Tag Archives: shabir ally

Debate Review: “Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?” – Dr. Shabir Ally & Mr. John Tors

About a week ago I attended a debate between Dr. Shabir Ally and Mr. John Tors on the topic of, “Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?” (click the link to see the debate).

To begin with, I need to say that the church which hosted the event did an amazing job. The congregation at the North York Chinese Baptist Church were helpful, accommodating and very pleasant. The event was well-managed and I think all attendees would agree with me on this.

The topic itself is a little unusual (which is a good thing) as to debate if Jesus rose from the dead, one has to first grant the argument that he did die. In other words, we can’t debate this specific topic if we say he never died. This point seems to have been missed by both Muslim and Christian debate enthusiasts, it should also be noted that granting an argument for the sake of the argument, is not the same as accepting that argument. One may well wonder why a Muslim debater would put themselves in such a contentious position in the first place. The answer for this question was provided in the debate itself in which the question was asked, “what does it mean for Jesus to have died?” Christians answer this question differently and so the “type” of “death” was a focus of this debate. An easier way to have framed the debate would have been to make a minor change to the title to emphasise that the topic was about death:

Did Jesus Rise From “The Dead”?

Before the debate I read through most of the relevant articles on Mr. Tors’ website and while at the debate, I found myself a bit confused after his opening statement. Practically his entire opening statement is what I had read the night before and it can be found on his website in the form of two articles:

  • THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER AND THE EVANGELICAL BETRAYAL OF THE BIBLE: Exposing the Major Weapons Levied Against the Trustworthiness of the Bible
  • THE RESURRECTION ACCOUNTS: “Incompatible Contradictions” or Coherent History?

In fact, during the debate I was sharing these articles with both Christians and Muslims, most of whom expressed surprise at what seemed to be general confusion as to why Mr. Tors would prepare in such a way for a debate. That is to say that he largely used articles from 2015 and 2018 with no new research being presented or accounted for. The attendees had no need for Mr. Tors’ opening statement, just granting us 10 minutes to do some quick reading would’ve sufficed. Mr. Tors began the debate with two important points:

  1. We shouldn’t base our views on assumptions,
  2. We shouldn’t base our views on presuppositions.

Rather, he argued, we should look at the evidence itself first and if needed, then at works of scholarship. The problem he quickly found himself in was then ironic, as he seemingly argued that he had evidence that Jesus died and was resurrected. This evidence turned out to be Mr. Tors just quoting the Bible. It was then I realised that had he believed in what he said at the start of the debate then he wouldn’t have assumed that the Bible was true or presupposed it as being factual. Indeed, it’s a tall order to hold him to his own words, but if someone lays out a specific methodology at the start of a debate then I largely hope that they would at the very least be superficially consistent but even this was not afforded to us (the audience).

This point did not seem to strike Mr. Tors at all and it left me completely bewildered at what he had hoped to achieve. Muslims don’t accept the Bible as a valid source for theology, and Christians don’t accept the Qur’an as a valid source for their theology, so what is achieved in ministering to Muslims in using a text we don’t accept? Dr. Ally at least attempted to reference both the Bible and the Qur’an throughout the debate. Mr. Tors or someone who works for his ministry later argued in the comments section (of the re-upload) of the debate video on YouTube that while the New Testament is a historical work, the Qur’an was not (in regards to Jesus) and so he did not consider any appeals to it as sufficient for the topic. This is despite the fact that he himself holds to a form of the New Testament text which is not wholly extant in any manuscript before the mid-medieval period (roughly from the 10th to 15th century CE). He holds to the Byzantine Priority position, a minority view in the world of Christendom.

Edit: 22.01.2020, Mr. Tors mentioned to me that he does not hold to the Byzantine Priority position but rather a Majority Text position. The difference is negligible but I thought it best to use the phrase he uses to describe his beliefs.

Oddly enough, Mr. Tors later argued that it didn’t matter what date the earliest extant (still surviving) manuscripts of the crucifixion and resurrection accounts came from. At that point in the debate I lost any hope in Mr. Tors advancing any form of a consistent argument. Either it is the dates do matter or they don’t, either it is the gospel narratives do have contradictions because the gospel authors focused on different elements of the story by design or there are no contradictions and they give the exact same narratives, either it is he is arguing for the New Testament to be a theologically preserved version of the best witness testimony or he is willing to apply historical standards to the gospels. It just seemed like he was willing to flip-flop on his positions without care for consistency, reasonableness or intellectual humility.

As a Muslim who is invested in these kinds of debates, I look forward to them with a great deal of anticipation. Some times that anticipation pays off in the form of the robust debates between Dr. Shabir Ally and Dr. James White and some times they clearly don’t, as in this case. Mr. Tors’ primary (and seemingly only) argument for this debate therefore can be summarised as, “the Bible teaches that Jesus died and was resurrected, and this is true because the Bible teaches it”. While that may strike a chord with Christians, it doesn’t with the Muslims and it’s such an obvious point that I wonder if Mr. Tors cared for Muslims to even attend this debate in the first place. If one were to watch his opening statement, you would find him preaching directly to the Christians in the audience, word after word of caution about not allowing scholars and liberals to change their beliefs, to change how Christians should understand the Bible. Yet, I struggled to find an instance where he addresses the crowd as if there were Muslims in it, people who plainly do not accept the Bible as scripture. After all, he gave no reasons as to why Muslims should begin believing in the Bible, rather his focus seemed to be on keeping Christians Christian.

That is where a marked difference can be seen between Dr. Ally and Mr. Tors. Dr. Ally spent a few minutes at the start of his opening statement engaging with the crowd directly, he explained why he was there, what he hoped to achieve, what Muslims, Christians and those from other faiths can gain by being at the debate event. His words acknowledged the presence of other faiths in the audience, it provided a reason for us to pay more attention to what he said. Another point of note was the difference in composure and demeanour. While Dr. Ally was generally congenial and jovial, Mr. Tors at times appeared dismayed, upset or aggravated. This led to the second half of the debate being more contentious (which is not in itself a negative thing), giving rise to many instances of riposte between the speakers.

I’ve sat through classes by Dr. Licona and Dr. Habermas, evangelical scholars who are well renowned for their arguments regarding the positive evidence for the crucifixion and the resurrection. I’m writing a book myself on the topic of the resurrection, so I attended this debate to gain some knowledge that I could have hoped to engage with on multiple levels, but I left the debate event empty handed, there simply was not much presented on the Christian side of the topic that would allow me to analyze or engage with Mr. Tors’ arguments. In the end I had hoped for more substance but it was nonetheless a good event otherwise. I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Tors in person, he was kind, shook my hands and engaged in brief but meaningful conversation, and for that I sincerely thank him.

and Allah knows best.

Debate: “Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?” – Dr. Shabir Ally & John Tors

The debate is at the North York Chinese Baptist Church located at #685 Sheppard Avenue East in Toronto, Canada.

Topic: Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?

Date: Saturday 11th January 2020.

Debaters: Dr. Shabir Ally and Mr. John Tors.

The livestream is available at this link (YouTube) and this link (Church Website).

You can also stream the debate below:


Yours in Islam,
Br. Ijaz.

 

Spending Time with Dr. Shabir Ally

Over this summer I had the opportunity and privilege of learning from and teaching alongside Dr. Shabir Ally.

To be honest it was quite a surreal experience. Here is someone I had been learning from for a number of years and now I stood beside him with his approval to teach on subjects that he had mastered decades ago. I had not yet had the opportunity to pen my thoughts on the da’wah training, but suffice it to say that it went extremely well (alhamdulillah). During the month of November I also had the opportunity to meet him a second time for the year, where we took a few photos and did a few videos together:

What a lot of people don’t know is that I believe I’m actually tiptoeing in the video! Dr. Ally towers over me quite easily. Needless to say, I’m often asked about his persona, his mannerisms, his views on his debate opponents. Who exactly is Dr. Shabir Ally? Is he in any way different from the man we know on the debate stage?

The answer may shock you. He’s exactly as you see him. I don’t have a single bad word to say about the man. He has always been pleasant, loving, kind and respectable. Behind the scenes, he is the same man that you see on the debate stage. His persona does not change. Sometimes I’m asked if Dr. Ally holds negative thoughts or remarks about his previous debate opponents and I can honestly say that he does not. He speaks of them as if they were in our company, that is to say that while he may disagree with his debate opponents he does not manifest any hate for them, he is truly a man of good and reputable character.

While most will know him because of his interfaith events, he’s even more well known locally for the work that he does for Muslims in Canada. Everywhere I’ve gone, regardless of which Shaykh or scholar I’m sitting with, they’ve always had a good word to say about him. I believe that his Islamic Information and Da’wah Center represents who he is as a person. Permit me to explain myself. His center is very eclectic in terms of ethnicities. People from all walks of life, from all ages and all races, speaking in so many different languages, seek out and come to his center to keep up with their Islam. Attending Jumm’ah Salaah (Friday Congregational Prayers) is an experience that is difficult to forget. In essence, it’s equitable to a micro-Hajj, with so many different people around you. At first it may be overwhelming, but there is something quite special about seeing the diverse collection of Muslims at the center.

Just as people seek Dr. Ally, so do people also seek out his center. People understand that the Islam Dr. Ally practices is not something to be afraid of, but something that makes them feel safe. This is why non-Muslims and people of non-Islamic backgrounds find conversation with him and interaction with his center so beneficial. Dr. Ally treats people with kindness and respect that is based upon the Prophetic Sunnah. His simple and genuine acts of love, really do impact the people he interacts with and the community where his center is located. Even if one were to disagree with with Dr. Ally, his demeanour does not change. He’s okay with folks disagreeing with him, but he does not escalate those disagreements into antagonistic personal issues.

I have a sincere and genuine love for Dr. Shabir Ally, I have sat and learned from him so many times, but each and every time I do so, it certainly feels as if I’m meeting the man for the first time. At the end of the day, I think there’s one anecdote I can leave that sums up the man, the myth and the legend that is Dr. Ally. Some 24 years ago, one of my colleagues had come to Canada as an immigrant. They used to attend the Masjid where Dr. Ally performed the Friday Congregational Prayers. What they found was that people from all backgrounds came to listen to his Friday sermons (what we refer to as a Khutbah), in those sermons, they found comfort and love, to the point that they began to invite one and all to hear Dr. Ally speak. It’s been 24 years since then and they still hold him as someone special and monumental in their lives. It’s been almost 3 decades of hard work from Dr. Ally and I pray that Allah continues to bless him and his endeavors, ameen.

and Allah knows best.

Upcoming Debates – April & May 2016

There are two major debates happening soon, details are provided below.

Topic: “What Is the Qur’an’s View of the Christian “Scriptures”?”
Featuring: Dr. Shabir Ally and Mr. David Wood
Location: Bethel Church (USA).
Date: April 26th, 2016.
Time: 6 PM.

shabir debate

Considerations for a livestream are ongoing, however the debate will be recorded. Links to the video or possible livestream will be posted when they become available. Sam Shamoun has asked that we do not mention the terms “hammer” or “father” in our interactions with Mr. Wood given his ongoing mental issues. Women are also asked not to wear clothing that may attract Mr. Wood’s attention due to his gender proclivities.



Topic: “The Doctrine of the Trinity: Man Made or Divinely Stipulated?””

Featuring: Br. Adnan Rashid and Dr. James White
Location: Kensington, London (UK).
Date: May 13th, 2016.

The debate will be livestreamed, we will be sharing the link when it becomes available. Details about the event’s location and time will be provided when they also become available.

and God knows best.

Missionary Mishap: Jonathan McLatchie & Sam Shamoun Target Dr. Shabir Ally

I write this with extreme disappointment and sadness. A few months ago, Jonathan broke unto the Muslim-Christian interfaith debate scene. In his debate with Dr. Shabir he was respectful and it looked as if Christian apologetics had finally moved beyond the vitriol of Sam Shamoun and David Wood. Unfortunately, Jonathan has fallen quite far in the months following the debate. Instead of moving Christian apologetics into the future, he’s joined hands with Sam and has even begun advertising joint events with himself and Sam!

cc-2016-jm-shamounclass

Jonathan’s friend and mentor, Sam Shamoun recently made these comments on Facebook about our beloved brother in Islam, and teacher, Dr. Shabir Ally:

You mean when I demolished and screwed Shabir, your p*******e prophet and your demon you call Allah Shabir has been passing gas every night just like your satan called Allah does according to your prophet. And if you have a problem with praising oneself then that means you just condemned Muhammad and his satan since no one loved to be praised more than them.

I have censored one of the insults, as this is a website that tries to cater for all ages. I apologize for having to quote Sam’s curses and abuses, but this is the kind of person that Jonathan McLatchie endorses as true Christian scholarship, someone he is not only willing to work with, but someone he is willing to promote and hold classes with. In an email dated Friday 19th February, 2016, in which some 20+ Muslim and Christian debaters and preachers were tagged, Jonathan was asked to distance himself from Shamoun’s curses, abuses and insults of the Islamic Prophet, of God and of Dr. Shabir. Jonathan responded by saying:

my personal dealings with Sam are not your concern. I am accountable to God, not to you or anyone else.

This is quite shocking from someone who claims to want to have civil and professional dialogue with Muslims about interfaith topics. Not only did he not condemn Sam’s curses, abuses and insults, he refused to distance himself from Sam’s behaviour. How can Jonathan claim to be civil and professional, when he not only works with someone with such hatred and despotic behaviour, he even advertises him as someone to learn from! This is quite absurd to be honest. Jonathan dreams of once again sharing a stage with our esteemed teacher, Dr. Shabir, and yet advocates on behalf of someone who publicly curses, abuses and insults Dr. Shabir. This is quite underhanded behaviour, two-faced behaviour, deceptive behaviour.

Just how low is Jonathan willing to go?

and God knows best.

Encountering Christian Apostates

Trinidad & Tobago’s majority religious demographic is that of Christianity.20151215_151024-1.jpg Earlier this year I received a number of books from Dr. Shabir Ally, and had decided to read some of these books while on campus at one of our Universities. The book I chose to start with was John Loftus’ The End of Christianity. I hadn’t considered the reaction I would receive from walking around with a book of that title, I did receive reactions and those reactions are not what I expected them to be.

It started in class, I had taken out the book to read because I was either bored or had finished an in-class assignment early. A classmate who I knew to be Christian asked me to see the book. In that moment, I wondered if the book’s title had upset the person. They took the book, read the cover, checked the table of contents and even flipped through the book, skimming as they went along. The classmate asked me what I thought of the book, I answered quite honestly (I’m paraphrasing here): it’s new atheist dribble, but it has some nice points I hadn’t thought of as yet.

They weren’t offended, they were interested in the book. That was just the first encounter, over the course of the next 3 months, I met students throughout the campus that not only wanted to skim through the book, but many of them wanted to borrow it. This had taken me by surprise. The positive reactions from so many of my Christian colleagues had me wondering what was going on. Why would they react so positively to a book that critiqued their faith? I knew that my generation was less conservative than the previous generations. I knew that more young adults were less religious than those found in previous generations, but had this decrease in religiousity been more than I thought it to have been? As it turns out, while most of the young adults my age came from Christian families, most of them no longer considered themselves Christian. Not only were young adults apostating from Christianity, they were interested in exploring other religions, while taking an active role in leading their peers out of Christianity.

This book sparked more conversations than I am able to recall, this book gave my peers the opportunity to speak out and renounce Christianity. I never could have imagined that merely carrying a book around by this title would have this much of an effect on the people around me. What this experience taught me, was that many young adults are desperate to leave Christianity, they want to reject Christianity, they are tired of the message of the Cross and of its ineffectual teachings. These last few months gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, it opened my eyes and allowed me to reach out and apostate many Christians. At most, it took 4 conversations for me to bring someone out of Christianity. Most of the people that engaged me in discussion abandoned Christianity during the first conversation! They were just waiting for someone to reach out and agree with them, to give them the motivation to abandon the message of the Cross. This year, a simple book cover allowed me to bring many young adults out of Christianity and get them interested in Islam. While the book itself has a few interesting arguments, its overly wordy and most of its essays are okay at best.

and Allah knows best.

Sam Shamoun and Lying by Dr. Shabir Ally – Part 1

Shabir Ally

September 30, 2015

During my debate with David Wood on ABNSAT, Sam Shamoun called in to challenge one of my statements. According to my statement, Robert Gundry said that the formula in Matthew 28 does not imply that the three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share the same name. Rather, the formula means that baptism should be done with fundamental reference to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Sam claimed that Gundry wrote no such thing, and he had Gundry’s books to prove it. I pointed out that I was referring to another book by Gundry. But Sam was not convinced by my plea. Rather, he was convinced that I was lying. Hence he wrote to that effect here:

http://www.reformedapologeticsministries.com/2015/09/catching-shabir-ally-red-handed.html?m=1

In that document, Sam cites two books of Gundry, and links to a third, all to prove that Gundry did not voice the view I attributed to him.

However, in each case he is referring to a book other than the one I was referring to. As I am away from my hometown at the moment, I cannot check the reference at the moment, but here is something I found on my laptop that I had written elsewhere complete with a reference to the book I was referring to.

As for the apparent Trinitarian formula of Matthew 28:19, Robert H. Gundry writes that “Matthew seems to be responsible for the present formula.”[1]

As will be immediately clear, this is not the same as any of the three books Sam cited or referred to in his above linked article. It should also be clear that Gundry is saying that Matthew is responsible for the saying whereas we would expect Christians to think that Jesus actually said this.

Sam apparently assumed that the books he came across are the only books that Gundry wrote on the subject. Instead of hastily composing an article claiming that I was lying, he should have asked me for the reference to the specific book I was citing, and then check the reference in that book. As it turns out, people these days are too quick to assume the worst about other people but the best about themselves.

Even if it turns out that the book I was referring to does not contain the material I cited, does this necessitate a charge of lying? Or, could it be a case of citing from memory and recalling incorrectly as humans sometimes do?

During the debate itself, I cited many other books, some of which I had on the desk before me. These too I cited from memory, as is my usual style in debates. I do not claim that my memory is impeccable. However, in how many cases did Sam find a significant discrepancy between my citations and my named sources? If it is just this one, does that require such a serious charge? Is Sam here exhibiting the usual charitableness of Christians? If we go about slinging such uncharitable accusations against each other will that lead to better dialogue and mutual understanding?

When I get back to Toronto, I will check again to see if my memory serves me correctly, and thus that Gundry said what I cited him to say. Otherwise, I will issue a public retraction. But if what I cited is correct, will Sam retract his article and issue an apology for his false accusation?

Meanwhile, it is interesting to know that after Gundry published this critical commentary in 1982, some evangelical scholars called for his resignation from the Evangelical Theological Society. He resigned in 1983.

Does that sound like Gundry was saying in this book what Sam wants to hear?

[1] Robert H. Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982) p. 596.

Dr. Shabir Ally’s Debate – Who Gives Us The Truth About Jesus

A peculiar incident occurred last night during the call-in section of the debate between Dr. Shabir Ally and David Wood. In a pre-planned call, Usama Dadok was allowed to scream and shout insults, while using obscene language in a stunt meant to provoke a response out of Dr. Shabir.

cc-2015-sa-dd1

In what can only be described as an abject failure by the moderator Chris Con-way to “moderate” the debate, what was a peaceful debate became a comedy of errors. Dakdok’s job was to bring the “demon” out of Dr. Shabir by insulting and using obscene language towards the religion of Islam. Dakdok is of the belief that Muslims are demons incarnate:

Yet, Dakdok failed in his objective. The plan by Shamoun and Wood, meant to discredit Dr. Shabir by provoking him into anger did not come into fruition. Rather, the only person who behaved in a “demonic” way was Dakdok himself. Frothing at the mouth during his rabid diatribe, the insults and abuses he hurled did not cause the desired effect. Rather, the Muslims watching the debate immediately became disinterested in the discussion and whatever audience that Shamoun and Wood had intended to reach out to with the message of Christianity, quickly disappeared.

Those viewing the debate, took note of Dr. Shabir’s response to Dakdok’s obscenities. Dr. Shabir demonstrated the Islamic Prophetic example of patience and professional decorum. It is ironic, in the sense that in trying to provoke Dr. Shabir by insulting the Prophet (ﷺ), Dakdok allowed Dr. Shabir to demonstrate the ideals of the Prophetic Sunnah:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

A man said to the Prophet (ﷺ) , “Advise me! “The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Do not become angry and furious.” The man asked (the same) again and again, and the Prophet (ﷺ) said in each case, “Do not become angry and furious.”

Thus, as a consequence of Wood and Shamoun’s planning, in trying to use Dakdok to defame Dr. Shabir, the opposite outcome occurred. Dr. Shabir’s calm and collected demeanour demonstrated to the audience that Islamic principles and teachings, had not made Dr. Shabir a spiteful and hateful person. Rather, the incident gave the audience a reason to sincerely listen to and pay attention to Dr. Shabir’s message about Islam.

Clearly then, Wood and company have demonstrated their inability to have an academic discourse without having to use childish tactics and games. The Muslim community’s perception of Wood and Shamoun have now fully been qualified, they are certainly an embarrassment to world Christianity. It is without a doubt that Wood knew he would not win a debate against Dr. Shabir and so he pandered to his audience.

cc-2015-sa-dd2

The type of Christians that watch the Trinity Channel, are those that enjoy seeing Muslims being demonized and brutalized. The point of the debate was not to win converts or to have a fruitful dialogue, it was to finally have their chance at getting revenge against Dr. Shabir due to the extensive work he has done in bringing Christians to Islam.

and God knows best.

 

Debate Review: What is God Like – Tawhid or Trinity? – Dr. Shabir & Jonathan McLatchie (Part 1)

At the outset, it’s best to say that if you saw Dr. Shabir’s debate with Nabeel on this topic and if you saw Jonathan’s debate with AbdurRaheem Green, also on this topic, then there was no real need for this debate. Most of what each speaker presented was contained within those two previous debates. There were no new arguments from either debater. Although touted as a dialogue, Jonathan’s approach was more debate minded, whereas Dr. Shabir was laid back and more or less relaxed in his use of technical arguments (compared to his demeanor and approach in his debate with Nabeel).

Dr. Shabir’s Introduction

He began by repeating the same three points he articulated in the debate with Nabeel.

  • T – for the text of scripture.
  • H – for history.
  • R – for reason.

Dr. Ally argued that according to the Bible, God declared that He was not a man and that only He should be worshiped. This God whose name we do not know with certainty, but whom we refer to as Yahweh due to combining the consonants of the tetragrammaton with the name of Adonai (Lord), cannot be Jesus as Jesus is a man. To further his point of allowing scripture to interpret scripture, he mentioned that there can only be one Yahweh and according to Isaiah 42, Yahweh sends his servant, this servant is identified as Jesus in Matthew 12. Thus, Jesus cannot be Yahweh as the Bible identifies him as the servant which Yahweh sends. He further argues that according to the Christology of the New Testament, Jesus is an intermediary of God who the Jews came to identify as an agent of creation. The language of the New Testament is also vague regarding Jesus’s station. He is constantly referred to as Lord, which is a term used to describe humans of varying stations. The term Lord in and of itself cannot deify someone.

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. In John 20:17, Jesus allegedly states to Mary Magdelene that he was ascending to “my God” and “your God”, thus denying that he was God himself. We also see where during the time of Paul, he himself was also deified, as within his historical milieu he was considered Zeus and sacrifices were offered to him as attested in Acts 14.

Dr. Shabir focused more on the text of scripture, than the other two points of history and reason. I do believe that he should have reduced the amount of time he spoke on the Bible, as logically, once he established that the scripture was both historically unreliable and not reasonable, he would have negated the authority of the scripture itself. While his three pronged argument of THR is intelligent and concise, I do disagree with the acronym he chose and the order in which he articulated those points. He would have known that Jonathan would have heavily depended upon quoting the Bible as a proof for his beliefs, and I expected that he would have pre-empted this appeal to authority by demonstrating the use of the Bible as an authoritative source as useless. Thus, leaving Jonathan without any credible options of arguing in favour of the Trinity, as he would not have any other arguments in store but for appealing to the Bible. I used this approach myself in my debate with Chessie Edwards, who admitted after the debate that the rug was pulled from under him, and he could not articulate his belief in Jesus as a God, beyond appealing to the Bible.

The reason for doing this, is that once one allows a Christian to appeal to the Bible, the debate becomes focused on interpreting the Bible. Which would mean that the debate would be about whose interpretation was more correct and not many people will be convinced of a Muslim interpreting their scripture for them. I adopted this reasoning from Professor Burton Mack who argued that we should not allow an appeal to the New Testament to count as an authoritative argument. I highly suspect that Dr. Shabir chose to ease the burden of Jonathan, by sticking to basic, common, popular arguments which would be simple. The reason for this is twofold, primarily because he may have felt the debate of the same topic with Nabeel would have been too technical and thus alienated his core audience, and secondly, he may have wanted to take it easy on Jonathan given this was his first stage debate. Dr. Shabir is quite a kind person and he does not argue to win, but more to build relationships and to open the floor to dialogue and understanding. This isn’t a fault, but some may misconstrue his kindness as being lax with missionaries. My only other complaint would be that he did not spend much time speaking on Tawhid, while he did qualify the Trinity as a problematic belief, he did not dedicate enough time to offering the belief of Tawhid as a superior doctrine.

Jonathan’s Introduction

He began by defining what the doctrine of the Trinity was. This is something I strongly agree with, opening a debate by delimiting the scope of the discussion. As a proponent of socratic thinking, this was a pleasant and welcomed feature of his presentation. As previously mentioned, it was expected that Jonathan would base his arguments about the nature of God by mainly appealing to the Bible. He opened by declaring that the Bible was a wholly Trinitarian text (timestamp in video, he says, “The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is thoroughly Trinitarian.”), which unfortunately for him, was pre-empted by Dr. Shabir who demonstrated it was not, thus Jonathan’s first argument was already weakened by Dr. Shabir. Jonathan then presented three other arguments which he felt negated the validity of the doctrine of Tawhid.

  • Tawhid has its own internal problems.
  • The disciples were Trinitarian.
  • The Injeel is Trinitarian.

Of his first argument, he stated:

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

Technically, this (form of argument) is referred to as Modus Tollens. The problem here, is that you have to prove the premises before you can qualify and validate your conclusion which is expected to be a tautology. In attempting to do this, Jonathan disappointed me greatly. 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. I was disappointed because this is an argument copied from Jay Smith, which Samuel Green tried to use on me in my debate with him, which Nabeel later picked up and tried to use against Dr. Shabir. The problem here is that Dr. Shabir already addressed this argument, and so have I. Jonathan merely repeated Nabeel’s poor argument. He did not try to revamp the argument, he did not add anything to the argument, he did not articulate it differently, he did not try to incorporate Dr. Shabir’s response to Nabeel into the argument. He quite literally just repeated the argument, which was already responded to. Naturally, I would expect, that if he did his homework and decided to use an argument which was already refuted, that he’d adjust the argument in some way. He didn’t do that. He presented nothing new. It was at that point I wondered why he even offered to debate the same topic if he was merely going to repeat the same points from the previous debate of the same topic by offering nothing new.

At this point, he presented another argument, namely that there are other creators other than Allah. He did not seem to understand that what he presented was the fallacy of false equivalency, wherein the Qur’an mentioned numerous times that there were agents of God who had abilities attained by the “leave/ permission of Allah”, which are temporal and not absolute. Logically, this would mean their abilities are not inherent and eternal, but appropriated by God, thus his argument was non-sequitur from the get go. I firmly believe that he did not critically consider this argument beyond a cursory copy and paste from Answering Islam’s website. Ironically, he attempted to present this argument in syllogistic form, but the argument was inherently non-sequitur due to its format including the fallacy of false equivalency. How he did not realise this, was impossible to understand, if he is using logic, he should know what fallacies are and how they inhibit his premises. What’s troubling is that in the same sentence he declares that Allah has no partners, then states in the same breath that the Holy Spirit shares in the divinity of God. That’s a contradiction, so either it is his argument and conclusions were wrong, or he forced a false conclusion which he himself did not notice.

His second argument was that the disciples of Jesus were Trinitarian. Interestingly, I had a debate on this topic earlier in the year and demonstrated that according to the proto-orthodox Christian tradition, the disciples were definitely not Trinitarian. At this point he introduced a very strange argument.

P1 – If the Disciples of Jesus were Trinitarian then the Islamic concept of God is false.
P2 – The Disciples of Christ were Trinitarian.
C   – Therefore the Islamic concept of God is false.

Jonathan cannot make such an argument and believe that he is arguing logically. This is known as the fallacy of circular reasoning. What is worse was his attempt at drawing out the logical routes. He presumed that Dr. Shabir could refute his argument in one of two ways, firstly that the disciples were later misled or secondly, that the disciples were overcome (by other groups). Jonathan posited that the second option was impossible as the Qur’an says they were victors. The problem therein with his reasoning is that the Qur’an does not say in what way they were victors. He assumes that it has to be in the promulgation of their beliefs, which the Qur’an does not state itself. It is alleged that the early Christians were persecuted and the religion did not become “accepted” until Constantine’s conversion. According to Jonathan’s appeal to the Qur’an, he alleged that the Qur’an mentioned the disciples of Christ were victorious. Yet the Church was not accepted or mainstream until 300 years after them, so in what way were the disciples victorious according to his reading of the Qur’an? It would then mean that his interpretation was wrong, given that victory was not achieved as he understood it to be during the time of the disciples and so the victory being referred to here is not what he is asserting. The victory may have very well been that they themselves held on to their true faith despite persecution and in this way they were victorious in the sight of God. I do not believe that Jonathan spent more than a minute thinking of this argument, for if he did so, he’d realise instantly that the disparity between his idea of the normative proto-orthodox Church’s “victory” and that of the disciples exceeded the bounds of the Qur’an’s teaching.

At this point, he began to appeal to the New Testament as a historical witness, but for those of you familiar with Dr. Shabir’s works and my own, we already know that the New Testament en toto is not historically viable nor accurate. I have explicitly explained this in great detail in my debate with Steven on the very topic of the beliefs of the disciples using palaeography, papyrology, form criticism, textual criticism and historical criticism. The following links should be sufficient to refute his appeal to the New Testament as a historical witness, especially in his appeal to the Patristics:

He began to close his argument by referring to hadith criticism’s use of the isnad or chain of transmission. Unfortunately, he merely referred to the use of the chain of transmission by Islamic scholarship, what he utterly failed to do was qualify the authority of these alleged chains of transmission by applying the methods of hadith criticism to the chains themselves. I myself did this in my debate with Steven, in fact this was one of the arguments I researched in great detail and whose historicity the early Church itself disputed. Thus, by both Christian historical traditions and the methodology of hadith criticism, the chains of transmission in regard to John used by Jonathan are known to have been falsified and are historically inaccurate. I do not believe that Jonathan spent more than a few minutes constructing this argument, nor do I believe he consulted any major works of Patristic criticism, especially due to the reason his sole academic source seemed to be Richard Bauckham, whom I also referenced in my debate. I do believe he rushed through this portion of his opening statement, and I do not believe he himself knew in any great detail the methodologies of hadith criticism, and so his appeal to this Christian isnad was mere buzz word dropping.

What can we take away from Jonathan’s presentation? We need to take into consideration that this was his first stage debate and this was a debate with Dr. Shabir of all people. With that in mind, his preparation was not up to standard and he seemed to rely on previously used arguments from Nabeel’s debate and his debate of the same topic with AbdurRaheem Green. 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. Most of his presentation seemed to comprise of quickly assembled syllogistic arguments that were not critically assessed or put together with much thought and research behind them. He did not seem to put a lot of effort into his opening presentation, it almost seems rushed and half done, with most of his content directly sourced from his debate of the same topic with AbdurRaheem Green. I really wonder if he thought AbdurRaheem Green and Dr. Shabir were on the same level of study about the Christian religion. That is the impression he gave me. I strongly believe that he did not prepare his debate statement with Dr. Shabir’s education in mind.

One major difference between this debate and the one with AbdurRaheem Green was Jonathan’s comfort level. He certainly seemed uneasy and nervous, and at times he just appeared to be uncomfortable with addressing the crowd. His nerves may have gotten the better of him. Most notably, he rushed through his presentation, he spoke quite quickly and I fear that coupled with his accent, most of the audience would not have followed what he said. In contrast, Dr. Shabir almost seemed to be too relaxed and at times engaged with persons in the audience. As a Muslim though, I do not believe that Jonathan stuck to the topic. Although he began with defining the Trinity, he never really explained or spoke about the teachings of the Trinity, how they made sense, what the value of the Trinity was, why God would or could be a Trinity, how the Trinity was superior to Tawhid. Rather, what I got from Jonathan’s presentation is everything but the Trinity itself. His entire focus seemed to be on establishing that the Trinity was historically viable through the teachings of the Qur’an, and in doing so, he never dealt with the Trinity itself. I did not gain any new knowledge about the Trinity, I didn’t hear him speak on the reasoning of why God had to be a Trinity of persons or how it was possible for an immutable and impassible God to become a man and suffer. Jonathan just seemed to miss the mark spectacularly. As a Muslim, Jonathan’s opening simply did not present the Trinity to me and that is perhaps his greatest failure in this debate.

In Part 2, I’ll cover the Rebuttals.

and God knows best.

« Older Entries