Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Simple Mistakes, Confused Defenses
05/26/2010 - James WhiteLast evening a brother pointed me to a comment by Emir Caner posted on Twitter back on the 12th of May. I have included it in the graphic so as to document that it is clearly from Emir Caner, and also to note his re-tweeting of Hussein Wario's article "Desperate Muslims and Ignoramus Christians" as well. This demonstrates Emir Caner is in touch with Hussein Wario. This will be important in what follows.
On September 28, 2006, I spent the entirety of the Dividing Line covering all twenty five ayah (verses) in the Qur'an that contain the name of Isa (Jesus). How did I come up with this list? I utilized the Kassas Concordance to the Qur'an, a massive volume keyed to the standard Arabic text of the Qur'an (i.e., what we might call the "Textus Receptus" of the Qur'an, the Uthmanic text). Here is the listing of all uses of Isa in the Qur'an taken from the Kassas Concordance:
It only takes a moment to do the count: 25. That's it. So, back in 2006, we went over all of them on the DL.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was listening to Emir Caner as found here. At exactly 4:00 of Dr. Caner's presentation he says the following words: "Islam has a lot to say about Jesus Christ. His name is mentioned 93 times in the Qur'an." I immediately recognized that this was an error. If words have meaning, Dr. Caner misspoke. He did not say "Jesus is talked about many places in the Qur'an" or something like this, he said His name, that is Jesus, is mentioned 93 times in the Qur'an. But, it isn't. Now, I had seen secondary sources that greatly inflated this number by including context and references that do not use the name Isa. I knew, for example, that Geoffrey Parrinder in his book, Jesus in the Qur'an, said:
The name Isa occurs twenty-five times in the Qur'an, and the use of other titles in conjunction with this or separately, such as Messiah and Son of Mary, means that Jesus is spoken of some thirty-five times….The bare enumeration of the references to Jesus by one of his names in the Qur'an does not show, of course, the difference between passing allusions and longer narratives in which Jesus is the central figure. (18, 20).
However, prior to this, Parrinder had said, "Three chapters or suras of the Qur'an are named after references to Jesus (3, 5 and 19); he is mentioned in fifteen suras and ninety-three verses" (16). This number had mystified me, as it is a great leap from twenty-five to ninety-three, but Parrinder's examples explain what he is talking about. Notice he says that three suras are named after references to Jesus. Sura 3 is Al Imran. How is Imran relevant to Jesus? Surah 66:12 explains:
And Mary the daughter of 'Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants).
The Qur'an asserts Mary, Jesus' mother, was the daughter of "Imran." Hence, all references to Imran (and to Mary) are references to Jesus as well. Surah 5 is Al Maida, the "table," which refers to the request of the disciples that Jesus bring down a table from heaven (Surah 5:112-115), hence, this is a reference to Jesus as well. And Surah 19 is named for Mary, His mother. Therefore, the claim (and it seems Parrinder is the source for the widespread use of this number) that there are 93 verses in the Qur'an referring to Jesus should be understood to mean that there are 93 verses that could be interpreted to have something to do with Jesus, Jesus' story, Jesus' mother, Jesus' disciples, Jesus' relatives, etc. I wonder if all references to the Ahl al Injeel (people of the Gospel) have been included as well, given the Injeel is given to Jesus. In any case, the best summary of the assertion found in Parrinder (and repeated below by Jane I. Smith) is "There are about ninety three verses in the Qur'an that could in some form or fashion be connected to Jesus, his story, history, and the view of him promoted by the Qur'an, in a very loose fashion."
Now, I raised this issue in light of many other issues: Dr. Emir Caner converting to Christianity at age twelve (though on the Ankerberg Show Ergun said they converted when they were close to college); the fact that his father had not been his custodial parent since he was five years of age; the incoherent citation methodology he and Ergun had used in their book, referring to "Hadith" as a meaningful reference mechanism (similar to quoting "Bible 3:16" as if that has meaning), etc. All of this was in the context of asking, "Why is Emir Caner considered an expert on Islam? Does converting from a religion when you are twelve give you sufficient ground to be viewed as an expert in that religion later in life?" I specifically had the Parrinder reference in mind, which is where I had first encountered the number "93" used in such a fashion. This is why I speculated on the use of "secondary sources" in Emir Caner's comments.
Now, it would be easy to argue that Dr. Emir Caner simply misspoke. "I didn't mean His name is used 93 times, of course, I know it only appears 25 times. I meant the wider idea of all possible references, allusions, etc." That would make sense to me. However, taken together with the other issues just noted, it does raise serious questions concerning Emir Caner's familiarity with primary sources relating to the study of Islam. It would have been easy to grant a mere misstatement, had Emir Caner not chosen to defend his statement.
As we saw at the beginning of this article, at 1:35pm on May 12th Emir Caner tweeted the following, "Was I incorrect stating Jesus mentioned 93x in Quran? Professor Esposito, Oxford Dictionary, 306, "Jesus is referred to in 93 verses." This was tweeted barely two hours after Hussein Wario posted his "Desperate Muslims and Ignoramus Christians" article (marked 11:36am on May 12th). As you can see in the graphic above, Emir Caner had retweeted Wario's announcement of his article.
But here is the irony. For some reason, Emir Caner did not read even Wario's article closely enough. Wario, who refuses to see how multiple issues need to be weighed in this matter, seems to think that if you can find any plausible explanation for any one question, you have solved the problem. So, he found a few places where the Caner's properly cited hadith literature, therefore, all is well! The many places where they used nonsense citations are, in his thinking, irrelevant as long as they got it right once in a while. In the same way, if any Muslim, anywhere, has ever prayed in a bathroom, well, that does away with the specific prohibition of doing so, even if that has nothing to do with the context in which Ergun Caner claimed he prayed in the high school bathroom. Etc. and etc. So Wario had written, in the context of being "ashamed" of me and, evidently, identifying me as an "ignoramus,"
Would that prove him a fake expert on Islam when he was quoting John Esposito, Professor of International Affairs and Islamic Studies and the director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, who says, "Jesus is referred to in ninety-three verses of the Quran" (The Oxford History of Islam, pages 306-307)?
There is a small problem with Mr. Wario's use of this source: Esposito is the editor of the work, not the writer of the specific article cited. The writer of the article cited is Jane I. Smith, not Esposito. No reference is given for the 93 number in her article in the Oxford work, but it is not specifically referring to the number of times the name of Jesus is used in the Qur'an. It seems quite likely to me that Smith is here repeating the Parrinder number (his work has been widely read).
But that issue aside, Mr. Wario missed the issue at hand, that being the difference between noting general, and at times, non-specific reference to Jesus, and the actual number of times His name is used. There is a difference between the two. Smith, in the cited text, is not referring to naming Jesus, as Emir Caner did. But did Caner realize that Smith was referring to a broader category of texts than those which actually use the name Isa? That was my question then, and Hussein Wario has only provided an example of secondary literature that may well be the source of Caner's misstatement.
However, Emir Caner's tweet did not refer us to The Oxford History of Islam. Ironically, Esposito was only the editor of that work, and did not write what Emir Caner then cites. Esposito did, however, write a similar book, also for Oxford, and that is what Caner cites. Emir Caner mistakenly misses Wario's actual reference and substitutes Esposito's The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. What makes this humorous is not only that this source does not support him (pages 305-306 nowhere even mention Jesus), it actually contradicts him. For when you ask "John Esposito, Professor of International Affairs and Islamic Studies and the director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University" (to quote the long title used by Wario, taken off the back of the book) the specific question, "how often is Jesus referred to by name in the Qur'an," the very source Emir Caner cites in his defense says:
Jesus, Son of Mary Mentioned in the Quran twenty-five times, as righteous prophet, messenger to Israel, sign, Spirit from God, and Messiah" (159).
Which immediately makes one wonder, "Didn't Emir Caner even check his source before posting this?" I sure wondered about it. Does he know there is a difference between the two books, or did he just see "Esposito," go, "Oh, I have that book," and repeat Wario's quote without realizing he was citing the wrong book? I have no way of knowing. But I do find it ironic, somewhat humorous, and yet still sad, that when faced with his own misstatement, instead of accepting correction, he chose the path of self-defense without even checking his facts. Let's hope for better from him in the future!
Of course, the best thing Emir Caner could do would be to show the intestinal fortitude and dedication to the truth that marks Christian men, stand up, and tell us all the truth about his past, and Ergun's as well. Truth is thicker than blood, Emir. You know you were born here, not in Turkey. You know that picture Ergun posted of his tenth birthday, which included you, was taken in Ohio, not Turkey. You know the truth there, and I exhort you to speak out and set this situation right. It is the right thing to do.