Debate Analysis: Muhammad in the Bible: Shabir Ally vs Anis Shorrosh

shabir ally vs anis shorrosh

In this special post, I’ll be analyzing a 2005 debate between Dr Shabir Ally and Dr Anis Shorrosh which took place in Glasgow, Scotland. It was the first debate between the two rivals.

The Debaters

Dr Shabir Ally is world-renowned Muslim scholar and debater, highly specialized in Christian-Muslim relations. He debated top shots Christians scholars including James White, David Wood, Jay Smith and many more.

Dr Anis Shorrosh, is no less respected in his field too. He was a Christian scholar and debater. Hailing from Palestine, borned in Nazareth, Dr Shorrosh published many books and even debated with Ahmad Deedat. He passed away 13th May 2018.

The Debate

Watch the full debate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FglOcwItac&t

The debate went pretty well without disruptions. A friendly tone is kept throughout the whole debate. Some of my preliminary remarks are first I think Shabir Ally is much more systematic in speaking out his argument, with cues and makes people able to follow his arguments well. Shorrosh on the other hand was quite messy in his arguments and, since in this debate Shabir is making the affirmative claim that Muhammad (pbuh) is in the Bible, naturally we would expect Shorrosh to immediately respond to Shabir in his reply, but instead Shorrosh talked about other things first rather than facing Shabir’s 5 cardinal arguments straight away.

I think Shabir slammed the debate here. The points he gave were strong and was able to defend his points. Shorrosh did gave strong arguments too, however, did not hold water when his arguments were dismantled by Shabir.

The debate starts at 8:00

Disclaimer

Not everything in the debate i was able to pinpoint the appropriate replies for each claim made by the debaters. i however only did my best trying to ease the reader to skim through the debate by pin-pointing the replies and claims.

First Round (starts with Shabir)

Shabir Ally

Shabir began by offering a book to Shorrosh as a piece of friendship (something I always liked about Shabir Ally).

Shabir made 5 cardinal arguments in favour of his motion.

  1. The first: Muhammad was the Prophet like Moses. (starts at 9:18)
    – cites Deuteronomy ch 18 v 14-19, the verses which predicts the coming of the Prophet who would be like Moses. (Christians also use this passage to prophecise Jesus. Shabir insists that it is referring to Muhammad.
    – Shabir cited William Wontgomery Watt, a historian an orientalist who wrote about the Sira of Muhammad to substantiate further that it is indeed Muhammad is the “prophet like Moses”
    – Shabir pointed out many similarities between Moses and Muhammad
    – for example, both are statesman and brought a new law. Moses brought the Torah, and Muhammad brought the Quran.
    – Shabir also cited from Christian scholars themselves (like James Dow) who acknowledged Muhammad to be similar to Moses.
    * I wish Shabir could also explain whether Joshua could be the possible prophet as the Jews claimed.*
    – Shabir also clarified the meaning of ‘bretheren’. The prophet will be among the bretheren of Moses followers, therefore it is necessary for Shabir, or anyone, to clarify who falls under the category of ‘bretheren’.
    – Shabir cited Harper’s Bible Dictionary page 246 to substantiate his claim that bretheren doesn’t only mean from the 12 tribes of Israel.
    – Shabir also wonderfully cited Deuteronomy 23:7 to say that Edomites are bretheren of the Israelites. They are brethren by the virtue of their forefathers being brothers. Similar in the case of Muhammad, whose forefather was Ishmael, the brother of the father of the Israelites, which is Jacob.

    (Shorrosh attempted to reply regarding the meaning of brethren in 1:05:36)
    (Shorrosh also attempted to demonstrate that Jesus was the prophet like Moses in 1:08:42)

  2. Second argument: Muhammad fulfills the promise God made in the Bible to Abraham and his son Ishmael. (starts at 13:12)
    – Shabir cited Genesis 17:20: the promise to make Ishmael a great nation.
    – the promise was fulfilled through the rise of Islam which saw the Arabs (descendants of Ishmael) being a great nation.
    – Shabir substantiate his arguments very well by citing rabbis and Shorrosh’s work himself that it was Islam that fulfills this covenant God made with Ishamel. This means that the prophethood of Muhammad is the fulfilment of the promise God made with Ishmael.

    (Shorrosh touched on this point later at 1:03:12, but somehow his statements kind of only strengthen Shabir’s point)
  3. Third argument: Muhammad is that person who is being described in Songs of Solomon ch 5 v 16. (starts at 14:34)
    – Shabir argues that the book Songs of Solomon is describing the love between God and man not sexual love, while he cited Jacob Newser, a Jewish commentator, from the Bible of Judaism Library Series.
    – Shabir also quoted a Christian source, the Church Bible Series, saying that the book Songs of Solomon is describing the love between Christ and his church. Also quoted Roger Ellsworth.
    – Shabir says it is possible to view that the book is talking about the love between Muhammad and his ummah.
    – Shabir also talked about the phrase “he is altogether lovely” from chapter 5:16 is translated from the Hebrew root H-M-D. The phrase, when read by a Jew, will sound “muhammadim”
    – people of muhammad are calling on the people of Jerusalem to recognise Muhammad as the desirable to want to have him.

    (Shorrosh attempted to reply regarding the function of the Songs of Solomon at second round at 1:49:35)

    The three points above talked about the reference of Muhammad in the Old Testament. What I found interesting is that Shabir didn’t use Isaiah 42 as a point to claim that Muhammad in the Bible. Isaiah 42 is often used by other Muslims apologists to argue Ahmad is mentioned by name in the Bible and the chapter is referring to Muhammad. I would really like to know why.
  4. Fouth Argument, moving on to the New Testament: Expectation of the Prophet. (starts at 19:50)
    – Shabir pointed out John 1:19 to say that the Jews were waiting for three figures: Elijah, the Messiah, and the Prophet (not just any prophet). Jesus denied he was the Prophet and said the was the Messiah.
    – Shabir utilised Raymond Brown, an American Catholic scholar who said that the Prophet in John 1:19 is the “Prophet like Moses” in Deuteronomy 18:15, as in Shabir’s first argument.
    – Shabir then continued to introduce Raymond Brown to show his authority on Gospel of John. Raymond Brown wrote a two-volume commentary on the Gospel of John.
    – Shabir argued that the expected Prophet would be a temporal ruler. Jesus was not a temporal ruler.
    – The Qumran or Essenes were waiting for three figures: Elijah, the Messiah, and the Prophet.
    – 1 Maccabees 4:41-50 – the prophet who could solve legal problems.
    – Shabir also argued that the prophet won’t come from Galilee. Jesus cannot be the prophet since he came from Galilee.
    – Acts 3:22 and forward: Jesus remains in heaven until the restoration occur, when God will give you that prophet He promised.
    – Shabir also discussed the possibility that the second coming of Jesus may be the prophecy of the Prophet. Shabir argued against this point and said that it was not possible.

    (Shorrosh didn’t touch on this point at all)

  5. Fifth Argument: Muhammad is the Paraclete (greek word) in John chapters 15 and 16, if read as earlier word of Jesus than chapter 14. (starts at 25:34) ( I think this is the best part, a must watch)
    – Shabir thoroughly discusses the meaning of Paraclete. Shabir cited Bernard Anderson, Harper’s Bible Dictioary 1985 Edition, Exodus 7:1, Raymond Brown, and Stephen Byington to establish the meaning of the Greek word Paraclete as ‘prophet’.
    – Shabir discusses in detail why chapter 15, 16 and 17 should be read as earlier chapters than chapter 14 of the Gospel of John.
    – 36:15 Must watch: Shabir Ally discusses that Christians usually cite John 14 to say that the Paraclete is the Holy Spirit, while Muslims cite chapter 16 to say that the Paraclete is a human being. Shabir Ally beautifully justifies the Muslim view.
    – Shabir Ally then discusses whtehr John 14:26 could really be the Holy Spirit. The verse, Shabir argues, only say ‘spirit’ not ‘holy spirit’; the spirit supposed to mean metaphorically as spirit of truth.
    – Christian scholars like ( i don’t know the real spellings of these people’s name, I just write them because i cannot identify them) Spira, Della Fauci, Windish, Sassei, Bultmann, and Betts have doubted whether the identification of holy spirit in John 14:26 is true, and have suggested the Paraclete was once an independent salvific figure later confused with the Holy Spirit.

(44:57) Shabir concluded his arguments by re-mentioning them. Shabir also cited the United Church of Canada saying that Muhammad followed the Prophetic tradition.

Anis Shorrosh

Shorrosh’s turn (starts at 47:41), however none of his first point is in reply to any of Shabir’s 5 points.

The first few minutes are inaudible. Shorrosh also gave a present to Shabir. The speech is audible starting from 49:09.
-Shorrosh believes the Quran plagiarised the Old and New Testament, and also other paganistic sources.
– Shorrosh believes the Bible to be the inerrant, inspired and infallible in its original language.
– (52:37) Shorrosh quoted verse 7:157 of the Quran, the command to follow the ummiy prophet. Shorrosh provoked “Have you ever wondered why the Quran never used the word Gospels, plural?”
– Shorrosh then begin to analyse the meaning of the word “ummiy” citing famous Quran translators. He concluded that the word “ummiy” simply means non-Jew. The context doesn’t allow for the meaning of “illiterate”.
– He then questioned how could Muhammad know the Hebrew scripture (when changing the qibla incident) if the only language he ever knew was Arabic. I personally see this as a weakness in Shorrosh’s argument.There are too many unwarranted assumptions in this question, one of them is Muhammad had to know Hebrew to understand the religion of the Jews.
– Shorrosh went on to substantiate the claim that Muhammad plagiarized the Old and New Testaments by pointing out the fact that the Quran contains Biblical stories already told in the Hebrew Bible. Most of these biblical stories began to appear when Muhammad resided in Medina year 622-632.

(56:37) The word “prophet”
– Verse 45:16 quoted to show that prophethood must only be from the descendants of Israel. He also quoted Quran 29:27. Prophethood is limited to the descendants of Abraham through the line of Isaac. Genesis 17:17, John 4:22
– Ishmael wasn’t a prophet. Quoted verse 19:54 of the Quran. Genesis 16:11-12;
– Quran 34:43-44; no warner sent to the Arabs. Shorrosh said that this is a contradiction. Ishmael is prophet in surah 19:54 but in surah 34:44 it is said that the Arabs didn’t have a prophet before Muhammad. Also, Quran 32:3 which says no warner before Muhammad.
– Prophet of God talked with God. Muhammad didn’t.

(Shabir responded to this and rest of the section at 1:34:45)

– (1:02:35) The Muslim shahada doesnt acknowledge Muhammad as a prophet.
– no one ever saw the angel Gabriel.
– Prophet Muhammad didn’t do miracles.- the hadith cannot be verified because it surfaced 250 years after the death of the Prophet.

(1:03:12) Has God blessed Ishmael and the Arabs as He promised?
– God has fulfilled Gen 17:20
– Arab population frutiful, Twelve nations, became a great nation, massive oil reserves.

Meaning of “Your brethren” in Deuteronomy 18:15-19 (1:05:36) (In response to Shabir at 9:18 onwards) (Shabir gave back an excellent reply at 1:29:55)
– Judges 20:13, Numbers 8:26- “brethren” refers to one of the 12 tribes of Israel.
– The king should be one among your brethren (Deuteronomy 17:15)
– “from your midst” in verse 15, but there were no Arabs among the Jews.
– Joktan preceeded Ishmael to be an Arab. (Shabir dealt with it after 1:30:57)
– An ishmaelite should be automatically be disqualified.

(1:08:42) “the prophet like Moses”
-Shorrosh makes a long list of similartities between Moses and Jesus.
(Shabir replied 1:32:04)

– (1:17:05) Jesus identifying himself as the one who Moses spoke. – John 5:46. “Hear him” Matthew 17:5. (Dealt by Shabir at 1:36:39)
– Surface similarities between Moses and Muhammad. both were lawgivers, rejected by their own people, the conquer of Palestine after their deaths by their followers does not qualify Muhammad as the prophet like moses. (why???)

Muhammmad didn’t only know Arabic (1:18:54)
– How Muhammad commmunicate with the Jews when he doesn’t understand Hebrew? Medina was 90% Jewish.
– He may have known Hebrew. (Shabir replied at 1:39:35)
– Why does the Quran refer to the People of the Book 200 times?
– Waraqah bin Naufal taught Muhammad Hebrew for 15 years after marrying Khadijah. Muhammad became an aristocrat of Mecca, Ibn Hisham v1 p174, he was able to spend one month a year at he Hira Cave studying with Waraqah bin Naufal, Waraqah was the bishop of the historian church in Mecca as well as the uncle of Khadija and he was grooming Muhammad to be his successor. Waraqah also prepared their wedding ceremony v1 p155, 363 of sira al halabiyah. Muhammad became one of the Hanafites.
– Waraqah translated a forgery of a gospel by a jew called the gospel of matthew.
– Muhammad could have easily leanrt Hebrew.
– The Quran hardly gives a continuous story. – the quran was developed.

(Shabir responded at 1:40:34 and 1:41:04)

Can Muhammad be considered the holy spirit or the comforter? (1:22:55)
– Quran 61:6
– John 14:16-17, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7
– Paracletos (holy spirit) meaning: helper, counselor, advocate, and comforter. Not Paracletos, meaning ‘praised one’ or ahmad.
– Ahmad is not muhammad. Muslims began to use the name Ahmad 150 years after Muhammad.
– Jesus was also the comforter John 14:18, “it dwells with you” John 1:32. Acts 2. the comforter will be in you. Muhammad did not live in the disciples hearts.
– non-biblical meaning of the text by the muslims.

(Shabir replied 1:41:54)

Second Round

Shabir Ally

Shabir’s turn: (1:28:10)
– Mention back his 5 points. Evaluated how Shorrosh dealt with it. He only dealt with two.

(1:29:55) the meaning of ‘brethren’. (in response to Shorrosh 1:05:36)
– none of the passages quoted by Shorrosh means only another Israelite tribe although brethren means coming from another tribe.
– brethren could be expanded wider.
(1:30:24) Deuteronomy 17:15
– Shabir mentioned that the verse is talking about a king, and not a prophet.
– What is specified there (the term ‘brethren’) does not have to be extended everywhere.
– The verse doesn’t even mention “Israelite”.
(1:30:57) Shabir restated the fact he shown that Edomites were brethren of the Israelites by virtue of the fact that forefathers were brothers of each other. Similar thing goes to Ishmaelites and Israelites.

-“Ishmael is not the only father to the Arabs”, not necessary to the argument. Ishmael is the forefather of Muhammad therefore Muhammad brethren of the Israelites. Shabir quoted Dr Shorrosh himself to substantiate that Muhammad was an Ishmaelite.

(1:31:37) In response to “Jesus has been identified in the NT as that prophet like Moses” (1:17:05)
– Muhammad fulfills much more and other indications in NT (Acts 3) Jesus did not meet the qualifications.

(1:32:04) Similarity between Jesus and Moses. (Response to Shorrosh at 1:08:42)
– Shorrosh was quoting the writer who was deliberately trying to make Jesus same as Moses. Widely accepted in Biblical scholarship.
– Read any intro of to Gospel of Matthew. It will say that Matthew deliberately have styled so.
– Shabir gave a great example of this.
– The similarity with Moses should be focused on the essential features. Muhammad and Moses were both statesmen and brought a new commandment. Jesus only came to fulfill the law. James Dow said Muhamamad was the only prophet like Moses.

(1:34:29) Shabir told he will deal with Shorrosh’ claim that Jesus’ tomb is empty (i can’t find where Shorrosh talked about this) and he reappeared to his disciples. Shabir however didn’t deal with it. Maybe he forgot or something, but it doesn’t really matter because it is already running from the topic.

(1:34:45) Shabir dealing with the 3 factors of prophethood made by Shorrosh (1:02:35).
– the Prophet of God talked directly to God. Shabir replied: ancient Jewish commentaries like the Cyprian Deu, “talking with God” is excluded. The Holy Spirit will come to his mouth “I will put my words in his mouth”
– Was Muhammad a mediator? Yes. God does not need a mediator in fact.
– Miracle of Muhammad? The Quran itself. Shabir remarked that physical eyewitness miracles might be denied. The Quran is a different kind of miracle which will stand the test of time.

(1:36:39) Shabir replied to Shorrohs’s claim that Moses wrote about Jesus. It would have been impossible for Moses to write about Jesus, because the Torah was written after Moses’s death. However, i find the answer to be unsatisfactory because none of the Torah would be from Moses using Shabir’s logic. Somehow, Shabir failed to explain this part clearly.

(1:37:10) Muhammad died while Jesus is alive. Does this prove anything?- Answered by Shabir.

(1:37:38) “Jesus son of God” claimed by Shabir to be a ‘later understanding’. If it was true, people would have not doubted and tried to kill Jesus. It is not history memorized but rather, prophecy historicized.

(1:39:35) Shabir Ally answered “how could Muhammad be a prophet for Jews if he spoke only Arabic?”|
– “in your midst” in Deuteronomy 18 does not necessarily mean the group that have passed away.
– Muhammad’s message reached through translation or the Jews also knew Arabic.

(1:40:30) Did Muhammad learnt the Bible from the Jews and then wrote the Quran?
– Muhammad was no doubt intellligent
– Muhammad didn’t read or write. The Quran itself insisted this. (I’ve heard about the verse, but I wish Shabir would point out the verse nevertheless.
– People wrote the Quran for Muhammad.

(1:41:04) Did Muhammad learn from Waraqa?
– Shabir said Shorrosh was merely supposing things, and many things can be supposed.
– Shabir quoted Bart Ehrman ” one has to have real facts and evidence”.
– you cannot quote Sirah al halawiyah but you need to go back to the original docs.

(1:41:54) (in response to Shorrosh 1:22:55) Paracletus. Shabir didn’t talk about Paracletos, he talked about Paracletus. At this point, Shorrosh is only making strawman by saying that Shabir is talking about Paracletos when he in fact is talking about Paracletus. Paracletus means ‘prophet’, as discussed earlier by Shabir in the first round.
– Shabir didn’t talk about Paracletus in Chapter 14 of John. Told Shorrosh to deal with chapter 15 and 16 and read earlier to chapter 14.

(Shorrosh straight away replied at 1:45:30)

(1:43:05) Shabir reconcluded his points. Prophet Muhammad fulfills the expectation of Ishmael. “Rise of Islam” fulfilled according to Dr Shorrosh.

(1:43:59) Shabir dealt with the Shorrosh’s claim that Muhammad was ‘sent to a people to whom no warner has come’.
– Quran didn’t borrow the Bible but improved the bible.

(1:44:45) Shabir answers the contention how can the bible be corrupted but still work as evidence?

Anis Shorrosh

Shorrosh’s turn (1:45:30)
-Shorrosh (in response to Shabir 1:41:54) dealt straight away with Paracletus. He explained how the Paraclete could not have been Muhammad because the Paracelete was the third person of the trinity (Matthew 28:18), Inspirer of scripture (Peter1:21, John 16:7, 16:9-11), seal of gods, holy spirit.

(1:47:05) Shorrosh claimed that the Holy spirit of the Quran to be confusing. It is God’s breath (15:29), the angel Gabriel (19:17), and divine inspiration (16:2)

(1:47:42) Quran 61:6- Ahmad “praised one”. Shorrosh claimed this to be interpolation. He talked about the yemenite Scrolls 1972. A 30 years study by the Atlantic Monthly revealed that the Quran was developed over the centuries. The name Ahmad was therefore a “self-fulfilled prophecy”.

(Shabir replied at 2:03:38)

(1:49:35) Songs of Solomon was used for marriage, nothing to do with Mecca, nothing to do with Muhammad.

(1:50:41) Jesus was both prophet and messiah and also spirit of Elijah.
– Acts 1:8- Holy Spirit.

(1:52:16) God can change his mind, and a prophet can make god change his mind. Moses pleaded with God, and he was a true mediator between his people and God.

(1:53:41) Jesus recognised in Psalms 2. It is not about David but about Jesus.

(1:56:04) Meaning of “in your midst”.

(1:56:31) “the refreshing from heaven”. – Peter was talking about the secind coming of Jesus, not paraclete as Shabir claimed.

(1:57:53) Sorrrosh questioned Shabir ability to judge the bible. How could he know what is written here and what is written there. The bible was written by eyewitnesses. The Gospel of John is a trustworthy one. john outlived everybody. He testified as a eyewitness. He has no reason to lie. God forbids adding anything to the Bible.

(2:00:23) Shorrosh made an iconic presentation asking the audience rhetorically is it possible to accept that these two books (the Quran and bible) claimed to be by God, yet they contradict each other?

Conclusion

Shabir’s conclusion (2:01:42),
– Shabir dealt with the contention that the prophet need to be from Israeiltes.
– Messenger is a prophet.

– (Response to Shorrosh in 1:45:30) Shorrosh claimed that the holy spirit is God, therefore, the holy spirit cannot be Muhammad. but this has never been his point. The holy spirit of chapter 14 is a later rendition of Jesus saying. The original syaing is Chapter 15 and 16. the Paraclete in chapter 15 and 16 cannot be God because a male pronoun is used, which cannot be used for the holy spirit. and a salvific figure is implied in the chapter 15 and 16.
– Shabir also dealt with the confusion of the holy spirit. He said it was a mystery just as how the Bible talks about the holy spirit- something mystery.

(2:03:38) (In response to Shorrosh at 1:47:42)Regarding verse 61:6. Ahmad is not an interpolation by any reputable scholar that he is aware of. It is not even in the Atlantic Monthly. Shorrosh is really exposed here. The Yemeennite scrolls is something exciting to the Muslims.

-The Songs of Solomon is not a sexual love poem as claimed by Shorrosh. Shabir gave his evidences

-Shabir reemphasised his 5 points.

Shorrosh’s conclusion (2:06:16)
– Shorrosh cited few verses from the Bible substantiating that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophet being prophecised.

QnA session

The next session was followed by a QnA session where the audience ask their questions to the debaters.

Some thoughts…

There are things i am kind of frustrated with the debate, especially the fact that some of the points made were not systematic and organised. I appreciate Shabir’s ability to organise his ideas and state his points in a clear way. I think Shabir Ally deserve some congratulations for being able to defend his points well. The 5 points shook me and made me believe that they do hold water.

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