Response to David Wood's Article "Bassam Zawadi on a Biblical Absurdity"
This is a response to a blog entry on David Wood's blog entitled Bassam Zawadi on a Biblical "Absurdity".
David Wood said:
"In a recent debate with Bassam Zawadi, I said that he too readily accepts "problems" in the Bible, while he quickly dismisses errors in Muhammad's teachings. Bassam insisted that he is consistent in his methodology. I thought it would be good to give my readers an example of what I mean."
Notice how he puts "problems" within inverted commas when it comes to the Bible, thereby indicating that the alleged problems are not really "problems" as such, and how the so-called "errors" of "Muhammed's teachings" are not enclosed within inverted commas, thus suggesting that they really are errors - no questions. The benefit of doubt that is from the outset granted to the Bible is not granted to Islam. This is enough to expose Wood's duplicity and double standard when it comes to his rantings on Bassam's alleged "inconsistencies." Wood is accusing Bassam of doing something, with no proof, which he, in fact, just committed in his above paragraph. That is, Wood is too readily accepting "errors" of Muhammed's (peace be upon him) teaching while quickly dismissing "errors" of the Bible. Therefore, we have here a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
If Wood desires to have a genuine discussion and is honest in his studies on Islam and Christianity, then he should either not be inserting inverted commas around Biblical and Islamic "errors/problems" or he should include inverted commas upon ALL instances of "errors" - Christian and Islam - in order to be balanced.
We also encourage everyone to actually watch the debates between David and Bassam (go here), for one would easily notice how David didn't address many of Bassam's arguments against Christianity while Bassam actually refuted most of David's points against Islam.
David Wood said:
"The Qur'an and the Hadith are filled with absurd teachings about Satan sleeping in our noses and prophets communicating with insects (see here, here, here, here, and here for some examples). Bassam finds Muhammad's teachings entirely plausible. "
The Bible is filled with absurd teachings about floodgates of heaven, God being afraid, uncircumcised lips, killing six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad, killing people who piss on walls, fighting dragons in heaven, speaking beasts, to list a few absurd teachings. These can be viewed here: http://www.call-to-monotheism.com/biblical_absurdities_1
But Wood finds Biblical teachings entirely plausible.
David Wood said:
"But in an effort to draw attention away from Muslim sources, he has written an article on "Biblical Absurdities." Let's look at one of these "absurdities," to see whether I was right about him being too quick to condemn the Bible."
And right here we should note that Wood needs to read attentively. Bassam's article on "Biblical Absurdities" is his tit for tat response to SIMILAR Christian attacks upon Islam. In the opening of his paper Bassam writes (bold added):
It is typical and common of atheists to mock Islam when it talks about supernatural facts because they are anti-super naturalists and they don't believe in the supernatural realm. However, for God-believing people such as Christians to mock Islam for such matters is quite hypocritical. Source: http://www.call-to-monotheism.com/biblical_absurdities_1
So, since Christians had ALREADY mounted such unfair attacks upon Islam (Wood has already provided links to those Christian attacks), so Bassam will ALSO mount a SIMILAR attack upon the Bible just to show how easily the Bible can be subjected to the same unreasonable criticism, thereby exposing CHRISTIAN INCONSISTENCY.
Bassam went on to say:
No permission is given to use the contents of this article in order to mock the Bible. The only purpose of this article is for you to show those Christians that the very things that they mock Islam for is present in their own Bible (and even worse at times). This is in order for them to re-think their position next time when they start attacking Islam. If you see them mocking our religion then walk away (Surah 6:68) and if they are persistent and you can't avoid them then just simply show them the verses in their Bible and ask them why they don't mock those as well. This is not intended in order for us to go and mock their religion. This is forbidden (Surah 6:108) and I don't give permission for anyone to use the material in this article to do so, for I don't support such a thing and refuse to play any role in it.
How on earth could Wood simply "miss" the above?
The above makes is very clear that SINCE CHRISTIANS have launched such attacks upon the Quran, therefore, Bassam will now show how easily the Bible could be dismissed with the SAME criticism.
Are we to believe that Wood is so incompetent that he could not comprehend the above very clear paragraphs? We know that Wood can definitely read and comprehend. So then, is Wood lying? If so, he uttered a foolish lie in this instance because all his readers can click on Bassam's article and see that Bassam did not, out of the blue, begin launching such type of an attack upon the Bible. On the contrary, Bassam states clearly that his purpose is only to expose CHRISTIAN INCONSISTENCY by demonstrating how easily the Bible could be dismissed with the same criticism which some Christians mount upon the Quran (links to those have been provided by David Wood!). How could Wood not follow this simple logic and argument? Bassam even warns Muslims from mocking the Bible. Bassam put similar warnings else where on his website (see here and here)
When Wood conveys the impression that Bassam, out of nowhere, just began attacking the Bible by presenting some of its "absurd" stories while not deeming "absurd" certain Islamic stories, then Wood is engaged in telling a LIE.
Then after citing Judges 9:8-15, Wood comments:
"Well, that certainly seems absurd. Trees and vines talking? This reminds us of Islamic teachings about trees and animals converting to Islam! But let's look at the passage in context, so we can see what Bassam has left out."
Wait a minute; you again distort the chronology of events. This is how it should be: some Christians began making fun of Islam and mocking it by citing examples of trees and animals talking and converting . In RESPONSE, Bassam cited examples of trees and vines talking in the Bible.
This correct chronology is completely missed by Wood.
After citing Judges 9:8-15 in context Wood concludes that a parable is being told here and nothing more. Hence this is not an "absurdity." Wood conveniently ignores other examples of "absurdities" in Bassam's papers, presumably because they have been accurately cited.
Be that as it may, the basic point is that animals/trees speaking, either to each other or with humans, humans speaking with insects etc., are some of the miracles granted by God from time to time on certain occasions. They are not "absurdities." If these are "absurdities" and Islam is to be mocked in this fashion, then similar types of "absurdities" can be easily extracted from the Bible and all miracles should be labelled "absurdities," including Moses' (peace be upon him) parting of the sea, the virgin birth of Jesus (peace be upon him) etc.
As for Satan living in the nose, go here.
Some Biblical teachings we find to be odd, such as God wrestling with humans or having fear, but it is wrong to mock the Bible or make fun of it on account of even these.
The bottom line is that Christians (as well as Muslims) need to be careful when mounting certain arguments against the Quran (and the Bible) as they can easily backfire upon themselves.
David Wood said:
"The fact that Muslims will point to this as a problem in the Bible shows how desperate they are to attack the Bible."
Certainly Muslims who just start to mount such types of arguments upon the Bible are inviting a similar criticism upon the Quran. But let us be clear that Wood has already demonstrated his inconsistency and desperation by his unfair use of inverted commas in his opening paragraph and, later, by demonstrating his inability to follow Bassam's line of argument.
David Wood said:
"While I have come to expect this sort of thing from people like Nadir Ahmed, I really think that Bassam is better than this, and that he will remove this obvious misrepresentation from his website so that he doesn't continue to mislead his readers."
And while we have come to expect this sort of thing from Wood's abusive friend like Sam Shamoun, we think Wood is better than this, and that he will remove this clear misrepresentation of Bassam's argument from his website so that he doesn't continue to mislead his readers.
While Wood removes this blog entry from his site and informs the readers he misunderstood Bassam and disagrees with such arguments mounted against Islam, Bassam too needs to remove the passage from Judges cited out of context.
Note from Bassam Zawadi: I have removed the argument from the book of Judges 9:8-15 from my article on August 19, 2008.
Wood has not offered a reply to this paper as of yet (September 1st, 2008) and has not removed the blog entry despite basing his entire paper on a massive distortion of Bassam's position. However, a few of his polemical friends have offered "responses" to the above in the comments section of Wood's blog over here.
Here we will respond to such comments, ignoring only the irrelevant pieces.
According to Jay:
"Bassam - a quick response to your reply is that the so called absurdities you point out in the Bible are largely due to the fact that you are literalizing imagery. These images are not meant to be taken literally. So no, Heaven does not actually have literal floodgates and the slaying of a dragon refers to the defeat of Satan."
And what about Moses' (peace be upon him) parting of the sea, Jonah being in the belly of a whale, Jesus' (peace be upon him) virgin birth and walking on water etc? Are these also not meant to be taken literally? Of course they are. It is more than likely that the original authors of the writings which relate these events took them literally. So when they wrote that Moses (peace be upon him) parted the sea, they meant this literally occurred, and when they said that Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, they literally meant this.
If we, a priori, dismiss miracles, then the above need to be dismissed as absurdities as well.
"So I think your accusation of absurdity is easily explained,"
Correction: it is not Bassam's accusation from the blue that there are "absurdities" within the Bible or that the instances noted are really "absurd" (though a few may be problematic for theological reasons).
Bassam clearly explained that some Christians have noted alleged "absurdities" within the Quran and Islamic sources. Yet the argument backfires upon them since such types of "absurdities" are also to be observed within the Bible.
Bassam explained his argument very clearly in his opening paragraphs. It seems people like Jay and Wood are in denial and are unwilling to follow Bassam's reasoning.
"unlike the situation in Islam where we have teachings such as meteors being missles fired at demons. Unless you want to argue that this is also figurative, in which case I'd like to ask you what this teaching means in a figurative sense."
Let's say this is literal and not figurative. Why is this "absurdity"? How is this any less "absurd" than Jesus' (peace be upon him) virgin birth, parting of the sea at Moses' (peace be upon him) time, Jonah being in the belly of the whale etc? What methodology do we apply to label one such event "absurd" and others "acceptable"? What criterion should we use?
Or does Jay interpret there Biblical stories figuratively, in which case we would very much like to know what these teachings mean in a figurative sense.
An atheist may consider absurd the notion of God firing missiles at demons. But he/she would likewise consider absurd all the miracles within the Bible because for an atheist there are no miracles, there is no God. But on what basis does a miracle believing and God believing Christian insist that one set of miracles and the unseen is "absurd" while the others are not absurd? How do we distinguish the "absurd" miracles from the "reasonable" ones?
No methodology and criteria has been submitted by the Christians to come out with the above verdict. There seems to be only one reasoning behind their conclusions: circular reasoning. That is, since Christians such as Jay presume the Bible to be God's inspired word, they have no problems with any of the miracles defying the laws of physics which it narrates. But since the Quran is not accepted as the word of God, then all of its miracles (at least the ones not mentioned in the Bible) "must" be absurd.
By the same token, Muslims too can label all Biblical miracles and the mention of the unseen as "absurd" if they are not mentioned within the Quran.
"Secondly, you haven't responded to David's explanation that the context of this passage clearly shows that it is a parable. Now this means that you intentionally left out the context to make your point. This is either dishonest or ignorant. Don't worry about David - answer for yourself."
Here Jay has conclusively proven his lack of comprehension because Bassam directly responded to Wood's explanation by writing (caps added for Jay's benefit):
Note from Bassam Zawadi: I have removed the argument from the book of Judges 9:8-15 from my article on August 19, 2008.
Which word in the above did Jay not understand?
Bassam ACCEPTED Wood's correction and removed the passage which was cited out of context. Period.
Now Jay needs to question his buddy (Wood) and ask him to explain how on earth he managed to completely distort Bassam's argument by totally ignoring the opening paragraphs in his paper wherein Bassam CLEARLY explained his position?
And since Wood has been exposed for distorting Bassam's position out of context, should he not remove his blog entry completely if he is even slightly honest? Bassam made a mistake and he acknowledged it by removing it. Now let's see if Wood has the courage to do the same.
We now move on to another person posting on David's blog, DK, who wrote:
"Dear Christians, I'll take this one.
Taken from the link Bassam refers to in his article:
"All Semitic languages, and especially Arabic, are full of metaphors and hyperboles. Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him) used to speak in parables; similarly, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) used to instruct his people sometimes in a metaphorical and symbolic language."
Now this was written after a question about Satan going into noses while people are sleeping.
Firstly, "sometimes" doesn't indicate whether in this case Mohammed was using this sort of metaphorical language or not."
Neither does "sometimes" exclude the possibility of Muhammed (peace be upon him) using metaphorical language in this particular instance. Why is DK - who knows probably nothing about Islamic theology apart from what he has scavenged from polemical Christian writings on Islam - be so motivated and hell-bent in "proving" that this Islamic tradition be understood only literally and not figuratively? What logical reason is there to not grant a figurative interpretation in this instance?
Now let us suppose that the tradition is to be understood literally, so that Satan really does enter our noses when we fall asleep. Why is this "absurd"? Can this actually be disproved? No.
"But assuming that he means "sometimes" includes this case he is contradiced by the literal view which he does infact cite:
"Muslim scholars explain that the nose is one of the ways to one's mind and thoughts. Satan tries to put his ideas and suggestions into the mind of a person during his sleep as well. The best cure is that after waking up one should clean one's nose, make ablution for Prayers and seek God's protection."
Now can Bassam do the same (without referring to "cult" groups within Christianity) in reference to his citations from the book of Revelation?"
What is the "contradiction" here? Which "literal" view has supposedly "contradicted" the figurative interpretation offered by the scholar for the above tradition? DK's comments are bordering on the weird.
And YES, Bassam can do the same in reference to his citations from Revelation. But if DK does not have the courtesy to allow Muslims to interpret their traditions their way and if he insists, for no reason whatsoever, that the above tradition "must" be understood literally, then Muslims too can make the same demands and take everything within Revelation literally.
"Bassam, in other words, since you are a salafi literalist, why do you assume that christians apply the same principles of intepretation with the Bible that you do with the Quran and Hadith?"
Bassam has not made any such assumption. The problem again is an unwillingness to actually READ what Bassam has said.
And "Salafi literalists" do not take everything within the Quran or the traditions literally. They too, like other Muslims, allow both literal and figurative/metaphorical interpretations. Bassam does not adhere to the Zahiri school of thought who went to the extreme in interpreting Qur'an and Sunnah literally. Rather Bassam believes in taking the apparent meaning of statements found in the Qur'an and Sunnah. The apparent meaning could either be literal or metaphorical depending on its context and this could be determined by utilizing the appropriate methods of exegesis.
"Obviously your particular brand of Islam takes these passages in Bukhari etc literally, even proven by you:
"Be that as it may, the basic point is that animals/trees speaking, either to each other or with humans, humans speaking with insects etc., are some of the miracles granted by God from time to time on certain occasions.""
Here DK, like Jay, too demonstrates his ability to not read attentively and follow arguments. The above cited comments were NOT made with regard to the tradition of Satan entering the nose. The cited statement states CLEARLY which miraculous events it is referring to: "animals/trees speaking, either to each other or with humans, humans speaking with insects etc."
So, the above we can take literally, there is nothing "absurd" in this as we believe in miracles, whereas the mention of Satan within noses can be accepted figuratively. The two are completely different. But, for arguments sake, even if the latter is taken literally, why is it "absurd" and used as an item to mock Islam?
"Where in Christianity do we have the same with the passages you cited in such places as Isaiah and Revelation?"
Let's put the above books aside. How about Jesus' (peace be upon him) virgin birth, Moses' (peace be upon him) parting of the sea, Jonah (peace be upon him) living in the belly of a whale, and many other Biblical miracle stories? Are these to be understood purely figuratively and metaphorically, so that Jesus (peace be upon him) was not literally born to a virgin miraculously, that he did not literally walk on water, that Moses (peace be upon him) did not literally parted the sea, that the river did not literally turn red during Moses' (peace be upon him) time etc?
The overwhelming majority of Bible believing Christians, certainly conservatives, take the above miracles literally. They believe that the above types of events really did occur. They believe that Jesus (peace be upon him) literally rose from the dead.
Hence, there are details within the Bible which are read and taken literally by many, if not all, Christians, as well as details which are explained figuratively, such as the details provided in the book of Revelation.
Why is it not possible for Muslims, including the "literalist salafis" to do the same? Why is DK unwilling to accept the reality that Muslims too can reasonably and legitimately accept certain details literally and certain other details and descriptions metaphorically/figuratively?
"In order for your argument to work it needs to be completed by pointing out an actual inconsistancy exists, meaning that Christians similar to (Salafi Muslims) actually believe that these absurdities LITERALLY OCCUR."
Christians similar to Salafi Muslims do believe that "absurdities" and "crap" (DK's own word which he applies upon Islam when he said "Since Salafis take this crap literally") such as Jesus' (peace be upon him) virgin birth, Moses' (peace be upon him) parting of the sea and Jonah's (peace be upon him) stay in the belly of the whale LITERALLY OCCURRED.
DK has already shown his inconsistency. He will accept none of the miracles listed in the Bible, which Christians tend to widely accept literally, as being "absurd" and will also reason that certain Biblical details are to be understood figuratively. Yet Muslims are not permitted to understand certain details in the Quran and the hadith figuratively and all miracles (at least the ones not mentioned in the Bible) "must" be, for some unknown reason, "absurd." If this isn't inconsistency, hypocrisy and gross double standards (and circular reasoning), then we don't know what is.
In the end we leave DK with this "absurd" and "crap" gift from the Bible, a talking ass (of course, we do not really think that this is "absurd" or "crap"):
Numbers 22:28 (New International Version)
28 Then the LORD opened the donkey's mouth, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?"
Before he whines that the above is "figurative" and "metaphorical," let us cite some Christians (there are many of them, we are just citing a few) who understood the above literally and saw nothing "wrong" with it.
According to one commentator (bold, caps and underline ours in all instances, unless otherwise stated):
"The Lord opened the mouth of the ass. This was a great miracle wrought by the power of God. He who made man speak, could, when he pleased, make the ass to speak with man's voice. The ass complained of Balaam's cruelty. The righteous God does not allow the meanest or weakest to be abused; but they shall be able to speak in their own defence, or he will some way or other speak for them."
The Christian commentator clearly understood this LITERALLY as did another commentator:
"28. the Lord opened the mouth of the ass--to utter, like a parrot, articulate sounds, without understanding them. That this was a visionary scene is a notion which seems inadmissible, because of the improbability of a vision being described as an actual occurrence in the middle of a plain history. Besides, the opening of the ass's mouth must have been an external act, and that, with the manifest tenor of Peter's language, strongly favors the literal view [2Pe 2:15, 16]. The absence of any surprise at such a phenomenon on the part of Balaam may be accounted for by his mind being wholly engrossed with the prospect of gain, which produced "the madness of the prophet" [2Pe 2:16]. "It was a miracle, wrought to humble his proud heart, which had to be first subjected in the school of an ass before he was brought to attend to the voice of God speaking by the angel" [CALVIN]."
Consider another commentary:
"Verse 28. Opened the mouth - Conferred upon her the power of speech and reasoning for that time.
Verse 29. Balaam said - Balaam was not much terrified with the ass's speaking, because perhaps he was accustomed to converse with evil spirits, who appeared to him and discoursed with him in the shape of such creatures [Our note: this also seems "absurd" and "crap"]. Perhaps he was so blinded by passion, that he did not consider the strangeness of the thing."
When all this would not work upon him, God opened the mouth of the ass, and she spoke to him once and again; and yet neither did this move him: The Lord opened the mouth of the ass, v. 28. This was a great miracle, quite above the power of nature, and wrought by the power of the God of nature, who made man's mouth, and taught him to speak, for otherwise (since we learn to speak purely by imitation, and therefore those that are born deaf are consequently dumb) the first man would never have spoken, nor any of his seed. He that made man speak could, when he pleased, make the ass to speak with man's voice, 2 Pt. 2:16. Here Mr. Ainsworth observes that the devil, when he tempted our first parents to sin, employed a subtle serpent, but that God, when he would convince Balaam, employed a silly ass, a creature dull and sottish to a proverb; for Satan corrupts men's minds by the craftiness of those that lie in wait to deceive, but Christ has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. By a dumb ass God rebukes the madness of the prophet, for he will never want reprovers, but when he pleases can make the stones cry out as witnesses to him, Lu. 19:40; Hab. 2:11. [1.] The ass complained of Balaam's cruelty (v. 28): What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me? Note, The righteous God will not see the meanest and weakest abused; but either they shall be enabled to speak in their own defence or he will some way or other speak for them. If God would not suffer a beast to be wronged, much less a man, a Christian, a child of his own. We cannot open the mouth of the dumb, as God did here, but we may and must open our mouth for the dumb, Prov. 31:8; Job 31:13. The ass's complaint was just: What have I done? Note, When we are prompted to smite any with hand or tongue, we should consider what they have done unto us, and what provocation they have given us. We hear it not, but thus the whole creation groans, being burdened, Rom. 8:22. It was much that Balaam was not astonished to hear his ass speak, and put to confusion: but some think that it was no new thing to him (being a conjurer) to be thus spoken to by his familiars; others rather think that his brutish head-strong passion so blinded him that he could not observe or consider the strangeness of the thing. Nothing besots men worse than unbridled anger. Balaam in his fury wished he had a sword to kill his ass with, v. 29. See his impotency; can he think by his curses to do mischief to Israel that has it not in his power to kill his own ass? This he cannot do, yet he fain would; and what would he get by that, but make himself so much the poorer (as many do), to gratify his passion and revenge? Such was the madness of this false prophet. Here bishop Hall observes, It is ill falling into the hands of those whom the brute-creatures find unmerciful; for a good man regardeth the life of his beast. [2.] The ass reasoned with him, v. 30. God enabled not only a dumb creature to speak, but a dull creature to speak to the purpose. Three things she argues with him from: - First, His propriety in her: Am not I thy ass? Note, 1. God has given to man a dominion over the creatures: they are delivered into his hand to be used, and put under his feet to be ruled. 2. Even wicked people have a title to the possessions God gives to them, which they are not to be wronged of. 3. The dominion God has given us over the creatures is a good reason why we should not abuse them. We are their lords, and therefore must not be tyrants. Secondly, Her serviceableness to him: On which thou hast ridden. Note, It is good for us often to consider how useful the inferior creatures are, and have been, to us, that we may be thankful to God, and tender of them. Thirdly, That she was not wont to do so by him, and had never before crushed his foot, nor fallen down under him; he might therefore conclude there was something more than ordinary that made her do so now. Note, 1. The rare occurrence of an offence should moderate our displeasure against an offender. 2. When the creatures depart from their wonted obedience to us, we should enquire the cause within ourselves, and be humbled for our sin.
We will continue to compile replies here to continued attempts of double standards by Christian polemicists.