Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Salvation in Islam vs. Christianity (Urdu Debate) Review

I am taking the opportunity to review the Urdu debate that took place between Kashif Shehzada and Matthew Suleman (a.k.a Matt Solomon) on the topic of salvation in Islam vs. Christianity. Watch the debate here.

Let’s talk about the program. I would begin by commenting on the beautiful opening words spoken by Mr. Zia ul Masih, especially his point on how we should be tolerant of other people’s faith and how Muslims should also develop the attitude of listening to criticism without resorting to violence.

Moving on, the opening presentation by Mr. Kashif Shehzada was impressive. It was clear and concise. Then came Matthew Suleman’s turn who presented the evangelical view of salvation in the most lucid terms. 

One thing must be mentioned that although Sunni Muslims as a whole follow the Hadith, Mr. Shehzada made it clear that he will only talk about the Qur’an. Nevertheless, the Hadith references were part of Matthew’s research and gave credence to his speech. The guy had done his homework. Kashif also didn't present any reasons why the hadiths quoted by Matthew were unreliable. 

Next came the rebuttal section, where Kashif was successful in replying to comments on a particular verse of Sura al Nur, and the argument that Jesus is the Sign of the Hour. Kashif also reiterated the fact that he still holds the Qur’an to have precedence over the Hadith. We have his position, let’s wait for the other Muslims to give us their response.

In turn, he asked Matthew the following questions:
  • ·         Where is the word fitrat in the Bible?
  • ·         What about Ezekiel 18?
  • ·         Why did Jesus say follow the commandments?
  • ·         Christians should follow the law
  • ·         Jesus also talked about  works

Towards the end of his presentation he gave us great advice. First that we should study scriptures (whether Qur’an or the Bible) in context and that objective research is important.

After this came Matthew’s rebuttal. Leaving the content for now, I personally believe that he should not have carried on with his opening presentation in the rebuttal section. 

This is where Kashif got the upper hand. His speeches were conclusive and were apportioned according to the different sections of the debate. But Matt continued his opening presentation in the rebuttal as well. I wish that Matthew would improve in this sphere in future presentations.

Coming to his arguments, Matthew impressively proved that where as Jesus Christ called himself the source of salvation (Bread of Life), the Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H) did not promise hereafter to his followers. He also replied effectively to most points raised by Kashif. For example, he demonstrated the doctrine that a child is born with a sin nature as per Psalms 51 and Romans 5(though I personally do not agree with the interpretations). 

Matthew also stated that some of the Hadith he quoted where called ‘Sahih’ by Hadith scholars themselves, which holds tremendous weight. Kashif should have dealt with this issue in some detail, which he didn't. 

In the last presentation Kashif made some points such as man being made image of God and that Jesus said ‘let the children come to me’, as if this proves that are men are born pure. These remained untouched by Matthew, but then, this was due to the nature of the event. 

But Kashif won many points when he said ‘molvi kuch keh rha , Qur’an kuch keh rha hai’ (The Qur'an is saying something else and the Clergy are saying something else!)

Moreover, he also said that religious dialogue was not meant for point scoring. I think Shehzada lived up to his own ideals and never used any mocking or disrespectful sentences, whereas Matthew did hit below the belt with his ‘lucky Irani circus’ comment.

Finally, Matthew’s conclusion was excellent. He once again replied to some comments by Kashif, such as ‘children not bearing their father’s sins’ in Ezekiel 18. I have briefly touched upon the idea of inherited sin in Islam and Christianity (read here). 

But the last words were beautiful, where Matthew claimed that when we believe Jesus with our hearts, are 'passport to heaven is stamped'.

The question and answer session was also conducted fairly well. However, many Christians have the problem of asking irrelevant questions every time they encounter Muslim scholars. I have experienced this personally and I strongly believe that Pakistani Christians should learn the proper approach towards formal lectures and forums.

I think that one reason why this Urdu debate was successful was because Matthew called in a worthy opponent. So hats off MS-CAM, looking forward to many more productions.

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