A Better Book for Understanding Islam

seeking allah finding jesusDylan was right. “The times they are a changin’.” One change is that Muslims now make up about 1% of the US population—about 3.3 million people. That number is expected to double by 2050. More and more, our neighbors and coworkers, will be Muslims. Will they be our friends as well? What are we doing to reach out to this growing minority?

In an effort to better understand a Muslim worldview, I’ve been reading a series of books on Islam.  Ignorance breeds fear and misunderstanding. I recently wrote about one book, Wholly Different, by Nonie Darwish, that I found informative but largely lacking in love and compassion. Well, the book I just finished is filled with love and compassion. If I had to recommend one book on the subject, this would be it! And it’s not just me—Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus won the Christian Book Award for both “Best New Author” and “Best Non-Fiction” of 2015.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is one man’s story. Born in the US to Pakistani immigrants and raised both here and in Scotland, Nabeel Qureshi grew up in a loving and close-knit family of devout Muslims. As Ahmadis, a lesser-known Muslim sect, his family clearly sees Islam as a religion of peace and kindness. This is a very different perspective from the one described by Darwish in her book—in fact, they’re almost polar opposites!

Qureshi paints a picture of an Islam that sees Mohammed as merciful, moral, and perfect, and the Quran as a book revealed by Allah, perfect in every detail. He is an enthusiastic evangelist for his faith, reaching out to his non-Muslim friends and fellow students. But his biggest desire is to know and serve God. When he’s challenged by his best friend, a strong Christian, to compare Islam and Christianity, he readily agrees, confident that Islam will prevail.

As you can see by the book’s title, Qureshi has a surprise in store. As he says, “I left Islam because I studied Muhammad’s life. I accepted the Gospel because I studied Jesus’ life.”

Because the author bridges the divide between an Eastern Islamic mindset and a Western Christian worldview, he is able to explain Islam in a way a westerner can easily understand. For example, in the chapter on “Honor and Authority” he writes,

Islamic cultures tend to establish people of high status as authorities, whereas the authority in Western culture is reason itself. These … permeate the mind, determining the moral outlook of whole societies.

When authority is derived from position rather than reason, the act of questioning leadership is dangerous, because it has the potential to upset the system. Dissension is reprimanded, and obedience is rewarded. … A person’s virtue is thus determined by how well he meets social expectations, not by an individual determination of right and wrong.

Thus, positional authority yields a society that determines right and wrong based on honor and shame.

The book is fairly long, but very readable, as it simply tells Qureshi’s thoughts and feelings as he travels the path from Allah to Jesus. He tells plenty of funny stories, but also shares the deep anguish he suffers as he realizes the cost of following Jesus. The pain his conversion causes his family is almost more than he can bear.

Because this book is more anecdotal than than an exhaustive theological treatise (although he explains his points thoroughly), Qureshi also wrote a companion volume, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity. At the end of each chapter of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, there is a reference to this more rigorous discussion. As the publisher’s blurb states, No God but One addresses the questions:

How do the two religions differ? Are the differences significant? Can we be confident that either Christianity or Islam is true? And most important, is it worth sacrificing everything for the truth?

I just discovered that Qureshi wrote a third book, Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward, which addresses ISIS and Islamic terrorism. Both of these additional books are on my “to read” list.

Sadly, there won’t be more volumes coming from this exceptional believer. Qureshi passed away last month at the young age of 34 after a year-long battle with stomach cancer. He leaves behind his wife, Michelle, and young daughter Ayah. I urge you to read both this obituary and this eulogy by Ravi Zacharias.

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