then I started reading a different book, which had been recommended by my pastor, titled Son of Hamas, which likewise details the spiritual journey of a young Muslim to faith in Christ. The latter title served to whet my appetite for more, and so I eventually relented and purchased Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. I’m glad I did.
Quereshi is the son of Pakistani immigrants to the United States. He was raised a devout Muslim, trained to love and defend Islam as a religion of peace and the only true way to God. This book offers an intimate insider’s look at what it means for a devout Muslim to convert to Christianity.
By his own testimony, Quereshi writes with a threefold purpose in mind. First, he wishes to “tear down walls by giving non-Muslim readers an insider’s perspective into a Muslim’s heart and mind.” Second, he intends to “equip you with facts and knowledge, showing the strength of the case for the gospel in contrast with the case for Islam.” Finally, he writes “to portray the immense inner struggle of Muslims grappling with the gospel, including sacrifices and doubts.” In the opinion of a non-Muslim reader, Quereshi achieves each of his goals admirably.
The book is divided into ten sections.
The first two sections are written to present to the reader what it means to be raised Muslim. Quereshi experienced this first hand, and he writes with some fondness of his childhood experiences of being raised to love the Islamic faith. Islam, he shows, is more than a mere religion; it is a veritable identity for those raised in the faith.
Parts 3–8 detail Quereshi’s investigation into the Christian faith, having been introduced to it by David, a school friend. He recalls how he had been taught certain biases against Christianity, but until he met David he had never been confronted with any real intelligent argument in favour of Christianity. His friendship with David did just that, and forced him to honestly evaluate the evidence for Christianity.
The final two parts detail Quereshi’s struggle with Christianity once he became intellectually convinced of its truth. Was he prepared to count the cost? Was it possible that, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, Christianity was in fact a corruption of true religion? It is at this point that the issue of supernatural dreams enters the narrative.
Following the main body of the book, ten Christian theologians each contribute a short article to address from a fresh perspective the material handled in each of the ten chapters. It is helpful to read these contributions at the close of each chapter, but they can also all be read in one sitting once the main body of the book has been completed.
Quereshi’s tale is gripping and informative. He succeeds in giving a Westerner some insight into what it means to be raised Muslim. As you read, you will come to understand some of the challenges that Muslims face when they are confronted with the truth of the gospel. You will understand why they are willing to shrug off the evidence no matter how overwhelming it seems. You will understand something of how tight knit the Muslim family unit is, and precisely why it is considered such a betrayal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity. And you will almost certainly learn a great deal about the Muslim faith that you never knew.
You cannot help but be impressed by the author’s passion for truth, regardless of the cost. At times, you may be frustrated at his unwillingness to submit to the evidence before him, but you will appreciate his willingness to keep digging to find the truth. You will no doubt be impressed with Quereshi’s Christian friends and their levelheaded passion to reach a friend with the gospel. The patience and wisdom that they displayed in reasoning with their young Muslim friend is convicting.
As I read, I found myself somewhat convicted by the deliberate effort that devout Muslim parents put into catechising their children. God commands Christian parents,
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
This is precisely the way that Quereshi’s parents approached the catechising of their children. He recalls how his parents used every available opportunity—meal times, bedtime, driving to holiday—to strengthen their children’s faith in Islam. It is a sad indictment upon Christianity that Christian parents, who have the truth, often do not put in as much effort in discipling their children as Muslim parents evidently do in discipling theirs.
Muslims also seem to understand community far better than Christians in the west do. Both family and the extended Muslim community play a vital role in Islam. In the west, Christians have so bought into the lie of individualism that we barely pay heed to God’s instruction to worship and fellowship in community.
As you read, you may find yourself rebuked at your lack of passion for the gospel. Quereshi says that, even as a Muslim, he could never understand why Christians, who believe they have the truth, are so reluctant to share it with others. After he was converted, he immediately felt the deep pain of disappointing his family. Though they continued to profess their love for him, they refused to attend his wedding, and took every opportunity they could to express how he had betrayed them. At one point, Quereshi recalls pouring his heart out to God in prayer. He asked why God had not rather killed him immediately after conversion. Why had God allowed him to live and suffer the pain of disappointing his family and being spurned by them? He recalls that, while he was praying, it was as if a voice said to him, “Because this is not about you.” As he rose to his feet and left his room, he noticed a man walking to the hospital, and suddenly realised that he had been so focused on his own pain that he had not been as passionate as he should have been to share the good news with others. After that, he gave himself wholly to evangelism—something that far too many Christians shy from.
The book serves as part biography and part apologetic, and you may well find your own faith in the case for Christianity strengthened as you enter Quereshi’s mind. The compelling evidence for Christianity, in contrast to the weak case for Islam, is presented in clear and understandable terms.
I have already noted that my biggest hesitation had to do with Quereshi’s claims of supernatural dreams and visions. Even after his conversion, as he recalls his early days of ministry, he speaks of various visions, prophecies, healings and other miraculous occurrences. As sceptical as I was when I started reading, I came away with the conviction that God really had gave this young man the vision and the dreams that he claims to have had in order to bring him nearer to the truth of the gospel. (I’ll take some time in an upcoming post to detail my conviction in this regard in greater detail.)
Quereshi’s tale is gripping. His writing style is easy to read. His insight into eastern culture in general and Islam in particular is enlightening. Every Christian will benefit from reading this book. I highly commend it.