Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Trinity in the Qur'an

A recent mail to Kevin
I do admire your staunch defence...
You say the plagiarism theory raises more problems than it solves since we must ask why Muhammad should have accepted some ideas and rejected others.
How should I know? There is no evident logic, despite your assertion of “internal consistency”, to what the author of the Qur’an chose from the Judeo-Christian mythology and what he rejected. Indeed, most of his decisions show a startling and (if I were a Christian or Jew) frankly insultingly simplistic understanding of his source material.
How, for example, do you explain Muhammad’s apparent belief that the Trinity means Christians worship three Gods: Jesus, Mary and God? (They are unbelievers who say, 'God is the Third of Three (thalithu thalathatin). No god is there but One God. 5:72 ..his mother was a just woman; they both ate food (er...I don't think anyone believes Mary didn't eat food! Not unless you mistakenly think that Mary was a god for some people...). 5:75 ...and when God said, ‘O Jesus son of Mary, didst thou say unto men, "Take me and my mother as gods, apart from God"?’ 5:116) If for no other reason, you surely must begin to wonder when the author of the Qur’an shows such a crass misunderstanding of the beliefs of the people of the book. This is not simply a matter of rejecting an idea but of ignorance. And how can God be ignorant?
(In fact, according to the earliest Muslim biographer ,Ibn Ishaq , the Quran was specifically correcting this supposedly erroneous belief in God, Mary and Jesus as three separate divinities. In his work, Sirat Rasulullah, Ishaq states that a Christian deputation from Najran came to debate Muhammad on the person of Jesus. Accordingly, these Christians allegedly believed that Jesus, "is God; and He is the son of God; and He is the third Person of the Trinity, which is the doctrine of Christianity...They argue that he is the third of three in that God says: We have done, We have commanded, We have created and We have decreed, and they say, If He were one He would have said I have done, I have created, and so on, but He is He and Jesus and Mary. Concerning all these assertions the Quran came down." ." (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, [Oxford University Press, Karachi, tenth impression 1995], p. 271))
Perhaps you will argue that God was simply correcting a heresy common at the time. It seems strange, then, to make the correction of a minor and long since forgotten heresy such a pillar of faith and such a proud boast in the final revelation to mankind.


  1. Just a small comment you jump from 5:72 to 5:75 this seems to support your assertion that God said that mary was part of the trinity however when you read the versus in context its clear thats not the case , and secondly the catholics often refer to mary "the mother of God" and it is known that some even invoke her...

  2. Hi Yaqub,
    I'm not sure how the following verses that I omitted (as they seemed irrelevant)make clear my assertion is incorrect:
    • 5:73 (Asad) Indeed, the truth deny they who say, "Behold, God is the third of a trinity" - seeing that there is no deity whatever save the One God. And unless they desist from this their assertion, grievous suffering is bound to befall such of them as are bent on denying the truth.
    • 5:74 (Asad) Will they not, then, turn towards God in repentance, and ask His forgiveness? For God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.
    Can you explain?

    1. George Sale in the preliminary discourse to his translation of The Koran writes:

      But, to be more particular as to the nation we are now writing of, Arabia was of old famous for heresies; which might be in some measure attributed to the liberty and independency of the tribes. Some of the Christians of that nation believed the soul died with the body, and was to be raised again with it at the last day: these Origen is said to have convinced. Among the Arabs it was that the heresies of Ebion, Beryllus, and the Nazareans, and also that of the Collyridians, were broached, or at least propagated; the latter introduced the Virgin Mary for God, or worshipped her as such offering her a sort of twisted cake called collyris, whence the sect had its name.

      This notion of the divinity of the Virgin Mary was also believed by some at the Council of Nice, who said there were two gods besides the Father viz. Christ and the virgin Mary, and were thence named Mariamites. Others imagined her to be exempt from humanity, and deified; which goes but little beyond the popish superstition in calling her the complement of the Trinity, as if it were imperfect without her. This foolish imagination is justly condemned in the Koran as idolatrous, and gave a handle to Mohammed to attack the Trinity itself.[3]

  3. Not only this but you have misquoted the first ayat from chapter 5..
    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.
    (when Allah SWT uses this formula "And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful" in the Qur'an it moves onto a different point)

    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. — Surah 5:72-75

  4. Commenting on verse 4:171, George Sale says:

    Namely, God, Jesus and Mary. For the eastern writers mention a sect of Christians which held the Trinity to be composed of those three; but it is allowed that this heresy has been long since extinct. The passage, however, is equally levelled against the Holy Trinity, according to the doctrine of the orthodox Christians, who, as Al Beidawi acknowledges, believe the divine nature to consist of three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; by the Father, understanding God's essence, by the Son, his knowledge, and by the Holy Ghost, his life.[4]

    It is pretty clear that whether the 'Holy' Trinity composed of the Father, Jesus(P) and the Mary(P) or the Father, Jesus(P) and the Holy Spirit are equally condemned in the Qur'an. Any association of partners with the God is unacceptable

  5. Further Edward Gibbon in his book The History of The Decline & Fall Of The Roman Empire says:

    The Christians of the seventh century had insensibly relapsed into a semblance of paganism: their public and private vows were addressed to the relics and images that disgraced the temples of the East: the throne of the Almighty was darkened by the clouds of martyrs, and saints, and angels, the objects of popular veneration; and the Collyridian heretics, who flourished in the fruitful soil of Arabia, invested the Virgin Mary with the name and honours of a goddess.[5]

  6. St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Constantia, in Cyprus, writing in the fourth century against the Collyridians, says:

    "After this a heresy appeared, which we have already mentioned slightly by means of the letter written in Arabia about Mary. And this heresy was again made public in Arabia from Thrace and the upper parts of Scythia, and was brought to our ears, which to men of understanding will be found ridiculous and laughable. We will begin to trace it out, and to relate concerning it. It will be judged (to partake of) silliness rather than of sense, as is the case with other like it. For, as formerly, out of insolence towards Mary, those whose opinions were such sowed hurtful ideas in the reflexions of men, so otherwise these, leaning to the other side, fall into the utmost harm...... For the harm is equal in both these heresies, the one belittling the holy Virgin, the other again glorifying her over-much. For who should it be that teach thus but women? for the race of women is slippery, fallible, and humble-minded...... For some women deck out a koutrkon that is to say, a square stool, spreading upon it a linen cloth, on some solemn day of the year, for some days they lay out bread, and offer it in the name of Mary. All the women partake of the bread, as we related in the letter to Arabia, writing partly about that...... Yea, verily, the body of Mary was holy, but was surely not God. Verily, the Virgin was a virgin, and was honoured, but was not given to us to worship; but she worships Him who was born from her according to the flesh, having come from heaven out of the Father's bosom......" This offering and eating of cakes was probably derived from the worship of Artemis.[6]

  7. During the Jewish–Roman War (66–73), what did the Pagan Romans do to the Ebionites/Nasoreans and other Jewish sects in 1st century? Notice how in late 1st century and early 2nd century, Greek scriptures written by Christian Romans start to widely spread.

    The teachings of Roman ‘Christ’-ians have deviated from the original teachings of 1st century Nasoreans. Nasorean disciple such as Yaakob (James)was known to argue with inventor of false doctrine that is Paul who abolish Jewish ordains.
    **Paul taught the Romans that Jesus have a ‘special’ Father compared to ‘typical’ Father uttered by both Isaiah and David.

    Interestingly, Pauline corpus was non canon in the 2nd and 3rd century and words in most Greek texts were interchanged by Roman scribes to fit their interest. A total-complete Greek New Testament can only be found in 4th century (legitimization of Trinity) ; all heresy gospels were burn by the Church leaving behind texts that support Paul.