I continue with my critique of the inconsistent and deceptive tactics employed by Shabir Ally in his debates, particular in the one he had with the late Dr. Nabeel Qureshi https://answeringallah.com/a-critique-of-shabir-allys-debate-tactics-pt-2b/.
An Eternal Prayer? The Dilemma of Surah al-Fatiha
The opening chapter of the Islamic scripture is a prayer praising and invoking the Muslim deity:
In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists). The Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. The Only Owner (and the Only Ruling Judge) of the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection) You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything). Guide us to the Straight Way The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians). S. 1:1-7 Hilali-Khan
As we highlighted in the previous section, the Quran is believed to be the uncreated speech/word of Allah. Since this surah is a part of that uncreated Quran, this means that this is a prayer that has eternally existed. As such, this now raises a few questions that Shabir Ally and other sunni Muslims need to answer.
Seeing that this is an eternal prayer, one in which the Islamic deity is both praised and invoked, who could possibly be praying this at a point in which creation didn’t even exist?
The answer seems obvious. Since Allah is the only being who existed before creation then this must mean that he was the one praising and invoking himself. This is further confirmed by the fact that this surah is a part of his own speech/word, and therefore must be something that he uttered within himself and to himself.
However, do Muslims really want to accept the fact that their god was not only praising and worshiping himself, but was also asking himself to guide himself on the straight path, so as to avoid the path of those who would earn his wrath or that have gone astray? Does that even make sense?
Or should we assume that it is the Quran itself that is praying to Allah? After all, as we saw in pt. 2b, the Islamic tradition describes the Muslim book as a living, conscious being that is able to interact with and speak to Allah. But this raises the same kind of problems. Why would the Quran need to be guided on the straight path when it is one of the essential attributes of Allah, and can therefore never be severed from him?
In fact, why would Allah’s eternal speech even need to be worshiping Allah if it is nothing other than Allah’s own words? Doesn’t this further prove that the Quran is a distinct and separate being that possesses a mind and will of its own?
If, however, a Muslim wants to argue that this prayer was composed with believers in mind, meaning that this is meant to be an invocation which Muslims would eventually pray once Allah had brought creation into existence, then this also raises more problems. This either means that Allah had predestined that there would be believers and unbelievers, since this surah has people praying not to be like those who are misguided or under Allah’s wrath. This, therefore, presupposes that Allah deliberately created disbelievers for the express purpose of making this eternal prayer a reality. As such, these individuals had no choice in the matter since their lives had already been mapped out beforehand.
Or a Muslim may argue that it wasn’t Allah who predestined some to disbelief, but rather Allah already knew in advance that there would be those who would choose not believe. Yet this view means that Allah’s speech is shaped by and dependent upon the choices and actions of creatures, which means that these beings had to necessarily exist. Therefore, Allah wasn’t free to create whomever he willed, but was forced to create a certain group of people whom he knew would do everything the Quran said they would end up doing. Otherwise, this means that the Quran could be falsified if these beings did not exist to say and do what the Islamic scripture envisioned them saying and doing.
Hence, Allah had no choice but to create these free will agents in order to prevent his speech from turning out to be mistaken, which in turn would prove that there is a defect in the knowledge of Allah. This would further mean that the Muslim deity is not sovereign over creation, since finite creatures have the capacity of falsifying what he knows (or thought he knew) would come to pass, and preventing the things which the Quran envisioned would occur from ever taking place.
We will leave it to Shabir Ally to answer these objections and clean up all this mess caused by erroneously believing that the Quran is the uncreated speech of his god.
The Holy Spirit: Allah’s Co-Creator and Life-Giver
The Quran identifies another being that is fully divine and yet subordinate to Allah, one who even has the ability to manifest himself in human form.
According to the Islamic scripture, the Spirit of Allah, also called the Holy Spirit, is a divine being who creates and gives life in the exact same fashion that the Muslim deity does. In fact, it was Allah’s Spirit who appeared to the blessed mother of Christ as a man in order to announce to her that he had come to cause her to miraculously conceive her son without the need for sexual intercourse:
And mention in the Book Mary when she withdrew from her people to an eastern place, and she took a veil apart from them; then We sent unto her Our Spirit (Ruhana) that presented himself to her a man without fault. She said, ‘I take refuge in the All-merciful from thee! If thou fearest God … He said, ‘I am but a messenger come from thy Lord, to give (li-ahaba) thee a boy most pure. She said, ‘How shall I have a son whom no mortal has touched, neither have I been unchaste?’ He said, ‘Even so thy Lord has said: “Easy is that for Me; and that We may appoint him a sign unto men and a mercy from Us; it is a thing decreed.”‘ S. 19:16-21 Arberry
Note here that the Spirit appears as a man, communicates with Mary, refers to himself as an apostle/messenger of Allah, and tells the mother of Christ that he shall personally give her a pure, faultless son.
The Arabic word for “give” (ahaba) means to give/grant/bestow/present etc., just as the following lexical source confirms:
Waw-ha-Ba = to give/grant/bestow, dedicate, offer as a present/gift.
Wahaba (prf. 3rd. p. m. sing.): Has granted etc.
Wahabat (prf. 3rd. p. f sing.): She dedicated, offered.
Wahabnaa (prf 1st. p. plu.): We granted.
Yahabu (imp. 3rd. p. m. sing.): He grants.
Ahabu (imp. 1st. sing.): I give. Hab (prt. m. sing.): Bestow.
Al-Wahhaab (n. ints.): The most liberal bestower. One of the names of Allah.
(1) perf. act. 6:84, 14:39, 19:49, 19:50, 19:53, 21:72, 21:90, 26:21, 29:27, 33:50, 38:30, 38:43
impf. act. 19:19, 42:49, 42:49
impv. 3:8, 3:38, 19:5, 25:74, 26:83, 37:100, 38:35
wahhab n.m. 3:8, 38:9, 38:35
Lane’s Lexicon, Volume 8, pages: 222, 223 (Project Root List: http://www.studyquran.co.uk/25_WAW.htm)
And here a few examples from the Quran itself where this verb is used in respect to Allah granting offspring to specific individuals:
Then Zachariah prayed to his Lord saying, ‘Lord, give me (hab) of Thy goodness a goodly offspring. Yea, Thou hearest prayer.’ S. 3:38 – cf. Q. 19:5-6; 21:90
And We gave (Wa’wahabna) to him Isaac and Jacob — each one We guided, And Noah We guided before; and of his seed David and Solomon, Job and Joseph, Moses and Aaron — even so We recompense the good-doers — S. 6:84 – cf. Q. 14:39; 19:49-50; 21:72; 29:27
And We gave (Wa’wahabna) unto David Solomon; how excellent a servant he was! He was a penitent. S. 38:30
Remember also Our servant Job; when he called to his Lord, ‘Behold, Satan has visited me with weariness and chastisement.’ ‘Stamp thy foot! This is a laving-place cool, and a drink.’ And We gave (Wa’wahabna) to him his family, and the like of them with them, as a mercy from us, and a reminder unto men possessed of minds; and, ‘Take in thy hand a bundle of rushes, and strike therewith, and do not fail in thy oath.’ Surely We found him a steadfast man. How excellent a servant he was! He was a penitent. S. 38:41-44
To God belongs the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth; He creates what He will; He gives (yahabu) to whom He will females, and He gives (wa’yahabu) to whom He will males. S. 42:49
We are even told elsewhere in the Islamic scripture how the Spirit caused Mary to conceive:
And Mary, Imran’s daughter, who guarded her virginity, so We breathed into her of Our Spirit, and she confirmed the Words of her Lord and His Books, and became one of the obedient. S. 66:12 – cf. Q. 21:91
Allah breathed his Spirit into Mary’s body with the obvious purpose of causing her to get pregnant with her blessed and glorious Son.
This isn’t the only time that the Spirit was breathed out by Allah in order to create and give life:
And when thy Lord said to the angels, ‘See, I am creating a mortal of a clay of mud moulded. When I have shaped him, and breathed My spirit in him, fall you down, bowing before him!’ S. 15:28-29 – Q. 32:9; 38:71-72
Allah breathed forth the Spirit into Adam when he was still clay in order to animate his body, thereby causing him to become a living being.
Not only does this expressly identify the Spirit is as a co-creator with the Muslim deity, it further affirms that the Holy Spirit is not a creature but an eternal and inseparable aspect of Allah’s very own being. The fact that the Quran describes Allah breathing out his Spirit shows that the Holy Spirit originates from Allah himself, and is therefore not a part of creation. As such, the Spirit must be eternal since nothing that is a part of, and which originates from, Allah’s own being can be said to be created.
The Holy Spirit is said to have strengthened Jesus:
And We gave to Moses the Book, and after him sent succeeding Messengers; and We gave Jesus son of Mary the clear signs, and confirmed him (wa’ayyadnahu) with the Holy Spirit; and whensoever there came to you a Messenger with that your souls had not desire for, did you become arrogant, and some cry lies to, and some slay? S. 2:87 – cf. Q. 2:253; 5:110
In fact, this is the same Spirit that comes from Allah who also strengthens all true believers wherever they may be:
Thou shalt not find any people who believe in God and the Last Day who are loving to anyone who opposes. God and His Messenger, not though they were their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or their clan. Those — He has written faith upon their hearts, and He has confirmed them (wa’ayyadahum) with a Spirit from Himself (biroohin minhu); and He shall admit them into gardens underneath which rivers flow, therein to dwell forever, God being well-pleased with them, and they well-pleased with Him. Those are God’s party; why, surely God’s party — they are the prosperers. S. 58:22
However, in order for the Spirit to be able to strengthen all the faithful, no matter how numerous, and no matter where they happen to be, the Holy Spirit must be omnipotent and omnipresent, as well as omniscient. And yet the only way that the Spirit can possess such qualities is if he is truly divine, since God alone is all-knowing, all-powerful and ever-present.
This explains why the late Quranic translator Abdullah Yusuf Ali could say that the Holy Spirit is not only divine, but also beyond human comprehension:
… Cf. ii 87 and 253, where it is said that God strengthened the Prophet Jesus with the holy spirit. Here we learn that all good and righteous men are strengthened by God with the holy spirit. If anything, the phrase used here is stronger, ‘a spirit from Himself’. Whenever any one offers his heart in faith and purity to God, God accepts it, engraves that faith on the seeker’s heart, and further fortifies him with the Divine Spirit, which we can no more define adequately than we can define in human language the nature of God. (Ali, The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 1518, fn. 5365; bold emphasis mine)
Ali clearly saw that the Quran’s depiction of the Holy Spirit meant that Allah’s Spirit had to be fully divine, and essentially one with the Muslim deity.
Yusuf Ali wasn’t the only one since the Ahmadiyya scholar and Quranic translator Maulana Muhammad Ali stated something similar in reference to Q. 15:29:
29a. This shows that man is made complete when the Divine spirit is breathed into him. It should be noted that the Divine spirit (Ar. ruh) does not mean here the animal soul in man, but the Spirit of Allah, that gives him perfection. (Source: http://www.muslim.org/english-quran/ch015.pdf; bold and underline emphasis mine)
And here is what he wrote with respect to Q. 32:9:
9a. This verse shows that the spirit of God is breathed into every man. This points to a mystical relation between human nature and Divine nature. The word ruh does not here mean the animal soul, because the animal soul is common to man and the animal kingdom. It is something that distinguishes man from the animal world. It is due to the spirit Divine that he rules creation and its due to the same Divine spirit in him that he receives a new life after death – a life which he lives in God and with God – the meeting with God or liqa Allah, as it is called in v. 10. (Source: http://www.muslim.org/english-quran/ch032.pdf; bold and underline emphasis mine)
It is obvious that both Alis could see from the Quran’s depiction of the Holy Spirit that he is no mere created entity.
Now some Muslims may object and argue that the Holy Spirit is none other than the angel Gabriel. There are two major problems with this assertion.
First, the Quran on several occasions distinguishes the Spirit from all of the angels, thereby proving that the Spirit is not an angelic being:
By his own behest will He cause the angels to descend WITH the Spirit on whom he pleaseth among his servants, bidding them, “Warn that there is no God but me; therefore fear me. S. 16:2 Rodwell
(Whereby) the angels AND the Spirit ascend unto Him in a Day whereof the span is fifty thousand years. S. 70:4 Pickthall
On the day when the angels AND the Spirit stand arrayed, they speak not, saving him whom the Beneficent alloweth and who speaketh right. S. 78:38 Pickthall
The angels AND the Spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees. S. 97:4 Pickthall
Second, here is the response Muhammad gave when he was asked about the Spirit’s identity:
And they ask you (O Muhammad) concerning the Ruh (the Spirit); Say: “The Ruh (the Spirit): it is one of the things, the knowledge of which is only with my Lord. And of knowledge, you (mankind) have been given only a little.” S. 17:85 Hilali-Khan
This was the perfect place for Muhammad to have come right out and stated that the Spirit is none other than angel Gabriel. However, instead of identifying the Spirit as Gabriel, Muhammad plainly admitted that his and mankind’s knowledge of the Spirit was limited, thereby showing that he did not think for a moment that the Spirit was some created angelic being.
The fact is that the Muslim scripture describes the Spirit, not as some creature, but as the eternal breath of Allah who, though subordinate and subject to the Islamic deity, is nonetheless fully divine since he is depicted as creator and life-giver, who is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. The Spirit is even described as a personal being, one that appears to and communicates with others, and who has the ability to take on human nature and manifest as a man.
In light of the foregoing, what more could the Quran say to confirm that the Holy Spirit is God and one with the Islamic deity?
With the foregoing in view we now turn Ally’s very objection to Qureshi against him:
Ok, if the Holy Spirit is God and the Holy Spirit speaks, does that make the Spirit’s word also somehow God? So now you have a different problem to explain here, and that is what you are pointing to as a Christian 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 you explain that they are three and yet one?
Lord Jesus willing, I’ll have more to say about Ally’s dishonest and inconsistent debating tricks in future posts.