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.
The origin stories of the disciples is perhaps some of the most contentious passages of the New Testament Gospels. Earlier today I had a conversation with Samuel Green on this very topic, which led to the conversation below:
One Gospel – Matthew indicates that Jesus initially meets Peter and Andrew beside the Sea of Galilee casting their nets. John 1 disagrees and has Andrew go fetch Peter, bring him to Jesus and there they meet with Jesus near the River Jordan. One version has Jesus going to them (Sea of Galilee), the other has them coming to Jesus (River Jordan). Quite the contradiction!
In this in-depth video, myself and Br. Abu Ayoub examine the claim that Qur’an in Surah 18:83-86 literally says the sun is “setting in a spring of muddy water.” We walk through the phenomenological statements the Bible also uses in respect to the sun rising and setting, usually known as semitisms which is a form of language behaviour or syntax in the Semitic languages. In the end, we see that the Arabic and Hebrew languages use many language devices that are not meant to be interpreted hyper-literally and which use hyperbole to express some geographical boundary.
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.
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As a student of comparative theology, I am addicted to watching Christian/Muslim interfaith dialogues and debates. Different speakers have different oratory attributes, skills, knowledge, and of course deficiencies as well, and present their information in various ways. There are some who, to the discerning minds, seem to merely want to spout hate and animosity at the interlocutor’s person and faith conviction, not seriously interested in genuine dialogue or hoping to reach a fair and objective conclusion. And there are those that , bless them, seem to be very sincere and earnest but do not posses adequate knowledge in the scope of their debate endeavors and consequently end up creating straw men arguments, misrepresentations and false conclusions, albeit not intentionally.
This debate between Tony Costa and Ijaz Ahmed encapsulated the best of both worlds in my humble opinion. Ijaz was lucid, intelligent, respectful and up to date on the current landscape of Christian theological doctrine and textual criticism. He did not allow his Quranic or Islamic preconceptions to muddy the merit of his arguments nor did he allow the fever of religious debate to infiltrate and ruin the civility of the event (contrary to what others such as David Wood and Sam Shamoun frequently do on ABN). Tony Costa, is also one of the more respectable Christian personalities and apologists. He displayed a very professional level of dialogue and did not resort to some of the oft repeated bigoted slogans that ubiquitously occupy the lips of others who use the ABN platform. And while I believe some of Costa’s arguments to be weak or unfounded, I never found myself grinding my teeth or face palming at any time during his debate, which is a first for me as a listener of ABN’s material.
Ijaz (as well as some very intelligent Muslim questioners during the Q and A) did a terrific job using only christian and general biblical scholarship to support his claims on various topics and I learned much from his presentations as well as his style of delivery, in fact, I am shocked at his level of knowledge and wisdom at such a young age. I will definitely watch this debate numerous times in order to study the material he so eloquently presented and utilize it in the future! By my humble estimation, Ijaz clearly provided the more objective and faith-neutral arguments while Costa, although being respectful and polite, countered with little more than cliches that have long been discarded by modern studies in textual criticism and Christology. Examples include his continued claim that the Gospels were 1st century documents despite Ijaz’s elucidation of the fact that the oldest known manuscripts like P52 are dated by biblical scholars no earlier than the early second century and as late as the third century (even though Prof Dan Wallace claims to have been a part of the dating and discovery of a small late first century fragment of Mark back in 2012, it is now almost 2016 with still no verification.)
There are many more points, paramount ones, that can be expounded upon to show how Ijaz demonstrated the problematic nature of reconciling unitiarian passages in the NT with the trinity and the dual nature of Jesus peace be upon him, as well as how he academically clarified the dubious nature of the NT text as a whole, which in essence trumped anything Costa could have had to refute!
The debate video has been added to our ‘Debates page‘, and is available on YouTube:
I’ve received a ton of positive feedback about the debate. There are a number of reviews expected to be published soon. The following review is from a Muslim YouTube user who watched all of the debates from the Trinity Channel’s Debate Marathon, featuring Dr. Shabir Ally, David Wood, Dr Costa and myself, he says:
I just found this channel, and during the past week or so watched all these debates against Muslims.
As a Muslim convert from Christianity, I must say that the Christians on here are good at debating but they do it in a slick way. That is that they always take the Qur’an and twist it back onto the Muslim by saying things like “According to your book, blah blah blah.”
This debate was the best one so far because Ijaz went into it know this was going to happen and in his initial statement didn’t even mention the Qur’an and used just Christian ideology to make his point. I was thinking that we would finally get a good discussion going.
Unfortunately, right in the first rebuttal, the Christian side went right into the same tactics as in all the previous debates. This is what made this one feel like a big rehash of the previous week.
A big congratulations to our brother Ijaz Ahmad on last night’s debate with Dr. Tony Costa. It was a resounding victory for Ijaz, despite lacking the academic credentials and decades of experience that his opponent possesses.
Dr. Costa misunderstood your arguments. He misunderstood the topic of the debate. Perhaps he had not given enough thought on the subject. It is strange indeed to see his logic at play here. Suppose the debate title was: ‘ Is the Qur’an the word of God’ or ‘is Muhammad a Prophet of God?’ Merely quoting the Qur’an or the early followers of Islam, or even contemporary non-Muslims who stated this belief of Muslims does not prove any of these propositions. Dr. Costa presumed wrongly that the debate was ‘ Does the Bible claim that Jesus is the son of God or …’. I can accept that the laity can be a victim of poor comprehension on this but I don’t expect that from learned individuals.
The approach I took in this debate has piqued the interest of the inter-faith dialogue community. I chose not to use the historical/ Biblical interpretation route (Son of God has many meanings). Rather, I accepted that my opponent believes that Jesus was God/ the Son of God. From that, I argued based on the philosophy of religion and on the ontology (nature of his God), that Jesus did not meet or fulfill the criteria of God (defined in the debate as a maximally perfect being).
In other words, I asked very important questions. If Jesus is God, does he demonstrate the qualities of a deity? Do the beliefs of Christians regarding the Son of God’s place in the Trinity, make any sense? Are those beliefs consistent, are they rational? Do they contain heretical teachings? Do Christians appeal to heresies to defend the Trinity?
P1: If the beliefs about the Son of God by Christians are inconsistent and irrational, then Jesus is not the Son of God.
P2: The beliefs about the Son of God by Christians are inconsistent and irrational.
C: Therefore Jesus is not the Son of God.
The debate was absolutely wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with Dr. Costa, and I was very much pleased with the outcome. Quite a lot of Muslims thanked me for introducing these arguments, and for not repeating the same arguments that have traditionally been used for debates about this topic since time immemorial. I always try to introduce new information, new arguments, new research when I debate. The goals are to raise and advance the level of intellectual discourse, to discuss the fundamental and essential beliefs about our respective faiths, and finally to educate the public.
May Allah reward all those who take their time to watch the debate, Ameen.
Topic: Is the Muslim Denial of Jesus’s Death by Crucifixion Valid?
Debaters: Br. Ijaz Ahmad of Calling Christians and Keith Thompson of Answering Islam.
Date: Saturday 26th of September, 2015.
Time: 10 PM EST.
Location: Paltalk, Answering Christianity Room.
Moderator: Sister Waduha.
A little background on the Christian debater:
Keith Thompson of Answering Islam
Keith Thompson is a Christian apologist who runs Reformed Apologetics Ministries and has been writing for Answering-Islam.org since 2008. He is a debater having debated opponents such as Inamullah Mumtaz, Sami Zaatari, Nadir Ahmed, Peter Dimond and others. He resides in Canada and will be completing his seminary studies shortly.
This will be my (Br. Ijaz’s) third debate for the year, with one final (fourth) debate to be announced shortly. The final debate will be with a well known Christian scholar and will be televised (and is expected to be streamed live). The debate is to be held on Friday October the 9th, 2015 (tentative dating).
If you don’t use Paltalk and would still like to view the debate between Keith and myself, alternative arrangements may be made for a YouTube streaming of the event (tentative), or a recording should be available within a week’s time (on YouTube via Nazam44’s and MuslimByChoice’s channels).
If you or someone you know is interested in debating me, do send a request via our contact us form.
Most people are aware that Tom Holland is a historian, most people are also aware that he is not a palaeographer, nor a papyrologist, nor has he studied Arabic codicology. Therefore, finding him being referenced as an academic source regarding the Birmingham manuscripts was extremely strange. I decided to tweet Tom and get some answers.
I recognize that some people may not be able to follow the conversation. So here is a simple run down of the conversation:
Have you seen the probability distribution curve with any of the sigma ranges? His answer was no, he was not aware of any graph. This is strange because you can only know how the date ranges work if you’ve seen the graph, if you haven’t, then where did he get his “analysis” from?
I asked, if he didn’t see the curve, how was he able to give an analysis. His answer was, “(based) on the information Birmingham University have publicly made available”. The problem here is that the only information regarding the dating that they have made publicly available is merely mentioning the date range, no scientific data regarding the analysis of the C14 was made public. In other words, he had no sources and did not consult any scientific data to arrive at his conclusion. I immediately pointed this out to him.
I then asked, if not based on actual C14 data, what did he base his analysis on? He proceeded to state, “even on the latest date, the script reflects a sophisticated scribal culture that does not accord with it”. To which I replied that we do have early manuscripts with diacritical markings.
He asked me for evidence of this, and so I gave him one citation and before I could proceed, he chose to end the conversation at that point in time.
So what have we learned? Tom Holland is not a specialist in this field. He did not consult any actual data to arrive at his publicly claimed conclusions. He is not aware of how manuscripts are carbon dated, nor is he aware of modern studies on Arabic palaeography and codicology. In other words, his opinion is akin to asking any random person off of the street to give their analysis of highly specialized scientific data.
Interestingly in July of this year, Tom actually held the opposite view, that the manuscripts validated the traditional teaching about its codification:
Tom Holland, the author of “In the Shadow of the Sword,” which charts the origins of Islam, said the discovery in Birmingham bolstered scholarly conclusions that the Quran attained something close to its final form during Muhammad’s lifetime. He said the fragments did not resolve the controversial questions of where, why and how the manuscript was compiled, or how its various suras, or chapters, came to be combined in a single volume. – NYT.
You can read the full conversation on Twitter, here. As we say in cricket, Tom, learn to bat in your own crease.
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