Nabeel led a brief yet remarkable life, in my mind somewhat comparable to the prodigious 17th century Catholic physicist, mathematician, philosopher and theologian Blaise Pascal who died at 39.
Last week, we lost one of the great ambassadors for Christ of our times. Nabeel Qureshi was only 33 when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer over a year ago. He suffered tremendously over the past year but was always thankful and faithful to God for his many blessings, as is evident from his many YouTube postings. Unfortunately, at 34, he died and left his young daughter behind. Sadly, his daughter will not be able to know her father aside from the memories passed onto her and the lectures, debates and writings he has left behind.
Nabeel led a brief yet remarkable life, in my mind somewhat comparable to the prodigious 17th century Catholic physicist, mathematician, philosopher and theologian Blaise Pascal who died at 39. Over the past 12 years, since his conversion to Christianity, Nabeel was able to finish a medical degree, two masters degrees, begin a doctorate at Oxford in New Testament studies, author three books, two of them bestsellers, and travel the world with Ravi Zacharias’ ministry as a preacher. He led many Muslims to Christ, and started a family.
Indeed, Nabeel, at such a young age, was able to accomplish much more than most can even come close to in a lifetime. This was in large measure possible because of his undying faith. He was a fearless young man who was on a mission to bring the lost sheep to Christ. He saw the human plight, one tormented by sin, as not just as a series of human failings against God and one another, but as an infirmity that taints every possible way one sees the whole world. His conversion to Christianity was one marked not by a selfish gain but a selfless commitment to God and humanity. In his conversion, this blindness began to be unveiled and he realized his life mission: seeing the very image of God in each and everyone one of us. His own words were prophetic. Consider the profound insight and moment of clarity in this passage from his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus:
Yet again 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 toward the medical school.
But that was not all I saw. Though I had no idea who this man was, I knew he had a dramatic story, replete with personal struggles, broken relationships, and splintered self-worth.
Taught by the world that he was the outcome of blind evolution, he subconsciously valued himself as exactly that: a byproduct of random chance, with no purpose, no hope, no meaning except what pleasures he could extract out of the day. Chasing these pleasures, which led to more guilt and more pain. Burying it all just beneath the surface, he went about his day with no clue how to break the cycle, how to find true hope.
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.
And so, it was that Nabeel walked preaching the Gospel throughout the world, ensuring God’s children heard his message of eternal love. Nabeel accepted his suffering in this world, as Christ had taken upon his Cross.
Throughout Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel chronicles the internal turmoil he endures throughout his difficult and painful conversion from Islam to Christianity. My review of his book can be found here. Nabeel courageously followed the truth, no matter the cost. Throughout his conversion period, he not only confronted difficult intellectual and moral questions but also ones pertaining to the very threads of his family, who to this day remain devout Muslims. In the end, even though after this heart wrenching period of soul searching and deep prayer; his prayers were finally answered. His answer was clear: he had to choose his heavenly Father over his earthly one.
Nabeel was a man who fearlessly followed God with admirable and an unflinching faith. He was a man of deep passionate conviction. His life is an incredible testimony to the truth and power of Christianity.
Famous evangelical preacher and world renowned Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, gave a powerful and poignant eulogy at Qureshi’s funeral last weekend. Zacharias focused on the very uniqueness of Qureshi’s Christian life during the past twelve years, which he described as being abnormally born, torn, scorned and now gone.
Nabeel was a man of many talents. One of his great talents was his ability to build bridges. He disarmed audiences with his testimony but also won them over with his genteel nature. He was a winsome advocate for Christian truths. A rare combination of a sharp mind and a compassionate heart, who truly embodied the meaning of a Christian apologist as exemplified in 1 Peter 3:15:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
I am forever thankful for Nabeel’s life and ministry. I am also thankful to David Wood’s (who has an amazing conversion story) efforts and involvement in Nabeel’s conversion. Together, their resources were a tremendous aid to me throughout a period in my life when I was questioning my own faith and was being confronted with challenges set forth by Muslims during my experience working at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Ottawa. Nabeel’s testimony is one of the most powerful witnesses to the Gospel of our times. Let us pray that his life and works will not be in vain.
The reasons as to why the Lord would take Nabeel to himself when he still had so much more to offer his family, Muslims, Christians and humanity, will unfortunately remain veiled to us. However, the veil of ignorance subjected to us because of our finite material existence, has been removed for Nabeel. He can now make sense of the often seemingly gratuitous suffering, that we experience individually and collectively. The world can be a cold and dark place. It can leave us reeling in emptiness and despair if left to our own devices. But through Christ’s light we can overcome this darkness, as John 1:5 states: “The light shines and the darkness has not understood it.” Nabeel’s works, debates, lectures and presentations will remain with us. Here you can find Nabeel’s final peaceful words to the world.
Let us mourn this great loss but let us celebrate this brief but extraordinary life while not forgetting to follow in Nabeel’s step in our mission to spread the good news in whatever way possible.