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 Quran repeatedly and firmly asserts God's absolute oneness, thus ruling out the possibility of another being sharing his sovereignty or nature.[1] There has been little doubt that Muslims have rejected Christian doctrines of the Trinity from an early date, but the details of Quranic exegeses have recently become a subject of renewed scholarly debate.[1][2]

In the Quran[edit]

Three Quranic verses may directly refer to this doctrine.4:171, 5:73, and 5:116.[1]

  • 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.

    — Quran 4 (An-Nisa), ayat 171[3]
  • 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.

    — Quran 5 (Al-Ma'ida), ayat 72-75[4]
  • 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.

    — Quran 5 (Al-Ma'ida), ayat 116-118[5]

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.

    — Quran 19 (Maryam (sura)), ayat 88-93[6]
  • 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].

    — Quran 23 (Al-Mumenoon), ayat 91[7]
  • 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.

    — Quran 112 (Al-Ikhlas), ayat 1-4[8]

Discussion[edit]

Interpretation of these verses by modern scholars has been varied.[1][2] Although the latter group of verses have usually been taken to reject the mainstream Christian view of Jesus as son of God, Watt has argued that they refer specifically to an unorthodox notion of "physical sonship".[9][2]:47

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.[10] Hence, verses 5:72–75 may merely be criticizing the idea that Jesus and God are the same.[10] 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.[1][2]:47

Similarly, verse 4:171 can be read as a rejection of Jesus' divinity. It is worth noting that in explaining these verses, early Muslim Quranic commentators noted that "the Christian 'three' was an internal characteristic of the godhead... rather than a series of external beings placed together with God."[1]

Some Muslim commentators[11] and Western scholars believe Q5:116 as referring to Mary as part of the Christian Trinity.[n 1] Critics use this to argue that the Quran's author was mistaken about orthodox Christian beliefs, wherein Mary is a human and the third part of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand, Muslims argue that past heretical Christians have explicitly believed Mary to be a divine being.[13][14][12] Although some historians, such as Averil Cameron have been skeptical about whether Collyridians even existed and noted that Epiphanius is the only source for the group and that later authors simply refer to his text.[15] Others argue that Q5:116 in fact does not allude to the Trinity since the term itself isn't stated in the verse and instances where the Trinity is explicitly mentioned (Q4:171 and Q5:73), Mary's alleged divine status is not noted.[12] Some recent Western scholarship support a rhetorical understanding of the Quranic accusation of Mary's divinity claim in Q5:116;[2]:47[n 2][16] arguing the verse generally gives an example of Shirk and admonishes it.[1][n 3]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Muslim apologists argue that the commentators are referring only to a certain Christian sect and not to all of them.[12] Furthermore, some Muslim commentators claim that the linguistic style employed by the Quran for the word "Trinity" denotes all forms of it, whether it includes Mary or the Holy Spirit.[11]
  2. ^ Sirry writes: "In more recent scholarship of the Qur'an, as represented by the works of Hawting, Sidney Griffith and Gabriel Reynolds, there is a shift from the 'heretical explanation' to the emphasis on the rhetorical language of the Qur'an. ... Griffith states, 'The Qur'an's seeming missstatement, rhetorically speaking, should therefore not be thought to be a mistake, but rather a ... caricature, the purpose of which is to highlight in Islamic terms the absurdity, and therefore the wrongness, of the Christian belief, from an islamic perspective.' ... Reynolds persuasively argues that 'in passages involving Christianity in the Qur'an we should look for the Qur'an's creative use of rhetoric, and not for the influence of Christian heretics.'"
  3. ^ Neuwirth,[16] David Thomas,[1] Griffith, Gabriel Reynolds, and Mun'im Sirry emphasise this rhetorical interpretation.[2]:47 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."[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h David Thomas, Trinity, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
  2. ^ a b c d e f Sirry, Mun'im (2014-05-01). Scriptural Polemics: The Qur'an and Other Religions. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-935937-0.
  3. ^ Quran 4:171-173
  4. ^ Quran 5:72–75
  5. ^ Quran 5:116-118
  6. ^ Quran 19:88–93
  7. ^ Quran 23:91
  8. ^ Quran 112:1–4
  9. ^ Watt, William Montgomery (1956). Muhammad at Medina. Oxford at the Clarendon Press. p. 318.
  10. ^ a b Griffith, Sidney H. "Christians and Christianity". Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān. Brill.
  11. ^ a b "What is the concept of the Christian Trinity that the Quran declares to be false?". Islam Question & Answer. Retrieved 2020-01-24.
  12. ^ a b c Karim, Kaleef K. (2013-08-15). "Trinity: Mary Worshipped As A God?". Discover The Truth. Retrieved 2020-01-24.
  13. ^ Neuwirth, Angelika; Sells, Michael A. (2016-04-14). Qur'ānic Studies Today. Routledge. p. 301. ISBN 978-1-317-29566-2. The Collyridians, an arabian female sect of the fourth century, offered Mary cakes of bread, as they had done to their great earth mother in pagan times. Epiphanius who opposed this heresy, said that the trinity must be worshipped but Mary must not be worshipped.
  14. ^ "Mary, A Part Of Trinity?". Islamic Awareness. 1999-09-01. Retrieved 2020-01-24.
  15. ^ Cameron, Averil (2004), "The Cult of the Virgin in Late Antiquity: Religious Development and Myth-Making", Studies in Church History, 39: 1–21, at 6–7.
  16. ^ a b Neuwirth, Angelika; Sells, Michael A. (2016-04-14). Qur'ānic Studies Today. Routledge. p. 302. ISBN 978-1-317-29566-2. can be argued that ... the qur'anic accusations that Christians claim Mary as God can be understood as a rhetorical statement...
  17. ^ Edward Hulmes: Qur'an and the Bible, The; entry in the Oxford Companion to the Bible.

External links[edit]