Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tony Costa vs. Bassam Zawadi: "Was Muhammad Assured of His Salvation?"

You don't want to miss this one. Tony and Bassam are two of the best debaters out there, and this is definitely an interesting topic. On a different note, I know both of them and I think they'll get along quite well if they hang out for a while. I suspect Tony and Bassam will become good friends (provided Bassam continues to reinterpret Qur'an 5:51!). For those of us who can't be there, I'll post videos here as soon as they're available.


Sam said...

Dave, I think you are being way too kind to classify Bassam as one of the best apologists since he is far from being that. He maybe better than Nadir and Osama, but that is not saying much. Tony Costa, on the other hand, is one of our best in exposing Islam and affirming the truth of Christianity by the grace of the Lord Jesus. I expect that it will be an easy victory for him since he has the truth of Christ on his side whereas Bassam is forced to defend a lie.

David Wood said...

I agree that Bassam is forced to defend a lie, and that he is therefore at a disadvantage. With that said, can you name me some better Muslim debaters? I would say that Shabir is the best, because (a) he's a great presenter with tons of experience, (b) he's faced some of our top debaters, and (c) he at least attempts to deal with Biblical scholarship. Compare this with, say, Zakir Naik, who relies completely on rhetoric with no substance whatsoever, and who has never faced a respected Christian debater. Shabir's only downsides are that he won't defend Muhammad, and that he doesn't usually answer an opponent's objections. (He only pretends that he's answered them.)

Now for Bassam. He's able to stay organized throughout a debate (which is one of the main requirements for being a debater), he's okay as a presenter (but not as good as Shabir), and he attempts to deal with scholarship. Unlike Shabir, Bassam does try to answer an opponent's objections, and he's willing to defend Muhammad. Apart from this, one interesting feature of Bassam is that he hasn't reached his peak yet. In other words, Zakir Naik, Shabir Ally, and Jamal Badawi have already given us their best. Naik and Badawi are on their way out the door. But Bassam is still improving, so I don't think we've seen his best yet.

I think Bassam will be a good match for Tony, given the topic. I think Tony would crush him on certain other topics, but I suspect Bassam will do well on this one.

minoria said...

I have heard Bassam and as a presenter he is as good as Shabir.I think better since he doesn't go off topiclike Shabir.

Zakir Naik is no debater,it is not a language problem.He seems to have some difficulty with English but the problem is how he organizes his ideas.


He is not well-known but smart and sincere.You remember the Mary Sharp vs Gulam debate and the Ali Ataie vs Wood debate on Mohammed?

GLORTHAC made videos answering the arguments of ATAIE and GULAM.Check out this guy,he's smart:


There was a debate about “Did JESUS DIE on the CROSS?” between MARY JO SHARP and EHTESHAMM GULAM.Mr. GLORTHAC has made 4 videos answering the affirmations made by GULAM:


And MARY JO SHARP’s website is:


It was “Who was Muhammad?”.He made 6 videos answering ALI ATAIE’s affirmations:


Sam said...

Well, Dave, when you put it that way then yes he is one of Islam's best... but that is because Islam doesn't have too many outstanding apologists. In light of that it is easy to see why Bassam would be considered one of Islam's best when most of the debaters are mediocre. Not a very high compliment of you ask me.

Now when you say that William Lane Craig is the best Christian apologist or that Tony is one of our finest that would be high praise indeed since Christianity has tons of outstanding and brilliant apologists, debaters and theologians.

Zack_Tiang said...

I look forward to another debate by Tony Costa. =D

Wish for more from Dr William Lane Craig and Dr James White as well.

Bartimaeus said...

I am looking forward to this debate. I have not heard Bassam debate but I have heard Tony debate a number of times. I have heard Tony debate Shabir. But how many time can yu step on an ant before you kill it. We should pray that in Tony's presentation the Gosepel will be clearly presented and the soveriegn Lord will be drawing his elect to Himself.

Haecceitas said...

I like fun but somewhat useless lists, so here's my top 5 of Muslim apologists.

1. Shabir Ally
Experienced, knowledgeable, good orator, and great tactical skill in debate.

2. Bassam Zadawi
David summed up well why Bassam takes the 2nd place.

3. Farhan Qureshi
Very honest and fair in his approach. Genuinely interested in seeing the opponent's perspective. Doesn't usually fall for the really poor arguments that some Muslim apologists use. Is able to deliver all of his points in a short time and usually has time to spare. :-)

4. Ali Ataie
Probably the best Muslim debater in terms of rhetorical skills. Isn't always bad on the substance either (by Muslim standards).

5. Abdullah al-Andalusi
Has better than average (among Muslim apologists) grasp of Christian theology and scripture. Tries to be logical and consistent (even though doesn't always succeed).

Bartimaeus said...

Returned from the debate between Tony and Bassam. The debate went very well and I think Tiny proved his case. I must admit that Bassam is good and certianly better than anybody I heard in Dearborn. I have got a recording and David I can try to send you the fills if you would like.

leviMichael said...

i wonder why the "H" in "Him" (refering to muhammad) is in capital letter...

kinda like when we use "Him" to refer to Jesus because He is God, the Son..

Fisher said...

Having just come back from the debate (I was there helping out by operating one of the video cameras) it would appear that the answer to the debate question seems to be both yes and no, because apparently there were times when he did, and other times when he didn't! Go figure...

Anybody who may want to see photos of the event can see them here:!/album.php?aid=194523&id=652087768&ref=mf

Fisher said...

Oh... and yes, I would agree that Bassam Zawadi is MUCH better than most other Islamic apologists. He's calmer and actually gives his best shot in answering the opponent's objections (unlike some other apologists who are just wild-eyed jokers).

Nazam said...
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Nazam said...
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Nazam said...

ON-THE-SITE REVIEW OF BASSAM ZAWADI VS. TONY COSTA ("Was the Prophet assured of his salvation?")

by Abu Yasin al-Kanadi

(Part 1)

I attended this highly-anticipated debate yesterday in Toronto and enjoyed it immensely. I will not be going into a nitty-gritty detail of the points since I have not reviewed the recording yet, but will share my initial impressions from my memory of the debate last night. First, a sincere congratulations to both debaters for showing the rest of us here on the Internet and the PalTalk universe that such a debate can be carried out in a civil and respectful manner. Even a provocative debate title such as this one-- "Was the Prophet Muhammad assured of his salvation?"-- can be handled with tact and restraint when it involves two gentlemen on both sides. Also a quick word in response to what we can expect to see on David Wood and Sam Shamoun's websites: One brother once put it best to me when he said that, no matter how well a Muslim debater actually does, all you really get on Wood and Shamoun's hate-blogs from the majority of like-minded Christian reviewers is about how the Christian debater "cleaned the floor" with the Muslim debater. Notice that the two Christians who were actually present at the debate and who have thus far posted some comments on Wood's blog have not even made such a claim (although I am sure that such claims will eventually follow).

Now as for the debate-- the truth of it, that is-- Bassam proved his case quite well. Only brainwashed evangelicals who have as their starting premise that everything that touches the Prophet Muhammad turns dark and evil or who are simply too intellectually inept to grasp Bassam's arguments in the first place would feel otherwise. Bassam clearly demonstrated that the only way that Tony can prove that the Prophet was uncertain of his salvation is by rejecting hadiths and calling upon Muslims to do the same.

Nazam said...

(Part 2)

In other words, he is basically asking Muslims to change their religion (not because he has proven anything false, but simply because it is convenient for him to ask us to), since orthodox Sunni Islam includes the use of authenticated hadiths. Bassam made it very, very clear that Tony was using double-standards throughout the debate in regards to this issue.

Even in regards to the Qur'an, Bassam gave lexicon and tafsir references to show that "`asaa" (translated as "may" in most English translations) can mean several things depending on the context, and that in reference to the forgiveness of the Prophets "sins" mentioned in the Qur'an it actually means "definitely". He also, for the benefit of the English speaking audience, demonstrated how the English word "may" can likewise in certain contexts imply certainty and not uncertainty; for example, "Let's sign the contract so that we may do business together." There is no uncertainty that the carrying on of business will follow the signing of the contract. Tony completely glossed over this response of Bassam's and kept on repeating that his translations of the Qur'anic word have it stated as "may", and therefore the Qur'an only says that Allah may forgive the Prophet's sins but that there is no certainty given here. So basically, this exposes not only Tony's ignorance of the Arabic language but also his inability to either understand or concede to Bassam's greater research and expertise in this matter, which would have been the more honest and academic thing to do. Being a specialist in the Greek of the New Testament, one would expect Tony to better appreciate the flexibility and nuances of an ancient language and the need for recourse to classical lexicons and not only Penguin paperback translations from Indigo's. His failure (from memory) to even address Bassam's English example arguably also demonstrates Tony's inability to fully understand English, a charge that we are more used to hearing from the opposite side!

Nazam said...
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Nazam said...

(Part 3)
Again, Tony's standards were completely inconsistent. He deduces from the fact that the Prophet feared what Allah would do with him the idea that the Prophet was afraid that he might go to hell. Bassam explained that the Prophet could still fear Allah for other valid reasons, even if he knows that he is saved; for example, he might fear difficult trials and punishments that await him (as with all prophets), a painful death, etc. Tony did not once directly address this response of Bassam's. For Tony, acting with "anxiety" and fear automatically equals the fear of going to hell; one wonders if he is simply projecting his own honest and innermost soteriological doubts and fears unto the Prophet of Islam. The double standard of course lies in the fact that Jesus was sweating with fear in the Garden of Gethsemene and prayed to God for deliverance from death. Does this mean that Jesus was uncertain of his salvation or of God's plan for him? Did Jesus perhaps fear hell or the deception or treachery of God the Father? The typical Christian answer would be: "No, of course not! He knew all along what God's plan was and that God's plan is good. This incident only demonstrates Jesus' HUMANITY." Well why can't the same thing be said for the Prophet?

Why can't the Prophet simply be allowed to be a human being who feared what God would do with him (in this life) and feel uncertain about life's trials and tribulations which surely await any bona fide prophet of the Lord?

Nazam said...

(Part 4)

Even a so-called "saved" Christian will try to avoid pain and death by wearing a seat-belt in the car, looking both ways before crossing the street, wearing a helmet while bicycling, etc. Does the attempt of a "saved" Christian who has cancer to seek treatment through chemotherapy undermine or expose his faith in his salvation as being false? Why are millions of "saved" Christians in the Bible-belt in the U.S. registered gun and rifle owners if not out of some type of anxiety or fear? Either it's love of violence or fear, or both. We could go on and on with such examples. But none of these questions or examples directly address the question of whether a Christian is "saved" or not, or even whether he feels saved or not. Similarly, several of the hadiths that Tony quoted about the Prophet exhibiting some type of general fear of God and the future were actually irrelevant to the actual issue at hand. Bassam even tried to help Tony along by asking him the more specific question, "Can you give a reference showing where the Prophet feared hell?" Not surprisingly, Tony could not provide anything except an ad infinitum repetition of his previous points.

Tony also alleged that the Prophet asking for God's forgiveness 70-100 times a day demonstrates that he was not forgiven. Yet Tony was asked during the Q & A if he (Tony) was saved and, if yes, does he still repent to God or ask God for forgiveness. Tony answered YES to both questions. Does Tony's continued repenting to God undermine his claim of being "saved"? If both realities and experiences can go hand in hand for Tony, why can't they go hand in hand for the Prophet Muhammad? I think Bassam should have hammered in this point much more. Nonetheless, the point was made clear through the questioning itself (the question was repeated by a 2nd questioner, illustrating Tony's inability to satisfactorily address this question in the first instance).

Nazam said...
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Nazam said...

(Part 5)
Tony tried to justify his brushing off of hadiths by saying that Muslims do not always agree with them and that Sunnis and Shias cannot agree on the same hadiths, a red herring that I suspect Bassam saw coming from a few Canadian kilometres away. Bassam correctly pointed out Tony's inconsistency on this because Tony himself had used hadiths elsewhere in his presentation to try to make his case stronger. Why then was he brushing off all the hadiths that Bassam quoted instead of trying to rationally tackle them? What Bassam could have also mentioned here is that there are dozens of gospels in existence but it is reasonable to quote only from the "canonical" gospels in a debate setting with Christians. Similarly, if you are debating a Sunni Muslim, it is rather reasonable to quote from their "canonical" or authenticated hadith collection. If there is a mutawaatir hadith that is accepted all across the board by the world's Sunni Muslims, that is a legitimate source of information to be used in such a debate. Let's not re-invent the rules at the 11th hour. I think Tony can probably get a lesson on hadiths from Wood and Shamoun on this particular point; perhaps they can hammer the point to him better than Bassam did. Unfortunately, however, they will not be left with much of a case on this particular topic if they were to do this.

Nazam said...

(Part 7)
As one of the posts on Wood's blog quite correctly stated, Bassam is part of the cream of the crop of a very small number of competent Muslim debaters (in the English-speaking arena anyways) and Tony is part of the cream of the crop of a rather large number of Christian ones. Looking at the result of the debate objectively, then, which did clearly weigh in in Bassam's favour, I think it's rather clear where the Truth lies. In the case of last night's debate, the truth did set the Prophet free.

Nazam said...

(Part 6)

I was a bit iffy about Bassam's classification of hadiths as "scripture", however, and wondered if that might be going a bit far, although I did see Bassam's point and, for the purpose of this debate, the basic point being made is valid. Perhaps it would have been sufficient to state that the hadiths occupy the same level of religious importance to Muslims as the gospels do to Christians. If Christians believe that the gospels are "inspired" words that accurately relay information about Jesus, Muslims believe the same about the hadiths, regardless of the technical semantics involved. So Bassam's categorization of hadiths as "scripture" required a few short sentences of justification. Nonetheless, we don't expect to be told by Christians that we shouldn't use hadiths. Limiting the Islamic side to only using the Qur'an is like limiting the Christian side to only using the Commandments pronounced by Yahweh in the Old Testament (which would incidentally leave the Christian with only the most concentrated form of anxiety and fear!)

If Tony is satisfied with his inconsistent measuring sticks and is unable (or unwilling) to grasp Bassam's responses (some examples of which are outlined above, and which Tony totally glossed over), then I don't expect his entourage and other evangelical fans on the "exposing Islam"-type websites to fare much better; it is rather predictable and cliched that some individuals from that camp would pronounce that Tony "proved his case" and that Bassam, like the rest of the Muslim debaters in the West, is good "but not good enough."

Anthony Rogers said...

No time to cover all Nazam's howlers. Just thought I would point out that Jochen replied to Bassam's "may" argument.

Whistling in the Dark

Since I haven't heard the debate, I can't say if Bassam's remarks represent any improvement upon his position since the time Jochen wrote his response.

The Berean Search said...


I haven't seen the debate so there is much you posted I cannot fairly comment on. However, as a native English speaker and a hobbyist in the arena of linguistics I can absolutely say that the reviewer's example of "may" implying certainty is erroneous. Even in the context of "so we may do business together", the word "may" implies uncertainty. I spent some time working through various uses of the word "may" and I do not believe there is any situation at all in English where this word implies certainty. I will try to comment more thoroughly when I am home with access to resources.

Nazam said...

BTW, I never attended the debate, I am only posting a review of the debate written by someone who was present at the debate.

Amr said...

Sorry to go off topic, but I must point out something to Anthony.

Trying to refute the Qur'an by using translations is extremely shallow.

The translation is the authors choice of words, and most of the translators of the Qur'an are not native speakers, so they have that, "Lest, May, Thee" stuff still in there.

Just thought I'd make that point.

Bartimaeus said...


You have no right to comment on who one or lost the debate sinse you yourself admitted you were not there. Now unless you seen the vidio and I doubt that you cannot say who won or lost. Now I was at the debate and I can assure you Tony did not lose. And by the way I have the video will be posting it soon. People will be able to judge for themselves who one or lost.

Bartimaeus said...


because allah is the mest of decievers and misleads whomever he wills alll can you possibly know the Mohammed was set free by the truth

Nazam said...

Bartimaeus, calm down I never once claimed that Tony lost the debate, I was merely posting a review of the debate written by someone who did attend for peoples own interests.

Don't shoot the messenger. I am looking forward to watching the debate myself and then there after making up my mind whether there was a winner or a looser.

Since you attended the debate maybe you can tell us how Tony specifically address Bassam's points which the reviewer is claiming that Tony left unanswered.

The Berean Search said...


"may" is a modal auxiliary verb in English. It's only conjugation is "might". Read the description of "may" here. I don't generally like citing Wikipedia, but this is a very direct and concise description. As far as I saw, any other site online dealing with English linguistics will validate exactly what wiki is saying on this verb. It may help shed some light on the topic, and you can read it so that we may discuss the issue, if you would like to ;). In any case, this aspect of Bassam's argument (as presented by the reviewer you quoted) is absolutely flawed and shows either a lack of understanding of English modal verbs, or an intentional stretching of English linguistics to make a point.

This quote sums it up well: "Both forms can be used to express a present time possibility or uncertainty ("That may be."). Might and could can also be used in this sense with no past time meaning. Might and may would carry the same meaning in "John is not in the office today, and he could be sick." "

Also, it is commonly held that "may" is a remnant of the now extinct subjunctive mood in English. As anyone who speaks a language that has the subjunctive mood knows, it is a mood of doubt and uncertainty. The portion of Bassam's argument that rests on the translation of an Arab verb to hold any meaning analogous to an English construction containing "may" to show that Muhammad was assured of his salvation is absolutely untenable.

The Berean Search said...

I highly recommend the link that Anthony posted. If I had read that first I would have just posted, "What Jochen said", and been done with it :-]

Anthony Rogers said...

Amr, what in the world are you talking about? Have you followed the discussion that Bassam and Sam and now also Bassam and Jochen have been/are having?

Amr said...

Yes I have. It's a strawman argument at best.
You can't take the translated word, "May", and refute the Qur'an with it.

You could say the translator used an unclear word, that's it.

Neither Sam nor Jochen speak or understand Arabic, so even if they tried to bring proofs using the Arabic language, it would just be used instead of laughing gas to knock out patients who want their teeth pulled out.

Anthony Rogers said...

I'm not on laughing gas, but I am laughing (and quite uncontrollably). After all, Jochen, the non-Arabic speaking Christian, just made you and the Muslim reviewer cited above by Nazam look silly right along with Zawadi (and Yahya Snow who recently repeated the same mistake on his blog). After all, not only was it Bassam who appealed to the English word "may", an illicit maneuver according to you, but the Arabic word for "may" that Zawadi appealed to, i.e. 'asaa, isn't even used in Surah 48:2, the passage in question.

It is obvious from this that, contrary to your claim, you have not been following the discussion. Here is how Jochen's article concludes. After reading it, let me know how it felt to get your teeth pulled (and if you have any left):


Zawadi’s Self-Destruction

Let’s go back to the beginning and recall Zawadi’s main claim which he seeks to prove.

Responding to Sam Shamoun’s discussion of S. 48:1-2, Zawadi wrote:

[At this point, Jochen is quoting Zawadi. - AR]

"Lo! We have given thee (O Muhammad) a signal victory, That Allah MAY forgive thee of thy sin that which is past and that which is to come, and MAY perfect His favour unto thee, and MAY guide thee on a right path," S. 48:1-2 Pickthall Medinan

[Words bold/red --->]The Arabic word translated as "may" isعسى ('assa).[<--- Words bold/red] Ibn Mandhur in his famous Lisaan al-Arab dictionary says that the word 'assa could linguistically either indicate probability or certainty. (Ibn Manzur, Lisaan Al Arab, Volume 15, page 54; under the word عسا)

[End of Jochen's quote from Zawadi. - AR]

The bold red color emphasis in the above paragraph is mine, and this color symbolizes the embarrassment and red face of Bassam Zawadi when he realizes the blunder he committed here.

No question, there are plenty of places in the Qur’an where the word 'assa is rendered as “may” in English translations. S. 9:18 and 9:102 were listed by Zawadi himself as proof texts, even though these passages did not really help his case when examined closely.

However, there is no 'assa in the Arabic text of S. 48:2.

Therefore, going on and on about 'assa in order to establish a certain meaning for it is utterly futile because this verse does not even contain the word 'assa.

Zawadi, a native speaker of Arabic, an Arab Islamic apologist who regularly boasts that he reads the Qur’an in its original language and therefore understands it much better than all those infidel critics who do not have a clue, … this very same Zawadi simply ASSUMED that the word “MAY” in the English translation quoted by Sam Shamoun MUST HAVE come from 'assa. And then Zawadi wrote and published an article about the correct interpretation of S. 48:1-2 without bothering to read it in Arabic even once. Consequently, he is merely punching the air and missing his target by more than a mile.

Against this background, Zawadi closing paragraph acquires a whole new flavour and meaning:

"Hence, the verses that Shamoun has cited do not prove his case at all. Rather, he is just ignorant of the Arabic language and needs to settle with fallible English translations. Shamoun doesn't seem to be too knowledgeable of English as well, since he should have remembered that the word "may" does not always express contingency in any given context."

That is what I call self-destruction. As mentioned above, Zawadi is his own best refutation.

----End Quote----

minoria said...


Anthony is 100% right.Sura 48:1-2 does NOT contain the word ASSA in the original Arabic.

Go to,write " 48:1-2" in the BLANK SPACE and then CLICK on "Arabic transliteration"(to get the Arab words of the Koran in LATIN letters" and you get:

"Inna fatahna laka fathan mubeenan "

"Liyaghfira laka Allahu ma taqaddama min thanbika wama taakhkhara wayutimma niAAmatahu AAalayka wayahdiyaka siratan mustaqeeman"




He quotes from it in one of his articles.He did like SAMI,he did not check the original Arabic to see if the word ASSA was in 48:1-2.

Anthony Rogers said...

edit: 'assa

hugh watt said...

How humiliating! Amr, I can't see you coming back on this one.