By the age of 9, Daniel Shayesteh could recite the entire Qur'an in Arabic. A practicing Muslim whom parents held up as an example to their children, he was for a time skeptical of the idea of a God. But his interest in Iranian poetry led him to reconsider, and after going to university, he not only believed that a God existed; he threw himself passionately into the advancement of the Free Islamic Revolutionary Movement and Ayatollah Khomeini's grab for power. After Khomeini successfully established himself, Shayesteh became the chief executive officer in a government office, and even ran successfully for a seat in the Islamic Parliament.
Then the new government turned against him.
It was just a little comment. "If the leader makes a mistake, we need to remind him for the well-being of our country." These words caused him to be watched. Soon the people realized that Khomeini was not delivering the freedom he had promised, and after four men spoke against him and were tortured and executed, Shayesteh realized that something was very wrong. He started his own political party, their candidate receiving 98% of the vote. But Ayatollah found a loophole in the Qur'an; the political party was destroyed, and Daniel and four others were put in the same cell on Death Row. All four of his friends died. Shayesteh, with the help of friends escaped to Turkey.
After arriving in Turkey, Shayesteh considered turning to Zoroastrianism. He made good friends with a business partner, and invested a large portion of money in the man's business. Unfortunately, the man was a fraud, and made off to Germany with all of Shayesteh's money, the equivalent of $62,220 in American currency. Desperate to get his money back, Shayesteh found the church the man attended, and asked the people to help. Willingly, they reached out to him, and it was there that he realized that Christ was above all gods.
Since then, he has worked tirelessly to educate others about Islam, and show what a logical foundation Christianity stands on.
My brother was so good as to give me Shayesteh's book, Christ Above All, for Christmas. :) In this scholarly work, Shayesteh addresses common questions many people have about various religions. He divides his work into four sections. The first section addresses the importance of beliefs, and the importance of evangelism. The second looks at nine religions, mostly Middle Eastern/Asian ones: Communism, New Age, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, and others. The third section details practical examples of evangelizing, using three correspondences Shayesteh conducted with people of different religions. And finally, the fourth section discusses the nature of the trinity and a call to all Christians to share their beliefs with others.
Chapter 17 discussed dialoguing with a Muslim, and this chapter was by far my favorite. Explaining some revealing aspects if Islam--Allah created sin, and everyone in Islam goes to hell until the final judgment--really showed that there is no way an educated Muslim or and educated Christian can say that they both worship the same God. In the Qur'an, Allah created Satan; therefore Allah created sin. Sin cannot come from complete goodness; therefore Allah is not good.
Shayesteh ends each chapter with a question and answer format. There were a few times I wanted to know the answer and he seemed to go off on a rabbit-trail instead. But his rabbit-trails were biblically sound, and most of the time he stayed on track.
Christ Above All is a scholarly work. It's only about 230 pages, but it's not an easy read or a fast one. Take your time to drink it in and process it, and don't pick it up when you're under a deadline crunch. I really wanted to finish it last week so I read over half of it in two days, but that was information overload and I haven't read anything since. The other half, which I read at a more sane pace, took me much longer, and I could only read a chapter at a time before I had to stop and think about what he was saying.
The overarching theme that shines through this book, and indeed, any in-depth study of apologetics, is the nature of evangelizing. Certainly it is necessary to study a religion somewhat before trying to convert one of its followers, but with wise questions it's not necessary to know everything. There are about four points in which every religion contradicts Christianity, and these points are the same for all the religions: the origin of sin--did it come from God or from man? the nature of God--is He a personal being or an impersonal? the nature of eternity--can we be sure of our fate before we die or after? And the nature of salvation--do we save ourselves or does God save us? Time after time, in every single religion, it came down to two choices. And Christianity held the only logical conclusion. Sin came from man. God is a personal being. We can be sure of our fate before we die. And only God can save us from our sin. All the other religions contradicted these points. If we can remember them when we're discussing religions with others, then we're already over half-way to all the knowledge we need to be equipped.
Daniel Shayesteh's book is an essential read for every Christian who wishes to be in tune to the prevailing beliefs of our times, and how to deal with them.
Daniel Shayesteh's Testimony and Teachings
If you wish to learn more about Islam and Daniel Shayesteh, YouTube provides several interviews and sermons that look to bring more light on Islam and Christianity. Note that Islam can have some mature aspects, and I haven't been able to listen to all of these, so proceed with discretion.
His testimony: "Dedicated Muslim converts to Christianity" (29:37) (I've listened to this one, and it's great for all ages.)
"What is Islam?" (28:37)
"The Truth of Christianity" (27:24)
"The Compelling Figure of Jesus" (27:52)
"Is Jesus God?" (29:22)
"The Integrity of the Bible" (25:19)
"The Difficulties in the Qur'an" (29:05)
"Our Relationship with God" (29:35)
"The Uniqueness of Jesus" (26:29)
Mr. Shayesteh blogs an average of once a month here. Some of his content on the blog about the treatment of women in Islam is mature and graphic, and I don't recommend it for anyone under 17 or 18. He also runs a ministry to help others understand Islam called Escape From Darkness.
It is imperative that we understand Islam. It's a religion that doesn't show any signs of disappearing, and as Christians, we need to know that our faith has a foundation.