Thursday, December 08, 2016

What did the Wise Men see?

I'm going to quote an anecdote from Nabeel Qureshi to draw a comparison. Before doing so, I'd like to make a preliminary observation: I allow for the possibility that Nabeel is regaling readers with tall tales. It's possible that he's cashing in on his conversion. 

However, I don't find that the most plausible explanation. He's a psychiatrist by training. He could make a comfortable living that way. It would make for a less stressful, eventful life. 

Certainly I don't think he converted with the intention of cashing in. He had no advance knowledge that his conversion would be marketable. And he had so much to lose. Why detonate his relationship with his family, which means so much to him? 

It was my first time back in Britain since we had moved to Connecticut eight years prior…Tens of thousands of Ahmadis attended the United Kingdom jalsa…The people I most longed for were my friends from Scotland, the Maliks. Apart from one letter that I received from the youngest brother while I was in seventh grade, I had not heard from any of them. Public email was still in its nascent phase, and international phone calls were too expensive to justify. 
But when I arrived at the jalsa, I realized I did not know if my friends would even be there…It would be nearly impossible to look for them by walking through the jalsa too. Apart from the sheer number of people to search through, we had all grown up over the previous seven  years, and I was not sure I would recognize them even if I saw them. I sorely wanted to reunite with them, but I did not know where to start. So I turned to God. I just prayed from my heart, bowing my head and closing my eyes. "God, can you please help me find my friends?" 
When I opened my eyes, what I saw stunned me stock-still. In the air before me were two steaks of color, one gold and one silver, as if whimsically painted onto the sky by an ethereal brush. They trailed in the distance, obviously leading me somewhere.  
I still remember the words I spoke in shock: "You're kidding. I'm supposed to follow those, right?" 
What I intrinsically knew was that no one could see the stripes but me. They were not so much in the sky as they were in my perception of the sky. They were neither a mile away, nor a foot away, nor anywhere in-between They just were. And they were waiting for me.  
The jalsa was crowded, and everyone was outside the tents because there was no speech currently in session. I followed the streaks into swarms of people, sifting my way through the crowd as if in a Pakistani bazaar.  
And in fact, the streaks swirled over the jalsa marketplace…the streaks funneled downward, dissipating over a space next to a clothing tent. When I weeded my way to the clearing, I saw two men standing there, chatting and wearing skullcaps. It took a moment, but I recognized them: they were the older Malik brothers. Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity (Zondervan, 2014), 103-105.

Here's the comparison: what if the Star of Bethlehem is like that? Not that exact phenomenon, but a supernatural phenomenon that's only discernible to those it was meant to guide. Something the intended observer perceives in his field of vision, even though it remains invisible to other observers, because wasn't for their benefit. 

How we construe the Star of Bethlehem is based on our conceptual resources. As a result, we may overlook alternative explanations. Because the identify of the star so often comes down to a debate between stereotypical options, that can foster tunnel vision. 

1 comment:

  1. You're quite a thinker, Steve. You've given me much food for thought.