Remembering My Friend Nabeel Qureshi

Nabeel Qureshi, the subject of a 2015 Bible Study Magazine cover story, died of stomach cancer on Saturday. Guest author Dr. Michael Licona offers this remembrance. 

About 20 years ago, my wife Debbie and I started a small group comprised of a few Christian students at Old Dominion University (ODU) and an English professor there who were interested in becoming more knowledgeable in Christian apologetics. We ended up meeting at our home twice a month. One of those students was David Wood, a former atheist who had been imprisoned for trying to murder his dad. While in prison, David had a radical conversion to Christianity and became a model inmate. After being released, he actually led his dad to Christ, after he had seen David’s radical transformation.

While attending ODU, David had become best friends with a Muslim student. Both were brilliant, had charismatic personalities, and served on the university’s debate team. David asked if he could bring his Muslim friend to our new group. I said that would change the dynamic and, to an extent, the objective of the group. I asked the others what they thought and they agreed to include him. So, David’s friend began coming on a regular basis. That friend was Nabeel Qureshi.

Honest yet challenging dialogue

Our group accepted Nabeel and loved him. We ended up including a few more non-Christians in the group and loved them as well. It was a wonderful group where anyone was welcome to present their religious (or non-religious) view and try to convince the others to accept it. But they could also expect spirited pushback from the other group members. After all, this was not a group for the weak-minded. Each of us came to be intellectually stimulated and challenged in matters of the utmost importance. Everyone participated. Notwithstanding the spirited discussions that often involved strong disagreement, everyone knew they were loved and respected by the others. For example, we knew Nabeel wanted us to become Muslims because, at the time, he believed Islam was true and that it would be for our benefit to become Muslims. Conversely, Nabeel knew we wanted him to become a Christian because we believed Christianity was true and it would benefit him to become a Christian.

Nabeel gave the matter serious thought. He attended my first debate with leading Muslim debater Shabir Ally in 2004. After the debate, Nabeel and I left the auditorium together and were walking toward the parking lot when he said, “I’m still confused. I think Islam and Christianity both have evidence favoring them. I think you handily defeated Shabir this evening and that the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is really good. But the only thing I think Christianity has over Islam is Jesus’ resurrection.” I smiled in surprise and said, “The ONLY thing is Jesus’ resurrection? Nabeel, if Jesus rose from the dead, game over and Christianity wins.” He agreed.

David and I continually challenged Nabeel, playing the roles of “good cop, bad cop.” (I’ll bet you can guess who played which role!) I provided positive evidence for Jesus while David dove into research about Islam and was relentless with Nabeel: “How can you know and admit ABCDEFG about Muhammad and Islam and remain a Muslim?” Many times, Nabeel was without an answer. And this drove him to speak with Muslim authorities in the U.S., Canada, and the UK, even traveling outside the U.S. to meet with them.

Although Nabeel wanted to remain a Muslim, he was more interested in following truth. So, when the answers provided by the Muslim leaders did not satisfy, Nabeel prayed and God answered with three dreams. In one of those dreams, Nabeel was in heaven but a gate prevented him from entering. On the other side of the gate a magnificent banquet was in progress. Attendees were having a wonderful time and David was among them. Nabeel desired to enter and join in the festivities but was prevented. He later asked David how he would interpret the dream. David answered that the meaning is clear: Nabeel was seeing the wedding banquet of the Lamb and was prohibited from entering because he had rejected Jesus’ invitation (Rev 19:9).

A slow, dramatic conversion

Nabeel continued to pray, seek God, and assess the evidence. It was a journey that took him several years. At the end, he realized his eternal destiny was at stake and was compelled to go where the evidence pointed. While knowing it would devastate his family whom he loved with all of his heart, he renounced Islam, became a committed follower of Jesus, and was baptized by David in the presence of his pastor and others (Matthew 10:37-39).

Over the years that followed, I spoke with Nabeel many times on the phone. At one point, he surprised me by telling me he believed he was the first and only Muslim in the history of that religion to leave Islam. He had been taught that no Muslim had ever left that faith. I informed him that countless Muslims had left Islam and that I could immediately let him speak with one of them. Within five minutes, he was having a conversation with former Muslim Abdu Murray, an attorney living in Detroit who had left Islam years before after investigating the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and had become a follower of Jesus. Nabeel and Abdu would become good friends.

From devout Muslim to Christian apologist

Nabeel was not credulous. He wrestled with a number of issues typically raised against Christianity by Muslims and was not satisfied with the answers some Christians were offering him. We would speak of these issues candidly and he would engage in focused research to find answers. Although he was asked to speak on Islam a lot, his love was for the New Testament. After completing medical school, he completed master’s degrees at Biola, Duke, and Oxford. He was about to begin his DPhil program at Oxford when he began having discomfort that led to the diagnosis of stage four stomach cancer.

As many of you know, Nabeel became a bold and powerful witness for Jesus, devoting himself to knowing and serving him. He became known all over the world, and was a towering figure and bestselling author. On Saturday, my dear friend and brother met his Lord and Savior at the age of 34 after battling with cancer for a little over a year. I will miss you, my brother. But I will see you again. The day of the wedding banquet of the Lamb is coming and you will be there and we will rejoice and dine together! Hallelujah!

Dr. Mike Licona is associate professor of theology at Houston Baptist University. He holds a PhD in New Testament Studies from the University of Pretoria, which he earned with distinction and the highest mark. He is the professor of the Mobile Ed courses Objections to the Gospels and Philosophy of History.

 

Comments

  1. I am sorry the world lost Nabeel; I am overjoyed that he is with the Lord everlasting!
    Nabeel was and is an inspiration to me as I pray for and witness to my own Muslim friend. His story is a very compelling story and I don’t know how any Muslin would not at least think twice before rejecting Jesus as savior.

  2. Thank you for the wondering article, Dr. Licona. It’s certainly an odd feeling, to be in tears over the passing of Nabeel when I’ve never actually met him. I have, however, followed his VLOGs and read his books, and he has had my utmost respect for his sincerity and character and willingness to trust and serve the Lord, even under circumstances such as his. I will truly miss him and look forward to meeting him soon. What a legacy that he has left.

    • I feel the same way. I am not an emotional person but this has really hit me. I am thankful for his conversion and I will try to diligently pray for his wife and child and for his parents and sister.

  3. Jeff Marshall says:

    After living in Muslim Countries I can respect the choice Dr. Nabeel Qureshi made to follow Christ Jesus and He was a great example to us all. he will be missed.

  4. Steven Long says:

    Hi Mike,
    I met Nabeel once in 208 at the Easter debates he, David Wood, and James White did at ODU. He truly was a man that the Lord used greatly.

    Thanks for this memoriam. BTW, I grew up in that area. I had no idea that you lived there at one time :)

  5. Chandramani says:

    Waiting to see you at the banquet dear brother Nabeel.

  6. Though I could not meet you in person here Bro. Nabeel, I would surely meet you in the presence of our Lord in His kingdom. What a glorious day it will be!

  7. Nisa Crutchfield says:

    Weeping as I write this! Never got to meet Nabeel even though he visited HK–my home for 42 years! I watched his vlogs, read his 1st book, and unashamedly promoted him and his ministry to everyone I knew. I came to love this dear brother for his passion for God, his deep love for Jesus. I prayed every.single.day for his healing and now will continue to pray for his parents and sister that they too will experience the joy of becoming children of God. I have already sent $ to his fund.

  8. I truly loved Nabeel. He was a true servent of Jesus Christ. Until we meet again brother in glory. May the Lord comfort his family.

  9. William Wright says:

    I met Nabeel in a class lecture on the Quran vs the Bible at Biola University in Los Angles in 2009. He had a huge impact on my ministry and me personally. His genuine love for Christ showing through his eyes helped me realize the true richness of salvation I had become accustom to. From his Dearborn missions to his Houston landing, I loved following him and praying for his ministry. I’ve watched his battle from stomach cancer and am both saddened by the lose and relieved he is no longer in pain. You have flown to Jesus, dance with Jesus at the marriage my friend; Dance with Jesus!

  10. Richard Smith says:

    Rest in Peace my Brother!

  11. Godly man. Brother Nabeel will be deeply missed. Will see him in heaven someday!

  12. What a great loss of a profound individual for those of us still here. I know Nabeel rests with the Lord as is his great reward. For anyone unfamiliar with his journey, he exemplified the ultimate goal of the Great Commission on a personal level in that he found through his willingness to subject his Muslim faith to the truth of the Gospel and the leading of the Holy Spirit, our Lord and SaviorJesus Christ. His works are not only a resource for those who search for truth but offer a wealth of fresh perspective on Christian faith in a beautiful and moving personal account. I pray that God will dispatch his angels to watch over his family, to comfort and protect them, in Jesus name, Amen.

  13. Like so many of these comments,I too shed a tear when I heard Nabeel had died and gone to be with his Saviour.,and I will like others continue to pray for Michelle,his daughter and his mum ,dad, and sister.
    What a wonderful reunion it would be if mum dad and sister all came to faith in Jesus!

  14. Ben Terpstra says:

    Thank you so much for sharing His testimony. This reminds me a lot of what happened to Lee Strobel. I have shared this with many of our teens!

  15. Dr. Mike Licona and David Wood… I salute both of you for not dismissing Nabeel’s search for truth. I deeply appreciate you taking him along and introducing him to the Living Savior. Your crown must be a sight to behold and I cant wait to see it on the day if is put on your head. May God continue to bless you and all that you hold dear!

  16. I never had the privilege of meeting Mr. Qureshi but his videos, testimony and, interestingly enough, the deep friendship he shared with Dr. David Wood made it very clear he was completely devoted to his Lord. Please accept my heartfelt condolences at the passing of your friend and our beloved brother in Christ. May the Lord comfort you, his family and friends in this time of sadness and separation and may his memory be for a blessing to all who knew him as well as those who find him through the testimony he left.

  17. Carol Jeffries says:

    Nabeel has had a profound impact on my life even though I only knew him through his books and vlogs. I am so sad that he died at such a young age but happy that he is now with his Lord and Savior, whom he served with so much passion and dedication. My prayers are now for his family whom he loved so much.