Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Qur'anic Criticisms of Various Modes of False Reasoning

This post will deal with the deception in winning a debate. In a battle or a debate of some sort you always need proofs to crush your opponent as is clearly the case in a court of law. But when people find they are out of proofs, they can resort to cheating mechanisms to deceive their oponent into thinking they have actually lost the argument. Clearly when someone resorts to cheating it shows immediately that they could not win a fair fight. The following show the various modes of cheating mechanisms that can and have been undertaken for false reasoning in examples from the Qur'an and even society today:

1) The threat of force in debate
This is simply when anger overtakes someone and they cannot refute the argument and so they resort to the cheating mechanism of threatening their oponent. For example when Ibrahim [as] challenged his people when he broke their idols. They responded by saying "Burn him and protect your gods if you do anything at all!" [21:68] They win the argument by using the threat of force in debate, but in turn it only prooves their actual defeat as they could find no other way to respond to his argument.

2) Character Assassination
This is when one is belittled in response to an argument when you cannot think of anything better to say. It's actually not a real response to an argument, it's an insult. The example from the Qur'an is when Firawn belittles Musa [as] because of his stutter: "Am I not better than This (Moses), who is a contemptible wretch and can scarcely express Himself clearly?" [43:52] Firawn used the idea of character assassination to belittle Musa and thus deceived himself and others into thinking he actually defeated him.

3) Stirring up an emotional crowd
This tends to be ok in sport, but in debate or discourse, clapping or cheering to support the speaker is not proof of an argument. The crowd cannot validate your response. As we know this is used a lot in contemporary debate, especially in politics. Again Pharaoh tried to use this to his advantage when he invited the nation to watch his battle against Musa [as]. This can be seen in the following verses from the Qur'an: "They said 'These two are certainly (expert) magicians: their object is to drive you out from your land with their Magic, and to do away with your Most cherished institutions. Therefore concert your plan and then assemble in ranks: He wins today who gains the upper hand'." [20:63-64]

4) To make the opponent question their own modesty or loyalty
 A clear example of this can be seen in the role of family pressures during cultural weddings. People will make you feel like you are disloyal because you don't conform to family practises. After all, the way a wedding is conducted says alot about your family and  culture. But when some Muslims struggle today between culture and Islam during weddings a key question that tends to pop up [especially amongst the south Asian Muslims at least] is "What are people going to say?" or in the case of Ibrahim [as] where his father said "We found our fathers worshipping them" [21:53] in response to Ibrahim questioning his father about the images to which he was devoted. Immediately the questionner implies where the opponents loyalty stands, this would not justify or validate an argument at all.

5) To rephrase the opponents position falsely and to refute it
Many a times we may have come across this - or heard a misquotation 'So what you're saying is...'Allah swt corrected the misquotation of Eesa being the son of God with this ayat clearly stating he is not the son of God: 'the similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created Him from dust, then said to him: "Be", and he was.' [3:59]

6) Asking strategically distracting questions
This is something the Quraysh would do when questioning the Prophet pbuh to distract him from his original message. Sometimes we find our selves a victim of this when in dialogue with non-Muslims. We don't finish answering the actual question before other distracting questions are posed one after the other. We end up explaining to them what Islam is not rather than what it actually is. Surely whoever asks the questions, controls the conversation!

[This post was a write up of my notes from Nouman Ali Khan's Divine Speech Seminar in London Dec 2011]

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