Counter-terrorism researcher and member of Salaam Society, Shazan Iqbal describes his encounter with Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) when he invited them into his house.
Three weeks ago I walked out into my driveway to collect something from my car and I noticed someone knocking on my neighbour’s door. After a close examination I noticed that they were JW. I engaged in conversation with them and invited them inside my house, at first they refused but after half an hour of talking in the street they decided to accept my invitation.
The father named Emilio and his son were of Italian descent and had “converted” from Catholicism to JW. The three hour conversation went off on many tangents but I constantly focused on the issue of Tawheed (monotheism). I found the duo very well mannered but confused and uneducated about the history and details of their Bible. I gave them some dawah leaflets by Islamic Dawah Centre International (IDCI) and we parted amicably as they had other appointments to go to.
Yesterday whilst I was preparing to watch Man United Vs Wigan in the Community Shield, my mother called me saying that someone was at the door. I found two men of African descent who reminded me of Emilio and his son’s visit a few weeks prior. John and Joe were senior members of the JW community. I welcomed them into my house. After offering them a cup of tea I allowed the duo to present their case to me. I was more adamant this time to stick to the topic and not allow any diversions.
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They began by quoting a verse from Colossians 1:16 to prove that Jesus (as) was the first of creation (even before Adam (as). Paul is the author of Colossians and further significant portions of the Bible. So I questioned the character of Paul and the other authors of the Bible. Paul, a clear enemy of Jesus during his lifetime, suddenly had a vision on the road to Damascus of Jesus and had accepted the faith that he had previously tried to extinguish.
I asked the JW”s how they could rely on an individual who was clearly an enemy of Jesus during his lifetime for crucial creedal matters of the religion. No doubt Prophet Muhammad (saw) had many ardent enemies who later embraced Islam and were at the forefront of the religion, most notably the second Caliph Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (ra). The difference however is that the previous opponents of Muhammad (saw) had been certified by the Prophet (saw) as true believers in his lifetime. Paul on the other hand had no such validation by Jesus to take him as one of the most, if not THE MOST, pivotal figure of Christianity is quite frankly nonsensical.
The Disciples and Roman influence
John and Joe, both stuck tried to divert the discussion to another topic quoting a verse from John regarding the Holy Spirit. Again rather than tackling the verse itself I focussed on the source. Who is John? And for that matter who are Mark, Matthew and Luke? The common response is “Disciples” of Jesus; however there is not a consensus on this from the Christian scholars themselves.
During a university course unit about the New Testament, I found that the exact identities of these four individuals is unclear as is the time frame in which they lived. The majority opinion is that these individuals lived 40-160 years after the “death” of Jesus. With so much confusion on the identities of these individuals how can anyone take them as legitimate historical or religious sources?
I also alluded to the input that the pagan Roman Emperor, Constantine had in the formation of the modern day Bible. John and Joe seemed totally bamboozled about all that I had mentioned. John had become silent for quite some time; I sensed some doubt creeping into his mind about his beliefs so I wanted to educate him about the emphasis Islam places on the scrutinising of sources of religion.
I made a comparison to the Bible and the Hadith in Islam. I informed the pair that narrations about the Prophet Muhammad (saw) from his Companions (ra) are somewhat similar to the Bible. In the science of Ahadith (isnad) we know of all the individuals in the chain of a hadith, we know their full names, their lineages, their characters among many other factors. In comparison, the Bible which is supposedly the “Word of God”, has unknown and ambiguous sources.
Once again, the diversion tactics began, but I was adamant not to allow this to happen. I insisted that they answered and persisted in asking them how they could believe in a book that is mysterious in its authorship. Joe noticed John’s change in demeanour and after one hour he claimed they had other “appointments” to attend to.
I asked them to stay for a little longer until we had clarified at least one or two of the issues but they maintained that they could not. I gave an open invitation for them to attend my local masjid so they could discuss with some brothers there, which they refused. As they got up and made a run for the exit, I tried to give them some dawah material but they refused stating they were in a rush for other “appointments”. A few minutes after they left, I saw them knocking door to door on my neighbours houses being shunned on each occasion, leaving me wondering which appointments they urgently needed to attend?
In summary I admire the JW’s that I have met for their sincerity and dedication to their religion; however I feel like they are uneducated about their own religion and other religions such as Islam, and rely very much on emotions to guide their beliefs rather than authoritative sources of scripture.
Some may feel I was a little harsh with them or maybe even offensive for challenging their beliefs. I believe that if you go out to publically preach and try to convert others to your religion then you should rightfully be challenged, scrutinised and criticised. The same applies to Muslims who publically call to Islam. They should expect to be treated in a similar fashion and should be prepared for such challenges.