It was an unlikely friendship. Nabeel was a devout Muslim; David a committed Christian.
Even though David knew nothing about Islam, he believed that Jesus is for everyone and boldly prayed that Nabeel would one day come to faith in Jesus.
In bestseller Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi tells the story of his dramatic journey from Islam to Christianity, and of the faithful witness of his university friend, David Wood.
Nabeel and David hit it off straight away. They met as undergraduates through their university public speaking and debate team in 2001. They studied together, ate together, did life together. They talked about their lectures and their families and their weekends. And they talked about their faith. To begin with, neither of them knew much about the religion of the other. But they learned quickly. Their debates were robust and sometimes heated. But their friendship was such that it could withstand even the stormiest of their disagreements. Nabeel wrote:
“…it didn’t matter how rough our relationship got, because we were living life together… A surface-level relationship might snap under the tension of disagreement, but by living our lives together, we were forced to reconcile. Of course, beyond mere proximity, we really did love and care for one another. Like true brothers, even after our biggest knock-down, drag-out arguments, we were still brothers.”
Of course, David knew it would take more than friendship and debating for Nabeel to become a Christian. It would take a miracle. So he kept praying.
Praying for the impossible
“God, please show Nabeel the truth!” David’s weeks of praying for his friend turned into months and years. Nabeel was resolute in his conviction that he would never — indeed could never — become a Christian. Moments of apparent breakthrough would be followed by weeks of unwavering resistance. Nabeel’s conversion seemed utterly inconceivable.
But something changed after one significant evening spent discussing the evidence for Jesus’ death on the cross. Nabeel later wrote:
“It was as if, rather suddenly, a veil of certainty was lifted, and I was seeing the potential of the world in a new light. It was like I had been wearing coloured glasses my entire life, and they had been taken off for the first time. Everything looked different, and I wanted to examine it all more carefully. Maybe, just maybe, I should start considering it a remote possibility that the Christian message could possibly be true.”
It was four years before Nabeel reached the conclusion that indeed it was true and chose to give his life to Christ. For David it was a long journey of praying, persevering and waiting.
Love that perseveres
Through those long four years, why didn’t David give up and walk away?
At the time there were Christians who encouraged him to do just that. They told him he should concentrate on others who might be more open, or quicker to convert. But David’s motivation was not ultimately that Nabeel would convert to Christianity. It was love:
“You’re preaching the gospel because you love them, not because they’re a missionary opportunity. You’re preaching the gospel because you want what’s best for them; you want them to have the relationship with Christ that you have.”
It might have been easier to avoid the heated conversations. That’s what many of us do. But that isn’t really love. David comments:
“If you really care about your Muslim friends, shouldn’t you want them to know the truth? Sometimes we might decide not to tell them because it might hurt their feelings — but that’s like saying their feelings are more important than them knowing the truth about God.”
God uses ordinary people
David Wood was just an ordinary Christian student. He didn’t always know the answers; he didn’t always say the right thing, but God used him in an extraordinary way to impact Nabeel.
Many of us would consider ourselves ill-equipped to share the gospel with Muslims, ignorant of the key questions or unsure of how to begin. Nabeel wrote:
“I have met a few people who, after reading this story, thought they needed to know all the answers about Islam before connecting with Muslims. That is certainly not the case. David barely knew anything about Islam when we started talking. What people need before befriending Muslims is not advanced knowledge of Islam but a willingness to discover what is important to their Muslim friends and the desire to invest the time to learn and discuss those matters as the relationship progresses.”
Are there Muslims on your campus or on your street? How might you start to get to know them better? Who could you start praying for? Let’s be people who make the most of the opportunities God gives us, because he is using ordinary Christians to bring Muslims to know Him.
What happened next
Nabeel went on to have a global public ministry, testifying to the truth of the risen Christ. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus has sold 450,000 copies and has been translated into 28 languages. Nabeel had a tremendous impact on thousands of people, both Christians and Muslims, through his books, lectures and public debates. He went to be with Jesus in September 2017, after a year-long battle with cancer. Find out more about him at: nabeelqureshi.com.
David now heads up an apologetics ministry, Acts 17. He continues to share the gospel with Muslims and has taken part in many public debates, often in front of a university audience.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more stories about ministry to Muslims from IFES movements around the world. To receive them in your email inbox, along with prayer requests from around the world, sign up here for IFES weekly emails.