Handling Typical Attacks by Muslim Apologists: The Ansar Raza Case Study

This one is written for my friends who are aspiring to be Christian apologists. It requires some background. Skip to the highlighted portions if you really want to get to the point.

Failed Attempts at Debating Ahmadis
For a couple years, I've been looking for an Ahmadi Muslim who is actually willing to debate publicly. As a former Ahmadi myself, I know the doctrines that are taught to the members of the Jamaat (roughly "sect", lit. "congregation"). I was immersed in the Ahmadi milieu, know the false teachings, and am intimately acquainted with the weaknesses of their theology.

Like most sects of Islam, knowledge and beliefs are passed down authoritatively. The difference with Ahmadis is that the authority is centralized in one chief leader (the "khalifa") and his appointees. These leaders do not issue fatawa expressly, but their opinions effectively function as such. The resultant inability of Ahmadis to challenge these decisions or receive second opinions is starkly similar to the situation of the Shi'a who might wish to challenge a highly respected ayatollah or a recognized imam of the past.

On account of this concentration of authority, most Ahmadis are hesitant to debate publicly. They are told that they "do not officially represent the Jamaat" and therefore are unwilling to debate for fear of misrepresenting (or poorly representing) the Jamaat. I do not doubt the zeal of these followers, though I feel sorry for their predicament. This is all the more a shame since so many of them have been told that the success of the Ahmadi sect was partially on account of intellectual debates held by their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, whom they consider to be the second coming of Jesus. Therefore, Ahmadi confidence in their own debating skills is remarkably high, though hardly any Ahmadis have actually seen an Ahmadi debate.





A Breakthrough: Ansar Raza
About a week ago, two things happened on the same day. First, an Ahmadi I respect and who happens to be a distant relative approached me and said he wished to set up a debate. I have responded and the ball is in his court; I hope it will come to fruition. Keep posted.

Second, a cousin of mine spoke to me of a great defender of Ahmadiyyat in Canada named Ansar Raza. My cousin spoke quite highly of him, so I immediately looked him up on Facebook and sent him a friend request. Shortly thereafter, he sent me a message. I responded.

You may read the conversation we had if you'd like; I will post it as the first five comments for this entry. I'll save you some difficulty, though, and tell you what you need to know: Ansar thinks that his argumentation is devastating. In fact, he is quite sure of it. Although I suggested alternative methods of discussing this issue, he has demanded written responses.

Against my better judgment, I have agreed to respond to Ansar's arguments in writing with the following caveats: 1- The dialogue will be posted on my blog; 2- he will be required to reciprocate by answering two questions after I have answered his two questions. This blog entry is a sort of prolegomenon, the following entry will be my analysis of his argument and response.

Handling Typical Apologetic Attacks against Christian Theology
The reason I have engaged in this dialogue is to provide an example to my readers of what engaging with a typical Muslim apologist looks like. Ansar appears to embody a rather typical Muslim apologetic approach. He is combative and puts himself across as unbelievably self-assured, yet the quality of his reasoning leaves much to be desired. If you are engaged in dialogue with Muslims over truth matters, chances are that you'll run into very similar people. Here is how I suggest handling them:

1 - Remember that YOU are the one who knows God, not them! Frustration usually arises because we forget that our Muslim friends are not bound by the same principles we are: truth, kindness, humility, etc. Being kind to one's enemies is Jesus' teaching! We cannot expect them to be kind to their enemies. Similarly, we cannot expect them to embrace truth when faced with it, since Jesus is truth and they have not yet accepted him. Of course, they might be truthful and kind, and we should rejoice when they are, but we cannot expect this of them. We ought to expect all the harsh treatment an unregenerate man would mete to his enemy.

Therefore, when the Muslim apologists attack and taunt us, do not respond with the same. When they leave logic to the wind, keep yourself above reproach. Do not respond with anything except the truth and the love of Christ. As you will see in the dialogue, I faltered on this one a bit. It is difficult, so stay steeped in prayer and the scripture to avoid the pitfall of returning evil with evil.

2 - Do not engage in one-on-one dialogue. Trust me on this one, folks - don't do it! One-on-one dialogue with such an apologist will drain your time and you will have nothing to show for it. We cannot have constructive dialogue with someone who is fighting us on every front. The reason is because dialogue requires trust and mutual understanding; this is true no matter what the dialogue is about, let alone personal matters like faith. Effective one-on-one dialogue rarely happens without this common ground.

So what should you do? I can see at least three options. A) Engage him in public debate; this has the advantage of edifying an entire audience, though the truth may be lost on the debate opponent. B) Write public responses; this has a similar advantage as the above option, but it is perhaps less helpful because people do not read as much as they used to and writing takes a lot of time. C) Refrain from talking to him altogether; perhaps someone else will reach him, someone who has a relationship with him. But if you cannot extract some potential benefit from the dialogue, I suggest you avoid it altogether.

3 - Do your homework! Though we have the truth on our side, we don't want to take that for granted. Double check your logic, make sure you know your sources and your theology, and test your thoughts with other sharp-minded friends before going out on the intellectual battlefield. Written dialogue affords the advantage of requiring less preparedness, but we still want to be accurate in all we say.

4 - Always watch for self-destruction. It is frighteningly common that, in their zeal to attack your position, they will often undercut their own theology. Be on the alert for this; Muslim apologists are not arguing in a void, they are arguing from the basis of Islam. Do not let them argue something against you that they would not allow to be argued against themselves.

I will be engaging Ansar on this blog as a case study, so that you may see what it's like. Feel free to comment on the progress of the dialogue or on the facts presented by either of us. As always, please keep me in your prayers :-)

7 comments:

  1. Ansar Raza
    Assalam-o-Alaikum
    Are you that Nabeel who converted to Christianity from Islam?

    Ansar Raza
    If yes, please read the attached and respond.
    IS THE BIBLE WORD OF GOD.docx

    Nabeel Qureshi
    Ansar! What a pleasure it is to hear from you. I have heard tales of your intellect and devotion Ahmadiyyat and defending Islam, It is refreshing and encouraging. Thank you for willing to take a stand for your beliefs.

    I think the best way to grow closer to truth is to test our beliefs. We often take refuge in accusations of "hatred" and "bigotry" in order to avoid defending our beliefs against legitimate criticisms. But when we actually let another person challenge our assumptions and test the message we are advocating, then we grow closer to the truth and pursue God with our minds.

    I appreciate your brief document on the Bible. I have responded to this issue in many public dialogues and debates - have you seen any of them? You can watch some on my website at www.Creed26.com. Alternatively, you can search for my debates on YouTube. I've had 16 public debates with Muslim friends, and they have been quite edifying to many people, by God's grace.

    I think something that is far more problematic than the textual integrity of the New Testament is that of the Qur'an. We do not have "the original Qur'an", whatever one might conceptualize that to be. What we have is the 1924 Royal Cairo Edition of the Qur'an, which is actually one of 80 readings (specifically, hafs an Asim). It wasn't even the most popular one at the time; just the one preferred by the editors in Cairo. In fact, they reconstructed an ancient appearing orthography specifically in order to give the text an appeal of antiquity. Other readings are still used, even today (see the warsh readings found in Yemen and elsewhere.)

    In fact, 80 different readings were allowed by the 10 families of readings which Ibn Mujahid ultimately settled on (after his initial 7 families of readings) in the late 3rd/early 4th century AH.

    The fact that he had to pare down the readings to 10 families shows that there were many more before, which are plentifully recorded.

    Of course, this all spawns from the orthography of the Quran and its lack of vowels at the time of Muhammad and the early Hijazi and Kufic manuscripts. Disparities in meaning arose from the lack of precision in writing, as most text critical studies of the Qur'an are concluding.

    Regardless of how one assesses the situation, when dealing with the hadith concerning ahruf, one cannot but conclude that the Qur'an of today is not what Muhammad had envisioned.

    I can share more with you on this if you'd like. The bottom line? The Qur'an is in far deeper hot water than the New Testament. I'd suggest writing a defense of it before assessing the NT, since the latter has been discussed critically for centuries, whereas the Qur'an has been left intellectually undefended. You seem like the man to do it, and since you are in Canada, there are excellent resources there. Qur'an scholars from both traditional and non-traditional camps are there, so you can learn from both.

    I'm interested in your thoughts, my friend Keep in touch! Sincerely,
    -Nabeel

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  2. Ansar Raza
    Dear Nabeel! Thx for the compliments.

    It is against the principles of intellectual dialogue that instead of responding to the allegation level against one's belief, one levels the same allegation to the alleging party. This does not prove anyone right. If, for the sake of argument, Quran is proved to be the brain child of Prophet Muhammad (sa) or later invention, even then the bIble is not proved to be the Word of God. So, the right way is to give evidence in your favor.

    I'll, insha-Allah watch your videos later but here I would like to ask you a question. Deuteronomy 13:5, 18:20, Jeremiah 14:14-16, 28:9, Matthew 15:13, 2Peter 1:21, and Acts 5:33-42 say that a false Prophet never succeeds. Don't you think that the global success of Prophet Muhammad's message prove that, according to the quoted biblical criteria, he was a true prophet send by God?

    Nabeel Qureshi
    Ansar - I understand the principles of intellectual dialogue, thanks. This is why I said you should look at my debates, where I've addressed these issues more times than I can count. You asked for my response, I said it was there. In doing so, I gave you exactly what you asked for.

    Then, I suggested you revisit your approach and start working where your work is needed, i.e. defending the Qur'an. Of course, you're free to ignore that suggestion, but it is my opinion that this is the upcoming area of conversation and it would serve you well to have a written defense.

    In regards to your last question, I see you are taking the conversation into an entirely different direction after having rebuked me for suggesting a different tack. I'm surprised. But my brief answer is this: your exegesis of these passages is slightly off. I think Muhammad's success says no more or less than Joseph Smith's success, Elijah Muhammad's success, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's success, etc. To be clear, what the Bible really says about these people is: "many will come proclaiming Jesus' name, and they will mislead many." Mark 13:6.

    Now please, let us keep our thoughts focused. You introduced an issue (the Bible) and I told you where my response was. I introduced a more problematic issue along the lines of your original question, and you seem to have ignored it and introduced a brand new problem.

    Let us stay focused on no more than this initial issue of scripture! If we want to branch off, let's do so over Skype or in person, where dialogue can allow for that kind of thing. Over email, it gets to be too much. Cheers.

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  3. Ansar Raza
    Dear Nabeel!

    I do not wish to start blame game but I regret to say that it is you who are avoiding fundamental questions and instead of answering my question pose question, which does not serve any purpose rather shows your inability to answer my question.

    Further, instead of explaining why the verses I quoted do not apply on Prophet Muhammad (sa), you quoted another verse (Mark 13:6) that many will come proclaiming Jesus' name, and they will mislead many. But Muhammad (sa) did not proclaim Jesus' name. How does this verse apply on him?

    Nabeel Qureshi
    Let us Skype, my friend, to avoid wasting too much time writing. I promise to answer your questions if you promise to answer mine. We'll take turns. Cheers.
    BTW, Monday is a good day for me to Skype. Let me know if that works for you, Ansar. Thanks.

    Ansar Raza
    I prefer to talk here in writing or through email. I would also like to discuss one topic at a time. You owe me two answers; first about proof that bible is the word of God and the 2nd about criterion of bible about truthfulness or otherwise of a Prophet.

    Nabeel Qureshi
    Ansar--

    I must say I expected a man of your repute to be more cordial. I do not owe you two answers. In fact, I owe you nothing, though I am willing to converse for the glory of God.

    You have a rather combative approach to discussing faith matters. I prefer friendly dialogue. May I suggest you reconsider your tone and approach.

    I will answer your two questions in writing if you answer two of my questions in writing. Also, since I will be spending so much time writing what could more easily be spoken, I will be posting our dialogue on my blog (leaving you anonymous, of course, unless you'd rather be named).

    Can we agree to this, my friend? I pray for a fruitful, rather than combative, discussion. May God guide your heart and mind. Sincerely,
    -Nabeel

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  4. Ansar Raza
    My Dear Nabeel, my approach is just like Jesus Christ who said:

    "“Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34)

    Similar tone and style is expressed in Luke 12:49-53 and 14:25-33. You should be happy that I'm following your 'Lord's" tone and style which is, as a matter of fact, basis of my repute.

    I ask simple and fundamental questions, expect simple and straight-forward answers and respond to questions likewise. People who wish me to play on their pitch most often complain about my style.

    I suggest you to increase your threshold point and do not get annoyed so easily. Remember your 'Lord's' advice and turn the other cheek (Matthew 5"38-42, Luke 6:27-31).

    I do not mind that you may post our conversation wherever you wish with my name.By the Grace of Allah I'm confident about my belief and never wished to hide myself.

    As I was the one who asked you questions, it is your responsibility to answer those questions before asking me any question. Later, you may ask me any question.

    Nabeel Qureshi
    Ansar --

    Your are crossing lines when you bring Jesus down to your level. Matthew 10:34 has nothing to do with being rude over the internet; it has to do with the resultant division in families after some accept Jesus' message. If you cannot exegete and apply a verse which has a very explicit context I wonder how you will arrive at good conclusions for virtually anything.

    If you wish to emulate Jesus as far as how to treat sincere people who happen to be your enemies, I suggest you start reading Mt 5:43-48. Although this message of love stands in stark contrast to the Quran 60:1, I'm sure you will understand its inherent value. Plus, Mirza Nasir Ahmad seemed to prefer the Bible over the Qur'an on this issue ("Love for All, Hatred for None") so I doubt it will be too hard for you to do the same.

    If you refuse to "play on the pitch" of being cooperative and cordial, then that says a lot about your character, friend. I'm afraid for your heart and soul. I will be in prayer for you. Sad as that may be, I am used to that when discussing with Muslims, so your abrasive demeanor is nothing new to me. I simply wish, for your sake, that you knew the Holy Spirit and were transformed by God into a better character (Galatians 5:22-24). God willing, perhaps your eyes will be opened and your heart will be changed.

    Aside from my desire for your soul to be closer to God, I am not annoyed. My threshold point has been raised to quite high levels, don't worry about me. I was just worried about you.

    From here on I will be posting any conversation we have, with your name as per your desire. This will make the effort expended worth it, since it will help many advance towards the truth.

    If it is "my responsibility" to answer those two questions simply by virtue of the fact that you asked them first (which, I must say, seems a rather puerile approach) then out of fairness it will be "your responsibility" to respond to two questions I ask you. If you avoid this responsibility when the time comes to defend your beliefs, then I will not hesitate to point that out to all who read my blog and hear me speak.

    It is my sincere prayer that God will open eyes and hearts through you and your boldness for him. If I cannot urge you towards respect and kindness through my words, I pray that He can lead you in that direction through His power. Again, you are in my prayers, my friend.

    Sincerely,
    -Nabeel

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  5. Ansar Raza
    I am very much disappointed that instead of starting an intellectual debate you are blaming me of combative attitude avoiding to answer my questions. I do not mind the allegations you leveled against me because it is not something new for me. All those who find themselves unable to rebut my arguments seek refuge in such demeanor you are showing now.

    Alleging me of bad behavior you forgot that Jesus called the Pharisees and Scribes as wicked, adulterous (Matthew 12:39 & 16:4), brood of vipers (Matthew 12:34), blind guides, sons of devil and many other names I'm sure you already know.

    I am not reluctant to answer any question about Islam when my turn comes. Should I expect serious job now and look forward to the answers of my questions?

    Ansar Raza
    My Dear Nabeel! It seems that on the false pretext of my combative behavior you have decided to ignore me which I term as your inability to answer my questions. If it is true, then I wonder if this was your zeal to bring me to your so-called glory of God. You didn't walk with me for more than a couple of steps.

    I'm thinking about making youtube videos exposing your inability to show self-acclaimed Christian characteristics of love, tolerance and turning the other cheek and also to be unable to prove the Bible as Word of God.

    Nabeel Qureshi
    Ansar--

    As I said, I will be responding to you on my blog. I will ignore your taunts in the meantime. I have no time limits, express or implied. You cannot monopolize my schedule.

    If you would like to convince yourself of any false notions of victory or genius, as if this is a battle or a chance to prove your mental acumen, feel free. I wont get sucked into that game. I'm interested in truth matters.

    May God guide your heart and mind. Sincerely,
    -Nabeel

    Ansar Raza
    I'll be waiting for that, but don't you think that truth is relative! What you consider truth is simply false to me and vice versa. What we need to find is the "Absolute Truth" and that should be in the scripture we believe in, not our own wild guesses and surmises.

    Take your time; consult David Wood or any other mentor you have and get back when you feel confident because I can see that your confidence has been shattered by my two simple questions. Oh...why can't I stop taunting?

    Nabeel Qureshi
    Ansar--

    You may continue to taunt - I simply said I will ignore them. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to work on my patience and my ability to tolerate personal attacks.

    My response to you will be up soon. May God work a miracle in you.

    Sincerely,
    -Nabeel

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  6. I don't know how to use skyp. I downloaded it onto my computer, but it just kept popping up all of the time. I couldn't find subjects I was interested it. I wouldn't be anywhere, and once I was told I couldn't get into one room because I was in another.

    I hope skyp isn't chosen for this.

    In regards to one-on-one debates and dialogue, why not? Maybe I don't want to change the world. Maybe one heart and mind is all I really am interested in at any given moment.

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  7. Mr Rasa,--I don't know if I am allowed to answer or ask questions, here, but I guess I will find out.

    In regards to your question as to whether or not a prophet will succeed or how we measure success. You should know that after the completion of NT scriptures, all prophesy ceased all together. That would have happened by the end of the first century.

    So any alleged prophet after that time, was to be ignored by God's people. By that criteria, Mohammad failed, by the definition.

    And the scriptures I am using to demonstrate this are these.

    1 Corinthians 13
    8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.


    2 Peter 2:1 (notice that false prophets are spoken of in the past, and only false teachers are spoken of in present and future)

    "But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves".

    That leaves Mohammad, at best being a NT teacher, and he was condemned by Paul, if he is that. Mohammad cannot be a prophet of anything according to the final protocols left for God's people.

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