Pastor Mohammed has an MA in Theology and represents the Seventh Day Adventist Church. He’s the child of a marriage comprised of a Muslim father and a Christian mother. This explains his religion and it’s odd juxtaposition with his Islamic surname.
Sheikh Mohammed Awal, founder and director of Zaitun Dawah Institute (ZDI), a think tank research center with head quarters in Seattle Washington State USA, and branches in NY, Atlanta, Nigeria, and Ghana.
Sh. Awal is a scholar in Islamic Sciences, Comparative Religion and logic. He is an Islamic apologist, a debater, a motivational speaker and a prolific writer. He holds a diploma in Agric. Science and Irrigation Engineering from College of Irrigation and Surveying, and a degree from the prestigious Kaduna Polytechnic College of Environmental Studies both In Nigeria. He also bags a diploma in logic and philosophy from Seattle Institute of Advance Studies. Read more about him here.
Pastor Mohammed began the discussion and was very well spoken. He did not try to prove that Jesus was a deity nor was he preaching to Muslims. The Pastor did not stray from the topic and stayed very well within its delimits. His presentation involved a number of slides displaying both the Bible and the Qur’aan in respect to our shared beliefs about Jesus the Christ. Below are photos of the Pastor while speaking and one of his slides (click to expand photos).
He mentioned that both the Bible and Qur’aan taught that Jesus was a Prophet, the Messiah, did miracles by God’s will, raised the dead, cured the sick etc.
Shaykh Awal agreed with the presentation of the Pastor and so decided not to repeat what the Pastor had already spoken. He chose to elaborate and expand on the points previously presented. Shaykh Awal mentioned that Jesus was sent for the lost sheep of Israel, that Jesus came to confirm the Torah and practised God’s laws. His opening also focused on Jesus’ prophesying the coming of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and referenced the comforter in John 14, 15 and 16, as well as quoting Isaiah 29:12.
Cross Fire Questions and Answers (3 each):
Shaykh Awal opened this round and asked the following three questions:
- Does Jesus’ ability to perform miracles make him God?
- Why was Jesus baptised?
- How did the Prophets (Abraham, Moses, Jesus) pray?
The Pastor’s answers are as follows:
- Performing miracles does not make Jesus unique. It is one of the predicted signs of the Messiah that he would perform miracles according to Isaiah. His performing of signs and miracles does not make him unique or divine.
- Jesus was baptised to fulfill the prophesy of the Messiah being righteous. Matthew 3 expands on this view. The rite of baptism is symbolic and Muslims can read Qur’aan 2:138 or thereabout for more information. Jesus was baptised so that others would follow this practise and be forgiven.
- Muslims pray more like the Prophets of the Torah than the Christians do. He referred to how both Muslims and the Prophets like Moses pray by bowing and prostrating and he believes this is how Jesus prayed. He finished by encouraging Christians to also pray this way.
The Pastor then poised his three questions to Shaykh Awal and they are as follows:
- You spoke about not using the English word for God and recommended that we should use the Arabic term as it is more accurate. Before the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ came, what term did the Arab pagans, Jews and Christians use for God?
- You said that Jesus only came to the Jews, but I’ve read otherwise. Have you considered John 3:16-17?
- You mentioned the Torah, Zabur, etc. If the Torah is for the Jews and the Injeel for the Christians, are these books for all the followers of God or only these specific people?
Shaykh Awal answered these questions by stating:
- El, Elah, Alah, these are the Semitic words for God before the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ came. The Qur’aan mentions that some of the Arabs were Hanifah (righteous), following the example of Abraham who was Hanif. They followed his practice of referring to the Semitic word for God, Allaah. The Prophet’s ﷺ father’s name was Abdullah and so we know from this that the Arabs knew of God’s name as Allaah and so they used it before the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was born.
- I’m yet to see a single place in the New Testament where Jesus went outside of Israel and preached to the gentiles. Look at Matthew 15:21, a Caananite woman came to Jesus and he showed her no mercy because she was not Jewish. Why won’t he heal her? When Jesus was alive, where did he say he came for the entire world?
- The Torah of the Qur’aan was given to the Jewish peoples. Nowhere does the Torah state that it is for all of mankind. The Injeel is a confirmation of the Torah. Jesus obeyed the laws of Moses as well as what God revealed to him.
Question and Answer Period from the Audience:
Note: I was unable to record the questions and their answers but I did listen to them. Most of the questions were about Jesus being God, they were not in relation to the topic. This was my question posed to the Pastor but he did not choose to read it or respond to it (click to expand):
My handwriting is not this bad, but I was in a hurry and had to borrow someone’s pen while writing on a chair. It’s absolutely not a fair example of my handwriting. The question and answer period lasted roughly 40 or so minutes and concluded with a question for both speakers, “Shaykh Awal, what is your view of Jesus and Pastor Mohammed, what is your view of Muhammad ﷺ “. One of the questions posed to the Pastor by Br. Reyaz was, “If Jesus died for the sins of the world, does that mean my sins are forgiven and taken care of?.”
Location & Organizers:
The Islamic Da’wah Movement and the Muslim Youth of Trinidad and Tobago did an excellent job in setting up and advertising for the event. Br. Zaheer Ali was there and took many photos. Br. Asad Yacobali did an excellent job in facilitating parking and distributing paper for the questions from the audience. Br. Shezad Mohammed moderated the event/ was the chairman and did an excellent job in managing the events on the stage.
The location at Motorway Hall had a lot of space for parking and accommodated quite a large crowd of around 150 – 200 persons. The crowd consisted of a large number of Muslims and the Christian side was adequately represented. Two Pastors from Pastor Mohammed’s Seventh Day Adventist Church accompanied him and sat among the Muslim males. Seating was segregated for the Muslim community.
The event was well organized and both speakers were on point and stayed well within the scope of the discussion’s title. The dialogue was lively and entertaining, while being informative but very casual. There were no heated exchanges, no personal attacks by the speakers. They kept it very professional and focused on delivering accurate and factual information to the audience. Shaykh Awal did a splendid job in representing the Muslim side and we definitely look forward to more of his dialogues and discussions. Pastor Mohammed was respectful and cordial, I expect him to continue dialoguing with the Muslim community.
and Allaah knows best.