Ahmed Deedat (1918-2005) was, in his time, one of the more effective Muslim critics of Christianity that I’d come across, and I suspect he’s been a pathfinder for Muslim apologists ever since. He seems to have spent the major part of his life crusading against Christianity, proving himself to be an avowed enemy of God, even though he thought he was serving him. Although he claims in his books to have memorized many verses of the Bible, his poor understanding of it is obvious to any bible-believing Christian, and he doesn’t hesitate to correct we “ignorant” Christians who don’t know our Bible as well as he thinks he does. Being a child of hell himself, he is also responsible for leading many others there as well, as he promotes his false religion of Islam at the expense of the Truth of Christianity. However, his effectiveness has most likely been mainly in the lands of Islam and among Middle Eastern and Muslim communities rather than in the West.
Although he doesn’t understand Christianity, he does bring to bear against us the standard historical-critical theology of Western liberal scholars as well as his own observations based on his experience and, at first contact, can appear to be quite formidable. But Christians have nothing to fear from such enemies; the scripture says “Fear not, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16 RSV-2CE). And “Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
As Christians, it’s good for us to be challenged as to what we believe because we often just accept everything we’re told by our pastor or whoever believes the same things we do. We tend to stick together with other like-minded Christians, and we read only those books that confirm what we already believe or which make us feel good. And we don’t bring anything new into the picture that might make us feel uncomfortable, because then we may even have to think. And, to our shame, much of the literature coming from Christian presses is so shallow and “feel good”, that we have no depth of understanding of the teachings of the Bible – sadly, many Christians today hardly even read the Bible.
It’s not until we come up against an enemy such as Ahmed Deedat, or an atheist who has thought about issues that we should be able to explain, or an ex-Christian skeptic who knows his way around the bible, that we come unstuck, and all that we believed without question seems to evaporate and we’re left floundering, wondering what just hit us. This is basically what happened to a sweet Christian lady with whom I worked in a large Christian bookshop in Sydney. Her Christianity, like so many others, was of the warm and fuzzy variety. One day she was approached by a man who came into the shop looking for trouble. She was a faithful Christian who trusted Christ but knew very little doctrine. He shot a couple of questions about the bible to her with the intention of confusing her. She answered as best she could but was out of her depth from the start, and all she could come up with after a few attempts at trying to answer his attacks was to say, “Well, I know Jesus is true because he lives in my heart”.
That answer is no doubt true, and in reality is all she or any Christian needs. We are, after all, saved by faith in Jesus and in the promises of God given in the bible. But with a man such as this who was decidedly hostile and who only wanted to confuse and undermine her, telling him that “Jesus lives in my heart” was meaningless. By this time, it was evident that he wasn’t seeking truth, and, as we were running a business, not a counselling centre or church, I ran him out of the shop. It’s ironic that although she worked in a large Christian bookshop, she was unfamiliar with theology, and read nothing more substantial than “emotional devotionals” when she did read.
So, we Western Christians need to get out of our “religious club” attitude and start thinking seriously
about what we believe, because the Bible instructs us: “Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). The time is coming very soon when the Church will once again suffer through persecution, and if we can’t explain and defend our faith, we may well end up denying it, especially if we encounter one who knows enough of it to confuse and deceive us. However, we don’t all have to be scholars and theologians; a good study bible or one-volume bible commentary will generally be enough to familiarise us with the kind of attacks being made against Christianity, and how to reply to them.
Fools and other Misrepresentations
The Virgin Birth of Jesus
Ahmed Deedat is one such danger. He cleverly portrays his Christian opponents as being absolute fools as he shows them how embarrassingly insufficient the Christian Bible is, especially when compared to the “Glorious Qur’an”. On one occasion, he tells us, when addressing the supervisor of the Bible House in Johannesburg, he quoted in Arabic the “most noble, elevated and sublime language” of the account of the virgin birth of Jesus as described in the Qur’an, and compared it to the “distasteful gutter language” of the Bible account in Luke 1:35. He then challenged the supervisor, an ordained minister, by asking, “which would you prefer to give your daughter?” He then says of the minister, “He bowed his head down in humility and admitted – ‘THE QURANIC VERSION’” (Chapter 5: Quranic and Biblical Versions; upper case letters his). I burst out laughing as I read this account, a not unusual occurrence in Deedat’s writings, as he heroically does battle with various types of Christians, vanquishing each of them in turn, and leaving them defeated and humiliated, along with the Bible and Christianity itself; and I wondered “Are these people real? Where does he get them from?”.
But let’s consider this foolish claim of Mr Deedat, that the Bible’s account of the conception of Christ is “distasteful gutter language”. Why is he offended at the way the Bible describes it? The account in Luke simply says “And the angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35). Is Ahmed Deedat disgusted because he sees this as a euphemism for the sexual act, with the Holy Spirit, as a man, lying over Mary, the virgin? Rather, it seems to me, his outburst reveals the distasteful, gutter state of his own mind and imagination. And as for that “Christian” minister who abjectly grovelled before Mr Deedat, denying God and the Bible – if he is a real person, he is certainly not a Christian, and he doesn’t believe that the Bible is the word of God. He has denied Jesus before men, so Jesus will deny him before God and the angels, for he warned, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mk 8:38).
Luke’s gospel describes the conception of Christ by the Holy Spirit in a simple way, but which indicates the power of God coming upon Mary. When the Holy Spirit is described as overshadowing a person, and coming upon them, it is merely a way of describing an act of divine power on or in them. In the first gospel, Matthew simply says “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit”; and her husband Joseph was told by an angel, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18, 20). How else could Luke have described it?
The significance of these accounts of the virgin birth of Christ is not merely to show that Jesus was a “mighty messenger of God”, as Ahmed Deedat proclaims – he is infinitely more than that. The Virgin Birth of Jesus reveals to us his deity; it also reveals that there is a trinity of Persons within the Godhead. Here we see that the Virgin Birth was foretold by God (the Father) through the prophet Isaiah (Matt 1:22-23 cf. Isa 7:14); we see the deity, personality and power of the Holy Spirit; and we see the pre-existence and deity of the Son, Jesus. The three Persons are here mentioned together and yet as separate Persons, as we’re also shown them at Jesus’ baptism and other places; and John, who wrote the gospel, also wrote in a letter, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 Jn 5:7 KJV).
These accounts dovetail perfectly with John’s opening of his gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life…..And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father” (John 1:1-4, 14). If Ahmed Deedat wants “noble, elevated, and sublime language” to describe Jesus, how much more exalted can this account of John’s, combined with Luke and Matthew, be? Here John tells us that Christ has always existed because he is God. But John also tells us, consistent with Luke and Matthew, that God consists of a trinity of Persons. He tells us of the Word who always was and who is God, and that this Word became flesh. Luke and Matthew tell us how the Word became flesh – that he was conceived by the spiritual power of God the Holy Spirit, in the womb of Mary, the Virgin. The child who was born was Jesus, God become flesh, God become a man – “’Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel’, (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:23). And it was prophesied of Jesus hundreds of years before his birth, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus did not lay his deity aside, but became a true human being while still being God; he retained his divine and human natures in one body and one person (Philippians 2:5-11).
Although Ahmed Deedat mocks the Bible’s description of Jesus as the Word, Christians are not ashamed of it, neither are we intimidated by chattering fools such as him. The Bible makes no apology to any person for its declarations of the divine nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, the last book of the Bible consists largely of visions given to the apostle John; these visions describe the end of time and the consummation of the plan of God. In describing one of the visions he had of Jesus, John writes “Then I saw heaven opened, and, behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to strike the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron…..On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:11-16). What a glorious vision, and thrilling!
So, when Ahmed Deedat despised Luke’s account of the virgin birth of Christ, he either recognised that the accounts of Jesus birth reveal his deity and the trinity of Persons in the Godhead – which I doubt he did – and tried to divert attention from it by reducing it to something ridiculous and distasteful to respectable human sensitivities; or it went over his head, and his own corrupt mind couldn’t rise above its own corruption and blindness. His comments show us that he is not to be taken seriously when it comes to understanding Christianity. No doubt he is a knowledgeable Muslim, and knows the Qur’an well. But as a critic of Christianity, he knows very little of worth, and his understanding of Christianity and the Bible is superficial to the point of being ludicrous and offensive; his opinions cannot be trusted.
Straw Men and more Misrepresentations
The bulk of Christendom
One of Mr Deedat’s many straw men is described in Chapter 4; in this case the straw man is “The bulk of Christendom”. He quotes the Qur’an to demonstrate that the title “Christ” signifies that Christ Jesus is “(of the company) of those nearest to God” (Holy Qur’an 3:45); and comments that “Nearest to God,” means nearness “Not physically nor geographically, but spiritually”. He mockingly says “Compare this with – ‘And (Jesus) sat on the right hand of God.’ (Mark 16:19)’ The bulk of Christendom has misunderstood this verse as well as many others in the Bible. They imagine the Father (God) sitting on a throne – a glorified chair – and His “son”, Jesus, sitting on His right hand side. Can you conjure up the picture?” (Chapter 4: The Good News).
This passage from Mark’s gospel which Ahmed Deedat quotes is one of the many examples in the Christian and Jewish Scriptures where God condescendingly describes himself in human terms, and as having human characteristics, so that we can identify with the divine characteristics and attributes he is revealing of himself. These descriptive human terms are called “anthropomorphisms”. Why does Mr Deedat explain that “nearness to God” in the Qur’an does not mean nearness in the physical or geographical sense but spiritually, yet will not allow the bible’s description of Jesus sitting on a throne or standing at the right hand of God to also not be taken literally? It is because he has created a straw man so that he can easily defeat him. He has created a false impression of what the bible says and what Christians believe so that he can deceive gullible people who depend on his knowledge for understanding of the bible and Christianity.
Jesus himself understood and taught that such language is not literal but a figure of speech. For example, when he was teaching the disciples and the people, he warned, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice” (Matt 23:2-3). To sit in Moses’ seat does not mean Moses had an actual chair, as any simpleton would understand; Jesus was referring to the authority of the scribes and Pharisees as teachers of the Mosaic law.
When Jesus is described as sitting down at the right hand of God, it denotes his authority and honour, as Mr Deedat rightly points out. However, it must be said, that nearly every time we’re given a view of God in the bible, he is on a throne, surrounded by angels, and being worshipped by hosts of men and angels. These sublime visions which God gives to his prophets are not images which Christians have conjured up; they were given by God himself with the intent that this is how we see and understand him in a way our poor, finite minds can grasp in order to associate the concepts of power and sovereignty with God.
And although he means it as a criticism, Mr Deedat is also right in saying that Christians see this act as equating “the word ‘Christ’ with the idea of a god-incarnate; and the word of God to be God” (Chapter 4: The Good News). However, we Christians don’t deduce from this passage alone that Jesus is God incarnate, “the Word” made flesh.
“…..sat on the right hand of God”
Mr Deedat’s quote from Mark 16:19 is itself founded on one from the Old Testament: “The LORD says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool’” (Psalm 110:1). When Stephen, in disputing with the Jews, ended his discourse, “full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God’” (Acts 7:55-56). The reaction of the Jews was one of extreme hostility because they “cast him out of the city and stoned him” (Acts 7:59). They weren’t concerned that Stephen was implying that there are chairs in heaven, or anything else as foolish as Mr Deedat suggests; they knew that he was ascribing deity to Jesus Christ – and they were enraged. They had only recently crucified Jesus on the charge that Jesus claimed he was God, the sin of blasphemy (Matt 26:63-66); and now, here was Stephen, a follower of Jesus, saying Jesus was alive and in the place of supreme authority in heaven.
In this same passage, Ahmed Deedat accuses Christians of thinking of God as an “old Father Christmas”. Such a statement reveals that for all his self-professed knowledge of Christians and their Bible, he knows nothing at all about them. He is ignorant of what we believe and how we understand God. No Christian regards God as an old Father Christmas. But Mr Deedat doesn’t seem to mind misrepresenting Christians so that he can discredit them and make himself look good. This tactic isn’t new, and all enemies of the Gospel resort to it in various ways. Their strategy only shows the weakness of their own position, because if they had truth on their side, they would use that instead; and then they would have a legitimate argument to use against us. And this is a great tragedy because, by trying to disprove the truth of Christianity, they shut themselves out of heaven and salvation, and ensure an eternity of torment for themselves. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he” (Jn 8:24).
However, to his credit, Ahmed Deedat has read Western writers and frequently quotes from the Bible; consequently, he has had success in bewildering many of his opponents. This, of course, doesn’t mean he is right; it just means he is able to present a plausible view (though a distorted one) of what the Bible says, sufficient to bewilder those who aren’t familiar with it. And ignorant but well-meaning Christians who don’t know the Bible well because they can’t get hold of one; or who are illiterate and therefore couldn’t read it if they did have one; or even Muslims who are ignorant of what Christianity is and teaches but would like to know; are all at the mercy of Ahmed Deedat and others like him who speak loudly and confidently about that of which, in reality, they know little or nothing.
Fudging the Test Results
Although Ahmed Deedat has read Western writers and frequently quotes from the Bible, he seems to have read only those Western authors, both Christian and secular, who speak against the Bible. His viewpoint comes from those who are enemies of the gospel, and he delves into their statements to find anything he can that will discredit Christianity. He doesn’t seem to have bothered reading what bible-believing Evangelical Christian scholars have to say, and how they explain, defend and vindicate the Bible, because his mind was made up before he even started. He wasn’t searching for truth, he was looking for dirt. It’s like a scientist who does tests to prove his theory, and in the process discards all the test results that don’t prove (or else disprove) his theory, and only takes those results that prove what he wants, publishing them with the claim that scientific testing has proven his theory. This is fudging the tests. Ahmed Deedat is just such a “scientist”.
Imagine if I were to paint a picture of Islam made solely from statements made by its enemies. For example, I could take the statements and accusations made by the Quraysh people when they were trying to discredit Muhammad before they became Muslim themselves, and of the Jewish enemies of the same period. With these false accusations, I could paint a picture of Muhammad that is totally untrue. But I could insist that these people knew him, and therefore their accusations must be true. But those Quraysh and Jews were malicious, and used lies to portray Muhammad in the worst possible light (Al-Mubarakpuri 2002). And then imagine if I wrote all these lies in books and flooded the market in Islamic countries to discredit Muhammad. Would any Muslim take me seriously? Of course not! Yet Muslims and weak Christians are impressed by Ahmed Deedat when he does exactly this to Christianity. And Ahmed Deedat has had success in bewildering many of his opponents with his dishonest strategy.
When Jesus was tempted by the devil (Matt 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-12), Satan misused scriptures three times against Jesus; he misapplied them to deceive the Lord, and they appeared to be a strong argument. But Jesus responded with other scriptures which exposed the error and deception of Satan’s presentation, and overcame his wicked opponent. And such is Ahmed Deedat. He misapplies Holy Scripture, makes incorrect and lying statements about it, and seeks to humiliate and intimidate Christians by causing them to doubt what they’ve always believed. He thus undermines them, making them look and feel like fools. But beware when you harm one of God’s people: “Whoever -block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt 18:6).
Although Ahmed Deedat is dead now, his books continue to be published and are now also on Kindle, which ensures his lies a continuing readership; so his words and false teachings are still being used by Satan, the father of lies, to deceive as many people as he can before he, too, meets his deserved end in the lake of fire (Rev 20:10).
“If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason you do not hear them is that are not of God” (John 8:46-47).
“Christ in Islam” by Ahmed Deedat and Foreword by John Milton Lawrence
“The Sealed Nectar” by Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, 2002, pub. Darussalam
Revised Standard Version Bible, Ignatius Edition, Copyright 2006, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.