I remember the moment when I found out that Nabeel Qureshi had been diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer. My heart sank. Why? Here was a vibrant and intellectually gifted young apologist with an extraordinary testimony of seeking the truth about Christianity as a young Muslim and eventually coming to faith in Christ as a result – as told in his best-selling book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (Zondervan). As well as his promising future as an evangelist, he also had a wife, Michelle, and a young child, Ayah.
Yet there was still hope, and thousands were mobilised to pray for him. In the ensuing year Nabeel kept a video diary of his battle with cancer. In the latter months this came from a hospital bed where he told of the excruciating ordeal that led to having his stomach removed. Eventually he told us that there were no longer any medical options left.
His death in September was met with great sadness by those near and far who had prayed for his healing. But there was also much thanksgiving for the legacy he leaves and the knowledge that he will now rest in peace and rise in glory one day to enjoy the new creation with the one he came to know as Lord.
Nabeel may not have been granted a physical miracle during his life, but his conversion story will stand as a spiritual miracle for years to come.
Nabeel grew up a devout Ahmadiyya Muslim, but was converted to Christianity through his friendship with college room-mate David Wood. The process involved many intellectual questions, debates and arguments. It was a series of dreams that finally brought him to the point of kneeling before Jesus, not as one in a line of Islamic prophets, but as his own Lord and saviour.
As an evangelist Nabeel spoke to thousands of Christians, Muslims and sceptics and saw many come to faith. In person he was robust in his exchanges but gracious in his demeanour. He was endlessly patient with his critics, who were vociferous, especially within parts of the Muslim community. Moreover, he genuinely cared about those he debated with – his life was as prayerful as it was intellectual.
Nabeel was a guest on my Unbelievable? radio discussion show several times. Apologetic debate, especially when entered into with Islamic counterparts, can be a confrontational affair. But Nabeel walked a wise line, never seeing others as opponents to be defeated but as people to be loved. His final video message, titled ‘Love and Peace are our Motivation’ made sure nobody would misconstrue his motives. He hoped his life would be remembered not so much for his intellectual journey, but for the love and compassion he tried to embody.
I will remember him for his personal courage and commitment to share the gospel. In his twelve years as a Christian, Nabeel touched more lives for Christ than many apologists and evangelists may hope to do in a lifetime. How desperately the world needs more witnesses like Nabeel.