Friday, January 15, 2016

Review: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Nabeel Qureshi's memoir was a pleasant surprise for me.  Qureshi is an excellent writer; I listened to the Audible edition, and he makes a very effective narrator, as well.  But, having read and heard many Christian stories of conversion, I found Qureshi's story more moving than most.  He spends a good deal of time early on telling us about his upbringing in a loving, devout Muslim home (The Qureshis are Ahmadi Muslims, a branch with which I was not familiar).  Nabeel's father was a Pakistani-born officer in the US Navy; he was descended from Muslim missionaries, and Nabeel was raised to rigorously defend his Islamic faith in the "Christian" west.  This part of the book did two things: 1) It helped me understand what it's like to be Muslim in America as well as how foreign-born Muslims view American culture (which they see as "Christian" culture).  It was heartbreaking to realize that, although Nabeel had many religious conversations with self-professed Christians during his upbringing (most of which he initiated), no Christian ever attempted to befriend him or his parents, until he met one genuine Christ-follower his freshman year of college.  2) It helped me feel the emotional turmoil of a young Muslim considering faith in Jesus.  With our individualistic Western mindset, we see the choices of a college-aged person to diverge from the views of his/her parents as a natural part of growing up; but for Nabeel, leaving Islam wasn't simply a personal choice. It was a profound insult to his parents, and brought incredible shame to his family among their peers.  Qureshi's storytelling is so skilled, I felt that tension, and while as a Christian I was thrilled every time he took another step closer to faith in Christ, I also felt deep sadness for the pain that his choice would inflict on his loving family.

Qureshi also does a fantastic job of recreating the long intellectual journey from committed Muslim to faithful Christian.  He includes recreations of several deep theological conversations, debates, and even arguments with his Christian friends.  He had to overcome several intellectual barriers: The idea that the Bible had been changed by church authorities over time, and was nothing like the original writings; that Jesus was merely a human prophet and not divine; that the idea of the Trinity was blasphemous.  Once those barriers were broken down and he was willing to consider the claims of Christianity, he then had to research his own Islamic faith, and see if the things he had been taught about Muhammed and the Quran were indeed true.  These sections of the book are intellectually deep, but Qureshi makes them highly readable, and includes enough personal detail to bring you along for the emotional ride.

When Qureshi's story is done, we are left with a blend of satisfaction and sadness.  He has dedicated this book to his parents, who remain devout Muslims.  It's clear that his conversion is still, and perhaps always will be, a barrier to their relationship.  But even more so, we are filled with a yearning to reach out to our foreign-born neighbors with the genuine love of Christ.

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