Aizaz Khan, Missionary, Canada
Examples of argumentation and reasoning from writings of the Promised Messiahas
When we study the writings of the Promised Messiahas, we discover a beautiful and harmonious method of argumentation. It is obvious that the argumentation of the Promised Messiahas is not derived from worldly philosophers; rather, we find a pure and pristine philosophy and reasoning that truly reflects the Word and the Way of God.
The truth is that whatever we learn from the spiritual treasures of the Promised Messiahas regarding his method of religious dialogue is only what we ourselves, with our limited knowledge and understanding, can infer and derive from his collective writings and the arguments that he made. As such, a few discernible examples of argumentation methods are presented below:
1. Inductive reasoning (دلیل استقرائى)
Explanation: We know that man eats with his mouth, sees with his eyes, and hears with his ears. If some Holy Scripture were to claim that, in some bygone era, man would eat with his eyes, speak through his ears, and see through his nose, we would of course demand proof for such a claim, if not reject it outright. This is because inductive reasoning tells us that it is impossible to eat with the eyes, speak through the ears, and see through the nose.
Inductive reasoning is a tool that allows one to derive arguments from the laws of nature and the sunnah of Allah the Almighty, i.e., His ways and practice. There can be no clash or incongruity between the word of God (قول) and the act of God (فعل). The Promised Messiahas states regarding the potency and need of inductive reasoning in religious dialogue: “Of all the forms of reasoning, inductive reasoning occupies the lofty station that if its conclusive and decisive status were to be disregarded or ignored, the entire spiritual and worldly design would collapse.” (The Holy War, p. 13) The Promised Messiah further states, “It is self-evident that if proofs by inductive reasoning are rejected without presenting an opposing precedent, then all knowledge and science would be rendered worthless, and all research would come to a halt.” (Ibid., p. 29)
In the Holy War (Jang-e-Muqaddas) debate between Christianity and Islam, the Promised Messiahas presented the following verse of the Holy Quran to disprove the divinity of Jesusas (and also the belief that he is still alive in the Heavens):
مَا الۡمَسِىۡحُ ابۡنُ مَرۡىَمَ اِلَّا رَسُوۡلٌ ۚ قَدۡ خَلَتۡ مِنۡ قَبۡلِہِ الرُّسُلُ ؕ
“The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger; surely, Messengers like unto him had indeed passed away before him” (Surah al-Mai’dah, Ch.5: V.76)
The Promised Messiahas states:
“Since inductive reasoning occupies the status of the highest order in establishing truth in the world, Allah, the Lord of Glory, has mentioned inductive reasoning at the very start, stating:
قَدۡ خَلَتۡ مِنۡ قَبۡلِہِ الرُّسُلُ
that the Messiah, peace be upon him, was undoubtedly a Prophet and a beloved Messenger of Allah, the Lord of Glory, but he was a human being. Open your eyes and see that always and eternally, ever since this system of conveying the Message [of Allah] and revealing the Divine Word began, only human beings have been coming into the world upon being bestowed the status of Messenger [of Allah]. Or has it ever been the case that a son of Allah, the Exalted, also came?” (The Holy War, pp. 14-15)
The demand made by this argument of inductive reasoning was as follows: “Until and unless this argument is refuted, and it is proven that Sons of God were also sent down as Messengers, it cannot be established that the Messiahas was the real Son of God.” (The Holy War, p. 48)
When this precedent was demanded to be shown by them, the Christian missionary, Abdullah Atham, was left stunned and could not present any proof. He replied:
“We have understood the meaning of istiqra [inductive reasoning]. […] The statement of Mirza [Ghulam Ahmadas] Sahib in this regard is correct that if there is any possibility of an exception, it is not enough to prove the possibility of an exception; it is necessary that it be proven in reality. I would submit regarding this only that the case of Christ is completely unique, for which we have presented verses from the Word of God.” (Ibid., p. 55)
(Note: The absurdity of presenting Jesusas himself as evidence for the claim that he is the son of God is discussed later in point #6, “Identifying logical fallacies and inconsistencies.”)
2. The onus of proof (بارِ ثبوت)
Explanation: The burden of proof is the obligation to prove one’s assertion and claims. The only question that arises here is, on whom is the burden of proof, and who is in a position to demand proof from an opposing party?
i. Maulvi Muhammad Hussain Batalvi challenged the Promised Messiahas to a debate and demanded the Promised Messiahas to prove the death of Hazrat Isaas. The Promised Messiahas replied that he had clarified everything on this subject along with his claims in Fath-e-Islam, Tauzeeh-e-Maraam and Izala-e-Auham (Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 3). The Promised Messiahas further states: “As for whether Ibn-e-Maryam (Jesus) has passed away or not, it is not incumbent on me to prove this under any circumstances because I have not claimed anything that goes against the established practice (Sunnah) of God Almighty. Rather, from the time of Prophet Adamas, it has always been the practice that whoever is born, dies one day – either in youth or in advanced age. As Allah the Almighty states,
وَمِنكُم مَّن يُتَوَفَّى وَمِنكُم مَّن يُرَدُّ إِلَى أَرْذَلِ الْعُمُرِ لِكَيْلَا يَعْلَمَ مِن بَعْدِ عِلْمٍ شَيْئًا
“[‘And there are some of you who are caused to die [prematurely], and there are others among you who are driven to the worst part of life [with the result] that they know nothing after [having had] knowledge.’ (Surah al-Hajj, Ch.22: V.6)]
“So, it is not incumbent on me to write proofs of the death of Jesusas, whereas I have already proven it [in my writings]. Rather, it is incumbent upon you to refute my arguments using verses of the Holy Quran and Ahadith.” (Maktubat, Vol. 4, pp. 17-18 [old edition])
The Promised Messiahas then presents a perfect example showing how the burden of proof was actually on Batalvi to prove that Hazrat Isaas was alive in the heavens:
“Listen to this example: A person named Zaid has been missing for 200 years. Khalid and Waleed are at odds as to whether he is dead or alive. Khalid receives news that Zaid died but Waleed denies that news. Now you tell me – on whom lies the burden of proof? Should Khalid prove that Zaid has actually died, or should Waleed prove that he has been alive for 200 years – what is the fatwa?” (Ibid., p. 19)
ii. The Secretary of the Arya Samaj Movement (Hindu) Baba Narayan Singh, demanded the Promised Messiahas to prove that souls are created by God. The Promised Messiahas replied that according to rules and principles of debate, the Arya Samaj are in no position to demand proof as to whether the soul is created or not. Rather, the burden of proof lies on them to prove that souls are uncreated. The reason for this is that the Arya Samaj affirm that God is All-Mighty (has power over everything) and is the Controller of the Universe, so they are the ones who have to prove how God is All-Mighty and yet does not have the power to create souls. (Maktubat, Vol. 2, pp. 75-76 [old edition])
3. Counte charge or remonstrative rejoinder (الزامى جواب)
Explanation: An ilzami jawab is an accusation or countercharge made in turn by someone against their accuser. This term has been translated as “remonstrative rejoinder” in the English translation of Jang-e-Muqaddas (The Holy War). ( The Holy War, p. 122)
i. During the Debate, when the Christians realised that none of their arguments were successful against the Promised Messiahas, they devised a plot whereby they brought some blind, deaf and disabled people and presented them to the Promised Messiahas demanding that if he claimed to be the second coming of Jesusas, then he should cure these people just as Jesusas had. The Promised Messiahas replied that according to Islam, Jesusas did not physically heal people in the manner they demanded of him. However, if Christians believe that Jesusas physically healed people in this manner, then the Bible also states that if one possesses faith even as much as a mustard seed, then they too can cure such people (Matthew, 17:20). The Promised Messiahas said that the Christians had made things much easier for him, and that according to their own teaching, if they held even as much faith as a mustard seed, they should prove it by curing the very people they had brought. This answer by the Promised Messiahas rendered the Christians speechless and they quickly ushered away the ailing people they brought. (Hayat-e-Tayyibah, pp. 154-155)
ii. A Christian levelled an accusation against the Holy Prophetsa that he was, God forbid, doubtful of his Prophethood and the revelation of the Holy Quran being from God Almighty. The following verse was presented as proof of this claim:
اَلۡحَقُّ مِنۡ رَّبِّکَ فَلَا تَکُوۡنَنَّ مِنَ الۡمُمۡتَرِىۡنَ
“[It is] the truth from thy Lord; be not therefore of those who doubt.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.148)
The Promised Messiahas responded, saying that this particular verse and other similar verses are directed to the people to whom the Holy Prophetsa was sent. The term used for this indication is wahdat jinsi (meaning that an entire group or nation is referred to while using the singular pronoun in Arabic). Another instance where wahdat jinsi appears in the Holy Quran is in 17:23 to 17:25, where the verses also seemingly refer to the Holy Prophetsa and speak about showing kindness to and honouring one’s parents. It is a well-known fact that the Holy Prophetsa was an orphan; therefore, this guidance applies to the Muslim Ummah as a whole.
This example is also found in the Bible – in Exodus 34:17, God says to Mosesas: “Do not make idols.” However, this commandment, too, was for the Jews and not for Prophet Mosesas himself, as it is not possible that Prophet Mosesas, of all people in his time, would be one to make idols.
After replying to this, a counter charge is made by the Promised Messiahas that the accusation of being doubtful and weak of faith falls first upon Jesusas himself, because if he was not in doubt with regards to his claim and mission, then why did he pray for “this cup to be taken away” from him (Matthew 26:39)? And why did he cry out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” [My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?] (Matthew 27:46). This expression of defeat was demonstrated by Jesusas at a time when he was about to leave this world, which is otherwise a time in which Prophets show strength of faith and certainty in their claim and mission. It must mean that Jesusas was doubtful of his mission and was weak in his faith. Thus, in any case, this accusation falls on the Biblical Jesusas and not on the Holy Prophet Muhammadas. (Aik Isai ke 3 Sawal aur Unke Jawabat, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 4, pp. 445-451)
iii. The Arya Samaj made an allegation about marriage and divorce in Islam that was completely fabricated. In response, the Promised Messiahas demanded them to show proof from the Holy Quran or Ahadith that they were true in their claim. Then a counter-attack was made, pointing out that the Arya Samaj conveniently forget the teachings of their own scriptures and that the reality is that according to the Vedas, it is permissible for a woman whose husband is still alive to practise Nyog (A Hindu practice that permits the wife, who has no child by her husband, to procreate a child with another man). (Arya Dharam, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 10, pp. 50-51)
4. ‘Your answer to that is our answer to this.’ (فَمَا ھُوَ جَوَابُکْ فَھُوَ جَوَابُنَا)
Explanation: The Promised Messiahas urged religious scholars to hold fast to justice and fairness during religious dialogue for the sake of peace in society. He stated that, in principle, no one should make an allegation on the Holy scriptures or texts of other religions that could be levelled against the scriptures of their own religion. (Arya Dharam, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 10, p. 85)
That is to say, one should not throw accusations at others that they themselves could be accused of, nor should one criticise a stance that they themselves could be criticised for. Since the time of the Promised Messiahas, a plethora of allegations have been levelled against him that can also be levelled against all prophets of God, including our beloved Master, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. This method of argumentation is one way to dispel and dismantle all such allegations.
i. In Al-Haqq Mubahasa Delhi (Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 4), Maulvi Muhammad Bashir Bhopali argued that by declaring that Jesusas had died according to the Holy Quran, this suggests that all the companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa and the generations of Muslims that followed up until this day are declared disbelievers (kafir); because, as it stands, anyone who denies clear verses of the Holy Quran is a disbeliever. In the review of this exchange between Maulvi Muhammad Bashir Bhopali and Hazrat Maulvi Syed Ahsan Amrohira, Hazrat Maulvi Sahibra argues that this implication is incorrect and then dismantles the argument with a simple request. He asks Maulvi Bashir whether he considers muawwizatayn (Surah al-Falaq and Surah an-Nas) to be a definitive part of the Quranic text. If he does, then he should publish this statement publicly and, according to his reasoning, all those companions who deem these two chapters to be outside of the Quranic text would be declared disbelievers because ‘anyone who denies clear verses of the Holy Quran is a disbeliever’. Therefore, whatever his response is to this, is the Promised Messiah’sas response to him (فما ھو جوابکم فھوجوابنا). (Al Haqq Mubahasa Delhi, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 4, pp. 290-291)
To clarify this point, it must be known that companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa disagreed on many issues i.e. some called Jassasah the Dajjal whereas others swore oaths that it was Ibn Sayyad; some believed the Mi’raj journey to be physical whereas others believed it to be a dream; some believed these two surahs (Muawwizatayn) to be outside the main Quranic text and others believed them to be a part of it, etc. Despite these differences in opinion, they were not regarded as disbelievers. Furthermore, it would be ignorant to assume that companions were free from error and to give precedence to their opinions over the Holy Quran and sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. (Izala-e-Auham, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 3, p. 422)
ii. Munshi Bubah Shah made an allegation against the Promised Messiahas pertaining to Al-Haqq Mubahasa Delhi. He alleged that the Promised Messiahas claimed that his rank was, God-forbid, greater than that of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. In response to this, Hazrat Maulvi Muhammad Ahsan Sahib Amrohira writes that according to the Holy Quran, the spiritual quality of being mun’am alyhim (those bestowed with the favours of God, i.e., the Prophets, the truthful, the martyrs, and the righteous [4:70]) is a quality that is shared by all those listed, whether they are of the lowest rank of being righteous or at the highest rank of being a prophet – all are considered those on whom Allah bestowed His favours. Hazrat Maulvi Muhammad Ahsan Sahib Amrohira writes: “Now, if I consider you (Munshi Bubah Shah) to be among the righteous people (Saliheen, the last and lowest in the list), then does this put you at the same spiritual rank as the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa? ما ھو جوابکم فھو جوابنا – your answer (to that) is our answer (to you). (Al-Haqq Mubahasa Delhi, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 4, p. 320).
Taking this example even further, the spiritual quality of being a mu’min (a believer), spans an entire spectrum, from the lowest rank being a mu’min fajir (a sinful or wicked believer) all the way to the other end of the spectrum that ends at Khatam an-Nabiyyin (the Seal and Greatest of the Prophets). So, if this is the case, is a sinful believer at the same spiritual rank as the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa? (Ibid.)
iii. In Al-Haqq Mubahasa Delhi, we learn how masterfully the Promised Messiahas would dismantle his opponent’s arguments. In this debate, Maulvi Muhammad Bashir Bhopali claimed that he would present five verses of the Holy Quran that definitively prove that Jesusas was alive in the heavens. He later retracted this, saying that four of those verses were not definitive enough so he would not present them. He hopelessly relied on the remaining single verse for the entirety of the debate:
وَاِنۡ مِّنۡ اَہۡلِ الۡکِتٰبِ اِلَّا لَىُؤۡمِنَنَّ بِہٖ قَبۡلَ مَوۡتِہٖ ۚ وَىَوۡمَ الۡقِىٰمَۃِ ىَکُوۡنُ عَلَىۡہِمۡ شَہِىۡدًا
“And there is none among the People of the Book but will believe in it before his death; and on the Day of Resurrection, he (Jesus) shall be a witness against them.” (Surah, an-Nisa, Ch.4: V.160)
He argued that بِہٖ (believe “in it”) and مَوۡتِہٖ (before “his death”) in this verse referred to Jesusas and that this verse was speaking of a time in the future when Jesusas would descend and all People of the Book (Jews and Christians) would believe in him. He argued that since Jews and Christians have not believed in Jesusas who was foretold to return, this proves that Jesus is still alive in the heavens. The Promised Messiahas dismantles his arguments from various angles during the debate, i.e. through principles of Islamic jurisprudence, principles and sciences of Hadith, reason and logic, the various qira’at of the Quran, classical exegeses (commentaries), knowledge of the Farsi language, principles of debate, principles of Arabic grammar, etc. (Al Haqq Mubahasa Delhi, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 4, pp. 233-249)
Maulvi Bashir stubbornly insisted on his interpretation. The Promised Messiahas then said to him that even if we were to believe that this verse is referring to a time in the future, our argument is not affected one bit – for, in that case, we would argue that this verse simply means that in the future, a time will come upon the world when all People of the Book at that time would come to believe in the truth of Jesusas before their death. This does not necessitate nor imply that Jesusas would return to the Earth – as is Maulvi Bashir’s view – but simply that the People of the Book would believe in him. People believe in the Holy Prophetsa despite his not returning to Earth, so why is it necessary for Jesusas to return to Earth for them to believe in him? The Promised Messiahas then challenges him, saying, “If you contest any point in this interpretation we have just presented, your point of contention will fall against your own interpretation, to the extent that you will never be able to rid yourself of these contentions!” Therefore, his point of contention on this view would be our point of contention on his, and he would thereby dismantle his own argument. (Ibid., p. 213)
5. Semantics: ‘Each is entitled to coin their own terminology’
(وَ لِکُلٍّ اَنْ ىَّصْطَلِحَ)
Explanation: The Promised Messiahas defined and presented the true criteria and definitions of certain terms and concepts in light of the Holy Quran and true Islamic teachings, such as tawaffee, rafa’, nuzool, nubuwwat/risalat, khatam, etc. Through this powerful aspect of argumentation, the Promised Messiahas taught us that we are not obliged to accept the self-invented criteria and definitions of these concepts and terms as presented by others.
If a definition or criteria is in harmony with the Holy Quran and Islamic teachings, then it is acceptable. Otherwise, it must be argued against in order to break the foundations of an opponent’s argument.
i. The Promised Messiahas explains the true definition of a prophet (نبى) and prophethood (نبوت):
“My claim to Prophethood does not mean that—God forbid—I claim to be a Prophet as against the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, or that I claim to have brought a new shariah. My prophethood means the frequent experience of divine converse and address that has been granted to me on account of my obedience to the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. You people also admit the possibility of divine converse, so our difference is only over the interpretation of terms. What you regard as the divine converse, I, in obedience to God’s commandment, denote its occurrence with great frequency as prophethood. و لکل ان ىصطلح [‘And everyone is entitled to define his terms’].” (Haqiqatul Wahi [English], p. 632)
ii. For the benefit of the reader, an example of how this method of argumentation is applied to other concepts and ideas is presented here: In the book, Life and Character of the Seal of the Prophets, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra describes the teachings of the Holy Prophetsa to prevent future slavery. In doing so, he separates the topic into two parts and assigns two of his own terms to tackle the issue effectively, i.e., ‘real slavery’ referring to the practice of taking of slaves (outside of religious wars) and ‘pseudo slavery’ meaning taking of captives following a religious war. He explains in a footnote:
“As far as the words ‘real slavery’ and ‘pseudo slavery’ are concerned, it is important to mention that this is not Islamic terminology, to be specific. Rather, we have formulated these terms of our own accord in light of the Islamic doctrine and for ease of discussion. As the saying goes و لکل ان ىصطلح i.e., ‘And Each is entitled to coin his own terminology.” (The Life and Character of the Seal of the Prophets, Vol. 2, p. 213)
By coining terms in light of true Islamic teachings, questions and allegations surrounding a subject can be addressed in a most effective and simple manner. This is an effective method of establishing the foundation of an argument and can solve complex issues with relative ease.
6. Identifying logical fallacies and inconsistencies
Explanation: Whereas it is important to establish well-founded arguments for one’s own perspective, it is equally important to point out the fallacies and inconsistencies hidden in an opponent’s arguments. In philosophical areas of dialogue, refuting an opponent’s philosophies using rational arguments (عقلى دلائل) is a requirement to refuting his claims.
i. Masadir-‘alal-matlub (مَصَادِرْ عَلىٰ الْمَطْلُوْبِ): In point #1 of this section, it was explained how the Promised Messiahas used inductive reasoning (دلىل استقرائى) during the Holy War debate to disprove the divinity of Jesusas, stating that evidence must be shown to prove that it is the practice (sunnah) of Allah that sons of God have been sent into the world. Otherwise, we observe that in the history of the world, only humans have been sent by God to convey His message – therefore, Jesusas is also a human.
In reply to this, the Christian Missionary Abdullah Atham admitted that he understood the argument of inductive reasoning but that no such example could be given and that “the case of Jesusas is completely unique”. The Promised Messiahas pointed out the absurdity of this argument and stated:
“In the art of debating, this is known as masadir-‘alal-matlub [مَصَادِرْ عَلىٰ الْمَطْلُوْبِ]; in other words, the very matter that is in dispute is presented as an argument in its support.” (The Holy War [English], p. 48) Essentially, this is equivalent to making the result a premise, the claim an evidence and the problem a solution!
ii. False Equivalence (قىاس مع الفارق): The Arya Samaj (Hindu) made the argument that God could not create souls in much the same way that He could not create another god. They argued that it was not possible for the human mind to comprehend this matter. The Promised Messiahas replied that this was a false equivalency (قىاس مع الفارق), because two attributes (صفات) of God can not conflict or cancel each other out. If God created another god, it would nullify His attribute of being ‘the One without any partner’ (واحد لا شرىک), whereas creating souls would not nullify this – or any other – attribute of God. Rather, it is argued that not creating souls would put into doubt the attribute of God being ‘All-Mighty’ and ‘All-Powerful’. Furthermore, the Promised Messiahas argued that for the human mind to be unable to comprehend a matter does not mean that God is unable to do it – “Absence of knowledge does not necessitate the absence of a thing.” Therefore, God did create souls but would not create another god. (Maktubat, Vol. 2, pp. 76-77 [old edition])