Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Quran Confirms the Trinity! Pt. 3a

Sam Shamoun

We have come to that part of our discussion where we briefly focus on what the Islamic sources teach concerning Jesus.

Jesus: Allah’s Word and Spirit made Flesh

Shockingly, the Quran identifies Jesus as the Word of Allah who came forth as a Spirit from him to Mary:

When the angels said, 'Mary, God gives thee good tidings of a Word from Him whose name is Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary; high honoured shall he be in this world and the next, near stationed to God.  S. 3:45 Arberry

O People of the Book! Go not beyond the limits in your way of life and say not about God but The Truth: That the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was a Messenger of God and HIS WORD that He CAST TO Mary and a Spirit from Him (wa’kalimatuhu al-qaha ila Maryama wa’roohun minhu). So believe in God and His Messengers. And say not: Three. To refrain yourselves from it is better for you. There is only One God. Glory be to Him that He have a son! To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in and on the earth and God sufficed as a Trustee. S. 4:171 Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar

This is the reason why Jesus is given the titles “the Word of Allah” (Kalimatullah) and “the Spirit of Allah” (Ruhullah) in Islamic tradition:

“… They will go to 'Isa and say, 'O 'Isa! You are the Messenger of Allah and His Word which He cast to Maryam and a spirit from Him. You spoke to people while in the cradle. Intercede with your Lord on our behalf. Do you not see what we are suffering?' 'Isa will say, 'My Lord is angry today with such anger as has never existed before nor will again,' AND HE DID NOT MENTION A SIN. 'O my soul! My soul! My soul! Go to someone else. Go to Muhammad.' (Aisha Bewley, The Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 68. Book of Tafsir; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)


Jami` at-Tirmidhi

Chapters on Virtues

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:

that a group of people from the Companions of the Messenger of Allah sat waiting for him. He said: "Then he came out, such that when he came close to them, he heard them talking, and he heard what they were saying. So some of them said: 'It's amazing that Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, has taken a Khalil (close friend) from His creation. He took Ibrahim as a Khalil.' And some of them said: 'That is not more amazing than speaking to Musa, He spoke to him with real speech.' And some said: 'And 'Eisa is THE WORD OF ALLAH and His Spirit.' And some said: 'Adam was chosen by Allah.' So he came out upon them and said his Salam, and said: 'I have heard your words, and your amazement that Ibrahim is the Khalil of Allah, and he is such, and that Musa is the one spoken to by Allah, and he is such, and that 'Eisa is THE SPIRIT OF ALLAH and HIS WORD, and he is such, and that Adam was chosen by Allah, and he is such…

Grade: Da'if (Darussalam)

English reference: Vol. 1, Book 46, Hadith 3616

Arabic reference: Book 49, Hadith 3976 (; capital, italic and underline emphasis ours)

The ahadith further proclaim that no one can be a true Muslim unless s/he testifies that Jesus is the Word and Spirit of Allah sent down to his blessed mother:

Narrated 'Ubada:
The Prophet said, "If anyone TESTIFIES that None has the right to be worshipped but Allah Alone Who has no partners, and that Muhammad is His Slave and His Apostle, and that Jesus is Allah's Slave and His Apostle and HIS WORD which He bestowed on Mary and a Spirit from Him, and that Paradise is true, and Hell is true, Allah will admit him into Paradise with the deeds which he had done even if those deeds were few." (Junada, the sub-narrator said, "'Ubada added, 'Such a person can enter Paradise through any of its eight gates he likes.”) (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 644)

It is narrated on the authority of Ubadah b. Samit that the messenger of Allah observed: HE WHO SAID: "There is no god but Allah, He is One and there is no associate with Him, that Muhammad is his servant and His messenger, that Christ is servant and the son of His slave-girl and he (Christ) HIS WORD which He communicated to Mary and is HIS SPIRIT, that Paradise is a fact and Hell is a fact," Allah would make him (he who affirms these truths enter Paradise through any one of its eight doors which he would like. (Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Number 0043)

We say shockingly because the language employed by the Quran and hadiths to describe Jesus implies that Christ already existed with Allah before he was cast down to his blessed mother. In fact, these titles point to Jesus being eternal by nature, and therefore one with God in essence. After all, God’s Word is not part of creation but the means through which God both communicates and brings creation into being. As such God has never existed without his own Word.

This, therefore, means that the Quran recognizes that Jesus is an eternal Spirit who became flesh, a fact that many Christian writers have picked up on. Note, for instance, what the following author says as he brings out the significance of Jesus being identified as a Spirit from Allah:

“This third title is very little different from the second one for once again the title belongs to Jesus alone and God again is the source of the Spirit as he was the source of the Word. (It is sometimes said of Adam that God breathed something of his spirit into him but this must be carefully distinguished from the title Spirit of God which is given to Jesus alone.) Jesus is his Word and his Spirit. This title is also not explained in the Qur'an but frankly supports the Christian belief that Jesus was not a creature made out of dust but an eternal spirit who took on human form

“Jesus, however, is now called "a Spirit from him" (ruhun-minhu) from which he has received the title in Islamic traditions "Spirit of God" (Ruhullah). The expression in Surah 4:171, ruhun-minhu (‘a spirit from him’) is used in exactly the same form in Surah 58:22 where it is said that God strengthens true believers with "a spirit from him". Very significantly Yusuf Ali, commenting on this latter verse in his translation of the Qur'an states that here the ‘phrase used is stronger’ than that for the Holy Spirit (Ruhul Quds). He implies that the Spirit from God is greater than the Holy Spirit and says that it is "the divine spirit, which we can no more define adequately than we can define in human language the nature and attributes of God" (note 5365).

“This is a remarkable comment which is clearly a veiled implication that the ruhun-minhu is the very Spirit of the living God, uncreated and eternal in essence. Yusuf Ali says it is "the divine spirit" and that it is as incomprehensible as God himself. This language is unambiguous – the Spirit from God is clearly believed by him to be from the realm of deity and not from the created order. He is, according to this interpretation, practically synonymous with the Holy Spirit in the Christian Bible.

“Now this is the very title that the Qur'an gives to Jesus in Surah 4:171. The exact same words are used - he is the ruhun-minhu, ‘a Spirit from God’. If we merely apply Yusuf Ali's interpretation of the expression in Surah 58:22 to the very same expression given as a title to Jesus in Surah 4:171, we can only conclude that Jesus is the "divine spirit, which we can no more define adequately than we can define in human language the nature and attributes of God". He is, therefore, God in essence and nature. Because of the simultaneous denial in 4:171 that Jesus is the Son of God, Yusuf Ali is constrained to deny that the title ruhun-minhu when applied to Jesus implies deity, but he is hardly consistent in his exposition of the Qur'an when he teaches in another place that ruhun-minhu is indeed a divine spirit possessing the nature and attributes of God and is as incomprehensible as God as well. (Christianity and Islam Series No. 5 The Titles of Jesus in the Qur’an and the Bible, by John Gilchrist, 3. A SPIRIT FROM GOD (Ruhullah); bold and underline emphasis ours)

Another Christian scholar writes:

In chap. iv. 169, Jesus is said to be "a spirit proceeding from God," so that he would appear, according to the Quran, to be the Holy Ghost. Muslims even accord to his followers the creed, "There is one God, and Jesus is the Spirit of God," as expressive of the truth. In chap. xxi. 91, Mary's conception is said to have been due to the breathing by God of his spirit into her. And in chap. iii. 45, Jesus is called the "Word proceeding from Himself," i.e., God. Now, while it is certain that these expressions, and many others of a similar import in the Quran, do express the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus, as well as of the Holy Ghost, it is perfectly clear that Muhammad never intended to express that idea. For instance, in chap. iii. 47, it is evident that Muhammad regarded Jesus as a creature. And in chap. iv. 169, 170, where Jesus is called the "word which he (God) conveyed into Mary, and a spirit proceeding from him," this very expression, which is one of the strongest in the Quran, is followed by the command, "Say not, there are three Gods," which is evidently intended to deny the idea of the divinity of Jesus as well as of Mary. Nevertheless, the fact of such expressions being used in the Quran can only be explained on the ground that they were in use among the Arabs in Muhammad's time in a Christian sense, and that Muhammad either used them, while explaining away their meaning, in order to commend his doctrine to Christians, or, as is more probable, he used them without understanding their Christian import himself. See Muir's Life of Mohamet, vol. ii. p.138.

The unintentional testimony of Muhammad to the character of Jesus is a subject worthy the study of the Christian controversialist.

The Tafsir-i-Husaini gives four opinions of Muslim commentators as to the import of the expression "holy spirit:" (1.) The holy soul of Jesus; (2.) the angel Gabriel; (3.) a potent name whereby he was able to raise the dead; and (4.) the Gospel. (Wherry, Volume 1, pp. 321-322; bold and underline emphasis ours)

So We Now Have a Contradiction!

This now introduces a major contradiction in the Quran since there are passages, which demote Christ to the status of a mere servant and apostle of Allah, no more no less:

The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away! S. 5:75 Pickthall

He ['Iesa (Jesus)] was not more than a slave. We granted Our Favour to him, and We made him an example to the Children of Israel (i.e. his creation without a father). S. 43:59 Hilali-Khan 

As a result of these egregious blunders Muhammad came up with the ad hoc reply that there are unclear Quranic verses whose meanings are known only to Allah. Muhammad, therefore, warned his followers not to base their theology on such ambiguous texts:

It is He Who has sent down to you (Muhammad) the Book (this Qur'an). In it are Verses that are entirely clear, they are the foundations of the Book [and those are the Verses of Al-Ahkam (commandments, etc.), Al-Fara'id (obligatory duties) and Al-Hudud (legal laws for the punishment of thieves, adulterers, etc.)]; and others not entirely clear. So as for those in whose hearts there is a deviation (from the truth) they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof, seeking Al-Fitnah (polytheism and trials, etc.), and seeking for its hidden meanings, but none knows its hidden meanings save Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in it; the whole of it (clear and unclear Verses) are from our Lord." And none receive admonition except men of understanding. (Tafsir At-Tabari). S. 3:7 Hilali-Khan

The Muslim expositors acknowledge that this verse was written in response to a group of Christians from Najran who employed Muhammad’s own testimony to Christ being the Word and Spirit of Allah to prove that he is God in the flesh:

Surah Al `Imran was revealed in Al-Madinah, as evident by the fact that the first eighty-three Ayat in it relate to the delegation from Najran that arrived in Al-Madinah on the ninth year of Hijrah (632 CE). We will elaborate on this subject when we explain the Ayah about the Mubahalah (3:61) in this Surah, Allah willing. We should also state that we mentioned the virtues of Surah Al `Imran along with the virtues of Surat Al-Baqarah in the beginning of the Tafsir of Surat Al-Baqarah. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; bold emphasis ours)


Therefore, Allah said…

(So as for those in whose hearts there is a deviation) meaning, those who are misguided and deviate from truth to falsehood…

(they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof) meaning, they refer to the Mutashabih, because they are able to alter its meanings to conform with their false interpretation since the wordings of the Mutashabihat encompass such a wide area of meanings. As for the Muhkam Ayat, they cannot be altered because they are clear and, thus, constitute unequivocal proof against the misguided people. This is why Allah said…

(seeking Al-Fitnah) meaning, they seek to misguide their following by pretending to prove their innovation by relying on the Qur'an -- the Mutashabih of it -- but, this is proof against and not for them. For instance, Christians might claim that (`Isa is divine) because the Qur'an states that he is Ruhullah and His Word, which He gave to Mary, all the while ignoring Allah's statements…

(He (`Isa) was not more than a servant. We granted Our favor to him.) (43:59), and…

(Verily, the likeness of `Isa before Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then (He) said to him: “Be!” and he was.) (3:59).

There are other Ayat that clearly assert that `Isa is but one of Allah's creatures and that he is the servant and Messenger of Allah, among other Messengers. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; bold emphasis ours)

Now this places Muslims in a dilemma since they cannot tell us what it means for Jesus to be the Word and Spirit of Allah, seeing that their own prophet stated that the meaning of these titles are known only to the Islamic deity.

With that said it is quite obvious that Muhammad didn’t realize that these particular Christological descriptions, which he had picked up from Christians, basically point to Jesus being God in nature. 

Time to proceed to the final section of our discussion.