Nabeel Qureshi died at the age of 34 years old from a “rare and deadly form of stomach cancer”1 on 16th September 2017. The online communities of Muslims and Christians, especially those who were involved in apologetics on the World Wide Web, came to receive the news of Nabeel Qureshi‘s death with mixed reactions, as his funeral was streamed live on YouTube.
It is, after all, well-known to Muslims involved in apologetics that, having branded himself as an “ex-Muslim” with a strong appeal to family emotionalism2, Nabeel had gone on to become the author of three polemical books3 dissing Islam and its tenets, developed an online money-making polemical video course aimed at an evangelical target audience, and allied himself with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) to go on various roadshows and seminars with the sole intention of vilifying Islam openly.
This article aims to provide context to Nabeel Qureshi’s polemical life, his forays into Christian missionary attacks against Islam and his hidden motives in doing so, insha’allah.
Table of Contents
Who Was Nabeel Qureshi?
To begin, we must of course ask the obvious question: who is Nabeel Qureshi and how was he able to “sell himself” as an ex-Muslim with the credentials to talk about Islam?
The story, according to his first polemical and infamous book “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Former Muslim Shares the Evidence That Led Him from Islam to Christianity” (Zondervan, 2014), tells us that he was roommates in college with infamous YouTuber and anti-Islam bigot, David Wood. After having discussions about religion with Wood, Nabeel Qureshi apparently decided to “convert” to Christianity after meeting Jesus[!] in contradictory dream sequences.
From this point on, he was involved in the activities of Acts 17 Apologetics, a militant missionary group started by Wood whose greatest achievement was to “gate-crash” on an Arab-Muslim festival that is held annually in Dearbon, Michigan.
Not long after, he was taken notice of by Ravi Zacharias from the Ravi Zacharias International Ministry (RZIM). Eventually it was Ravi Zacharias who took him in as his protege and under the RZIM banner, supported Nabeel Qureshi’s evangelistic and missionary outreach to the Muslims.
Through the books and video courses that Nabeel Qureshi produced on Islam while being affiliated with RZIM, his image was slowly build up by RZIM through their online and offline media promotions. This reached to the point that many Christians regard Nabeel Qureshi as an “authority” on Islam and took his words on anything about Islam as indisputable.
Was Nabeel Qureshi Raised As A Muslim?
The consistent narrative that was repeated incessantly by Nabeel Qureshi was that he was raised in a “devout Muslim family”. It should be mentioned right from the onset however that Nabeel Qureshi was was a Qadiani. He converted to Christianity, under the influence of David Wood, from a heterodox sect which calls itself the Ahmadiyya, a movement that has never been recognised by mainstream Islam as “Muslims”.
The Ahmadiyya believe that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a prophet of God and the promised Messiah in the likeness of Jesus(P). These two fundamental claims run contrary to mainstream orthodox Islam, which clearly says that there can be no Prophet of God after the passing of Muhammad(P) (Qur’an, 33:40) and that the Messiah was no other than Christ Jesus(P), the son of Mary (Qur’an, 3:45; cf. 4:171).
In 1974, the National Assembly of Pakistan convened in a special assembly called the National Assembly of Pakistan Proceedings on Qadiani Issue, the outcome of which had resulted in the passage of an amendment to the then freshly minted constitution of Pakistan and declared the Qadianis to be non-Muslims.
Yet the Christian media, in the wake of Nabeel’s death, conveniently gloss over this small, inconvenient fact and consistently potrayed Nabeel Qureshi in their rabid, polemical frenzy as an “ex-Muslim”4 or as a “former Muslim”5.
It is interesting to note that some Christian apologists did question Nabeel Qureshi’s “Islamic upbringing”. One of them was Seth Dunn, in which he says (while commenting on Nabeel’s contradictory story on having been converted through a “dream”6):
Still, readers should recall that it was originally a Muslim apologist who exposed inconsistencies in Ergun Caner’s Islamic background story. While the inconsistencies in the dream stories cited above are slight, they are relevant given the vast evangelical fascination with stories of Muslim dreams and visions of Jesus. Furthermore, Qureshi’s very Islamic credentials are in question. Qureshi is a former Ahmadi. According to Snow, the Ahmadi sect is not considered Muslim by Muslims in the same way Mormons are not considered Christians7
In other words, Nabeel Qureshi’s so-called “Muslim upbringing” was a convenient “hammer” against the Muslims that the Christian missionaries utilised to the fullest.
How Influential Was Nabeel Qureshi, Really?
No son did Allah beget, nor is there any god along with Him: (if there were many gods), behold, each god would have taken away what he had created, and some would have lorded it over others! Glory to Allah! (He is free) from the (sort of) things they attribute to Him! (Qur’an, 23:91)
At the onset of his reimaging as a Christian apologist in 2014, Nabeel wrote the following tweet:
— Nabeel Qureshi (@NAQureshi) April 15, 2014
As any Muslim who sincerely understands and believes in the message of Islam would know, that statement by Nabeel is totally untrue and without any real basis whatsoever. As it is, Islam does not solely hinge on the life of the Prophet Muhammad(P) to uphold the divine truth of the Qur’an as the direct Revelation from God Almighty.
Hence, when the news of Nabeel’s death became known, the Muslim initial reaction was — on the whole — muted and dignified on the social media and blogs. It was only the Christian news media and Christian blogs that went with inflammatory headlines in order to drum up public sentiment about Nabeel’s death and sensationalise it for their target audience.
This brings us to the next question: how far did Nabeel’s successes really go?
We find it odd that at the time of writing this article, no Christian had openly questioned the so-called “achievements” of Nabeel Qureshi in his attempts to bring Muslims to the worship of Christ; more so its effectiveness. Where are those so-called “hundreds of Muslims” that were inspired by Nabeel’s message and converted? What are their names and which part of Nabeel’s message reached them to the point that they feel compelled to convert to Christianity?
There has been no such data produced and we believe that there will be no such data any time soon, simply because it does not exist. Nabeel Qureshi’s tired polemics on the issue of Allah (God), the personality of the Prophet Muhammad(P), the concept of jihad and anything else apart from this will not change the minds of Muslims to consider Christianity as a valid option.
The Christian scholar and thinker Hans Kung said as follows regarding Muhammad:
Whatever we Christians do with this fact, we must affirm that he acted as a prophet and that he was a prophet. I do not see how we can avoid the conclusion that on their way of salvation, Muslims follow a prophet who is decisive for them.8
Certainly, the credentials of Hans Kung is much more impeccable than the highly polemical and disputed authority that Nabeel Qureshi represents!
Generally speaking, however, there was no polemical inquiry from Nabeel Qureshi on Islam that has not already been analysed, debated, answered and refuted already by the many Muslim apologists and the online Islamic da’wah movement in general. Indeed, the general opinion among Muslims regarding the Prophet(P) is one of being merciful, the total opposite of what Nabeel Qureshi represents:
When Muhammad came into a position of political power after decades of persecution, his first act was to forgive those who had persecuted him. His heart of mercy is also illustrated by this hadith: “A dying child was once brought to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). When, on seeing the child’s last breaths, the Prophet began to shed tears, one of his companions asked why he was crying. He replied: ‘It is a mercy that God has put in the hearts of God’s servants, and God is merciful only to those of God’s servants who are merciful to others’”. I hope that, in the midst of public debate between Muslims and non-Muslims, we all can be merciful to one another.9
Outside of the World Wide Web, Nabeel Qureshi was (and still is) an unknown entity to the Muslim world and never had any real influential presence. Elijah Reynolds in an online piece co-written with a Christian graduate student criticized Nabeel Qureshi by stating:
For Qureshi, the Qur’an is a bloody and violent text—a fact which learned interpreters of Islam today ignore, he implies, but somehow the unlearned Jihadists get right. Qureshi claims that as a young man, he was shielded from reading Qur’an and hadith on his own, and instead was taught a message of Islamic peace and love. This reading was subsequently shattered by his own independent investigation of the texts, bypassing centuries of the tradition and scholarly interpretations.
Qureshi claims to speak more authoritatively on Islam than the imams whose interpretation he explicitly ignores. He remembers as a child, “if I wanted to know about the traditions of Muhammad, I had to ask imams or elders in my tradition of Islam.” It was not until he bypassed “centuries of tradition and their imams’ interpretations” that he discovered real Islam—apparently on the internet, where young potential ISIS recruits easily find real Islam too.
Qureshi’s rejection of the learned scholars of his community in favor of the internet….is comparable to an atheist learning everything she knows about Christianity from Richard Dawkins.10
The vast and copious material that he had produced from the time of his conversion to Christianity until a week before his death are mostly rehashes of Orientalists and Christian polemicists in the likes of Alphonse Mingana, Samuel Zwemer, Robert Spencer, David Wood and many others. There was nothing new or anything worth mentioning that he had introduced in his debates with the Muslims, apart from him consistently attempting to create a “dichotomy” between “Allah and Jesus” (as made apparent in his book titles and online speeches). Even that “honour” too has been taken away by the Christian missionaries Robert Morey and Sam Shamoun, the former being known for his “Allah is a moon-god” theory and the latter for his virulent, Islamophobic strawman against the conception of God in Islam. The image that was carefully planned and crafted of him having “questioned his Muslim faith”11 and “being called off the minaret”12 however, has made it a prominent feature among a gullible Western audience primed with Islamophobia and always willing to parade someone from “the enemy” as one of their own.
In spite of the meagre achievements of Nabeel Qureshi in the Muslim world, this had not stopped the Western Christian public — deluded by the mythical influence of their fallen hero — to donate money to his cause, even in death. Nabeel’s GoFundMe page reached up to USD700,000.00 after the news of his death was known to the public sphere, and the monthly amount he receives from Patreon had not wavered either. His widow, Michelle Qureshi, fully exploited the death of her late husband by announcing publicly that she will continue his “ministry”.13 It seems obvious to us that those managing the crowdfunding pages (most especially his widow!) of their fallen comrade are making a huge profit out of this sensationalism for personal gain.
Why God Did Not Heal Nabeel Qureshi?
This was the question posed by the Christian polemicists, guised in the form of an op-ed by Frank Turek and another in a blog post. This must have been the question that had been playing in their minds when Nabeel Qureshi first announced that he had Stage IV cancer on August 31, 2016.
We find the statement made by Frank Turek in reference to Muslims extremely polemical and totally below the belt, as he wrote that:
Is it because the Muslim God is the true God, and He punished Nabeel for leaving Him? No, there’s excellent evidence for the Christian view of God (see Nabeel’s book No God but One). Moreover, Muslims who suggest this should be asked, “Why did your God wait until Nabeel had written three best-selling books, made hundreds of hours of videos, and helped bring hundreds of Muslims to Christ? Is his timing off?” Not only that, Nabeel’s work will continue to bring people to Christ, probably in an accelerated manner after his passing.
We would like to address several things for this missionary to digest. First of all, Mr Turek, there has never been a “Muslim God” or a “Christian God” or any other god that the Muslims worship which is distinct from the God of Abraham, Moses and Jesus, peace be upon them all. It is very insulting to even suggest that the God of Islam is distinct from the God of Christianity because, in reality, they are not distinct — Muslims and Christians do worship the same God.
Regarding the second part of Turek’s rhetorical question, one may not have to look far to see why this may be the case. It has been reported by several Christian news portals that Nabeel himself “prayed for God to kill him after converting to Christianity”14.
This may or may not have been true as we would like to keep an open mind on this, but we leave the interested reader to follow the trail and check out the evidence for themselves as to whether God may have indeed “killed” Nabeel Qureshi because He did answer what Nabeel had prayed for…and it has nothing to do with the Muslims.
Based on what we have discussed on Nabeel Qureshi, the history behind it and his polemical exploits, we can thus form our conclusions about him from a Muslim perspective as follows.
Never Was A Muslim
Nabeel Qureshi was a Qadiani, or otherwise known as the Ahmadiyya, a deviant sect that only began in the late 19th century. The Qadianis have been consistently denounced by mainstream Islam as heterodox for their belief that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a Prophet and the promised Messiah.
Hence, it is correct to say that Nabeel Qureshi was never a Muslim to begin with. This is akin to stating that a former Mormon who reverted to Islam was a “Christian”, even though Mormonism is rejected by mainstream Christianity because Mormons believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet.
The parallels between Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and Joseph Smith are so similar to one another that we wonder how was it possible for Western Christians to fall for this con.
“Former Muslim” Title
It is interesting to note that Nabeel Qureshi never once addressed the issue of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad while talking about his past — whether in his books, his online courses or in his speeches — because he knew very well that to do so will lend little credence to his claims of being a “former Muslim” and totally remove any vestige of his credibility. He unabashedly capitalised on that label to the point of making a huge fortune from his various evangelical ventures, with the full backing of the Christian establishment.
He did attempt to wiggle his way out of this issue by insisting that the Qadianis are Muslims while glossing over the status of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in Qadiani theology.
It is worth mentioning that this was the same tactic employed by a Christian polemicist and Islamophobe extraordinaire by the name of Ergun Caner — a self-professed “former devout ex-Muslim” who never did practice any of the basic tenets of Islam during his early life and was in fact weaned into Christianity even before the age of puberty.
Ergun Caner exploited his shenanigans to the hilt as a money-making enterprise until he was exposed as a fraud by Mohammad Khan, a British Muslim, for passing off gibberish as Arabic phrases and Qur’anic verses.
Manipulated By Others
In turn, the Christian missionaries themselves have used Nabeel Qureshi as a hammer against the Muslims — and as their ideological weapon — to promote an agenda of extinguishing Islam15, which still remains the fastest-growing religion in the world.
Sadly, even Michelle Qureshi — instead of taking the time off to mourn for the loss of her late husband — decided to jump on the polemical bandwagon by taking up the mantle of bashing Islam.
While we reserve our judgement on the final fate of Nabeel Qureshi who had clearly erred in the sight of Islam (as we do believe matters of his affairs have now come between him and God Almighty), we do find that the Christian missionary attempts at the hero-worship of Nabeel Qureshi in death and (mis)using it — to the point of making thinly-veiled attacks on Islam and the Muslims — shameful and disgusting, to say the least.
In the end, Muslims are reminded of the words of God Almighty in the Final Testament, the Qur’an, which says:
And they say, “None will enter Paradise except one who is a Jew or a Christian.” That is [merely] their wishful thinking, Say, “Produce your proof, if you should be truthful.” (Qur’an 2:111)
And verily, only God knows best!
Appendix: You Cannot See God And Live
In a debate event entitled What is God Really Like: Tawhid or Trinity? that the late Nabeel Qureshi had with Dr Shabir Ally, a person asked in the Q&A Session how he would reconcile the apparent contradiction between saying that Abraham actually laid eyes on God and yet Exodus 33:20 has God telling Moses that seeing His face is an impossibility as seeing Him would cause the human being to die. In answering this question, Nabeel argued that it was Jesus that Abraham saw and not the Father. It is the Father, according to Nabeel and many other Christian apologists, that human being cannot lay eyes on and live, but if it was the Son, that is, Jesus then it would be totally all right for the human eyes to see.
Firstly, the verse in Exodus 33:20 does not categorise God into the Father and the Son and thereby argue, as Nabeel did, that only the Son can be seen but not the Father. The plain text simply shows God as One Being and One person explicitly declaring that nobody can see Him and live. Secondly, If indeed it was God that Abraham saw and his life was preserved despite Exodus 33:20 because — as Nabeel and co. reasoned — it was Jesus, but if it had been the Father then he would have been utterly destroyed, then the necessary implication of that claim is that the Father and Jesus are not co-equal as the Trinitarians claim. If they were, in fact, equal in power and glory, then seeing both would result in the same catastrophic end, i.e., death. But apparently, the Father has a far greater glory than the Son, that seeing Him and not the Son would have the viewer forfeit his life.
In conclusion, in an attempt to reconcile Genesis 18 with Exodus 33:20, Nabeel Qureshi inadvertently refutes the Trinity as he glorifies the Father and makes the Son inferior.17
- CBN News, Nabeel Qureshi’s Plea: ‘Please Pray For Me! Please Pray That God Will Heal My Whole Body’, 22 August 2017 [⤺]
- An example of this can be seen in: Faith It, The Most Painful Day of His Life? When His Parents Found Out He Gave Up Islam for Jesus…But It Was Worth It, March 12, 2014 [⤺]
- His books are entitled: “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?: A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity” (2016) [⤺]
- WorldNetDaily, “Ex-Muslim, author, evangelist Nabeel Qureshi dead at 34”, 20 September 2017 [⤺]
- See for example PJ Media, “Nabeel Qureshi Shows Christians How to Die Well, With a Message of Love and Trust in Jesus Christ”, 16 September 2017 [⤺]
- Todd Friel, a Christian TV host, questions whether dreams are a valid reason for Muslims converting to Christianity and gave Biblical evidence against this in Wretched, Episode 2025: “Is God converting Muslims through dreams?” [⤺]
- Seth Dunn, “Resetting the Evangelical Mindset on Nabeel Qureshi” in Pulpit & Pen, 4 July 2016 [⤺]
- See our article: Hans Küng On “Is Muhammad A Prophet”? [⤺]
- Jonathan E. Brockopp (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Muhammad, Cambridge University Press (2010), pp. 280-281 [⤺]
- Jonathan Homrighausen and Elijah Reynolds, “Looking For Islam In All The Wrong Places: A Response to Nabeel Qureshi” in Religion Dispatches, USC (April 20, 2016) [⤺]
- CBN (700 Club), “Why Nabeel Qureshi Questioned His Muslim Faith”, undated [⤺]
- Christianity Today, “Christ Called Me Off the Minaret”, 8 January 2014. It is interesting to note that he made no mention that his family were from the Ahmadiyya, and portrayed his family background as being mainstream Islam. [⤺]
- As indicated on the mentioned Patreon page: “Hello everyone! This site is run by Michelle Qureshi, widow of the late evangelist Nabeel Qureshi. Nabeel’s life was about compelling people’s hearts and minds to the Gospel. He usually focused on the foundations of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, as well as dabbling in science and religion…Michelle is committed to ensuring the continuation of Nabeel’s ministry. For the time being, this includes using the numerous archives of his video resources, while also sharing personal vlogs about her own journey following the loss of her husband.” One may also wonder why is there any need to continue the GoFundMe page too, when its initial creation was intended for Nabeel Qureshi’s treatment? [⤺]
- Reported in The Christian Post, “Former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi Prayed for God to Kill Him After Converting to Christianity”, July 19 2016; Christian Today, “Apologist and former Muslim Nabeel Querishi reveals he asked God to kill him after his conversion”, 23 July 2016; Faith It, “Muslim Begs God to Kill Him After Becoming a Christian—After 3 Dreams, His Bible Opens to This…”, 19 July 2016 and The Christian Times, “Former Muslim confesses he wanted to die after converting to Christianity”, 22 July 2016 [⤺]
- We are reminded of the following verse: “They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light, although the disbelievers dislike it.” (Qur’an 61:8) [⤺]
- Google Trends graph for the search term “nabeel qureshi”. Note how his name only peaked around the time of his death in September 2017 [⤺]
- By Ibn Anwar of Unveling Christianity [⤺]