A Critique of Shabir Ally’s Debate Tactics Pt. 2a

We continue with our series http://www.reformedapologeticsministries.com/2015/09/a-critique-of-shabir-allys-debate_16.html exposing Ally’s debate tactics and tricks.

Ally’s Assertions About the Quran

This is what Ally told Nabeel Qureshi in their debate when the latter asked him whether if he agreed with the Mutazilites that the Quran is created, or whether he actually sided with the Asharites/Maturidis who believe it is eternal:

“I believe that this debate has been overblown, as many debates have been overblown in history. Sometimes people differ and they argue with each other. And if they really sat down and listened to what they were saying to each other they would realize the difference is not as great as they thought it was. And this is the kind of kitchen table debates that go on in many households. When we look back at what they were debating we realize that both were right in some way. When some people spoke about the uncreated word of God, they were thinking about the eternal knowledge of God, which cannot conceivably be absent from God. And when others spoke about the Quran being created, they’re speaking about the text that we hold in our hands, that we recite with our tongues, that we write with pen and ink. So there were to different perspectives, they were arguing about two different things. Sometimes people have to stop and define their terms. And because people don’t take the time to define their terms they argue about two different things, and it looks like they have an argument, but essentially there is no real disagreement. So I think that they were both right in some way. There’s an eternal word of God always with God – that is his knowledge. And at the same time there is a revealed word of God which comes at a certain time in history, and it responds to questions that were being asked of the prophet Muhammad and occasions as they arose.” (What is God Really Like: Tawhid or Trinity? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWpqqqZn7Kg)

And this is what Ally stated in his opening statements to Nabeel Qureshi concerning the traditional Sunni view concerning the uncreated nature of the Quran:

“So what about the mihna then, the question that Muslims had to ask about is the Quran created, for example? And are the attributes of God part of him, or not him? And the statement bi la-kayf, we say, ok, we’re going to say we don’t know exactly about some of these things? Now these are mysteries! But those mysteries are not particular to Muslims; those mysteries exist in Christianity as well, and also in Judaism. When Jews spoke of the Torah, they spoke about the Torah in terms which are similar to Muslims’ speaking about the Quran. And the same question arises, as for example as is explained by F. E. Peters in his book, ‘Children of Abraham,’ similar questions arose among Jews; what do you say about the Torah? Is that God or not God?

“Now the problem in Christianity is not this, the problem is something else. In Christianity, we have another Person who is suddenly being worshiped. If Muslims took the Quran and said, ‘This Quran is God,’ and they start worshiping the Quran, then we have something similar to what has happened in Christianity. But this has not happened in Islam. If Muslims took the knowledge of God and say the knowledge of God is a separate person from God, and they start worshiping this knowledge of God, then we have something comparable with Christianity. But nothing like this has happened in Islam, so in fact there is nothing comparable. Now what has happened in Islam is there in Christianity; so Christianity has a double problem, if we consider this to be a problem. First, how do you explain the Trinity? And second, how do you explain this particular aspect, when we speak about the knowledge of God, for example?

“Now John’s Gospel speaks about the Logos of God… Jesus is the Logos of God come down on earth. What is the Logos? The Word of God! Now the Word of God became a human being. Does he have words of his own? Yes! Now if the Word of God, the Logos, is also God, what about the words of Jesus? Does that also become God? Ok, if the Holy Spirit is God and the Holy Spirit speaks, does that make his word also somehow God? So now you have a different problem to explain here, and that is what you are pointing to as a Muslim problem. That problem is shared by Muslims, by Jews, by Christians, and we have ways of getting over that. We’re saying there’s some things about God which we are told in scripture, which we know about, we don’t understand how it may be so. Ok, that much is a mystery. But when you start taking some aspect of God and making that a separate person, and you’re considering that to be God, now suddenly you have the 3-in-1 problem. How do explain that they are three and yet one?”

And here is what he also stated in his rebuttal:

“It is true that in Islamic history people discusses some mysteries about God, Yes, there was the mihna, the inquisition. Yes people quarrel over whether the Quran was created or not. But that is a quarrel that is not unique to Islam, and that is not the same problem as… or problem at the level of the Trinity. That’s a problem that exists for Jews as well, and also for Christians. So in addition to the Trinity you still have this problem, because we still can ask you: Ok is the Old Testament created or not created? Is it not the uncreated word of God? Nabeel has suggested, ‘Yeah! You Muslims should worship the Quran because that’s the eternal word of God.’ Ok so the Torah is the eternal word of God. Should Christians now worship the Torah? No! Should Muslims worship the Quran? No! I think this is a very weak argument Nabeel… you have to do better than that.” 

Ally’s Distortions and Misrepresentations Refuted

With the foregoing in mind, we can now address Ally’s claims.

An uncreated Torah? 

In the first place, it is simply not the case that traditional or rabbinic Judaism holds to the view of the Torah being uncreated like the Quran. Rather, the rabbinic sources teach that the Torah is one of the seven things that God created before he brought the world into being, with some of these references even going as far as stating that the Torah was created two thousand years before the creation of the heavens and earth:

Seven things were created before the world, viz., The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah. The Torah, for it is written, The Lord possessed me [the Torah] in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. Repentance, for it is written, Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world… Thou turnest man to destruction, and sayest, Repent, ye sons of men. The Garden of Eden, as it is written, And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden from aforetime. Gehenna, as it is written, For Tophet is ordained of old. The Throne of Glory, as it is written, Thy Throne is established from of old. The Temple, as it is written, A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. The name of the Messiah, as it is written, His name [of Messiah] shall endure forever, and [has existed] before the sun! (Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 39b – See the following translation https://halakhah.com/rst/nashim/26a%20-%20Nedorim%20-%202a-45a.pdf; bold and underline emphasis ours)

And:

Two thousand years before the world was created, [God] created the Torah [that is, divine wisdom]. – Targum Neophyti Gen. 3:24 (James L. Kugel, The Bible As It Was [The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts/ London, England, 1997], p. 54; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Again:

… He had created the world, He created the law; He prepared the garden of Eden for the righteous, that they might eat and delight themselves with the fruit of the tree; because they would have practised in their lives the doctrine of the law in this world, and have maintained the commandments: (but) he prepared Gehinnam for the wicked, which is like the sharp, consuming sword of two edges; in the midst of it He hath prepared flakes of fire and burning coals for the judgment of the wicked who rebelled in their life against the doctrine of the law. To serve the law is better than (to eat of) the fruit of the tree of life, (the law) which the Word of the Lord prepared, that man in keeping it might continue, and walk in the paths of the way of life in the world to come.

[JERUSALEM. And the Word of the Lord God said, Behold, Adam whom I have created is sole in my world, as I am sole in the heavens above. It is to be that a great people are to arise from him; from him will arise a people who will know how to discern between good and evil. And now it is good that we keep him from the garden of Eden before he stretch forth his hand and take also of the fruit of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever……And He cast out Adam, and made the glory of His Shekina to dwell at the front of the east of the garden of Eden, above the two Kerubaia. Two thousand years before He had created the world, He created the law, and prepared Gehinnam and the garden of Eden. He prepared the garden of Eden for the righteous, that they should eat, and delight themselves with the fruit of the tree, because they had kept the commandments of the law in this world. For the wicked He prepared Gehinnam, which is like the sharp, consuming sword with two edges. He prepared in the depth of it flakes of fire and burning coals for the wicked, for their punishment for ever in the world to come, who have not kept the commandment of the law in this world. For the law is the tree of life; whoever keepeth it in this life liveth and subsisteth as the tree of life. The law is good to keep in this world, as the fruit of the tree of life in the world that cometh.] (The Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel On the Pentateuch With The Fragments of the Jerusalem Targum From the Chaldee, by J. W. Etheridge, M.A. First Published 1862 http://targum.info/pj/pjgen1-6.htm; bold and underline emphasis ours)

And now for our final, somewhat lengthy reference:

94. SEVEN THINGS CREATED BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD

Seven things were created before the creation of the world. They are; the Torah, Repentance, Paradise, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the heavenly Temple, and the name of the Messiah. The Messiah’s name as engraved on a precious stone on the altar of the heavenly Temple, as it is said, His name existed before the sun (Ps. 72:17). Nor will King Messiah ever know death. All seven preceded the creation of the world by two thousand years, and all were borne up by the power of God…

God is said to have created these seven things before the creation of the world (Midrash Tehillim 90:12). These seven things are regarded as the indispensible essentials for the world to exist. Each of these seven things is explained by a verse that suggests they were created before the rest of the creation of the world. The Torah’s pre-existence is supported by the verse The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old (Prov. 8:22)…

B. Pesahim 54a; B. Nedarim 39b; Midrash Tehillim 8, 72:17; 90:3, 90:12; Sefer ha-Zikhronot 1:8; Orhot Tzaddikim; Avodat ha-Kodesh, Helek ha-Yihud 21…

308. THE CREATION OF THE TORAH

God CREATED the Torah at the very beginning, before the heavens were created and the earth was brought into being, before the mountains were sunk, before the hills were born, before there were any streams or sources of water, as it is said, Yahweh created me at the beginning of His course (Prov. 8:22). It lay in God’s bosom and sang praises of God along with the ministering angels.

God wrote the Torah while seated on the Throne of Glory, high in the firmament above the heads of the celestial creatures. The Garden of Eden was at God’s right hand, and Gehenna was at His left. The heavenly sanctuary was set up in front of Him, with the name of the Messiah engraved on the altar. There, as the Torah rested on His knees, God wrote the letters in black fire on white fire. Later, it was tied to the arm of God, as it is said, Lightning flashing at them from His right (Deut. 33:2). Others say that the Torah was written on the arm of God, while still others say it was carved in fire on God’s crown.

The Torah was there when God created the heavens, drawing a circle on the face of the depths. So too was it there when God fashioned the heavens and set the streams into motion.

The Torah was reared by God, and it was His daily joy, giving God great pleasure. Later Moses arose and brought it down to earth to give it to humanity.

Here the passage from Proverbs that is spoken by Wisdom is attributed to the Torah; Yahweh created me at the beginning of His course (Prov. 8:22). Thus Wisdom and the Torah are identified as the same figure, since the Torah is regarded as the sum of Jewish wisdom.

This myth answers the question of what the Torah was written on before it was given to Moses. The answer is that it was written with black fire on white fire and tied to the arm of God. An alternate version says that it was tied to the knee of God. Sill another version says that the Torah was carved with fire on God’s crown.

According to Avot de-Rabbi Natan, God created the Torah 974 generations before the world was created.

Sources:

Midrash Tehillim 90:12; Eliyahu Rabbah 31:160; Midrash Mishlei 8; Midrash Konen in Beit ha-Midrash 2:24-39; Avot de-Rabbi Natan 31; Alpha Beta de-Rabbi Akiva in Otzar Midrashim p. 424.

309. CREATION BY THE TORAH

The Torah was one of the seven things CREATED before the creation of the world, and the Torah served as God’s advisor when He was about to create this world. God looked into the Torah and created the world and all created beings through it.

When the time came to create man, the Torah said, “Master of the Universe, the world is Yours to create. The days of this man You want to create will be short and full of anger, and he will be drawn into sin. If You are not going to have patience with him, it’s better for him not to be created.”

God answered, “It’s not for nothing that I’m called Merciful.”

After that God consulted only the Torah, and let the Torah serve as a blueprint for all creation. So too did the Torah serve as an artisan in all the work of creation. With the assistance of the Torah, God stretched out the heavens and established the earth. With the Torah He bound up the sea, lest it go forth and overflow the world. So too did He fashion the sun and moon with it. Thus we learn that the world was indeed founded upon the Torah, and that God created the world and all created beings through the Torah. How did God do this? He looked into the Torah and created the world with it. With every single act of creation, God looked into the Torah, and created that detail of creation…

Thus not only was the Torah CREATED prior to the creation of the world, it was the vessel by which the world was created. Thus the universe was created through the letters of the Torah.

So too did God declare, at the time of man’s creation, that the world was created only for the sake of the Torah, and that as long as the Jewish people occupy themselves with the Torah, the world will continue to exist. But if the Jewish people abandon the Torah, God will return all of creation to a state of chaos.

God is able to consult the Torah because it is one of the seven things CREATED before the creation. See “Seven Things Created before the Creation,” p. 74. A parable is given to explain God’s use of the Torah to create the world: “When a king wishes to build a palace, he does not build it himself but brings in an artisan. Nor does the artisan build it himself. He uses sketches and notebooks. So too did God look into the Torah and created the world.” (Genesis Rabbah 1:1). Here the Torah is presented as an “artisan,” while God is the architect, that is, as an active, creating force, not simply a text that was consulted. Here the Torah seems to participate in the creation in much the same way as the angels are said to have done in other rabbinic sources. See “Creation by Angels,” p. 116… In this scenario, God created the Torah, which, in turn, was used to create the elements, which were used to create the world… ((Howard Schwartz, Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism [Oxford University Press, 2007], pp. 74-75, 248-250; capital and underline emphasis ours)

The above quotations refute Shabir Ally’s assertion since the Jews do not claim that the Torah is the uncreated word of God. As such, the Jewish view is unlike that of Sunni Islam, which teaches that the Quran has no beginning since it is the eternal speech of Allah. Therefore, this is nothing more than another case of Shabir Ally distorting the facts so as to mislead his audience for the express purpose of scoring points against his opponents.

Is the Quran really Allah’s Knowledge?

The second problem with Ally’s claim is that the Quran is believed to be the word/speech of Allah (kalamullah), not his knowledge (alilmu bil-Lah). The Islamic “revelation” contains (but is not identical with) those aspects or parts of Allah’s knowledge and will that the Muslim deity wanted to make known to mankind. However, the Quran is not identical to Allah’s knowledge. And this is just common sense since a person’s words are not the same as his wisdom and knowledge. Rather, words are used to communicate the knowledge and wisdom possessed by the individual.

This again exposes Ally’s willingness to twist facts and misrepresent sources in order to win by any means necessary, even if this means employing deceptive and dishonest tactics to do so.

We have more to say in the second part of our rebuttal https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/11/a-critique-of-shabir-allys-debate-tactics-pt-2b/.

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