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Letter from a Muslim Seeker

Christians aren't the only ones asking 'Why?' after September's tragedy
2001This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

My deadline for writing this column came shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11. A dozen different potential columns passed through my mind. In the end, I decided to devote this space to excerpts from a letter faxed to me on September 12, one day after the tragedy. It gives personal, individual focus to a conflict normally discussed in global terms—and poses an important challenge to the church. For me, everything going on in the world took on a different slant because of this letter.

Dear Mr. Yancey,

Considering the terrible tragedy that happened yesterday in this nation, I don't know whether this is the appropriate time to write about something personal. But perhaps because of what happened, I think I should write this letter, because I am convinced now that evil does exist in this world.

Growing up in Pakistan, I was a moderately religious Muslim. During the past few months, some of the events in my life caused me to think about God. A friend of mine had a brain tumor, and that caused me an immense amount of pain and sent me searching for the answer for "Why?" I read some books about the prophet Muhammad and the Islamic faith by Western scholars. I was shocked to learn a lot of things about my religion that I never knew. I felt—and still feel—betrayed and hurt. In a closed society like Pakistan, any sort of criticism of Islam is punishable by death, so one cannot have an unbiased view of the faith.

As I found out all these not so agreeable things about Islam, I found myself drawn toward the Christian faith. So I just called [a local pastor in the United States]. Over the past few months, I met with him regularly, and every time I asked him a lot of questions. Each time he would give me books to read.

For a Muslim ...

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Philip Yancey
Philip Yancey is editor at large of Christianity Today and cochair of the editorial board for Books and Culture. Yancey's most recent book is What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters. His other books include Prayer (2006), Rumors of Another World (2003), Reaching for the Invisible God (2000), The Bible Jesus Read (1999), What's So Amazing About Grace? (1998), The Jesus I Never Knew (1995), Where is God When It Hurts (1990), and many others. His Christianity Today column ran from 1985 to 2009.
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