Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus?
In 2014, Zondervan published Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi. The book was a huge success. According to Qureshi’s Wikipedia page, “In addition to being a New York Times Best Seller, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus was awarded the Christian Book Award for the categories of both ‘Best New Author’ and ‘Best Non-Fiction’ of 2015 the first time in award history. Christianity Today heralded Qureshi as one of ’33 Under 33′ in its cover story on emerging religion leaders in July 2014.” The book has been recommended by popular Christian Apologists such as Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, and Ravi Zacharias. As his popularity in the apologetics community swelled, Qureshi, who graduated from medical school, began a career on the Christian speaking circuit. His academic credentials (MAs in religious studies from Biola and Duke University) and Islamic background kept him in high demand as a lecturer and debater. His book, which is an autobiographical account of his conversion from Ahmadi Islam to evangelical Christianity, presents, in narrative format, a straightforward apologetic for Christianity and polemic against Islam. The book also provides accounts of numerous mystical experiences. When one is reading the book, the dubitable nature of Qureshi’s dreams and visions claims can be overshadowed by the solid historical arguments for Christianity which are told through the voices of David Wood, Michael Licona, and Gary Habermas (who are all Christian scholars and friends of Qureshi). However, Qureshi’s continued participation in ecumenism and mysticism warrants a look back on some of the incredible claims included in his book and occurring in his ongoing ministry.
Ecumenism and Apologetics
Islamic apologists were quick to respond to Qureshi’s book and speaking popularity by pointing that he comes from a sect that is not truly Islamic, the Ahmadi sect. This sect “was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian in 1889. Ahmad claimed that he was the awaited Messiah and Mahdi prophesized by (the) Prophet Muhammad and foretold by the Holy Qur’an.” Qureshi is of Pakistani descent. In Pakistan, by law, Ahmadis are not considered Muslims. Persecution of the Ahmadi sect is violent and widespread there; such persecution is not limited to that country. Clearly, the greater Islamic world does not consider the Ahmadi sect to be Muslim. In the same way that orthodox Christians do not consider Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses to be Christians, many in the Islamic world do not consider Amadhis to Muslims. Qureshi who was a “devout Muslim” according to the title of his book defends his Islamic credentials in Chapter 7, which is entitled “Diversity in Islam”. Through the words of an Ahmadi missionary that he heard in childhood, Qureshi presents the argument that the Admahi sect fairly qualifies as Islamic because its adherents say the shahada and believe the Five Pillars of Islam. According to Qureshi, “many things weigh in favor of Ahmadis being Muslims…Ahmadis adhere to the central doctrines and practices of Islam…Ahmadis are virtually indistinguishable from Sunnis.” (page 57). Qureshi appears to have imported this bare minimum ecumenism into his Christian life. Qureshi considers the members of aberrant Christian sects to be his brothers in Christ, even a cousin who is a Roman Catholic priest in the Vatican. Despite the clear implications of Galatians 1:8 and the Council of Trent, Qureshi claims that many Roman Catholics are “solid” brothers in the Lord who “proclaim Christ” and fight “for his Glory”. Qureshi, as someone who comes from a persecuted sect, deserves sympathy. However, his ecumenism should be not be. Qureshi, despite his education and associations, is clearly not a source of Christian wisdom. His credibility, then, depends on his personal testimony.
Dreams and Visions
Unfortunately, ecumenism isn’t the only thing that Qureshi imported from his former faith. He also imported Ahmadi mysticism. Chapter 17 of his book is entitled “Signs in the Sky”. In this chapter Qureshi recounts the tale of praying to God for assistance in finding his friends at an Ahmadi gathering in the United Kingdom. Qureshi was living in the United States at the time but had returned to his childhood home of Britain for the gathering. He was worried that time would make him and his friends unrecognizable to one another. Furthermore, he doubted that he could find his friends in the large crowd. Upon praying, Qureshi claims to have received a vision of golden and silver streaks in the sky (that only he could see) which led him straight to his friends. Throughout the book, he presents his former sect and family as dream-and-vision-driven people. Chapter 9 of his book is entitled “Dreams of the Faithful”. In this chapter he recounts a childhood story of staying at the home of family friends because his father had an ominous dream about returning home on a particular night. This action seemed wise to Qureshi who wrote “In our culture, dreams are carefully considered…dreams are the only means who which the average Muslim expects to hear from God. There is good reason for this expectation: dreams often did come true. (My Father) had many prophetic dreams…In my family alone, people have had clairvoyant dreams of sickness, miscarriages, births, deaths, and a host of other events.” (pages 65-66) Qureshi provides examples of these prophetic dreams: one of them involved his father receiving a promotion and another involved a dead, rain-soaked relative asking for help (his grave had been flooded). Qureshi quite clearly believes that his non-Christian relatives were capable of predicting the future through dreams (without any interpretation from a prophet of the triune God of the Bible). Qureshi claims to have come to a point in his life where he “spent many prostrate hours begging Allah for guidance through dreams.” (page 67)
He sought such guidance despite having some of the world’s most notable Christian apologists at his disposal. Chapter after Chapter, Qureshi presents the arguments of men such as David Wood, Gary Habermas, and Michael Licona. Eventually, these arguments and his own research into them destroyed his faith in Mohamed and the Quran. However, despite having the Bible and the gospel witness of friends, Qureshi would not accept Christ. What he had was simply not enough. He asked God for more; he asked for dreams and visions. Qureshi claims to have received them. One vision, received while on a vacation to Disney world, was of field of cross. On that same trip, he claims to have had a symbolic dream about an iguana that was trying to hurt him and a boy who possessed a giant cricket that defended him. This dream so stirred him that he called his mother to ask her interpretation. She used a dream interpretation book written by an ancient Muslim mystic named Ibn Sirin. Through her interpretation, Qureshi came to believe that the iganua represented Islam, the boy represented his good friend David Wood, and the giant Cricket (which killed the iguana) represented Christianity. Qureshi considered the interpretation in his mind, “Cricket. Iguana. Cricket. Iguana. Cr…I…Cr…I…Christianity. Islam.” (page 266). This dream was yet still not enough. Superstitiously, Qureshi desired God to communicate to him in threes. He had two more dreams, one about a stairway and his now famous dream about David Wood. Qureshi had his three dreams. He wrote, “I had three dreams and a vision. Cumulatively, there was no question.” (page 273). Qureshi made the personally and culturally difficult conversion to Christianity. Since he required these mystical experiences, “The Bible and” could fairly be considered the theme of Qureshi’s book.
It could also be the theme of his continuing life and ministry efforts. Qureshi is in the midst of a deadly battle with stomach cancer. He is still seeking mystical solutions. He sought divine healing at the New-Apostolic-Reformation-influenced Bethel Redding Church. In doing so, he may have led many of his ministry’s followers to seeing that organization as a viable Christian ministry, rather than a den of charlatans or the demonic. He is also, by his own admission, still seeking dreams from Jesus. In a recent video blog, Qureshi claims to have been visited by Jesus in a dream. Jesus hugged Qureshi and instructed him to give his young daughter what turned out to be an unpleasant sponge bath. Qureshi assigned the dream prophetic significance. Those who have not read Qureshi’s book but only witnessed his recent actions may think that a scholarly academic apologists is approaching the fringes of charismaticism as he struggles with a life-threatening illness. Those who have read Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus can be quite confident that he has been on these fringes all along.
It is a shame what will be tolerated for a story that will sell. The Christian book industry seems willing to put nearly any Jesus-related story in print if people will buy it up; such seems to be the case with Qureshi’s book. It is full of fanciful tales that a western culture afraid of Islamic influence would want to believe. Worse yet, some of the world’s smartest Christian apologists failed to sound the alarm about Qureshi’s troubling mysticism. Rather than recommending this book (and its claims of miracles, dreams, and at least one exorcism) to impressionable Christians, these men should have been issuing warnings. Entirely too much credence is being given to Christian speakers with fantastic backstories. Christians should remember that every brother and sister is converted from complete lostness and spiritual deadness. Rather than judge Christian speakers by their backstories, Christians should judge them by the ongoing demonstration of their faith. No one’s dream or vision is more trustworthy than gospel presented in Holy Scripture. Qureshi’s recent demonstrations are quite troubling.
The gospel story is enough. Jesus Christ atoned for the sins on the cross and defeated death by rising for the grave. Apologists who defend this gospel story, this true story, should be very wary of perpetuating the fanciful tales of mystics like Qureshi. The case of Qureshi and his enablers is truly tragic.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.