Shaykh Ahmad Deedat’s Role in Modern Muslim Apologetics
The legacy of Shaykh Ahmad Deedat is and continues to be undisputed, as it should be. In the post-colonial era where Muslim lands had been subject to metrople rule for centuries, and where Orientalist scholarship had dominated the religious discourse, his voice was a light in an era of darkness. Most believe that by his efforts, the Shaykh effectively kickstarted the modern da’wah and apologetics movement. To this day, his debates are still studied, watched, shared and treasured. His works and efforts stand as a testimony of his contribution, to the extent that some 30 years later, generations of Muslims still stand in awe of his legacy. There are many things we can learn from the example of Shaykh Deedat, but the most important lessons we can derive from his legacy was his willingness to learn, develop new arguments and sincerely study his religion. Shaykh Deedat did not simply stagnate in age old arguments, with every new debate he introduced a better, stronger argument. Similarly, he didn’t repeat the same arguments ad nauseum, he invested his time into studying the scriptures of Islam and Christianity. This is what made him a potent speaker, he brought something new to the table and spent his time perfecting his trade.
I previously mentioned that to this day, many Muslims who are interested in interfaith dialogue and debate, spend their time studying the Shaykh’s debates. While I do agree that there are many good arguments we can derive from the Shaykh’s debates, we should not be over reliant on them. Most of his debates occurred some 20 to 30 years ago. Muslims today, especially young Muslims must understand that Christians have had 30 years to develop responses to his arguments. A cursory search of YouTube will return dozens upon dozens of video responses to the Shaykh’s arguments. In that 30 year period of time, Muslim interfaith argumentation has stagnated. This stagnation wholly contradicts the ethos and legacy of Shaykh Ahmad Deedat. He did not wait or depend upon a few arguments, and he did not give the missionaries time to catch up to him. As he used one argument in one debate, he’d develop a new argument for the next. This is why he was a popular debater, he offered something new, something different, something challenging. Unfortunately, the young debaters of today have no interest in following the Shaykh’s example, they’re more interested in repeating his arguments.
What’s worse is that most young debaters today repeat those arguments without understanding them. That might sound silly, but I’ve repeatedly seen young Muslims be quick to point out apparent contradictions in the Bible and when challenged, they are unable to explain their reasoning. In other words, they know it’s a contradiction because the Shaykh mentioned it but they don’t understand how it’s a contradiction! Shaykh Deedat also spent his time studying his own religion and in many videos we see him spontaneously recalling Qura’nic ayah after Qur’anic ayah. Most young Muslim debaters today read the Bible more than the Qur’an, while being ignorant of the basic tenets of Islamic belief (re: creed; ‘aqeedah). This behaviour betrays the legacy of Shaykh Deedat. Most young Muslims today either misunderstand or rather, neglect to understand what they’re supposed to adopt from the Shaykh’s legacy and this is very upsetting. If Muslim debaters today want to live up to the legacy of Shaykh Deedat and if they want to attain his level of success, then they need to invest more time in studying and less time in vapid argumentation.
The legacy of Shaykh Deedat is one of rigorous study, sincere seeking of knowledge and honest intentions. Anything less, and I can definitely say that they have the wrong motivations.
and Allah knows best.