Nabeel Qureshi, an American Christian speaker who converted from Islam and served as a speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries prior to his death from stomach cancer in 2017, is the author of the book “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.”
The article below is adapted from that book, which first came out in 2014. A third edition of the book, expanded to include new bonus content and reflections, has just been released.
The content in this article has been reprinted with the permission of Zondervan.
I was a crumpled heap on the ground, trembling before God. Two weeks after accepting my Lord, I tried to plead with Him, while wailing and stammering through quivering lips.
The night before, I had looked into my Muslim father’s eyes as they welled with tears. To be the cause of the only tears I had ever seen those eyes shed, I could not bear it.
Though my father did not say much, what he did say has haunted me ever since. The man who stood tallest in my life, my archetype of strength, my father, spoke these words through palpable pain: “Nabeel, this day, I feel as if my backbone has been ripped out from inside me.” The words tore through me. I had not given up just my life to follow Jesus, I was killing my father.
My mother had even fewer words, but her eyes said more. “You are my only son. Since you were born, I have called you my jaan kay tuqray, a physical piece of my life and heart. Every day since you came into this world, I have loved you with all of me in a way I have loved no one else. Why have you betrayed me?”
Decimated before God, eyes pouring, nose and mouth unable to withhold the grief, I was finally able to sputter my question through tears and mucus: “Why, God, did You not kill me the moment I believed? Why did You leave me to hurt my family more deeply than they’ve ever been hurt? They never deserved this! Why, God?”
At that moment, the most agonizing moment of my life, something happened that was beyond my theology and imagination. As if God picked up a megaphone and spoke through my conscience, I heard these words resonate through my very being:
“Because this is not about you.”
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I froze with my mouth agape. The tears, the sobs, the shaking— everything stopped. I was rooted to the ground, as if electricity had just shot through me and paralyzed me. For about ten minutes, I sat, unable to move, unable to close my mouth even.
He was rebooting me.
When I was able to move, I felt no sorrow, none whatsoever. It was as if my prayers of anguish and self-pity had been words uttered in a previous life. Rising from the ground and walking out of the apartment, I gazed at everything intently — the trees, the sky, even the stairs I stood upon.
I was seeing the potential of the world in a new light. I had been wearing colored glasses my entire life, and they had been taken off. Everything looked different, and I wanted to examine it all more carefully.
Then I saw something that I had seen countless times before: a man walking down the sidewalk.
But that was not all I saw. What I saw was a man who needed to know that God could rescue him, that God had rescued him. This man needed to know about God and His power.
Did he know?
Of course not. We have to tell him.
While I was wallowing in self-pity, focused on myself, there was a whole world with literally billions of people who had no idea who God is, how amazing He is, and the wonders He has done for us. They are the ones who are really suffering. They don’t know His hope, His peace, and His love that transcends all understanding. They don’t know the message of the gospel.
After loving us with the most humble life and the most horrific death, Jesus told us, “As I have loved you, go and love one another.” How could I consider myself a follower of Jesus if I was not willing to live as He lived? To die as He died? To love the unloved and give hope to the hopeless?
This is not about me. It is about Him and His love for His children.
Now I knew what it meant to follow God. It meant walking boldly by His Spirit of grace and love, in the firm confidence of everlasting life given through the Son, with the eternal purpose of proclaiming and glorifying the Father.
Now I had found Jesus.