Muslim Apologetics is the study of Islamic theology that provides a rational warrant for the truth claims of the Islamic belief, hence the Greek word apologia meaning a defence). Muslim apologetics specifically serves to invite non-Muslims to the truth of the Islamic belief and confirm that belief to existing Muslims.
Muslim Apologetics is ever more applicable today as the intellectual climate where we live is deeply post modern, where arguments against and objections to theism exist i.e that a religious world view is inherently false and religion can not provide any meaningful knowledge, are part and parcel of the secular culture, rendering the topic of religion irrelevant, hence this criticism by default extends to Islam. The need for Muslim apologetics is further elucidated by the very secular contemporary culture, currently focused on Islam in particular, as posing an obstacle to its world view. With this in mind, Muslims need to an accurate picture of the foundations and underpinnings of Western thought and culture, rather than focus exclusively on devotional aspects of Islamic theology and scores of past messengers. It is imperative to realize that there are two factors to consider.
The greatest danger that Islam and Muslims face is anti-intellectualism
The first is that people ought to not only be converting spiritually, but also intellectually. It is essential that our Muslim youth, when starting their Islamic education, ought to have grounding in Islamic theology in order that they may express Islamic belief by means of persuasive argument and grounded reason. Currently, the Muslim community is doing a great disservice to its youth by not equipping the next generation with the necessary tools to uphold their belief. It is imperative we acknowledge the ongoing intellectual war threatening unfounded belief, from all sides. Without solid grounding and justification for our faith, we are literally setting our youth up for failure. As they attend higher stages in their education, college and university, they will be under prepared for what can only be described as an intellectual onslaught from every type of opposing worldview, presenting Islam as irrational. The greatest danger that Islam and Muslims face is anti-intellectualism which is a sad irony given Islam’s rich intellectual heritage, stretching over many centuries. But what about the learned in our communities, some may ask. We may simply answer this by asking, who among our beloved imams/scholars can stand up to the great secular or naturalistic or atheists scholars on their own terms of scholarship? Or, who amongst our Muslim scholars are quoted as an authority by the secular academics on topics such as history, philosophy, psychology, sociology or politics? Our greatest scholars of the past who are still revered by the west even today were not just jurists, theologians or pious men but philosophers, mathematicians and scientists. If we are to be released from our intellectual closets then we should aim to produce not just Imams, unable to communicate in the native language of their audience, let alone understand their cultural idiom, but produce Imams that are professors, scientists and respected academics. What use is an Imam’s Friday sermon on the truth of Islam and its virtues when his audience has been affected by the dominant relativistic philosophy? Or a sermon on the mercy of Allah where a Muslim physics student studying Biology has lost his faith in God due to studying socio-biological evolution? What is also to note is that these disciplines are not exclusive to our figure heads but each one of us must be intellectually engaged with issues that affect Islam. Since 9/11, the average non-Muslim is now well read on anti -Islamic polemics that are percolating down into common consciousness through magazines and other popular media.
“If Abdul asks you to debate the Trinity, do not shy away but embrace the topic, welcome him…”
Muslims are very quick to attack others for viewing Islam in simplistic terms and decontextualising it. However, we too are guilty of this pugnacious attitude. We are very quick to condemn without enquiring about, the very building blocks of post-Christian European culture. We attack democracy without even reading Plato’s The Republic, we attack secular ethics without examining Kant and we attack secular politics without even studying Hobbs.
What is even more of a concern is that we are about at least fifty years behind the evangelical Christians with respect to the field of soft sciences. The Christians realized the issues confronting communities of faith long before us and came out of their intellectual closets all guns a blazing. Where Muslims are living on the periphery of intellectual existence, the once Muslim fearing evangelical Christians are now on the front line taking on atheists, naturalists, humanists in the fields of philosophy, science and politics. With respect to Islam and Christian dialogue and debate, at the Muslim height in the 1980’s the late Ahmed Deedat (May Allah be pleased with him) bolstered with a much needed confidence boost, the flailing Muslims. His style and research brought a fiery attack on Christian evangelicals, blow after blow he exposed a great weakness in their rational grounding and knowledge of their faith. Sadly those days are far gone. The neo-evangelical Christians have taken the fruits of studying disciplines like philosophy and logic and have formulated cogent arguments for Christianity and more importantly against Islam. They are no longer afraid to debate Muslims. “If Abdul asks you to debate the Trinity, do not shy away but embrace the topic, welcome him…” says one evangelical Christian on one of his lectures on how to debate Muslims.
The field of Muslim Apologetics may be broadly categorised into two strands: offensive (or positive) apologetics and defence (or negative) apologetics. Offensive apologetics seeks to present a positive case for Islamic truth claims. Defensive apologetics seeks to counter objections to those claims . Offensive apologetics may be divided into two further categories: natural theology i.e. arguments for the existence of God and, the second, Islamic evidences, which may take include the miracle of the Quran. Defensive apologetics is also made up of two branches. Natural theology provides arguments that deal with objections to religious belief i.e. relativism and so forth. The second branch is Islamic evidences which provide arguments countering modern Quran’ic studies i.e. alleged errency of the Islamic texts, Quran and hadith.