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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.

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