Debate: Do the gospels portray a consistent picture of Jesus? (voting period)

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How consistent are the gospels? Can we rely on them to present the character of Jesus accurately? Follow my recent debate here as I challenge my opponent – Otakujorden that they aren’t at all consistent.

I do not wish to offend any Christian with this debate, such is not my intention. I hope those that read it will enjoy it and find it quite interesting. Thank you.

Posted from Saj’s Nexus

Britain’s Debate on the Niqab: My Thoughts

niqabLast week, Turkey’s parliament has allowed female MPs to wear the Muslim veil for the first time since it was banned from public buildings. “There is nothing in parliamentary bylaws that stands as an obstacle to this,” said Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister. “Everyone should respect our sisters’ decision.”

As western countries have growing concerns about the Islamic head coverings, be it the face veil (niqab) or the headscarf, I believe this particular news is a sign in the right direction. I hope the Niqab debate which is now popular in the UK (thanks to Channel 4 and a few MPs) can benefit from Turkey’s example.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, I’m sure you’re all aware of the concerns people are having regarding the Islamic face veil here in the UK. There’s no hiding it or sugar coating it, non-Muslims are voicing their unease of women covered head to toe, walking and talking as British citizens. On the other hand it is obvious to some, and may be less obvious to others how much some of the issues on this topic are being blown out of proportion by the media. Issues are raised from thin air and given emphasis as if they’re major obstacles. Such as ‘the niqab in hospitals’. This is a problem which doesn’t exist within the NHS as far as my research goes. Mainly because any member of the NHS who observes the face veil is clearly aware that she has to take it off when on duty in public buildings simply on the basis of security. This is the type of unnecessary dialogue we certainly want to avoid, we want to deal with real concerns and questions about the face veil and not superficial sensationalism.

Where other countries have already banned face veils, and even minarets, here in Britain we do things differently. We like to discuss, talk, evaluate, dialogue, conversate, debate etc. You get the point, its a very British thing, but it is good thing.

Channel 4 held a discussion/debate on ‘Britain’s niqab‘ at the East London Mosque. With a complete female audience, and Douglas Murray, the only male out of the six panellists, sure it was joy to watch. Especially Murray, watching him sweep in with his generalised statements, but that didn’t surprise me at all. What did surprise me was Yasmin Alibhai Brown’s plea to the audience to ask the Taliban for their opinion on the face veil. The Niqab has been part of Britain for some twenty odd years now or even more. Free thinking, independent Muslim women pick the Niqab today out of their own choice to please their Creator. These are intelligent women of Britain, not blind followers of the Taliban. Her’s wasn’t the only surprisingly absurd contention raised that evening.

In the face of all the issues fired up in the space of 20 minutes, I believe the sisters discussed the topic very well. However, there are some points raised in this discussion that I would like to clarify as I understand them, which in future discussions I am certain can help the debate move forward.

The debate on whether the Niqab is mandatory or not is ongoing even within in Islam. Muslim women do realise this, and they are either of the opinion that it is mandatory or it isn’t. Both opinions are perfectly valid and can be justified. Even women who believe it isn’t mandatory still take it on as free choice. Islam allows this type of freedom of opinion on issues such as this. The argument that the Niqab isn’t mandatory is a misleading one. It should be noted that while majority of Muslims believe it isn’t mandatory, there is a minority which have the view that it is, and both views have to be considered. Also, whether or not the face veil is a cultural practice, it is more important to understand the freedom allowed regarding it in the context of religion and society. To say the face veil is a cultural practice is a false assumption to make. It can simply be validated as a religious practice by looking at basic historical evidence, the wives of the Prophet used to practice it, and it was never refuted or deemed as un-Islamic by the Prophet peace be upon him or by his companions.

Shalina Litt made a very important point. Whose discomfort are we going to favour? As a multicultural society we have to recognise we all live in different ways. We may not like the way one chooses to dress or look a certain way, but at least respect that it is within the boundaries of a diverse community. It is understandable that one can be discomforted by the sight of a face veil, but is it really justified by getting Muslim women to remove them? The discomforted is now comforted and the comforted discomforted, clearly this isn’t a solution. There is a better way, I believe in dialogue and discussion. The more we talk about the issues concerning us the better we understand each other, responsibility belongs on both sides of the fence. Sisters observing the face veil need to understand that parts of the British public are genuinely bothered by it, may see it as a sign of oppression and therefore may be intimidated. It is first and foremost the duty of these sisters to help remove the misconceptions about it, and the best way to go about that is communication. However, those who may not be familiar with the Islamic practice of veiling, should make attempts to understand the philosophy behind the act, ask a sister who veils or enquire about the validity of the niqab in social and religious dynamics. If we want to get to that heart of the issue this is the type of attitude I believe we should be having.

I am not convinced the debate on the niqab is about Muslim exceptionalism. Rather exceptionalism in the context of the religious has been a part of multicultural Britain for many years. It is because of our exceptionalistic society that Britain is the most multicultural and tolerant place to live in the 21st century. Of course there are limits and boundaries, it isn’t apparent that the practice of the niqab is beyond reasonable limits. It isn’t a harmful practice, nor is it worn to offend anyone. By all means if it does offend any person, it shouldn’t be dealt with by speaking against the practice, but by making a positive case for it and highlighting the benefits in it which many Muslim sisters wear it for.

Douglas Murray was of course a delight to watch voicing his simplistic black or white generalisations. His style of arguing was quite an authoritative type, and so he made some startling statements without any real logical reasoning. He first made the assertion that nobody knows who Fatima Barkatullah is due to her face veil. Well I’m sure Channel 4 know who she is, Jackie Long introduced her with name and profession right at the beginning of the debate as she did for the other two veiled panellists. They all spoke clearly and made valid points, and I’m sure everyone understood what they were saying regardless of their head coverings. Sahar Al-Faifi was correct in stating that the majority of the world’s communication isn’t face to face, examples such as Twitter, Facebook, texts and that amazing app called WhatsApp. These are all great examples of how we’ve evolved our preferences of social interaction, we feel just as connected to one another via phone calls and texts as we do face to face. Also picking on Douglas’ point, ‘Muslim women who veil in France have taken it off, is it so negotiable?’. The face veil is negotiable when it is a matter of security, and the reason why so many have taken off their niqabs is not because they wanted to, but simply because they are forced to by the French government. Many cannot afford the fine and therefore have to compromise their religious practice for a law which instead of preventing bigotry and Islamophobia, attracts such qualities.

The debate on the British niqab may be a long one, or we may be distracted by some other news sometime in the near future and forget all about it. But it remains to be seen whether or not Britain will follow in the footsteps of the French and ban the niqab. The niqab is a simple piece of cloth which a Muslim woman chooses to cover her face with in modesty and worship to her Creator. It harms no one nor is it meant to offend anyone. Veiled women still contribute to society and interact with other people on a day to day basis. Douglas was right on one thing, ‘Britain is the most tolerant place to live even as a Muslim’, but if we impose a ban on the veil then we would be taking a step in the other direction. What crucially needs to be recognised, is the veil is misunderstood in parts of Britain and we need to deal with this problem before anything else, people are at unease and concerned, this can only be resolved by dialogue and education, not by a ban. We must consider the rights and concerns of everyone collectively, and we mustn’t force a minority of women in Britain to assimilate to western culture by taking off their covers.

Faith in God, its an absolute no brainer

I read this a while back online and still remember it. It is a discussion between a student and his professor about having faith in God. I found it quite enjoyable to read so thought I’d add it to my page.

The discussion, enjoy:

Professor: Do you believe in God?
Student: Absolutely, sir.
Professor: Is God good?
Student: Sure.
Professor: Is God all powerful?
Student: Yes.
Professor: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But God didn’t. How is this God good then? Hmm?

(Student was silent.)

Professor: You can’t answer, can you ? Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?
Student: Yes.
Professor: Is Satan good?
Student: No.
Professor: Where does Satan come from?
Student: From … God …
Professor: That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?
Student: Yes.
Professor: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything. Correct?
Student: Yes
Professor: So who created evil?

(Student did not answer.)

Professor: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don’t they?
Student: Yes, sir.
Professor: So, who created them?

(Student had no answer.)

Professor: Science says you have 5 Senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son, have you ever seen God?
Student: No, sir.
Professor: Tell us if you have ever heard your God?
Student: No , sir.
Professor: Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God, smell your God? Have you ever had any sensory perception of God for that matter?
Student: No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.
Professor: Yet you still believe in Him?
Student: Yes.
Professor: According to Empirical, Testable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says your God doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?
Student: Nothing. I only have my faith.
Professor: Yes, faith. And that is the problem Science has.
Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?
Professor: Yes.
Student: And is there such a thing as cold?
Professor: Yes.
Student: No, sir. There isn’t.

(The lecture theatre became very quiet with this turn of events.)

Student: Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, super heat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don’t have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.

(There was pin-drop silence in the lecture theatre.)

Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?
Professor: Yes. What is night if there isn’t darkness?
Student: You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light. But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and its called darkness, isn’t it? In reality, darkness isn’t. If it is, were you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?
Professor: So what is the point you are making, young man?
Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.
Professor: Flawed? Can you explain how?
Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, Science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it. Now tell me, Professor, do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?
Professor: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.
Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?

(The Professor shook his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument was going.)

Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavour. Are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher?

(The class was in uproar.)

Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor’s brain?

(The class broke out into laughter.)

Student: Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established Rules of Empirical, Stable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?

(The room was silent. The Professor stared at the student, his face unfathomable.)

Professor: I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.
Student: That is it sir … Exactly! The link between man and God is faith. That is all that keeps things alive and moving.

Posted from WordPress for Android

Debate: Is the Islamic face veil a barrier to integration in the West?

The Islamic face veil is an interesting issue for discussion, becoming more and more popular due to now what I may call the ‘burqa ban fever’ which has hit many western countries. Some of which have already banned the face veil, others considering it.

Recently, I participated in an online debate against the motion: the Islamic face veil is a barrier to integration in the west, on Debate.org. It was a rigorous, thought-provoking debate with my opponent, and I hope those that read through it will enjoy it as much as I have had taking part. Thank you.

Divinity or Prophet-hood of the Biblical Jesus Christ Peace be upon Him

Ahmed Deedat - was one of the greatest Muslim apologist, scholar, writer and charismatic public speaker.

This has to be one of the most popular and oldest topics in Christian-Muslim debate. The divinity of Christ Jesus (pbuh), is Jesus (pbuh) God according to the Bible? Throughout history Muslims and Christians have endlessly been arguing this subject matter. I’m sure if one searches these titles on YouTube he/she can find plenty of debates to watch, the most admired ones (by the Muslim community) are probably including the late Ahmed Deedat. It is a great topic one has to agree, dealing with the very nature of God and His ability of becoming a man. What should we believe God can and cannot do? Can He do everything? The two most popular religions of the world are in disagreement here, both having Jesus (pbuh) in common but with such conflicting views. As a result of reading many works and watching so many debates and lectures on this topic, I have decided to give it a go myself. Now I’m sure most of you reading this article will have at least a basic understanding of the concept of God in Christianity and Islam, and know who stands on which side of the debate. However if you have no such knowledge then read no more! For now: leave this article and please do a simple study of God on both religions. Only then is it suitable to come back to this article, otherwise it would most probably be a waste of your time.

I have touched on this issue of Jesus’ (pbuh) divinity in some other articles I have posted on this blog, but I feel I now need to deal with this topic completely. I am not a scholar, professor or sheikh etc by any means, but I am a person who is fascinated by religion and theology, and I have been for most of my teenage and adult life. So you could say I am some how qualified to write concerning such a scholarly topic. And because I am a Muslim I will be defending the Islamic view of Jesus Christ (pbuh) and monotheism, but I also believe in playing fair (being unbiased towards the subject matter).

Is Jesus (pbuh) divine in his own words?

The question: ‘was or is Christ Jesus (pbuh) God?’ leads to another question: did he ever clearly claim to be God? And of course as many of us know, there is nothing in the Bible as such. This is the book which is supposed to contain four accounts of Jesus’ (pbuh) life story, yet no where can we find Jesus (pbuh) ever directly claiming to be God. If this is the case then surely the answer is no, Jesus’ (pbuh) was not divine.

Let us look at this in more detail, let us use logic. If the Lord all Mighty had come down to earth as a man, as Jesus Christ (pbuh) then wouldn’t He want the people to know? Wouldn’t He make it plain such as ‘I am your Lord; I have come down to earth so worship me’? This is a very basic argument but effective. Why leave the whole world in such confusion? If Jesus (pbuh) was God according to Christianity, then there should be some direct unambiguous statement in the Bible, made by him while he walked this earth confirming that. This is only logical. For example if you did not know Adam’s name was Adam because he never told you, how can you be sure what his name was? It’s so simple and basic.

There is a passage in the Christian Bible which comes close to claiming the divinity of Christ (pbuh). In the book of Revelation, where Jesus is supposed to have said “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty”[1]. This verse seems convincing at first but when one should looked into the matter with more detail (who wrote this book, when was it written etc?), the problem is very clear. The book of Revelation was a dream of a man named John, now if this John was the same John who wrote the ‘Gospel according to John’ or ‘Gospel of John’, I’m not sure. But nevertheless the book was a dream of someone called John as many Christian scholars claim. The very idea that it was a dream written down weakens the statement (Revelation 1:8). A dream could mean anything, how reliable is a dream? Did this man John really have the dream, or did he make the whole thing up? No one can be one hundred percent sure. Also, we do not take events that take place within dreams and attribute them to reality as proof, this clearly doesn’t work. Everyone knows this.

The book of revelation was written many years later after Jesus (pbuh) as a result of a dream, around 70 – 95 C.E (some scholars vary on the time). If such a direct and clear statement was uttered by Christ (pbuh) in actual reality while he was on earth, then there would probably be no disagreement to whether Jesus (pbuh) claimed divinity or not in the Bible.

God becoming a man on earth

As many Christians would proudly boast that God all Mighty can do anything, even become a man. In this part, I am examining what it means for God to become a man, His very own creation.

First of all, it seems appropriate to refer to a particular verse from the holy Qur’an (regarding the matter of being a God-man as some Christians may say): “Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth[2]. The verse points out that Jesus (pbuh) and his blessed mother both eat food. Some may question so what if they eat food? Everyone has food. And that is exactly the point that Christ Jesus (pbuh) needed to eat daily to survive. As the creation of God: human beings, we constantly need to feed ourselves so that we have the strength and ability to live and do things. The Lord all Mighty is not needy like this. God does not need to feed Himself however Jesus (pbuh) had to, showing that he was a mere mortal, a creation or the all Mighty. If you eat, don’t you need to let it back out after a while? And the verse ends with mentioning how easy the signs are yet they (Christians) reject the truth. This explanation being from the Qur’an the Christian will not accept, and no matter how many reasons shown from the Qur’an, they would not be enough. So what is there to be done? We need to examine this issue in light of the Bible itself, which is the only way to convince a Christian. So that is what I have done in the following parts of this section. It only makes sense to do so.

It is obvious that we need to examine the personality and attitude of Jesus Christ (pbuh) according to the Bible, his nature and his attributes. And when we do so it is very noticeable that Jesus (pbuh) of the Bible presents himself as a modest servant of God who has no power without God. He presents himself as a simple human being and gives himself no divine attributes whatsoever. For example he completely humbles himself in such places in the New Testament: Jesus (pbuh) was called a good master but he refuses to be called as such and says there is none so good but the only Lord[3]. In another passage of the Bible he says: “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me[4]. Also Jesus (pbuh) claims all his power is given to him by his Creator[5]. One more example out of the many I feel I should point out here, before resurrecting Lazarus Jesus (pbuh) absolutely humbled himself by calling to the Creator aloud. Ponder carefully over what he said here according the Gospel of John: Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth”[6]. Are these the sayings of God? Is the all Mighty not good? Is His power given to Him? Simple basic logic suggests that these are not the sayings of God but of a mere human being, a prophet of God.

Shabir Ally - well known Muslim debater and speaker on comparative religion.

Even in Christ’s (pbuh) day to day thinking, actions and doings do we see no sign of a divine being but a simple human. Here are some instants from the Bible to show this: Jesus (pbuh) had no knowledge of the hereafter[7]. He felt thirsty[8], and he cried in another instant[9]. He was tempted by the devil[10]. It is very clear these are not the attributes of God, they are attributes a human being. Can anyone imagine a thirsty or weepy or ignorant God? Can anyone believe God was being tempted by the devil? Everything we find in the Bible regarding Jesus (pbuh) clearly show that he was only a limited being, whereas God all Mighty is unlimited. You cannot have an unlimited and limited being at the same time. As the famous Muslim debater Shabir Ally puts it: “you cannot have a square-circle”, you are either limited or unlimited.

Even the supposed crucifixion of Christ (pbuh) creates problems with believing in his divinity. I have never heard a Christian claim that God got crucified. We all know God cannot die, yet it is believed that Jesus (pbuh) died on the cross while being God at the same time. Jesus (pbuh) the second person of the trinity (the son) according to Christendom died, not the father (the first person of the trinity) neither the Holy Ghost. But the Christian belief is that God is one person in three or three in one (something to this effect), and that these three persons are co-existing and co-eternal. So if one felt something the others would know and feel as well, if one dies then the others would die too, same for the Crucifixion right? If this isn’t the case then it means the trinity is made up three different Gods who are independent of one another. And this idea the Christian will not accept, but you can’t have both ways.

Defending the belief of a God-man

Nevertheless Christians haven’t given up in the argument, they still present their reasons to why Jesus (pbuh) would be God. The explanations they provide are as always based on Biblical passages. Passages which they seem to think are convincing, and purely their own interpretations. When closely examined and scrutinised one would realise that such passages or verses are completely uncertain and ambiguous open to many interpretations. As I wrote earlier in this writing that wouldn’t the all Mighty make it clear and plain if He came down to earth as a Man? The following are some of the most common arguments given from the Bible as proof of the divinity of Christ (pbuh).

In the Bible Jesus (pbuh) had claimed that he was in existence before his miraculous birth[11], so therefore somehow concluding that he must be divine. But this is nothing special when the same concept is also in the Old Testament regarding Jeremiah, Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations”[12]. There are other verses when read out of contexts are misinterpreted against what they mean when read in context. Such as: “I and my Father are one”[13] and “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”[14]. And finally one more: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”[15]. This verse wasn’t even uttered by Jesus (pbuh), in the red letter Bible this verse appears as black. Also notice how none of these passages are actually direct or unequivocal.

There is no direct statement, verse or passage in the Bible regarding Christ’s (pbuh) divinity. What would be most appropriate is a claim from the lips of Jesus Christ (pbuh) that ‘I am your Lord, worship me’, we don’t even have this in that Bible. What I myself at least see are ambiguous and vague passages provided by my fellow Christian with particular interpretations out the many that they can have. If God became a man in the Bible, then we need complete solid undeniable, indisputable proof, which no Christian scholar has been able to provide.

Conclusion

The Muslim understanding of Jesus Christ (pbuh) is that of any other prophet of the all Mighty in Islam. As some may not be aware Muslims believe in the miraculous birth of Christ and the many Miracles he performed (all by permission of God) during the course of his life. But these miracles do not imply that Jesus (pbuh) was God, it is very easy for the Creator of all things to will such miracles to take place, Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, “Be,” and it is”[16]. The first human Adam (pbuh) was created without no mother and father, a greater miracle to Christ’s (pbuh) birth. Where Christians and Muslims differ regarding Christ (pbuh) is the Trinity, Crucifixion and Divinity.

It can be said that there is no solid evidence to base a belief of the divinity Christ (pbuh). The Bible when studied, observed and scrutinised has nothing intellectually convincing to offer to prove such an idea. Rather we have at best very vague, indirect and ambiguous passages which Christians claim to be convincing proof. One must have solid incontestable evidence for giving such an attribute to Jesus (pbuh) or to God. We cannot base our beliefs on assumption. Also a Christian must consider verses which outright deny the divinity of Jesus (pbuh), such as: “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your father, which is in heaven”[17].

In a debate we expect proofs, solid evidences. But when it comes to this particular topic (Jesus’ Divinity) we hear the most loosely convincing arguments from the Christian side. Arguments implying that we believe decades later a person’s dream is actual proof of what we are questioning in reality. We hear arguments that imply us to believe that vague ambiguous statement are actually somehow solid proof. No real evidence has ever been shown. The famous late Ahmed Deedat used to challenge Christian scholars so strongly, he used to promise to embrace Christianity if someone could show him anywhere in the Bible where Jesus Christ (pbuh) directly claimed divinity. No one ever came forth with a single convincing verse. Of course some may disagree with Deedat’s tactics here, that this is not the way to debate. But it shows how one sided debates regarding this topic have become. Some may say that it is just a matter of believing when all else fails however, belief should be base on evidences and proofs right? I conclude with this: if Jesus (pbuh) was divine then most certainly he would have directly claimed so, but we find nothing of the kind in the entire Bible. There is no solid evidence; in fact there are passages which deny the idea. So the divinity of Jesus Christ (pbuh) can never be proven from the Bible, and if the Bible cannot prove this then nothing else can or ever will. It would be more natural to believe the Jesus (pbuh) was only a prophet of the all Mighty, on which both the holy Qur’an and the Bible agree. 

References

[1] Revelation 1:8

[2] Qur’an 5:75 

[3] Matthew 19:16-17, Mark 10:17-18, Luke 18:18-19 

[4] John 5:30 

[5] Matthew 28:18 

[6] John 11:41-43 

[7] Mark 13:32 

[8] John 19:28 

[9] John 11:35 

[10] Mark 1:13 

[11] John 8:58 

[12] Jeremiah 1:4-5 

[13] John 10:30 

[14] John 14:6 

[15] John 1:1 

[16] Qur’an 2:117 

[17] Matthew 23:9

The Taqiyyah Argument

I have come across many arguments against Islam, but none so absurd as ‘the taqiyyah argument’.

By what I have noticed, the argument is mostly put forward by Christians. What is claimed by this argument is that: Islam allows Muslims to deceive and lie to non-Muslims if it helps the religion, and apparently this is a principle called ‘taqiyyah’. A popular video on YouTube (titled: Three Things about Islam) mentions this argument as if it is a fact and a true teaching of Islam[1], but fails to provide a single shred of valid evidence (evidence from the Qur’an and the authentic teachings and sayings of the Prophet (pbuh). It is such a pathetic claim against Islam that the maker of the video stooped so low to provided a source of evidence (for this claim) to be Wikipedia. This site describes taqiyyah to be “a practice in Shia Islam whereby adherents may conceal their faith when they feel that they are under threat, persecution, or compulsion”[2], this definition is not the same definition given in the video (Three Things about Islam). Most non-Muslims who look for ways to ridicule and challenge Islam and the last and final Prophet (pbuh), stumble across this video and believe they have struck gold. The argument seems to be convincing to the western non-Muslim, maybe because it contains an Arabic word (Taqiyyah). This then probably leads to the deluded understanding that going around shouting: “taqiyyah, taqiyyah!” to the Muslim will shut him or her up. Rather the Muslim will most likely be confused and baffled to why a non-Muslim is suddenly so surprised to see a cap (‘taqiyah’ or ‘tagiya’ can also mean to be a short rounded cap/headgear worn by Muslim men)[3].

The word ‘taqiyyah’ is the in the Qur’an but it does not mean to promote lying for Islamic gain. The word is found in the holy Qur’an meaning: God fearing, righteousness and uprightness etc[4][5]. The word can also refer to a person who fears Allah or guards him/herself from evil. No where in the complete Qur’an does it mention to lie or to deceive non-Muslims for the benefit of the Religion.

Generally lying is prohibited in Islam as the Qur’an says, “Nay! if he desist not, We would certainly smite his forehead, a lying, sinful forehead” [6]. But in some specific situations, Islam does permit lying. For example, the Qur’an mentions that Allah pardons those who utter disbelief under compulsion[7]. And Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also permitted that Muslims can lie in three particular circumstances: 1) when in war/battle, 2) to bring peace between two disputing people and 3) to bring peace between a quarrelling/fighting husband and wife (a detailed explanation of these three points is written by Sami Zaatari[8]):

Humaid b. ‘Abd al-Rahman b. ‘Auf reported that his mother Umm Kulthumdaughter of ‘Uqba b. Abu Mu’ait, and she was one amongst the first emigrants who pledged allegiance to Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him), as saying that she heard Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: “A liar is not one who tries to bring reconciliation amongst people and speaks good (in order to avert dispute), or he conveys good”. Ibn Shihab said he did not hear that exemption was granted in anything what the people speak as lie but in three cases: in battle, for bringing reconciliation amongst persons and the narration of the words of the husband to his wife, and the narration of the words of a wife to her husband (in a twisted form in order to bring reconciliation between them)[9].

So brothers and sisters, you can see for yourself. Lying is permitted in certain situations but in general: prohibited. Even if it is for the benefit of Islam, lying is still prohibited (haram).

Most religions promote truthfulness and make out the importance of speaking only the truth. However, Christianity teaches something dreadfully different. Christians who use the taqiyyah argument seem to fail to realise, that the claim they are making against Islam is actually in the Bible taught by Paul (not in the Qur’an). Paul teaches: that it does not matter how Christ is preached, whether through lies or truth, it makes no difference to him[10] [11]. Isn’t this lying and deceiving for the benefit of the religion?

Islam is a religion of peace, and peace stands side by side with truthfulness. Without truth, peace has no meaning. And to say that Islam promotes lying and deceiving to help the religion is absolutely wrong. There is no truth to such a statement whatsoever. There maybe some Muslim scholars who do lie and mislead or misinform non-Muslims and Muslims alike for their own benefit or their own perverted beliefs. Those who do this are not practicing Islam. They are falsifiers and they will have the Creator to answer to. Islam is a complete religion; Allah says in the Qur’an: “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion”[12]. God has already perfected Islam as a religion/a way of life for mankind, so where is the need to lie for the religion? Those who deceive for the benefit of Islam are clearly doing wrong and committing a great sin.

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.”[13]

References 

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ib9rofXQl6w

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taqiyya 

[3] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xmj_lDj97k

[4] Qur’an 19:13, 18 & 63

[5] http://quran.com/19/18http://corpus.quran.com/search.jsp?q=lem:taqiy~+pos:n

[6] Qur’an 96:15-16

[7] Qur’an 16:106

[8] http://muslim-responses.com/Islam_on_Lying/ 

[9] Sahih Muslim book 32: 6303

[10] Bible Romans 3:1-8, Philippians 1:15-18

[11] http://www.answering-christianity.com/balanced_lies_rebuttal.htm 

[12] Qur’an 5:3

[13] Qur’an 2:256

The Doha Debates: Is Education Worthless without Freedom of Speech?

The very latest topic discussed on the popular television series The Doha Debates: this house believes education is worthless without freedom of speech. I urge those who haven’t watched the debate to observe and analyse the debate for themselves before reading this writing. The link for the debate is given at the bottom of article[1].

The debate consisted many good arguments both for and against, and as a result had made me think more critically of the title given to the debate. It made me wonder that can education truly ever be worthless? Can education be devalued so much to a point where it wouldn’t be needed anymore? Because this is what worthless means: to lose complete value. But on the other hand I thought: would education be such a useful tool without the freedom of speech? There are many more questions and thoughts that this debate made me ponder over. What made it difficult was both sides had valid arguments, it wasn’t as one sided. So after watching the debate a number of times, I had decided that it makes sense to share my thoughts on this topic and provide what I have concluded as a result of listening what everyone had said on the show.

As I mentioned, that some very convincing arguments in the debate made me think more critically of the title at hand. Kevin Watkins who was speaking against the motion started off his opening speech by saying, “the proposition that we’re discussing is that education is worthless without the freedom of speech. Bear that word in mind, ‘worthless’. It means no value, worth nothing. If something is worthless, you can just give it up; somebody can take it away from you”. And this is true if something is worthless then it isn’t needed, if it’s taken away from you then you wouldn’t miss it. And so is it the same with education? I would say no, education without freedom of speech still has value but maybe very little. The many unfortunate families who live in the most poorest places in the world, where education is rare and freedom of speech is not practiced enough, would still prefer their young ones to get the education that is available at hand than no education. In such circumstances people see education as an opportunity to better the position that they and their loved ones are in, even if it means lacking the freedom of speech. They see education as an opportunity to increase the family income so to have security. And to say to such people in such situations that their education is worthless for the reason that freedom of speech is not exercised is insulting. Kevin Watkins carries on: “now, I say to all of you in this audience who are studying, maybe in countries that don’t have freedom of speech: is your education worthless? Would you give it up? Does it mean nothing to you?”. The title given to the debate I would say is going too far. I wouldn’t agree that education can ever be worthless.

But we need to ask, what do we really want by education? By education do we want more creative and spirited people? Do we want those who can make a difference and change society for the good? If we want this then it demands the practice of freedom of speech. This freedom allows us to explore different questions and views and it expands our understanding of things. By thinking and speaking freely we can think outside the box and this is what we want in society. We need new ideas and new suggestions so we have a greater chance of bettering our community and the environment around us. And if students are given the chance think and speak freely then this is possible, wouldn’t everyone agree?

Dennis Hayes who spoke for the motion mentioned in his opening speech: “when education begins it begins by trying to get people to be critical from the first moment. If that doesn’t happen, then it’s not education you have, it’s training”. And I would confirm what Dennis had said here, without freedom of speech education just becomes information which the student repeats, because then students are taught only to believe and speak what they are taught. Not to think for themselves. With this being a consistency it becomes a problem where this method carries on to be used on the next generation and there is no change in thought or understanding. Such an education would lead to arrogance and closed mindedness, and we do not need this. Freedom of speech is the very thing that makes education so effective and without it education just becomes a tool to earn a salary, not to change the society around us. Tariq Ramadan (who spoke for the motion) said in his opening speech, “…why don’t we have change in the Muslim authority countries; because very often we repeat, it’s an education about repeating what is said – no critical thinking, no creativity. So this is the problem”. I would agree with Tariq Ramadan here, that in a lot of Muslim authority countries there is a lack critical thinking and creativity, and also there is lack courage and spirit, and this is because of the very little (or none) practice of freedom of speech.

Near enough half way into the show, Nagla Rizk (who debated against the motion) implied that without the practice of freedom of speech, we can still have faith in people to think critically and effectively. She said: “Tariq, where is your belief in the innate capacity of the human intellect? You yourself spoke about the capacity of the human intellect. Are they sheep, you’re going to teach students and they’re not going to think for themselves on their own? Do they await an exogenous freedom of speech from their teacher? There is faith in the human intellect; I question, I learnt wrong facts in History – I went and read and looked for sources to see how true this is”. I would ask Nagla (if I could) how much does she really believe in this statement. When a student is in education without the freedom of speech for several years, it becomes a habit to take on what is taught without any questioning. The idea that every student who receives education lacking freedom of speech will always question what they learnt and check up sources is outright ridiculous. Critical thinking and creativity doesn’t come so naturally when there is a system of education which oppresses the minds of students by feeding one dimensional information with no space for them to speak, reply or think freely. Dennis Hayes quite rightly said in the debate: “Behind your view is a clear view that somehow you pack information into students and one day they’ll pop, and burst into freedom of speech and criticality and change the world”.

Freedom of speech and education are two basic fundamental human rights and everyone has the right to demand them both. We cannot agree that it’s okay to only have education and not freedom of speech. And in the educational system, if the freedom of speech is not practiced, then there is a false impression given that freedom of speech is not right, which is wrong. To show that freedom of speech is fundamental and a basic right, it would need to be practiced. If we simply have education with no emphasis of freedom of speech then the only thing we can expect is the same, the same system which may lack freedom of speech in some countries, the same system which oppresses the mind of the student to think and repeat information like a machine. And we do not want this. Once the students are encouraged to speak their own mind, have their own opinions and to contest what they do not like and what is wrong in society and the political system, only then can change be expected.

Watching the debate, one may wonder that is the title for the debate ideal? A lot of the time the debate stuck around this word ‘worthless’. The word ‘worthless’ is not the right term to use I would say. Because I understand that education can never be worthless, even without freedom of speech. Because to say worthless means to say: useless, insignificant, don’t need it etc. By looking past this word we come across many arguments and problems that need to be discussed. And an answer maybe that there needs to be more struggles and striving to promote freedom of speech in places which lack this freedom. This is how education can improve for the better and be effective. I conclude with this, that education is not worthless without freedom of speech, but extremely counter-productive and so for education to be as effective as it should be; freedom of speech desperately needs to be practiced within the educational system.

References 

[1] http://www.thedohadebates.com/debates/player.asp?d=88