Doctrines >Dialogue with the people of the Book  (4)


Dialogue with the people of the Book (4)

part (3) < > part (1)

<B> The Qur’an demands that the Torah be revealed

This is how the Qur’an wanted the debate to start, i.e. from the base they rely on in what they believe or disbelieve. However, they did not agree to engage in debate on this basis in order for the debate to achieve its objectives.

This is symptomatic of the fact that the challenge mounted by the Qur’an hit its target, albeit we know that it is truthful in what it discusses. Had they been honest in dismissing what the Qur’an talked about, they need not have made any effort to deny it. It would have sufficed to present the Torah to the people, thus rendering false the Prophet’s claim. Yet, they knew for sure that accepting the challenge would render their claim false.

On a different issue, the Qur’an challenges them to reveal what is in the Torah to prove some legislative matters, which the Qur’an asserts that they lied about. This is in its narrative on licit and illicit food: “All food was lawful to the Children of Israel, except what Israel made unlawful for itself, before the Law (of Moses) was revealed. Say: “Bring ye the Law and study it, if ye be men of truth. If any, after this, invent a lie and attribute it to God, they are indeed unjust wrongdoers” (3: 93–94).

This is how simple and straightforward the Qur’an is in its demand from the People of the Book, of the issues it brings forth and they deny. It says to them: Let us have recourse to the Torah, the shared document, where the people can see the evidence for themselves. The Qur’an thus proves its practical style in conducting dialogue, i.e. the pursuit of common parameters, which all the parties can agree and set the dialogue forth.

<B>The need for such a style in present-day struggle

In this day and age there is a need for such a style of debate, especially with some ideological trends of unbelief. These groups espouse thought that is usually diametrically opposed to that which is mainstream and sacred. The exponents of these ideologies sometimes try to conceal what they believe in, lest it should be taken as evidence against them by the masses that they try to mislead. An example of this is some groups that base their philosophy on purely materialistic matters and do not believe in anything outside the realm of senses. It considers religion to be the “opium of the masses”. Other ideologies, although not sharing the same platform with the atheistic materialistic ideology, consider religions, Islam included, to be a sort of human creed or system that is subject to the circumstances and time in which it was born and prevailed, and that its role ends with the end of that particular phase. This, they contend, is in keeping with what has become of other doctrines or systems, which gave way to new thought and laws. According to these trends, religion should turn into a heritage like other kinds of heritage that are celebrated just as memory, or a source of inspiration to fill us with pride and sing our praise, nothing more and nothing less. These claims contribute to putting religions at a disadvantage by opening the way to their adversaries to discriminate against them both politically and socially. This is also bound to mislead people, especially the less educated among them who are not in a position to check the principles of these religions for themselves from their sources, i.e. literature.

The proponents of these ideological trends may resort to denying the doctrinal origins, in a way that suggests to people that they are fabrications made by imperialistic powers, which seek to unjustly discredit national movements. These tactics may find listening ears because they become accustomed to imperialistic malicious propaganda and intrigue.

There may be a need to adopt the Qur’anic approach to the showdown with the Jews, who were bent on rejecting the evidence they were familiar with so that it should not be used against them. The debate started by challenging them to seek arbitration with their Scripture, which has all the evidence. It had also tried to extract from them conclusive confession of the truth they were trying to hide; that is, in situations of a general nature, which they could not pull out from. The aim being that one of two positions should be extracted from them: either (a) responding to the challenge, which was bound to reveal their true position and thrust them into accepting the engagement in dialogue – a face-to-face showdown, or (b) recognizing the truth as an honest position or just for the record. This can strengthen the position of the truth and weaken falsehood in its movement within life.

<B>The dialogue of the Prophet with the Jews in their impossible demands

It appears that there was nothing the Jews were going to stop at. In a bid to provoke the Prophet (p.) and weaken his position before naive people, the Jews set out to demand him to carry out some paranormal treats. Yet, as ever the Prophet (p.) was calm and collected. He did not want this verbal stand-off to be the start of a full-blown war; rather, he did his best to espouse the main thrust of the Islamic approach to dialogue. He was responding to each and every question with the most suitable of answers, in an effort to prove that the Prophethood had a wider outlook and was more accommodating. Thus, it would not be dragged into a fight that it did not want, or into an argument that could lead to nowhere. The answers, therefore, were succinct and decisive. They brought to the fore the history of previous prophetic missions, which those people followed, and the positions they took on them. This was in order to establish that their position on the new prophet was an extension of their contra-position on their prophets, only to arrive at the conclusion that they harbored inherent grudge, animosity, and hatred for the divine messages.

The Holy Qur’an gives us some examples of those entrenched positions:

The People of the Book ask thee to cause a book to descend to them from heaven: indeed they asked Moses for an even greater (miracle), for they said: “Show us Allah in public, but they were seized for their presumption, by thunder and lightning.” Yet, they worshipped the calf even after clear signs had com to them; even so We forgave them; and gave Moses manifest proofs of authority; and for their covenant We raised over them the Mount (Sinai); and (on another occasion) We said: “Enter the gate with humility”; and (once again) We commanded them: “Transgress not in the matter of the Sabbath.” And We took from them a solemn covenant. (They have incurred divine displeasure): in that they broke their covenant; that they rejected the Signs of Allah; that they slew the messengers in defiance of right; that they said: “our hearts are the wrappings”, nay, Allah hath set the seal on their hearts for their blasphemy, and little is it they believe; that they rejected Faith; that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge. (4: 153–56)

It is noteworthy that the Holy Qur’an did not answer the question directly; it has chosen to expose their historical positions towards Moses (a.s.), the prophet they followed, in what they asked him to do, the covenants they broke, and the works they carried out against him and against the prophets who were sent after him. This had rendered the question an everlasting one that was characterized by blasphemy and corruption throughout.

This account can serve as an answer that infuses the idea through historical facts. It was not strange for those who asked Moses (a.s.) to show them God publicly, even though they knew about monotheism in his message that God cannot be seen, to ask Mohammad (s.a.w.) to send down to them a book from heaven, despite the fact that this could not materialize for God’s will barred sending down the message in this way. Whoever had wanted to live the spiritual life of faith, could have done so through the evidence, which the message exhibited.

The stubborn, who did not want to have anything to do with the faith, regardless of the overwhelming evidence, would do anything in their power to dismiss what the prophets came with as pure sorcery, or anything else. The matter was, therefore, not one for dialogue or argument because the other party was not interested in a debate that could lead to the truth: “They (also) said: ‘Allah took our promise not to believe in a messenger unless he showed us a sacrifice consumed by fire (from heaven).’ Say: ‘there came to you messengers before me, with clear signs and even with what ye ask for: whey then did ye slay them, if ye speak the truth’.” (3: 183).

This is yet another pretext for not believing because of a new request for a proof of the message, i.e. “unless he showed us a sacrifice consumed by fire (from heaven)”. That would, to their mind, be a proof sent down by God, as He promised.

It can be gleaned from this verse that they were trying to suggest that they were powerful by virtue of their relationship with God and their proximity to Him. This is a deliberate ploy in order to exert psychological pressure on the masses, who were not firm in the knowledge of these matters to be able to accept or reject.

The answer had come in the form of a historical account, in that these demands were not new. They had been made to bygone prophets, who used those approaches to win people over to their side of the argument when they proved effective on the front of belief. The prophets responded to those demands, as they had reacted to the other demands, but to no avail. The adversaries’ response was to cover up their failure before the prophets by using force against them; repression, torture, and murder were some of the violent ways they used with the prophets.

For this reason, there was no way the Prophet(p.) would have acceded to their request, for history would have repeated itself, in that their aim was just to defy the Prophet and prove him incapable per se. They were not looking for an answer to the problem in justification of their entrenched position of blasphemy and misguidance.

There can be found, in the Holy Qur’an, many of these examples, i.e. forces of unbelief and their confrontational style, on the one hand, and the prophets’ style of dialogue, which was characterized by calmness and kindness, without tension or rage, on the other hand.