Responses to Bismikaallahuma

Muslim Polemics and the Dishonest Use of Scripture

The team at Bismikaallahuma has written a "rebuttal" seeking to defend the Quranic account of Solomon speaking with ants. We will address their claims about the Quran in a future article, Lord Jesus willing. Here, we would like to expose Shibli Zaman’s dishonest use of the Holy Bible. Mr. Zaman writes:

Now do critics of a Judeo-Christian background have anything to stand upon when they make this criticism?

No. The word used in verses 18-19 for communication are inflections of the word "ql". This word does not only mean to speak, but also to convey something or to make sound. The cognate for this word in previous scriptures is also "Ql" in Aramaic and is found in the Book of Daniel in the following manner:

"chzh havyt b'dayin min-ql millayy rabrebt' d qarn' memallelh..."

"I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake..." (Daniel 7:11)

A talking horn? The notion of an inanimate horn talking is even more absurd than an ant talking! You will often find that the Christian missionaries like to cast stones from glass houses. The fact is that these are miracles and you aren't supposed to try and "scientifically explain" them anyways. However, even when we answer the missionaries' challenges by doing so, they end up falling flat on their faces.


Here is the context of Daniel 7 which exposes Zaman’s manhandling of the text:

"In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had A DREAM, and VISIONS passed through his mind as he was lying on his bed. He wrote down the substance of HIS DREAM. Daniel said: ‘In MY VISION at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea. The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it. And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, "Get up and eat your fill of flesh!" After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule. After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast - terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had TEN HORNS. While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was ANOTHER HORN, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully. As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.’" Daniel 7:1-14

The reader can certainly discern the crucial difference. The story of Solomon meeting and listening to talking ants is set in a historical context. The Quran reports this as a real life event, i.e. that while Solomon and his army were marching in battle order they met these talking ants (S. 27:17-19). The passage in Daniel describes a completely different setting. Daniel is not taking a walk and suddenly passing by a talking horn. If this were the case, then Zaman would have a point since this would be comparable to the Quran. Yet, it is evident to anyone reading the context that Daniel is describing events that occurred in A VISION. Daniel doesn’t leave us guessing regarding the interpretation of his vision, since the text continues:

"I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all this. So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: ‘The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever - yes, for ever and ever.’ Then I wanted to know the true meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws - the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about THE OTHER HORN that came up, before which three of them fell - the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. As I watched, THIS HORN was waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom. He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The ten horns ARE TEN KINGS who will come from this kingdom. After them ANOTHER KING will arise, different from the earlier ones; HE WILL SUBDUE THREE KINGS. HE will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to HIM for a time, times and half a time.’" Daniel 7:15-25

The context shows that the horn which spoke SYMBOLIZES A KING that would arise to make war against the people of God. It has nothing to do with A LITERAL HORN at all. In fact, there are other places in the Holy Bible where horns symbolize rulers/kings:

"One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries. Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and TEN HORNS. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: ‘Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns… The ten horns you saw ARE TEN KINGS who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings - and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.’" Revelation 17:1-7, 12-14

The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Tyndale House Publishers, Vol. 2, 1988, states:

HORN (Heb. qeren; Gk. keras). ...

3. Horns symbolized power, in Zedekiah's prophetic action (1 Ki. 22:11) and in Zechariah's vision (Zc. 1:18ff.), and often the word is metaphorically used in poetic writings. God exalts the horn of the righteous and cuts off the horn of the wicked (Ps. 75:10, etc.). He causes the horn of David to sprout (Ps. 132:17; cf. Ezk. 29:21). He is spoken of as ‘the horn of my salvation’ (2 Sa. 22:3; Ps. 18:2; cf. Lk. 1:69), but this may be a metaphor based on the horns of the altar as the place of atonement. Am. 6:13 ‘horns’ (AV) should be read as a place-name, Karnaim (so RSV).

4. In the peculiar apocalyptic usage of Dn. 7 and 8 and Rev. 13 and 17 the horns on the creatures in the visions represent individual rulers of each world-empire.

Interestingly, the Quran also uses horns symbolically. In Surah 18:83-98 the Quran mentions a person called the two-HORNS (Zul-qarnain):

They ask thee concerning Zul-qarnain. Say, "I will rehearse to you something of his story." S.18:83

Some Muslims take this as a reference to a person who had reached both East and West. In fact, some even claim that this refers to Alexander the Great! (See these articles for a detailed discussion: [1], [2], [3].)

The "two horns" symbolize the (far) East and the (far) West, i.e. the extent of Zul-qarnain's travels. Yet, if we were to apply Zaman's hermeneutic we would be forced to assume that this person literally had two horns protruding from some part of his body!

There may be a way in which Zaman’s appeal to Daniel is relevant to the talking ant story. Muslim commentator and translator Muhammad Asad claims:

"In this instance, Solomon evidently refers to his own understanding and admiration of nature (cf. 38:31-33 and the corresponding notes) as well as to his loving compassion for the humblest of God's creatures, as a great divine blessing: and this is the Qur'anic moral of the LEGENDARY story of the ant." (Asad, The Message of the Qur'an [Dar Al-Andalus Limited 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar rpt. 1993], p. 578, fn. 17; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Asad views the talking ant story as a legend, a symbolic tale which illustrates a moral point. Likewise, the images of Daniel’s dream are prophetic symbols which point to historical events that would come to pass. Daniel’s DREAM would therefore be similar to the Quran, since both the horns in the dream and the talking ant episode are not meant as literal-historical events.

Yet, there are a couple of problems with Asad's claim. First, unlike the Daniel story where we are explicitly told that Daniel saw a dream, the Quran nowhere implies that the talking ant story is a dream, vision, or fable. The surrounding context demonstrates that this is intended to be viewed as an actual event where animals have actual conversations with Solomon and with each other. Second, the majority of Muslims throughout the centuries have viewed this story as an actual historical event, not simply a fable illustrating some moral truth. Asad's explanation seems to be more an attempt to present the Quran with some sense of credibility.

We would like to conclude this article by pointing out the fact that one often finds the Muslim "propagandists" dishonestly twisting the text of Holy Scripture in order to convey the impression that they are actually providing a meaningful rebuttal. Yet, their empty rhetoric only exposes their shallow exegesis and pseudo-scholarship. Indeed, their glass house came crashing down a long time ago.

Sam Shamoun

The exegetical and scientific aspects of Shibli Zaman's claims regarding the Qur'an are discussed in detail in the article: Talking Ants in the Qur'an?

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