By James Bishop| Nabeel Qureshi is a Pakistani American Christian apologist and well-known convert from Islam. He has penned three books Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity (2014), Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward (2016), and No God But One—Allah or Jesus (2016).
He has since retired from his travelling ministry and speaking engagements due to his suffering from advanced stomach cancer (1).
Qureshi was once an ardent defender of his Islamic beliefs. At university he got to know a Christian by the name of David Wood (Wood is one of the leading Christian apologists today, a commentator on Islam from a Christian point-of-view, and I’ve also included an analysis of his conversion from atheism to Christianity here), and the two debated and discussed the historical claims of Christianity and Islam over several years.
At that time Qureshi, an apologist for Islam (2), strongly disagreed with Wood’s arguments in favour of Christianity and today he can look back, “A friend of mine [David Wood] had reached out to me with the gospel. I was a college student – a freshman. I was very happy with my faith. I was a Muslim and I was a proud Muslim. I loved Islam. I was not a likely convert. I was not looking for love. I was not looking for help… I argued with him. I debated, I challenged him. I said, “The Bible is not reliable.” I said, “The Trinity doesn’t make sense.” We argued about this. But four years later, what I realized is that the Christian message was true” (3).
However, while still a Muslim Qureshi discovered that the crucifixion of Jesus proved to be a insurmountable stumbling block for Islam, “The Koran told me that Jesus did not die on the cross. The Koran says in chapter 4 verse 157: “We killed him not, nor did they crucify him, but so it was made to appear to them.” So as a Muslim I believed what the Koran told me, that Jesus did not die on the cross, but Christians think that Jesus certainly died on the cross, so this was a good test right here. Which one is true, which one is false?”
I’ve included an analysis of the Islamic view on Jesus’ crucifixion here.
What Qureshi found was that the historical evidence for Jesus’ death by crucifixion was impressive and stood as one of several most well attested facts of his life (I’ve included a full historical examination of the evidence for interested readers). Prior to this discovery, however, Qureshi took it upon himself to really dig deep into studying “Jesus’ death on the cross from a historical perspective…”
Thus, having spent time examining the arguments for and against it he came to the conclusion that “no matter how you look at it whether you are an atheist, agnostic, Jew, Buddhist, however you look at it, if you are a historian and you are studying the evidence of Jesus’ life you have to conclude that he died on the cross.
Every scholar who studies Jesus’ life concludes that Jesus died on the cross, in fact what they say that if we can know anything about Jesus’ life it’s that we know he died on the cross under Pontius Pilate.”
This realization confronted his Islamic beliefs but it didn’t stop there as the historical evidence for the resurrection too proved problematic, “did Jesus rise from the dead? Again, if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead the Christian faith is in vain. So how can I know whether Jesus rose from the dead?” That’s when Qureshi discovered that there would be a big debate in his hometown between two leading defenders in their fields.
Shabir Ally argued in favour of the Islamic view whereas Michael Licona took the opposing Christian view, “Well, as “luck” would have it God brought to town a debate, it was a debate on whether Jesus rose form the dead. It was between a Christian Mike Licona, and Muslim named Shabir Ally, both very respected in their fields.
And as I was watching the debate, I was still a Muslim, I concluded that the Christian case was far stronger.” One can access a number of debates and exchanges between Ally and Licona on YouTube. One can further access my argument for Jesus’ resurrection.
What really got Qureshi’s attention was Licona’s argument from the Minimal Facts (see here for my brief piece on the Minimal Facts Approach I penned for my college newsletter). The Minimal Facts are historical facts concerning Jesus that the overwhelming majority of historians accept as historical bedrock (4).
By bedrock one means undeniable on historical grounds since the evidence in favour is just too impressive. Two of the most important Minimal Facts for the Christian apologists case is that Jesus died by crucifixion, and was later seen alive by his disciples, the church persecutor Paul, and Jesus’ skeptical, unbelieving brother James. That Jesus was later seen to be alive and that this convinced his earliest followers of his resurrection is a view shared by the majority of historians (5) including the most skeptical ones (6)(7).
Using these historical facts one can make a persuasive argument in favour of Jesus’ resurrection and therefore the truth of Christianity (8). Thus, having considered this Qureshi found that even skeptics of Christianity found the Minimal Facts argument important to consider, “The argument that he (Mike Licona) uses, the minimal facts argument, an atheist by the name of Michael Martin, he’s a very well-known atheist philosopher, says that the minimal facts defense of the resurrection is the strongest defense of the resurrection ever been provided in history. And so I stepped away from the evidence, and said, let me back it up. What I believe truly does matter, I want it to be true, let me take a look at this.
I began to realize that the case for Christianity was very, very strong.”
So, Qureshi did what he felt he needed to do, and that was to transition from Islam to accepting Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour. He also felt “duped” having once embraced Islam for most of his life, “Shortly after becoming a Christian, I realized that for 22 years of my life, I had been duped into believing the Qur’an was the Word of God because I just listened to the Muslims around me. They were well-meaning, to be sure, and they had some arguments, but ultimately they were wrong” (9).
His transition was a monumental step in his life, and he would later reveal that accepting Jesus Christ was “the most painful thing” he ever did because it cost him nearly everything (10). But the change was totally worth it, “There are billions of people alive in the world today who need to hear the gospel. If you are a Christian, it means you are going to live for eternity. It means that you are taken care of. If you trust in what Jesus did on the cross for you, you will be fine forever. But your neighbor who does not know Christ, his needs or her needs are infinitely greater than yours” (11).