I will start of by saying this: it’s a must read, five stars. You will delve into the mind of a convert. It will help you remember your own story of the discovery the hope that we have in Christ Jesus. And if it doesn’t do that, then maybe, just maybe, it will be a glimpse into The Life you do not yet know.
The book itself has ten parts. To me it’s part apologetics, part autobiography and partly an insight into the Muslim worldview. Reading this book was both exhilarating and gave me a headache. I will start with the headache part first, since I know that sounds contradictory.
I’m white. I mean, I’m as white as white Americans get. I’m fair skinned, and was blonde as a kid. I swam on the swim team, I was in boy scouts and I was the emcee for most of my elementary school events. Both my parents were born and raised here, whose parents were born and raised here, and their parents were. My dad was a political philosophy professor and my mother was a high school English teacher. We went to church at an Episcopal Church (my mother’s father was an ordained deacon). We had the priest over for meals sometimes. As I would learn later, it wasn’t every house where politics and religion were frequently discussed around the dinner table. My parents were very conservative and many of their friends were. You can click on the “about” link if you really want to read more of my narcissistic babblings.
So, reading about Nabeel’s youth in a devout Muslim family was pretty jarring. Both his parents emigrated from Pakistan. They spoke Urdu in the house. Muslim tradition permeated every facet of their lives. My wife is Guatemalan and we lived there for a while and that was pretty eye opening for me. But prayer mats and Adhan (The Muslim call to prayer)? Prayer five times a day? Memorizing whole sections of the Qur’an and studying Hadith? And I thought my parents were strict, ha! No sleepovers and never any alcohol around. And did I mention the women wore burqas? There were times when I felt I was drinking from a fire hose!
Another aspect of his life that was hard to fathom was this concept of honor and shame. It’s not that I wasn’t familiar with the concepts: my high school had an “honor code” and my mother was not afraid to use a little shame to correct her wayward son. But that it would be ABOVE innocence and guilt was a mind bender. I grew up in a house where reason was supreme. Authority was important, but reason ruled. Thus, it was difficult to try to grasp the honor-shame paradigm of his culture compared to the Judeo-Christian concept of innocence and guilt I knew. But, understand it you must if you wish to understand the Muslim worldview.
But what an education. And quite different from the impression I was left with after reading a book called “The Religions Next Door” by Marvin Olasky. I had expected a much more rule based life, one filled with the minutiae of legalism. But his family life was warm and orderly and secure in its faith in Allah and his prophet Muhammad. And there really is a Religion of Peace that can be built from Islam, but it takes blinders. Which isn’t unusual for us as humans. How many ignore the Lord’s command to “not worry”? We conveniently forget that command when the cares of this world close in, not to mention the other commands we ignore when the culture around us pushes back.
What is most exhilarating is the unrelenting apologetics battle that rages in his life for years. Unlike most Americans (probably westerners in general), he knows exactly what he believes. He isn’t half steeped in materialism, Christianity-ism, and secular humanism. And, there are real risks to him calling on the name of Jesus. His family will consider him to have dishonored them and Islam. His grandparents were Muslim missionaries, making any “betrayal” all the more painful.
You know from the beginning that he will accept Jesus. But, that doesn’t diminish the ride. I found myself almost cheering for him, urging him on in his quest. At the same time, it seemed to validate my own struggles, of turning from Godless capitalism and pseudo Aristotelian thought to a GOD of mercy and Love and Grace and truth.
At the end of the book, he realizes the urgency of the message. This Gospel is one of hope for ALL people. Let us therefore Go and Make Disciples, teaching them to do all our Lord commanded.
Coincidentally it is on sale today as an eBook on RZIM’s Website
Soli Deo Gloria. Grace and Peace to you all!