How Jesus Led Muslim Apologist Nabeel Qureshi to Christianity

Nabeel Qureshi (1983-2017) was a Pakistani American Christian apologist and well-known convert from Islam (1). He authored 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).

Qureshi was once a defender of Islam. But at university he came to know a Christian, David Wood, and the two of them debated and discussed the historical claims of Christianity and Islam for several years. Qureshi, an apologist for Islam, strongly opposed Wood’s arguments in favor of Christianity,

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).

Qureshi discovered the historical crucifixion of Jesus Christ to be an insurmountable stumbling block for Islam. Qureshi explains,

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?

Qureshi came to agree with historians that the historical evidence for Jesus’ death by crucifixion was too compelling to deny, especially as it is the most well-attested historical fact of Jesus’ life. Qureshi took to digging deep into studying “Jesus’ death on the cross from a historical perspective…” He concluded 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.”

But what of Jesus’ resurrection?

“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?”

Qureshi then discovered that there was going to be a big debate in his hometown between two leading apologists. Shabir Ally, a well-known Muslim apologist, argued in favor of the Islamic view. Against him Michael Licona argued from a Christian perspective,

Well, as “luck” would have it God brought to town a debate, it was a debate on whether Jesus rose from 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.

Qureshi was particularly impressed by Licona’s argument from the so-called “Minimal Facts“. The Minimal Facts are historical facts concerning Jesus that the overwhelming majority of historians accept as historical bedrock (2).

By bedrock, the historian means undeniable on historical grounds since the evidence in favor is strong and compelling. Two most important Minimal Facts for the Christian apologist is that Jesus died by crucifixion and was later seen alive by his disciples, the early church persecutor Saul (who came to be known as the Apostle 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 including the most skeptical ones (3).

Using these Minimal Facts, Christian apologists make an argument in favor of Jesus’ historical resurrection and therefore the truth of Christianity. Qureshi explains as follows,

The argument that he (Michael 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 defence of the resurrection is the strongest defence 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.

Qureshi says he could no longer object to the Christian view of the resurrection of Jesus. He abandoned Islam and accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. He also felt “duped” by Islam,

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” (5).

But this worldview and religious transition was a huge step in Qureshi’s life. He says that accepting Jesus was “the most painful thing” he ever did because it cost him nearly everything (6). But the change was 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” (117

References

1. Qureshi, N. CROSSING OVER: An Intellectual and Spiritual Journey from Islam to Christianity. Available.

2. Habermas, G. 2012. The Minimal Facts Approach to the Resurrection of Jesus: The Role of Methodology as a Crucial Component in Establishing Historicity. Available.

3. Ludemann, G. 1995. What Really Happened? p. 80; Sanders, E. 1995. The Historical Figure of Jesus. p. 279-280.; Ehrman, B. 1999. Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. p. 231; Paula Fredrickson in Interview in The Search for Jesus w/ Peter Jennings (June 26, 2000); Allison, D. 2005. Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and its Interpreters. p. 283; Keener, C. 2009. The Historical Jesus of the Gospels. p. 342; 

4. Habermas, G. & Licona, M. 2004. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.p. 44.

5. Rogers, J. 2014. Five Questions With a Former Muslim Who Converted to Christianity. Available.

6. Smith, S. 2016. Former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi Prayed for God to Kill Him After Converting to Christianity.

7. Smith, S. 2016. Former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi Prayed for God to Kill Him After Converting to Christianity.

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