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Review of The Study Qur’an by GF Haddad

This review by Sh. GF Haddad sums up the Muslim views on The Study Qur’an, with apt examples of its improprieties with noted attention on its appeals to and validation of the heterodox belief of perennialism.

This book is the magnum opus of Iranian University Professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University Seyyed Hossein Nasr (b. 1933), an expert on Islamic philosophy and the history of science and the heir apparent of the syncretist Frithjof Schuon (1907-1998) as head of the Maryamiyya Order, a universalist movement based on the so-called Traditionalist School. (“Traditionalism” is a Western adaptation of Hinduism that negates claims of Truth by any religion through relativizing all of them; I will refer to its ideology in this review by the term Perennialism.) It is a well-crafted, mostly North American project that lumps several works in a single hefty volume printed on extra-thin India paper: an original English rendering of the Qur’ān; a first-ever, rich anthology in English from 41 works of Quranic commentary with an embedded 42nd, original commentary on the part of Nasr, who terms it “not simply a collage of selections but a new work” (p. xliii); and the mismatched last part, 15 essays on the Qur’ān by a mixed group of academics—three of whom are also the book’s general editors— “included… at the suggestion of the publisher… the essays are in a sense a separate book… an independent work” (p. xlv).

The earliest of the tafsīr sources used is Muqātil b. Sulaymān (d. 150/767), the next to latest Muḥammad Ḥusayn Ṭabāṭabā’ī (d. 1401/1981). Thirty-one of these sources are Sunni (74%), seven twelver-Shiʿi (17%), one (al-Shawkānī) Zaydi, one (al-Zamakhsharī) Muʿtazili, one (ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Kāshānī) Batini and of course one (Nasr) Perennialist. Abbreviations pointing to each of those commentaries are used in almost all of the abundant footnotes and the editors explicitly identify the Shiʿi sources whenever using them, making Sunni sourcing the norm. Because of its coverage, the quality of its language, the range of its exegetical material and its attractive presentation, The Study Quran is the nearest thing to a handy and accessible, integral reference-work in English on the subject. This is not saying much. Nasr is, of all the Guénon Perennialists past and present, the nearest thing to a traditional scholar; but his field is not Tafsīr, not Hadith, not Arabic philology, and not jurisprudence.

Except for the calligraphied basmala that precedes each of the translated suras and a photograph from a palimpsest muṣḥaf on p. 1619 there is of course not one jot of Qur’ān in The Study Quran, which was entirely written by Nasr, his colleagues Caner K. Dagli, Maria Massi Dakake, Joseph E. Lumbard and the essayists. This banal yet unorthodox titular confusion between the original sacred Arabic corpus and the 2007-2016 collaborative product by the same name is kept throughout the 25-page introduction. The latter discusses “the inner unity of religions,” the Christian doctrines of incarnation and transubstantiation, jafr and gematria (numerology), “polemical accounts in some apocryphal sources” of ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib’s alternate Qur’ān, and bibliomancy or Quranic fortune-telling (see “Fāl-nāma” in the Encyclopaedia Iranica) which consists in opening a muṣḥaf at random before choosing a course of action instead of performing the actual istikhāra prayer taught by the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace.

Beyond a perfunctory captation on “the inimitable eloquence of Quranic Arabic, which Muslims consider a miracle that no human being can ever duplicate” (p. xlii) and a brief, unsourced footnote (2:23), The Study Quran shows no knowledge of iʿjāz or the miraculous inimitability of the Quranic idiom from the perspective of Muslim philologists and exegetes, who viewed it as the foremost argument of divine origin and thus the central theme of exegesis. Ibn ʿĀshūr, one of the sources the Study Quran claims to have used, stated in the tenth prolegomenon to his Tafsīr (1:102): “A Quranic exegete is not reckoned to have passed muster as long as his commentary does not expose the aspects of eloquence in the verses it strives to explain, and the upshot of this inimitability is that the entire mission of the Prophet Muḥammad—upon him blessings and peace—was built on the stagger¬ing mir¬acle (muʿjiza) of the Qur’ān, and that its conclusive proof (ḥujja) is inseparable from that mira¬cle until the Day of resurrection.”

Nasr protests that The Study Quran is to be “excluding modernistic or fundamentalist interpretations that have appeared in parts of the Islamic world during the past two centuries” (p. xl) hence the absence of the tafsir works of Abduh, Maududi, Qutb and Maraghi; but how is one to explain, on the one hand, the absence of contemporary non-modernistic or non-fundamentalist contributions such as by Drāz, Zuḥaylī, Bint al-Shāṭi’ and Shinqīṭī and, on the other, the fact that the Perennialist ideology that pervades The Study Quran is itself very much a modernistic interpretation that has appeared in parts of the Western world during the past century? He justifies his choice of editors as “preserv[ing] diversity” because they are of both genders although all are, in his own words “from among those who had studied with me in one way or another in years past,” for the sake of “preservation of the unity of the work.” He asserts they are “all with direct experience of the Islamic world, familiarity with the traditional Islamic sciences, and mastery of classical Arabic” (pp. xl-xli). Although I do not know by what standards the latter claims are meant or under what recognized scholars of Qur’ān and Hadith any of the editors studied, Nasr included, nevertheless the translation problems on several key issues are obvious, not to mention the elephant in the room. Technical and doctrinal credentials matter in purporting to teach the ultimate source for the beliefs of two billion people in the third most widely spoken language on earth.

The Quranic translation of The Study Quran is unexceptional. Nasr adopts the same archaizing English typical of colonial India translators (and, most recently, Martin Lings) who wished to produce an equivalent of the King James Bible idiom, with “God” as the inevitable rendering of the divine Name and the similarly biblicized Englishing of the names of prophets, angels, places etc. Janna is translated not as the expected “paradise” but as the more literal “Garden” while al-nār is “the Fire” and al-jaḥīm “Hellfire.” A few Arabicisms are imposed—the untranslated terms ḥajj, ʿumra, jizya (2:196-197, 9:3, 9:29, 22:27)—along with the diehard, archaic “wont” for Sunna and (in footnotes) the Trollopian “People of the Veranda” for Ahl al-ṣuffa. The unprecedented translation of kursī as pedestal (2:255) is felicitous but no such thought shows in rendering dhālika al-kitāb as “This is the Book” (2:2), when Rāzī and Bayḍāwī showed that the demonstrative of remoteness dhālika points to Quranic magnificence and unfathomability, and should therefore be rendered as “That.” The translation of lan nu’mina laka as “we will not believe thee” (2:49) reduplicates the mistake of all previous English translations by ignoring the preposition lām (in laka), “for,” which calls, as pointed out by Ṭabarī and others, for the rendering “we will not believe just for your sake/just because you say so.”

The translation of muslimūn mostly as “submitters” (3:52, 3:64, 3:80, 11:14…) is justifiable, the latter construing the original as a nominal form, were it not for the editors’ underlying Perennialist bias which strives to separate the historical acception of islām as “the religion revealed through the Prophet of Islam” from generic “submission to God in general.” Hence the claim that “in the Quran Abraham and Jesus are also called muslim in the sense of ‘submitter’” (p. xxix, my emphasis). In reality the religion of Islam is submission sine qua non and all prophets are called Muslim with a capital from the start—and in the sense of timeless, essential Muḥammadans, followers of the Prophet Muḥammad as explicited in verse 3:81—just as all Muslims are also submitters. In addition, submission is always understood as submission to the latest prophet of the time, not to an earlier one, and so no submission remains today except that manifested in Islam. Al-Ghazālī cited in the book of naskh of his Mustaṣfā “the consensus in the agreement of the entire Community that the sacred law of Muḥammad—upon him blessings and peace—has abrogated the laws of his predecessors” while al-Nawawī in the book of ridda of his Rawḍat al-ṭālibīn stipulated, “Someone who does not believe that whoever follows another religion than Islam is an unbeliever, like the Christians, or has doubts about declaring them to be unbelievers, or considers their way to be correct, is himself a kāfir even if with that he professes Islam and believes in it.”

The Perennialist leitmotiv of the universal validity of all religions is perhaps the chief original message of The Study Quran which readers will not get anywhere else, because it is as alien to the Qur’ān and Sunna as it is alien to Islam and all other religions. This novel theme creeps in and out unsourced; it is part of what the introduction innocuously describes as “providing in some places our own commentary, which is not found… in the earlier sources” (xliv), in comments such as “most Muslims believe that these women [Mary, Fāṭima and Āsiya] lead the soul [sic] of blessed women to Paradise” (p. 143) and “Some might argue, therefore, that Jesus, by virtue of being identified as God’s Word, somehow participates (uniquely) in the Divine Creative Command” (p. 267). The latter co-Creator comment suffices to describe the effect of the Study Quran on the Perennialist School in the same terms Abū Muḥammad al-Tamīmī described the effect of Abu Yaʿlā al-Farrā’s anthropomorphist book Ibṭāl al-ta’wīlāt on the Ḥanbalī School: “He has beshat them with filth even water cannot wash away” (Ibn al-Athīr, al-Kāmil, obituaries for the year 458).

The discussion of ḥanīf (2:135) mixes up Rāzī, Ṭabarī, Orientalist views and “universal truth,” yielding an impossibly confused footnote. On pp. 31-32 the editors twist all the commentaries on verse 2:62 to make them fit into their very special reading of a single phrase in a controverted work of Ghazalī, Fayṣal al-tafriqa, in defense of their ideas. Their reduction of the Quranic condemnation of Christian doctrines as addressing only “a local sect of Christians with beliefs different from mainstream Chalcedonian Christianity” (p. 31), “those who assert the existence of three distinct gods” (p. 267), “certain sects among the Christians… such as the Jacobites and the Nestorians” (p. 316), is a revision of the Qur’ān and a woeful justification of Orthodox and Catholic Trinitarianisms. As pointed out by an earlier review […], “in the formative period, Chalcedonian Christology was not being treated any differently than other forms of Christology, and the earliest Muslims regarded it as constituting the very Trinity which the Qur’ān rebukes.” The comments from al-Rāzī to that effect cited on all the above pages show that the editors are fully aware of the fact.

This is what I called Nasr’s embedded 42nd commentary and here are some more examples of it: “There may be a third possibility often left unexplored by Muslims until recently: that one can remain a Christian while affirming the veracity of the Prophet Muhammad and of what was revealed to him” (p. 187). This was in fact the claim made by the eighth-century founder of the ʿĪsāwiyya Perso-Jewish sect and pseudo-prophet Abū ʿĪsā al-Aṣfahānī (documented by Bāqillānī, Ibn Ḥazm and other heresiographers), namely that Jesus and Muḥammad were indeed prophets, but only for the Arabs. The spotlight is on what Lombard calls “the eternal formless truth” (p. 1766, my emphasis) but never on the abrogation and supercession of pre-Muḥammadan dispensations, to deny which is atheism and blasphemy, divestiture posing as inclusivism; as a result The Study Quran ends up construing the exact opposite of the message of the Qur’ān: “The Religion of Truth can be more broadly understood to mean all revealed religions” (p. 1367), a methodical rejection of the hadith in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim: “By the One in Whose hand is the soul of Muḥammad, there is no one among this nation, Jew or Christian, who hears of me and dies without believing in that with which I have been sent, but he will be one of the people of the Fire.”

In the above context, the editorial comment “it is the Divine Will that there be multiple religious communities, as expressed in the next line of the verse had God willed, He would have made you one community” (p. 301), although true, is the stuff of heterodoxy (in this case Jabriyya determinism) and reveals a studied confusion between the divine will (irāda) and the divine good pleasure (riḍā). It is like an amoralist saying it is also the Divine Will that evil should exist.

This Perennialist bias thrives even at the expense of Arabic grammar and syntax. The translators correctly have “the Trustworthy Spirit” for al-rūḥ al-amīn (26:193) but render rūḥ al-qudus (16:102) as “the Holy Spirit”—rather than the accurate “Spirit of holiness”—construing rūḥ as a noun and al-qudus as an adjective then adding loaded initial capitals, a blatant christianism reminiscent of the now trite “God’s baptism” for ṣibghat Allāh in 2:138 which this translation perpetuates. Arab Christian liturgies use qudus as an adjective exclusively, but the latter form is of course al-rūḥ al-qudus. Another poor choice is the limp rendering of ittaqū (beware) as “be mindful” (2:48, 2:123…) at times and “reverence” (2:189, 2:194, 49:12…) at others.

There are other serious problems of which again only a sampling can be given. In a long eight-column footnote at the beginning of the rendering of Sura 24 (“Light”) the mainstream reader will notice an accumulation of scholarly fallacies posing as arguments against the criminal penalty of stoning for the adulterer. Among these, (i) avoidance of any mention of the Consensus which has formed over this issue since the first century of Islam; (ii) ignorance of the abrogated status—also by consensus—of the restriction of the adulterers’ freedom to marry (pp. 868-869) and of the “double punishment” hadith (p. 866) for all but Hanbalis; the editors mechanically list ḥadd hadiths (pp. 865-866) without sourcing, grading or analysis, but only with a view to suggest ambiguity, conflict and contradiction over this particular issue, much in the same way that the entire book is ungrounded in jurisprudential madhhab knowledge; (iii) pointed mistranslation of the terms al-shaykh wal-shaykha in the abrogated Verse of Stoning, which here never meant “old man” and “old woman” as claimed ad nauseam, but rather “married man” and “married woman” in all the glosses. Sourcelessness is another way of purveying outlandish ideas, such as the unreferenced speculation (p. 436) by “some” that “the real crime of the people of Lot was forcible sodomy rather than consensual homosexual relations.” This is an LGBT perspective that has nothing to do with scholarship of any kind, let alone exegesis. (See on this the excellent article “Gender Identity and Same-Sex Acts in Islamic Law” by MIT Muslim Chaplain and Fawakih Academic Dean Dr. Suheil Laher.) The insertion of elliptical dots between square brackets […] in the midst of verse 41:42 suggests lost parts or missing text in the original Arabic, a gross impropriety.

All the great exegetes agreed on tafsīr as requiring mastery in the entire spectrum of the Islamic disciplines. The methodology of The Study Quran falls short of that requirement even as it mimicks the activity of tafsīr and ijtihād in many places. In terms of presenting Islam to non-Muslims in an advantageous light in the post-9/11 world, it would have been a commendable effort that filled a void. However, the fact that it is, at best, mainstream in many places and absolutely heterodox in many others makes it unrecommendable in absolute terms. Those who are looking for a truly reliable holistic digest of the mercy-oriented, reason-grounded book of law, wisdom, prophets and devotion that is the Qur’ān in light of its native principles of mass transmission, consensus, abrogation, jurisprudence and the inexhaustible troves of divinely-inspired Arabic polysemy and Prophetic directives, must keep looking.

Gibril Fouad Haddad
Universiti Brunei Darussalam-SOASCIS

This review can also be read on Amazon. Calling Christians agrees with the conclusions of this review and we strongly advise that lay-Muslims do not purchase this work. Alternatives include a translation of the Qur’an by Mufti Elias: Qur’an Made Easy, which is available for free download on Amazon. As well as the commentary of the Qur’an, Mar’iful Qur’an by Mufti Shafi Usmani, which can be read online here.

and Allah knows best.

A Response to a Review of a Review

After finding no one from the Christian community willing to perform a review of his debate with Dr. Shabir Ally, Jonathan McLatchie has finally taken the onus upon himself to “review” my review of their debate. It is unfortunate that Jonathan believes that I “misheard” or “misread” him, as this is a common excuse he uses when confronted with any criticism. Last month it was brought to the inter-faith community’s attention that Jonathan had described Muslim communities in France as a virus and a cancer to European society. If one were to compare his “review” of his debate, with the excuses used when confronted with his xenophobic statements, we’d quickly realise that Jonathan is being perpetually misunderstood by everyone. At first he claimed he never made such a statement, everyone had simply lied about him! Then, it was a statement he made, but everyone simply misunderstood him! Then, it was a statement he made, but it was not referring to Muslims but a cultural structure of extremism, everyone simply hadn’t given him enough time to explain himself! Then, he posts a video in which Muslims who practise Islam are compared to ISIS terrorists and we’re not supposed to be offended by that. The 19,000 people who viewed that article and the 3500 people that watched that video, all seem to have “misheard” and “misunderstood” him.

As one Christian apologist put it, “Jonathan is simply oblivious to any form of self criticism”. When I announced news that a Christian had accepted Islam following the debate between Dr. Shabir and Jonathan, Jonathan found it impossible that anyone would disagree with his remarks in that debate, such to the extent their faith would be questioned. I remarked to him at that point, that it doesn’t matter what you think of your own arguments, it is up to the audience to decide that. He disagreed, that just could not be a possibility, his remarks were without fault. Jonathan lives in a world, where everyone who disagrees with him, either perpetually misunderstands him, or they misread him, or they mishear him. It’s almost never the case that he has said something wrong, or that he has made a mistake, and this is exactly what we find in his “review” of my review. What sort of debater, reviews someone’s review? I mean, there’s the occasional post-debate rejoinder, but I’ve never seen anyone who considers themselves to be a professional, review their own debate. That’s what the community does, that’s not what the debaters themselves do. Jonathan though, does not like to be criticized, and so when my review criticized him, he could not contain himself.

Let’s take a brief look at some of his claims. He began with saying:

Ijaz briefly summarises Shabir’s opening statement, curiously omitting any mention of the numerous problems with Shabir’s Biblical argumentation (such as his misuse of Greek grammar in regards to John 1:1).

Yet, this is simply deceitful. I didn’t omit mention of Dr. Shabir’s use of Colwell’s rule, as stated in my review:

At this point, Dr. Shabir began to speak on the language used in regard to Jesus in the Gospel ascribed to John. John 1:1c is problematic as the attribution of total deity to the Word (later identified as Jesus), is uncertain due to Colwell’s rule. Grammarians do dispute about the definiteness of attributing deity to the Word in this verse due to the absence of a defining article which the original author purposely left out, this opened the wording and subsequent understanding of the verse to dispute. If the author wanted to ascribe total deity to the Word, then they would not have intentionally left out the defining article and thus, total deity cannot be ascribed to Jesus the Christ given the author’s grammatical intentions.

Let’s take a look at another one of his criticisms, he says:

The first point to note here is that I never stated that “the Bible is a wholly Trinitarian text”. It is my view that one can demonstrate a multiplicity of divine persons from both the Old and New Testaments, while the doctrine of the Trinity reaches its fullest expression in the New Testament where we read of the incarnation of the Son of God.

Yet, this is exactly what he said, I even quoted him and put the timestamp to the exact moment in the video in which he makes this very statement:

(timestamp in video, he says, “The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is thoroughly Trinitarian.”)

If Jonathan believes that the words “thoroughly” and “wholly”, are different, then he must consult a dictionary. They mean the same thing. He should also note, that in my very review, I quoted him as saying, “thoroughly”, so on that basis, where exactly does he believe this was something he did not say? Strangely enough, he proceeded to argue that Dr. Shabir did not pre-empt his appeal to the Bible (read as “scripture”), but he did. One of Dr. Shabir’s most important points was “the texts of scripture”. So while Jonathan may disagree, it doesn’t make him right, to the contrary it makes him seem desperate to create points of imaginative disagreement. Perhaps, what is most puzzling of all, is Jonathan’s inability to see that he is deluding himself. Take for example this statement:

That’s not quite what I said. My first premise was that, from a Muslim perspective, “If Tawhid is true, it must be consistent with the Qur’an.” My second premise was that Tawhid is not consistent with the Qur’an.

What’s not quite what he said? At this point, he mentions that I presented his premises for this particular argument incorrectly, yet when we read what I wrote, I literally wrote, word for word, the exact same words that he used:

P1 – If Tawhid is true, it must be consistent.
P2 – Tawhid is not consistent.
C  – Therefore Tawhid must not be true.

The exact same words he uses to dispute what I wrote, are the exact same words I wrote. How then, is this “not quite what I said”? If this is not being deceitful, then what is? I find this to be desperation of the grossest order. Jonathan then made, what I consider to be one of the most absurd comments I have ever heard:

Yes, this is a Modus Tollens argument. I don’t know why Ijaz seems to think that the need to demonstrate the truth of the premises in order to support the conclusion is a problem with this manner of argumentation.

I don’t know if he understands how logic works, but one needs to qualify their premises before assuming the conclusion as being true. This is referred to as sequential logic. Your individual premises must be consistent, before your conclusion could be seen as true (or valid). My criticism, was that he did not qualify his premises, thus his conclusion was contrived. I do not understand how he can disagree that he needs to first prove his claims before arriving at a conclusion. This is common sense. He then went on to state:

The only problem is that I did not make this argument in my opening statement at all. I noted that Nabeel had made this argument in his debate with Shabir, and that I was going to be making a different argument instead.

What argument is he referring to? He’s referring to the argument that the Qur’an is the incarnate word of God. Yet, his disagreement here is unfounded and is again, something derived from the depths of his imagination. In my review, I did not claim that he made this argument, I specifically said that he referred to it:

All he did was refer (timestamp in video, he says “Those who saw Shabir’s debate with Nabeel Qureishi would’ve been exposed to the problems with reconciling the eternality of the Qur’an with the doctrine of Tawhid.”) to the argument that Nabeel used regarding the Qur’an being the eternal word of Allah, yet physical and created.

Perhaps he needs to check the definition of the word, “refer”, for this disagreement makes absolutely no sense to a reader with a command of simple vocabulary. Reading comprehension is not difficult and it should not be this difficult for Jonathan. He then spent an inordinate amount of time attempting to validate his bad argument that the Spirit (of God) is the same as Allah. Yet, he does not validate his bad argument, he merely repeats it without meaningfully responding to the criticism leveled against it. As the Qur’anic verse itself mentions, God the one true Creator, sent the Spirit as a messenger to Mary. The Spirit itself cannot create of its own volition, it is an agent of creation, in the same way the Angel of Death is an agent of the opposite of creation, death. According to Jonathan’s logic, if an agent of God does something by God’s will, this means that the agent is itself also divine. If we follow through with this logic, since the Angel of Death takes away life, does this also mean the Angel of Death in Christianity (the archangel in 1 Thess. 4:16) shares in the divinity of God? According to Jonathan it does, and hence his Trinity now includes a 4th person that shares in the divinity of the other three persons.

Interestingly, Jonathan provides a quote from a commentary that doesn’t address this response at all. The commentary does not mention anything about agency of power or authority, and so while I am thankful he has atleast tried to quote something, what he quoted was irrelevant and useless. His argument remains, really bad. As with the other recommendations in this article, I highly encourage him to learn about God’s ontology in Islam and in Christianity. An agent of God has no inherent power or ability, except by the will of God, in which those powers or abilities are temporal, and by such a definition they could never be in and of themselves, “divine” or of a “Godly” nature. Rather agents of God are temporal in their very attributes and as such, cannot and do not share in the divinity of God. Jonathan attempted to say he addressed this argument by presenting a verse which mentions the phrase, “My Spirit”. It was at this point I gave up any hope that Jonathan was being serious and I began to realise that his article was satirical in nature. I mean, it can’t be that he didn’t realise that the Qur’an uses, “Spirit” in different contexts right, and that not every reference to the Spirit refers to the Holy Spirit (Angel Gabriel), right? It can’t be that he merely saw the word “Spirit” and assumed it meant the same thing throughout the entire Qur’an, while being used in different contexts and forms. Yet, this is exactly what he did. I fully believe he searched an English translation for the word “Spirit” and assumed every instance of it referred to the Holy Spirit in Islam. Ergo, not only was his initial argument bad, so was his response and so was his depth of research and understanding of the Qur’an.

Jonathan proceeded to mention that he didn’t think one of his arguments was circular, he says:

There is no way in which the above argument can possibly be construed as circular. The Qur’an makes a prediction about what we should expect to find (namely, that the disciples believed Islamic doctrines such as Tawhid). I then set out to falsify this prediction, in my judgement successfully. Nothing circular about it.


I incorrectly referred to this form of argumentation as circular because I viewed the first premise as entailing itself, “If Tawheed is inconsistent”, which is self-reliant and thus circular. In other words it entailed itself, despite being in the form of modus ponens. After discussing with our resident scholar, I (Br. Ijaz) am indeed wrong. Although the first premise is indeed invalid (it does not logically follow if Tawheed could be inconsistent, that the Trinity is true), and needs to be qualified, the form is valid, but the first premise needs to be proven. So the argument itself is invalid, but the form correct. Apologies to Jonathan for this error.

End of Edit.

He went on to say, concerning the dominance of the companions of Christ:

But the Qur’an does specify that Allah would “place those who follow [Jesus] above those who disbelieve up to the Day of Resurrection.” This strongly suggests a continuity of dominance, right from day one.

Where does it specify what form the dominance would take? It doesn’t. Which is what I mentioned in my review of the debate. Where does it specify in the Qur’an what form the dominance takes? He chose not to answer this question, even though claiming this is what he was doing, rather he chose to mention that some Tafseer commentators agreed with him. Perhaps he should mention that those commentators presuppose that belief, with first believing that Paul’s true teachings, like Christ’s, became corrupted by later Christians. I fully believe he did not do his research on this topic and at this point, he’s repeating himself without addressing my criticisms. Lastly, he said:

Ijaz offered no comment on the third argument I presented in the debate, namely that the Injeel (i.e. the gospel) is Trinitarian and that the Injeel is affirmed by the Qur’an.

I actually did offer a comment on it, from my review, I said:

If we were to identify his main arguments, they would be easily recognizable by anyone who is familiar with Islamic and Christian inter-faith discourse, namely that the Qur’an validates the New Testament, that the disciples believed Jesus was God and that the Bible is historically accurate. He did not present any new arguments, nor any new research, nor did he seek to upgrade any of the arguments he copied from other Christian debaters.

In conclusion, Jonathan’s review of my review, is a bad attempt at trying to defend his poor arguments used in his debate with Dr. Shabir. At the most, he merely repeated himself, and at the worst he claimed he was misheard. Unfortunately for him, I was able to quote him word for word, and cite numerous places from my review in which I did address the concerns outlined in this review of his. All in all, this comes down to a lack of professionalism. If the Christian community is unwilling to do a review of his debate, and he is left to respond personally to everyone who criticizes him, this says a lot about the community’s perception of his role as a Christian apologist.

and God knows best.

Jay Smith concedes he isn’t familiar with the sources used

Recently Jay Smith sent an email lauding himself for referencing scholars and scholastic work he has not read nor has he studied. He claims in his email:

Dr. Gordon Nickels helped me (via skype) put together the main body of the material I used before the debate itself.

It thus makes sense that someone else told Jay what to say, without Jay having read or studied any of the materials used in the main body of the debate. This also explains why he refused to reference any of the sources he took his information from. As I’ve explained in my response to him, most of what he says and what the people he refers to says, contradicts. The apparent disconnect between Jay and the studies he refers to now makes sense, as he’d never read them before, he had someone else over Skype give him snippets of information that he was not familiar with. He continued:

I made sure to initially highlight the French scholar Dr. Francois Deroche’s research, coupled with the two leading Turkish scholar’s work on the earliest Qur’anic manuscripts (Dr. Tayyar Altikulac, and Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu).

I’m not sure if highlight is the word here to be used. He certainly mentioned Dr. Deroche, but as I’ve explained in my response, what he says of Deroche and what Deroche himself says – wholly contradicts each other. Jay merely referenced a number, 93, without giving Deroche’s explanation but trying to explain it himself, which led to him overstating what Deroche had intended. I’ve referenced the page number and the book where Jay got this number 93 from, but I present the rest of what Deroche says which completely refute’s Jay’s uneducated and baseless statements. One would also notice he mentioned the names of Dr. Tayyar Altikulac, and Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, neither of whom he quotes or refers to again. All he quite literally did was mention their names. So not only has he admitted he got these names over an Evangelical on Skype, he’s also admitted he has no experience with their writings themselves! He continued:

I then introduced Dr. Keith Small’s research concerning his comparisons between the Biblical and Qur’anic manuscripts, and his excellent assessment of the political control in standardizing the Qur’anic text 1-2 centuries after Muhammad.

He keeps using the term introduced and I think this is where he’s being honest. During the debate, you’d notice a very disconcerting pattern. He’d drop a name, explain why the person is important and then proceed to give some snippet of information that he was unfamiliar with and when he expanded on them, began to contradict what the sources themselves had said. Keith Small has already been replied to en masse by scholars and lay men alike. The assertion that the Qur’aan was protected by the Muslim governors and rulers can’t be seen as negative. When the power of the State ensures the validity of the transmission, that in no way can be a negative thing. After all, the State has both the power and the resources to invest in the preservation of such important and sacred documents. Perhaps what is troubling is Jay’s ignorance of New Testament transmission, he claimed during the debate that there was no political power involved in the copying, distribution or preservation of the New Testament. Perhaps he should educate himself, as the Latin Vulgate was produced after Pope Damasus near the end of the 4th century, commissioned Jerome to produce the “best” edition of the New Testament based on the various Latin transmissions of the text during that time. If I cannot expect a man to be honest or to be acquainted with the history of his own text, on what grounds can I expect him to speak truthfully of any other religion’s? He continued:

I also introduced Dr. Andy Bannister’s Formulaic material, pointing out the many instances in the Qur’an where Jewish formulaic apocryphal writings were borrowed.

I think it’s fairly easy to understand that if God sent a message before and He reiterated that message again in another revelation, we’d expect it to say something similar, or repeat the same thing again. I am familiar with Andy’s work, and to be honest, all the poor guy’s done is taken the claim that the Qur’aan is based on Jewish and Gnostic apocryphal writings and stated they have similar words between them. It does not take a genius to make the connection that if two statements convey the same message, they’re going to contain similar terms. It’s one thing to claim though that the Qur’aan literally took from those sources, as opposed to explaining how an Arab had access to lost apocryphal literature in a language he, neither his people can speak or have since been able to speak. It’s a nice conspiracy theory, but on the grounds of objective academic and scholastic work, it’s mere polemics. Dr. Shabir does speak at length about Bannister’s claims and opinions in this recent video. Jay continued:

But most of my time was spent introducing Dr. Dan Brubaker’s new research on the hundreds of variants (up to 800) which he found in the 10 Manuscripts he researched, some written as late as the 9th century. Earlier this month I had spent a day with him at his home, and he let me use pictures from his doctoral thesis to underline the 6 forms of consonantal corrections he found in these manuscripts. So, our best evangelical scholars in this field were well represented in my presentation.

This is perhaps where it gets to be quite interesting. Dan only let Jay take pictures. I own and currently posses the entirety of Dan’s thesis. So while Jay’s arguments are based on photos he took, I have the entirety of Dan’s work and I’ve actually read it. All 45 mb’s of it. So thus far, Jay’s information has been from a Skype conversation on works he does not own and has never read, along with a thesis he took photos from and hasn’t read. Can this get any worse? Yes, it’s Jay Smith, it can get worse.

It was the variants in the manuscripts which pointed to a later standardization of the Qur’an after the 8th century which seemed to especially cause a problem with the Muslims who were present, or were watching, and for good reason. With this evidence Muslims will no longer be able to simply say, as they so often do, that their Qur’an is 1) eternal, 2) sent down 3) complete, and 4) unchanged. Now they will have to prove it, and you can see just how difficult that is now going to be.

The problem is, that nothing Jay stated in the debate is contained within the works of the people he has name dropped. I know full well that Jay has been informed of my response to him, since then, my indication of his errors and mistakes were used in a sit down in which he was unfortunately unable to defend himself and his academic dishonesty. We can say as Muslims with confidence that the Qur’aan was standardized in the 7th century CE, with the orthography as we read today developing further in each century. With the extant evidences we posses, we can say with certainty that the Qur’aan is eternal, sent down, complete and unchanged. We have proved it and I’ve used Jay’s own sources to do so in my draft response to him.

What have we learned? We now have an explanation as to why Jay’s statements in the debate, contradict the works and people he appealed to. This is because he has neither studied those works or read them, instead as he admits, this information was provided to him via a Skype conversation and as he further claimed, this information was taken from a thesis he took a few photos of without having studied or read it, a thesis which I own and posses completely. Have some fun with Jay, demand that he explain his errors and mistakes, his deceits and lies as documented in this article by me.

and God knows best.

Noah Movie Review (Russell Crowe, 2014)

Thursday past, I saw Noah starring Russel Crowe with two Christian friends, one Hindu friend and myself – the Muslim. There wasn’t much expectation from any of us that this Hollywood blockbuster would tie itself down to using the Biblical narrative, but it was definitely a possibility. Please note that anything after this sentence may contain spoilers. This movie could either be a hit or a miss and that’s mostly dependent on the angle the movie took and how well held together the plot was, but I think public perception plays a major factor when using book based narratives – especially when it’s a book read by one of the world’s largest faiths.

So let me cut straight to what we all want to know. Was the movie good and was it Biblically based? No and definitely no. About 3 – 4 minutes into the film, Noah and his family have met stone beasts who are fallen angels (mentioned in the DSS, but what they are and what role they have played is up for anyone’s interpretation), the beasts definitely do mythicise the flood event as they are used as a tool to explain how the Ark of Noah was built, an ark that gigantic at the historical time it is believed to have been constructed according to this movie, is explained by angels trapped in stones with a hate-love relationship with mankind. For the first minute or two, after seeing these stone beasts, we definitely knew that it would not be smooth sailing from here. Prophets in the Biblical based stories are sinfully human, in the Islamic narrative, they are morally ideal leaders of their communities anointed by God. Given that dichotomy, the representation of Noah in this movie will still upset both sets of Christian and Muslim believers as Noah is vilified throughout this film as arrogant, unloving, cold-hearted.

Noah, a Prophet of God – atleast in this movie doesn’t seem to have the one thing he should – a connection with God. He never understands God’s intentions for him, God’s intention for the world, God’s intention for him and his family, God’s intention for a post-world flood and the movie ends with Noah’s defiance of what he perceived to be God’s message. Then, within the last few minutes, Noah realises that after being drunk (don’t worry I’ll get to the Curse of Ham soon) and segregating himself from his family as self punishment for disobeying his understanding of God’s message, that Shem’s children will now repopulate the world, instead of him killing them as he had intended. Personally speaking, I don’t think vilifying Noah as some sort of ignorant who is too arrogant and self loathing to understand anything, and then throwing in a rainbow at the end of the movie, fixes their interpretation of the Noah character. It certainly does not excuse them and both Muslims and Christians will walk out of this film disliking it.

Now, the question on my mind was, how would they represent Noah being drunk and naked post-flood and would Ham’s curse be enacted in this movie? Well Ham’s curse wasn’t in the movie, but Noah was drunk and somewhat naked. So this completely disconnected me from the rest of the movie, well besides the stone angel beasts and Noah having virtually no relationship with God throughout the entire movie. In conclusion, they could’ve named the movie anything with the same storyline and it would’ve been received as a mediocre film. Instead they named it after Noah, thus tying some expectations with it from large sections of the international religious and irreligious communities. Almost everyone knows some portion of the flood narrative, so it was not in their best interest to divert from the Biblical story much and they did divert from it so much so, that the only thing tying Noah to this movie’s story is the name of the male lead character.

Waste of time. Waste of money and undoubtedly offensive to any Christian who may have picked up their Bible or bothered to read the Old Testament, or to any Muslim who certainly knows the story. Even for a secular movie goer, the movie isn’t worth your time or money. It seems as if the ship has sailed on this movie.

Review: An Incarnate God – Fact or Fiction

Today I present the first of a set of reviews on my debate with Pastor Samuel, these are independent reviews from persons who have watched the debate and arrived at their own conclusions. At present, I am inviting any Christian who would like to have their review posted on this website, to email us [callingchristians@gmail.com] and regardless of their view, it’d be published. Here’s Br. Danish’s review:

Ijaz’s opening statement was impressive both on etiquettes and presentation of his case. He used scholarly arguments, intelligent reasoning and logic to prove his points as he vowed to do at the outset of the debate. His polite urge to Samuel Green to refrain from being preachy is completely justified as the theory of God Incarnate is proposed by their interpretation of the Bible only, as such the credibility of the Bible and their interpretation itself is under question in this debate, hence taking an accused for a witness will be a logical fallacy, therefore a critical analysis of the biblical teachings about the topic will have a lot more appeal for the audience and this is what Ijaz has done fantastically.

Evolution of Jesus as God incarnate/ doctrine of trinity are vividly examined in Ijaz’s presentation. With the quotations from early Christian Patristics he was able to underline the fact that early Christians did not have sufficient proof in favor of the divine incarnation of Jesus and this is the reason why they had to resort to illogical arguments like “you will not be “wise” unless you become a “fool” to the world, by believing” the foolish things of God. Ijaz successfully expounded the sequential development in Christianity into a Trinitarian system of believes owing to the existence of mutually opposing school of thoughts among Christians and opportunist swaying of Roman emperors between Nicean and Arian creeds for their own political benefit. Moreover the statement of Athenesius himself admitting his inability to understand the concept of Incarnation support Ijaz’s line of argument perfectly. Lastly he cites Biblical scholars like John Gill and CS Lewis which leaves no doubt with regards to the falseness of the doctrine of God incarnate.

Throughout his opening statement Ijaz remained polite, well behaved and unprovocative and was able put his case forward strongly and comprehensively and there was no sign of rudeness in his tone and manner.

Allah knows best.

Danish Aqueel

Debate Review: Is the Trinity Polytheism? Shadid Lewis vs Anthony Rogers

Update: Sent this debate review to Anthony himself. If he responds or comments, I’ll post it here, if not, then his silence will speak volumes.

Update #2: As of 7:20 pm both his and my time, he viewed my message, no response as yet.

Opening Statements:

I’m not sure Anthony knew what debate he was showing up to, I sat with Sami Zataari and we took in Anthony’s opening together, our impressions were the same. Anthony most likely misunderstood the topic of the debate, this doesn’t mean that his contribution wasn’t meaningful, nor does it mean that he didn’t argue well, but what he did argue was largely irrelevant to the debate’s topic. I mean, if the debate topic was perhaps one of the few below, his points and evidences would have been relevant:

  • Is the Trinity in the Bible?
  • Are Christians Polytheists According to the Qur’aan?
  • Does the Islamic View of the Trinity Reconcile with that of the Bible’s?

Unfortunately for Mr. Rogers, the topic was not centered on what either the Qur’aan says, or what the Bible says, and this is key to both debaters’ arguments. I’ve debated Anthony before, and he suffers from the same weaknesses that he’s been unable to grow out of. He’s largely very verbose and his comments are usually irrelevant, it’s as if he’s puffing up his statements to get a few jabs in, but they’re largely not contributing to the topic. He also has a intellectual disability whereas, he’s unable to mature or think outside of his articles, for the greater portion of his opening sermon, you’d have bet he was reading from his, “The Trinity in the Old Testament” article which I cited in my recent article, here.

Positives for Anthony would be that he spoke with a lot of confidence, there’s no denying that he’s a talented orator, Shadid on the other hand not so much, but this doesn’t count for much beyond appearances, we’re looking at the arguments, the content and the logic presented.

Br. Shadid did something quite surprising, he didn’t take Anthony’s bait. In my recent debate review between him and Robert Spencer, I criticised him for furthering Spencer’s irrelevant arguments, arguing away from the topic. Not sure if he took my criticism to heart, or if he upped the ante in his debate with Anthony, but both Sami and I were quite pleased to see him stick to the topic, define the topic and to attack the topic from the get go. Whereas Anthony spent a lot of time focusing on what the Qur’aan considers the Christians to be, he spent almost 3/4 of his opening statement’s time on this, Br. Shadid went straight to the philosophical and rational theological reasons for why the Trinity is polytheistic in nature. He did mention a few Bible verses to support his claims, but for the better part of his opening statement, he focused on the logical and philosophical nature of the Trinity in light of general monotheism.

As mentioned previously, his speaking style leaves a lot to be desired, but that did not detract from his arguments. To my surprise, he stood his ground and waited for the rebuttal period to criticise his opponent’s deceits. He did not give in to Anthony’s emotional jabs and he kept his statements quite professional. I’d like to think that Anthony tried to get a rise out of Br. Shadid by mentioning that at the end of the debate he’d have to surrender his Qur’aan, kudos to Br. Shadid for disarming Anthony’s ridiculous emotional jab.


Anthony replied to all of Br. Shadid’s points, but it seems he still didn’t understand the topic well, or seem to realise this was the rebuttal period as he continued to speak on what the Qur’aan considers Christians to be. I hope that for the other debates he has with Shadid that he can atleast improve on sticking to the format of the debate, if I were supporting him, I’d be quite embarrassed to see a so-called Christian Apologist, lack any sense of relevance to the debate topic, while seeing him make crass and unprofessional statements about his opponent’s scripture. He did provide a lot of solid points against Br. Shadid’s arguments, but during this period, he still never actually conveyed how the Trinity is monotheistic, to be quite honest, I don’t think he spent any time at all discussing this point – which should have been his mainstay.

As for Br. Shadid, he did provide convincing rebuttals to Anthony’s filibustering, their counter-arguments seemed to be on par, but Br. Shadid did seem to have the stronger outcome here, as he stuck to the topic and focused on his premises, how can Jesus Christ have a God, how can Jesus pray to God, how can Paul claim to see Jesus sitting to the right hand of God – then who is Jesus in this case, etc. Anthony did not provide a response to these points, but focused on Br. Shadid’s quotes, largely ignoring the theological/ Christological components of Shadid’s points and instead focused on their exegetical applications – showing once again that Anthony clearly missed the mark and that he failed to grasp the topic of the debate fully.


I was quite insulted by Anthony’s closing statements, as it failed to be relevant at all to the debate topic and I must congratulate Br. Shadid on labeling it as an unwanted sermon. It seemed more like preaching, than a discussion on Br. Shadid’s points. Closing statements are not meant to be sermons, it is not meant to be a time to preach to the audience, and I was greatly turned off by his indecency, to me it felt as if Anthony was not prepared for, or he did not care about this debate and used it as a stage to stroke his ego and to preach to Christians, as opposed to have an academic discussion on the theological implications of the Trinity.

For me, this is where Br. Shadid clearly won, he didn’t give us a Khutbah – Islamic sermon, he honed in his points, qualified his premises and criticised Anthony’s improper, indecent and unqualified sermon, as opposed to doing a closing statement, as should have been given. He capped off his arguments and asked the audience to decide for themselves what the truth about the Trinity was. This debate by Br. Shadid was much better, much more classier and professional than his debate with Spencer. As for Anthony on the other hand, he did not seem prepared, and he chose to ignore the topic, I actually feel quite sorry for him given the mess that he caused – perhaps in this way he’s enlightened many Christians and drove them to doubt the Trinity, atleast that is what I conclude from his behaviour on that night.

and Allaah knows best.

Debate Review: Is Islam a Religion of Peace [Br. Shadid Lewis vs Robert Spencer]

Note: This review is based on the video posted by Br. Shadid on his YouTube page. He has stated that his rebuttal and portions of the cross fire questioning are missing. Regardless of what is missing, this is a review on the debate ‘as it is’. 

Opening Statements:

Br. Shadid:

He begins by defining the delimits of the topic. What exactly is peace and how does Islam relate to it? What is the definition of peace which Mr. Spencer is operating with? From the very start, Br. Shadid is laying his logic clearly on the table. Merely asking, “Is Islam a Religion of Peace?“, does not allow for the topic to be discussed. Is peace here supposed to mean pacifism? Outlined and strategical aggression? Interpersonal or between state and citizens of the state?

He doesn’t exactly convey his point very eloquently, nor does he stick to his line of reasoning perfectly. At the beginning he jumps around a bit after providing a dictionary definition of peace, and comments on the previous speakers before him (mind you who were not part of the debate), and then he comments on Arab Nation spending on weapons, versus that of America’s Military Industrial Complex. Unfortunately,  all of these topics in less than two minutes, muddled his opening statement.

He recovers though and makes quite the point. The so called Axis of Evil of nations, some of which are Muslim majority – have a total weapons and defense expenditure of $15 billion dollars combined, whereas the United States alone has a budget of $800+ billion dollars for the very same purpose. Even if Muslims did have goals of war – their expenditure simply does not allow for, or demonstrate this. He then moved on to proving that Islam does promote peace, on the basis of one the dictionary definitions of peace which he provided earlier. Somehow a few comments about taqiyyah got jumbled in there by him – which again, muddied the waters, taking away from what could have been a clear and consistent message.

Despite disrupting his outlined flow on the topic of Islam and Peace, Br. Shadid did present a solid rebuttal to the place of, and the use of taqiyyah in Islam. He then stops working with the four definitions of peace, and now discusses the place of abrogation of the peaceful verses of the Qur’aan. The flow of his argument (both overarching and sequentially) is very disruptive and a bit all over the place.

Br. Shadid discusses the validity of the translation of some verses, provides his reasoning on the exegetical sciences and then rests on the verses which clearly outline the conditions for warfare in the Qur’aan, specifically those of Qur’aan 2:190-194.  He then returned to one of the four definitions of peace, indicating that Islam does allow for peace treaties and this therefore fulfills another one of the definitions given. Cleverly, knowing that Mr. Spencer would eventually comment on the jizya and subjugation, Br. Shadid does sneak it in that even the polytheists of Makkah in the treaty of Hudaibiyah were not subject to the tax or monetary tribute. Br. Shadid in the closing moments then states that Islam is not a faith of pacifism.

Robert Spencer:

He began by saying that his statements would be solely based on Islamic source texts, written by Islamic scholarship, therefore his statements would be credible and seemingly unbiased. Spencer though, begins with his foot in his mouth by quoting one of the members of the Taliban who indicates that Jihad is recommended. Mr. Spencer says this, despite the fact that the Taliban’s fight is against Christian American soldiers invading a Muslim country. For those with a bit more awareness, his first point of contention aided Br. Shadid’s opening statement concerning Christian Americans and their war machine.

Spencer then quotes 2 or 3 other Jihadists, to bolster his position, despite these cases being few – he then mentions one of the Jihadists who claims his acts are in response to American war tactics and incidents. Once again, taking away from his position and aiding Br. Shadid’s. Spencer asks, where did these Jihadists get this understanding of Islam from, in this occasion, he paints them as students of knowledge – despite a significant majority of the exemplars used having no Islamic certification in any area of Islamic study. He quotes a Qur’aanic ayah and then mentions that he will abide by what Mr. Lewis suggests and that he’d appeal to a scholar on understanding the verse. In this regard, he chose Maulana Moududi (d. 1979) whom he says teaches that Muslims must usurp political power from any and all non-Muslim led nations.

Spencer then claims to agree with Br. Shadid that we cannot judge a faith based on what its members do, but based on what the faith itself teaches. He then goes to Maulana Moududi’s commentary on Qur’aan 3:28 – on the topic of taqiyyah, he agrees that one of its uses is during a state of persecution or imminent danger. His logic is therefore, that since Muslims claim America is at war with them, they are therefore in danger and currently must use taqiyyah at all times. Br. Shadid already specified what the circumstances were using a graphic retelling of a Grey’s Anatomy episode, thereby cancelling Robert’s misuse of reasoning. On abrogation he agrees that Muslims do not have a set agreement on how many verses have been abrogated. At this point the camera cuts off and begins towards the end of his rebuttal to Br. Shadid.


Br. Shadid’s was cut by the camera and as such I am unable to comment on it.

Mr. Spencer says that non-Muslims are not compelled to believe in Islam, but they must live in humiliation and subjugation. He then cuts across to rebutting Br. Shadid on peace treaties by quoting from the fiqh manual, Reliance of the Traveller – his quotes entail that warfare is prescribed and that scholars accept and promote this book thereby promoting warfare. He goes on to say that Muslims only accept peace treaties so that they can regroup and gather themselves for when the truce ends (traditionally, all nations at war do this, claiming that Muslims alone do this is very silly).

My Conclusions:

Seeing as I’m unable to see Br. Shadid’s rebuttal, I’m unable to declare either him or Mr. Spencer the true ‘winner’. However, given what I have seen and heard, Br. Shadid did stand his ground and he did successfully pre-empt the arguments of Mr. Spencer. To his benefit, Br. Shadid disarmed Spencer from using his usual arguments and seemed to make Spencer quite subdued in his argumentation.

Br. Shadid however, did jump around a bit, but despite doing so – when he made a point, he was consistent, clear and delivered very strong points which rendered a majority of Spencer’s points moot. It is with great earnest that I look forward to seeing the final 5 minutes of Spencer’s opening statement and the entirety of his and Br. Shadid’s rebuttals.

However, given what I’ve seen, and without bias, Br. Shadid did put a muzzle on Spencer’s arguments leaving Spencer to argue a bit aimlessly and with his tail between his legs. I do admit, that I am disappointed that Br. Shadid was all over the place, but in the very short time of his opening statement, he covered every single topic Spencer could have brought forward (something which Spencer did commend him for during his opening statement), thus pre-empting a majority of his arguments and placing the upper hand in his favour.

As far as I can tell, if Spencer’s opening statement and partial rebuttal are anything to judge by, despite his oratory skills, he has not defeated Br. Shadid.

and Allaah knows best.