Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Recently, the Christian community was hit by the news of the death of Nabeel Qureshi. Nabeel was well known in the world of Christians who long to reach Muslims with the gospel. For those not familiar with Nabeel, he was the author of Answering Jihad, which I reviewed in a previous article. He worked for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, an organization for which I hold the utmost respect. Nabeel’s biographical work, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus had been on my reading list for quite some time. Given his recent death, I made a point to put it at the top of that list. I was finally able to learn about his incredible story.

Nabeel begins by talking about his wonderful family life as a child. He was raised in a devout Muslim home, and he speaks candidly about the comfort that Islamic rituals and practices brought to his life. Quite frankly, I found this section rather discouraging. I don’t say that to dissuade anyone from reading Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. It’s quite the opposite. He was truthful about how happy he was to be blissfully ignorant regarding the spiritual quagmire that he was in. He was completely satisfied with the flimsy apologetics taught in the mosque. It always unsettles me tremendously when I read personal testimonies about how thoroughly and pervasively Islam is able to permeate someone’s life and shield them from the gospel. I would imagine that anyone with a love for God and love for his neighbor would feel the same way.

In his freshman year of college, Nabeel met David Wood. David Wood is a Christian who pulls no punches. David did the two things required to reach Nabeel. First, he became a true friend as the two of them hit it off as people. Second, David would ask Nabeel hard questions about Islam, Christianity, philosophy, and methodologies employed to ascertain truth.

Nabeel walks his readers through the difficult internal struggles he had as a Muslim dealing with evidence that contradicted his Islamic beliefs. What resonated most with me was how he selectively chose which Hadith to trust, and which to discard. In my own experience, I have found that many Muslims share this filtering mechanism. If a Hadith suits the purpose of showcasing Muhammad as the perfect man, it is quoted, memorized, and touted as evidence for Islam. If the Hadith casts an unfavorable light on Muhammad, it is deemed dubious and avoided. In this fashion, certain Hadith are overemphasized, while countless others are ignored. Frankly, this is the best way to skew and twist any religion. One of the best ways to advance a heresy is to focus in on a few aspects of a religion, while downplaying and overlooking others. It’s the smorgasbord style of religion, taking the desired morsels from the buffet of holy writings while skipping over the less tasty items.

In order to controvert the influx of difficult questions Nabeel was given, he resorted to diving into Islam more deeply. From a human point of view, this had to be tremendously discouraging to David and the other Christians who were investing in his life. However, God was using this time to help Nabeel see the depths of the hole that he was in.

Nabeel finally went to God in prayer and asked Him to reveal Himself more fully. He experienced a series of dreams which he describes in detail. Some readers might question this, but personal testimony from other Muslims backs up the fact that God often appears to Muslims in dreams. More importantly, this is Biblical. Consider Paul’s vision as well as that of Cornelius. In both cases, each man was told about a Christian who would help guide them to Jesus (Acts 9:12; Acts 10:5). So too Nabeel’s dreams led him to understand that David and others were trying to point him toward the truth that Jesus is the Son of God, our Savior.

Of course I have skipped over many of the details of his struggles as well as his final conversion. I leave those to you to discover through this thought provoking and engaging book. As I said, in many ways it is a troubling read, but troubling in a profitable way. Anyone with a heart for reaching Muslims will gain valuable insight into the obstacles and spiritual firewalls that await the noble endeavor of sharing who Jesus is with those trapped in the quicksand of Islam. I thank God for the grace given to Nabeel, and for Nabeel’s wise use of the short time given him here on earth.

As a final addendum, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out how intriguing it was to read about David Wood’s early days as a Christian from Nabeel’s perspective. Some people find David’s approach overly provocative and controversial. However, his style matched with his genuine concern for Muslims is often times exactly what is needed to demolish every argument set up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). I also recommend David’s conversion account here on youtube.

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Immutability of God

How often I have heard people say that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Upon close inspection, the reality is that YHWH and Allah have a completely different makeup, proving that they cannot be the same God.

One method of identifying God is by naming His attributes. An attribute of God is not what makes up God, but rather defines who God is. In other words, God isn’t merciful, but God’s essence is mercy. God embodies mercy. God defines what mercy is by the fact that He is merciful. So what is are some attributes of God? God is wisdom, God is grace, and God is holy. Probably the most often cited attribute of God’s is His perfect, self-sacrificing love.

For this article, let’s focus on God’s immutability. That is the doctrine found in the Bible that assures us that He never changes. Hebrews 13:8 refers to Jesus as being “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” The same thing is revealed in Hebrews 1:12, Psalm 102:27, and Malachi 3:6, to name a few. So why is this attribute so important? It is because God’s immutability encompasses every other attribute, and through immutability, every other attribute becomes eternally significant. The immutability of God means that God’s wisdom is everlasting, His grace is everlasting, as well as His mercy, forgiveness, comfort, compassion, love, and everything else imaginable. Imagine if God decided to change who He is. What if the day comes that God would say, “I didn’t really mean it when I said I will never change. I am God. I choose to no longer be a God of love.” What assures us, besides our faith that such a thing will never happen? God’s great plan of redemption provides that such complete assurance is automatically part of the package.

We see the desirability of immutability of others in how we assure that someone will not default on a commitment. We secure a significant enough investment in the cause that it would be foolish for that person to reconsider the commitment. If someone wants to secure an item of merchandise to come back later and complete the transaction, we might require them to make a down payment. The amount would be enough to assure us that they would complete the commitment because there is too much invested to do otherwise. The loss would be too great. Lending institutions do the same by asking for collateral. In God’s case, He placed the greatest imaginable investment in our redemption in giving His only begotten Son to be brutally tortured and killed. It was a 100% down payment invested in eternity. It is a completed ransom that cannot be withdrawn (Ephesians 1:13-14). We are God’s purchased possession, paid in full. God has also provided a down payment, the Holy Spirit, until the completion of our inheritance is realized!

The Bible communicates this truth in a surprising way that reverses our thinking on His nature. We tend to think that God can do anything. It may be a new avenue of thought to see in the scriptures that there actually are things that God cannot do. God even says they are impossible for Him to do, not because God is too weak, but because He is so strong that God has the power to fix a permanent limitation on Himself that, because of His perfect nature, even He cannot possibly overcome. God cannot lie or deny Himself, which is the essence of His immutability. There are many things that God WILL not do, but these things are specifically stated that God CANNOT do (2 Timothy 2:13, Titus 1:2, John 10:35).
So do Muslims believe Allah is immutable? Typically, the answer is no. While there is some level of disagreement, most Muslims would not name Immutability as an aspect of Allah since it is not one of his 99 names.[i] Additionally, the Qur’an itself rejects this notion.

Qur’an 006:054:
When those come to thee who believe in Our signs, Say: “Peace be on you: Your Lord hath inscribed for Himself (the rule of) mercy:

Other translations say that Allah “ordained” mercy upon himself. Moreover, multiple Hadith discuss that when Allah created mercy, he divided it into 100 parts, keeping 99 for himself, and giving one to mankind. There are numerous such Hadith appearing in the most respected collections.[ii]

So it is very clear that the Islamic literature teaches Allah created mercy, giving most of it to himself. This means that mercy is not part of Allah’s essence, but is rather a created attribute. Before the time of its creation, mercy was not an attribute of Allah. Allah somehow made the decision to give himself mercy, meaning that before that decision, he had none. The skeptical reader may question this line of reasoning, since time doesn’t have much meaning in eternity past. However, such a rebuttal misses the point. An infinite and eternal God does not create His attributes. He “is” the collection of His attributes. If there were a time when Allah was not merciful, and he changed himself, then there could very well come a time in the future where he again is not merciful. Since Allah has shown that he can change himself, there is nothing precluding him from doing so again in the future.

YHWH is immutable. Allah is not. How can anyone justify or even suggest that Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

[i] http://www.islamicity.com/Mosque/99names.htm

[ii] Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 476 and Sahih Muslim, Book 37, Number 6629.

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The Position of Al-Mahdi

In the last article, I compared the Islamic end-times figure Al-Mahdi to the Antichrist. If you have not read that article, I suggest doing so first before reading this article to gain a better context of the material being discussed.

The comparisons between Al-Mahdi and Antichrist revealed a striking anti-parallel. These are startling enough, yet the behavior of Al-Mahdi as laid out in the Hadith make his identity even plainer. To explore this topic more fully, consider the Islamic prophecies that discuss Al-Mahdi and his first interaction with Jesus.

Remember that Al-Mahdi, while considered the “rightly-guided one” in Islam, is not a prophet. Though he will unite the world under Islam, both spiritually and politically, he does not hold the office of prophet. Indeed, he cannot be a prophet, as Muhammad is the last prophet within Islam (Qur’an 33:40). Therefore, if Al-Mahdi declared himself a prophet, it would undermine the entire religion of Islam and thus his very status as its rightly guided leader.

Consider also the Muslim view of Jesus during the end times. There are a variety of prophecies within Islam regarding Jesus’ return. These range from where He will first appear, what He will accomplish for Islam, and what He will say and do to Christians. As a Muslim, one prominent Hadith states that Jesus will break the cross, kill the pig, and abolish the jizya, the tax on non-Muslims. In essence, Islam views Jesus as the one who will destroy Christianity once and for all by repudiating the cross, making pork illegal, and eliminating any legal status for non-Muslims in Muslim lands.

Back to the point, though, let’s examine what happens when Al-Mahdi and Jesus meet, and what we might glean from their interaction. There are numerous Hadith that discuss this encounter. One such reference to a hadith and its immediate interpretation is as follows,

And ‘Eesa ibn Maryam (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) will come down and their leader will say to him: ‘Come and lead us in prayer.’ But he will say: ‘No, one of them should lead the others in prayer, as a sign of honour from Allaah to this ummah.’” Narrated by Muslim, 225. So ‘Eesa (peace be upon him) will follow the Mahdi in prayer… [i]

At first glance, this might seem innocuous enough. However choosing who leads the prayer within Islam is an important decision. There are rules governing who it should be, the man to be chosen based on knowledge of the Qur’an and Islam. Now remember that according to Islamic theology, Jesus is a prophet, and Al-Mahdi is not. So, these prominent and well-known Hadith say that a prophet takes a voluntary back seat role relative to someone who is not a prophet. This is odd at best, as the Qur’an teaches that prophets are a special class of humanity (3:161). Yet it seems even stranger when you consider this is in reference to a prophet who was gone for 2,000 years, residing in heaven no less, and has freshly returned to help lead his people into world domination through the cleansing of false religions. According to Islam, one of Jesus’ first acts is to defer to someone else as a means of giving honor in a religious setting. Who exactly is this character who the Muslim Jesus wishes to exalt above himself?

Apparently, some Muslims have caught on to the fact that something here is amiss. However, such doubts are quickly squashed by Muslim scholars who point out the literature does not leave room for such inquiry. Note how the Shi’ite encyclopedia deals with such questioning,

“They say, Jesus has higher status than to pray behind a non-Prophet. This is a bizarre opinion since the issue of prayer of Jesus behind al-Mahdi has been proven strongly via numerous authentic traditions from the Messenger of Allah, who is the most truthful.” [ii]

So the Muslim literature is clear that Jesus is a prophet, Al-Mahdi is not, and yet Jesus defers to him in prayer. Within Islam, the Muslim Jesus raises Al-Mahdi to a higher spiritual status than himself.

The question left to ponder is whether the Bible has a similar anti-parallel prophecy. In Islam, we have two end-times figures, the Muslim Jesus and Al-Mahdi, and Jesus elevates and supports Al-Mahdi. In the Bible, as it happens, there are two beasts, and the second beast, later referred to as the “false prophet” directs worship toward the first beast (Revelation 13:11-12). Once again, we have two strikingly similar but opposite prophecies occurring. In Christianity, the false prophet directs worship toward the Antichrist. In Islam, the Muslim Jesus directs honor and religious position to Al-Mahdi.

Any clever enemy of God would co-opt His prophecies and twist them into the exact inverse scenarios. This is precisely what we see within Islamic end-times literature when contrasted with that of Christianity.

[i] https://islamqa.info/en/43840
[ii] https://www.al-islam.org/shiite-encyclopedia-ahlul-bayt-dilp-team/sunni-documentation-imam-al-mahdi

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