A Slice of Infinity

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Excerpts taken from Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi. Copyright © 2014 by Nabeel Qureshi. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Click for additional information or promotional offer.

 

Fading footsteps echoed through the halls of the mosque as the humid summer evening drew to a close. The other worshipers were heading back to their homes and families for the night, but my thoughts were still racing. Every fiber of my being wrestled with itself. With my forehead pressed into the ground and heart pounding in my chest, my mind scrutinized each word my lips whispered into the musty carpet.

 

These were not new words. I had been taught to recite this Arabic phrase 132 times, every single day, from a time before I even knew my name. It was the sajda, the portion of the ritual prayers in which Muslims lower themselves before Allah, glorifying His loftiness. The words had always flowed with ease, but this day was different. As my lips exercised their rote rituals, my mind questioned everything I thought I knew about God.

 

                        Subhana Rabbi al-ala.

Glorified is my Lord, the Highest.

 

“Glorified is my Lord… Who is my Lord? Who are You, Lord? Are You Allah, the God of my father and forefathers? Are You the God I have always worshiped? The God my family has always worshiped? Surely You are the one who sent Muhammad (SAW)(1) as the final messenger for mankind and the Quran as our guide? You are Allah, the God of Islam, aren’t You? Or are You…” I hesitated, fighting the blasphemy I was about to propose. But what if the blasphemy was the truth?

“Or are You Jesus?”

 

My heart froze, as if indignant at my mind for risking hell. “Allah, I would never say that a man became equal to You. Please forgive me and have mercy on me if that’s what I said, because that’s not what I mean. No man is equal to You. You are infinitely greater than all of creation. Everything bows down before You, Allah subhanahu wata ‘ala.(2)

 

“No, what I mean to say is that You, O Allah, are all powerful. Surely You can enter into creation if You choose. Did You enter into this world? Did You become a man? And was that man Jesus?

 

“O Allah, the Bible couldn’t be right, could it?”

 

As if on parallel timelines, my lips continued to pray in sajda while my mind relentlessly fought with itself. The Arabic phrase was to be recited twice more before the sajda would be complete.

                        Subhana Rabbi al-ala.

Glorified is my Lord, the Highest.

 

“But how is it conceivable that Allah, the highest being of all, would enter into this world? This world is filthy and sinful, no place for the One who deserves all glory and all praise. And how could I even begin to suggest that God, the magnificent and splendid Creator, would enter into this world through the birth canal of a girl? Audhu billah,(3) that’s disgusting! To have to eat, to grow fatigued, and to sweat and spill blood, and to be finally nailed to a cross. I cannot believe this. God deserves infinitely more. His majesty is far greater than this.

 

“But what if His majesty is not as important to Him as His children are?”

                        Subhana Rabbi al-ala.

Glorified is my Lord, the Highest.

 

“Of course we are important to Him, but Allah does not need to die in order to forgive us. Allah is all powerful, and He can easily forgive us if He chooses. He is al-Ghaffar and ar-Rahim!(4) His forgiveness flows from His very being. What does coming into this world to die on a cross have to do with my sins? It doesn’t even make sense for Allah to die on the cross. If He died, who was ruling the universe? Subhanallah,(5) He cannot die! That is part of His glory. There is no need for these charades. He can simply forgive from His throne.

 

Rising from the ground and sitting on my heels, I recited the takbir.

                        Allah-hu-akbar.

God is great.

 

“God, I know that You are great in reality, but some of what the Holy Quran teaches is far from great. I am having a very difficult time understanding it, Allah… Please, Allah, may all this doubt not anger You. I must have misunderstood something, but there’s no way You, being good and loving, would have given some of the commands found in the Quran. I have found so much violence and contempt in its pages, the pages of a book I have read and loved every day because it is Your word…

 

“Who are You?”

At-tahiyyatu lillahi, was-salawatu wat-tayyibatu. As salamu ‘alayka ayyuha n-nabiyyu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. As salamu ‘alayna wa-’ala ‘ibadi llahi salihin.

 

All compliments, prayers, and good things are due to Allah. Allah’s peace be upon you, O Prophet, and His mercy and blessings. Peace be on us and on all righteous servants of Allah.

 

“I praise You, Allah. All homage is certainly due to You. But there is so much I do not understand…

 

Following the traditions of the Prophet and the guidance of my parents, I pointed my forefinger skyward while reciting the proclamation:

 

Ashhadu alla ilaha illa llahu wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa-rasuluh.

 

I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.

 

“O Allah, have mercy on me. How can I bear witness that Muhammad (SAW) is Your messenger? It used to be so easy! Ammi taught me to love Muhammad (SAW) because he was the greatest man who ever lived, and there was no close second. She taught me that his generosity was abundant, his mercy was incomparable, and his love for mankind was beyond measure. I was taught that he would never wage war unless he was defending the ummah,(6) and that he fought to elevate the status of women and the downtrodden. He was the perfect military leader; he was the ultimate statesman; and he was the exemplary follower of Allah. He was al-Insan al-Kamil, the perfect man. He was Rahmatu-lil alameen, God’s mercy personified for all the world. It was easy to bear witness that such a man is Rasul Allah, the messenger of God.

 

“But now I know the truth about him, and there’s too much to sweep under the rug. I know about his first revelation, his raids on caravans, his child bride, his marriage to Zainab, the black magic cast upon him, his poisoning, his assassinations, his tortures, and…”

 

My thoughts slowed as they arrived at the one issue that I simply could not overlook. “And how could Muhammad (SAW), my beloved Prophet, have allowed … that?”

 

Awash in empathy, my mind drifted from the prayers. I was still grappling with what I had come across while investigating the Quran…

 

My eyes shot open as I snapped back to reality. I was still in the mosque, still praying the salaat. My overwhelming revulsion toward Muhammad suddenly met with immediate contrition. I had been impudent before Allah. Muhammad was still my Prophet. I still swore allegiance to him. I had gone too far.

 

How could I continue like this? Astaghfirullah.(7)

 

Quickly, I finished the rest of the ritual prayers, ending by turning my head to the right and the left: Assalaamo alaikum wa rahmutallah.

 

The peace and mercy of Allah be upon you.

 

After a pause, I let my face fall into my hands. Tears blurred my sight. The ritual prayers had ended, and now it was time for my heart’s prayer.

 

“God, I want Your peace. Please have mercy on me and give me the peace of knowing You. I don’t know who You are anymore, but I know that You are all that matters. You created this world; You give it meaning; and either You define its purpose or it has none.

 

“Please, God Almighty, tell me who You are! I beseech You and only You. Only You can rescue me. At Your feet, I lay down everything I have learned, and I give my entire life to You. Take away what You will, be it my joy, my friends, my family, or even my life. But let me have You, O God. Light the path that I must walk. I don’t care how many hurdles are in the way, how many pits I must jump over or climb out of, or how many thorns I must step through. Guide me on the right path. If it is Islam, show me how it is true! If it is Christianity, give me eyes to see! Just show me which path is Yours, dear God, so I can walk it.”

 

Although I did not know it, that peace and mercy of God which I desperately asked for would soon fall upon me. God was about to give me supernatural guidance through dreams and visions, forever changing my heart and the course of my life.

 

 

Nabeel Qureshi is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

 

Twitter: @NAQureshi

 

(1) This symbol represents the Arabic phrase sall Alaahu ‘alay-hi wa-sallam, which means “peace and blessings of Allah be upon him,” a standard Muslim formula after mentioning the name of Muhammad.
(2) This formula, subhanahu wata ‘ala, is often repeated after the name of Allah, meaning “glorified and exalted.”
(3) A common Muslim formula meaning “I seek refuge in Allah,” this phrase is verbalized after something dishonorable, blasphemous, or otherwise negative is stated or suggested.
(4) In mainstream Islam, it is commonly understood that Allah has ninety-nine names. These are two, translated as “the forgiver” and “the merciful” respectively.
(5) A very common formula meaning “glory be to Allah,” this phrase is often exclaimed whenever good news is heard or something positive is stated.
(6) An Arabic term meaning “community,” referring to all Muslims.
(7) A common formula of repentance meaning “I seek forgiveness from Allah.”

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