Shibli Zaman's

Refutation of "Answering Islam"

The following are some thoughts on Shibli Zaman's page ‘Refutation of "Answering Islam".’

When Mr. Zaman originally went public with his new NESSIA site, he had four sections listed in the category "Site Rebuttals." I did not save the entry page of NESSIA as it was displayed the end of April, 2003, but if I remember correctly the categories were:

Some weeks ago, perhaps realizing that having too many empty sections isn't very impressive, Zaman removed the last three of these and is now focusing his energies on Answering Islam. We view it as a compliment that he considers our publications to be those most worthy of his attention.

It happens regularly that Muslims respond to one or two of our arguments and then claim that they have refuted our site (see, e.g., Shabir Ally and his response to our section discussing Contradictions in the Qur'an). In a similar manner, Shibli Zaman writes at the top of this page ‘Refuted Sites’ and ‘Refutation of "Answering Islam"’ as if a couple of articles responding to a very small number of arguments had already refuted a whole site consisting of some 10,000 webpages. The fine art of using understatement does not seem to be a strong point of Muslim polemics.

Obviously, Zaman will never be able to write rebuttals to all of our articles, even if God grants him another hundred years to his life. The only hope to refute our site as a whole would be to identify those foundational assumptions on which all of our arguments are based, and then refute them. That would cover all of our site. Otherwise, the most he can hope for, is to provide some rebuttals to a small selection of arguments presentend on Answering Islam. Had he given this page the title Refutations of some arguments made by "Answering Islam" there would be nothing to object to, but as it stands, it is preposterous.

Zaman's urge to exaggerate his own achievements doesn't stop there. It is amusing to see him now pack nearly everything he has published on his site into the section of responses to Answering Islam, even if they had nothing to do with Answering Islam at the time he wrote them. On June 22, 2003, this page contained links to eight articles, out of which five had absolutely no connection with Answering Islam. But again, it looks a lot more impressive to have eight articles listed instead of only three! Let's have a look at the entries on that page:

Does Allāh Order Muslims to Kill Jews?
Shibli Zaman  [ 1/7/2003 12:00:00 AM ]
This is Part 1 in a response to Hal Lindsey's article entitled "Participating With Pagans" in which he baselessly alleges Muslims are ordered to kill Jews according to Islām

Answering Islam has nothing at all to do with Hal Lindsay. I have not seen this particular article by Lindsay (and Zaman does not provide a link to it, so that the reader could examine it), so I will withhold judgment. However, I have read a couple of his books, and Hal Lindsay's endtimes speculations have been proven wrong over and over again, but never have I seen or heard him apologize for any of his false prophecies. Answering Islam does not want to be connected with Hal Lindsay and his irresponsible use of the Bible in any way. That Zaman puts Hal Lindsay in his Answering Islam listing is definitely the worst of the items on this page. Furthermore, in the article itself, Zaman does not even mention Answering Islam. Why he thought the link belongs on this page is mysterious, unless the purpose was really only to fill the page.

Clear Raisins or just Sour Grapes?
Shibli Zaman  [ 1/25/2003 12:00:00 AM ]
On March 2, 2002 the New York Times published an article entitled “Radical new views of Islam and the Origins of the Koran” by Alexander Stille. The article introduced the theories of an obscure and unknown German academic by the name of Christoph Luxenberg. This book attempts to propose the theory that the Qu'ran was originally based upon a Syro-Aramaic compilation of Christian hymns. Thus, he attempts to trace the words of the Qu'ran back to their ancestral Syro-Aramaic lexemes to “rediscover” what the Qu'ran truly says. Such theories form the basis for the writings of people such as Ibn Warraq. Shibli Zaman debunks Luxenberg's theories in this academic response to these attacks on the linguistic integrity of the Qu'ran.

Our connection to the New York Times is no closer than to Hal Lindsay, but at least this time we are grouped together with a prestigious newspaper. That is a much better connection than with any of the entrepreneurs of the American Endtimes Industry. Answering Islam does argue neither for nor against the theories in this book. But it is important that these new thoughts are discussed openly so that their truth (or falsehood) will be established. Therefore, we have added in February (two weeks after Zaman wrote his article, and not knowing of his article) a link to a review of the book in an academic journal. Since Answering Islam does nowhere argue for the Raisins theory, it is silly to place this article in the section Refutation of "Answering Islam".

Lifecyle of the Universe in the Qur'ān
Shibli Zaman  [ 1/11/2002 12:00:00 AM ]
CNN Reports on the discovery of a color coded lifecycle of the universe. Amazingly, this color cycle discovered in 2002 matches strikingly to what is in the Qur'ān, and what the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions said in the 7th century AD

The expression Lifecyle of the Universe is nowhere mentioned on Answering Islam, nor does Zaman attempt to draw any such connection. How this article is supposed to be a refutation of our site is again mysterious. Maybe Zaman thinks that an article that argues for scientific accuracy in one verse of the Qur'an qualifies as a refutation of several articles that expose the scientific nonsense in other passages of the Qur'an?

Q&A: Fire Under the Sea?
Shibli Zaman  [ 1/14/2003 12:00:00 AM ]
An intriguing analysis into the Hadīth "Verily, there is a fire under the sea, and a sea under the fire" and its amazing correlation with a scientific discovery made in January of 2003

Yet again, this article had originally no relationship to Answering Islam and does not refute anything on our site. Maybe there is a certain justification that it is listed here now, since several months later, Answering Islam did publish an evaluation of Zaman's argument in this article. Thus, the following entry is at last a response to Answering Islam:

REBUTTAL: Fire Under the Sea - Part 2
Shibli Zaman  [ 5/8/2003 12:00:00 AM ]
The first part was merely an answer to a question posed. However, that simple answer detailing modern science uttered by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the 7th century CE struck fear into the camp at "Answering (Attacking) Islam". Thus, they felt the need to refute it and attempted to write a "rebuttal". Herein I get a kick out of reviewing Geoff Austin's "rebuttal" as I am sure you will as well.

Mr. Zaman loves to speculate about the motives of his opponents (and then turn his speculations into ad hominem attacks). I am so sure that Zaman would immediately agree that all of his responses to our site and to other sites were also written for the sole reason that he was struck by fear. There can hardly be any other motivation!

The Evangelical Onslaught Against Islam
Shibli Zaman  [ 5/6/2003 12:00:00 AM ]
The difference between the virulent nature of the evangelical missionary genre in contrast to the kindness of the overwhelming majority in the Christian world should be acknowledged. The rebuttals found on this site to "Christian" polemics against Islam are directed to this genre specifically.

Again, this article does not even mention Answering Islam. It is an aggressive rhetoric directed against Evangelical Christians in general, full of accusations and ad hominem attacks (e.g., comparing Evangelicals with Hitler and Bin Laden), but without any kind of proof. There is not one quotation from Evangelical writings to back up his claims about them. This article is nothing but an empty rhetoric, and though listed under the title Refutation of "Answering Islam" it is not refuting anything on our site, or any other site.

Q&A: Ants Talking in the Qur'ān?
Shibli Zaman  [ 4/10/2003 12:00:00 AM ]
Critics have said that Sūrat an-Naml verses 18-19 which detail Solomon (peace be upon him) hearing the communication of ants contain a scientific error. They say ants can only communicate via scent. Here these fallacious arguments are analyzed and addressed.

ANALYSIS: The Story of Balaam's Ass
Shibli Zaman  [ 5/17/2003 12:00:00 AM ]
An analysis of the Biblical story of Balaam arguing back and forth with his ass as compared to the Qur'ān's story of Solomon perceiving the communication of some ants. Exposing a dishonest missionary polemic.

These two entries are really only one, since the second article became necessary in order to substitute for a very weak argument found in the first article that had backfired on Zaman (cf. Muslim Polemics and the Dishonest Use of Scripture). The second article does not actually refute anything on our site, but only seeks to repair an argument made in the first article on talking ants.

In conclusion, out of the list of eight articles making up Zaman's Refutation of "Answering Islam" on June 22, there are really only two (i.e., "Fire under the Sea - Part 2" and "Talking Ants in the Qur'an?") that are a direct response to our site. Two out of eight! (Or three out of eight if we are generous and count "Balaam's Ass" separately.) Appearances can be so deceiving ...

[Note: Obviously, now that Zaman has made the site Answering Islam the main focus of his efforts, this ratio will greatly improve in the future. His next two articles were added to the site on July 28, 2003, already bringing it up to four (or five) out of ten.]

Zaman started this page with these introductory remarks:

"Answering Islam" started out under the auspices of Jochen Katz as a defense of Christianity in the face of an abundance of criticisms from Muslim polemicists. However, over the years it has now turned into a melee of paranoid and xenophobic attacks against Islam as most of the writing has gone into the hands of people who do not have the same standards of decency as Mr. Katz. Now it is more "Attacking Islam" as opposed to "Answering Islam". So if the site has taken this turn, then we must deal them a decisive and definitive defense. (Refutation of "Answering Islam", June 22, 2003)

Apart from the words paranoid and xenophobic that was an unexpectedly reasonable introduction. At that time Mr. Zaman and I had not yet debated each other directly on any major issue, and his judgment about me came from his observations over the years in my dealings with others. After I had published my first three direct responses to Zaman's publications on July 18, which he apparently did not take very well, the intro was changed to:

"Answering Islam" started out under the auspices of Jochen Katz as a defense of Christianity in the face of an abundance of criticisms from Muslim polemicists. However, over the years it has now turned into a melee of paranoid and xenophobic attacks against Islam as most of the writing has gone into the hands of a motley crew of hatemongers from all over the world. Now it is more "Attacking Islam" as opposed to "Answering Islam". So if the site takes this direction, then we must deal them a decisive and definitive defense. (Refutation of "Answering Islam", July 30, 2003; bold and underline emphasis mine)

Changing a finished text is always dangerous, since one may not think as carefully about it then as one did at the time of its original composition. Originally the label xenophobic was only silly and wrong, but now Zaman is contradicting himself within this one paragraph. Xenophobic obviously doesn't go together very well with "from all over the world". Answering Islam is clearly an effort by a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural team. I am not aware of any xenophobia displayed or promoted on our site, and I challenge Zaman to prove his accusation with a representative cross-section of our publications that would justify such a label. Similarly, there is no basis for the terms paranoid and hatemongers. They say more about Zaman's personal feelings towards us than about the actual state of our site.

This introductory paragraph is only one more example of Zaman's regularly employed methodology of ad hominem attacks against those who dare oppose him and discuss their differing opinion in public. Nowhere on our site do we encourage or promote hatred against Muslims (the people). We critique and expose the ideology of Islam.

Lastly, Zaman's attempt to rename our site into "Answering-(Attacking)-Islam" in various of his articles, only shows that he has not understood that the common use of the expression Answering (Islam, atheism, ...) includes not only a response regarding their claims about our faith (i.e. a defense of Christianity against the attacks coming from Muslims) but also the response to the claims made by Muslims about Islam, i.e. the name Answering Islam naturally and validly includes the critique of Islam itself. This issue was, however, already explained long ago on the page about the name of our website, even though the occasion for that article was a somewhat different misunderstanding than the one now coming from Zaman.

If Zaman feels personally offended by our critique of Islam, he may want to learn from the attitude expressed in Amir Butler's article Speak Up, I Won't Be Offended published recently in A True Word. [Ironically, Butler and Zaman are co-editors of the Muslim publication A True Word.]

Jochen Katz, August 7, 2003

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