Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Rise and Fall of Another Taqiyyist Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

It is time for us to take a look at another up and coming Muslim taqiyyist named Zakir Hussein.

Hussein has been making the rounds by debating three of the best Christian apologists involved in addressing Islam, namely, Dr. James R. White, David Wood, and Samuel Green.

Unfortunately, Hussein is following the footsteps of those who have come before him, which isn’t a compliment. He has shown the same tendency to distort sources and use deceptive tactics in order to score cheap debate points with his Muslim audience. However, this method isn’t getting him too far since the Christian apologists whom he has debated have done a wonderful job exposing and putting holes through his methodology, the links of which will be provided at the conclusion of our rebuttal.

With that said, we have decided to take a look at some of the points which he raised against Samuel Green in their two debates, since they are typical of the kind of arguments which he is becoming infamous for. Here are the links to those two debates:

Muhammad in the Bible

The Qur'an or Bible - Which is the Word of God? 

We highly recommend our readers to watch these exchanges for themselves since Green did an absolutely outstanding job in establishing his case and refuting Hussein’s assertions.

And since Hussein in the second debate invited his audience to take notes so as to check his references for themselves, I have decided to do so in order to demonstrate that he is simply another typical dawagandist who has no shame misquoting and distorting the sources he cites.


The Roman Victory

In the second debate concerning the Holy Bible and the Quran, Hussein quoted the following “prophecy” as proof of the Quran’s divine origin and Muhammad’s prophethood:

“DEFEATED have been the Byzantines in the lands close-by; yet it is they who, notwithstanding this their defeat, shall be victorious within a few years: [for with God rests all power of decision, first and last. And on that day will the believers [too, have cause to] rejoice in God's succour…” S. 30:1-5 Muhammad Asad

This alleged prophecy allegedly predicts that the Romans would be victorious 9 years after being defeated by the Persians.

Hussein claimed that according to George Ostrogorsky, in his book History of the Byzantine State, on page 95, the Byzantines decisively defeated the Persians in 622, in perfect fulfillment of Q. 30:1-4.

Suffice it to say, this “prediction” not only raises major problems it also provides conclusive evidence that Muhammad was a false prophet!

The first problem that Hussein faces is that this text actually proves that the Quran is an incomplete and unintelligible scripture, despite its repeated assertion that is a perspicuous revelation which provides a thorough exposition of all its verses:

“… Shall I seek a judge other than Allah while it is He Who has sent down unto you the Book (The Qur'an), explained in detail…” S. 6:114 Hilali-Khan

"Certainly, We have brought to them a Book (the Qur'an) which We have explained in detail with knowledge, - a guidance and a mercy to a people who believe." S. 7:52 Hilali-Khan

“… And We have sent down on thee the Book making clear everything, and as a guidance and a mercy, and as good tidings to those who surrender.” S. 16:89 Arberry

“A Book whereof the Verses are explained in detail; A Qur'an in Arabic for people who know.” S. 41:3 Hilali-Khan

However, this specific passage fails to explain who exactly defeated the Romans, where exactly were defeated, and the precise date of their defeat. These details are vitally important since they help determine whether the victory came to pass exactly as stated within the Quran.

Since the Quran fails to provide such important information, Muslims like Hussein are forced consult sources written centuries after Muhammad’s death in order to try to make sense out of this rather vague and unimpressive prophecy.

As such, this particular reference only confirms that Muhammad was a false prophet and that the Muslim scripture is grossly mistaken for claiming to be a fully detailed scripture.

The second problem which Hussein faces is that he does not know for sure whether this reference originally predicted that the Romans were defeated and would soon be victorious, or whether it actually spoke of the Romans being vanquished after one of their victories.

The reason why he cannot know for certain that this is the original meaning is because the Muslim scripture was initially written without vowel markings. As such, the Arabic word sayaghlibuna, “they [Romans] shall be victorious,” reflects the view of some later scribe(s) who was/were responsible for adding the vowel markings to reflect what s/he/they assumed the consonantal text actually meant.

However, the passage without vowel markings could just as easily have meant that the Romans were going to eventually be defeated. The difference is in the addition of two vowels so that instead of having sayaghlibuna, the verse could have legitimately been read as, sayughlabuna, “they (i.e. Romans) shall be defeated.” The same is the case with the word Ghulibati, “have been defeated.” This could have easily been Ghalabat, “have defeated.”

In fact, this is exactly how some of the older Arabic Qurans interpreted the consonantal text, just as the late, great Christian missionary C. G. Pfander explained:

“But Al Baizawi shatters the whole argument of the Muslims by informing us of certain varied readings in these verses of Suratu'r Rum. He tells us that some read غَلَبَتِ instead of the usual غُلِبَتِ, and سَيُغْلَبُونَ instead of سَيَغْلُبُونَ. The rendering will then be: ‘The Byzantine have conquered in the nearest part of the land, and they shall be defeated in a small number of years,’ &c. If this be the correct reading, the whole story about Abu Bakr's bet with Ubai must be a fable,2 since Ubai was dead long before the Muslims began to defeat the Byzantines, and even long before the victories which Heraclius won over the Persians. This shows how unreliable such Traditions are. The explanation which Al Baizawi gives is, that the Byzantines became the conquerors of "the well-watered land of Syria" (على ريف آلْشام), and that the passage predicted that the Muslims would soon overcome them. If this is the meaning, the Tradition which records the 'descent' of the verses about six years before the Hijrah must be wrong, and the passage must belong to A.H. 6 at earliest. It is clear that, as the vowel points were not used when the Qur-an was first written down in Cufic letters, no one can be certain which of the two readings is right. We have seen that there is so much uncertainty about (1) the date at which the verses were 'sent down', (2) the correct reading, and (3) the meaning, that it is quite impossible to show that the passage contains a prophecy which was fulfilled. Hence, it cannot be considered to be a proof of Muhammad's prophetic office.

“Therefore the whole argument founded upon the supposed prophetic element in the Qur'an breaks down when examined…” (Pfander, Mizan-ul-Haqq - The Balance of Truth, revised and enlarged by W. St. Clair Tisdall [Light of Life P.O. Box 18, A-9503, Villach Austria], PART III. A Candid Inquiry Into The Claim Of Islam To Be God's Final Revelation, IV. An Examination of the Contents of the Qur'an, in order to decide whether these prove its inspiration, pp. 279-280; bold and capital emphasis ours)

And this is also how some modern versions render the text:

The Romans HAVE WON. At the lowest part on the earth. But after THEIR VICTORY, THEY WILL BE DEFEATED. In a few more years. The decision before and after is for God, and on that day the believers will rejoice. The Message: A Translation of the Glorious Qur’an

The Romans HAVE WON, At the lowest point on the earth. But after THEIR VICTORY, THEY WILL BE DEFEATED. In a few more years. The decision before and after is for God, and on that day those who acknowledge will rejoice. (Quran Reformist Translation, translated and annotated by Edip Yuksel, Layth Saleh al-Shaiban, & Martha Schulte-Nafeh, Brainbow Press 2007)

And here is what the translators of the Reformist Quran wrote concerning why they chose to translate this passage in the way they did:

030:002-05 You might have noticed that we translated the reference of the verb “GHaLaBa” differently than the traditional translations. Instead of reading the verb in 30:2 as “ghulibat” (were defeated) we read as “ghalabat” which means just the opposite, “defeated.” Similarly, we also read its continuous/future tense in the following verse differently. The prophecy of this verse was realized in 636 four years after the death of Muhammad, when Muslims confronted the army of Byzantine Empire around Yarmuk river, in one of the most significant battles in history. Under the command of Khalid bin Walid, the Muslim army beat the Christian imperial army of four or more times their numbers. The six-day war, Yarmuk, occurred in area near the Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea, which are located in the lowest land depression on earth, 200-400 meters below the sea level. (Ibid., p. 268)

With the foregoing in view, Hussein has no way of knowing for certain that the version which the masses have come to accept as the original is actually the correct reading and understanding of the consonantal text. Neither Hussein nor any of the other polemicists are able to conclusively prove that the alternate rendering of this specific text, found in the modern versions of the Quran cited above, is in error.

Thirdly, Hussein’s assertion concerning what Ostrogorsky says in his book is a boldfaced lie, since there is nothing about a decisive victory taking place in the year 622 on that page. More importantly, this author emphatically says that the Byzantines defeated and vanquished the Persians in 627-628 AD!

Here is the quote:

“The threatening attitude of the Avar Khan made it essential for the Emperor to return to Constantinople. The tribute paid to the Avars was then raised and near relatives of the Emperor were sent to the Khan as hostages, so that Heraclius was able to resume the war with Persia by March 623. In spite of the defeat of the previous year, Chosroes II REFUSED TO CONSIDER A TRUCE, and he sent the Emperor a letter full of the most insulting expressions and blasphemous utterances against the Christian faith. Passing through Cappadocia, Heraclius again moved towards Armenia. Dvin was taken by storm and razed to the ground, and many other cities suffered the same fate. The Emperor then made a drive towards the south and marched on Ganzak, the capital of the first Sassanid Ardasir and an important religious centre for Persia. Chosroes was forced to fly from the city, which fell into the hands of the Byzantines, and the great Persian sanctuary, the fire-temple of Zoroaster, was destroyed in revenge for the plundering of Jerusalem. Heraclius then retired with countless prisoners to winter behind Araxes. Here he got into touch with the Christian Caucasian tribes and was able to reinforce his army with Lazi, Abasgi and Iberians. The position, however, was difficult, and he spent the following year on Armenian territory in an exhausting struggle against the attacking Persians. He did not succeed in the attempt to break through to Persia. In 625 he tried to reach enemy soil by means of a detour through Cilicia, but again without any DECISIVE result, and IN SPITE OF SOME VICTORIES he withdrew through Sebastea to the region of Pontus as winter approached.

The Persians were now able to take the offensive again, and in 626 Constantinople had to face the terrible danger of a two-faced attack from the Persians and Avars. It was this which Heraclius had always feared and had tried to avert by buying off the Avars with humiliating concessions…

"At the time when his capital was in deadly peril, Heraclius and his army had been in distant Lazica. He now negotiated an alliance with the Khazars, as he had earlier done with the Caucasian peoples, and the resulting Byzantino-Khazar understanding became from now onwards one of the main features of imperial eastern diplomacy. As allies of the imperial troops the Khazars fought the Persians on Caucasian and Armenian soil. In the autumn OF 627 the Emperor began his great advance south into the heart of the enemy's territory. Here he had to rely on his own resources, since the Khazars could not stand up to the rigours of the campaign and return home. In spite of this, AT THE BEGINNING OF DECEMBER Heraclius stood before Nineveh. IT WAS HERE THAT THE DEADLY BATTLE WAS FOUGHT WHICH REALLY DECIDED THE OUTCOME OF THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE PERSIANS AND BYZANTINES. THE PERSIAN ARMY WAS PRACTICALLY WIPED OUT AND BYZANTINE HAD WON THE WAR. Heraclius CONTINUED HIS VICTORIOUS ADVANCE AND AT THE BEGINNING OF 628 he occupied Dastagerd, the Persian king's favourite residence from which he had had to beat a hasty retreat. IN THE SPRING OF 628 events occurred in Persia WHICH MADE ANY FURTHER FIGHTING UNNECESSARY. Chosroes was deposed and murdered and his son Kavadh-Siroe, who succeeded him, immediately came to terms with the Byzantine Emperor. As a result of their own successes and the total collapse of the Persians, the Byzantines secured the return of all the territory which had formerly belonged to them, and Armenia, Roman Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine and Egypt were restored. A few months later Siroe on his death-bed named the Byzantine Emperor as his son's guardian: Chosroes II had once called the Emperor his slave, BUT THE POSITION WAS NOW REVERSED, and Siroe declared his son and heir to be the slave of the Byzantine Emperor.1

"After six years' absence Heraclius returned to his capital. His son Constantine, the Patriarch Sergius, the clergy, the senate and the people received him on the coast of Asia Minor with olive branches and lighted candles, with hymns and acclamations of joy. While the Roman provinces were being cleared of Persians, Heraclius went to Jerusalem IN THE SPRING OF 630. Here on 21 March amid great rejoicing he once more set up the Holy Cross won back from the Persians, and by this solemn act SYMBOLIZED THE VICTORIOUS CONCLUSION OF THE FIRST GREAT HOLY WAR OF CHRISTENDOM. The foes before whom Byzantium had once trembled now lay prostrate. THE STRUGGLE AT NINEVAH HAD CRUSHED THE PERSIAN MIGHT, and the battle of Constantinople had brought the pride of the Avars to the dust…” (George Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, pp. 101-104; bold and capital emphasis ours)

1 According to Nicephorus 20 f. he wrote to Heraclius: 'In the same way as you say that your God was presented to the old man Symeon, so I present your slave, my son, into your hands’. (Ibid., p. 103)

Hence, according to Hussein's own source, Muhammad is a false prophet since the prophecy didn't take place within the 9 years which Hussein himself gave in the debate as the time of fulfillment. It actually took over 14 years for the Byzantines to win.

Even the late Muslim scholar Muhammad Asad himself basically concurs with the date given by Ostrogorsky since this is what he wrote in regards to Q. 30:1-4:

2 Lit., "before and after". The defeats and victories spoken of above relate to the last phases of the centuries-long struggle between the Byzantine and Persian Empires. During the early years of the seventh century the Persians conquered parts of Syria and Anatolia, "the lands close-by", i.e., near the heartland of the Byzantine Empire; in 613 they took Damascus, and in 614, Jerusalem; Egypt fell to them in 615-16, and at the same time they laid siege to Constantinople itself. At the time of the revelation of this surah - about the seventh year before the hijrah, corresponding to 615 or 616 of the Christian era - the total destruction of the Byzantine Empire seemed imminent. The few Muslims around the Prophet were despondent on hearing the news of the utter discomfiture of the Byzantines, who were Christians and, as such, believed in the One God. The pagan Quraysh, on the other hand, sympathized with Persians who, they thought, would vindicate their own opposition to the One-God idea. When Muhammad enunciated the above Qur'an-verses predicting a Byzantine victory "within a few years", this prophecy was received with derision by the Quraysh. Now the term bid’ (commonly rendered as "a few") denotes any number between three and ten; and, as it happened, in 622 - i.e., six or seven years after the Qur'anic prediction - the tide turned in favour of the Byzantines. In that year, Emperor Heraclius succeeded in defeating the Persians at Issus, south of the Taurus Mountains, and subsequently drove them out of Asia Minor. By 624, he carried the war into Persian territory and thus put the enemy on the defensive; and IN THE BEGINNING OF DECEMBER 626, the Persian armies were COMPLETELY ROUTED by the Byzantines. (Asad, The Message of the Quran; Bold and capital emphasis ours)

Since this was the only prophecy he offered to establish the Quran’s inspiration, this means that his chief argument fails to establish his position, and actually ends up backfiring against him by exposing Muhammad as a false prophet who stands condemned by the true God revealed in the Holy Bible!

For more on this failed prophecy of the Quran we recommend the following rebuttal to another leading taqiyyist:

Muhammad and His Prophethood Part 3

It is time to move on to the second part of our rebuttal.