Islamic view of the Trinity
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In Christianity, the doctrine of the Trinity states that God is a single being who exists, simultaneously and eternally, as a communion of three distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Within Islam, however, such a concept of plurality within God is a denial of monotheism and foreign to the revelation found in Muslim scripture. Shirk, the act of ascribing partners to God – whether they be sons, daughters, or other partners – is considered to be a form of unbelief in Islam. The Qur'an repeatedly and firmly asserts God's absolute oneness, thus ruling out the possibility of another being sharing his sovereignty or nature. There has been little doubt that Muslims have rejected Christian doctrines of the Trinity from an early date, but the details of Qur'anic exegesis have recently become a subject of renewed scholarly debate.
In the Qur'an
O People of the Scripture. do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, "Three"; desist - it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs.
They have certainly disbelieved who say, " Allah is the Messiah, the son of Mary" while the Messiah has said, "O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord." Indeed, he who associates others with Allah - Allah has forbidden him Paradise, and his refuge is the Fire. And there are not for the wrongdoers any helpers. They have certainly disbelieved who say, " Allah is the third of three." And there is no god except one God. And if they do not desist from what they are saying, there will surely afflict the disbelievers among them a painful punishment. So will they not repent to Allah and seek His forgiveness? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. The Messiah, son of Mary, was not but a messenger; [other] messengers have passed on before him. And his mother was a supporter of truth. They both used to eat food. Look how We make clear to them the signs; then look how they are deluded.
And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, "O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, 'Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?'" He will say, "Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen. I said not to them except what You commanded me - to worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. And I was a witness over them as long as I was among them; but when You took me up, You were the Observer over them, and You are, over all things, Witness. If You should punish them - indeed they are Your servants; but if You forgive them - indeed it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.
Furthermore, verses 19:88-93, 23:91, and 112:1-4 are relevant to the doctrine of "Trinity":
And they say, "The Most Merciful has taken [for Himself] a son." You have done an atrocious thing. The heavens almost rupture therefrom and the earth splits open and the mountains collapse in devastation that they attribute to the Most Merciful a son. And it is not appropriate for the Most Merciful that He should take a son. There is no one in the heavens and earth but that he comes to the Most Merciful as a servant.
Allah has not taken any son, nor has there ever been with Him any deity. [If there had been], then each deity would have taken what it created, and some of them would have sought to overcome others. Exalted is Allah above what they describe [concerning Him].
Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.
Although the latter group of verses have usually been taken to reject the mainstream Christian view of Jesus as son of God, William Montgomery Watt has argued that they refer specifically to an unorthodox notion of "physical sonship".
Verse 5:73 has been interpreted as a potential criticism of Syriac literature that references Jesus as "the third of three" and thus an attack on the view that Christ was divine. Hence, verses 5:72–75 may merely be criticizing the idea that Jesus and God are the same. Alternatively, it may be a purposeful simplification of the Christian belief in the humanity and divinity of Christ in order to expose its potential weakness when viewed from the firmly monotheistic position of Islam.
Similarly, verse 4:171 can be read as a rejection of Jesus' divinity. It is worth noting that in explaining these verses, early Muslim Qur'anic commentators noted that "the Christian 'three' was an internal characteristic of the godhead... rather than a series of external beings placed together with God."
Regarding the verse 5:116, some scholars have written that the version of the "Trinity" concept that the Qur'an is criticizing appears to be God, Jesus, and Mary; and that this is not a description of orthodox Christian belief, wherein the third part of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. Edward Hulmes writes:
"The Qur'anic interpretation of trinitarian orthodoxy as belief in the Father, the Son, and the Virgin Mary, may owe less to a misunderstanding of the New Testament itself than to a recognition of the role accorded by local Christians to Mary as mother in a special sense."
There is also debate about whether this verse should be taken literally. For example, David Thomas states that verse 5:116 need not be seen as describing actually professed beliefs, but rather, giving examples of shirk (claiming divinity for beings other than God) and a "warning against excessive devotion to Jesus and extravagant veneration of Mary, a reminder linked to the central theme of the Qur'an that there is only one God and He alone is to be worshipped." When read in this light, it can be understood as an admonition, "Against the divinization of Jesus that is given elsewhere in the Qur'an and a warning against the virtual divinization of Mary in the declaration of the fifth-century church councils that she is 'God-bearer'."
- David Thomas, Trinity, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
- Mun'im Sirry (1 May 2014). Scriptural Polemics: The Qur'an and Other Religions. Oxford University Press.
- Quran 4:171-173
- Quran 5:72–75
- Quran 5:116-118
- Quran 19:88–93
- Quran 23:91
- Quran 112:1–4
- W. Montgomery Watt (1956). Muhammad At Medina. Oxford At The Clarendon Press. p. 318.
- Mun'im Sirry (1 May 2014). Scriptural Polemics: The Qur'an and Other Religions. Oxford University Press. p. 47.
- S. Griffith: Christians and Christianity.
- Edward Hulmes: Qur'an and the Bible, The; entry in the Oxford Companion to the Bible.