THE VIDEO:

 

CHALLENGE: The Bible supports killing. In Luke 22:36, Jesus said take the sword and fight. In Exodus 22:18-20, it says that you should kill. Killing and fighting is also prescribed in the Bible in Exodus 32:27-28.  It is also mentioned in the Book of Numbers 31:1-18 and in the Gospel of Luke 19:27.

EVALUATING THE CHALLENGE

A measure one can use to identify good scholarship from bad is how the author interprets data from his sources. A false representation can only fall on two categories. Either intentional or unintentional. In many cases, lack of relevant research causes one to fall into the latter. However, if one were to misrepresent a text by selectively quoting verses, knowing that if one reads on or looks back a few sentences, the error cannot be anything but intentional.

Zakir Naik falls on the former category.  It can be observed from the video that he cites verses without giving the context. Worse, he identified the verses in haste without reading it to the audience. This is certainly an error any educator must not make. For instance, in the only verse he tried to quote, Luke 22:36, not only did he misquote it, he even changed the meaning. Consider the actual verse:

He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.

and that which Zakir Naik said,

Jesus PBUH said, take the sword and fight.

This is bad scholarship. Muslims who would not even spend time to check the facts will quickly fall into wrong headed conclusions. In any responsible lecture, it is imperative that the speaker do not put up straw men in order to debunk it. It is unclear how a person who claims to possess extreme honesty would go down that route.

THE PARODY

There can be no parody of this. His flaw in methodology comes at a heavy cost. If Zakir Naik wanted to show that Christanity is violent by misquoting and misrepresenting verses, he relieves himself of the Islamophobe trump card by being the first to pull the trigger. Ravi Zacharias once said that if you throw mud at others, not only will you get your hands dirty, you will also lose a lot of ground. [1]

When one looks into the Qur’an and refer to history as to how the earliest Muslims understood it, the tables are irreversibly turned. One discovers that while the first decade of Islam is peaceful, the next decade and the years that came after are not. Is the intention of this post to offend? Not so. Information has no bearing on emotions. How it is presented does. Therefore, it is to my apology if emotions are touched. The intention is for truth to emerge, not for falsehood to spread.  The goal is not to attack Muslims in any way, but simply to present what information is available. Muslims are people, Islam is an ideology. This section therefore, is an evaluation of ideas, not an attack against persons. As such, none of the text below are intended for abuse or misuse.

Consider Surat At-Tawbah 9:29

Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.

- Surah 9:29, Sahih International

Muslims often would interpret this to say that fighting in this verse does not mean fighting with the sword. What is often overlooked is that in whatever way this verse is interpreted today, the earliest followers of Muhammad thought otherwise. It is also worthy to mention that Muhammad thought that the best of Muslims are those of his generation and the three that came after. [2] Therefore, if one were to look at models from which to learn Islam from, it has to come from the Muslims during the time of Muhammad and how they understood his teachings.

Ismail ibn Kathir, a scholar who wrote the most respected and widely used commentary for the Quran today [3] has this to say about Surah 9:29:

When People of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) disbelieved in Muhammad , they had no beneficial faith in any Messenger or what the Messengers brought.

“This honorable Ayah (verse) was revealed with the order to fight the People of the Book, after the pagans were defeated, the people entered Allah’s religion in large numbers, and the Arabian Peninsula was secured under the Muslims’ control. Allah commanded His Messenger to fight the People of the Scriptures, Jews and Christians, on the ninth year of Hijrah, and he prepared his army to fight the Romans and called the people to Jihad announcing his intent and destination. The Messenger sent his intent to various Arab areas around Al-Madinah to gather forces, and he collected an army of thirty thousand.” [4]

This shows that Surah 9:29 is not a jihad of the tongue or a jihad of the heart. It is rather a jihad of the sword. Ibn Kathir would further write,

Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimmah (meaning subdued Christians and Jews) or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced and humiliated.

Muslim recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said ”Do not initiate the peace to the Jews and Christians, and if you meet any of them in a road, force them to its narrowest alley.” [5]

This is why the Leader of the faithful `Umar bin Al-Khattab (the second Caliph after Muhammad and Abu Bakr), may Allah be pleased with him, demanded his well-known conditions be met by the Christians, these conditions that ensured their continued humiliation, degradation and disgrace.

The scholars of Hadith narrated from `Abdur-Rahman bin Ghanm Al-Ash`ari that he said, “I recorded for `Umar bin Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, the terms of the treaty of peace he conducted with the Christians of Ash-Sham:

`In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. This is a document to the servant of Allah `Umar, the Leader of the faithful, from the Christians of such and such city.

  • When you (Muslims) came to us we requested safety for ourselves, children, property and followers of our religion.
  • We made a condition on ourselves that we will neither erect in our areas a monastery, church, or a sanctuary for a monk, nor restore any place of worship that needs restoration nor use any of them for the purpose of enmity against Muslims.
  • We will not prevent any Muslim from resting in our churches whether they come by day or night, and we will open the doors ﴿of our houses of worship﴾ for the wayfarer and passerby.
  • Those Muslims who come as guests, will enjoy boarding and food for three days.
  • We will not allow a spy against Muslims into our churches and homes or hide deceit ﴿or betrayal﴾ against Muslims.
  • We will not teach our children the Qur’an, publicize practices of Shirk, invite anyone to Shirk or prevent any of our fellows from embracing Islam, if they choose to do so.
  • We will respect Muslims, move from the places we sit in if they choose to sit in them.
  • We will not imitate their clothing, caps, turbans, sandals, hairstyles, speech, nicknames and title names, or ride on saddles, hang swords on the shoulders, collect weapons of any kind or carry these weapons.
  • We will not encrypt our stamps in Arabic, or sell liquor.
  • We will have the front of our hair cut, wear our customary clothes wherever we are, wear belts around our waist, refrain from erecting crosses on the outside of our churches and demonstrating them and our books in public in Muslim fairways and markets.
  • We will not sound the bells in our churches, except discretely, or raise our voices while reciting our holy books inside our churches in the presence of Muslims, nor raise our voices ﴿with prayer﴾ at our funerals, or light torches in funeral processions in the fairways of Muslims, or their markets.
  • We will not bury our dead next to Muslim dead, or buy servants who were captured by Muslims.
  • We will be guides for Muslims and refrain from breaching their privacy in their homes.’

When I gave this document to `Umar, he added to it, `We will not beat any Muslim. These are the conditions that we set against ourselves and followers of our religion in return for safety and protection. If we break any of these promises that we set for your benefit against ourselves, then our Dhimmah (promise of protection) is broken and you are allowed to do with us what you are allowed of people of defiance and rebellion.”’

Consider therefore, the difference on how Zakir Naik presented his case and ibn Kathir. Zakir Naik cites verses in haste and did nothing to explain it to the audience. On the other hand, proper exegesis requires citation, evaluation, and interpretation.  Ibn Kathir has done all three. This is therefore, not a straw man argument. It is also worthwhile to understand that what has been used to exegete Surah 9:29 comes from the best sources of Islam, namely, the authentic hadith [6], the Tafsir of one of the most respected Quranic exegete of all time [3], an example of one of the earliest follower of Muhammad, specifically Umar [2], and of course, allowing the Qur’an to speak for itself. It can be further shown that the exegesis of Surah 9:29 contains no interpretation whatsoever on my side. Whatever we learn from Surah 9:29 comes from among the most reliable Islamic interpretations.

Is this a cause of concern? Of course. For instance, the migration taking place around the world to join ISIS can be best explained by the adherent’s reliance on this interpretation, if not a similar one.Therefore, if Zakir Naik aims to advance such polemics against Christianity by taking off the sawdust from the Christian’s eyes, it is certainly best for him to first take off the scales shrouding his own.

ANSWERING THE CHALLENGE

Zakir Naik first quotes Luke 22:36 saying that Jesus told his disciples to take the sword and fight. Reading further however, in Luke 22:47-51, we read that Jesus rebuked his disciple for using the sword and proceeded to heal the victim, showing that contrary to Zakir Naik’s accusation, Jesus is actually a pacifist. [7] In the same incident recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.” [8] Here, we see a deficiency in Zakir’s exegesis of the Bible. As written in my former post, it can be observed that primary means of presenting a case against Christianity is to misrepresent it [9]. Consider further that while the reason for Jesus telling his disciples to buy swords was not mentioned, we know from the Bible that Jesus did not want it to be used for violence. It thus can be inferred that Jesus wants them to carry swords, not that they may use it to hurt others, but rather to keep them from harm. An armed person is a less attractive target for violence. Moreover, one would have to ask the obvious question. Why did Jesus, in Luke 9:54-56, rebuke John and James for thinking of harming others, saying that He came not to destroy people’s lives but to save them?

Zakir Naik further quotes Exodus 22:18-20, saying that the verse commands killing. In the video however, he did not give any context. He did not give even any explanation whatsoever. This is certainly bad instruction. One has to look back to Exodus 21 for the context. In Exodus 21:1, one would understand that from that verse all the way until Exodus 23:19, we are introduced to a set of laws Israelites are expected to follow. Whatever is written in Exodus 22 therefore, is part of the law. This is rather interesting. In Sahih Bukhari Volume 9 Hadith 17, Muhammad actually ordered the killing of apostates. [10] If Zakir Naik has no issues with death penalty because Muhammad thought it’s necessary, he should consistently relieve his right to criticize any other similar laws.

Zakir Naik then quotes, Exodus 32:27-28, again not giving any context. He fails to quote Exodus 32:7-8, where it clearly says that the Israelites are committing idolatry and thus are guilty of punishment, which turns out to be death, as mentioned in Exodus 22:20. Therefore, if Zakir Naik has issues with God wanting his laws be implemented, he has to show why disobedience to the law of God is morally superior over obedience to it.

Next, he mentions Numbers 32:1-18, still without context. He fails to quote Numbers 25, the source of the issue. The Midianites seduced the Israelites to commit sexual immorality and idolatry and in God’s eyes, it was an abomination. This is further corroborated by the fact that whosoever commits idolatry has to be slain as mentioned in Exodus 22:20. This is rather ironic. In the Qur’an, under Surah 5:43-44, Allah says that not only does the Jews have the Torah [a], it was from Allah and therefore, free from corruption as stated in Surah 6:115. Thus, if Zakir Naik has issues with Exodus and Numbers, he would have placed the Qur’an in the same negative light. Further, not only does he have problems with the Qur’an, he also would have problems with Muhammad because Muhammad also mentioned that adultery is punishable by death. [10] Here, Zakir Naik has no means of escape. If he presses on, he would have to disagree with Allah. On the other hand if he choose not to contend further, he has to admit his mistake. Either way saws off the branch he’s sitting on.

Finally, he quotes Luke 19:27 without context. One needs only to read the context, namely in Luke 19:11-27 to understand that the quotation comes from a parable. It does not even command Christians to go out and kill. The information is descriptive, not prescriptive. How Zakir Naik missed the point can only be speculated.

As shown, Zakir Naik has failed to even provide any good reasons to believe that Christianity is violent. On the other hand, ibn Kathir, regarded as among the most respected Muslim scholar in history, thought that Islam is. One may thus infer that the reason why ISIS continues to grow in numbers despite their gruesome acts is because when some people look at the Qur’an and see verses like Surah 9:29, they interpret it in the same manner as ibn Kathir. In any event, one can understand from this blog that Zakir Naik does not stand on any moral high ground. At the very least, he opened Islam to criticism by being the first to pull the trigger.

THE COUNTER CHALLENGE

Matthew 5:43-48 records a teaching of Jesus that says,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I want Zakir Naik to exegete that.

Consider how morally superior this is from the teachings of Islam. Muhammad taught to greet only fellow Muslims [2], Jesus thought that it doesn’t make him any better than pagans. Allah taught to fight against disbelievers in Surah 9:29, Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for them.”  Allah taught in Surah 3:32 that he does not love the unbelievers. Jesus questioned the reward one gets for loving only those who love back.

Is it a surprise then, when one looks at the earliest Christians and compare them to the earliest Muslims, a radical difference emerge? Christians in those days argue their points with words, not swords. Peter committed himself to preaching and ministry. Abu Bakr marched to war. Mark committed his life to writing and ministry. Umar marched to war. Ignatius committed himself to teaching and ministry, Uthman marched to war. the list goes on. To Ali. To Muawiyah. To Abdal Malik and so forth. We see a trail of blood from every Caliph that succeeded Muhammad.

There is a gaping hole in Islamic violence that Zakir has to reconcile with his faith. He has to show why such teaching of Jesus in the Bible is morally inferior to the teachings of the Qur’an and how the earliest Muslims practiced their beliefs. Unless and until he does that, it stands to show that he fails not only to give a credible polemic against Christianity, he also has no leg to stand on when his logic is used against Islam.

SOURCES

[1] Zacharias, Ravi. The End of Reason. Zondervan. Chapter 1. May 2008. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/end-of-reason-ravi-k-zacharias/1101956281?ean=9780310282518

[2] Sahih Muslim 2536.

[3] Retrieved April 4, 2015. http://www.qtafsir.com/

[4] Ibn Kathir.  The Order to fight People of the Scriptures until They give the Jizyah. Tafsir al-Qur’an al-’Adhim. Retrieved April 4, 2015. http://www.qtafsir.com/index2.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2567

[5] Sahih Muslim 2167. Retrieved April 4, 2015. http://sunnah.com/muslim/39/16

[6] The Most Authentic Books of Ahadith. Retrieved April 4, 2015. http://www.studying-islam.org/articletext.aspx?id=1325

[7] Luke 22:49-51. Retrieved April 4, 2015. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+22

[8] Matthew 26:52. Retrieved April 4, 2015. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+26&version=NIV

[9] Cherry Picking and Zakir Naik. How One’s Polemics against Christianity Banks on Willful Ignorance. Retrieved April 4, 2015. http://www.uyjulius.com/?p=1289

[10] Sahih Bukhari Volume 9 Hadith 17.  Retrieved April 4, 2015. http://sunnah.com/bukhari/87/17

NOTES

[a] The Torah is the first 5 books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Credit goes to my proofreader and reviewer – Frederick Choo.

 

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