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Thank you much for your prayers! Saturday's debate was probably one of the easier ones I have had with Dr. Shabir Ally, because of your prayers.
As you will notice over 7,500 people have already watched it in the past 5 days, so it is certainly making an impact, especially amongst the Muslims.
I wanted to wait to put up a report about the debate until tonight, as we have just returned from a local mosque here in Toronto where a number of Dr. Ally's disciples who were at the debate, and were quite disturbed by the material, met with us to go over that material, and continue with the debate.
Let me share with you why they were upset...
Last Saturday, around 450 attended the debate (they all had to pay $12 apiece - not my decision). I hear that over 250 watched it 'live-streamed' around the world; many in groups, so we had a good turnout, the largest they have ever had here, I am told, for a debate between Christians and Muslims.
Dr. Gordon Nickels helped me (via skype) put together the main body of the material I used before the debate itself. I made sure to initially highlight the French scholar Dr. Francois Deroche's research, coupled with the two leading Turkish scholarâ€™s work on the earliest Qurâ€™anic manuscripts (Dr. Tayyar Altikulac, and Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu).
I then introduced Dr. Keith Small's research concerning his comparisons between the Biblical and Qur'anic manuscripts, and his excellent assessment of the political control in standardizing the Qurâ€™anic text 1-2 centuries after Muhammad. I also introduced Dr. Andy Bannister's Formulaic material, pointing out the many instances in the Qur'an where Jewish formulaic apocryphal writings were borrowed.
But most of my time was spent introducing Dr. Dan Brubaker's new research on the hundreds of variants (up to 800) which he found in the 10 Manuscripts he researched, some written as late as the 9th century. Earlier this month I had spent a day with him at his home, and he let me use pictures from his doctoral thesis to underline the 6 forms of consonantal corrections he found in these manuscripts. So, our best evangelical scholars in this field were well represented in my presentation.
It was certainly their material which made the greatest impact on those Muslims who talked to me afterwards, as well as Shabir's disciples with whom we talked to this evening, and the others who have since e-mailed me, having subsequently watched the debate on line.
It was the variants in the manuscripts which pointed to a later standardization of the Qur'an after the 8th century which seemed to especially cause a problem with the Muslims who were present, or were watching, and for good reason. With this evidence Muslims will no longer be able to simply say, as they so often do, that their Qur'an is 1) eternal, 2) sent down 3) complete, and 4) unchanged. Now they will have to prove it, and you can see just how difficult that is now going to be.
Even a number of Muslims in London told my colleagues there that they had watched the debate in groups, and were angered with Shabir for spending 20 minutes introducing the "miracle of the number 19" in the Qur'an, rather than try to confront these variants, and the late dating for the 6 earliest Qur'anic manuscripts which I introduced.
A few of us went out to dinner with Shabir following the debate, where he remained unusually quiet throughout, though two of his 'talibes' at another table tried passionately to continue the debate with me, struggling to come to terms with those manuscript difficulties (don't you just love their passion).
I have asked Shabir if he would do a follow-up debate on the questions concerning the historical emergence of Islam, or the 'Muhammad of faith vs. the Muhammad of History', and he said he would think about it, however I'm not holding my breath.
This evening (Friday), due to popular demand the Canadian organizers have asked me and another scholar (John Tors) to spend an evening unpacking all the evidence which was introduced at the debate; so we'll see exactly what kind of impact all this new historical evidence is having on the Christians.
In conclusion, as I said earlier, this debate, I believe, has been one of the easiest ones I have had with Shabir, and it's not because I am a better debater than him...I'm not; it is because of Keithâ€™s, Andy's and Dan's new material, which is making the position of the Bible vs. the Qur'an so much easier to discuss and use with our Muslim friends. These researchers are all Evangelical scholars, and are such an encouragement to those of us who must now try our best to get their research out into the 'public sphere' and into the hands of the Christians and Muslims 'on the street', who can then be impacted by their conclusions.
Pray with us as we continue to use this new research to bring our dear Muslim friends 'home'.