Chapter# 11: The Qadi and Sheikh Ali Converse
The Qadi, depressed at the success with which Sheikh Ali and his companions had defended their position, retired to his chamber, and kept thinking about the discussion, the strength of the Christian arguments, and ease with which those of his own party had been put aside. "It was as if we fled from a shower of pebbles; or rather, as if without weapons we went forth to attack an enemy shielded in impenetrable armour. Clearly, as far as the charge of falsification, there is no hope of success; the proofs are all against us. What then shall we do?"
Much troubled, sleep fled from the Qadi's eyes till morning, and he awoke late in the day, when his thoughts returned to the controversy. "Why should I not carry the war into the enemy's camp," he said suddenly to himself, "and challenge them to refute our proofs?" So he went over the various arguments for Islam, the Unity revealed, the Arabs converted, and the marvellous spread of the faith. "I will lay these before Sheikh Ali, if by chance they may convince him." So he planned to meet him that evening in a chamber at the City Hall.
As regards the Christian company, they were much encouraged by the discussion. This new call of the Qadi gave them fresh hopes, and they sought the Lord's blessing on the conference. At the appointed time and place, the two met; and the Qadi, when they had sat down, said he had sought this second meeting to follow up a thought that had occurred to him in the morning, and asked a patient hearing, which when Sheikh Ali had promised, he proceeded thus.
"My dear friend, I am going to ask you to call to mind the prophetic claim of Muhammed, on whom be peace and blessing!
Listen to me, and be not one of the stiff-necked. Think how he called the heathen tribes of Arabia to the worship of the true God; how, in the midst of a people that gloried in the worship of Lat and Uzza, he preached the Unity. Where, but from divine inspiration, could he have gained that wonderful doctrine, in the midst of a nation having many gods and lords? -he, unlearned, unable even to read or write, a poor, needy, solitary orphan, alone in the faith. How could such a one, except by inspiration, have given us that marvellous Quran, 'the like of which man and jinn, let them unite all together, could never produce'? That God should have made him victorious over the idolatrous Koraish and heathen Arabia; that his followers of the Koraish and the citizens of Medina should have so rapidly increased; and that the faith should, in an inconceivably short space of time, have spread over Arabia, Syria, Iraq, and other lands -is not all this clear proof of the Divine mission of our Prophet, that he was inspired to be a Warner and a preacher of glad tidings to the whole of mankind? -so clear, you might say, that he who denies it might as well deny that the sun shines at midday."
Ali tried at first to excuse himself from entering on the discussion of the prophetic claim of Muhammed, unless forced to it. But pressed, he proceeded thus. He used, he said, himself to have the same ideas as the Qadi, and did not yield to him in pressing them upon learned Christians, as an unconquerable proof of Islam, until the veil fell from his eyes, and he found he had been, as it were, wandering in a maze.
The Qadi said: "How was that? Speak freely, my friend. Do not fear, nor be ashamed to do so."
Ali, after thanking him for this free liberty, proceeded to say that Muhammed's proclaiming the Unity was proof not of his prophetic claim, but of his power and shrewdness of intellect; for the conception is clearly within the scope of human knowledge. Nor was the doctrine itself unknown in Arabia. It was held by the Jewish tribes, which occupied a prominent position in the land, as well as by the Christians, such as the inhabitants of Najran, the Beni Kinda, and others. The Prophet himself also repeatedly passed from the Hejaz into Syria, and there saw monasteries and churches, and must have met monks and clergy, from whom he may have learned much; for in the Quran many of the monks and clergy are spoken of as patterns of virtue and piety.
"Nor can evidence be drawn from the rapid spread of Islam, for its success was due to the sword; not like Christianity, which prevailed with the help neither of sword nor spear, but by the power of God, and in spite of persecution. Moreover, Islam has long been declining in its power, while Christianity ceases not to grow marvellously in every land and climate. Your Prophet also showed no signs, like Moses, as proof that God had sent him to deliver people out of captivity. And again, Muhammed denied the truths revealed in former Scripture."
The Qadi interposed here: "Muhammed surely did not deny the Scripture revealed before him; but on the contrary, attested the same. For, see Sura The Cow 2:98: 'And when there came unto them an apostle, confirming the Scripture that was with them, a party from among those to whom the Scripture was given cast the book of God behind their backs, as if they knew it not.' And again, in Sura The House of Imran 3:2: 'He has sent down unto you the Book with truth, confirming that (revealed) before it; for He had sent down the Torah and the Gospel for a time, a direction unto men.' It is clear that the Apostle of God did come, confirming the previous Scriptures, both of the Jews and the Christians; how then, my friend, can you say the contrary? Then, again, on the other point, have you forgotten the many signs and miracles Muhammed showed, such as the splitting of the moon into two parts, one part over Mount Cobeis, the other over the hill Caynocâa; raising his parents for a season to life, so that they professed their faith in Islam, and then returned to the dead; bringing forth water at Majaz; raising to life the son of a woman of Medina; producing much out of little, and suchlike? Strange that you should have forgotten all this, my friend, witnessed to as they have been by a multitude of pious folk."
Ali smiled as the Qadi went over this long list of miracles.
"God forbid, my friend," he said, "that I should assist you in fabricating such stories, either for or against the Prophet of Islam. As regards your first point -it is clear that there are many passages in which the Quran attests the previous Scriptures; but we must look closer, and then we find that many essential truths in them are denied, such as the incarnation, crucifixion, and atoning death of Jesus. Not only are the Scriptures authentic, as we have seen before, but these truths had already been distinctly acknowledged by the Christian Church. Long prior to Islam, the Council of Nicea, under the first Christian monarch, and attended by a multitude of bishops from Christian lands, was assembled to consider the teaching of Arius, who denied the eternal generation of the Son, and His equality with the Father in essence and dignity, and after a prolonged discussion, they all condemned the heresy. And, indeed, a glance at the Scriptures, existing in every country and language of the world, Old and New, shows that their great object is to represent the messiah as divine -God and man -and His death as an atoning sacrifice. What, then, was the advantage of the Prophet's confirming the Scriptures revealed before, when he denied these their essential truths? I am lost in amazement to think how he could have said all this when there were everywhere thousands and thousands of copies of the Book existing at the time, all bearing testimony with clear voice to these precious truths -the eternity of Christ, his offering Himself up to fulfill the Father's will, and the sanctification of believers through this one offering of Himself. And truly, my friend, had Muhammed really accredited the Scriptures in the hands of Jews and Christians around him, he would then, without doubt, have been himself a Christian.
"Next, as regards the alleged miracles of the Prophet, described in the traditions and biographies of Muhammed, I say that I myself, when a Muslim, boasting of the faith and glorying in the Prophet, never dared to mention them before Jews and Christians. Indeed, I tell much shame when asked about them; and I marvel that my learned friend speaks of the same as real, with the Quran in your hands."
Qadi asked, "Now, where is there anything in the Quran about them?"
Ali again expressed his amazement; and the Qadi blushed as he added: "Really, I cannot call them to mind. Enlighten me. It will be a favour unto me."
"With pleasure, my friend," said Ali. "There are not many passages; but I will mention these: (1) Sura Thunder 13:9,41: 'The infidels say, "Unless a sign be sent down unto him from his Lord (we will not believe)," but you are only a Warner'...'It is not given to any prophet to come with a sign, unless by permission of God'; (2) and yet again, in Sura The Spider 29:50: 'They say, "Unless a sign be sent down unto him from his Lord (we will not believe)." Say, Signs are from God alone, and I am nothing more than a public preacher'; (3) and lastly, in Sura The Night Journey 17:60: 'Nothing hindered us from sending you with miracles, except that the former peoples gave them the lie.' These passages indicate clearly that Muhammed did not claim to show miracles like Moses, Jesus, and the other prophets. If Muslims then bring tradition to prove miracles, when the Quran distinctly gays that the Prophet showed none, is that not the greatest possible insult to the Quran itself, my good friend?"
The Qadi waited a little, evidently taken unawares, perplexed and downcast. Then in a grave voice, he said, "I must consider the meaning of these verses further, and consult Baidawi."
"Very good," replied Ali, "but surely the meaning is clear enough, without reference to commentators. I have an extract here, however, from the same Baidawi, which you might hear and think over at your leisure."
The Qadi agreed.
Ali commented on the last verse (Sura The Night Journey 17:60). He said: "That is to say, 'We have only abstained from sending you with miracles,' as the Koraish demand, 'Because the former peoples' -those of like temper with them, as the tribes of Ad and Thamud -'gave them the lie,' and so likewise would these men of Mecca; 'and they would otherwise have been destroyed, according to our custom,' (that is, if they had rejected the miracles); so 'we determined not to destroy them,' seeing that there are among them those that believe, or will have believing seed."
The Qadi, on hearing this extract, said: "True, that was the reason the Lord did not send His Prophet with miracles. It is clear that tradition is here at fault, and deserves no attention. I thank you, Sheikh Ali, for bringing all this to my notice, which I had overlooked."
"But now," continued the Qadi, "I will ask you whether the Quran itself is not a miracle, for its sublime language, matchless beauty, and heavenly utterances raise it altogether beyond the range of human possibilities."
"No," replied Ali, "a miracle is that which is outside the course of nature and its laws -such as the raising of the dead. The composition of a book, however beautiful and grand, is not a miracle, but a wonderful work of man's genius, like those of the old Arab poets, as Imru'ulquais, al-Mutanabbi, al-Hariri, Qoss, and Luqman, who produced poems and tales of deep emotion and eloquence; and as these are not miracles, no more is the Quran. Moreover, the greatest part of the stories, and the finest, are taken from the Old Testament; and certain of them, as the narrative of the Creation, the Flood, Abraham offering Isaac, the histories of Lot, Joseph, Moses, and Pharaoh, etc., are repeated over and over, some even as many as ten times, in different parts of the Quran. If all these were taken away, what of the miracle would remain?"
"That is all true," admitted the Qadi, "but, then, consider that the writer was entirely unlearned; and, as such, to compose so wonderful a work, may we not regard that a miracle?"
"Everything agreed," said Ali, "it is still within the limits of human intellect. The Torah and Gospel are not miracles, but revelation; and miracles are given to prove the revelation. And then we ail know in what way the various suras and verses of the Quran were collected, and how difficult it would be, were we to demand legal proof, to make certain what portion of them really came from the Prophet himself."
The Qadi at last agreed that the Quran, as a mere composition, could not be considered a miracle; but still argued that its elevated teaching and sentiment altogether surpassed the range and ability of the men of the time.
"Yes, I agree with you there," said Ali. "The intellectual power and spiritual elevation of Muhammed are marvellous. But did you consider why it was that the Prophet fell back on the testimony of the Torah and Gospel?"
The Qadi said, "In order to tell of the creation and fall, the story of Mary and Zacharias, and other such histories, as well as of the origin of certain ritual observances."
"But then he omitted the most important of all the truths, or denied them," Ali insisted.
"What are these?" asked the Qadi.
"Some have already been spoken of. He has shown us the fall and expulsion from Paradise, but not the way of pardon and restoration. Now again, observe the promise to Abraham of 'a wise son' (Sura The Rangers 37:97-1 08). It is there implied that it was Ishmael, not Isaac (yet unborn at the time), who was to be offered up; but the kernel of the grand promise is left out, namely that "in Isaac's seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed.'"
"How do you prove that?" asked the Qadi.
"In various ways: First of all, the promise was given at the time when Abraham was about to offer up his son Isaac (Genesis 22). When Sarah wished Abraham to turn away Hagar, Abraham was told to listen to her, 'for in Isaac shall your seed be called' (Genesis 21:12). The promise was repeated to Isaac (as in Genesis 26:4), when the Lord spoke to him after his father's death: 'I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and will give your seed all these lands; and in your seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed'; and again to Jacob, when going to the land of Haran (Genesis 28:14): 'Your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and east, and to the north and to the south, and in you and in your seed shall all families of the earth be blessed.' So, my friend, you see that the promise: clearly was to the offspring of Isaac and Jacob."
"What, then, are you trying to prove by all this?" asked the Qadi.
"Why, just this: that the promise of that seed in which all nations of the earth were to be blessed ran not in the line of the Arab nation, but in the line of Isaac and Jacob; the promise, namely, of Jesus, son of Mary, the Saviour of the world."
"You have indeed cast out father Ishmael, together with his mother Hagar, from his father's house, and from the blessing," said the Qadi, "and yet it was from him that our grand Arab nation descended, with all its famous tribes and chiefs! Are you saying that this was without the blessing of God?"
"No, my friend," Ali insisted, "I am not saying that. God did bless the race of Ishmael, and vow to make of him a great nation, but the promise rested with Isaac. Sura Spider 29:25 says something to the same effect: 'We have given to him (Abraham), Isaac and Jacob, and have placed among his offspring the gift of prophecy.' Thus the promise is not to Ishmael, though he was the first-born. He was left out of account, as having no spiritual portion. Isaac and Jacob are raised above him; 'prophecy and revelation' were placed in their line, not his."
"But how can you tell that the promise was limited to Isaac alone?" asked the Qadi, "The promise to Abraham's offspring might have been in more than one line."
"There is yet another passage in Sura Hobbling45:16," said Ali: "'Truly We gave to the children of Israel the Scriptures, and wisdom, and prophecy; and we fed them with good things, and preferred them above all the nations.' Is not that a confirmation of the promise that in this line -and in it alone -all nations would be blessed?"
When they had got so far in their argument, it being now late, they refrained from further discussion. The Qadi, after a moment's reflection, raised his head and said, "Yes, my friend Sheikh Ali, that verse is conclusive. Now the day is far spent. What has passed is enough for this evening. But, if you please, I will come again on the third evening to continue the discussion."
"As it may please your Honour; but before we part, let me say one word more."
"Say on, Sheikh Ali, dear friend."
Ali continued: "The promise as we have seen is in the line of Isaac. How, then, can it point to any other than to Christ, the greatest of all the prophets? The Torah and the Gospel proceeded from that people. From where, then, should we seek guidance about the knowledge of God, and His will concerning us, if not from the same Scriptures which are declared by the Quran itself to be a 'light and a guide,' a 'guide and instruction to the pious,' 'perfect and complete in every respect, a guide and a mercy' -Scriptures which initiate us in the mystery of Christ, and so remove the incredible difficulties which every Muslim must see in the various passages concerning him in the Quran. My friend, neither forget this, nor cast it aside; for herein is the blessing and life, and without it none."
"I thank you, my good friend," said the Qadi, "and I hope to resume our conference at the appointed time, if the Lord wills."
And so they arose and departed.
On reaching home, the Qadi examined the Quran. Going over the various passages again and again, he paused as he repeated: "We gave to Isaac and to Jacob -We gave -Isaac and Jacob - But where is Ishmael? He was not given anything, but was born in the ordinary way." After pondering awhile he went on: "'We gave prophecy and revelation' in his line." And he placed his finger on, the parallel passage: "‘we gave the Scripture, and wisdom, and prophecy to the children of Israel,' and," with a finger still on the text, "'a light and guidance' -all, all in the line of Isaac. Ah me! Ah me! All nations blessed in the Israelites. Why, then, is another revelation from another nation even necessary, one other than the Israelites?" Looking forward with perplexity to the next meeting, he asked, "What if the truth is with him?" For a long time he leaned his face upon his knee. He suddenly sat up, remembering the promise to Moses that God would raise up "from among his brethren" a prophet like unto him, whom they would hear. "That must mean, not of Israel, but of another branch, and what other branch but Ishmael's, and what other prophet but Muhammed? Even so, would not this replace the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, and the religion built thereon -Scriptures spoken of in the Quran as a perfect guide? I do not see the way out of it, except that I bring it up in discussion with my friend, and see whether he can set it aside or not."
And so he lay down and fell asleep.
On the appointed evening the Qadi left for the place of meeting, and sent for Sheikh Ali.
The Oadi said: "You see I have returned to renew our discussion on the points raised the other night; in addition to which there is one which I then forgot -namely that which the Lord said to Moses: 'The Lord your God will raise up unto you a prophet from among you, of your brethren, like unto me...and I will put My words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass that whosoever will not hearken unto My words which he shall speak in My name, I will require it of him' (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18,19). Now, this prophet is undoubtedly our Prophet -on whom be blessing and peace."
"What, then, is your proof that this refers to Muhammed, of the Arab race?" Ali challenged.
"The prophet was to be 'of your brethren,'" said the Qadi, "that is, not of Israel. Moses is addressed in person; also, the race of Moses, the Israelites, signifies a single race; and the prophet was to be of their brethren, not one of themselves. Again, he was to be a prophet like unto Moses, a lawgiver, leader and commander, to execute judgment on the heathen; not like Jesus, the meek and lowly. Who could this be but Muhammed, the Koraishite, who fits the description in every way?"
"This is the argument in the Sîrat, the biography of the Prophet," said Ali, "and it is good, if it can be proven. Let us look, then, at the text in the Hebrew. Verse 15 of the chapter quoted says that the prophet is to be raised up 'from among you, of your brethren, like unto me,' which means from among the children of Israel, not from among others."
Qadi agreed: "If these words be there, then there can be no doubt it must be so."
"No doubt of it," said Ali, "and the same expression is used in the preceding chapter: 'You shall set one from among your brethren as king over you' (Deuteronomy 17:15), signifying from among the children of Israel, not strangers; and the same as to the coming prophet. The prophecy of a coming prophet must therefore mean a descendant from the midst of the children of Israel, neither Ishmaelite nor Midianite, and therefore cannot refer to Muhammed. The prophecy must refer to Christ, who resembled Moses in these respects: Moses was the mouthpiece of the Lord; Jesus, the 'Word of God,' and giver of the Gospel. Moses was mediator of the Cid Covenant between God and the Israelites; Jesus, the mediator of the New -that is, of grace and mercy between God and man. Moses was the leader of his people to the Promised Land; Jesus, to eternal life. Moses delivered his people from the bondage of Pharaoh; Jesus, from that of Satan. Moses fought against the enemies of the Lord; Jesus will soon destroy His enemies, and put all things under His feet."
To this, Qadi responded: "These similarities are all, except for the first two, spiritual; but what we are led to expect is an outward and material likeness."
"Surely the spiritual similarity is what is meant," said Ali. "But as for Muhammed, there are these points of essential difference; Moses showed wonderful miracles, Muhammed none; Moses fed his people forty years in the wilderness with bread from heaven. Where is there any resemblance here?"
Then gathering up the argument, Ali drew the conclusion that none other than Jesus could be meant as the coming prophet, both from the indications in the Quran and also in the Old Testament; and he put it to the Qadi to admit either that Muhammed was not the prophet there promised, or that both the Quran and Torah were mistaken.
"Well, even if all this is true," said the Qadi, "is it not the case that the Torah predicts that Muhammed, the Arabian, will follow Jesus as the last of the prophets?"
Ali, with a sigh, exclaimed, "Alas, good Qadi, I had not thought that a learned one like you could have believed such a passage to be in the Old Testament."
"Why not? In the Biography of the Prophet, by Mian Ahmed Zeini of Mecca, there are traditions given from certain of the Companions of Muhammed, who tell us that in the Torah there is a prediction of a great prophet to arise out of the seed of Ishmael, called Ahmed; and that in the Psalms a variety of names are given to this coming prophet (such as Hamyat ["protector"], Tab-tab, ["good"] etc.); and in the Gospel, the term Paraclete, meaning 'Ahmed' or 'The Praised One'; and further, it is said that Muhammed himself told Omar that he had been foretold by these names."
"But how can you prove the truth of all these stories?" asked Ali.
"Well, if they are not true, what traditions are we to believe."
"I ask you to excuse me from answering that."
"No, you must answer freely," said Ali. "Have you seen anything in me to cause alarm? There is none between us but God alone. Speak, and fear not."
"Then I say that there is no ground whatever for any one of such passages being in the Torah or Psalms. I marvel exceedingly at the Prophet having made any such claim (if, indeed, he did); or rather, at it having been made for him. Not one of the names you mention appears in the Torah, and it is matter of utter astonishment that any such stories should ever have been circulated. True, there is in the Gospel the promise that the Paraclete (the Comforter) would descend after Christ's ascension, into the hearts of the disciples, and would strengthen and enlighten them, and bring the sayings of Jesus back to their remembrance; also, that He would empower them with the ability to work miracles, in proof of the good tidings they were to publish, and as a seal of their ministry. It is easy to make such assertions as you have referred to, but difficult to prove them. Just look at the passage preceding that which you quoted from the biography. There the Prophet is represented as telling Omar that it was he who gave the Torah to Moses, the Psalms to David, and the Gospel to Jesus -foolish things, opposed both to Scripture and reason, which unprincipled people have passed off on Muhammed, to magnify him in the eyes of the simple and gullible. Can any faith be put in such terms? What do you think, my friend?"
Qadi (in a subdued voice, lest any should hear him from outside) said: "That is enough, Sheikh Ali. Truly you have done your best to discredit both the Prophet and his Companions."
"I wished to avoid all this; but you would not let me leave without having said all that was in my heart -pleasing or displeasing. I have only tried to speak the truth. Pardon me."
"I am not upset or offended with you in any way, my friend," said the Qadi. "You have said nothing out of place, nor stepped beyond the right of controversy. Knowing your fairness and self- restraint, I entered on this arena, intending to stop when I had reached the proper limit; and not without the hope of being successful, or, at the least, by your kindness, of gaining some advantage. But it appears that this hope has gone to the winds."
Ali answered the Qadi thus: "I was, as you know, zealous beyond my equals in jealous attachment to Islam, and the study of its authorities. But it cannot have escaped you, my friend, and truly the Searcher of hearts knows, that I was always pained at such stories and traditions, for which I found no ground, either in the Old or New Testaments. And when our experts used to uphold them as believable arguments, I only laughed at their gullibility. It is exactly such traditions that first led me, disputing with Jews and Christians, to doubt the whole foundation of Islam. And so things went on, till the Lord was pleased to open my eyes, and He led me thus into the way of truth. And why should not you, my dear friend, embrace this same way -the way of that blessed Saviour, who, in the Quran, as well as in the Gospel, is exalted far above all other prophets?"
The Qadi sat for some time lost in thought. At last he arose, saying, "Praise be to the Lord, and may He grant us a favourable ending!" Then he thanked Ali, and hoped to return again, at some future time, to more pleasant and profitable discussion.
Ali, too, arose, and they both, after shaking hands, parted one from the other.
As the Qadi made his way home, he kept thinking about the stories concerning Muhammed's miracles, and the made-up prophecies about him in the Torah, though there existed absolutely none such in reality, seeing that the tales were in opposition to the Quran itself. "I take refuge in the Lord," he cried, "there is no resource or refuge but in Him; may His mercy guide us!"
Sheikh Ali, on the other hand, returned rejoicing to his people, who were thankful at all he was able to tell them of his conference with the Qadi.
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