Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

A Rebuttal to Shabir Ally’s Response to Dr. James White Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

Here begins our series of replies to Shabir Ally’s lengthy response to Dr. James R. White’s multi-part analysis of the debate which they had in South Africa concerning whether the original disciples of Jesus believed he was God or not. Ally’s article is titled, The Pretoria Debate: A Response to Dr. James White's 'Response Part 1', and was posted on Monday, December 30, 2013.

We highly encourage our readers to go through Ally’s reply first since we do not plan to follow the exact order of his article in our response here. This will enable the readers to better understand our refutation of Ally’s unfounded claims and assertions.

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3a] [Part 3b]
[Part 4a] [Part 4b] [Part 4c] [Part 4d] [Part 4e] [Part 4f] [Part 4g] [Part 4h]
[Part 5a] [Part 5b] [Part 5c]

With that said we now begin our reply by Christ’s sovereign grace. Unless stated otherwise, all biblical citations will be taken from the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Holy Bible.



Acts, chapter 5, ends by saying that the disciples never stopped preaching that Jesus was the Messiah. Messiah, of course, is a human title.



Let us look at the immediate context of Acts 5 to see what else the disciples preached about Christ:

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’” Acts 5:27-32

Here the Apostles proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ, along with his exaltation to the right hand of God in heaven where he rules as the Leader and Savior who grants repentance and forgiveness of sins to the people of God.

Jesus’ exaltation to God’s right hand meant that he is now reigning as King, just as the following passages indicate:

“Then the whole company of them arose, and brought him before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ a king.’ And Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ And he answered him, ‘You have said so.’” Luke 23:1-3 – cf. 19:11-27

“And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brethren before the city authorities, crying, ‘These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them; and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.’” Acts 17:6-7

Hence, the disciples not only preached that Jesus is the Messiah, but also testified that their risen Lord is reigning as the heavenly King of creation!

This is further brought out by Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:

“Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens; but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet.’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:29-36

Peter quotes the words of David to show that Jesus’ flesh body did not see corruption since God raised him from the dead and exalted him to heaven in order to begin his reign as Lord in fulfillment of David’s words in Psalm 110:1.

But that’s not all that the Apostles said and did:

“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OF NAZARETH, walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s, astounded. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people, ‘Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And HIS NAME, by faith IN HIS NAME, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.’” Acts 3:1-16, 26

“And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sad′ducees came upon them, annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the morrow, for it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to about five thousand. On the morrow their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Ca′iaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, 10 be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner. And there is salvation IN NO ONE ELSE, for there is NO OTHER NAME under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’” Acts 4:1-12

In the above passages Christ’s disciples are seen miraculously healing a paralytic in the name of Jesus in order to provide supernatural verification for their message that Jesus is God’s Servant whom he glorified, the Holy and Righteous One, as well as the Author of Life who was crucified and raised back to life. They further used this miracle to testify that Christ alone is the Savior and that only his name actually saves.

Seeing how Ally likes to quote liberal scholars whom he then tries to pass off as if they were conservatives, we have therefore decided to cite from them as well in order to see whether their views help Ally’s assault against the Holy Bible.

With this mind, note what the following commentary says regarding Acts 3:14-15:

“… The two titles of Jesus used here in rapid succession–‘the Holy and Righteous One [ho hagios kai ho dikaios]’ (3:14) and ‘the Author of life [ho archegos tes zoes]’ (3:15)–draw upon important OT/Gospel terms to define the nature of that relationship and therefore the enormity of Israel’s treason. The first title follows from Peter’s reference to Jesus as God’s glorified servant by recalling the Roman centurion’s ironic commentary on the death of Jesus, whom he asserts is ‘innocent’ (or ‘righteous,’ ho dikaios, Luke 23:47). In the Gospel setting, as here, ho dikaios alludes to Isaiah’s depiction of the suffering servant as ho dikaios (Isa 53:11 LXX) and so as having divine authority to bear Israel’s sins. In this sense, Peter interprets Jesus’ passion as the expression of his faithful service for Israel, which Israel then rejected–and so too the salvation that attends it.

“The latter title is repeated in Acts 5:31 for the glorified Jesus. This speech contrasts Israel’s action of taking life with Jesus’ action of authoring life, and perhaps also with God’s bringing Jesus back to life (3:15). Thereby Israel demonstrates its robust ignorance of God’s purposes by removing the very source of its promised life! On Pentecost, Peter marshals proofs from biblical prophecy to commend his eyewitness of the risen Jesus. He makes the same claim as before that ‘we are witnesses’ (3:16; see also 2:32), but here Peter speaks of Israel’s rejection of Jesus rather than of the resurrection.” (Robert W. Wall, “The Acts of the Apostles: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections,” The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes [Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN 1995], Volume X: Acts, Introduction to the Epistolary Literature, Romans, 1 Corinthians, pp. 80-81; bold emphasis ours)

Here we are told that the disciples not only preached that Jesus is the Source of life but also testified that he is the Suffering Servant spoken of in Isaiah 53:11!

Now this raises a host of problems for Ally since Isaiah prophesied that after the Servant bears the sins of Israel by offering his life as a vicarious sacrifice,

“Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:1-12

He will then be exalted and lifted on high:

Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. As many were astonished at him—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men—so shall he startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand.” Isaiah 52:13-15

Amazingly, this language of exaltation is used elsewhere to describe Yahweh’s transcendent and lofty status over creation:

“In the year that King Uzzi′ah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’” Isaiah 6:1-5

“For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” Isaiah 57:15 – cf. 2:11-17; 5:16; 33:5, 10

Therefore, by applying this very same language to describe the Servant’s exaltation Isaiah was basically indicating that the Servant would share in Yahweh’s transcendence and sovereignty over creation.

With that said we would like to quote what liberal critic Bart D. Ehrman wrote concerning Psalm 110:1 in a book that Ally endorses (1; 2):

“The son of a human is human, just as the son of a dog is a dog and the son of a cat is a cat. And so what is the son of God? As it turns out, to the surprise of many causal readers of the Bible, there are passages in which the king of Israel is referred to as divine, as God.

“Hebrew Bible scholar John J. Collins points out that this honor ultimately appears to derive from Egyptian ways of thinking about their king, the Pharaoh, as a divine being. Even in Egypt, where the king was a god, it did not mean that the king was on a par with the great gods, any more than the Roman emperor was thought to be on a par with Jupiter or Mars. But he was a god. As we have seen, in Egyptian and Roman circles, there were levels of divinity, and so too in Jewish circles. Thus we find highly exalted terms used of the king of Israel, terms that may surprise readers who think–on the basis of the kind of thinking that developed n the fourth Christian century–that there is an unbridgeable chasm between God and humans. Nonetheless, here it is, in the Bible itself, the king is called both Lord and God

“For example, Psalm 110:1: ‘The LORD says to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ The first term, LORD–traditionally printed in capital letters in English–is the Hebrew name of God YHWH, often spelled Yahweh. The four Hebrew letters representing that name were considered so special that in traditional Judaism they were not (and are not) pronounced. They are sometimes called the Tetragrammaton (Greek for ‘four letters’). The second term, ‘Lord,’ is a different word, adn (= adonai, or adoni), which is a common term for the Lord God but is also a term that could be used, for example, by a slave for his master. What is striking here is that YHWH is speaking to ‘my Lord’ and telling him to ‘sit at my right hand.’ Any being enthroned with God is sharing the glory, status, and honor due to God himself. There is not a question of identity or absolute parity here–the king, sitting at God’s right hand–is not God Almighty himself. That is clear from what is said next: God will conquer the king’s enemies for him and put them under his feet. But he is doing so for one whom he has exalted up to the level of his own throne. The king is being portrayed as a divine being who lives in the presence of God ABOVE ALL OTHER CREATURES.” (Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee [HarperOne, First edition 2014], 2. Divine Humans in Ancient Judaism, pp. 77-78; bold and capital emphasis ours)


“… The followers of Jesus, during his life, believed that he would be the king of the future kingdom, the messiah. Now that they believed he had been exalted to the heavenly realm, they realized they had been right. He was the future king; but he would come from heaven to reign. In some traditions of the Jewish king in the Hebrew Bible, as we have seen, the king–even the earthly son of David–was thought to be in some sense God. Jesus now had been exalted to heaven and is the heavenly messiah to come to the earth. In an even more real sense, he was God. Not God Almighty, of course, but he was a heavenly being, a superhuman, a divine king who would rule the nations

“Before Jesus’s death the disciples believed he would sit on the future throne. If God has taken him up into heaven, he is already sitting on a throne. In fact, he is at the right hand of God. On earth the disciples considered him their master and ‘lord.’ Now he really is their Lord. The disciples recalled the scripture that said, ‘The LORD says to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool”’ (Ps. 110:1). God had taken Jesus, exalted him to his right hand in a position of authority and power, MADE HIM THE LORD OF ALL, who would rule over all things. As one who ruled from besides God’s throne, Jesus was in that sense also God.” (Ibid., 5. The Resurrection of Jesus: What We Can Know, pp. 208-209; bold and capital emphasis ours)

And here is what Ehrman says regarding Acts 5:31:

“A similar view is set forth in yet another speech of Acts, which again incorporates A VERY EARLY VIEW OF CHRIST AS ONE EXALTED TO A DIVINE STATUS AT HIS RESURRECTION… Once more, then, in an EARLY TRADITION, we find that Jesus’s resurrection was an ‘exaltation’ specifically to ‘the right hand of God.’ In other words, God had elevated Jesus TO HIS OWN STATUS and given him a prominent position as the one who would ‘lead’ and ‘save’ those on earth.” (Ibid., 6. The Beginning of Christology: Christ as Exalted to Heaven, pp. 228-229; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Here is a recap of what Jesus’ disciples taught concerning Christ in the book of Acts.

Jesus was put to death by crucifixion and was raised physical, bodily on the third day (cf. Acts 10:40).

Jesus is the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 who offers his life as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of God’s people and whom God glorified by exalting to heaven.

Jesus sits enthroned at God’s right hand in heaven, and therefore shares in God’s status, honor and glory.

Jesus is the Author of Life and the Holy and Just One.

Jesus is the Leader and Savior who grants repentance and forgiveness of sins.

The disciples even went around during miracles in Jesus’ name in order to provide supernatural evidence that Christ is the risen Lord whose name alone is able to save.

As we said earlier, all of this raises serious problems for Ally’s Islamic beliefs since the Quran teaches that only Allah or God forgives sins,

And those who, having done something to be ashamed of, or wronged their own souls, earnestly bring God to mind, and ask for forgiveness for their sins, – and who can forgive sins except God? – and are never obstinate in persisting knowingly in (the wrong) they have done. S. 3:135 Y. Ali

And that he alone is the sovereign lord of creation who does not share his sovereignty with anyone:

“And say: 'Praise belongs to God, who has not taken to Him a son, and who has not any associate in the Kingdom, nor any protector out of humbleness.' And magnify Him with repeated magnificats.” S. 17:111 Arberry

He, Whose is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and Who did not take to Himself a son, and Who has no associate in the kingdom, and Who created everything, then ordained for it a measure. S. 25:2 Shakir

Moreover, Islamic theology teaches that names such as Holy and Just One are titles which belong exclusively to Allah, and therefore cannot be ascribed to any creature no matter how exalted:

God is He, than Whom there is no other god; - the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace (and Perfection), the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Irresistible, the Supreme: Glory to God! (High is He) above the partners they attribute to Him. S. 59:23 Y. Ali

Whatever is in the heavens and on earth, doth declare the Praises and Glory of God, - the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Exalted in Might, the Wise. S. 62:1 Y. Ali

As-Subbûh, Al-Quddûs: The All-Perfect, Utterly Pure

Subbuh is from Subhan, which is glorification and tanzih, disconnecting and elevating Him above any others. He is All-Perfect, All-Pure, All Glorious, far removed from everything evil and imperfect.

Quddus means pure (tahir, munazzah), pure and free of any imperfection .He is far removed from every imperfection or impurity or from anything that would detract from His glory, and disconnected from every description perceived by the senses and thought, All-Holy, All-Pure, All-Perfect.

Some say Subbuh denies imperfection and Quddus affirms perfection.

Al-Quddus is one of the Ninety-Nine Names…

Al'Adl,  Al-'Âdil: The Just

The Just and Equitable. He whom desire does not cause to incline or decline so that He should deviate from the right course in judgement.

Al-'Adl is one of the Ninety-Nine Names.

"Allah commands justice." (16:90)…

l-Ghâfir, Al-Ghafûr; Al-Ghaffar: The Forgiving, The Ever-Forgiving,
The Endlessly Forgiving

Al-Ghafir who pardons a particular sin; Al-Ghafur who is in the habit of forgiving sins and covering them up; Al-Ghaffar is the One who does not cease to pardon them, one after the other. Ghafr, in the root, means to cover, veil, so to make hidden (unlike 'afw, to efface), not to punish, to cause them to be undisclosed. The One who covers and forgives the sins of His servants.

Al-Ghafur and Al-Ghaffur are two of the Ninety-Nine Names. (Aisha Bewley, Divine Names)

Thus, the witness of the disciples in the book of Acts proves that Islam is a false religion and that Muhammad was therefore a false a prophet.

Ally’s troubles are far from over, as we shall see in the next part of our rebuttal.