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Is the Trinity in the Qur'an?

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most discussed issues between Muslims and Christians. We will do a review of the Trinity in the Qur’an. The aim is to discuss the Muslim claims and to show the possible support for the Trinity in the Qur’an:

1. Muslim claims against Trinity
2. Discovering Trinity in the Qur’an
4. Christian doctrine of the Trinity
5. Conclusion

1. Muslim claims against Trinity

Most Muslims will give the following claims against Trinity:

a. There cannot be two or more gods
b. There cannot be partners of God
c. God cannot have a son

(a) The Qur’an denies that there can be two gods (Qur’an 16:51). In Qur’an 4:171 and 5:72-73 are warnings against three gods. However, this was a reaction against declarations of some Christians in the 5th century that Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, is “theotokos”. A false sect preached that Mary is "God-bearer" and therefore divine [1]. This is against mainstream Christianity. Qur’an 4:171 is telling us about three divine external persons placed together with God. This is not against the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, because the Trinity says that three is only an internal characteristic of God.
(b) According to the Qur’an, there cannot be partners of God (Qur’an 6:163, 10:18, 23:91, 28-9) or relations (Qur’an 6:100, 16:57, 17:111, 25:2, 112:3). The three characteristics of God in the Trinity are not three gods or three other divine partners, but internal characteristics. Also the Qur’an mentions internal characteristics of God by the 99 names of God. Therefore the two schemes cover essentially the same ground. Also Qur’an 5:77 about "God is one of three", is not directed to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, but was directed to a sect of Syrian Christians in Arab [2].
(c) The Qur’an warns about the idea that he made Jesus as his son (Qur’an 4:171, 19:34-35). However this warning is against a biological son. When the Bible is telling us about the Son of God, it does not about a biological son of God and Mary. That is blasphemy, because Jesus Christ exists from all eternity and Mary was a human being.

2. Discovering of the Trinity in the Qur’an

There are plural forms in Qur’an 19:17, 21:91, 90:4, 54:11 and 6:94 and that means that it is possible that the Trinity is true [3]. Open references to the three internal persons of God as in the Trinity are [4]:

a. Qur’an 4:171: The Christian interpretation of this verse is that Jesus is the divine Word of God (John 1:1,14) and the divine Spirit of God. Therefore this verse supports the Trinity. Other divine related issues in this verse, as discussed earlier, only sharpen a true understanding of the unity of God.
b. Qur’an 16:102: ”Say: The holy Spirit hath delivered it from thy Lord with truth, that it may confirm (the faith of) those who believe, and as guidance and good tidings for those who have surrendered.” We can see that the Holy Spirit has an internal relation with God and confirms the truth, faith of those who believe and guidance and good tidings for the believers. The Christian interpretation of this verse is: “the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17) and “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” (John 16:13-14).
c. Qur’an 42:52: “And thus have We inspired in thee a Spirit of Our command. Thou knewest not what the Scripture was, nor what the Faith. But We have made it a light whereby We guide whom We will of Our bondmen. And lo! thou verily dost guide unto a right path” This is like Qur’an 16:102 also confirmed by John 14:17, John 16:13-14 and the doctrine of Trinity.
d. Qur’an 37:171: “And Our word has already preceded for Our servants, the messengers” The verse is saying that the Word of God was sent to every messenger. Therefore the messengers are only a shadow of the Word of God. Jesus Christ is the pure Word of God (Qur’an 3:45). Ibn Arabi is a supporter of this interpretation [5].

3. Christian doctrine of the Trinity

The Gospel and the early Christians draw the conclusion that there is an intimate relation between Jesus Christ and God and that God has an internal connection with Jesus Christ. Christian scholars have described this in the doctrine of the Trinity and is therefore about the internal relations of God. The doctrine of the Trinity is an humble approach about the revelations of God in the history of mankind. It is not a description about the greatness of God independent about how people know about God and it is also not a philosophy. In the Bible, God is not only the Creator of heaven and earth and the Evolver, Developer, Shaper and Fashioner of all people, but also the Sustainer of the believers on earth. The Trinity is a testimony about how the Creator of heaven and earth in relation to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is working with people on earth:

“Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” (Revelation 7:15-17)

4. Conclusion

We may draw the conclusion that, according to a Christian interpretation, there are many references in the Qur’an to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Only a precise Qur’an study in Arabic language with prayerful reading and humble attitude will give the believer a personal opinion about this subject. The issues discussed here have no higher ambition to sharpen the importance to be encouraged for everyone for further study. On the other side we cannot close our eyes for the power of Christian faith with the love of God as source for inspiration. This makes Christian faith unique, invincible and vital in the history of mankind. By careful searching for the truth, the invitation is to believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior of mankind, together with the Holy Ghost and the Creator of heaven and earth that this is the truth of God [6].


Notes:

[1] David Thomas, Trinity, in: Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, Brill, Leiden, 2002, Volume Five, 369.
[2] Sidney H. Griffith, Christians and Christianity in: Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, Brill, Leiden, 2001, Volume One, 312-313.
[3] Margareth Dunlop Gibson (ed), An Arabic version of the Acts of the Apostles, On the Triune nature of God, C.J. Clay and sons, London, 1899, 77.
[4] J. Hopkins, Nicholas of Cusa’s De Pace Fidei and Cribratio Alkorani, Translation and analysis, Minneapolis, 1994, 119, 126-127.
[5] A.E. Afifi, The Mystical Philosophy of Muhyi Din Ibnul ’Arabi, Lahore, 1964.
[6] Hendrikus Berkhof, Sierd Woudstra, Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Study of the Faith, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2002, 23.

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