When learning a trade, you normally want to learn from a master tradesman. In discourse, it is no different. As it goes for on who to model your discourse, the best example in the Quran is the prophet Ibrahim (ppuh); he is the ultimate debater. Whether it is with his people or kings, his manner of discussing/debating Islam is like no other.
First of all, he presents the facts, the ultimate truth that Allah is the One Unique Creator of Heavens and Earth who deserves to be adored alone:
˹Remember˺ when he questioned his father and his people, “What are these statues to which you are so devoted?”
They replied, “We found our forefathers worshipping them.”
He responded, “Indeed, you and your forefathers have been clearly astray.”
They asked, “Have you come to us with the truth, or is this a joke?”
He replied, “In fact, your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, Who created them ˹both˺. And to that I bear witness.”
˹Then he said to himself,˺ “By Allah! I will surely plot against your idols after you have turned your backs and gone away.”
So he smashed them into pieces, except the biggest of them, so they might turn to it ˹for answers˺.
They protested, “Who dared do this to our gods? It must be an evildoer!”
Some said, “We heard a young man, called Abraham, speaking ˹ill˺ of them.”
They demanded, “Bring him before the eyes of the people, so that they may witness ˹his trial˺.”
They asked, “Was it you who did this to our gods, O Abraham?”
He replied ˹sarcastically˺, “No, this one—the biggest of them—did it! So ask them, if they can talk!”
So they came back to their senses, saying ˹to one another˺, “You yourselves are truly the wrongdoers!”
Then they ˹quickly˺ regressed to their ˹original˺ mindset, ˹arguing,˺ “You already know that those ˹idols˺ cannot talk.”
He rebuked ˹them˺, “Do you then worship—instead of Allah—what can neither benefit nor harm you in any way?
Shame on you and whatever you worship instead of Allah! Do you not have any sense?”
They concluded, “Burn him up to avenge your gods, if you must act.”
We ordered, “O fire! Be cool and safe for Abraham!”
Surah Al-Anbiya (21 – 52-69)
What is remarkable, it’s that he is unapologetic for his stance. Without being aggressive, or abusive, he puts forth the illogical assertions that those idols are gods. Then, he does not revert when he is threatened to be burned. Why?
And his people argued with him. He responded, “Are you arguing with me about Allah, while He has guided me? I am not afraid of whatever ˹idols˺ you associate with Him—˹none can harm me,˺ unless my Lord so wills. My Lord encompasses everything in ˹His˺ knowledge. Will you not be mindful?
And how should I fear your associate-gods, while you have no fear in associating ˹others˺ with Allah—a practice He has never authorized? Which side has more right to security? ˹Tell me˺ if you really know!”
Surah Al-Ana’m (6 – 80-81)
This is the same mindset that the prophet Muhammad (ppuh) had towards his people when they stepped up the persecution of Muslims and the prophet himself:
“Indeed, my Protector is Allah Who has revealed this Book. For He ˹alone˺ protects the righteous.
But those ˹false gods˺ you call besides Him can neither help you nor even themselves.”
Surah Al-A’raf (7 – 196-197)
He reiterated his trust in Allah and his disconnect with their threats, while still preaching true Islamic monotheism.
As it goes for winning or losing a debate, one who follows the truth can never be beaten, even if the opposition seems to have more credibility, prestige, or rank. Therefore, there are ways to go about it when discussing/debating Islam. One of these ways is depicted in the Quran between Ibrahim (ppuh) and Namrud (ruler at his time).
Have you not considered the one who argued with Abraham about his Lord [merely] because Allah had given him kingship? When Abraham said, “My Lord is the one who gives life and causes death,” he said, “I give life and cause death.” Abraham said, “Indeed, Allah brings up the sun from the east, so bring it up from the west.” So the disbeliever was overwhelmed [by astonishment], and Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.
Surah Al-Baqara (2 – 258)
A lot of kings or rulers were considered as living deities or were made to be worshiped by men. Even Namrud, that so-called king, knew that; but then again, every king likes his throne. Therefore, they act as if they are superior… Namrud was no different; he too thought he could give life and death, since he is “divine”. He ordered the release of a prisoner on death row and ordered the beheading of an innocent man. Now, do you think it is possible to reason with that kind of tyrant? Yeah, you just have to confront him with something grander. It’s amazing how tyrants can rationalize this concept; even if they don’t like feeling humbled.
The way Ibrahim (ppuh) went about dealing with this tyrant, wasn’t by blasphemy, nor by raising his voice; but by bringing in someone or something greater than what is at stake. By doing so, if the debate is rational; logic trumps power, and truth trumps logic.
If we simmer down the debaters from a Messenger and a king to a Muslim and non-Muslim; the same applies; it reminds me of when “scientists” or atheists debate about religion. They might be right about some science, but wrong about religion; yet, they seem to take philosophy pretty well. So the previously depicted manner is the right way to go about things in any discussion; especially, when you use their own scientific assertions. On the other hand, one must remember that science covers the tangible aspects of life; a lot of scientists have a hard time understanding that tangible does not cover the non-material (unperceivable in our lifetimes) assertions of religion.
In sum, when you want to discuss or counterargue with someone, you must use his own strength as his own weakness (no, this is not kung-fu). That is why Allah has sent messengers with miracles that overwhelmed their people. Abraham had “discourse”, Moses had “magic”, Jesus had “medicine”, Muhammad had “language”. However, the Quran that was brought down to Muhammad (ppuh) was not just a linguistic miracle, it contains miracles that curtail to every person at any era. The Quran is a timeless gem that transcends all since it is the word of Allah.