In April of 2021 I had the pleasure of debating Dr. Michael Brown (Line of Fire) on a new short form debate series for AWKING TV, a Christian streaming channel. The series, That’s Debatable was meant to cater for hot topics in short form debates with a focus on robust rapid fire segments. In total, my episode was the last to debut at #8 and generally holding to the same 25-30 minute format of the show. Br. Zakir Hussain (Muslim Debate Initiative) referred me to the show and after a quick round of emails everything was set up, including a contract which allowed me to distribute a recording of the episode after a sunset period. That clause kicked in to effect last month and it is with that in mind that I’ve released the debate video.
Notably, this is the only episode that was not advertised publicly. Neither Dr. Michael Brown, nor his team promoted this episode. Reviews and reactions have piled in swiftly since the video’s debut a number of days ago and the consensus (both in the comments and otherwise) seems to indicate that the Muslim side presented itself quite brilliantly. It should go without saying that everyone believes they perform better at their own debates, after all, why do this if one weren’t confident in their own ability for the sake of God? Farid Responds has done a fantastic reaction and review of the debate. Personally, I enjoyed the fiery style of this debate and while short, I did not find time to be an issue. I tried my best to respond with references and data which evidenced my claims and with the assistance of EFDawah and Br. Erfan al Farisi, we managed to have the subtitles fully transcribed and burnt-in to the video.
One of the more astounding claims to come out of this debate by Dr. Brown was that Christians possessed 5000 manuscripts of the New Testament within Christianity’s first centuries, to date, that remains to be an unqualified claim. Of peculiar interest are claims from some Christian audience members that the debate must be a deep fake video, Dr. Brown could not have possibly said the things he did, and yet he did. Other Christian audience members have asked if the video was perhaps cut in some way to make Dr. Brown claim awkward things, and yet it was not. The video is available via the streaming service here. As for why some Christian audience members have such disbelief about Dr. Brown’s claims in the debate, I leave that for you, the audience to decide. It should be noted that the video was available to watch freely, behind no paywall as of July 2022, that a paywall has gone up by the Christian streaming service at the same time I’ve freely released the debate is peculiar, but I lay no claim here, it may just be coincidental.
Overall, audiences have reacted very well to the debate, feedback has been heartwarming and all in all, I think it is fair to say that Christian academics are struggling to defend the New Testament’s reliability both textually and historically, as seen in this very debate.
A few months ago I had a wonderful debate with Mr. Stephen Atkins of Toronto on the historicity of the crucifixion of Christ Jesus. The results of this discussion have been quite meaningful for me and I want to expand on this some more.
Typically, Muslim and Christian debates on the crucifixion have tended to focus on what the Bible or the Qur’ān say about the event itself. This almost always leads into the question of the Qur’ān denying a fact of history. Rather than repeating a debate that has been done ad nauseum, I wanted to do something a little different. It started with an innocent but yet a very foundational question. What does it mean when something is determined to be historic (this is different to an event being historical)? This question spawned other questions. What is the historical method, what counts as a fact of history, what is the role of evidence in determining something to be historic, etc? Muslim-Christian dialogues on the topic had previously presupposed to some degree that we can take the conclusions of some historians and then argue based on their conclusions. It had occurred to me that after twenty-something years of being told that there were mountains of evidence for the crucifixion that I had not actually seen these mountains at all. I surveyed Christian apologetic works against Islām to compile a list of these evidences. I then surveyed Christian apologetic works in response to mythicists (those who claim that Christ Jesus never existed) and compared the evidences they listed. The result was that the lists generally overlapped but they were quite short, in fact, this result bothered me. I assumed at that point that perhaps there was a flaw in the works I had chosen to survey and so I reached out to several Christian colleagues (many of whom were in academia or seminarians) to assist me with my lists. Most produced shorter lists than what I had produced myself.
Knowing then that my lists were more expansive, I then set out to analyse the provenance, datings, and other relevant information about each evidence listed. Most, if not all were from non-contemporaneous sources that provided less information than the Gospels collectively. Knowing already the historical problems with the Gospels (along with the New Testament in general), alongside the various preservation and textual-critical issues, I eventually concluded that our Christian colleagues had exaggerated their claim and in fact, that the emperor wore no clothes; there were no mountains of evidence. There were also no hills, no slopes, not even a slight incline, but rather a singular mole-hill. The stage was set, now I would proceed to examine the other half of the equation, the historical method itself. Reading book after book on historiography, works on historiographic criteria, and works by Christian historians, I began to feel quite underwhelmed and somewhat disappointed. I had assumed that there was some technical detail that held everything together or that there was something more elaborate and demonstrative other than assumptions that had little to no bases. One of the things which became plainly obvious was that from the secular historians I had read from, while they acknowledged the New Testament in and of itself as a complete work of literature was largely ahistorical in its claims, these same historians had viewed the individual event of the crucifixion as historic. The dichotomy was somewhat astounding. Eventually the overarching reason that this dichotomy existed was down to the view that no one else within the 1st century CE had claimed the crucifixion of Christ Jesus did not happen.
In historiography there are two terms that everyone should become familiar with.
Methodical credulity – where you presuppose that something is true and wait for evidence to the contrary
Methodical skepticism – where you presuppose that something is not true and wait for evidence to the contrary
In the case of the New Testament, academic historians generally apply methodical skepticism but in the case of the crucifixion they applied methodical credulity. What then, explained this dichotomy? It comes down to another facet of historiography known as continuities. See, continuities are generalisations which allow for assumptions of truth (credulity). For example, if I were to make the claim that President Trump owned a smartphone, no one would generally doubt this because in today’s world almost everyone has a smartphone. A historian 200, 300 years from now who examines his presidency, or even his personal life can generally assume that he did own a smartphone because it was common at our present time. It is commonly understood that the Romans regularly crucified Jews at the time of Jesus and so it can be reasonably assumed that because it was so frequent an event, that he was indeed crucified. He just happened to be one of many. Yet, this is just an assumption. For people who aren’t Christians or Muslims, accepting this as a fact bears no consequence on their worldview or their salvation. However, both Muslims and Christians have consequences to bear regarding the crucifixion or the lack of the crucifixion of Christ Jesus. It now becomes more important to have more than mere assumptions based on generalisations and arguments from silence. The stakes are quite literally raised at this point (please forgive the pun).
This is why the debate and the subsequent EFDawah livestreams on this topic became of note.
Rather than arguing based on an assumption, now we were arguing on foundational claims, principles, and evidences. The debate and the streams became somewhat of a testing ground to see just how well prominent debaters, clergymen, and apologists would do in a serious discussion on these matters. The results proved to be quite successful. I’ve had Muslims who have left Islām, return to Islām out of Christianity. Folks who had become agnostic due to this “error in the Qur’ān” returned to Islām. My friends and colleagues have reported using these very arguments successfully in their day to day interfaith conversations. Yet there is perhaps a caveat to all this which most people have yet to recognise. All of my research and all of the arguments which followed from it, have not been made public. In fact, privately with my friends and colleagues, and in a few Masjid lectures I’ve gone into a considerably greater amount of detail. What I’ve presented in the debate itself and in some of the historicity streams are generally the less technical points, summarised arguments, etc. There is so much more to unpack and I hope to do so in a comprehensive, yet brief introductory book on the crucifixion.
Recently Joseph “Jay” Smith published a video claiming that I had cancelled a debate with him because I wanted a last minute change to the topic. In this brief video, I provide email evidence that not only was the topic agreed to months in advance, but that Mr. Smith himself pulled out of the debate. In addition to this, we also provide an internal Pfander document which lists myself as one of the “Principle Debaters” in the world.
View the video on EFDawah:
or, view the video on SCDawah:
Should Mr. Smith opt to reconsider his reticence to debate a Muslim he considers to be one of the best in the world, I am more than willing to provide him with the opportunity to do so.
While in Speakers Corner about two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to discuss the New Testament (and a few of its variants) along with the historicity of the Crucifixion narrative using my Nestle-Aland 28th Edition Greek New Testament…with a Greek Christian. This proved very opportune, as he could openly correct me had I lied or made a mistake about what the Greek New Testament said! I was excited to be put to the test and suffice it to say, I think the discussion went quite well.
We earlier tried to have the same discussion but an older missionary gentleman was listening in (as others do), and while this was not a problem, the moment I raised a problematic question he reacted in an absurd way that led to the conversation ending. Thankfully my Greek colleague was up for round two, where we summarized the first discussion and had a full length discussion on the above mentioned topics. It’s decidedly worth the watch, many thanks to the EFDawah YouTube channel for recording and uploading the dialogue with excellent quality!
Please note – I have quoted Martin Luther in this video and he has many anti-Semitic statements towards the Jewish people. I have only quoted him to provide context for statements made in response to Dr. White. I do not endorse or encourage use of Luther’s hateful views.
See the Presentation that Dr. White is commenting on here.
This dialogue took place in the context of a discussion I have been having with Mr. Kerimli for the past two years. It mainly revolves around the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an’s relationship with both of those books. We explore these relationships, the existence of a possible “Madinan Torah” and other fascinating questions about textual preservation in light of historical evidences. Click here for the dialogue.
I recently had a dialogue with my friend and colleague, Mr. Alex Kerimli in Toronto. Today the video of that event is being released. The event was graciously hosted by the i3 Institute, which offers courses for young Muslims in the Greater Toronto Area.
The event went extremely well and in the end I have to say that I definitely enjoyed my time with Mr. Kerimli. We met a second time following the dialogue and had a second more informal dialogue that would be released in the near future. In the meantime, this dialogue took place in the context of a discussion I have been having with Mr. Kerimli for the past two years. It mainly revolves around the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an’s relationship with both of those books. We explore these relationships, the existence of a possible “Madinian Torah” and other fascinating questions about textual preservation in light of historical evidences.
At the end of the dialogue, it was all smiles from both sides of the theological divide.
In addition to releasing the video of the dialogue I am also including my PowerPoint presentation slides in PDF form. There are two versions of these slides. There is the original presentation as I used it in the dialogue. Following the event I noted that there was a miscitation of a quote from Mark, instead of Mark 4:15 I accidentally put Mark 4:20. There was also another miscitation, instead of Pslam 40:6-8, I wrote Isaiah 40:6-8. Along with that error, I also clarified my use of terms in the table comparing the contents of the Shema in the Gospels and the Septuagint editions. To be fair, I am releasing both the original version with the errors and the corrected version for clarity. I will follow up with Mr. Kerimli to see if he would be willing to do the same.
In August of this year I had the pleasure of debating my longtime colleague and friend, Luis Dizon in Toronto, Canada. Both events were held at the TARIC Islamic Center, moderated by Br. Sadat Anwar and recorded by Sr. Tabasum. The topics debated focused on the nexus which brings Muslims and Christians together to this very day, the status of the New Testament and Islam’s view of the Bible. Islam’s relationship with the Ahl al Kitab (the People of the Book) is one filled with centuries of fruitful discussion and dialogue, and with this tradition behind us, both myself and Luis decided to debate these core topics.
Debate 1: “Is the New Testament the Word of God?”
Date: Friday 12th August, 2016.
Debaters: Br. Ijaz Ahmad vs J. Luis Dizon.
Debate #2: “What Do the Qur’an and Islamic Tradition Say About the Bible?”
Date: Saturday 13th August, 2016.
Debaters: Br. Ijaz Ahmad vs J. Luis Dizon.
I sincerely pray that these debates can lead many to enlightenment and to the truth of Islam. Ameen.
On Friday 12th, August (2016), I debated Luis Dizon on the topic of, “Is the New Testament the Word of God?” at TARIC Masjid in Toronto. The initial publicly published recording found here (MDI) had a small audio issue which has been fixed in this version. It’s the exact same video, with the echo removed and the colour of the video slightly adjusted.