By Nabeel Qureshi —
Born as a U.S. Citizen in California, I was raised by devout Muslim parents. My mother and father are immigrants from Pakistan and among the most dedicated Muslims I have ever known. My father was an officer in the U.S. Navy, and because of his career I have lived up and down the Atlantic Coast in the United States, as well as in the U.K.
My mother taught me Urdu and Arabic before I learned English at the age of four. By age five I had read the entire Qur’an in Arabic and had already memorized many chapters. From that time on, my life as a Muslim was used as a model for all the children in the local Islamic communities.
Every morning, as soon as my eyes opened, I recited the prayer that was to be read upon waking, thanking Allah for saving me from the death of sleep and for giving me another day to live. I would then proceed to my morning recitation of the Qur’an, following this with the first of the five daily prayers (salaat). Interspersed were many smaller prayers, such as the prayer recited during ceremonial washing (wudhu), the prayers before reciting the Qur’an, the prayers before the morning salaat (fajr), and the prayers immediately after fajr.
Then would come the prayers before eating and after eating. Then there were the prayers upon leaving the home and while walking to the bus stop. Soon afterwards I would find myself sitting in class, reciting prayers which ask Allah to give me knowledge and help me learn . . . etc. All of this by 7:30 a.m. But the prayers did not stop there; a devout Muslim’s day is full of the remembrance of God through traditional Islamic methods.
Suffice it to say, my youth was not lost in complacency and disillusionment with religion. I loved Islam with all my heart. The reason for this was not only that Islam was the religion of my parents (though this was surely a factor), but for two other reasons. First, as I had learned it, Islam was a very peaceful religion that taught me to worship God Almighty, and because of this, my family’s devoted practice was not in vain: we were the happiest and most tightly-knit family that I (and many of my friends) had ever seen. Second, I had learned to defend Islam using reason and evidence. My parents taught me never to believe anything blindly, and as such they provided me with an apologetic stance on Islam (i.e. one that focuses on reason and evidence as a defense of the faith). Being naturally inquisitive, I greatly appreciated this approach to religion.
Islam was not just my religion, it was the whole structure of my life. Born into and raised in Islam, it was my heart’s blood. Laying the foundation for how a youth should live, Islam was the framework and the blueprint of my life. Edified by apologetics, I challenged its opponents and called everyone else to it. It was here, standing atop the minaret of Islamic life, that Christ called out to me.
In August of 2001, I made a new acquaintance by the name of David Wood. Although he was a Christian and I a Muslim, we quickly became close companions due to our common set of morals. One evening I found him reading the Bible. This was very surprising. As a Muslim, I had read the Qur’an every day for most of my life, but I had never seen a Christian seriously reading a Bible in his free time. My interest piqued by this chance encounter, I decided to see how much he really knew about the Bible.
Has the Bible been corrupted?
I challenged David, stating that no reasonable person could trust the Bible. As a Muslim, I knew that the Qur’an was the uncorrupted word of God transmitted from God Himself, through the Prophet of Islam. And although the Qur’an says that the Gospels (al-Injeel) were given by God, they had been irretrievably modified and corrupted in the centuries after Jesus. Why else would there be so many versions of the Bible throughout history, with constant editions and revisions even today? I advocated the position that Christ never claimed to be God, but rather that Christians had forged all verses that would indicate such a claim. And without a divinely inspired book worth trusting, Christians have no ground to stand on. False ideas were introduced into Christianity by power-hungry followers such as Paul, a self-proclaimed “apostle,” and others like him.
Unbeknownst to me, David was not just a Bible-reading Christian, but a Christian with every intention of becoming a devoted apologist. So when he heard this argument, he wasn’t overcome by its logic (as I had assumed) but instead was shocked that I had decided to enter into such a discussion without any prodding of his own. And so began our series of informal debates about the truth of Islam versus Christianity, as well as my intellectual journey towards the throne of Christ.
David’s response to my argument ran as follows. First, while there are indeed many variations of the Bible obtained from more than 5,000 Greek manuscripts, there is such a large amount of early manuscript evidence and such a concordance between those manuscripts that we can reconstruct the Bible and be certain of about 95% of the original content. Second, no doctrine of the Bible is in jeopardy by any of the variations. Third, there are so many quotations of and references to the New Testament from the ancient world that we can reconstruct practically all of it from early quotations alone. Fourth, there are multiple fragments of manuscripts that can be dated to within a couple of centuries after Christ’s death which we have in our possession even now (the earliest dating to less than 100 years after Christ, 125 AD). Fifth, he claimed that whole copies of the Bible are available from around three centuries after Christ’s death. Finally, the previously mentioned estimate of 95% accuracy was a conservative one; in actuality it is closer to 98 or 99%.
Blown away by the overwhelmingly convincing argument he provided, I determined that he had made it all up, and I decided to investigate the issue myself. The result of my investigation was that there is no evidential reason to believe that the modern editions of the New Testament are in any way substantially different from the original autographs themselves. To challenge the scriptural integrity of the New Testament after sincere investigation is to reflect a bias against it.
Did Jesus claim to be God?
After being satisfied that the New Testament is trustworthy, I decided to take David to task on a different point. Nowhere, ever, did Christ claim that He was the literal Son of God, let alone God Himself. Christ, being the Messiah for Muslims as well as Christians, was a holy man. How dare the Christians ascribe such hubris to one of the greatest men of history, especially when He never claimed divinity in the Gospels themselves!
This discussion took more time than the first. David’s claim was that Christ did say that He was the Son of God, though He didn’t run around proclaiming it from the rooftops, as this would have gotten Him killed immediately. Here is some of the evidence David offered.
In the Old Testament, Isaiah prophesied that a child would be born who would be called “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). But this isn’t the only Old Testament support for the deity of Christ. Jesus’s most common title for Himself was “Son of Man,” which referred back to a prophecy in the book of Daniel:
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (vv. 7:14-15, NIV)
According to the New Testament, Jesus was worshiped shortly after His birth (Matthew 2:11), during His ministry (Matthew 14:33; John 9:38), and after His resurrection from the dead (Matthew 28:9, 28:17; Luke 24:52), yet He never told his worshipers to stop what they were doing. Jesus claimed to have existed before Abraham (who lived in the 18th century BC). When asked whether He was the Son of God, He answered, “I am . . . And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62). Jesus also claimed to be the final Judge of all mankind (Matthew 25-31-32).
After actually reading parts of the New Testament itself instead of merely reading Muslim books on the topic, I came to agree with David’s claim: both the New Testament in general and Christ Himself claimed that Jesus is God.
Did Jesus die on the Cross?
As a Muslim, there was one thing I had always believed that would make Christianity completely invalid, regardless of anything else. According to Qur’an, Christ did not die on the cross.
That they said “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah.” But they killed him not, nor crucified him, … of a surety they killed him not. (Al-Qur’an 4:157-158)
If Christ did not die on the Cross, then Christianity is without question a vain belief, even according to Paul himself! Paul said that if Christ was not raised from the dead, then the faith of a Christian is worthless (1 Corinthians 15:17). Of course, His resurrection requires His death, and so Paul is stating that if Christ did not die on the cross, then the Christian faith is worthless.
Thus we are presented with a question: “Which is right—the Qur’an or the Bible?” Of course, if I were to pick the Qur’an without perusing the evidence, I would not be searching for the truth; rather, I would be robotically defending what I had prejudicially taken as the truth. After investigating the facts surrounding the crucifixion of Christ, I was amazed by how incontrovertibly clear it is that He did die on the cross, a fact which is considered by some historians to be among the best established facts of history. Based on the first century evidence (including both Christian and non-Christian sources), as well as our historical knowledge about Roman crucifixion, there turns out to be no rational way to deny the death of Jesus. Any notion that says otherwise requires an elaborate conspiracy theory of some sort, and even those fail because the conspirators would have been His apostles, the very disciples who were quite obviously convinced of the truth of the Gospel message.
Can someone else pay for my sins?
It was in 2001 that I had been surprised by finding David reading the Bible. Two and a half years later, I had come to know that the book he had been reading was historically trustworthy, and that within the pages of that book we find one of the greatest men in history claiming to be God Himself. This man died on the cross and rose from the dead as He had predicted. But things were still far from adding up.
As a Muslim, I believed that every person is individually responsible for all of his sins.
And be on your guard against a day when one soul shall not avail another in the least, neither shall intercession on its behalf be accepted, nor shall any compensation be taken from it, nor shall they be helped. (Al-Qur’an 2:47-48)
How could it be possible that someone else would be able to pay for my sins—and not just my sins, but the sins of the whole world? This is no justice! Causing an innocent man to suffer for the rest of the world is not only unjust, but sick and twisted. And the coup de grace: not only would that innocent man have to suffer, but He would also have to suffer a cursed death!
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)
I could not believe that the all-loving Creator of the Universe would allow one of his most beloved messengers, let alone His Son, to die an accursed death in order to pay for billions upon billions of lives of sin. It did not add up logically nor mathematically.
But would it add up if I gave it a chance? If billions of people in the world believed this for almost two millennia, it would be the pinnacle of pride to think that I was smart enough to see it as blatantly self-defeating while none of those billions ever found anything wrong with it. Of course, Christianity does not have to be true simply because many people believe it; however, if it has been the one faith with the most followers in all of history, it probably is not obviously wrong, either. After a series of discussions, I began to see that Christianity was not as self-defeating as I had thought. In fact, it was quite beautiful—perhaps the greatest love story in history.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
More than three years had elapsed since I had first been introduced to Christian apologetics. The fire of my objections had been quelled. Now it was David’s turn. He raised many objections against Islam, some of which were stronger than others. Instead of covering them in this essay, you can read them here for yourself.
Is the Prophet of Islam the greatest man in history?
The thought that kept reverberating in my mind was this: “What relatively objective reasons do I have for believing that Islam is true?” I had heard many rather subjective ones: the Qur’an is the best book ever written, the Islamic way of life is the best, no other worldview is as comprehensive as Islam’s, Islam produces the best people, etc. All of these, however, are claimed by almost every religion in the world and are largely a matter of opinion. And even if the above subjective claims were true, would that mean that Islam is true? It would be supporting evidence, but not sufficient proof.
As far as I could tell, only one piece of evidence would be appropriate: if it could be demonstrated that Muhammad was a true prophet of God, then Islam would have to be true. This one fact would be sufficient for proving Islam. Additionally, since there is a great deal of historical information available about Muhammad, this topic is capable of being carefully investigated.
After reading various accounts of the Prophet’s life (early Islamic documents as well as more favorable current biographies) I came to a conclusion. Regardless of the details and the arguments surrounding them, it would be inaccurate to call the Prophet a bad person. However, it would also be inaccurate to claim that he is the greatest of prophets and history’s most perfect man, as the Islamic position dictates. And since the other arguments used to prove the prophethood of Muhammad fail, there is nothing in his life that could ever serve as proof that his message was from God.
REASON IN THE BALANCE
One point is essential and demands attention: the result of my appraisal of Islam, be it favorable or not, is only part of the investigation. The real question requires us to assess the weight of the evidence supporting Islam versus that in favor of Christianity. Is the evidence for the prophethood of Muhammad more powerful than the evidence for Christ’s death and resurrection? No matter which way I aligned the arguments for Islam and Christianity, Christianity always came out on top.
A Muslim Intellect’s Last Stand
By now, the fall of 2004 was fast approaching. Though I was still wrestling with the decisions I was facing, it was clear that my defense of Islam was pinned by the overwhelming reasons for believing the Christian message. I was quite scared. The most objective search I could manage was mandating that I relinquish the very foundation of my life—Islam. At the same time, it was mercilessly demanding that I alter my interpretation of God: no longer was I justified in taking refuge in the bastion of His indisputable unity. The only justified journey to take would be admitting the evidence and venturing into the seeming jungle of the Trinity. Having to worship a God that was simultaneously three and one was something that seemed more like science fiction than truth. Nevertheless, the most unpalatable doctrine of Christianity was strangely reminiscent of what I had learned the previous summer in an organic chemistry class, something that I wish were less science and more fiction.
All materials are made of atoms, and each atom has electrons. These electrons orbit the center, or nucleus, of an atom, but when multiple atoms are together (i.e. a molecule), the electrons travel around all the atoms in what is called an “electron cloud.” Electrons in a molecule’s electron cloud are constantly in motion, sometimes resulting in various structures for a single molecule, called “resonance structures.” However, the professor said that there was a catch: a molecule is every resonance structure at once, and not any single one of them alone at a given point in time. To me, this seemed to be something in the natural world that was similar to the Trinity. A molecule was actually multiple molecules at once, though not found as any one of them alone. Although I did not solve the mystery of the Trinity, I at least realized that there are analogous phenomena.
Fighting a Pointless Battle?
Surprisingly then, the thought of resonance structures actually helped quell my objections to the Trinity. However, one thought still lingered in my head: I am a finite human being, limited in knowledge, subject to faulty reasoning, and biased by upbringing, education, etc. How could a kind, loving God set up the universe in such a manner that we, being thus flawed, would be required to make a finite decision that would have infinite ramifications, possibly an eternal suffering in Hell?
The interpretation of Islam I had come to know allowed me to believe that God would reward all people who did good works and believed in God and the afterlife, regardless of specific faith:
Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve. (Al-Qur’an 2:62)
Did I, a fallible human being, really have access to absolute truth? Could I know for certain that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead, as the Christian message requires for salvation (Romans 10:9)?
The answer to my question came from David as soon as I posed it: yes. God will answer if I humbly ask. I also knew He would. Something had happened in my life years earlier that couldn’t plausibly be explained by anything but God.
THE SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE
At the age of fifteen, I returned to the United Kingdom for a religious conference. It was my first visit since my father had been transferred back to the United States from Scotland. I had three friends that I had not seen since I had moved away, and there was a possibility that they would be at the conference. The chance of finding them was very slim, however, as there were more than 20,000 attendees spread over acres of land.
I stood outdoors, lost in a sea of people, not sure if it was possible to find my friends or even if I should attempt the search. Being relatively young and quite accustomed to praying for almost everything, I prayed to God for some help finding my friends. It was a simple prayer by a boy with a simple faith: “God, please help me find my friends. Thanks.”
Upon opening my eyes, I saw something unusual. There, painted in the sky, was one streak above another, trailing off into the distance. The first one gold and the second silver, they were reminiscent of lines drawn in the sand by a finger. My reaction was that of most anyone: “You’re kidding – I’m supposed to follow those, right?”
I followed, sifting through the crowd as I went. Above a bazaar, the streaks seemed to swirl and dissipate over a particular spot. I said to myself, “That’s where my friends are going to be.” As I continued towards that site, I saw two of the three friends exactly under the spot where the streaks dissipated. God had heard my prayer and placed the answer right before my eyes.
I am fully aware that this event in my life carries almost no weight for anyone who chooses to disbelieve in God. Such a person’s faith in atheism would probably overcome whatever credibility I have in his eyes. However, it is not for him that I relate what happened. I write it for the seeker who wishes to know whether God exists, and, if He does, whether He reveals Himself. I answer with an emphatic “yes.” But regardless of the weight someone might place in this answer to prayer, for me this event established the existence of God once and for all. My prayer was answered immediately and in a manner that cannot be explained except by the grace and kindness of a hearing, powerful, present God.
LED BY THE HAND OF GOD
Years later, I needed that kind, hearing, powerful God to help me with my battle. Was it futile to attempt to gain knowledge of religious truth? Would God help me see the truth for what it is? By 2004, I knew that I could not defend Islam in the face of Christian arguments, but I did not know if that was due to my intellectual inability or to the power of the truth. In all candor, I was hoping that God would come to my aid and fight for me, showing Islam to be the correct path. But I truly had no idea what was true and knew there was only One who could show me.
Near the end of 2004, my father and I were in Florida. For months, I had been praying to God for an answer to my question; however, never had I prayed like I did this particular evening. It was the night of December 19th, and my father had fallen asleep in a hotel bed next to mine. But I was still awake. It was dark in the room, though not completely dark; there was still some light. The precariousness of my fate manifested itself in my mind. I admitted that despite all I thought I knew, I actually knew nothing. I needed God to show me the truth. I couldn’t do it without His help. At that instant, the most humble moment of my life, with tears in my eyes, I beseeched God for an answer. I asked for anything—a vision, a dream, a sign of some sort that would show me whether Christianity or Islam were true.
No sooner had I prayed these words than the room became pitch dark before my eyes. I had been looking at the wall, but it was not there anymore; instead, it was replaced by hundreds of crosses. I was paralyzed.
The vision was as simple as that. Just as quickly as it had come, it was gone. My reaction was that of most anyone. I said, “God, that doesn’t count. I don’t know if that was really You or if my eyes were playing tricks on me.” As you can see, I did not want to believe in Christianity. I instead took refuge in my uncertainty and prayed again, saying, “God, I don’t know if that was really what I thought it was – I could subconsciously want to become a Christian and my mind could be deceiving me. So visions won’t be any good; please give me a dream, and if the dream corroborates the vision, I will become Christian.” Thus I began trying to stall my decision, but God wouldn’t allow it.
The First Dream – Iguanas and Crickets and Snakes… Oh My! Date: December 19th/20th
That night I had a dream. Upon waking, I was fully aware that it was an answer from God, but I wasn’t sure what it meant. I wrote everything down as soon as I awoke. Permit me to post my entry:
In the beginning of the dream, there was a poisonous snake with red and black bands going around it, separated by thin white stripes. All it did was hiss at people when they stepped into the garden. The people in the garden couldn’t see it – it was far away and watching from a stone perch. This perch was across a chasm. That perch then became my vantage point for the first half of my dream.
In a garden-like area with hills and lush green grass and trees, there was a huge iguana, like a dragon. It would lie still and hide by becoming like a hill – no one who walked on it knew it was an iguana. If they had known, they would be scared, but the iguana liked the fact that no one knew. Then a giant boy comes, and this giant boy knows that the iguana was an iguana, and he stepped on it, accusing it of being an iguana. The iguana got angry, so he reared back to bite the giant boy, who had stepped on its tail.
As he was about to bite the boy, the boy had a huge cricket that challenged the iguana to a fight. My vantage point changes now, and I am directly beneath the iguana, looking up at its head. The iguana accepted the challenge, and as the cricket flew away to go to a fighting place, the iguana turned to me and tried to lunge at me and kill me. The cricket saw that the iguana was lunging at me, so he came back and bit its head off, decapitating it.
Now, I analyzed this dream from many angles. I tried substituting the ideas, concepts, and symbols in the dream with various aspects of my life. The most obvious implication that I could find was this: the snake at the beginning of the dream had to be evil in some way, simply because it was a snake. Since I took its place for most of the dream, I gathered that there might be some hidden evil within me. In addition, when the snake hissed, it was reminiscent of the iguana when it reared back to bite the boy; there was a striking similarity.
Across the chasm, the giant iguana was blending in with the garden. I took the garden to mean the world (I just had that sense when I was dreaming). Since the iguana was there in the beginning of my dream I took the iguana to be Islam (Islam was there in the beginning of my world). I took the giant boy in my dream to be David, who called out the iguana for what it was. Finally, I took the cricket to be Christianity. The iguana was happy to be deceiving people, but it got angry when discovered. Though it almost killed me, it was ultimately decapitated by the cricket. Interpreting the symbols as such, I thought that God was telling me about the state of my world and the true nature of Islam and Christianity, something I had asked Him specifically.
Indeed, there was more that caused me to interpret the symbols in this manner. Upon telling my parents of this dream, they gave me a partial interpretation: the iguana is a hidden enemy, as is the snake; the boy is a great helper; the cricket is a fighter; and the garden is the world. This interpretation came not from them, but from an Islamic book on dream interpretations.
After interpreting the dream to mean that Islam is deceptive and that Christianity is the truth which would ultimately save me, my reaction was, again, that of most anyone. I prayed to God and said, “God, this dream was far too symbolic for me to be able to interpret it accurately. Rather than one dream, three seems like a better number. If they all point towards Christianity, I will definitely become a Christian.”
At this point, I was not trying to escape God; rather, I wanted to be certain before making a move that would determine the rest of my life. I also prayed to God that He would make the next dream much clearer—so clear that I would not even have to interpret it. The fact that He answered each detail of my prayer is overwhelming.
The Second Dream – The Narrow Door Date: March 10th/11th
I am standing at the entrance of a narrow doorway which is built into a wall of brick. I am not in the doorway, but just in front of it. The doorway is an arch. I would say the doorway is about 7.5 feet tall, with about 6.5 feet of its sides being straight up from the ground, and a 1 foot arched part on the top capping it off. The doorway is slightly less than 3 feet wide and about 3 or 4 feet deep, all brick. It leads into a room, where many people are sitting at tables which have fancy and good food on them. I think I remember salads, but I’m not sure. They were not eating, but they were all ready to eat, and they were all looking to the left, as if waiting for a speaker before the banquet. One of the people, at the other side of the door just inside the room, is David Wood. He is sitting at a table and is looking to my left. I asked him, “I thought we were going to eat together?” And he said, without removing his eyes from the front of the room (i.e. left side), “You never responded.”
That was the whole dream: a detailed narrow door leading to a feast, but I was not eating because I had not responded. As soon as I awoke, I had an interpretation. Even within the dream I felt that the room with the feast was Heaven itself. I was not able to enter because I had not responded to the invitation David provided. I had no idea what the narrow door meant, however.
The following day I contacted David and asked him what he thought of the dream. He said that it was as clear as day; and I agreed. It was at that moment that I recalled that I had prayed for a very clear dream from God. David said, however, that he did not even need to interpret it. He referred me to Luke 13:22-29, which reads thus:
The Narrow Door
Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
“Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
“But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
I had asked for a dream that I wouldn’t need to interpret, and God provided me a dream that was virtually a scene straight out of the Gospel of Luke—something I had never even read.
This dream was clearly telling me that I would not be at the feast of God unless I responded to the invitation, though I was standing at the narrow door and it had not yet closed. My reaction, once again, was that of most anyone. I prayed to God, saying, “Thank you God. I think I know what you’re telling me now, but please give me one more dream to be sure. This time, please not so scary.” Indeed, the second dream was terrifying because it was quite clear that my life would have to change very shortly.
The Third Dream – A Stairway out of the Mosque Date: April 23rd/24th
I am sitting on the first step of a flight of white stairs. The stairs go up, and they have ornate posts at the first step and hand railings going up to the left (from my vantage point). I am not sure of the material of the stairs, though I’m thinking either stone/marble or wood. I am facing forward, away from the top of the stairs. I can see myself in this dream, and the angle of view is of my right side as I sit on the stairs and look forward, where I’m expecting someone to speak, possibly at a brown wooden podium, though I’m not sure. The room has green carpeting, and people are expected to sit on the floor, though I am on the first stair and I feel nothing wrong with this. I expect people to fill in the section to my left, which is also to the left of the stairs. Nothing is going on in the right side of the room. As the room gradually fills up, the Imam sits down on the floor slightly behind me and to my left (not on the stairs). He is wearing white and is looking in the same direction as everyone else (I do not recall anyone else actually being in the dream, but I distinctly remember the feeling during the dream that other people were there and looking forward). Since I expected him to be the speaker, and since he is a holy man and the Imam, I am surprised and confused that he is on the floor behind me. Out of respect, I try to get off the stairs and sit behind him, but I am unable to get off the stairs. I feel as if I’m being held on the stairs by an unknown/unseen force. The force did not seem particularly brusque nor particularly kind. It just held me down. The dream ended with a sense of confusion, as I did not understand what I was to do, and I did not understand what everyone was waiting for and didn’t know who was going to speak after all.
This was the final installment of my three dream series. Again, upon interpreting it, I found it to be favorable towards Christianity. I interpreted the stairs to mean a pathway to Heaven, as they were heading up. When I asked my parents for an interpretation from the book they had used, they determined that stairs are a quest for knowledge and truth, something that fit better than my interpretation. I could not get off of my quest for truth and simply fall in line with Islam anymore, no matter how much I wanted to out of respect and duty.
The Search for Answers
At this point, I knew what I had to do. However, I didn’t want to base everything solely on my own reasoning. I wanted to verify the conclusions I had reached. Hence, I traveled to Washington D.C., Canada, and England in search of knowledgeable Muslims to answer the arguments against Islam that I had found. I heard various replies running the gamut from terribly unconvincing to fairly innovative, and I encountered people that ranged from sincere to condescendingly caustic. At the end of my research, the arguments for and against Islam still hung in the balance, but one thing was abundantly clear: they were far from approaching the strength of the case for Christianity.
At the same time, I began praying to God for comfort. I knew that, by losing the support of my family and most of my friends, one of the most difficult chapters in my life was about to begin. Then something happened that was related to my search. I could not share it with anyone in my emotional support group (i.e. parents and friends); indeed, I can’t even share it in this testimony. I can only say that it was something that aroused immense remorse within me, and I was in dire need of comfort. The Qur’an had nothing that could soothe the pain. Out of desperation, I consulted the Bible to see if there was anything that would help. It was my first time reading the Bible to see what it said as opposed to reading it to formulate arguments against Christianity.
The words of the Bible were to me as the caress of God Himself. Questions I had rhetorically asked God in the morning were answered very explicitly in my night’s reading. One example after another would fill pages of this testimony, and so I shall refrain. Suffice it to say, by reading His Word, I felt as if I had been wrapped in His wings as I lay wounded both by a pain that was already transpiring and by a pain that was soon to come.
Not long after, I lay awake deep into the night, for sleep was ashamed to fall upon me. I had denied God long enough. The words of Christ found in Matthew’s 10th chapter would allow me no rest:
Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. (vv. 32-33)
It was then that I said to God, “I submit. I submit that Jesus Christ is Lord of Heaven and Earth, and that He came to this world to die for my sins. I am a sinner, and I need Him for redemption. Christ, I accept You into my life.”
The difficult night that did not grant me peace was quickly fading away as sleep washed over me. I did not know it then, but that night was to be much easier than the ones to come.
A FINAL APPEAL
Dear seeker, please understand that I consider none of these visions, dreams, or signs to have been a result of anything I did other than the simple fact that I called to God; beyond that, all the work was of His hands. It took me years, however, to reach a state in which I asked Him for guidance with true humility and sincerity. Reaching that state took both time and contemplation spent searching for truth, and a willingness to endure unknown difficulties for His sake.
After my family learned of my conversion, they have not been the same. My mother has tears in her eyes whenever I see her, a quiver in her voice whenever I hear her, and absolute despair on her face in sleep and while awake. Never have I met a mother more devoted to her children than my mother, and how did I repay her? In her mind, decades’ worth of emotional and physical investment ended up with her son espousing views that are completely antithetical to everything she stands for.
My father, a loving, gentle, and big-hearted man with every ounce of the emotional strength expected of a 24-year veteran of the U.S. military, broke down for the first time that I had ever seen. To be the cause of the only tears I ever saw fall from his eyes is not easy to live with. To hear him… the man who stood tallest in my life from the day I was born, my archetype of strength, my father… to hear him say that because of me he felt his backbone has been ripped out from behind him, feels like patricide. It was then that I wondered why God had let me live; why had God not just lifted me to Himself when I had found the truth? Why did I have to hurt my family so much, and practically eschew the ones who loved me more than anyone else?
The answer was sought and found in God’s word. After accepting Him, it is my duty to work for Him and walk His path. For now, my loss was to be comforted by His words found in Mark 10:29-30:
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”
But there was more. I have to inform my parents of the Truth, no matter how painful, because they need to be saved. Not just them, but I also have friends that need to be saved. At least billions upon billions of souls in this world need to be saved. Can I do these things? Can my parents be saved, even pulled from Satan’s trap itself? Am I really supposed to spread the message to the ends of the earth?
Paul says in Philippians 4:13 that I can do these things through God. He tells me in II Timothy 2:25-26 that I must gently instruct everyone, even my parents, in hopes that they will be saved from the trap of the devil. And Christ Himself informs his apostles in Matthew 28:19 to make disciples of all nations. Thus, much like Paul in Acts 20:24, my life’s meaning is this: to testify to the gospel of God’s grace. And in doing so, He comforts me, and gives me fortitude.
I no longer struggle on my own strength. The dreams and visions that I narrated above pale in comparison to the gift I have received, for God has taken an active role in my life. When I accepted Christ as my Savior, I received the Spirit of God, just as Jesus promised His followers the night before His crucifixion:
If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:15-17)
With God’s Spirit comes the power to face whatever comes upon me, and with the knowledge of Jesus’s victory on the cross comes the understanding that with God all things are possible. As Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This Spirit and this knowledge also compel me to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every tribe and tongue and nation.
And that is why I beseech you, dear seeker, with all my heart. I invite you to search for Him and lay your current life on the line as I did. He is there, and He is waiting for you to come to Him so that He can walk with you. Since my conversion, God has filled me completely and guided me in His ways. He changed my life, and I invite you to let Him change your life. But be sure that you really are ready for your life to change; I guarantee you, it will. So it is written: you will be given a new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24). My prayers are with you.
Editor’s note: Nabeel died of stomach cancer on September 16, 2017, at the age of 34.Two months later, his father, a practicing Muslim, posted a video thanking Qureshi’s followers for their support and prayers for the family following his death.
If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here