Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Muslim-Christian Discussion on Numbers 31 - Analysis and Commentary

A discussion between a popular Muslim speaker at Speakers Corner and a Christian lady on Numbers 31 - Moses’ treatment of the Midianites.

For me this was an interesting discussion, perhaps the pick of the recent Speakers Corner discussions. You can find this discussion on the SC Dawah channel (a well respected and, perhaps, the most popular Speakers Corner YouTube channel).

There’s a short debate and then some powerful preaching (a recommended listen!) from Hashim jam-packed with good points.

Hitting Asiha? “Sex-slaves”.

Look, low-level polemics and spin need to stop if you want to communicate with integrity

Before getting on to the debate, I want to pick on two throw-away comments which really got my goat.

1. The lady effectively claimed Prophet Muhammad hit Asiha by referencing a Hadith we have covered more than once (her colleagues have been publicly corrected on this issue previously!). Sadly, people get corrected and have things explained to them but their pride or their agenda gets in the way and they just don’t take ownership of their mistakes and raise their hands to give up bad and misleading arguments publicly. If folks did this more often we would have a better environment to have meaningful and honest discussion (as I write, a few days a go, an Arabic-speaking secularist whom I corrected on social media concerning the Hadith in question actually did the right thing, he acknowledged it was a bad argument which he should not have raised, respect to him for that!). There’s a narration from Aisha where she says the Prophet never struck any of his wives, so to say he hit Aisha would not stack up with this narration, right? The hand imposition of the Prophet is not considered to be wife-beating as the intention was not to hit or beat Aisha, the Prophet used this to ward off evil thoughts and doubts in people. Let’s start seeing people be fair when they talk about this (and other) Hadith. What are folks afraid of, that they will have to be more fair-minded in discussion? Surely this is a good thing. I genuinely believe, if Christians actually circulated good Muslims responses (a plethora can be found online on various blogs and websites) to the low-level polemics doing the rounds in Christian circles, most reasonable Christians would reject the low-level polemics and opt for more sophisticated and reasonable dialogue with Muslims. Right now, it’s a free-for-all mud-slinging contest. The Hadith of causing Aisha pain is explained here. 

2. “Sex slaves”? What is this loaded and utterly misleading term that so many people engaging in low-level polemics are using about Islam. Islam does not have a concept of “sex slaves”. “Sex slaves” are not allowed in Islam. I’ve got an important discussion on this subject here where Christians opt to use the word “concubine” when talking about their tradition but for Islam they, for some reason (anti-Islam propaganda) spin it to “sex slave” when talking about the Islamic tradition. Let’s be honest and fair with our terminology. It’s actually concubine for both religions. “Sex slave” is something completely different and it skews the audience’s understanding if they are not switched on.

Hashim: Why did Moses order the killing of women [and children] in Numbers 31?

The Christian lady’s explanation was that the women "encouraged" the Israelites into idolatry. I would ask her, if *all* the women were encouraging the Israelites into idolatry or if it was only a few...

Based on the explanation she gave, the lady has no issue with contravening religious freedom and freedom to worship whatever/who one wants. If she’s got no issue here and considers this to be a rightful reason to kill the mature women (mothers) then she’s saying she does not believe in freedom of religion on all occasions at the very least. The same applies if she believes Jesus will return with a sword for anybody who does not believe in him upon his return. And, likewise with the order to stone to death people who preach the worship of different gods in the Bible, see Deuteronomy 13.
The UN Declaration of Human Rights kind of gets put to the side when thinking about all the above beliefs.

I’m not saying (and nor do I believe), this is an argument against Trinitarian Jesus, the Bible, Jews, Christians and Moses. It’s just an observation to keep in mind as many Westernised Christians give the impression they are not aware of these points and many of them fall into serious inconsistency (hypocrisy which is a sin) when talking about Islam.

Distancing TCVO Jesus from Numbers 31?

Note: TCVO Jesus = Trinitarian Church Version Of Jesus

15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

The Christian lady was doing something extremely telling in calling it the Mosaic law, name-dropping Moses and distancing “Christ” from this by going out of her way to state the number of centuries it allegedly took place before “Christ”.

She’s awfully uncomfortable, visibly so, and wants to distance Jesus from this consciously (she’s mindful it’s a public discussion) and subconsciously (cognitive dissonance: the Westernised idea that TCVO Jesus is all about love and peace does not mesh with Numbers 31, and other parts of the Bible). The problems in trying to distance Jesus from Numbers 31 and Moses for her are a few:

1. The order given to Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites, as Hashim rightly points out, is in the first verse of the chapter, it’s from Yahweh. This does not appear to be Moses acting on his own thoughts sinfully, is he not following a divine command according to the Bible here?

2. For her this order is from Jesus as she’s a Trinitarian so she believes Jesus is the 2nd person of the fourth century Trinity idea. In effect, she believes Jesus is God and thus the order given to Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites is from Jesus.

3. For her, Jesus would consider Moses to be a holy and righteous man; Acts 7:22 talks of Moses as mighty in his words and deeds and Numbers 12:3 describes Moses as the meekest man on earth.

4. Moses would have been a moral exemplar for the community he was sent to. This moral exemplar was sent by TCVO Jesus according to the lady. Jews believes Moses to be their teacher and his prophecy to have primacy (see Moses Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith). One thing I'm curious about is whether Christians like this lady would preach to Jews by methods of character assassination of Moses and unjust comparisons with Jesus in order to get Jews to worship Jesus (a man!). This is the type of tactic they use with Muslims, why would they not use these tactics for Jews too?

5. There was a prophecy of a prophet to come who would be like Moses, Muslims argue this prophet is Prophet Muhammad, the description of Moses in Numbers 31 is not something that Muslims are obligated to accept but bible-believing Christians are obligated to believe Moses gave such orders to kill women and children. The Christian lady may argue the prophecy of one to come who is like Moses is Jesus. If that’s what she believes, she’s got the cognitive dissonance of Jesus being like somebody who ordered the killing of women and children. [Having said that, Trinitarians do believe Jesus ordered the killing of children and women in 1 Samuel 15:3 and even made women suspected of infidelity to take a test which would mean their unborn children of such unholy relationships would be killed]

What about the children, why were they killed?

The Christian lady tried to skirt away from having to try and explain why the children were killed. Hashim pulled her up on this and insisted she directs her concentration towards this matter – she seemed to want to talk about something else. Anything else but this?

To her credit she did say she does not know why the male children were killed and that she will look into it. This does lead us to the question, why does she not know? I mean, she’s obviously familiar with the reference of Numbers 31, her colleagues have been told about it before. Why has she never thought about this? Given the numerous weak and fabricated Hadith folks on the low-level polemics bandwagon cite to attack Prophet Muhammad and Islam, this is odd. How can they have invested so much time and so many memory banks in fabricated and weak hadith yet not given a few minutes thought and research into Numbers 31? Odd!

I truly hope this is a conversation that Hashim continues with this lady, she’s said (given her word) she will try and find out why Christians believe Moses (and TCVO Jesus?) ordered the killing of male children..

How many male children and married women were killed?

Thom Stark (in his book response to Paul Copan) does a rough calculation of the number of Midianite boys and non-virgin women killed based on the number of virgin girls left alive. He estimates a total of 44,000 (forty four thousand) male children and non-virgin women were killed.

Let’s use Tooting, an area in south London, to help understand 44,000 people look like. Tooting’s population as per a census in 2011 was about 16,000.

Imagine Sadiq Khan, London’s current mayor and a resident and former MP of Tooting, decides Tooting should be singularly used to house single mothers with male children. Everybody is heralding Sadiq Khan as a great guy for dedicating Tooting to single mothers with male children. The single mothers and the male children love the common, the tranquillity of Tooting, the travel connections, the lido, multi-cultural restaurants/shops and are so grateful to mayor Khan and the people of Tooting who left on mass to give the new inhabitants space to live in this district dedicated speicifically for them.

And then imagine the IRA or an Anders Brevijk type of terrorist massacred every inhabitant of Tooting, all the single mothers and male children.

Then imagine that happening 3 times over!

We’re talking about a lot of male children and non virgin women which the Christian lady believes TCVO Jesus and her prophet (Moses) wanted killed.

The more you think about it, the more amazed you are at the lady who clearly knows about this passage but yet has not asked why...

 “As a Christian I don’t follow Moses”

This was part of the Christian lady’s mechanism to distance her religion and Jesus from Moses. However, this lady believes Jesus, upon his return, will return with a sword for his enemies (people who don’t believe in him). This defence mechanism does not stand up to scrutiny because if she was to compare TCVO Jesus with Moses, she will conclude Moses uses less violence than TCVO Jesus. Moses is more peaceful than who the church believes to be “the prince of peace”?

She’s going to reject the idea of TCVO Jesus and reject the biblical version of Moses if she’s consistent with the line of argumentation which was given to her by older missionaries, namely pick out an event in the life of Prophet Muhammad which was in the context of war and/or state leadership and isolate it in order to portray Prophet Muhammad in the most negative light possible.

Will she say something like this, “Moses is a horrible example for mankind, he ordered the killing of so many young boys and women, as a feminist I reject Moses as a prophet as no prophet would ever do this”
Or “TCVO Jesus is considered to be a prophet but I’ve just learnt the Trinitarian church believe Jesus ordered the killing of mothers and children in 1 Samuel 15:3 so he’s clearly a false prophet who is a horrible example for mankind, he’s a sinful and evil person”
Or, “to be fair and honest, if we were to compare Prophet Muhammad with TCVO Jesus, Prophet Muhammad uses less violence and is gentler and kinder towards women. TCVO Jesus is not somebody to be followed based on his attitude towards women and children, this is without even considering TCVO Jesus is going to return with a sword for anybody who does not believe in him which means, if he returns tomorrow, he’s going to terrorise most of the world’s men and women for simply not believing in him”
If she’s not going to say and believe this type of stuff, then Hashim is quite right in calling her inconsistent. Food for thought, for her and others like he!

Sadly, I suspect seniors in Christian polemics against Islam know all this but they feel they have to cling on to old-refuted and inconsistent polemics against Islam because they’ve (mis)invested so much time, emotional energy and money into such arguments. Jay Smith’s career is pretty much defined by this line of inconsistent rhetoric.

You know certain hadith but you don’t know Numbers 31?

Great point!

Hashim calls into question how a Christian (the lady in this case but to be honest this lady is simply regurgitating the same script used by many [most?] Christians who argue against Islam) can know about certain hadith for polemical purposes (which, when they aren’t citing utterly fabricated hadith or others that are not accepted, they usually misrepresent or de-contectualise) but have never thought about Moses and Numbers 31. Ditto for 1 Samuel 15. Ditto for Exodus 21:20-21.

And, as highlighted above, she believes Moses was sanctioned by Jesus as she’s a Trinitarian. She still believes Moses is a prophet despite this and the Old Testament laws which Westernised Christians find difficult.

Can you imagine if there was a fabricated tradition which said Prophet Muhammad ordered the killing of ~40,000 male children. You can imagine Christians who so embroiled in low-level polemics against Islam would be yelling from the roof-tops, day and night about it. Yet, there’s a deafening silence about references such as Numbers 31. Why?

In fact, I'd bet all the estates the Church of England own on Christians having a field day if one of their polemical websites made up a "hadith" saying the Prophet ordered the killing of 40,000 Arabian pagan male children and kept the female ones alive.

Inconsistency, a stubborn stain

This ties back to the points made against the idea the Holy Spirit is guiding Christians, if there are Christians out there who are so inconsistent when talking about Islam, and they’ve followed the same modus operandi for decades, then how can a Christian truly accept that person is in-dwelt and sanctified by the Holy Spirit? We’re veering on to a different subject, it’s a subject I enjoy, I’ve posted about here:

Does The Holy Spirit Work Within Christians?

"Why are you comparing your god with my prophet"?

I liked this question.

It’s really odd to hear Christians compare Jesus with Muhammad. Hashim thinks the comparison is unfair and he’d rather compare Allah with the Trinitarian idea of God: Allah can forgive without the blood of an innocent person (Christians believe in blood atonement) and worshipping Allah is not considered idolatry by those who follow the same religion as the people who were responsible for the Old Testament and decided what should be its canon  (Jews consider worshipping Jesus to be idolatry).

However, if they want to compare TCVO Jesus to Muhammad, Hashim *could* indulge them.

If they were consistent with their thought-pattern, they'd believe Prophet Muhammad is more loving than TCVO Jesus!

Prophet Muhammad forbade the beating of slaves yet TCVO Jesus allowed the severe beating of slaves (including female slaves) in Exodus 21:20-21. Prophet Muhammad forbade the killing of women, children and innocent people in war whilst we’ve already established that Christians believe TCVO Jesus ordered the killing of children and women.

On this point, I’d recommend the reader would read some thoughts in this post which discuss the idea of comparing Prophet Muhammad with Jesus.

That said, Prophet Muhammad was a leader of a state whilst Prophet Jesus was not so the missionary tactic of isolating punitive state laws or wars concerning Prophet Muhammad and comparing them with Jesus (who led a civilian life and was never a leader of a state) would be intellectually dishonest.

This line of thinking, if consistent, would mean that you’d accept Ghandi is more moral than Jesus, Moses and Abraham as Ghandi was not involved in any physical struggle. Or you’d see arguments like Richard Dawkins is better than Churchill and Moses because Rchard Dawkins did not use violence.

And, even arguments like, Richard Dawkins is more peaceful and loving than Jesus of the church gospels as Richard Dawkins did not threaten to come with a sword for his enemies. What are Christians going to do now, give up on the bible and accept Dawkins' God Delusion book and give up on worshipping a Middle Eastern man for worshipping an Englishman in Dawkins?

Come on folks, let's think by using brains rather than hormones. Rationality > emotions.


Although the actual discussion was brief it raised the theme of consistency which is always important as inconsistency is a form of intellectual dishonesty if done deliberately. The discussion really helps break down what seems to be emotionally incontinent approaches where Christians try to unfairly and misleadingly compare Prophet Muhammad with Jesus in an attempt of one-upmanship.

In fact, Thom Stark, a Christian author, would probably agree with Hashim and consider his points to be valid:

since Christians believe that Jesus is God, and Muslims believe that Muhammad was a human prophet, it is patently unfair to try to measure Muhammad against Jesus. Much more appropriate would be to measure Muhammad against Moses, and if Copan were to do that, guess who would be the shining beacon of light? Well, it wouldn’t be the elder of the two states-men. For one thing, Muhammad condemned the slaughter of non-combatants, women and children. Second, he embraced religious tolerance and believed that Christians, despite some theological flaws, were God’s people too, only with imperfect revelation. Moses, on the other hand, ordered and engaged in the slaughter of noncombatants, women and children, on a routine basis, and advocated for anything but religious tolerance”

Anybody, including Christians, who is willing to apply a level-headed attitude and a desire for intellectual fairness would fundamentally agree with what Hashim said and what is written in this commentary. Why is this getting lost in debates between Muslims and evangelical types? It’s because many Christians have, by intellectual osmosis, imbibed low-level polemics against Islam due to them being more prone to emotionalism. Irresponsible Christian missionaries and Christian polemicists marshalled anti-intellectual arguments and polemics into the discussion.

Another problem here is that of pride, a Christian social media riposte directed at me suggested to me that there is an attitude amongst some Christians that those who “engage” “publicly” with Muslims at Speakers Corner are “brave”. It really does not matter if one dialogues over the internet or in person, both are dialogues involving real people and souls (in fact, a good dialogue over the net trumps a bad dialogue in person which generates more heat than light). Let’s do away with the machismo. Pride can lead one to be blinded to how poor in argumentation you actually are. Is pride the reason behind the obvious flaws in this lady’s argumentation in this debate/discussion, is she blinded to the flaws therein but the rest of us can see them?

At the end of the day, this is something for Christians to address, all too often a Christian turns up arguing like the lady in the video and they go home pulling fluff and lint out of their hair as they were in the pocket of the Muslim they were arguing. These are lop-sided dialogues, Muslims come off far more sophisticated, intellectually honest and reasoned. My concern here is for young Christians switched on to the idea of consistency, who upon seeing the Christian missionary arguments back-fire and argue against Christianity and TCVO Jesus much more so than they do against Islam, wo may begin to question God or become anti-religion. On this subject, I recommend reading this piece raising the concern that inconsistency Christians who argue against Islam are in fact contributing to Christians leaving the church.

It’s only going to get increasingly more common and more and more difficult for Christians as more people (thanks in part to the hardwork of people like Hashim who counter low level Christian polemics in popular videos online) are getting familiar with the difficult things Christians actually believe about TCVO Jesus. Numbers 31 and 1 Samuel 15 are not the extent of it, there’s more, much more. For Muslims, I recommend you watch this video to familiarise yourself with some of this stuff so you can use it wisely to help bring a Christian who is following the same trend as the lady to consistency. However, if you’re an immature Muslim who just wants to learn about these difficulties to accost, troll and abuse unsuspecting young Christians online then I would suggest you find something better to do, these are discussions which need to be conducted by fair-minded, mature and intellectually honest people. We are talking about matters of faith here. Offending Christians is not the name of the game here.

Arming people with low-level polemics, one-line slogans and crummy arguments never works in the eyes of smart people or in the long-term, just look at what’s happened to the Christians and the way many of them come across as anti-intellectual and led by emotions in their dialogues. Learn from their mistakes. There’s a rise in secularism and an anti-religion (mainly anti-Abrahamic religions) sentiment which is sweeping much of the world. Muslims need to be intellectually equipped to deal with this. Learning and studying is key, in order to do so you have to drop your pride and recognise your areas of development. It would be a tragedy to see a generation of Muslims being inconsistent and anti-intellectual because of laziness and pride. Again, learn from the mistakes of the Christians, let’s try not to make the same mistakes.

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