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Q&A With Nabeel Qureshi

Nabeel Qureshi is the New York Times bestselling author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. He holds a D.Phil from Oxford University and has been featured in countless media outlets, including Fox News, Christianity Today, and USA Today. Qureshi has studied with some of the foremost scholars in religion in the halls of Oxford and Duke University. He saw the need for an accessible yet intelligent book comparing the world's two largest religions--Islam and Christianity--and now he has developed a resource to meet that need. His newest book is No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Zondervan) examines the fundamental similarities and critical differences between these two world religions. This is Part One of a two-part interview.

Why did you write No God but One: Allah or Jesus?

Every year, millions are faced with this dilemma: to follow Islam or Christianity, to worship Allah or Jesus. Unless the seeker lives in a nominal or secular environment, the stakes are high: It can cost a seeker his or her family, friends, job, and potentially his or her life. For such seekers, it’s not simply a matter of believing whatever seems right. They need to be sure, and they need to be sure it’s worth the sacrifice.

For me, it’s been a decade since I made the decision to leave Islam, and the fallout of my decision haunts me every day. I knew it would, well before I ever converted, but I also knew that I was sure. I was sure that Islam and Christianity are not just two paths that lead to the same God, but two very different paths that lead very different ways. I was sure that I had excellent historical reasons to believe the gospel. I was sure that, though I loved Islam, I couldn’t ignore the problems that plagued its foundations.

But most of all, I was sure that following the one true God would be worth all trials and all suffering. I had to follow the evidence and the truth, no matter the cost.

I left my religion of twenty-two years and became a follower of Jesus in 2005. In 2009, after graduating from medical school, I decided to leave medicine in order to share what I had learned about the gospel, the message of Christianity. I sincerely believe that this message has the power to transform hearts and change the world. The God it proclaims is unlike any other, and it is an unfathomable honor that we get to be a part of His story and introduce people to Him.

As I speak around the world, I often come across two kinds of people: Christians who enjoy criticizing Islam, and Muslims who want to argue but do not want to learn. I am not writing this book for either of them. I am writing for people who—like I did—need the answers to three main questions: 1) What are the differences between Islam and Christianity? 2) Can we be confident that Christianity or Islam is true? 3) Is it worth sacrificing everything for the truth? It took me four years to answer these questions, and they remain so important to me that I’ve studied them for another decade beyond.

Are Christianity and Islam basically the same religion?

When I hear people say that Islam and Christianity are basically the same, I have to try to restrain my incredulous response. Are Islam and Christianity the same? My parents certainly don’t think so, nor do any of the dozens of friends I lost when I renounced Islam and became a Christian. This cliché is a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of converts who have left Islam for Christianity and vice versa.

Not only are these religions different, but the differences have far greater ramifications than I realized when I converted. I knew that the historical doctrines of the two religions were different, but doctrines do not exist in a vacuum. They work together to impact the way we see the world, which in turn changes who we are.

How do the differences between Allah and Jesus color one’s worldview?

Both Muslims and Christians believe that there is no God but one, but is He Allah or is He Jesus? I can tell you from personal experience and in all sincerity: How we answer this question has the power to change who we are.

What we think God is like has a tremendous impact on how we see the world He created. Why did God create humans: to share intimacy with them or to test them? What does He think about people: are they His servants or His children? How does He want us to live: focusing on love or focusing on law? What does He tell us about the afterlife: to anxiously anticipate unknown judgment or to have joyful faith in His grace? The Islamic view of God and the Christian view lend themselves to different answers, and how we answer these questions changes how we see ourselves, other people, and the world around us.

Are there some similarities between Islam and Christianity?

There’s really no question that Islam and Christianity are close to one another on the broader religious spectrum. They are both monotheistic, the largest two faith communities in the world, and they share many similarities. Each teaches the doctrine of an eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing God who is sovereign over the universe. It is God who created mankind out of one man and one woman, yet mankind turns away from Him. Each teaches that one day there will be a resurrection and final judgment. Before then, it is of paramount importance for us to seek God and follow Him.

But the similarities between Islam and Christianity run even deeper, beyond the trappings of monotheism: Both lay claim to Abrahamic lineage; both teach that God has sent messengers, human and angelic, to steer people back to Him; both teach that God has inspired divine scriptures to guide man; both teach that Satan is a deceiver that misleads the unwary; and both teach that believers ought to sacrificially care for each other and proclaim the truth to nonbelievers.

Perhaps the most surprising shared feature is reverence for Jesus. Both Islam and Christianity teach that Jesus was born of a virgin, and that He was the most miraculous man who ever lived. Both the Bible and the Quran teach that Jesus cleansed lepers, healed the blind, and even raised the dead. Indeed, both books teach that Jesus is the Messiah, and Muslims await His return, as do Christians.

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