Answering Missionaries

May 11, 2006

Shabir Ally vs. James White debate – response to a Christian review part 1

Filed under: Debate reviews,James White,Shabir Ally vs James White — answeringmissionaries @ 12:50 am

On the 7th May, 2006, Muslim debater Shabir Ally and Christian apologist James White had a debate on the topic: “Is the New Testament As It Exists Today the Inspired Word of God?”

Already, a few Christians who attended the debate have started putting up some reviews of this debate on their blogs.1 Most Christian reviewers naturally side with their guy James White, but cracks are beginning to appear as we are also coming across non-Muslim reviews acknowledging James White’s poor defence of the alleged inspiration of the New Testament writings. For instance, one non-Muslim reviewer writes (bold added):

    “Over all, a good debate. Good moderator, good speakers, good dialogue. Although it seemed like they were speaking past each other a good portion of the time, and James White wasn’t really adressing the topic, it was much better than i hoped.”

Another non-Muslim reviewer, a Christian for that matter, admits that (bold added):

The night belonged to Ally who was both cordial and clear. Dr. White, who although is very knowledgeable, lost sight of the debate question. That is, Dr. White failed to provide any positive evidence for the New Testament being the inspired word of God and instead of focusing on one or two points; he was consumed with presenting thousands of one line facts.

Dr. White tried to switch the burden of proof from himself to Ally. His main argument was that Ally uses a double standard when analyzing the New Testament. That is, Ally holds the New Testament to standards of textual criticism that he does not apply to a critical examination of the Koran. Dr. White stated that “inconsistency is the mark of a failed argument.” Although this is true, it was not the question in debate. Instead of using positive evidence, White resorted to attacking Ally and the history of the Koran.

Note that the topic of the debate was: “Is the Bible as we have it today the inspired word of God?” Thus, the alleged inspiration of the Bible was to be debated. The following picture is emerging at this stage: Instead of attempting to demonstrate the alleged inspiration of the Bible and engaging with the arguments presented by Shabir Ally, it appears that White spent most of his time merely attacking the Quran, as if that somehow was to “prove” the inspiration of the New Testament. Perhaps White and Ally could have agreed to have another debate to discuss specifically the alleged inspiration of the Quran (well, for me its not “alleged”), but this was not the topic of the debate on 7th May, 2006. Moreover, in his Dividing Line address, White is clear that he has no interest to debate the Quran, hadith, Muhammed (P) etc., since he does not know much about these issues. Instead, White said that he would rather debate Biblical issues and issues relating to Christianity since he is well-versed in them. But in the debate he made next to no attempt to defend the Bible and instead merely raised irrelevant polemics having nothing to do with the topic. This, then, reveals White’s weakness, in my view, and indicates that the Bible is not an easy book to defend despite the overly exagerrated claims of people such as White.

I plan to write a review of this debate once I receive the tape and also compose a critique of some of the Christian reviews. Nonetheless, after reading some of the Christian reviews, I believed it was adequate to respond to some of their comments, particularly on issues which are commonly raised by Christians in their talks and papers against Islam. And so I began posting some of my replies using the alias “Rambo” – guess I felt like doing some liberation.

Below is my brief reaction to Mr. Patrick Chan’s review 2:

Hello Chang [note: the name is actually Chan, so my misspelling!]

I wanted to reply to some of the things you said in your review. To begin with, I have not yet seen the debate so cannot respond to everything that has been said by Christian reviewers, but I do know that Shabir Ally is a fantastic and a charming debater and that he has done quite well in all of his previous debates. Although I think Christian reviewers are exaggerating in their praise of James White, I will just wait to see the debate myself.

There are some arguments which you assert were made by James White which I find most unconvincing and unpersuasive. First, you paraphrase White posing the question:

    “would any fair-minded Muslim accept the testimony of an individual that the Qur’an is chock full of holes, if the individual lived hundreds of years after Muhammed was said to have received the Qur’an, could neither read nor understand Arabic, and in fact had no access whatsoever to any compelling evidence or sources which might substantiate his allegation, etc.? Muhammed lived hundreds of years after the NT was transcribed and codified, he could not read Greek (and perhaps was even illiterate), and is the only individual making the allegation that the Qur’an is the complete, perfect revelation of God while the Old and New Testaments are imperfect without any other evidence or source whatsoever.”

The answer is simple, we study the claim of the individual and see if there is any basis to it and then conclude based on the proof and evidence. To me, such an argument actually backfires upon the Christians. Muhammed was not “perhaps” illiterate, he was illiterate as all historical sources agree, and of course, he could not speak a word of Greek. So he could not have possibly known just out of the blue that the NT documents suffered from corruption during the course of their transmission. So, was he right or wrong? ALL Biblical scholars acknowledge the corruption of the NT writings (and the OT as well). The only disagreement is over the question “how much”? Here you will find different scholars giving different answers. That the NT was corrupted during its transmission is accepted as such by ALL scholars. Moreover, scholars similarly agree that the NT texts were not rigidly fixed in the earliest period of their transmission. An increasingly growing number of scholars are now even questioning the extant and significance of the variants in the NT mss and whether or not there was any such thing as an “original” to begin with. So, Muhammed, who could not have possibly known own his own that that NT underwent corruption, is shown to be quite CORRECT at the end. His accuracy in this regard makes it likely, for me at least, that he was indeed inspired by God since he was in no position to know that the NT documents were corrupted during transmission.

Also, contrary to the impression you give, there is much evidence at our disposal to show that the NT writings did underwent corruptions, particularly in the form of the earliest mss evidence. There are scholars who endorse the “substantial” integrity of the NT text or its “basic” integrity, while allowing the presence of at least some uncertainties within the texts. Then there are scholars who question this rosy picture. So, the fact that the NT was corrupted is not a “disputed” point, only the extant of the corruption is disputed.

You also make mention of the alleged “double standard” applied by Shabir Ally in his treatment of the Bible and the Quran, but you do not elaborate any further. What is this “double standard”?

Regards
Rambo
Me

Notes

1. For example:
http://merbc.invigorated.org/archives/2006/05/07/aside-gone-awry/
http://hipandthigh.blogspot.com/2006/05/white-and-ally-debate-review-this-last.html

2. I have only corrected my spelling in this review and made minor grammatical changes and removed an irrelevant comment directed towards another individual at the end of my reply.

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6 Comments »

  1. Rambo,

    Over there in Patrick’s blog, you tried to pooh-pooh and belittle the excellent rebuttal site :
    http://www.answering-islam.org , as a so-called ‘low-level polemical’ site but such belittling merely reflects how little you actually know. Not only does Answering-Islam.org effectively rebut and dismantle the islamic-awareness site, but it addresses a very large bunch of Islamic
    POLEMICAL Sites which also propogandize (0r
    dawagandize) Islam!

    Far from being ‘low-level’ as you desperately hope to insinuate, Answering-Islam.org has got a lot, lot more of scholarly materials than most muslim polemicists would wish to admit (like yourself).

    Anyway, yo will do really well to start reading the following books that assess the history of Islam and the Quran objectively:

    1] A History of Medieval Islam, Routledge, by John Saunders

    2] Twenty-Three Years by Ali Dashti, Mazda Pubs., Translated by FRC Bagley &

    3] The Bible and the Quran, A Question of Integrity, by Steve Masood.

    Regards, Hossein.

    [Reply: Hello Mr. Hossein

    I can see that you are very emotional and wounded over my negative comments regarding your sweety answering-islam. But, unfortunately, I have more heart breaking news to give you: I still feel it is a low-level polemical website.

    I think that quantity wise, the site you’re a big fan of is vastly superior, but as far as quality is concerend, its as rubbish as rubbish can be. Islamic-awareness.org, on the other hand, is a site par-excellence, used even by proper scholars – both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars alike. I have seen the so-called “rebuttal” section to Islamic-awareness on answering-islam, and its just darn diddly rubbish. I think most individuals, even non-Muslims (of course, excluding die-hard polemicists) can see that as well.

    Thanks for passing me some of your all time favourite books. I really don’t know how you understand the word “objective”, but based on your book list, I reckon “objective” means something vastly different than objective in your vocabulary. Let me explain why:

    I am familiar with the Iranian polemicist Athiest Ali Dashti. Don’t you know its an outrageously out-dated book? Oh and I recall that the late Dashti had many negative things to say about the Bible as well. Perhaps you endorse those sentiments as well?

    Steven Masood is a well-known missionary polemicist, not a scholar, and I have read parts of his above referred book and plan to soon get a copy for myself. I wonder how such a polemicist may be described as “objective”? Moreover, refutations to Steven Masood’s polemics are to be found on islamic-awareness.org You should read them sometime!

    As for the one by Saunders, I will admit, I know nothing about that author and his book. I am now interested to get hold of his book soon so thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    Regards and best wishes.]

    Comment by Hossein Naser — May 18, 2006 @ 8:25 am | Reply

  2. Comments deleted

    Administrator note: I am deleting the comments made by a Christian going by the name Hossein Nasr. This is the second time I have done this due to his misbehaviour.

    You should remember that you are coming to my turf and I am allowing you to post comments. But if you do not know how to behave in someone else’s house and are only here to insult and name call, then I will kick you out and you can cry as much as you like because I really don’t care.

    I would like people, Christians included, to post civil comments in this blog so that we may have a polite and sober discussion. Anything violating this will be deleted.

    I will allow Mr. Hossein to reform his comments and if they are civil I will approve them.

    Administrator.

    PS: basically he is still insisting that the Christian polemicist Steve Masood and the atheist/agnostic communist Ali Dashti (who wrote around 100 years ago I believe), who was equally hostile towards Christianity, are “objective” writers on Islam and there is, God forbid, no reason whatsoever to doubt their motives. Perhaps Mr. Hossein also believes that all anti-Christian writers are also objective to the full?

    Comment by Hossein — May 26, 2006 @ 4:55 am | Reply

  3. Administrator: Well, he is at it again. Some people just don’t know how to behave. Well, I will remove his opening barrage of insultive comments, as well as his false assertion that I “name-called” him and just post the remainder of his comments.

    When its convenient to label and categorize other people, you are good at it to the hilt. Ali Dashti outdated? That shows you have never read and examined his work “23 Years-A Study of the Prophetic Carrer of Muhammad” thoughtfully at all. Your jaundiced eyes determined that he was an incurable ‘agnostic’ and/or ‘polemicist’ so you just have to write him/his work off, just like you tried on http://www.answering-islam.org. He said things about the Bible? Sure he would, thats expected of most dawagandist Muslims anyway! But, very pointedly, he was a Muslim who dared say things CRITICAL about the QURAN! Now thats something else.

    Mind you, Ali Dashti was no mere unlearned Muslim. He had a full Islamic education in the Madrasas to the highest level; in both Iran ad Iraq, before embarking early on a journalism career. Then, he joined the Iranian government, and was honored with ministerial level posts including being the Foreign Minister and then Ambassador. Something govenments don’t just give to any Tom, Dick & Harry. Yet, as he deepened his studies into the Quran and Islam’s prophet (Mohamed), he found grounds for serious doubts in the Quran and Mohamed’s character and ‘prophethood’, that he documented those facts down into his
    now-famous Book. So, you find it necessary to label him as an ‘agnostic’. He dared to risk all the typical Islamic ostracism and persecution that he had it made it into a Book, despite being A MUSLIM!

    Next you take aim at Steven Masood, who has a Muslim background too, so because he rejects Islam and has embraced Christianity, its necessary for you to label him as ‘missionary’. ‘polemicist’ etc. Reflecting this very same approach back on you, then you yourself are nothing more than a ‘dawagandist’, ‘Islamist propogandist’ and addicted to labelling all detractors of Islam! These are just typical Islamic missionary tactics to deflect readers from the real crux and truth of the matter-the abysmally deep doubts and questionable traits that can be found in the Quran and Sunna.

    Its your kind of response that truly comes from the diddly rubbish-heap, as you inimitably put it! You hope that with a couple of sweeping statements you can brush aside the facts in http://www.answering-islam!? Dream on, Rambo, its just gonna be another pipe dream for Muslims like yourself! LOL..Hossein.

    [Reply: Believe it or not, but, the above is the “tame” version of his “reply.” Let me quickly deal with his “points”:

    1. He takes issue with my factually correct observation that Ali Dashti is “outdated.” Note that Dashti’s book was published in 1937. So, it’s very old to say the least and as far as I can tell, the book is not part of any course on Islam in any university or educational institute. Contrary to the impression being given by Mr. Hossein, I have read some of Dashti’s above referred book in the past. Do a search on google and you will find the book online. Now, Mr. Hossein claims that Dashti was once a Muslim, that he received Islamic education, then he left Islam, he was once a minister, and what not, and so I should consider him as an “objective” writer on Islam. Does Mr. Hossein also want me to consider Dashti “objective” in his critical comments on the Bible? If not then why not? Moreover, why does he not accept Bart Ehrman to be an “objective” researcher on Christianity and the Bible knowing that he is a qualified scholar, having far better grounding in Biblical studies than Dashti had on Islamic studies [btw, Dashti received the standard Madrassah education which all students received at the time], who was once an Evangelical Christian who then became an agnostic upon a closer examination of the Bible? And how about Dr. Jerald Dirks, who was once a practising and believing Christian, one well grounded in Biblical studies, having a M. Divinity from Harvard, who then became a Muslim? I recommend his book: The Cross & the Crescent, Amana Publications, 2003. All of these individuals, and I can think of many others, have a far better grounding and qualifications in Biblical studies than Dashti ever did in Islamic studies. Moreover, they are thoroughly scholarly who do not name-call or malign Christianity. But something tells me that Mr. Hossien would still never ever consider with seriousness their critical studies of the Bible, that he would dismiss them from the outset, and would still insist that Dashti, who was indeed no more than a very hostile polemicist, was the most “objective” person on this planet!

    2. Masood. Mr. Hossein gets angry because I correctly described Masood as a “missionary.” As far as I knew, this was a title of honour and respect among Christians and Mr. Masood would be unlikely to object to it. But it seems Mr. Hossein has problems with it as well. Mr. Hossien insists that Masood, who has, as far as I know no qualifications on Islamic studies, is the most “objective” writer on Islam we can ever find. Who is Masood? He is the author of a few polemical books on Islam in which he tries to “disprove” Islam and “show” that Christianity is instead “true.” So, such a writer is said to be “objective”! But no, Jerald Dirks, who is qualified and in no way hostile towards Christianity in such a manner, is not objective! Need I say any more? We are now to believe that those openly hostile towards someones religion, whatever the religion, are “objective” observers and commentators of that religion! Moreover, as I stated before, there are responses to Mr. Masood on islamic-awareness.org Do a search on their site.

    Regards and best wishes.
    Admin]

    Comment by Hossein Nasr — May 26, 2006 @ 1:46 pm | Reply

  4. In your earlier post, your insinuating characterization on me as ’emotional’ and ‘wounded’, are untrue and uncalled for, and I would go on record that it was just your flippant, red herring diversion to shift the focus on me, personally, rather than on the point I was making ie.about the quality of the website http://www.answering-islam.org.

    Furthermore, converts from Christianity (or other religions) to Islam are ‘a dime a dozen’, for example in many countries in Asia, money, food and other provisions for basic necessities are exploited to lure non-Muslims into Islam, I have seen that for myself.

    However, Islam on the other hand, erects extremely harsh and severe barriers for its followers from converting out of it! The converts or so-called ‘murtads/murtaddin’ are regularly threatened with DEATH, persecution, loss of employment, loss of inheritance, expulsion from their homelands, expulsion from family, social and communal ostracism, automatic divorce from their spouses and the confiscation of their children and property by the Islamic state, etc! There are no such equivalent harsh penalties for leaving Christianity today. Whist Islam has been practising such harshness and even making it a ‘capital offence’ since day one.

    In the face of such harshness, WHO would want to publically announce his or her rejection of Islam for say, Christianity? There seems to be too much at stake for the convert to lose-including his/her life! The ‘playing field’ of conversion today is not at all level, when it comes to leaving the religion; for Islam and Christianity. That is why there are so many more who leave Islam secretly and quietly, compared with those who make their rejection of Islam publicly known.

    In spite of that, we do have brave converts who do let their leaving Islam be known openly. And just like you want us to know about ‘Christians becoming Muslims’-which does not attract the death penalty and/or other severe repercussions for doing so, there are followers of Islam who have turned their backs on Islam for Christianity, after much study and research into the facts and getting to the bottom of the issues.

    One such person is Dr.Lamin Sanneh who is from the royal family of Gambia, from a Muslim family who obtained an Islamic education from his earliest years. He then went on to to secure a Masters degree in Islamic Studies and Arabic language from University. He taught at Harvard and Yale Universities, USA. A deep and sincere struggle for the truth led him to embrace Christianty and to reject Islam. He wrote a number of Books including ‘Whose Religion is Christianity’.

    Then you have Amran Hambrie, the Indonesian Islamic religious scholar and politician in his Islamic political movement and party. His knowledge of the Quran is not a shallow one, and yet he eventually turned his back on Islam and embraced Christianity after much soul-searching and research.

    There is also Mark Gabriel, who studied in Egypt, at the Islamic university in Cairo. After coming to the true Christ, he experienced much persecution from the Muslims and had to flee for his life from their atrocities. He too wrote a number of books,which can be checked out from the Amazon.com or Barnes amnd Noble website.

    All the above people can also be searched on the internet, just by doing a google search on them, and theres more testimonies here:

    http://www.answering-islam.org/Testimonies/index.html

    So, it proves clearly that intellectual and knowledgeable Muslims also reject Islam and embrace Christianity, DESPITE FACING all the severities that Islam wants to punish them with!

    None of these Christians above, have or want to return back to Islam. It is time that Islam comes to terms with the realities of true religious freedom, and the fundamentals of human rights, a fact which it is abysmally poor in!

    Regards, Hossein.

    [Reply: finally, we have some civil comments from Mr. Hossein, even if largely irrelevant. A good change. Of course, I disagree with everything he has to say 🙂 and feel some of his statements really don’t deserve a reply. Nonetheless, I won’t be adding an exhaustive response on this occasion. The readers can decide for themselves.
    Regards and best wishes to all, oh and do see http://islamicweb.com/begin/newMuslims/ :)]

    Comment by Hossein Nasr — May 27, 2006 @ 2:28 am | Reply

  5. Dear ‘Rambo’,

    Why not let this through as well, it does not try to insult or humiliate you, and you are trying to establish truth objectively, aren’t you?

    ………………….

    [Admin: Mr. Hossien then re-pastes his previously approved comments. I just wanted to say this: I am not online 24/7. I have a life outside of the world of internet. I work and I study as well. These days, due to my exams and assignment submission deadlines, I am not online that much, even though I somehow managed to put up responses on this blog (which did adversly effect my exam preparations 😦 Therefore, I cannot approve comments straight away. You need to be patient. It may take a few hours, or even 1 or 2 days, unfortunately. If, on the other hand, I do not approve your comments, then I will still say so openly, and offer the justifications, on this blog. Moreover, some of you are dwelling on the other side of the globe as well so when it’s day time at your end, its night time at my end! In short, be patient and do not expect to see your comments appearing instantly…

    Finally, I forgot to add something before, my description of Mr. Hossien as being “emotional” and “wounded” were not “name-calling” as he wrongly claims and most certainly not even remotely comparable to the types of rude comments that he had to make.]

    Comment by Hossein Nasr — May 27, 2006 @ 11:02 am | Reply

  6. I know this is an old page but I would just like to put the record straight about the qualifications of Steven Masood who is a world renowned authority on this subject even if you don’t know him. Steven is a friend of mine who I have had the pleasure of working with for over 10 years. He did his first degree in Islamic Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University and has a Master of Theology degree and a Doctorate of Philosophy from the London School of Theology in association with Brunel University, London UK. Both research degrees were granted on writing theses on Islamic Studies. He has spent over 20 years studying and working in Christian-Muslim relations and has taught Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim relations as a visiting lecturer at institutions in the UK, the Far East and the USA. I am sure Steven would be more than happy for anyone to contact the academic institutions if they really want to verify his qualification to write and talk on this subject.

    Comment by Philip Ronson — January 11, 2008 @ 4:03 pm | Reply


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