Counter Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article, "Muhammad Literate Still!: Round 2"


Bassam Zawadi

Sam Shamoun wrote a response to my article over here.

Sam Shamoun said:

Zawadi repeats his assertion that the spirit's torture of Muhammad was to ensure that his prophet wouldn't doubt his experience later on, all of which ignores my reply. As I stated the spirit failed to accomplish his intended purpose since this traumatic encounter caused Muhammad to think he was demon-possessed and he even contemplated suicide as a result of it.

My Response:

I have to repeat myself because you have a reading comprehension problem. I said that the experience made the Prophet (peace be upon him) ensure that he was not dreaming and that it was real. I didn't say that it made him ensure he was confronting an angel sent by God.

Sam Shamoun said:

Zawadi links to an article that he erroneously assumes rebuts the story of Muhammad contemplating suicide. For the thorough refutation of his assertions please consult the following articles (1, 2).

My Response:

Hilarious, I challenge Shamoun to copy and paste the specific points from those papers that he linked to that directly refute the arguments in the article that I linked to.

Sam Shamoun said:

These next responses deal with Zawadi's inconsistent use and abuse of al-Waqidi (1, 2).

My Response:

I don't know what Shamoun is talking about. What does Waqidi have to do with this topic, and how come none of Shamoun's next responses in this article have anything to do with Waqidi, as he stated?

Shamoun then goes on to talk about how Islam endorses the Bible, but all arguments have already been refuted here

Sam Shamoun said:

First, let us highlight the parts that Zawadi conveniently overlooked:

"In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshaz'zar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision. In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks." Daniel 10:1-3

Notice that Daniel had been fasting for three weeks because he had been in mourning over what he had seen in a previous vision. This may explain why he was so weak and couldn't stand up, that his weak physical condition along with seeing the angelic envoys accounts for his falling to the ground. Moreover, notice what the angel did for Daniel:

"On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with gold of Uphaz. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the noise of a multitude. And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me; my radiant appearance was fearfully changed, AND I RETAINED NO STRENGTH. Then I heard the sound of his words; and when I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in a deep sleep with my face to the ground. And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. And he said to me, 'O Daniel, man greatly beloved, give heed to the words that I speak to you, AND STAND UPRIGHT, for now I have been sent to you.' While he was speaking this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, 'FEAR NOT, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your mind to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, so I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia and came to make you understand what is to befall your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.' When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was dumb. And behold, one in the likeness of the sons of men touched my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, 'O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. How can my lord's servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.' Again one having the appearance of a man touched me AND STRENGTHENED ME. And he said, 'O man greatly beloved, FEAR NOT, PEACE BE WITH YOU; BE STRONG AND OF GOOD COURAGE.' And when he spoke to me, I WAS STRENGTHED and said, 'Let my lord speak, FOR YOU HAVE STRENGTHENED ME.'" Daniel 10:4-19

The foregoing shows that Daniel wasn't terrified because he thought he was possessed by a demon, or because the angel squeezed him violently. In fact, instead of physically harming Daniel the angel relieved him of his fears and provided him with the strength he needed to endure the revelations.

Hence, unlike Muhammad's angel, this messenger didn't cause Daniel to tremble in fear or to run back to his companions shivering with dread and terror. Nor did this righteous angel cause Daniel to believe that he was possessed and cause him to contemplate suicide as a result.

In Muhammad's case the spirit didn't even console or comfort him. Muhammad's wife was the one who actually calmed him down and tried to convince him that he wasn't possessed!

My Response:

Let us read the passage again:

Daniel 10:7-15

7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.

    10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, "Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you." And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

    12 Then he continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come."

    15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man [b] touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, "I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe."

We see in verses 10 to 11 that Daniel was scared. Verses 16 to 17 state that Daniel was overcome with anguish because of the vision, not because he fasted for three weeks and had difficulty in breathing. If I wanted to be the Muslim personification of Shamoun I would go ahead and argue that this angel "tortured" Daniel by taking away his strength and almost suffocating him to death because he could "hardly breathe" (verse 17)

The only difference between this story in Daniel's and Muhammad's (peace be upon him) experience is that the angel Gabriel waited a little bit longer to soothe and calm Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) down. Wow! Just because of that, I am supposed to reject Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a prophet now! What solid arguments Shamoun puts forth!

Sam Shamoun said:

If anyone is guilty of a logical fallacy, it is Zawadi for committing the fallacy of false analogy. The Holy Bible is not silent on the nature and manner of revelation:

My Response:

Talk about attacking strawman. Nowhere did I say that the Bible is silent on the nature and manner of revelation? This is what I said:

Secondly, Shamoun is arguing from silence. He thinks that just because his Bible does not mention these experiences then that necessarily implies that they didn't happen.

Shamoun recently had a debate with Sami Zaatri on the topic, "Is Jesus God", which can be downloaded here. Sam Shamoun says in the 20th minute 10th second...

Your arguing from silence, right, and absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Now let me repeat that again. Now just because the documents do not say that he said "x" does not mean that he didn't say "x".

So notice, Shamoun is committing the same fallacy he accused Sami Zaatri of doing. There are many Prophets in the Old Testament that we do not know full and complete details about. Therefore, it would not be fair to say with conviction that they did not have the same experiences.

When I say "mention these experiences," I am speaking about experiences that were similar to Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him). I didn't mean to say that the Bible does not mention any experiences at all.

I went on to say: "There are many Prophets in the Old Testament that we do not know full and complete details about. Therefore, it would not be fair to say with conviction that they did not have the same experiences."

What I meant to say here was that since the Bible talks about there being so many Prophets yet does not mention the experiences of all these Prophets, Shamoun has no right to say with certainty that none of them had the same experiences as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), since it would be arguing from silence and that is a logical fallacy.

Sam Shamoun said:

First, none of the allegedly sound narrations say that Gabriel appeared in his true form in Muhammad's dream when he was meditating in the cave. So this is nothing more than a red herring.

My Response:

I stand corrected, and Shamoun is right. After doing some further research into the matter, I reached the conclusion that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) most likely did not see Angel Gabriel in his true form in the cave.

However, the narrations do not state that he saw Angel Gabriel in man form or in the cave. Thus, we are not sure of it and cannot comment on it any further. However, I have serious doubts about Angel Gabriel appearing as a man to the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the cave since there wouldn't seem to be any reason why the Prophet (peace be upon him) would have been so scared of him then.

Sam Shamoun said:

Second, the same narrations say that Muhammad supposedly saw Gabriel appear as a man and even looked like one of Muhammad's companions:

My Response:

This would only serve to prove that Gabriel, at times, appeared to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a man. This cannot serve as proof that he always appeared to him in the form of a man:

Saheeh Bukhari

Volume 4, Book 54, Number 455

Narrated Abu Ishaq-Ash-Shaibani:

I asked Zir bin Hubaish regarding the Statement of Allah: "And was at a distance Of but two bow-lengths Or (even) nearer; So did (Allah) convey The Inspiration to His slave (Gabriel) and then he (Gabriel) Conveyed (that to Muhammad)." (53.9-10) On that, Zir said, "Ibn Mas'ud informed us that the Prophet had seen Gabriel having 600 wings."

Volume 6, Book 60, Number 378:

Narrated Masruq:

I said to 'Aisha, "O Mother! Did Prophet Muhammad see his Lord?" Aisha said, "What you have said makes my hair stand on end ! Know that if somebody tells you one of the following three things, he is a liar: Whoever tells you that Muhammad saw his Lord, is a liar." Then Aisha recited the Verse:

'No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision. He is the Most Courteous Well-Acquainted with all things.' (6.103) 'It is not fitting for a human being that Allah should speak to him except by inspiration or from behind a veil.' (42.51) 'Aisha further said, "And whoever tells you that the Prophet knows what is going to happen tomorrow, is a liar." She then recited:

'No soul can know what it will earn tomorrow.' (31.34) She added: "And whoever tell you that he concealed (some of Allah's orders), is a liar." Then she recited: 'O Apostle! Proclaim (the Message) which has been sent down to you from your Lord..' (5.67) 'Aisha added. "But the Prophet saw Gabriel in his true form twice."

Sam Shamoun said:

Third, the assertion that Muhammad saw Gabriel in his true form not only begs the question, since it assumes that it was Gabriel he was actually seeing, but contradicts the Quran which says no one can see an angel's true form (*).

My Response:

Sam Shamoun said:

Zawadi's response makes it obvious he didn't understand by [sic] point at all. First, I never said that Zawadi believes that the word book cannot refer to inspired Scripture. So it is Zawadi who is attacking straw man.

My Response:

Yes, you did indirectly when you said:

If it means book then how can it not be referring to scripture? After all, what book can the Quran be referring to if not the so-called revealed scripture given to Muhammad? Does Zawadi even make sense?

Sam Shamoun said:

Second, my point was that the Q. 29:48 could not be referring to anything other than a revealed Scripture in light of the context. Note, once again, what I initially wrote:

The problem with this proposed explanation is that that is not the plain reading of the text. The verse is not denying that Muhammad could read or write, but denying that Muhammad had read or written down an inspired Scripture prior to his receiving the Quran. In other words, the passage is simply saying that people couldn't accuse Muhammad of making up the Quran by plagiarizing information that he had received from some holy book which he had read or wrote down, such as the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, since this Quran is the first so-called holy book that he has ever read and/or written.

Now let me provide some additional context from the text itself in order to substantiate my point:

Dispute not with the People of the Book save in the fairer manner, except for those of them that do wrong; and say, 'We believe in what has been sent down to us, and what has been sent down to you; our God and your God is One, and to Him we have surrendered.' Even so We have sent down to thee the Book. Those to whom We have given the Book believe in it; and some of these believe in it; and none denies Our signs but the unbelievers. Not before this didst thou recite any Book, or inscribe it with thy right hand, for then those who follow falsehood would have doubted. Nay; rather it is signs, clear signs in the breasts of those who have been given knowledge; and none denies Our signs but the evildoers. They say, 'Why have signs not been sent down upon him from his Lord?' Say: 'The signs are only with God, and I am only a plain warner. What, is it not sufficient for them that We have sent down upon thee the Book that is recited to them? Surely in that is a mercy, and a reminder to a people who believe. S. 29:46-51

The immediate context refers to the People of the Book, to the revelation that Allah sent down to the Muslims, Jews and Christians, and to those to whom the Book was given. It is therefore obvious that the objection which the Quran is raising is that Muhammad could not have concocted or plagiarized stories from the former Scriptures and wrote them in the Quran since he had never read any of the previously revealed Books nor transcribed any of them with his own hands.

My Response:

This is reading into the passage. The verse says that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not read any book nor transcribe it with his right hand. This includes all books. This is even stronger emphasis because it stresses the fact that the Prophet (peace be upon him) couldn't read anything.

Sam Shamoun said:

Thus, it must be revelation from Allah (as erroneous and mistaken this assertion is, since he didn't need to have access to these inspired Books but only needed to hear them narrated orally).

My Response:

This is not necessarily the reason that the Qur'anic verse is used. Rather, the verse is stressing on the fact that if the Prophet (peace be upon him) was able to read and write, then the Jews would have doubted and rejected his Prophethood because the description of the Prophet to come according to the true uncorrupted Torah is that he would be unlettered (See Tafsir Ibn Kathir and Tafsir Jalalayn)

Sam Shamoun said:

The passage is simply reiterating the point made in another verse:

Even so We have revealed to thee a Spirit of Our bidding. Thou knewest not what the Book was, nor belief; but We made it a light, whereby We guide whom We will of Our servants. And thou, surely thou shalt guide unto a straight path -- S. 42:52

Hence, the verse in question isn't making the claim that Muhammad couldn't or didn't read a book beforehand but that he didn't read a revealed or inspired Scripture before the Quran.

My Response:

Appealing to Surah 42:52 is a red herring and has nothing to do with Surah 29:46-51 and its context.

Sam Shamoun said:

Zawadi repeats, but fails to prove, that Q. 25:5 actually means that Muhammad caused the Quran to be written as opposed to writing it down himself. He completely and conveniently ignored all of my points which refuted his assertion.

My Response:

Shamoun said, "He completely and conveniently ignored all of my points which refuted his assertion."

What points is Shamoun referring to? The only thing that Shamoun did was show that Iktatabha is the perfect active verbal form of kataba. I ignored this portion because that wasn't the main argument that Shamoun wanted to put forth from Surah 25 as he admits himself:

But all of this is beside the point since I didn't reference Q. 25:5 to prove that Muhammad wrote down the Quran

His main argument was:

to show that the Quran was being written down during the lifetime of Muhammad, thereby establishing my case that iqra and yatlu should be translated as read not recite.

And I addressed this by saying:

even though the Qur'an was written down that doesn't mean that every time someone recites the Qur'an that means he is reciting it from the Qur'an itself. Today we have the Qur'an written down in billions of books, but you can still have someone reciting it from memory. Existence of the Qur'an in book form does not necessitate that recitation must be done from a book. This is very weak reasoning from Shamoun.

So, I didn't leave any points worth refuting unrefuted.

Sam Shamoun said:

Nor did I ever claim that every time that a person recites the Quran that this proves that they are reading from the book itself, so this nothing [sic] more than a smokescreen. What I said was that all of the examples which we find in the Quran conclusively prove that Muhammad was actually reading from a book which he had access to, and not simply reciting words given to him.

My Response:

Talk about trying to dodge a bullet. Folks, let me cite what Shamoun previously said in his article:

Furthermore, didn't Zawadi read Q. 25:5 carefully which says that Muhammad wrote down the forgeries that he claimed were revelations from God? Doesn't this therefore prove that the verbs iqra and yatlu can and do mean that Muhammad was actually reading from a book? After all, if Muhammad "had it [i.e. the Quran] written down" then this actually substantiates my point that he wasn't merely reciting the verses from memory but reading from a book.

Notice that Shamoun's logic was that since the Qur'an was written down during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him), this substantiates and necessitates that the Prophet was reading from a book. I refuted this shallow and pathetic logic by saying:

Secondly, even though the Qur'an was written down that doesn't mean that every time someone recites the Qur'an that means he is reciting it from the Qur'an itself. Today we have the Qur'an written down in billions of books, but you can still have someone reciting it from memory. Existence of the Qur'an in book form does not necessitate that recitation must be done from a book. This is very weak reasoning from Shamoun.

And now Shamoun has the nerve to accuse me of attacking strawman!

Shamoun said:

that Muhammad was actually reading from a book which he had access to

That is not good enough. Just because someone has access to a book, that doesn't mean that he is using it. You have to prove that whenever the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited something, he was actually reading a book while doing so. You have not shown this.

Sam Shamoun said:

Yet the problem for Muslims such as Zawadi who have erroneously bought into this lie is that there is plenty of evidence from the Quran and multiple reports which clearly attest that Muhammad could read and write, and was also expected to read from the pages of the book:

Those who disbelieve among the People of the Scripture and the idolaters could not have left off till the clear proof came unto them, a messenger from Allah, reading scriptures kept pure and holy: Containing correct scriptures. S. 98:1-3

My Response:

The Arabic word in the verse is yatlu, which should be better translated as "reciting," as Yusuf Ali, Hilali-Khan, Shakir, Sher Ali, Arberry, Palmer, and Rodwell have done.

In conclusion, Shamoun, as usual, has proven to be a failure.

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