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The Master of Discourse – Debating Islam

by | Nov 7, 2021

When learning a trade, you normally want to learn from a master tradesman. In discourse, it is no different. As it goes for on who to model your discourse, the best example in the Quran is the prophet Ibrahim (ppuh); he is the ultimate debater. Whether it is with his people or kings, his manner of discussing/debating Islam is like no other.

First of all, he presents the facts, the ultimate truth that Allah is the One Unique Creator of Heavens and Earth who deserves to be adored alone:

˹Remember˺ when he questioned his father and his people, “What are these statues to which you are so devoted?”

They replied, “We found our forefathers worshipping them.”

He responded, “Indeed, you and your forefathers have been clearly astray.”

They asked, “Have you come to us with the truth, or is this a joke?”

He replied, “In fact, your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, Who created them ˹both˺. And to that I bear witness.”

˹Then he said to himself,˺ “By Allah! I will surely plot against your idols after you have turned your backs and gone away.”

So he smashed them into pieces, except the biggest of them, so they might turn to it ˹for answers˺.

They protested, “Who dared do this to our gods? It must be an evildoer!”

Some said, “We heard a young man, called Abraham, speaking ˹ill˺ of them.”

They demanded, “Bring him before the eyes of the people, so that they may witness ˹his trial˺.”

They asked, “Was it you who did this to our gods, O  Abraham?”

He replied ˹sarcastically˺, “No, this one—the biggest of them—did it! So ask them, if they can talk!”

So they came back to their senses, saying ˹to one another˺, “You yourselves are truly the wrongdoers!”

Then they ˹quickly˺ regressed to their ˹original˺ mindset, ˹arguing,˺ “You already know that those ˹idols˺ cannot talk.”

He rebuked ˹them˺, “Do you then worship—instead of Allah—what can neither benefit nor harm you in any way?

Shame on you and whatever you worship instead of Allah! Do you not have any sense?”

They concluded, “Burn him up to avenge your gods, if you must act.”

We ordered, “O fire! Be cool and safe for Abraham!”

Surah Al-Anbiya (21 – 52-69)

What is remarkable, it’s that he is unapologetic for his stance. Without being aggressive, or abusive, he puts forth the illogical assertions that those idols are gods. Then, he does not revert when he is threatened to be burned. Why?

And his people argued with him. He responded, “Are you arguing with me about Allah, while He has guided me? I am not afraid of whatever ˹idols˺ you associate with Him—˹none can harm me,˺ unless my Lord so wills. My Lord encompasses everything in ˹His˺ knowledge. Will you not be mindful?

And how should I fear your associate-gods, while you have no fear in associating ˹others˺ with Allah—a practice He has never authorized? Which side has more right to security? ˹Tell me˺ if you really know!”

Surah Al-Ana’m (6 – 80-81)

This is the same mindset that the prophet Muhammad (ppuh) had towards his people when they stepped up the persecution of Muslims and the prophet himself:

“Indeed, my Protector is Allah Who has revealed this Book. For He ˹alone˺ protects the righteous.

But those ˹false gods˺ you call besides Him can neither help you nor even themselves.”

Surah Al-A’raf (7 – 196-197)

He reiterated his trust in Allah and his disconnect with their threats, while still preaching true Islamic monotheism.

As it goes for winning or losing a debate, one who follows the truth can never be beaten, even if the opposition seems to have more credibility, prestige, or rank. Therefore, there are ways to go about it when discussing/debating Islam. One of these ways is depicted in the Quran between Ibrahim (ppuh) and Namrud (ruler at his time).

Have you not considered the one who argued with Abraham about his Lord [merely] because Allah had given him kingship? When Abraham said, “My Lord is the one who gives life and causes death,” he said, “I give life and cause death.” Abraham said, “Indeed, Allah brings up the sun from the east, so bring it up from the west.” So the disbeliever was overwhelmed [by astonishment], and Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.

Surah Al-Baqara (2 – 258)

A lot of kings or rulers were considered as living deities or were made to be worshiped by men. Even Namrud, that so-called king, knew that; but then again, every king likes his throne. Therefore, they act as if they are superior… Namrud was no different; he too thought he could give life and death, since he is “divine”. He ordered the release of a prisoner on death row and ordered the beheading of an innocent man. Now, do you think it is possible to reason with that kind of tyrant? Yeah, you just have to confront him with something grander. It’s amazing how tyrants can rationalize this concept; even if they don’t like feeling humbled.

The way Ibrahim (ppuh) went about dealing with this tyrant, wasn’t by blasphemy, nor by raising his voice; but by bringing in someone or something greater than what is at stake. By doing so, if the debate is rational; logic trumps power, and truth trumps logic.

If we simmer down the debaters from a Messenger and a king to a Muslim and non-Muslim; the same applies; it reminds me of when “scientists” or atheists debate about religion. They might be right about some science, but wrong about religion; yet, they seem to take philosophy pretty well. So the previously depicted manner is the right way to go about things in any discussion; especially, when you use their own scientific assertions. On the other hand, one must remember that science covers the tangible aspects of life; a lot of scientists have a hard time understanding that tangible does not cover the non-material (unperceivable in our lifetimes) assertions of religion.

In sum, when you want to discuss or counterargue with someone, you must use his own strength as his own weakness (no, this is not kung-fu). That is why Allah has sent messengers with miracles that overwhelmed their people. Abraham had “discourse”, Moses had “magic”, Jesus had “medicine”, Muhammad had “language”. However, the Quran that was brought down to Muhammad (ppuh) was not just a linguistic miracle, it contains miracles that curtail to every person at any era. The Quran is a timeless gem that transcends all since it is the word of Allah.

Is there Anything Bad in the Quran? – Existential Questions

Is there Anything Bad in the Quran? – Existential Questions

When I mean bad, I mean something that everyone will agree to as fundamentally wrong. I don’t mean what is acceptable to modern standards, but fundamentally evil. Not only there is no evil within what is ordained, but it can only be depicted as righteous and good when looked at as a whole. Here are some Islamic principles that are listed in the Quran:

Say, “Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited to you. [He commands] that you not associate anything with Him, and to parents, good treatment, and do not kill your children out of poverty; We will provide for you and them. And do not approach immoralities – what is apparent of them and what is concealed. And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed] except by [legal] right. This has He instructed you that you may use reason.”

And do not approach the orphan’s property except in a way that is best until he reaches maturity. And give full measure and weight in justice. We do not charge any soul except [with that within] its capacity. And when you testify, be just, even if [it concerns] a near relative. And the covenant of Allah fulfill. This has He instructed you that you may remember.

And, [moreover], this is My path, which is straight, so follow it; and do not follow [other] ways, for you will be separated from His way. This has He instructed you that you may become righteous.

Surah Al-Anam (6 – 151-153)

Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.

Surah An-Nahl (16 – 90)

And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.

And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, “My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small.”

Your Lord is most knowing of what is within yourselves. If you should be righteous [in intention] – then indeed He is ever, to the often returning [to Him], Forgiving.

And give the relative his right, and [also] the poor and the traveler, and do not spend wastefully.

Indeed, the wasteful are brothers of the devils, and ever has Satan been to his Lord ungrateful.

And if you [must] turn away from the needy awaiting mercy from your Lord which you expect, then speak to them a gentle word.

And do not make your hand [as] chained to your neck or extend it completely and [thereby] become blamed and insolvent.

Indeed, your Lord extends provision for whom He wills and restricts [it]. Indeed He is ever, concerning His servants, Acquainted and Seeing.

And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.

And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is ever an immorality and is evil as a way.

And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except by right. And whoever is killed unjustly – We have given his heir authority, but let him not exceed limits in [the matter of] taking life. Indeed, he has been supported [by the law].

And do not approach the property of an orphan, except in the way that is best, until he reaches maturity. And fulfill [every] commitment. Indeed, the commitment is ever [that about which one will be] questioned.

And give full measure when you measure, and weigh with an even balance. That is the best [way] and best in result.

And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.

And do not walk upon the earth exultantly. Indeed, you will never tear the earth [apart], and you will never reach the mountains in height.

All that – its evil is ever, in the sight of your Lord, detested.

That is from what your Lord has revealed to you, [O Muhammad], of wisdom. And, [O mankind], do not make [as equal] with Allah another deity, lest you be thrown into Hell, blamed and banished.

Surah Al-Isra (17 – 23-39)

Most of the accusations come from people who do not agree with the standard of morality or virtue that is ordained in Islam. For instance, the Hijab for women; not being allowed to have a sip of wine or not even having a girlfriend… These practices have become customary in “modern” civilizations, yet they are considered illicit in Islam. Society is always faced with dumbing down standards and laws to curtail the desires of the majority. But the fundamental question remains; what makes it right now but made it wrong before (and vice versa)? This type of thinking induces decadence. Virtues and morals become trivial, unattainable utopias, unrealistic… mockeries.

This was the same discourse used by the people of Lot thousands of years ago when they wanted him and his family out of their city.

But the answer of his people was only that they said, “Evict them from your city! Indeed, they are men who keep themselves pure.”

Surah Al-Aaraf (7 – 82)

Wow! Accused of being too pure… It’s like someone who says: “Ah! He gets on my nerves because he is too polite.” or: “look at her; she thinks she is so superior! She doesn’t even want to dress like us.” and the classic: “Look at that geek; he thinks that his A+ is going to stop him from that face pounding.” What is it that makes that person’s conduct wrong in the first place; what did he do to deserve this reprimand? Is it high self-esteem (or lack of it)? Is it because a person is different (where his difference is not accepted)? Is it because of jealousy (or more likely envy)?

It is sad to see that we have reached a point where righteous conduct is ridiculed and marginalized. Someone who gives his seat on the bus is looked at awkwardly; a student who says Mam and Sir is called a suck-up; a 16-year-old virgin is made fun of. But, as we have seen, this attitude has been present for millennia, all depending on the context and stage in which a society is to be found.

But in the end…

And it will be said to those who feared Allah, “What did your Lord send down?” They will say, “[That which is] good.” For those who do good in this world is good; and the home of the Hereafter is better. And how excellent is the home of the righteous –

Surah An-Nahl (16 – 30)


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