Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article "Revisiting the Problem with Allah preferring some Prophets over others: Being a Response to a Muslim Apologist"

By

Bassam Zawadi

 

Sam Shamoun wrote a response here to an article of mine here.

Shamoun said:

First, how does Zawadi know for certain that the words within quotations are that of the angels? How does he know that this isn't simply the author(s) of the Quran, who is supposed to be Allah, speaking as he addresses those who enter into Paradise at the last day?

I know because all commentaries say so. Secondly, it is not important for it to be referring to angels in order to prove my point. My point was to show that it is atleast linguistically possible. If it wasn't linguistically possible then we wouldn't find all of the scholars who were masters in Arabic saying that it is referring to the angels then.

So if it is linguistically possible for it to be referring to the angels, then it is linguistically possible that it is referring to the believers in Surah 2:285. If it is linguistically possible, then that means that Shamoun does not have a right to say that it is not referring to the believers for certain. That is the main point I am trying to make. If Shamoun can't speak with certainty then he can't be taken seriously.

Furthermore, the scholars who know Arabic have proven through grammar that this is referring to the believers and not a single commentator that I have come across said that it is Allah speaking.

Refer to Imam Tabari's commentary where he proves linguistically that it is referring to the believers. Imam Al Zamakhsari who is well known for his excellent interpretation of Qur'anic verses through the Arabic language also argued in his commentary that it is referring to the believers. Imam Razi in his commentary also argued that it was referring to the believers and he appealed to Surah 6:93 and Surah 39:3 as evidence. Also Imam Al Baghawi in his commentary provides linguistic evidence that it is referring to the believers.

We challenge Shamoun to cite one Qur'anic and Arabic expert that refutes all these great scholars. He can't. Also, he doesn't know Arabic so who is he to talk?

He goes on:

Citing an example where words are omitted doesn't solve the problem but only compounds the issue since it further proves that the Quran is an incoherent mess. It is not the linguistic masterpiece that Muslims like Zawadi claim.

Ha! This coming from someone who doesn't even know Arabic! I can't even take this seriously, since I am dealing with an ignoramus here. How can you explain colors to a blind person? Well, you can't. How can I explain Arabic to a stubborn ignoramus who doesn't know Arabic? Well again, you can't! So I give up. I will just provide links for the readers to refer to:

 

www.theinimitablequran.com/

http://www.miraclesofthequran.com/perfection_index.html

http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Q_Studies/

 

 

Furthermore, I argued in my previous article:

 

That is that even if Shamoun is correct and it really is Allah who is uttering the statement in Surah 2:285 this does not contradict Surah 2:253 and 17:55.

 

The statement "we make no distinction between any of His messengers" could mean that the Messengers are not to be distinguished by negating the Messengership of some them and affirming it for others.

 

However, Shamoun doesn't think this makes sense because:

 

If so does this even make any sense at all to have Allah saying such a thing when it is obvious that he believes in the messengership of all his apostles seeing that he is the one who actually commissioned them to be his emissaries in the first place? Zawadi basically empties the statement of any meaning, saying: Allah believes that all of his messengers are messengers. So what? That is a tautology. It only says that Allah does not deny that his messengers are his messengers. Why should he? What would be the point of this statement? If he doesn't want any of them to be messengers, he would have not sent them in the first place.

 

This objection doesn't seem to be too strong. What is wrong with believing that Allah is saying "we don't differentiate between any of the messengers" in order to emphasize to us that we should be doing the same? That since Allah acknowledges all the messengers He has mentioned, we must do the same. So Allah's statement is only an emphasis of this point in order for us to learn. What is wrong with this?

 

Shamoun says that this is a tautology, however just because statements are repetitious at times that doesn't seem that they are unnecessary. For instance, Allah says in Surah 64:4:

 

He knows what is in the heavens and on earth; and He knows what you conceal and what you reveal: and Allah knows well the secrets of all hearts

 

If we were to use Shamoun's logic, this would mean that the second part of the verse "and He knows what you conceal and what you reveal" is a tautology. This is because the first part of the verse already stated that Allah knows what is in the heavens and earth so obviously Alalh would also know what we conceal because we are in the heavens and earth. However, is that the case? Well no, obviously God is reemphasizing the point in another way in order to make us more aware about His omniscience and that we can't hide our secrets from Him. 

 

Similarly, Allah is reemphasizing the point that all Messengers should be recognized as being sent from God (this is all assuming that it really is Allah who is speaking in Surah 2:285, but we don't take this position)

 

In conclusion, Shamoun has failed to show a contradiction in the Qur'an.

 

 

Appendix

Shamoun not knowing when to give up had to blab his mouth again.

He states:

When asked how he knows for certain that the angels are speaking in Q. 13:23-24, Zawadi replies by saying because all of the Islamic commentators said so! What makes this reply rather amusing is that this exposes Zawadi's blatant inconsistent and double standards. For instance, in several of his "responses" one will find Zawadi accusing me of committing the fallacy of appealing to authority, even though he has no clue what this fallacy actually entails or when it is being committed:

Shamoun then goes on to cite some examples of where I accused him of committing the appeal to authority fallacy. What Shamoun fails to realize is how different these two situations are. In Islam, we consider the consensus (Ijmaa) of scholars a source of religious authority (*,*) However, scholars in certain issues could disagree with one another. In these situations it is not enough to just cite a scholar. You must actually prove that the evidence presented by one scholar is stronger than the other.

Every single time I accused Shamoun of the fallacy, it was in a situation where I had scholars who disagreed with the ones that he cited. I was the one presenting evidence while Shamoun wasn't. He was only blindly citing his scholars backed up with no proof. Hence, I was justified in accusing him of committing the fallacy.

However, in the situation of Surah 15:9 (here), Surah 13:23-24 and Surah 2:285, I appealed to the consensus of the scholars. Shamoun cited no scholars/experts to prove his point. Furthermore, he doesn't know Arabic (while trying to discuss Arabic grammare) and is no authority on the topic. How could I take him seriously then?

Shamoun then says:

Notice all of the unwarranted and unproven assumptions that Zawadi brings to the table. He assumes that it is necessary to appeal to the supposed authentic prophetic narrations in order to understand the Quran, which further assumes that these traditions are consistent with the Muslim scripture as well as with themselves.

Orthodox Islam teaches this, if Shamoun doesn't like then he go write polemical articles against another religion. If Shamoun could prove the inconsistency then he could be my guest. But as long as there is harmony between the two (i.e. Quran and Hadith) and both are considered sources of religious authority for me then I have every right to appeal to the both of them.

Imagine the nerve of me saying to a Christian

"Ohhh, so Bob thinks that he could interpret Jesus' statement in the Gospel of Mark by appealing to the Gospel of Matthew? Well he assumes that it is necessary to appeal to the Gospel of Matthew in order to understand the Gospel of Mark, which further assumes that this Gospel is consistent with the other as well as with itself."

Shamoun then says:

He also assumes that so-called authentic prophetic traditions are actually reliable, even though they were written down centuries after Muhammad's death when none of the first generation of "believers" were present to verify whether these narrations truly came from Muhammad or not. He further assumes that the reports which narrate the views of the so-called Salaf are authentic, despite the fact that these narratives were written over hundred years at the very least after their deaths.

All this is off the subject. One may consult the following articles for the time being:

-          Refuting The Argument From Hadith In Which The Prophet Says "Do Not Write Down Anything From Me Except Qur'an"

-          Refuting The Argument That The Hadith Have Been Collected 200 Years After The Death Of The Prophet And Therefore Are Unreliable

Shamoun continues:

He then assumes that all Muslims agree with his presuppositions when they do not, e.g. Shia Muslims do not recognize the absolute authority and authenticity of the Sunni collection of hadiths, many Muslims reject the entire hadith literature altogether and only follow the Quran etc.

I am an orthodox Muslim giving the orthodox Islamic perspective. If Shamoun wants to convince me, he would have to appeal to my religious sources of authority. Obviously, if I want to deal with Shamoun as a Protestant I am not going to cite a Pope and hold his statement against him, now am I? This has nothing to do with me proving that Shias and Quranites are wrong; this has to do with Shamoun needing to appeal to the right authorities in order to prove a point and this is exactly what he is not doing.

If Islam teaches that the consensus of religious scholars on a matter is authoritative and then we see our scholars forming a consensus on a particular teaching, that teaching becomes an Islamic teaching. I have appealed to the consensus of scholars regarding my arguments and Shamoun hasn't dealt with that. Too bad for him!

Shamoun arrogantly and daringly states:

Zawadi further argues that it is linguistically possible that angels are speaking in Q. 13:23-24 which makes it equally possible that it is the believers, not Allah, who is actually speaking in Q. 2:285. Zawadi again appeals to the consensus and their discussion of the Arabic to prove his position. The problem with this fallacious appeal to the consensus is that there is absolutely nothing in the Arabic text, nothing in the grammar, the syntax etc., which even makes it remotely possible that it is the believers, and not Allah, who are the speakers in Q. 2:285. We therefore challenge Zawadi to actually produce the evidence of these scholars so we can examine it for ourselves and see how much weight their arguments truly carry.

Notice the funny thing that Shamoun said:

fallacious appeal

So me appealing to the consensus of experts in Islamic studies and the Arabic language in order to prove that a verse is saying a particular theological matter by appealing to the Arabic language as evidence is a "fallacious appeal"?

Can anyone see the desperation?

Shamouns then argues:

Moreover, these particular verses are not at all analogous to Q. 2:285. Here is what these passages say:

And who does greater evil than he who forges against Allah a lie, or says, 'To me it has been revealed', when naught has been revealed to him, or he who says, 'I will send down the like of what Allah has sent down'? If thou couldst only see when the evildoers are in the agonies of death, and the angels are stretching out their hands: 'Give up your souls! Today you shall be recompensed with the chastisement of humiliation for what you said untruly about God, waxing proud against His signs.' S. 6:93

Belongs not sincere religion to Allah? And those who take protectors, apart from Him -- 'We only serve them that they may bring us nigh in nearness to Allah' -- surely Allah shall judge between them touching that whereon they are at variance. Surely Allah guides not him who is a liar, unthankful.' S. 39:3

It is clear from the context of these passages who the speakers are since all one has to do is locate the nearest antecedent. Yet this is quite different from what we find Q. 2:285 since in that verse the same entity who is narrating the verse goes on to quote what the believers say by introducing the words qaloo:

The Messenger believes in what was sent down to him from his Lord, and the believers; each one believes in God and His angels, and in His Books and His Messengers; We make no division between any one of His Messengers. They say (qaloo), 'We hear, and obey. Our Lord, grant us Thy forgiveness; unto Thee is the homecoming.' S. 2:285

The whole point of appealing Surah 6:93 and the others were to show that you can show that someone could be speaking even without saying "Qaaloo" before the statement. Secondly, 6:93 and 13:23-24 is not at all obvious from a plain surface reading of the text that it is the angels speaking. Some more in depth knowledge of the language is required to figure this out. As for Shamoun's argument:

Yet this is quite different from what we find Q. 2:285 since in that verse the same entity who is narrating the verse goes on to quote what the believers say by introducing the words qaloo

Shamoun's reasoning is that since the word qaaloo begins before 'We hear, and obey. Our Lord, grant us Thy forgiveness; unto Thee is the homecoming' that means that this is the only statement that the believers utter.

However, this is not necessarily the case. The Arabic word is wa qaaloo, which could either be translated as "and they said" or as "and they also said". So the statement "We make no division between any one of His Messengers" could be the first statement of the believers and they also say 'We hear, and obey. Our Lord, grant us Thy forgiveness; unto Thee is the homecoming'. This is a possible interpretation and as I said in my original article:

Shamoun fails to realize that he hasn't even clearly shown that it cannot be the believers who are supposed to be uttering that statement in Surah 2:285. He hasn't shown that it definitely has to be Allah who is speaking in the first person.

If that is the case then why should I take Shamoun' argument seriously?

Shamoun said:

Zawadi then proceeds with ad hominems, attacking me for not knowing Arabic (even though his Arabic comprehension is rather poor, and he is ignorant of both Biblical Hebrew and NT Greek), which is an obvious indication that he is rather upset with our responses since they serve to expose his bluster and gross inability to produce a coherent reply.

Hold on a second here and let us expose the utter desperation of Shamoun trying to defend himself.

First of all, I didn't merely attack Shamoun for not knowing Arabic. I attacked Shamoun for making a judgment about the linguistic nature of the Qur'an by putting forth a certain argument in which he cited no experts in Arabic to back it up and on top of that he doesn't know Arabic. If I never ate pizza hut, nor know anyone reliable who ate from it then how can I say confidently that their pizza is not good? Well I can't. Same thing applies to Shamoun. He has not cited any reliable and respected experts, nor is he an authority to insult (he didn't merely criticize but insulted) the linguistic nature of the Qur'an.

Secondly, I never attacked the Bible based on my own whims and desires by saying that it is a mess from a linguistic perspective.

So much for Shamoun trying to defend himself and take a cheap shot at me.

Shamoun then says:

Zawadi then claims that there is nothing wrong with Q. 2:285 being a tautology where Allah says he doesn't deny the Messengership of his messengers.

I didn't say that there is nothing wrong with Surah 2:285 being a tautology. A tautology is useless repetition. I didn't say that. I only said "repetition".

Shamoun states:

He then quotes Q. 64:4 which he thinks is analogous to Q. 2:285 since it too is supposed to be a tautology:

He knows what is in the heavens and on earth; and He knows what you conceal and what you reveal: and Allah knows well the secrets of all hearts.

Again, Zawadi's alleged parallel fails since one can see why the speaker highlights the extent of Allah's knowledge, to specifically show that nothing escapes him, e.g. Allah not only knows what occurs in the entire cosmos, he even knows what a person does to the point that he fully knows what s/he conceals within his/her heart.

Yes I know that and I agree. However, if we wanted to be defiantly strict about the matter like Shamoun does with Surah 2:285 one can argue back that since our hearts are in the cosmos and Allah knows everything in the cosmos, there is no need then for Allah to clarify that He knows what we conceal in our hearts.

Yet to say that Allah makes no distinction in his messengers means that he doesn't negate their Messengership is an unnecessary and needless point to make since it is obvious that he doesn't do so otherwise he wouldn't have commissioned them to be his spokespersons in the first place!

No it's not. It serves as a reminder and Allah expresses Himself in a different way here. Just because the essence of the message is the same that doesn't make it redundantly useless. How many times in the Qur'an and Bible does God ask us to obey Him and serve Him? Aren't all of these basically saying the same thing? Are we going to throw them aside and say that they are useless repetitions? Well of course not! We appeal to justice and ask Shamoun to stop his defiant way of analyzing the Qur'an.

Interestingly, Zawadi makes a statement (a Freudian slip perhaps?) which actually proves our point and backfires against him:

This objection doesn't seem to be too strong. What is wrong with believing that Allah is saying "we don't differentiate between any of the messengers" in order to emphasize to us that we should be doing the same? That since Allah acknowledges all the messengers He has mentioned, we must do the same. So Allah's statement is only an emphasis of this point in order for us to learn. What is wrong with this? (Emphasis ours)

That is basically what we had stated in our rebuttal, e.g. much like Allah doesn't prefer or make distinctions between his messengers neither should the Muslims prefer some above others. We then cited a narration from Muhammad where he explained how Muslims are to carry out this injunction, i.e. Muslims cannot say that one prophet is greater than another. Since according to Zawadi Allah is teaching Muslims by example here this means that his god will also refrain from preferring some prophets over others or will refuse to grant some of them greater ranks. But according to Q. 2:253 and 17:55 this is precisely what Allah has done, namely, chosen prophets over others and raised some of them in rank!

It seems like that Shamoun forgot that I explained that "don't make distinctions between His Messengers" from Surah 2:285 could mean that we shouldn't acknowledge one messenger while we don't for another. This in no way then would contradict the verse that speaks about Allah preferring some Prophets over one another.

So much for Shamoun's counter response.

 

 

 

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