At the end of our debate in California, Jalal Abualrub challenged me to another debate on Muslim historical methodology. I have since challenged Jalal to a lengthy, detailed debate on Muhammad, but he isn't interested in this topic and format. However, I know that Arabic Christian Perspective is looking for two debaters for some debates to be held in Michigan during a large Muslim rally sometime during the last week of June. I propose the following debate topics to Jalal:
(1) "Do Muslim Sources and Methodology Give Us the Truth about Muhammad?"
(2) "Do Christian Sources and Methodology Give Us the Truth about Jesus?"
These topics seem to coincide with Jalal's original challenge. I hope he's willing to participate. If so, I'll post the info here, and we can begin discussing a format.
Come, my Muslim friends. Let us debate one another, in the name of the truth.
>> (1) "Do Muslim Sources and Methodology Give Us the Truth about Muhammad?"
>> (2) "Do Christian Sources and Methodology Give Us the Truth about Jesus?"
The Christian methodology has been challenged to its limits over the centuries (and rightly so). Such a critical examination of islamic methodology is yet to happen. They have a methodology which they hold like a dogma and get offended when questioned. Where are those atheists who go to extreme lengths to look for a possible loophole in Christian methodologies? Why dont they talk about what the earliest orthodox islamic sources say? While islamic apologists try to use the criticism of these athesits (which christianity has faced quite well and has overcome), they do not seem to realize what will happen if the same atheists start applying the same kind of criticism on muhammad/islam.
What the muslims admit about the actions/teachings of Muhammad is enough to refute islam as an unauthentic religion which has nothing to do with the True God. This may be one of the reasons why much of effort has not been put in questioning the islamic methodology. Nevertheless, just as Christian methodologies are subject to criticism, so should islamic methodologies be. Looking at the islamic debates, it is clear that most islamic apologists what to 'survive' by use of rhetoric rather than genuine scholarship. They need to understand that they cannot survive long on mere rhetoric. For example, whatever be the topic of debate, they keep bringing up the issue of OT theocracy and killing of cananites. All they need to be told is that theocracy in OT was only in dealing with a specific group of people (ancient Israel) with a covenant with God (and never imposed on other people/nations by use of terrorizing/warfare as was the case with Muhammad/Caliphs). And we know the scope/applicability/context of God's judgment on cananites based on complete reading and teachings of the prophets of OT/NT and life/message/teachings of Jesus. Some muslims want to say that the atrocities, violence, use of force/warfare in imposing religious law on nations etc of Muhammad/Caliphs were applicable only to the times of Muhammad/Caliphs. But what is their basis?
Sunil, a lot of work has been already done on the issue of "historical Muhammad" in the Western literature. Although the conclusions may not be firm as yet, nevertheless, the progress is there. There is an Islamic website which deals with "Dated Texts Mentioning Prophet Muhammad From 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE". It has both the Muslim and non-Muslim accounts from the first Islamic century concerning Muhammad.
It is worth checking out some of the references mentioned there.
"Sunil, a lot of work has been already done on the issue of "historical Muhammad" in the Western literature."
Are you kidding? There has not been that much work done on the historical Muhammad compared to that of the historical Jesus. Islamic criticism is very bleak compared to biblical criticism.
You point out that there is a lot of western literature. Well it's true that virtually all of Islamic criticism has come primarily from the orientalists. When will Muslims themselves start taking this approach in large numbers as have many Christian biblical scholars?
ChristianJR4, I addressed the issue from the perspective of the Western scholarship. Surely, I was not "kidding" since you agree with me that the work has been done by Orientalists.
As for Islamic criticism, they have their own methodology based on isnad criticism and matn criticism of analyzing a report. The Islamic criticism may not conform to the modern biblical criticism in its totality, but it has its own uniqueness in dealing with issue. This has been recognized by Western scholars.
You said that Islamic criticism is "bleak" compared to biblical criticism. It is not clear how can one compare two different kinds of criticisms and call one "bleak" as opposed to other. There has to be a basis to bring both the criticisms on a baseline for comparison. Perhaps, you have something to share here. Just to give an example of what you referred to as "bleak", the collection of Islamic traditions based on isnad by hadith critic Ahmad ibn Hanbal's Musnad amounts to 50 volumes published between 1995-2001 in Beirut! And that is one man's effort. I am sure that no one can call that effort as "bleak"!
You said: When will Muslims themselves start taking this approach in large numbers as have many Christian biblical scholars? Well, you have not said as to why the Islamic criticism must be abandoned and the biblical criticism be accepted wholesale. You have to show that the former does not stand up to the scrutiny just like the latter. You have to give Muslims valid reason to abandon their form of criticism to accept the biblical criticism. If you have any, I will be happy to use it!
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