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Doing Catholic Apologetics with Muslims

Audio only:

Charbel Raish, founder and chief executive of Parousia, one of Australia’s leading Catholic media apostolates joins us for a discussion of his early embrace of Islam and his subsequent rediscovery of Catholic Faith.


Cy Kellett:

Charbel Raish from Sydney, Australia. Thanks for being with us.

Charbel Raish:

Thanks for having me.

Cy Kellett:

From Parousia Ministries.

Charbel Raish:

That’s right.

Cy Kellett:

And is that, that’s-

Charbel Raish:

Parousia. Parousia. Yeah, it was, we’re known as Parousia Media for a long time, but then we dropped the word media because we do so much more than media. So it’s Parousia now, just Parousia.

Cy Kellett:

And just tell me real quick what you do there in Australia with Parousia?

Charbel Raish:

Yeah, we focus on evangelization and faith formation. So we do that by talks, events, bible studies, online courses. And we’ve launched an academy very recently. So, excited about that.

Cy Kellett:

That’s fantastic.

Charbel Raish:

Yes.

Cy Kellett:

That is great. And how’d you end up in Sydney? How’d you go to Sydney, Australia?

Charbel Raish:

I was born and raised there. But yeah, my mother comes from Lebanon in the Middle East and my father comes from Columbia, South America. They married in Lebanon as teenagers and moved to Sydney in the 70’s. And yeah, I’m one of six boys. Two were born in Columbia and four in Sydney. So I’m a Sydney boy through and through.

Cy Kellett:

And how long has Parousia been going? You started it when?

Charbel Raish:

17 years now. Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

17 years.

Charbel Raish:

So, May of 2005 we registered Parousia Media and yeah, it’s been 17 years.

Cy Kellett:

And so now you have this book out, My Conversion Testimony, how Islam led me back to Christ. You have it in-

Charbel Raish:

That’s right.

Cy Kellett:

DVD format. You have it in MP3 format, you have it in CD format. So you really want people to know how Islam led you back to Christ. I’m sorry, that’s a very odd title. What is that about, Charbel?

Charbel Raish:

The keyword there is back-

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, right.

Charbel Raish:

Back is the key.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Charbel Raish:

I wasn’t born in a Muslim family. A lot of people might think that, but I was born and raised in a Maronite Catholic family. So we did pray the rosary growing up. We did go to mass occasionally Easter and Christmas every year. But it wasn’t until really high school when I fell away after my holy communion. My first holy communion, that was my last communion. My first confession was my last confession. For the rest of school, I didn’t go to church, I didn’t really pray, didn’t do any of that. But it was high school. I came across a lot of Islamic friends and they started to challenge me. They thought I was a Muslim by my appearance and understandably, but no, I wasn’t a Muslim.

So I used to wear a crucifix and they’ll start asking questions like, “Why do you wear that on your neck”. I said, “Oh it’s my faith”, “Oh that’s Jesus on the cross”. I said, “Yeah”. “Well he didn’t die”, I said “Yes he did”. And then they’ll say, “Prove it”, and I don’t know how to prove that. And then they’ll say, “Oh who’s Jesus?”, I said, “He’s God”. “Oh really? So God died?”. “Yes”. And then they’ll be like, “That’s so silly because if God dies that’s the end of the world”.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Charbel Raish:

Oh yeah. Didn’t think of that. And we’re just teenagers and it just went on. Jesus, how could God have a son? Why do you believe in three gods in the Trinity? And throughout high school I was bombarded with these questions and I had no idea how to respond. No idea.

Cy Kellett:

These were kids your age?

Charbel Raish:

Oh yeah.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Okay. So they knew their Muslim faith, but they also knew the tricks about how to share it with a Christian.

Charbel Raish:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Cy Kellett:

And where were they getting that? Do you know?

Charbel Raish:

I think from their leaders. So the Muslim imams or older influences, people who’ve been around taking their face seriously would’ve definitely influenced and taught them that. But what I discovered afterwards was they are the same. There’s about probably 10 topics that they’re very well versed in and-

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, yeah.

Charbel Raish:

And they’ll know them through and through and they’ll use those very cleverly and strategically.

Cy Kellett:

It’s funny because it reminds me of what will happen in the United States to a Catholic kid at high school when maybe the campus crusade for Christ person gets a hold of them. That there’s these certain topics and it’s like a button you push with the Catholic kid and the Catholic kid, if they know the answer, okay. But if they don’t know the answer, well then maybe I’m not really a Christian. Maybe you’re a Christian and I need to become a Christian. So in your case, maybe I don’t really know God. Or maybe this Christianity thing doesn’t make sense.

Charbel Raish:

That’s right. It’s totally true. I mean, one thing that really made me sit up was one comment was, “Ah, you’re a Catholic, you believe in the Eucharist?”, I said, “Yes”. “And you actually believe that that is God?”, I said, “Yes”. “So when you eat God, you know what happens with food, once you dispose of it”. “Yeah”. “So you are going to the toilet and your guide is gone to the toilet”. And I didn’t know how to respond. I said, “Oh my goodness. Yeah”. So they’re just one by one, I was just bombarded and it was like, man, Christianity is, it’s crazy. And I really thought it was crazy and it really shook my foundations until my final year of high school. And then I went to the mosque and my life changed.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. So how does that happen that you end up going to the mosque? Somebody just says will you-

Charbel Raish:

Yes. So it was funny. The thing about my high school was it was very popular for the wrong reason. So it was on the wrong side of the law. A lot of boys are in and out of jail, bit of drug trafficking, lots of womanizing and all this stuff. It was not a good place. It was branded as the worst school of our state and principal’s office was lit on fire and teachers’ hairs lit on fire and fights every day. And I could say this now, there’s a few other cases, I won’t say two public, but the Bali Nine, there was guys who smuggled drugs into Bali. The ring leader was a student at our school in my brother’s year.

Cy Kellett:

Really?

Charbel Raish:

And this was the environment I was in. And so they weren’t religious at the time, but they knew these few things. Until sort of year 12, the final grade, they started go to mosque on Friday and they’ll get released from class. It’s a public school and they’ll go to mosque every Friday. And I was invited to come. And one day they had a Muslim imam come from Jordan and he spoke to the school, at a public school, about Islam. And then I was invited to the mosque that day and I went just to talk to him. And then I got a chance to speak in this room there, the upper room up in the back of this mosque. It’s like the Grand Mosque of Australia in Lakemba. It’s like the major cathedral if you like, for Muslims.

And he asked me questions, “So how do Christians pray?”, And I started to recite the our father. And then he stopped me and he said, “Who are you calling father?”, I said, “God”. He goes, “Don’t you have an earthly father?”, I said, “Yes”. “Why are you putting on God human attributes? That’s an insult. You shouldn’t be insulting God like that”. And I was like, “Well yeah, okay, fair enough”. And then he said, “Who taught you that prayer?”, I said, “Jesus”. Here we go again. “Who’s Jesus?”, “God”. “Isn’t he the son of God?”, I said, “Yeah, no, he’s both. So he’s God and the son of God at the same time”. “So is God talking to himself in our father?”, “No, no, no. No, the son’s talking to the father”, and I couldn’t really grasp it. Then he said, “So don’t you believe in the Holy Spirit too?”, I said, “Yeah”. “And is that God?”, I said, “Yep”. “So you believe in three gods?”, I said, “No, it’s one”. “Explain it to me”. I didn’t know how to explain it. And he said a lot of other things, but I don’t have time for all the arguments. But for one, a major one is the crucifixion. Did Jesus die in the cross? No, according to Islam, it was Judas that replaced Jesus.

Cy Kellett:

Yes.

Charbel Raish:

That’s one common thing which is not found in the Quran, but it’s just not a thing.

Cy Kellett:

It’s the belief that’s kind of been, okay.

Charbel Raish:

Anyway, so I said, “Okay, so Jesus didn’t die”. I couldn’t prove it. There’s no proof of the resurrection. Christianity is just so crazy. I was invited to say the Shahada prayer and I did. I closed my eyes. I said, in Arabic there is only one guy in his prophet Muhammad three times. And then I opened my eyes and he said, “Oh welcome brother”. And I said, “Oh, I’m a Muslim”. He goes, “Have a shower”. He gave me a white gown and I had a shower and I said, “Maybe this is meant to be”.

I was nervous because I was just about to leave my faith, which I wasn’t following. But I knew I was Catholic, but I wasn’t following it. But I knew my family would not understand and I was just thinking of all these things. But I still went ahead. I had a shower, but I had this urge to pray in the shower. And that’s where it was interesting. I didn’t know any other prayer other than our father and the Hail Mary, because when I was little, we prayed the Hail Mary’s. So I started to recite one Hail Mary during the shower. And by the 10th Hail Mary, I put this white gown on. But just as I was putting it on, I say, “Amen”. I hear a voice. Not yet, not yet. I don’t know if that I was addressing Mary, was that our lady telling me not yet?

And I put my normal clothes back on, went out to the main area there and he said, “What’s wrong?”, I said, “Look, I don’t know my faith. If God wants me to be a Muslim, he’ll show me”. “Fair enough”. I said, “Please pray for me”. And then I had this urge to ask him one question. The only question I finally had. In Arabic, you’ll say [foreign language 00:09:10] that means leader. So I asked him, [foreign language 00:09:15] can I ask you a question? And he said, “Yes”. “In Islam a man can marry four wives”. And he says, “Yes”. “How is that possible?”, he says, “Ah, good question. Not every man can marry four wives, only those who can treat him equally, which means not every man gets the honor”. I said, “So how do you treat him equally?”. And this is the example he gave me. If you give one a car, you give all four a car. If you give one a house, you give all four a house. That was the example. I said, “Okay, but still I don’t understand how you can love them equally”. I mean, I didn’t think that was a satisfactory answer. He said, “Doesn’t your mother love her children equally?”. I’m only 18 at the time, no theology background, but I knew that love between husband and wife is different than love between parents and children. And his answer was very simple. Love is love.

Cy Kellett:

Wow.

Charbel Raish:

Haven’t we heard that before?

Cy Kellett:

We hear that every now and then, don’t we?

Charbel Raish:

It was funny because it was at the time the slogan wasn’t that popular back then. But now we’re hearing love is love everywhere and we’re using that love is love for anything. And it’s like in this case he’s saying love is love justifying polygamy. I thought that’s not right. No, no.

Cy Kellett:

And you thought that at the time?

Charbel Raish:

I knew that at the time.

Cy Kellett:

Isn’t that interesting?

Charbel Raish:

Yeah, just knew that’s a different thing. You can’t love children the same way you love your spouse. It’s a different love.

Cy Kellett:

Okay, so now I want to ask you for something before we go on though. Would a Christian teacher have been invited into a public school to speak the way that imam was invited into the public school to speak?

Charbel Raish:

Not on that scale. So the majority of the student body were Muslim, so that’s probably why. But they did have scripture classes where Christians did come and they dedicated, I think it was only a new thing, they started to dedicate two lessons a week where anyone can go to a faith class of their choice and you can go to the Christians, the Hindus, the Muslims.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, I see.

Charbel Raish:

And then the atheists would go to ethics class and that was it.

Cy Kellett:

So you became a Muslim, but you didn’t become a Muslim.

Charbel Raish:

That’s right.

Cy Kellett:

Explain that to me. Where are we now?

Charbel Raish:

So I did the Shahada prayer. It’s like being baptized, but then I didn’t go ahead and continue to learn my faith. So it was enough to become Muslim according to them, but I didn’t change. I didn’t practice or anything. But that day I went home late from school and my mother said, “Where were you?”. I just said “At the local mosque”. And she goes, you can imagine, and she gave me a huge slap across the face.

Cy Kellett:

Did she really?

Charbel Raish:

Ah, yeah. Yeah. I might even have marks.

Cy Kellett:

She hit you that hard.

Charbel Raish:

It was a hard slap.

Cy Kellett:

Wow.

Charbel Raish:

That was good. I needed it. I needed that slap. I needed that wake up call. She said, “Go down to the church, ask Jesus if he wants you to be a Muslim or Christian. Now Jesus is in the Quran, isn’t he?”, I said, “Yep”. “Well if Jesus is a prophet, he’s going to tell you the truth”. I said, “Yep”. So she knew what she was doing.

Cy Kellett:

What a good mom.

Charbel Raish:

I went to the church, St. Michaels in Bellfield. And I had a privilege of, that’s where I recorded my testimony there. But I went to this church. It was open and I noticed the red light. Apparently the red light means Jesus is present.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

Okay. Jesus, if you’re really here, show me. And then I said, “Do you want me to be a Muslim or a Christian?”, and dead silence for about 30 minutes. Now that’s a miracle because I never sat still for a minute in my life. Let alone 30. So I mean in class I was so disrespectful to teachers, it was crazy. But anyway, 30 minutes. And then an elderly woman came in lit a candle and I thought, “Oh, what a holy woman, she’s going to heaven”.

And instantly a flashback to one of my discussions with my Muslim friends, only Muslims go to heaven. So it’s interesting. In Islam, this is what’s understood. You die, you’ll meet your judge and your judge’s going to ask you three questions. Very simple stuff. First one is, who’s God? And the answer is, Allah. You can’t say in English, God, you can’t say Spanish Dios, you can’t say the Hebrew Elohim. You can’t say any of those other words. It’s just Allah. And Allah isn’t the Islamic god, by the way. It’s just the word god in Arabic. Yeah-

Cy Kellett:

But you got to say it in Arabic.

Charbel Raish:

But you got to say it in Arabic.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

Two is who’s his prophet? And obviously it’s not John the Baptist or Moses, it’s got to be Muhammad. And then three is what’s a true religion? And of course you have to say Islam, not Judaism, not Buddhism, not Catholicism.

If you get one of those wrong, you go to the hell fire. If you get all three wrong, you get to go to heaven. Is that interesting? But you’ve got to get three out of three. It’s very simple. But this woman is clearly not going to get at least two of them. She’s going to get at least… She’s going to get them wrong. She’s going to hell. That can’t be right. I knew enough to think, “No, that’s not just”. And I look back at the box, the tabernacle, I didn’t know it was the tabernacle. I knew of the name, but I forgot the name. But yeah, the box in every Catholic church, has a box somewhere. I looked at the box and just as shadow started, appear on it. Call me crazy, a lot of people have. I looked away, I looked back and it didn’t go away. It was just an outline of a face, a man’s face with a beard. And I was just staring at it. It’s not going away. And then an inner voice, “Charbel, are you going to give up all that I’ve done for you?”, and right away I thought, “Is that Jesus, that must have been Jesus. He’s speaking to me”. Looked and later discovered that that image was the image of the Shroud of Turin. And I made sure I put it on the cover book.

Cy Kellett:

Right. There it is. Right there. Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

The Shroud of Turin.

Cy Kellett:

Mosque.

Charbel Raish:

The mosque-

Cy Kellett:

Shroud of Turin, church.

Charbel Raish:

Yeah, that’s right. And that’s the order. And thanks be to God, I’m discovering more and more things about the shroud. Ah, it’s amazing. Father Robert Spitzer does amazing work on that, in that space.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

But I had to answer that question. Jesus asked me a direct question and I said, “No Lord”. I called Jesus Lord for the first time in life. “I’m not going to give you up. I’m a Catholic. I’m going to remain a Catholic, and now I need to know why”. And this huge weight came off my shoulders. “All right, I’m not going to join Islam”. I went to school the next day and my friend Ali, Pakistani Muslim said, “Eh brother, how’s it feel to be a Muslim?”, I said, “Look, before you continue, I’m not a Muslim. If God wants me to be one, he’ll show me. I don’t know my faith, it’s not fair that I leave something I don’t know”.

He goes, “Ah, fair enough”. I said, “But if God’s asking you to be a Christian, will you answer that call?”, he goes, “No, never. I’ll never do that”. Okay. And then we sort of stopped. We dropped the topic and finished high school and you wouldn’t believe it. Out of all the churches in Australia, the very church I was in had apologetics classes on a Friday night called Luman Verma apologetics. And so I started going to church. I went to confession for the first time. This priest who knew of my family nearly fell off his seat. He didn’t know what… He was shocked. And he still rubs it in sometimes. And he goes, “You’re crazy. You’re an absolute crazy”. Anyway, he’s retired now. But yeah, I went to mass for about a year. I remember I needed to go to mass. I needed to go to confession, I needed to pray. But can I be honest? I wasn’t enjoying it.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Okay.

Charbel Raish:

It wasn’t fun.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

It wasn’t enjoyable. But I knew I had to do it. But I did want to search for the answers of Christianity. I needed to prove the Muslims wrong. So I start asking questions at the Luman Verma classes, the apologetics classes. How do we know God is real? How do we know God is Trinity? How do we prove that God could be man when Jesus died? Was he actually like dead? Does God die? And when God dies, is that the end of the universe? And all these things. How do you prove the resurrection? And thanks for-

Cy Kellett:

And you find out there are answers to all of them.

Charbel Raish:

There are answers to all of them.

Cy Kellett:

Because there were apologists who could show that to you.

Charbel Raish:

Yes.

Cy Kellett:

That these can be answered.

Charbel Raish:

Yes. The power of apologetics are-

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

And people who know how to share their faith and respond to questions. And that was my foundation. Robert Haddad, I’ve got to do a shout out to him. He’s one of Australia’s-

Cy Kellett:

He’s great one. Isn’t he?

Charbel Raish:

Yeah. Definitely.

Cy Kellett:

He’s really something.

Charbel Raish:

Definitely. David Obe is another one.

Cy Kellett:

And he was there?

Charbel Raish:

He was at that class. So it was Robert Haddad, David Obe, Arlet Bowen. These three names I’m still in debt to today. Those guys who organized these-

Cy Kellett:

That’s pretty good help.

Charbel Raish:

Yeah. Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

God really put you in the right place, didn’t he?

Charbel Raish:

Out of all the-

Cy Kellett:

Those are extraordinary.

Charbel Raish:

All the churches in the country, I think this was the only one doing this-

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

Weekly apologetics classes. And I fell in love. I have to share this because it really transformed me. With conversion, you don’t have one off conversions. You have these ongoing conversions and it just, it’s like turning another corner and another corner and your faith goes deeper and deeper. So this next one was… I had to get over the hurdle of wanting, not wanting to go to church.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

I asked my mother, “Okay, I get it. I’m a Catholic. I’m very at peace with my decision and I’m starting to understand the intellectual stuff of the faith. And I get that it all is starting to make sense, but I don’t enjoy prayer”. And my mum said, “Why don’t you ask Jesus to help you enjoy prayer?”. Okay, Very simple stuff. “All right, Jesus, can you help me enjoy prayer?”. I almost, I may not have even been sincere. I could have just said, “All right, Jesus” not even thinking he’ll answer that right.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, right.

Charbel Raish:

I’m not joking, within three weeks I found myself in church every day. It was Lent and I made a promise to go to church every day, just for a minute on my way to work. And I’ll pop in and say, “Hey Jesus”. I heard a story that St. John Viani shared where one of his parishioners would do the same. They go into church, “Hey Jesus” and go and then come back, “Hey Jesus” and go home. And I thought, “Okay, I’ll do that”. And I stumbled into one of the weekday masses. And I used to try and sneak out before mass started. And then I got caught and, ah okay, I’ll sit for mass.

And then I remember hearing the reading, it was a Beatitudes. And Jesus says, “Turn your other cheek. If someone hits you on one side, turn your other cheek”. That’s very different to what Islam teaches. Love your enemies. Whoa. What? If takes a mile go within two miles with you. If someone takes your coat, giving your shirt as well. Whoa, what’s going on here? This is radical stuff. What Jesus is doing and talking about is loving those who don’t love you. How do you do that? And I just wanted to read it. So I read chapter five, chapter six, chapter seven, and I got to do this again. I read the whole New Testament and every day, one minute became two minutes became three minutes. By the end of Lent I was at daily mass praying the rosary every day. In fact, three times a day. Divine Mercy Chapel, Station of the Cross. Over a six or seven week period, I fell in love with prayer.

That’s grace, like that’s-

Cy Kellett:

That is grace. Yes.

Charbel Raish:

That’s God, all the way. And I remember laughing to myself thinking I only a couple of months earlier, I hated this.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

I didn’t like it. And after Easter, I think I went to four Easter masses on this. I went morning, two in the morning and afternoon and evening and I was just hungry. I just wanted to keep going. And interesting was my friends noticed the change and they said, “Hey, you never used to be religious, you never used to do this”. “I know”. And my Muslim friend said, “You know what? You’ve got us to thank”. Said, “What do you mean?”, he goes, “Well, if we never challenged you, you never would’ve turned into your faith”. You know what? That’s true. Yeah. So every day I thank God for my Muslim friends.

‘Cause if it wasn’t for them, I would not have searched. I would not have asked. I would not have looked for those answers. I would’ve just been a lukewarm Catholic going to mass at Easter and Christmas just because that’s what you do. And I wouldn’t have had any relationship with God. And I thank God for them. So it was a real lesson for me. We actually sat down as a bit, I don’t know how much time we got, but there was a fun little story.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

Of us having a one on one.

Cy Kellett:

Okay.

Charbel Raish:

I took the Bible. Now it’s about two years now since my reversion and I’ve studied a bit of the theology. Scott Hahn. I got introduced to Scott Hahn from Father Chris, a retired priest who gave me the first Scott Hahn’s cassette from St. Joseph Communications at the time. It was, what was that called? It wasn’t his testimony. It was Calling Bible Catholics to become Bible Christian and vice versa.

Cy Kellett:

Okay.

Charbel Raish:

Interesting. I loved it. And I listen to it. And then I listened to What is the Covenant, which talked about the Trinity. I loved it. Then his testimony. And then I stumbled across Tim Staple’s stuff.

Cy Kellett:

He’s pretty good.

Charbel Raish:

He was not bad. He had a set called Islam Exposed back then.

Cy Kellett:

Oh he did?

Charbel Raish:

And he quoted Quran and I needed it. And I actually did a full day. I got a bunch of friends and we almost did like a one day study session. And we listened to that and wrote notes and it was just awesome. So I would do this every day on the way to work, listen to a talk. On the way back, another talk. And then I would go to the Friday night live talks at Luman Verma apologetics.

And then I got an inspiration from a friend that we should together start another type of service formation night at another parish. So we did, it was called Guardians. And we had about 40 people come to the first talk. We invited a priest speak about the four last things. And that’s been going ever since. That’s now 20 years, 21 years. And I met my wife there. It was a faith formation night. But yeah, once you fall in love, you can’t keep it to yourself.

Cy Kellett:

No.

Charbel Raish:

It’s just you want to share this. And my friend out the blue called me. I remember saying to prayer, “Lord, you send whoever you want”. I was not the person to go door knocking or speaking on a soapbox out there in the streets. Repent for the kingdom of heaven, His that hand. I couldn’t do that, but I could sit down with someone willing to listen.

And then that day some my friend called me, my Muslim friend who said, “I’ve been reading the Bible”. “Really?”. But I got excited at the start. And then he said, “Jesus doesn’t claim to be God”. I said, “Really?”. And then he says, “Let’s sit down”. So we sat down at a cafe. He brought his Quran, I brought my Bible and we opened to page one. And this was a great conversation because in the start of the Quran, it invokes, I love the most merciful one, the all powerful one. And then of course to the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. And you’ve got to say that every time. And then it goes on to a range of statements. And ’cause it’s not chronological, when you read the Bible, it says very quickly in the beginning. Sorry. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and the spirit of God hovered over the waters.

And then God said, let the be light. It’s a story. It’s a beautiful story. But I asked my friend, “What was God doing before he created?”. It’s an interesting question. And he said, “You can’t ask that”. Said, “What do you mean”, said, “No, you we’re forbidden to ask that question. We can only ask questions within the parameters of the Quran. That’s not a question you can go to”. “Well, I’m asking”. He says, “Well, I don’t know”, “Come on, think about it. If Allah is eternal, what was he doing before he created us?”. “I don’t know”. I said, “Well, if one of the 99 names of Allah is love”-

Cy Kellett:

Who was he loving?

Charbel Raish:

“Who was he loving?”. He says “Himself”. I said, “Well, love is not loving yourself. Because that’s in fact not love at all. Love is always about loving another person”. Says, “Okay, well who’s the other person? There was no other person”. I said, “Well, think about this. An eternal person who is love, always loving, had to love another eternal person. That other eternal person doesn’t just receive the love and say, thank you very much. That other second eternal person will return that love. And so we have now a third eternal person. See? So we call that in Christianity the Trinity, the father from all eternity, loved the son from all eternity, receives that love, and then returns that love back and that love is the Holy Spirit”. And he actually stopped me. And he said, “What you’re saying is making sense, but I’m forbidden to go there and I will lose my religion”. I said, “What? I’m not here to”

Cy Kellett:

Whoa.

Charbel Raish:

“I’m not here to convert you. I actually just want to share with you what I’ve discovered”.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Charbel Raish:

That’s all I was doing. He invited me to this meeting, not me. And I just wanted to share. He wanted to prove to me that Jesus is not God.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

So we’re going to get there in a sec. But I had to start here. I said, “If God is love, why did he create us?”. Because in Islam, Allah, he’s the master and we’re slaves. “Did God need slaves? To do what?”. And he said “To serve him”. “I understand that, but in what way? How do you serve God? Did he need us to do chores for him?”

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Right.

Charbel Raish:

“Was he bored and he just created us for fun? Why did he create us?”, And he says “To worship him and serve him”. “I know that. That’s great. For what purpose?”. And the only answer is love. And all we have to do is respond to God’s love. He sort of understood. But I wasn’t finished. I had to say, I’ll just share two or three more. It’s in chapter five or six in the book five, I think. I should know that.

But I said, “You used to tease me in high school that Jesus didn’t die on the cross”. And he said, “That’s right. He didn’t die on the cross”. Said, “But in the Quran Surah 4 157, it talks about what looks like Jesus being on the cross, but it wasn’t”. So he said “It’s just randomly put there and there’s no sort of context”. And I said, “Why is that in the Quran?”. And he says, “Ah, to prove that Jesus wasn’t on the cross”. “But it says it was made to appear. So why was the man on the cross looking like Jesus? Could it have been they saw Jesus?” I said, “No, it was Judas”. Sorry.

“So was Jesus on the cross?”, he goes, “Yes”. “Okay. But he didn’t die”. “No. God replaced Jesus with Judas”. “And then what happened to Jesus?”. “Oh, he went to heaven”. “Okay. Did he die?”. “No”. So Jesus has gone to heaven, alive, according to Islam. And Judas is on the cross, which is interesting it’s Judas, out of all people, I said, “Okay, what did Jesus do wrong to be on the cross to begin with?”. And he couldn’t answer it. And I said, “Seriously? Was he on the cross?”. He goes, “Yes, but he didn’t die on the cross”. “So why was he on the cross? What did he do wrong?”. And we know the answer. Like Jews know the answer. He blasphemed.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

He made himself equal to God. So that’s his crime. And then he said, “Well, no, there’s no evidence of that”. I said-

Cy Kellett:

That’s in Mark’s gospel.

Charbel Raish:

Yeah, lots. Well, the gospels are being fabricated and all that.

Cy Kellett:

Oh I see.

Charbel Raish:

Yeah. And the mixing history there, there’s a lot to go in there. Burning bibles and all that, which is a completely different historical event. But yeah. I just said, “Well, if I can get an answer why Jesus on the cross to begin with, then we can move forward. But if we can’t, we’re stuck”. Historically speaking, we can prove, I’m not even going to use the Bible to prove it. We’re going to use Roman text. Historians know a man from Nazareth who was named Jesus was on a cross. Let’s do what the Jews did and acknowledge he’s on the cross and you don’t have to believe that he’s God, but we have this historical event of a man dying and being crucified.

Cy Kellett:

Why is he there?

Charbel Raish:

But the question is why? Yeah. I said, “You see, in the Bible, it says over and over and over again, Jesus made himself equal to God”. And he didn’t say it the way you want him to say it. And this is the trick. There’s a famous, Sheikh Ahmedabad, that he’s passed away now. He put out a challenge to anyone in the world. If you can prove that Jesus said, “I’m the son of God, worshiped me in the Bible, I’ll give you a thousand dollars”. Well, guess what? He’s right. There’s no nowhere in the Bible where it says word for word, I am the son of God, worship me. And there’s the trap. Why are you putting on God now, the rules of how he wants to reveal himself. Said, “If God wants to show us the truth, he’ll do it on his terms”. And he did.

When Jesus says before Abraham was, I am, keyword, I am the name, the forbidden name of God that you couldn’t pronounce. The Jews knew what he just did. He didn’t just do it in a way that was random. He did it deliberately. And he showed us that he was God. And he through his miracles and through all these prophecies. He fulfilled 456 prophecies from the Old Testament. I mean, no one in history has done that. Jesus made himself equal to God the Father. He talked about the Trinity word for word in the end of Matthew’s gospel, baptizing the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. If that’s not God, then who is that? And then he also revealed the Trinity at his baptism. When God, the voice of heaven says, “This is my beloved son”.

And then the dove was above his head and Jesus’. So there’s so many stories that Jesus has proved to be God. And he didn’t just say it, he showed us. And it was amazing. And he understood. And I had said, “You said God can’t have a son, but in his Islam, Mary is a virgin”. He goes, “Yes”. “How is she a virgin? How’d she get pregnant?”. “God made her pregnant”. “Okay. So who’s the father?”. And then he said, “No, there’s no father”. I said, “Okay, where there’s a mother, there’s a father”. Ultimately, and I know these days, we can argue that ultimately no matter how we get here, every human being has a mother and a father. Ultimately, we can’t get away from it. Even in test tube babies, everyone has a father and a mother. So who’s the father of Jesus?

And he says, “He has no father”. I said, “He’s got a father”. “All right, how does she get pregnant again?” And he said, In Arabic, [foreign language 00:32:21] Allah which means the Spirit of God. “Oh, that’s the Holy Spirit”. He goes, “That’s not the Holy Spirit”. I said, “That’s the Holy Spirit”. He says, “It’s not the Holy Spirit”. I said, “Look, the Spirit of God. Yes, I agree with you. We’re on the same page here. Christians believe the same. Mary was pregnant and the spirit of God went into Mary and now bam, she’s pregnant. So that if that’s God, God’s spirit, then that baby has a divine spirit, some divine life in it. And guess what? The Father is going to be God. God the Father. And then now he’s got a son, God the son, and guess who Mary is now, now that she’s been impregnated?-

Cy Kellett:

Mother of God.

Charbel Raish:

And she’s a spouse of God, the Holy Spirit. So now Mary fulfills all three. She’s the spouse of the Holy Spirit, daughter of God, the Father and mother of God, the Son. And then it just helps you understand it all.

Cy Kellett:

Wow. The Trinity.

Charbel Raish:

And Mary is a model for us to turn to. So I just started falling in love with Mary. I mean, her role in the whole thing just blows your mind. And then, yeah, we went into other things, but in the end we agreed. He said, “Look, I don’t know my faith. I needed to go discover it”. Exactly what I said in high school.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Charbel Raish:

So now the tables have turned where I learned just a few basic things and I was able to ask the right questions and stand on my own feet and respond with confidence. And he was able to then think. He had to think. And I encourage a lot of Christians that don’t just sit there and take… You’re not forced to answer questions without understanding where those questions are coming from. So sometimes a good response to a question is a question.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

And because you want to get to the bottom of where that is coming from and what’s your purpose. Because a lot of people, when we ask, we have a motive behind it. So I want to ask a question. I need to know, am I right or wrong? They want affirmation, they want to do… It’s interesting when you get to the intention of behind it, then that helps. So ask questions when you’re being asked the question.

Cy Kellett:

So when you wrote the book, did you write it because you wanted to give people a model for talking with Muslims? Or did you write it just to share with your fellow Christians how God had called you?

Charbel Raish:

Yeah, a little bit of both.

Cy Kellett:

Okay.

Charbel Raish:

So there was a chapter dedicated to that discussion or debate with my Muslim friend. I did that specifically to show people how to ask the questions and bring up the most common things that Muslims will bring up. So that’s important. And then I also wanted to do more of a, it’s who am I. I mean, who’s Charbel Raish according to people? My testimony doesn’t mean much to many people, but if I could show how God used me in the family context that I was in, I was far away from God and could still find a way home. I was in the worst environment you could think of as far as good role models in school. My family background, I haven’t even got into that in this talk, that’s in the book, but my dad’s one of 30 half brothers and sisters. And how that happened is a whole story there.

And I wasn’t meant to be here. My mom was really encouraged to give up on the pregnancy when she was heavily bleeding and her family was encouraging her not to go ahead with the pregnancy. And she turned to St. Charbel and said, “If you save this child, if you can pray for this child, I’ll name him after you”. And thanks be to God, I was. So, my mom was pro-life and she took on that challenge. She turned to St. Charbel and here I am. And she wasn’t forced, but pressured to sort of say, look… Her own mother, my grandmother and others, don’t go ahead with a pregnancy.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

Don’t have this baby.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

Why waste your time? It’s not going to be… There’s no chance. And God didn’t give up on me. And so I’m born. I wanted to show that God’s there everywhere we go. And even if we’re not turning to him, he’s still waiting for us and we just have to turn to him. And I wanted to show that background. So the first couple of chapters just shows how it’s a common thing in Catholic families where we just, we’re lukewarm. We go through the motions.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Charbel Raish:

And how many families out there today have the majority of the family not going to church.

Cy Kellett:

No.

Charbel Raish:

Catholic families.

Cy Kellett:

And sometimes just some answers will-

Charbel Raish:

Just a few just put purpose in it.

Cy Kellett:

One thing I really like about the way you talk about your story, and so I want to end there with this if I may, and especially in an apostle like Catholic answers where we do spend a lot of time answering questions, but sometimes the questions have a edge of anxiety to them. People want to know about a mortal sin and well, I have this mortal sin. Is this a mortal… And I emphasize that because it strikes me that your story reveals the Christian life as not essentially preoccupied with all of that, but as essentially a conversation with Jesus. That you’re Christian life begins really when you’re saying Hail Mary’s as you’re about to become a Muslim. And then Mary brings you into this conversation and your mother.

Charbel Raish:

Yes.

Cy Kellett:

Your earthly mother.

Charbel Raish:

Yes.

Cy Kellett:

So your heavenly mother and your earthly mother both say, “Go talk to Jesus”, basically.

Charbel Raish:

Yes.

Cy Kellett:

But this is what strikes me is that it seems to be that this is the Christian life and that we just don’t present it to people all the time. That Christian life is a wonderful conversation with Jesus and he loves the conversation.

Charbel Raish:

Amen. And if it wasn’t for that approach, that’s that simple question, “Jesus, if you are really here, show me”.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Charbel Raish:

And I think if I can invite people to do that today, if you’re doubting that God is real, if you’re doubting if Jesus loves you, or if you’re doubt in any way, just a simple question, turn to God and just say, “Is this true? Or are you there? And show me”. And God is just wanting us to just do that, respond to him. It’s on us to at least do that bit. If we do our bit, God will do the rest. But we just got to do that little bit. Just say yes, just invite God in. And wow, it’s a life changing thing.

Cy Kellett:

And it really is a life changing thing. Everybody that we… I’m sure this, you run into this with Parousia, that a book hits a person the right way or a talk somebody gave hits a person the right way.

Charbel Raish:

That’s right.

Cy Kellett:

And they go, everything’s different now because-

Charbel Raish:

That’s right.

Cy Kellett:

I’m in this life with Jesus. I’m sharing this life with Jesus.

Charbel Raish:

That’s right. And that’s why when I started Parousia, it was out of a desire to just keep sharing this. I couldn’t contain myself. I discovered a treasure, a real treasure. It’s a bit like what Jesus says, “Don’t go bury in the field. You’ve got to go share it”. And it comes naturally. And I feel we have no hope in helping people if we don’t at least help ourself first. If we’re not ready, if we’re not transformed internally and have a relationship with God. Very hard to go and think you can convert someone, which we don’t anyway. It’s always God. I just couldn’t help myself, I had to tell people about my faith and they knew that I wasn’t forcing them, I wasn’t judging them. I just wanted to invite them. Come to church or come to this talk or do that. Read this, listen to this. And they do.

Cy Kellett:

Well, I know you’re also going to talk with Matt Frad while you’re on this trip here in the US. So now that you’ve done this interview with me, might give him some tips.

Charbel Raish:

I will.

Cy Kellett:

Give him a few tips about how it’s supposed to be.

Charbel Raish:

How it’s actually done. I will. Absolutely.

Cy Kellett:

He really needs to know.

Charbel Raish:

Love your work. I love Catholic Answers. And the website catholic.com. Very simple thing for people can do is anytime you can’t answer a question, just say, go to catholic.com. And I think that is the best thing. That’s a great go.

Cy Kellett:

We couldn’t be more happy to be in partnership with Parousia.

Charbel Raish:

Oh, we love it. No, thank you.

Cy Kellett:

Thank you, Charbel. Thank you very much.

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