Book Review: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I have had very little personal experience with Muslims in my life. There is the very nice couple that runs the bottle depot here in town--back in my scrapbooking days, Leila would come to our crafting days and we would talk kids and more, but usually avoided religion. Not on purpose, but hey, I knew she was Muslim, and she knew I was Christian, and what more needed to be said? We are still neighbours and on friendly terms. As Canadians, "religion" is one of those topics we tend to skirt around in the interests of maintaining peace.

Before meeting Leila, the only other Muslim I remembered speaking to was when I was in India. I was in a train station, waiting to depart from Goa to return to Bangalore (near which we were living). The cement floors and stone walls covered in turquoise paint provided a welcome relief of shade and some coolness out of the blistering sun, but the stifling humidity was everywhere.

There were narrow, hard, backless benches bolted to the floor in rows throughout the waiting area, and I was seated on one in about the middle of the room. Jason was nearby, but I don't remember what he was doing. He certainly did nothing to "rescue" me when a young Muslim man in a white skullcap and layers of light-coloured clothing engaged me in conversation. I was more than willing to talk, but very much unprepared for the answers.

I remember being taken aback that he knew anything about Jesus at all. However, it did not take many minutes into the conversation to realize that we had very different ideas about who Jesus was. I knew less than nothing about Islam, so was not able to give very intelligent answers to his claims about Mohammed and the Quran, so I asked a lot of questions to find out more, which only encouraged him. However, any corrections I tried to make in his understanding about who Jesus was had about as much impact as a butterfly landing on an elephant. In the end, we agreed to disagree and he went on to proselytize other train station patrons, neither of us having moved one iota from our original position.

I remember being frustrated that I had been unable to communicate with him about the Person who meant the most to me, because we were using the same names and words, but they meant completely different things to both of us.

This week, I read the illuminating and inspiring account of Nabeel Qureshi, a devout Ahmadi Muslim who, because of his love for Islam, and his hunger and search for truth, eventually gave his heart to Jesus. The price he had to pay for this decision was terrible. This story reflects the why of Islam, why its followers are so devout and love it so much, following the tenets of their faith--as a Westerner might say--"blindly." It also humbly presents the journey he went through, the apologetics of both Christianity and Islam that contradict each other, and how he was eventually led to see the truth of Jesus' message.

Muslims reading this book will likely be led to do their own research into the basis of their faith (possibly looking at some aspects of it for the first time from its sources), and Christians will finish with a broader, deeper understanding of Islam, its adherents, and how to lovingly reach out to this people group that so desperately need to hear about the unconditional love and grace of God. They will also gain a deeper understanding of the historicity of Jesus, and difficult doctrinal concepts such as the Trinity.

Far from being a boring book of apologetics, though, Nabeel weaves in the arguments for and against Islam and Christianity through the engaging narrative of his own spiritual journey. I highly recommend this book.

Excerpt from: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity

I lay prostrate in a large Muslim prayer hall, broken before God. The edifice of my worldview, all I had ever known, had slowly been dismantled over the past few years. I lay in ruin, petitioning Allah. Tears blurred my sight. The ritual prayers had ended, and now it was time for my heart's prayer.
 "Please, God Almighty, tell me who You are! I beseech You and only You. Only You can rescue me. At Your feet, I lay down everything I have learned, and I give my entire life to You. Take away what You will, be it my joy, my friends, my family, or even my life. But let me have You, O God."...

The cost for a Muslim to accept the gospel can be tremendous.

Of course, following Jesus meant that I would immediately be ostracized from my community. For all devout Muslims, it means sacrificing the friendships and social connections that they have built from childhood. It could mean being rejected by one's parents, siblings, spouse, and children.

This becomes exponentially more difficult if the Muslim has no person to turn to after following Jesus, no Christian who has reached out. I know of many Muslim women who recognize their need for Jesus but have nowhere to turn if their husbands abandon them, or worse. They often do not have the financial means to survive the next day, let alone fight for their children in court. They would have to do all this while reeling from an emotionally violent expulsion from their extended families.

What many do not realize--what I did not realize when I was making these decisions--is that these costs are not considered consciously. They form part of the knee-jerk reaction against the gospel. I never said, "I choose to remain Muslim because it would cost my family if I were to follow Jesus." Far from it, I subconsciously found ways and means to go on rejecting the gospel so I would not be faced with what I would have to pay.

But I was not the only one who would have to pay for my decision. If there were traits my family was known for in the Muslim community, they were my parents' joyfulness, our close-knit relationships, and the honour we had garnered by faithfully following Islam. My choice to follow Jesus meant razing all three.

My decision would shame my family with incredible dishonour. Even if I were right about Jesus, could I do such a terrible thing to my family? After everything they had done for me?

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