The case of Ahmed Deedat
The first to present his case seems right,
till another comes forward and questions him.
(Proverbs 18:17, NIV)
Ahmed Deedat (d. 2005) wrote many books, gave talks and was involved in public debates. His material continues to be widely used by Muslims to promote Islam and attack Christianity. For many Muslims, what they understand of Christianity comes from Ahmed Deedat. This article examines the main ideas that Deedat taught and considers the quality of his teaching.
In the Beginning
The Witnesses of Jesus
Incest and Pornography in the Bible
Esau - The True Name of Jesus
Three Grades of Evidence
Charge of "The Sword"
The Real Founder of Christianity
Crucifixion or Crucifiction?
The Sign of the Prophet Jonah
What the Bible says about Muhammad
The Multiple Bible Versions
Fifty Thousand Errors?
Other Errors in the Bible
In the Beginning
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1, NIV)
Ahmed Deedat, claims to have had the following conversation with a Christian minister.
I asked the Reverend whether he knew Greek? "Yes", he said, He had studied Greek for five years before qualifications. I asked him what the Greek word was for "God" the first time it occurs in the translation - "and the Word was with God"? He kept staring, but did not answer. So I said, the word was HOTHEOS, which literally means "THE GOD" ... which in turn is rendered - God. "Now tell me, what is the Greek word for God in the second occurrence in your quotation - "and the Word was God"? The Reverend still kept silent ... the game was up. I said the word was TONTHEOS, which means a god. (Ahmed Deedat, Christ in Islam, ch. 7, pp. 40-41)
In this conversation Deedat claims to understand the original language of the Bible. He claims that through this knowledge he was able to defeat this Christian minister. The problem is that everything he says about the Greek language is wrong.
Firstly, he says that the first reference to God is HOTHEOS. This is wrong. The first occurrence is TON THEON and not HOTHEOS. Deedat is wrong.
Next, Deedat says that the second occurrence for God is TONTHEOS. Again this is wrong:
The second occurrence is THEOS and not TONTHEOS as Deedat claims. Again, he is wrong. Deedat claims to understand the original language of the Bible but he does not; he cannot even get the letters right!
The Witnesses of Jesus
In his booklet, Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction?, Ahmed Deedat quotes Mark 14:50 to prove that Jesus' disciples were not eye-witnesses to his crucifixion:
... one of the alleged witnesses, St. Mark, tells us that at the most critical juncture in the life of Jesus - "All his disciples forsook him and fled" - (Mark 14:50). Please ask your Christian friend, "Does all mean all in your language ...?" ... So the so-called "eye-witnesses" are not really eye-witnesses to the happenings ... The reason the disciples of Jesus were afraid was that they had learned by hearsay that their Master was killed by being fastened to the cross - that he was crucified. They had learned by hearsay ... that he had died. (Ahmed Deedat, Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction?, ch. 3, pp. 7-8 & ch. 13, p. 55)
Christians and Muslims both agree that it is important to read a verse in its context. When Mark is read in context it actually says the opposite of what Deedat claims.
Then everyone deserted him and fled. A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind. They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. (Mark 14:50-54, NIV)
The verse in context says that Peter followed Jesus, and thus witnessed the final events of his life. If Deedat cannot read a verse in context then he is not qualified to teach the Bible.
Peter was not the only disciple who witnessed these events. Many of his disciples and his mother witnessed them too.
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull ... Here they crucified him, ... Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home (to care for her). (John 19:16-27, NIV)
When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him ... Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last ... When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from
Deedat claimed that Mark proved that the disciples of Jesus were not witnesses to his crucifixion. However, reading the verse in context shows that what Deedat says is false. The disciples of Jesus were eye-witnesses to the events of Jesus' life, including his crucifixion and resurrection, and it is their inspired testimony that we have in the Bible. The Bible contains not just one witness, but many witnesses to the life of Jesus.
A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:15, NIV)
This is one of the reasons why the Bible has four gospels and not just one. God appointed and inspired many eye-witnesses to the life of Jesus.
The Testimony of the Qur'an
Instead of listening to the many testimonies to Jesus' life in the Bible, Deedat urges his readers to listen to the testimony of the Qur'an. He says that this is the truth about Jesus, but is the Qur'an a reliable testimony? Consider the following three points.
1. Muhammad lived 600 years after Jesus and was not an eye-witness to anything he says about Jesus in the Qur'an. From a purely historical point of view we should seek to listen to the earliest accounts that are available, and these are the eye-witness accounts in the Bible.
2. It is claimed that the Qur'an is the testimony of God. Yet we see God changing his testimony and improving it.
Narrated Al-Bara: There was revealed: “Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and those who strive and fight in the Cause of Allah.” (Qur’an 4.95) The Prophet said, "Call Zaid for me and let him bring the board, the inkpot and the scapula bone ..." Then he said, "Write: ‘Not equal are those Believers who sit...’", and at that time 'Amr bin Um Maktum, the blind man, was sitting behind the Prophet. He said, "O Allah's Apostle! What is your order for me (as regards the above Verse) as I am a blind man?" So, instead of the above Verse, the following Verse was revealed: “Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame etc.) and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah.” (Qur’an 4.95) (Bukhari: vol. 6, bk. 61, no. 512, Khan)
Here we see Muhammad's God change his testimony. Initially it was:
Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and those who strive and fight in the Cause of Allah.
But this was found to be unsatifactory, so the verse was changed to:
Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame etc.) and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah. (Qur’an 4.95)
Surely God would get his testimony right the first time and not need to change it? If the Qur'an truly is the testimony of God then why did it need to be changed?
3. Deedat tells us that Muhammad received the testimony of God from the angel Gabriel. This sounds very simple, but what actually happened is more disturbing, for when Muhammmad received this testimony he would:
- Suffer a hard and severe condition, and hear the ringing of bells in his ears. (Muslim: bk. 30, no. 5765, Siddiqui)
- He would faint. (Al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari, vol. viii, pp. 2-3)
- He would sweat even on a cold day. (Bukhari: vol. 5, bk. 59, no. 462, Khan)
- His face would go red and he would breathed heavily. (Bukhari: vol. 6, bk. 61, no. 508, Khan)
- He would snort like a camel. (Bukhari: vol. 3, bk. 27, no. 17, Khan)
- And his mouth and lips would quiver. (Bukhari: vol. 6, bk. 61, no. 564, Khan)
These are the symptoms that Muhammad had when he was inspired by his God. Why does Deedat not tell us about them? These symptoms suggest that there is a medical explanation for what was happening to Muhammad. This is particularly the case since Muhammad also suffered from a period of delusion in which he imagined he was doing things that he was not actually doing.
Narrated Aisha: Magic was worked on the Prophet so that he began to fancy (imagine) that he was doing a thing which he was not actually doing. ... (Bukhari: vol. 4, bk. 54, no. 490, Khan)
These symptoms and Muhammad's period of delusion strongly suggest that Muhammad's inspiration was not from God but was a medical condition that was not understood at the time.
In view of these facts about the Qur'an and Muhammad, there is no reason to believe their testimony about Jesus.
Incest and Pornography in the Bible
Deedat is critical of the Bible for recording how
... Under what category ... will you place the incest of Judah, and his illegitimate progeny? All of these characters are honoured in the "Book of God" for their bastardy. ... But what about the moral (of this story)? God blesses
Firstly, Deedat does not tell his reader that
But the main problem with Deedat's criticism is that Muhammad had sexual relations with his daughter-in-law too! This is a well known event in Muhammad's life. Muhammad had an adopted son called Zayd bin Muhammad. Zayd had a beautiful wife was called Zaynab.
One day the Messenger of God went out looking for Zayd. Now there was a covering of haircloth over the doorway, but the wind had lifted the covering so that the doorway was uncovered. Zaynab was in her chamber, undressed, and admiration for her entered the heart of the Prophet. (Al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari, vol. viii, p. 4)
Muhammad saw his daughter-in-law undressed in her house and "admiration for her entered (his) heart". But there was a terrible problem, she was his daughter-in-law, the wife of his adopted son. But then Muhammad claimed that God had saved him from this problem. First he said that God had cancelled all adoptions.
(N)either has He made your adopted sons your sons in fact. (Qur'an 33:4, Arberry)
This meant that Zayd was no longer Muhammad's son and that Zaynab was no longer his daughter-in-law. Then he said that God had given Zaynab to him.
So when Zaid had accomplished what he would of her (divorced her), then We gave her in marriage to you (Muhammad). (Qur'an 33:37, Arberry)
Judah was deceived into sexual relations with his daughter-in-law, Muhammad was not. The fact that Muhammad and Zaynab got married does not justify this event, and adoption is not an evil institution that needs to be abolished. The fact is Muhammad saw a woman undressed. This lead to "revelations" that allowed him to fulfil his desire and take her to be his wife. Be honest, Muhammad is making up revelations to suit his own desires. If anyone else had such revelations we would rightly reject them as false, but when Muhammad has these revelations Islamic leaders tell us it is a miracle of God.
DAUGHTERS SEDUCE THEIR FATHER
Read Genesis 19, verses 30 to the end and mark again in "red" the words and phrases deserving this honour (of being censored). Do not hesitate and procrastinate. ... To continue: the "history" has it that, night after night, the daughters of Lot seduced their drunken father with the noble (?) motive of preserving their father's "seed". ... No decent reader can read the seduction of
Deedat refers to the incident of
Firstly, the Bible records what humans are like - and we are sinful.
They replied: "We worship idols and pray to them with all fervour." (Qur'an 26:69, Dawood. Also 4:163, 7:150-153, 7:189-192)
Both the Bible and Qur'an record people practising serious sin. This does not mean that either book is encouraging this behaviour. Both books are just recording what sinful people are like.
Secondly, the Bible is clear that we are not to imitate this behaviour.
No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. (Leviticus 18:6, NIV)
Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. (Leviticus 18:17, NIV)
Finally, Deedat is trying to imply that the Bible gives us a bad example while Muhammad gives us a good example. But is Muhammad's example really that good? When Muhammad was 54 years old he had sex with a 9 year old girl.
Narrated Hisham's father: ... (Muhammad) married 'Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consumed that marriage when she was nine years old. (Bukhari: vol. 5, bk. 58, no. 236, Khan)
And Muhammad gave full approval to the Mujahadeen (Islamic warriors) raping their female captives.
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: We got female captives in the war booty and we used to do coitus interruptus with them. ... (Bukhari: vol. 7, bk. 62, no. 137, Khan)
And Muhammad beat his wives.
... He (Muhammad) struck me (Aisha) on the chest which caused me pain ... (Muslim: bk. 4, no. 2127, Siddiqui)
Is this a good example for the world? For Muhammad actions are more than just cultural; they are believed to be the revelation of the perfect Muslim life; they are the basis of Islamic law and attitude to women. Do we really want men treating females this way?
Esau - The True Name of Jesus
The Holy Qur'an refers to Jesus as "Eesa", ... Actually his proper name was "Eesa" (Arabic), or "Esau" (Hebrew); classical "Yeheshua" ... The word is very simply - "ESAU" - a very common Jewish name, used more than sixty times in the very first booklet alone of the Bible, in the part called "Genesis". (Ahmed Deedat, Christ in Islam, ch. 2, p. 6)
Deedat is correct to say that the Qur'an calls Jesus, Eesa, and that Eesa corresponds closest to the Hebrew name, Esau. But the rest of the information Deedat gives is incorrect:
1. Yeheshua should be spelt Yehoshua.
2. Jesus' classical Hebrew name is Yeshua not Yehoshua. Yeshua and Yehoshua are related names, and both are classical Hebrew names, but Jesus' name is Yeshua.
3. Esau is not "a very common Jewish name" as Deedat claims. It is a very rare name and only used for one person in the Bible.
4. Deedat is completely wrong to say that Esau is the common form of the name Yehoshua, and that Jesus' common name is Esau. Esau and Yehoshua are two completely different names, with different letters and two different meanings. When the name Yehoshua is shortened it becomes Yeshua and not Esau. Jesus' name in Hebrew is Yeshua not Esau.
5. In Arabic Jesus' name is Yasua. This is similar to the Hebrew name, Yeshua, because they are closely related languages.
This exposes a significant error in the Qur'an because the Qur'an calls Jesus, Eesa, when his name in Arabic should be Yasua. The Arabic for Eesa is very close to Esau and this is why Deedat thinks that Jesus' name should be Esau, but Esau is the wrong name. This means the Qur'an has the wrong name for Jesus or that it uses a very corrupted version of his name. Either way the Qur'an fails to get Jesus' name right.
For more information read, Is Eesa the true name of Jesus?
Three Grades of Evidence
We Muslims have no hesitation in acknowledging that in the Bible, there are three different kinds of witnessing recognizable without any need of specialized training. These are:
- You will be able to recognize in the Bible what may be described as "The Word of God".
- You will also be able to discern what can be described as the "Words of a Prophet of God."
- And you will most readily observe that the bulk of the Bible is the records of eye witnesses or ear witnesses, or people writing from hearsay. As such they are the "Words of a Historian."
... The following quotations will make the position crystal clear:
The FIRST Type:
- "I will raise them up a prophet ... and I will put my words in ... and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him." (Deuteronomy 18:18)
- "I, even I, am the Lord, and beside me there is no saviour." (Isaiah 43:11)
- "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the end of the earth: for I am God, and there is non else." (Isaiah 45:22)
Note the first person pronoun singular (in bold) in the above references, and without any difficulty you will agree that the statements seem to have the sound of being GOD'S WORD.
The SECOND Type:
- "Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani? ..." (Matthew 27:46)
- "And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O
- "And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God." (Mark )
Even a child will be able to affirm that Jesus "cried," Jesus "answered," and Jesus "said" are the words of the one to whom they are attributed, i.e. the WORDS OF A PROPHET OF GOD.
The THIRD Type:
"And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he, (JESUS) came, if haply he (JESUS) might find anything thereon; and when he (JESUS) came to it, he (JESUS) found nothing but leaves..." (Mark )
The bulk of the Bible is a witnessing of this THIRD kind. These are the words of a third person. Note the underlined pronouns. They are not the Words of God or of his prophet, but the WORDS OF A HISTORIAN.
For the Muslim it is quite easy to distinguish the above types of evidence, because he also has them in his own faith. But of the followers of the different religions, he is the most fortunate in this that his various records are contained in separate Books!
ONE: The first kind - THE WORD OF GOD - is found in a Book called The Holy Qur'an.
TWO: The second kind - THE WORDS OF THE PROPHET OF GOD ... are recorded in the Books of Tradition called The Hadith.
THREE: Evidence of the third kind abound in different volumes of Islamic history ...
The Muslim keeps the above three types of evidence jealously apart, in their proper gradations of authority. He never equates them. On the other hand, the "Holy Bible" contains a motley type of literature ... (Ahmed Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, ch. 1, pp. 4-6)
What Deedat says about the Bible and the Qur'an is false. Consider the Qur'an first.
The Qur'an - Deedat says that the Qur'an is the "type 1" witness. That is, it is where God says, "I" and "me". But this is false as any reader of the Qur'an knows. Consider these examples.
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Praise be to God, Lord of the Universe, The Compassionate, the Merciful, Sovereign of the Day of Judgement! You alone we worship, and to You alone we turn for help. Guide us to the straight path, The path of those whom You have favoured, Not of those who have incurred Your wrath, Nor of those who have gone astray. (Qur'an 1, Dawood)
The first sura in the Qur'an is a prayer directed to God. There is no "I" or "me" of God speaking. By Deedat's own standard the whole of sura 1 is a type 2 witness, not type 1.
Consider another example.
We descend only at the bidding of your Lord. To Him belongs what is before us and behind us, and all that lies between. Your Lord does not forget. He is the Lord of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them. Worship Him, then and be patient in His service. (Qur'an 19:64-64, Dawood)
Again we see that God is not speaking here with "I" or "me" (type 1). Instead there are spirits or angels, "we", speaking about God, "him". By Deedat's own standard this is a mixture of type 2 & 3 witness, which according to him not the word of God.
The Qur'an does have type 1 witness.
I created the jinn and mankind only that they might worship Me. I demand no livelihood of them, nor do I ask that they should feed Me. (Qur'an 51:57, Dawood)
Thus the Qur'an is a mixture of different types of witness and not just "type 1" as Deedat claims.
The Bible - Deedat mocks the Bible and calls it a "motley type of literature", and thus inferior to the Qur'an. It is true that the Bible has many types of literature. It is a collection of the writings of about 40 prophets and apostles over a 1500 year period. It has:
The Law of Moses, The Psalms of David and others, The Wisdom of Solomon: Proverbs, Songs, Prophecies, Prayers, Parables, Genealogies, Visions, Angelic Explanations, Prophetic History, Gospels and Apostolic Letters.
God has inspired his word in many ways.
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways (Hebrews 1:1, NIV).
God is not limited to one type of witness. He has inspired people with his word in many different ways. In fact a revelation from God must have many types of inspiration and witness for it to be complete. Consider the Bible, since it contains history, it provides all of its own context and chronology. This means that all of its commands, prophecies and the gospel can be understood in their proper context, which the Bible itself provides. The Bible is complete and the only essential book in Christianity.
The Qur'an is very different. Muhammad spoke the Qur'an in response to different situations in his life, but what these situations were (the context) is not recorded in the Qur'an. It is essential to know this context in order to rightly understand and apply the Qur'an but this essential context comes from other books called the Hadith and Sira.
The Qur'an also does not contain the Sunnah (practices of Muhammad). Yet the Sunnah is essential in Islam. How, when and what to pray, what to do on Hajj, circumcision, in fact most of the essential Islamic practices come from the Sunnah and this too comes from the Hadith and Sira.
Since the Qur'an does not contain its own context or the Sunnah, it is an incomplete book. The essential books of Islam are the Qur'an, Hadith and Sira and not the Qur'an alone. The essential book of Christianity is the Bible. Therefore it is wrong to compare the Bible to the Qur'an in the way that Deedat has. A fair comparison will compare the essential books of both religions.
For more information read, Comparing the Bible and the Qur'an
Continues on Part II