Monday, 9 August 2010

Understanding Nabeel's Conversion Story: Intellectual? Spiritual? or Absurd?


It has come to my attention that Acts 17 Apologetics has been a little more than just honest with its readers - the question really is: have they been honest with themselves? What piqued my interest in this group is their audacious claims about the 'Islamization' of the West seeing how Muslims are in minority in these countries, though some places may be more densely populated than others. Nonetheless it wasn't difficult to see that a pattern was emerging in their lively jaunts throughout America. An interesting question popped up in my mind: "Why is it that the Acts 17 Team travels to events and places which are bound to be densely packed with Muslims? Why not go to an event where Muslims are a minority?" Though this is not the subject matter of the following essay I suggest all readers to deeply ponder over this question.

Understanding Nabeel's Conversion Story: Intellectual? Spiritual? or Absurd?

1.0 Introduction

I've always questioned Nabeel's honesty whenever he mentions his faith prior to his conversion to Christianity. Why? one may ask. Truth be told, I've never met a Muslim who has made an honest, intellectual and spiritual attempt to convert to Christianity for the 'right' reasons. The general trend is that young Muslims tend to cross over due to increased peer pressure from their environment or perceived supernatural experiences with natural phenomena such as dreams and 'visions'. Such events are subsequently taken as miracles or deliberate signs of a supernatural being working through his creation.

In Islam dreams and visions in themselves are meaningless unless stated otherwise by the Prophet Muhammad in his sayings, or Hadith. However, when Prophets of Islam dreamed they were usually 'revelations' or wahi. Therefore interpreting one's dreams was highly discouraged by the Prophet Muhammad and even sharing them among a group of people was an invitation to trouble. Like all good things, good dreams were gifts from Allah, which for others to hear would make them instantly envious. Bad dreams would be taken literally by the superstitious and therefore was forbidden by the Holy Prophet to place one's belief in such matters.

2.0 An Ahmadi Is Born

Here are a few excerpts from Nabeel Qureshi's conversion story that discuss his life and faith prior to his conversion to Christianity. The article can be found here.
My name is Nabeel. 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.
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 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[1] 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.
Aside from the articles' embellished jargon and enlightening prose I see several problems with these parts of his story:

[1] Nabeel Qureshi was an Ahmadi, never a Muslim and therefore would have been greatly ostracized from most of the 'Islamic communities' that he claims to have held him in the highest regards as a Muslim role model. Evidence for Nabeel Qureshi's Ahmadi faith prior to his conversion can be seen here (kindly watch from 0:00 to 5:55). His use of generic terms such as 'Islam', 'Muslim', and 'Islamic communities' are tell-tale signs of his dishonesty. Ahmadis barely make up 1% of Earth's Islamic populace and consider all those who reject Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as Jesus reincarnate to be kaffirs or nonbelievers. That would make more than 99% of all Muslim inhabitants of Earth to be nonbelievers. This is absurd, considering that the Prophet Muhammad prophesied that the 'majority' of Muslims would be the ones on the straight path. Ahmadis are not a majority anywhere.

[2] Why did Nabeel fail to make a distinction between the Ahmadiyya movement and Islam in its purest form as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad within the article? This is disconcerting, seeing how Christians are being fooled into believing that Nabeel's beliefs were rightly Islamic.

[3] Nabeel states that the Islam he had been taught by his elders was a 'peaceful religion' (denoted by [1]), in contrast to the violent extremism that occurs in war-torn countries such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and many other 3rd world Muslim countries. To me, it seems, that Nabeel is pointing fingers at all Muslims - except for Ahmadis - for having violent convictions in their faith. We challenge him to produce a written piece that supports evidence of his claim which we'll gladly post on our site.  According to a well-known Jewish religious historian and critic of Islam, Bernard Lewis states the following in his book Islam, The Religion and the People (taken from here, note: we've only listed 5 out of 6 points to stay on topic):

1. "At no time did the (Muslim) jurist approve of terrorism. Nor indeed is there any evidence of the use of terrorism (in Islamic tradition)."

2. "Muslims are commanded not to kill women, children, or the aged; not to torture or otherwise ill-treat prisoners; to give fair warning of the opening hostilities; and to honor agreements."

3. "The emergence of the now widespread terrorism practice of suicide bombing is a development of the 20th century. It has no antecedents in Islamic history, and no justification in terms of Islamic theology, law, or tradition. It is a pity that those who practice this form of terrorism are not better acquainted with their own religion, and with the culture that grew up under the auspices of that religion."

4. "The fanatical warrior offering his victims the choice of the Koran or the word is not only untrue, it is impossible."

5. "Generally speaking, Muslim tolerance of unbelievers was far better than anything available in Christendom, until the rise of secularism in the 17th century."

[4] Nabeel claims that his parents taught him not to believe in anything blindly, but strangely he's ready to accept a 'dream' and a 'vision' - which are hardly evidences of Divine communication for a believing Muslim (discussed below).

3.0 Has Christianity Changed? To Put it Bluntly, Yes

Nabeel then goes on to discuss his fascination with Christianity, and how he met David Wood. Here are just a few of the most important excerpts from the passage, Christianity Challenged:
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.
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.
 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.
What's surprising is how Nabeel, who used to be a so-called Muslim, approached David Wood on the topic of Christianity and Islam:

[1] No true Muslim would ever challenge a Christian by stating, "no reasonable person could trust the Bible", especially to his own Christian friend. If Nabeel had read the Qur'an in its entirety he would have known that it's forbidden to make fun of, or mock another person's faith. The statement may have not have seemed brash at the time due to their close friendship, but even then, to pass such judgement is usually frowned upon by Muslims and non-Muslims. Considering that Nabeel was the 'Muslim child' his parents were proud of, he should have started the discussion differently.

[2] If you carefully peruse over David's arguments, he claims that despite the existence of variations in the Bible throughout the centuries, reconstruction is required. Once this task is finished one may be 98-99% certain that the Bible's content remains uncontested, but the question is: according to whom? David Wood?

There are several sub-points that need to be made:
  • Nabeel stated that his parents had brought him up not to accept anything without doing original research and investigating claims personally. Why  did Nabeel pass the following bold and audacious statement?: "no reasonable person could trust the Bible". He mentioned generalities such as Paul introducing new ideas, and the Bible having its text changed over centuries but nothing entirely specific. Did Nabeel not do his research as said he was taught? 
  • The Bible requires reconstruction while the Qur'an does not. The Qur'an has remained with Muslims in its original form, untouched down to its very letter. It is neither a point of contention among the Islamic 'Ulema' (religious authorities) or western religious historians. Contextual criticism is virtually nonexistent in the Islamic faith.
  • David states that according to most recent estimates we can be '98-99%' certain about the contents of the Bible, which is a ludicrous claim. To say one is '98-99%' certain about the preservation of religious scripture is akin to setting up a statistical hypothesis test to verify the Bible's divine authorship. For arguments sake we agree with David Wood but that would then mean that he's at least 1% uncertain about the Bible's preservation. The fact is, the Bible has not remained intact since it was revealed to mankind and there is no official report on the percentage of its preservation.
[3] How did Nabeel know that the Qur'an remained as the uncorrupted word of God if he had no proof to back his claims? Why didn't he discuss the relevant information regarding the Qur'an's preservation just as how David discussed his perspective? Doesn't his Christian audience have the right to know his side of the argument?

[4] Nabeel does admit that there are many fragments of manuscripts that date back to 125 A.D, but lest he knows very few manuscripts survived the 70 A.D destruction of Jerusalem. Once again, unlike the Bible, the Qur'an does not require reconstruction to verify its contents. This lessens the uncertainty of its preservation to nil, whereas the Bible's remains undisputed: it has changed.

4.0 'Cruci-fiction' and Prophet-hood, vs. God-hood  

What could be more unfair then to superimpose one's beliefs on religious text and then claim it to be truth? Lets delve in a little further and see how Nabeel dealt with David's arguments:
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.

[1] Nabeel was initially correct: the Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament never states that Jesus is God. In fact, if we take another look, there is no unequivocal statement where Jesus proclaims to be God; the Creator, the Sustainer, the Provider for all mankind.  David takes on the affirmative, believing there is evidence that Jesus claimed divinity but in such a way that he used subtle nuances in his speech to escape persecution and death.

Here are some sub-points you may want to consider:
  • All Mighty God, who's spirit was contained within an earthly carbon-based biped vessel had to be careful with his words to avoid certain death and persecution according to David Wood. This idea is entirely concocted by David Wood and is not cited as an argument by any major Biblical scholar.
  • All Mighty God was given birth to, had his prepuce removed, and was afraid of proclaiming his divinity for fear of death.
    [2] David then cites 'evidence' of Jesus' so-called divinity, most notably Isaiah 9:6, which reads, "for to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." According to David, this is the hallmark of the Christian Bible; the one-needed phrase that allegedly proves Jesus's divinity, despite the 1% uncertainty about the preservation of the Bible. 

    Some sub-points will make it clear that this isn't the only passage in the Bible that exclusively gives man divine privileges:
    • Psalm 82:6 (NIV) -  "I said, 'You are all gods; you are all sons of the Most High."
    • Exodus 4:22 (NIV) - "Thus saith Jehovah, Israel is my son, even my firstborn." 
    This should therefore make it clear that (vv. 7:14-15, NIV) has no distinct importance.
    [3] Nabeel claims that baby Jesus was 'worshiped' by those around him shortly after his birth in Matthew 2:11, but how far this is from the truth. If we read some contemporary commentaries we see that within historical context, the word 'worshiped' carries a different connotation than it does than today:

    Geneva Study Bible:

    And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and {h} fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their {i} treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

    (h) A kind of humble and lovely reverence.
    (i) The rich and costly presents, which they brought him.

    Wesley's Notes:

    2:11 They presented to him gifts - It was customary to offer some present to any eminent person whom they visited. And so it is, as travellers observe, in the eastern countries to this day. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh - Probably these were the best things their country afforded; and the presents ordinarily made to great persons. This was a most seasonable, providential assistance for a long and expensive journey into Egypt, a country where they were entirely strangers, and were to stay for a considerable time.

    ....To Be Continued

    1 comment:


      Yeshua Ha'Mashiach

      He is AL HAQ, John 14:6

      He is AL BAETH, John11:25-26.

      He is AL AWAL & AL AKHER, Isaiah 41:4; Revelation 22:13, 16.

      He is AL MALEK, Revelation 17:14.

      He is AL NUR, John 8:12

      He is the SON OF GOD.

      He is your LORD & SAVIOR.