Guru Nanak Teacher Prophet Muhammad Sikh Sikhism Islam

The ‘Idiocy’ of some Sikh Apologists?

What follows is a quick rejoinder to a post titled: The Idiocy of some Islamic Proselytizers, and published on the popular discussion website, Reddit, in response to our article: The Naturalistic Supernatural Origin of Guru Nanak.

Abu Adeeba, of the Sunni Islam-Sikhism, having lost steam has returned with an imbecilic article which outperforms even his own prior canards.

There’s an idiom well-known across the Indian subcontinent that goes: ‘Ek haat sai taali nahi bajti,’ which, while translating literally to: ‘It’s not possible to clap with one hand,’ would be equivalent to the Western expression: ‘It takes two to tango.’ In other words, we can only engage with what’s put out there. We certainly aren’t going to waste our time with those who are incapable of directly tackling the editorials we have published over the past decade.

As for the few that have, then anyone with any semblance of fairness will see that we have fully participated in debate and dialogue where relevant.

In short, our strongest arguments against Sikhism remain on our website for anyone to take on at any time.

The ludicrousness of the Islamic premise is evident from the below quotes:

“Unlike any other scripture we know of, the Qur’an contains the following unique falsification test, which seeks to prove its divine origin: The Challenge of Inimitability, where sceptics are simply asked to produce a chapter, in Arabic of course, exceeding the perfect structure of any of its 114 chapters (al-Kawthar, chapter 108, being the shortest with 3 verses and 10 words!). Historically speaking, even the most accomplished poets, who at the time of revelation were considered the apex of Arabic eloquence, failed to meet said challenge – a challenge which, we might add, remains unmet to this day!”

There are two problems which stand out here:

1) If the newer text, superior to the Koran, is to be produced in a singular language (Arabic) than how is it of any value to non-Arabic speakers?

Is this question rhetorical or has this individual misunderstood this challenge to be one directed at non-Arabic speakers? This test, if it isn’t obvious enough, is to do with the Arabic language vis-à-vis the Qur’an; not Sanskrit, or Swahili, or even Klingon!

With that said, however, here’s a rhetorical question in response: Is there any value to a falsifiability test related to proof of the divine? Surely the possibility of proving the divine ought to carry some value.

If challengers are to be proficient in Koranic Arabic than the test is only relevant to a certain number of the greater human population and not all of mankind.

Given that this challenge has, indeed, been misunderstood, this first problem is no problem at all!

The subjectivity of the test and the lack of any defining criterion further renders this test completely illogical.

When faced with unsubstantiated red herrings like these, which appear designed more towards eliciting pats-on-the-back from the flock than anything else, is it any wonder that we’ve “lost steam”?

No, he [Prophet Muhammad] is no poet, for we know poetry in all its forms and meters. – Al-Waleed ibn Al-Mugheerah

It is difficult to understand how the above argument directly relates to our paper when all we did was highlight the historical attestation of said falsification test, without ever having explicated a criterion.

In general, however, the suggestion that this test is entirely subjective only serves to betray this interlocutor’s extreme ignorance. A simple way of rebutting this assertion is to ask whether, for instance, poetry can be differentiated from prose. The answer, of course, isn’t just obvious, but the approach objective too.

In fact, it was because this test was objective that the most knowledgeable Makkan of pre-Islamic Arab poetry and prose, a non-Muslim by the name of Al-Waleed ibn Al-Mugheerah, not only distinguished between Qur’an and Arab poetry as two distinct and separate genres, but also recognised the superiority of the former over the latter vis-à-vis eloquence, when he remarked:

For I swear by Allah, there is none amongst you who knows poetry as well as I do, nor can any compete with me in composition or rhetoric – not even in the poetry of jinns! And yet, I swear by Allah, Muhammad’s speech (meaning the Qur’an) does not bear any similarity to anything I know, and I swear by Allah, the speech that he says is very sweet, and is adorned with beauty and charm. Its first part is fruitful and its last part is abundant (meaning that it is full of deep meanings), and it conquers (all other speech), and remains unconquered! It shatters and destroys all that has come before it (of poetry, because of its eloquence)!” [1]

In another account, Al-Waleed denounced any suggestions of labelling Prophet Muhammad a poet stating in no uncertain terms:

No, he is no poet, for we know poetry in all its forms and meters. [2] (bold, underline ours)

Likewise, how was ‘Utbah (again a non-Muslim at the time) able to recognise said distinction if there was no objective standard by which to judge this affair?

O people! I have heard a speech [the Qur’an] the like of which I have never heard before. I swear by Allah, it is not magic, nor is it poetry, nor is it sorcery. [3] (bold ours)

The Koran might present the challenge, but gives no way of testing any plausible outcomes. An inconspicuous failing on an allegedly perfect God’s part?

To clarify, this challenge was essentially directed at the upper echelons of the poets in Arabia, i.e. the most accomplished. As we mentioned in our paper:

Historically speaking, even the most accomplished poets, who at the time of revelation were considered the apex of Arabic eloquence, failed to meet said challenge – a challenge which, we might add, remains unmet to this day!)

Their complete failure in meeting said challenge not only proved the Qur’an to have transcended all known conventions and rules of human speech, but ipso facto elevated the Qur’an to become the de facto standard of eloquence thereafter.

It stands to reason then, that if Arab poetry had reached its peak of eloquence, and yet the poets were unable to match the Qur’an’s, a fortiori, no one would ever be able to do so thereafter.

“So Prophethood is comprised of various aspects of knowledge and action in which the Messenger must be characterized within them, for they are the most noble aspects of knowledge as well as the most noble of actions. How then can someone truthful in it be similar to the liar?! And the honesty of the honest one and the lies of the liar not be made manifest from many varying aspects! (Al-Jawaab As-Saheeh, vol. 6, pp. 511-12.) [1] (bold ours)…”

2) Even this particular criterion is predicated on the alleged perfectibility of the Koran and therein lies its failing. The Koran defends its own inspiration, and then challenges others to produce something similar. The very yardstick is Koranic and is based on the notion that any non-Islamic judgement is prone to failure as it will not be perfect. Again, it raises the issue that how can “perfect” Allah’s words be interpreted by “imperfect” Muslims?

Again, the above reasoning is based on ignorance of the subject matter this individual is endeavouring to tackle.

Say: “If the mankind and the jinns were together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another.” (Qur’an 17:88)

To put it in simple terms, the whole point of the challenge was to bring into sharp focus the imperfection of man in the face of the perfection of the Creator. By shattering the pre-Islamic Arab’s haughty view that their poetry had reached the perfection of eloquence, Allah revealed a genre that defied all their conventions and rules, while at the same time exposing their ignorance by challenging them to use those very same rules to produce something comparable to the Qur’an. Their abject failure in meeting this challenge, despite its difficulty being made progressively easier over time with the production of a single chapter, only served as definitive proof of the Qur’an’s supernatural origin.

To be sure, Allah repeated this challenge on numerous occasions throughout the Qur’an whenever any attempts were made at casting aspersions over its divine authorship, while at the same time forewarning that, no matter what, they were doomed to failure:

Say: “If the mankind and the jinns were together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another.” (Qur’an 17:88)

And if you are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down to Our slave (Muhammad), then produce a surah (chapter) of the like thereof and call your witnesses (supporters and helpers) besides Allah, if you are truthful. (Qur’an 2:23)

And this Qur’an is not such as could ever be produced by other than Allah, but it is a confirmation of (the revelation) which was before it, and a full explanation of the Book – wherein there is no doubt from the Lord of all that exists. Or do they say: “He (Muhammad) has forged it?” Say: “Bring then a surah (chapter) like it, and call upon whomsoever you can, besides Allah, if you are truthful!” (Qur’an 10:37-38)

Or they say, “He (Muhammad) forged it (the Qur’an).” Say: “Bring you then ten forged surah (chapters) like it, and call whomsoever you can, other than Allah (to your help), if you speak the truth!” (Qur’an 11:13)

Or do they say: “He (Muhammad) has forged it (this Qur’an)?” Nay! They believe not! Let them then produce a recital like unto it if they are truthful. (Qur’an 52:33-34)

The rest of the article attempts to impugn the Guru Granth on the grounds that Guru Nanak received a formal education which diluted his alleged “revelation” whilst Muhammad as an illiterate had no such issues.

The illiteracy/literacy issue aside, let us consider some things first.

1.) The more we read Gurbani, the more we comprehend that Creation operates on the Creator’s Hukam who does not violate his laws for anyone.

This first argument is based on the presupposition that a perfect God cannot or should not violate the natural laws of the world “for anyone”. But, would it be a violation if God chooses to suspend the very laws He has created for supernatural events to occur? In other words, would it be acceptable to this Sikh, if God made this chose Himself and not for anyone else?

To put this more obviously, we might ask the question: Is God’s hukam predicated on His absolute eternal knowledge? If so, then supernatural events cannot be a violation of His perfection if such events were part of His eternal knowledge to begin with. His choice and decision to accommodate for supernatural events has to, therefore, go back, not for anyone else, but to His self and His absolute perfect knowledge.

On the other hand, if the argument is that God does not possess the freedom to choose, or the ability to create, supernatural events in a world He has created, then we look forward to a coherent argument of how and why this would be the case.

The fact that Gurudwaras like Panja Sahib and Pathar Sahib have no early history to substantiate their existence and the advent of scientific liberalism raises the question:

Why would a perfect God allow his messengers to perform miracles fully well knowing that such “supernatural” events would be bound by time and space and questioned by future generations?

This question certainly appears to be incoherent when taking into consideration the very purpose of time-bound supernatural events. The clue, of course, is in the phrase “bound by time and space”. Barring any time travellers, one would assume, therefore, that the very nature of such events would be restricted to those eye-witnesses also “bound by time and space”!

Hence, any reasons for questioning such supernatural events cannot have anything to do with the wisdom and results behind these phenomena; and are therefore irrelevant to the wisdom behind such events.

To substantiate his own claim to divinity and that of his messengers, shouldn’t such a God be annually deputing individuals to earth and empowering them to perform miracles in each and every generation?

That might be true if the acceptance or rejection of God’s truth was entirely dependent on miracles alone. But who has ever forwarded such an argument? Not us!

On the issue of illiteracy

Historically it is believed that the bard Homer was blind and highly illiterate. He only retained the ability of verbal communication but was still able to document the Illiad and the Odyssey as we know them today.

Sikhi, in opposition to conventional religiosity, emphasizes the development and perfection of Bibek or human rationality in the path of selfless service towards Creation. It does not dismiss the human intellect as being perpetually inferior and attributes it to God who bequeathed mankind with his own creative potencies.

In Islam, plagiarized as it is from Judaism and Christianity, the human intellect is shunned and purported to be prone to exploitation both by the devil and God.

We could quite easily make equally crude generalisations by asserting that Sikhism took from Hinduism; and we would probably have a far stronger case, particularly from a theological point of view, than this Sikh would. After all, Islam and Christianity, for example, are known to hold fundamentally divergent views on the nature and essence of God (the former rejects the Trinity!).

In any case, the claim that Islam shuns human intellect is patently false. Might we remind this Sikh that humans are, by their very nature, imperfect! As such, we are all prone to err from time to time. Often, this can be down to the influence of external forces, such as bad companionship; or from unseen influences, such as the whispers and insinuations of devils.

But, how God too is involved in exploiting said weakness is beyond us! Is the contention being made here that God orders us towards evil? If so, then this too is entirely false.

As for human intellect as a basis for rational thought and decision-making, then Islam holds that rationality and revelation are two-sides of the same coin. Provided the intellect is sound and revelation is true, there can never be any incompatibility between the two.

In contrast, when we judge this a priori relationship with Sikhism’s contradictory concept of a Nirgun-Sargun God, then sound intellect ought to reject the false revelation of the Gurus’ in this respect.

The Islamist is caught between two alternatives in which any profound connection with the world and non-Muslims is lacking because,

1.) Intelligence can only be of the Islamic criterion and must be subservient to Islamic norms. Allah’s words cannot be questioned by the human intellect unless it is within the Koranic criterion.

In light of Islam’s understanding of rationality and revelation, it should stand to reason that if the Qur’an is the truth from Allah, then the suggestion that sound intellect ought to question it would be self-defeating.

2.) The tale of Muhammad’s illiteracy is symbolic of dismissing the human intellect and reshaping it in the Islamic formula. This obviously raises the question, can God evidence his own superiority by dismissing the boundless, unlimited and ever-growing human intellect?

The “boundless, unlimited and ever-growing human intellect”?! What does that even mean? Is it so boundless and unlimited that it could reconcile between logical truths and logical contradictions (Nirgun-Sargun conundrum)?

To quote Schacht

“Allah’s law is not to be penetrated by the intelligence… man has to accept it without criticism, with its apparent inconsistencies and its incomprehensible decrees… human logic or system has little share in it…”

Obviously Schacht had never heard of the concept of Ijtihaad or the famous hadith relating to the Muslim judge being rewarded for utilising independent reasoning in a sincere attempt at reaching the truth pertaining to legal questions.

Imam Muslim recorded said hadith in ‘The Book of Judicial Decisions’, and under the chapter heading: ‘The reward of the judge if he strives to reach a decision, whether he gets it right or wrong’, where Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) declared:

When a judge gives a decision, having tried his best to decide correctly and is right, there are two rewards for him; and if he gave a judgment after having tried his best (to arrive at a correct decision) but erred, there is one reward for him. (Sahih Muslim: 4261; At-Tirmidhi 1326; An-Nisa’i 5381; Sunan Abi Dawud 3574)

In Sikhi while it is generally accepted that the divine intellect is unfathomable, it is also present in humans to a certain degree who can utilize it in bettering themselves and then Creation. The Gurus encouraged an impartial approach to religiosity and spirituality rather than allude to any fabricated revelation like the Muslims do with Muhammad.

To portray the Gurus’ approach in such a watered-down way only betrays this individual’s impartiality while exposing an agenda of seeking to distort the true historical reality of their lives.

The fact that Nanak spent over a decade preaching his brand of religiosity, delving into countless debates across the Indian subcontinent, challenging the beliefs of others, condemning positions antithetical to his own (including his own son; see: Gurus’ Family Feuds), far from portrays him or his more aggressive successors as having adopted “an impartial approach to religiosity and spirituality”.

This, naturally, posits the human intellect to be just more than a tool but an aspect of the human cognition which when perfected leads closer to God.

How the intellect can accept the mentally-oppressive notion of Nirgun-Sargun and still move towards this supposed perfection is something that no Sikh worth his or her salt has made clear to us (in spite of some valiant, though misplaced, attempts).

Again, its growth is emphasized and not only via the Sikh praxis. Harmonization with Hukam does not necessarily denote a Sikh existence; this is substantiated by the inclusion of Bhagat Bani in the Guru Granth.

The Bhagat Bani card is often played by Sikhs to act as a smokescreen against the fractious intrareligious disputes that plagued the lives of their Gurus. Anyone who is familiar with the Gurus’ Family Feuds, for example, as well as the exclusivist values and insular approach adopted by major Sikh theologians like Bhai Gurdas against rival heterodox sects (see Gurmukh-Kafir Manmukh-Muslim & Bhai Gurdas) will recognise the Bhagat Bani card for what it is.

Guru Nanak did not fall for the trap of conventional religiosity by dramatizing some allegedly received supernatural revelation or the like. He instead created an identity and philosophy premised on oneness with Hukam or the natural order of things.

Created would certainly be a euphemistic way of politely saying that Nanak invented the whole thing.

But, without losing sight of the actual gist of the original article, we would ask what makes Nanak’s prodigious learning in creating the hymns he did any more impressive than Homer’s Illiad? As impressive as their respective literary works were in the grand scheme of things, what makes one inspired of God and not the other, except for a mere claim?

If we take the historical evidence of Prophet Muhammad’s and Guru Nanak’s respective backgrounds, the weight of evidence appears to strongly suggest that the former had far more persuasive reasons to convince those looking back that he, and those surrounding him, lacked the necessary tools required in producing a work as unparalleled as the Qur’an.

Naturally then, human rationality became a primary element in this journey towards concomitant living rather than the archetypal dismissal of the “base human intellect.”

We have conclusively shown that human rationality has very little value in Sikhism. The fact that mentally-oppressive concepts of God are forced upon adherents, with blind-following a central tenet of Sikh theology, should give those looking impartially in from the outside pause for concern.

[1] A.A.Y. Qadhi (2003), An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’aan, (Al-Hidaayah Publishing & Distribution), p. 269.
[2] M.M. Al-Azami (2003), The History of the Qur’anic Text from Revelation to Compilation, (UK Islamic Academy), p. 50.
[3] A.A.Y. Qadhi, op. cit., p. 271.

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