Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Of Joseph Smith and Ergun Caner (Part 4)
07/03/2010 - James White
The Charge that no Knowledgeable Muslim Would Mis-cite the Hadith as Caner Did.—It is charged that Caner often cites the Hadith without mentioning the actual name of the collection. But, as even Muslim scholars admit, there is no “official” way to cite the Hadith. It is often cited without reference to the collection.
Just as the citation of the hadith without the collection name is utterly meaningless, so is the citation of unnamed "Muslim scholars." This is, again, a non-disputable point, but since there are many who may be seeing these articles without any further background, a brief explanation is in order.
It would be meaningless for me to assert that in "Bible 3:3 we learn the following…." Bible 3:3 is not a meaningful form of citation since, of course, the Bible is made up of many books. Hence, you would need to know if I am citing Colossians or John or Hebrews or the Psalter, etc., for the reference "3:3" to have any meaning. In fact, if I said, "Well, look it up in Bible 3:3," you could not possibly know with any level of certainty which of dozens of possible references I have in mind.
Likewise, the use of reference such as "Hadith 9:57," found frequently in the public talks of Ergun and Emir Canner, is non sensical. You cannot know what "Hadith 9:57" means, since there are multiple collections of hadith sayings. When the Caner brothers say "Hadith 9:57," they are referring specifically to Sahih al-Bukhari 9:57:
Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to 'Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn 'Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Apostle forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.' "
Now, to get that text from my Islamic computer program I had to tell it, specifically, which collection I wanted to use. Putting "9:57" or 957 in the search box would not have worked, since there are other collections, such as Sahih al-Muslim, or Abu-Dawood, or Al-Tirmidhi, that I could be referring to. Only someone who is unaccustomed to working with the study of hadith sources would think that making the reference, "Hadith 9:57" is relevant. Someone who actually looks up references in the hadith with any regularity would know better, just as any Christian would know how to cite the Bible as John 3:3, or Colossians 3:3, but never as "Bible 3:3."
Yet, the Caners' books are filled with proper, and improper, citations (seemingly indicating that they took some of their citations from sources that actually know and understand the hadith, but in other instances did not, making the basic error noted above). It is a tell-tale sign that those who do serious work in the field would see, but the vast majority of evangelicals would never catch for obvious reasons. I illustrated this when Hussein Wario (probably the source of this errant information once again) called my webcast a second time. (You can hear his call at the beginning of the program here.)
The resultant exchange, wherein he completely failed to answer my question about this topic, illustrates just how completely inarguable this point is on a logical or factual level. But it likewise makes us wonder more about the relative contributions of Dr. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb to his book on Islam, for if Geisler has done so little primary reading in Islamic sources so as to miss such a basic and obvious error then it is clear the book reflects the expertise of someone other than himself.
The Charge that Caner did not Debate Shabir Ally in Nebraska.—Dr. Caner has admitted that this was a mistake and has publically apologized for it. He did, however, engage another Muslim while in Lincoln, NB. No one has proven this was an intentional deception, as some critics claim.
And I repeat the question I asked Ergun Caner in e-mail back in February when he concocted this excuse then: who? Who did Ergun Caner debate in Nebraska? When? Dates? We would like to contact this person, but, Ergun Caner has refused to tell us for nearly half a year now. And that is what raises the question of intentional deception. Why not answer such a basic question? The logical person cannot follow such reasoning.
But we would likewise add to this the fact that Caner did not claim to debate Shabir Ally only once. He claimed to do so twice (that we know of) in 2007. Here's the evidence:
Now, for some reason Dr. Geisler remains silent about the glaring, almost funny error in the second citation: Dr. Geisler well knows that Ergun Caner never debated Abdul Saleeb, since, of course, Abdul Saleeb means "servant of the cross," and this is a pseudonym for a Christian writer who co-authored a book with Norman Geisler. We likewise know that Caner never debated Nadir Ahmed, either (he had an e-mail exchange with Nadir that he posted on his website). So, you have him linking together three Islamic-sounding names and attributing words to them, all to impress an audience. I see no other explanation for this "misstatement." I wonder why Geisler ignores this glaring problem?
We are again left wondering why Norman Geisler would not think to ask Ergun Caner, "Ergun, wouldn't it be best to tell everyone who it was you debated, and provide the details?"
The issues relating to Caner's name (using Mehmet when his middle name is officially Michael) etc., are only marginally interesting to me at this point. I think it would be interesting to see if the use of Mehmet began after 1999, or after 2001. And the Ph.D./Th.D. response is irrelevant: no one (at least not I!) has had any issue with the validity of the Th.D., we have asked why he would claim a Ph.D. when he has a Th.D. The response offered does not even address this issue.
Reviewing these allegations reminds me of the numerous similar statements I have made in the past. I could easily be proven a liar on similar ground. For example, when ask where I was born, I have given at least three different answers over the years: In Detroit, in Warren, and in Van Dyke, Michigan. All are true. It was metropolitan Detroit (literally a half mile into the northeastern suburb). It was in a place once called Van Dyke and now called Warren.
Of course, all these areas are in North America, all in Michigan. Istanbul is a long trip from Stockholm, Sweden, and once again we find parallels to the failed attempts to defend Joseph Smith by isolating statements from their original contexts. Caner has made the claim to be born in Turkey so as to produce a persona, a myth of his own making, about being a man raised in Turkey as the son of an Islamic scholar, all to increase the "weight" of his conversion story. It worked---he was, until a few days ago, head of a major evangelical seminary. So, Norman Geisler is, once again, in error to create this non-parallel parallel. We all understand how one could create false impressions of lying: when people ask me where I live, I say Phoenix. But, ten years ago I lived in Glendale, the next city over, a suburb of Phoenix. But, I would still say "Phoenix" when asked where I live, since it by far the better known city, and we often identify the general "Phoenix area" rather than using specific names of suburbs. But, of course, Stockholm is not a suburb of Istanbul, and Ohio is a long, long way from the border of Turkey and Iraq. There is no parallel.
Now, in the preceding materials we have seen a breath-taking array of logical and factual errors on the part of Norman Geisler. Yes, I know, it seems he is simply repeating the faux defenses offered by Caner himself (I have a very strong feeling we are seeing the essence of the document Caner would only give to people who came by his office back in April), but he has put it out, without attestation, under his own name. And just as he put out a class project of attempted refutations of my work under his name in the second edition of Chosen But Free, he is responsible for what he puts out under his own name. This attempted defense requires the abandonment of the very methods of thought and inquiry that Norman Geisler has promoted in his published works for years. A defense like this would make Joseph Smith a true prophet, as we have noted a number of times in passing. Yet, despite the complete failure of the attempt, Geisler goes on:
If, on the other hand, one wants to be fair, then there are no real grounds to support the allegations of Caner’s critics that he is a liar and a fraud who repeatedly embellished things to support his own claims. No group authorized to investigate his statements have proclaimed any such conclusion.
Even leaving aside the mountain of evidence that Geisler has ignored, and leaving aside the fact that, as we have proven so clearly, one side has documentation (video, audio, written) while Geisler and Caner and Wario and Lumpkins and Guthrie and Rogers, et al, produce nothing but assertions ("Muslim scholars," "debated someone," etc.), even taking only the less-than-strong arguments Geisler's article attempted to deal with, we have proven, I believe beyond all reasonable doubt, the fallacious nature of the attempted defense. We have found very real grounds, despite Geisler's wishful thinking defense.
We are left to wonder who gets to determine who is "authorized" to investigate Caner's statements? Who authorized Norman Geisler to investigate Joseph Smith or Muhammad or anyone else he has addressed over the years?
As if to end this travesty with a further insult to the truth, Geisler concludes,
Clearly, Liberty found no moral culpability or doctrinal deviation or else they would not have kept him on the faculty. One can only speculate as to why his contract as Dean was not renewed.
We can only speculate? Evidently, removing Caner as dean had nothing to do with the committee figuring out that Caner never lived in Turkey and had lied, repeatedly, about such things. Maybe they asked him something in Arabic? Invited him to give a lecture on Ramadan on the 36th day of its celebration? We can only speculate indeed. But when you have a man of Norman Geisler's reputation willing to sacrifice his reputation and credibility in defense of the kind of serial myth-making that has been documented beyond question regarding Ergun Caner, you know other forces are at work. When Norman Geisler can remove dishonesty in the pulpit as a violation of Christian morality, it is time to look for the real reasons this is happening.
While I invested my day in providing this response, TurretinFan was doing the same thing, separately from me. He has produced a series that, I imagine, will have a fair amount of over-lap with my own. His series is three parts long. Part I, Part II, Part III.