By Sam Shamoun
Many that have carefully read the Quran know that it nowhere condemns the historic understanding of the doctrine of the Blessed and Holy Trinity. Rather, it attacks (an) aberrant view(s) of Christianity that has/have never been held by mainstream Christians, especially during Muhammad’s time. Here are the verses in question so that the readers can see for themselves that the Islamic scripture doesn’t even come remotely close to condemning the actual beliefs of Christians:
They are unbelievers who say, 'God is the Messiah, Mary's son.' For the Messiah said, 'Children of Israel, serve God, my Lord and your Lord. Verily whoso associates with God anything, God shall prohibit him entrance to Paradise, and his refuge shall be the Fire; and wrongdoers shall have no helpers.' They are unbelievers who say, 'God is the Third of Three. No god is there but One God. If they refrain not from what they say, there shall afflict those of them that disbelieve a painful chastisement. Will they not turn to God and pray His forgiveness? God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger; Messengers before him passed away; his mother was a just woman; they both ate food. Behold, how We make clear the signs to them; then behold, how they perverted are! S. 5:72-75 Arberry
The fact that Mary is mentioned along with her glorious Son as eating food within the same context where the issue of God being the Third of Three is mentioned, clearly indicates that Muhammad and/or the Quran’s author(s) erroneously assumed that Christians actually worshiped Allah, Mary, and Jesus as three gods. The following passage from this same surah further confirms this point:
And when God said, 'O Jesus son of Mary, didst thou say unto men, "Take me and my mother as gods, apart from God"?' He said, 'To Thee be glory! It is not mine to say what I have no right to. If I indeed said it, Thou knowest it, knowing what is within my soul, and I know not what is within Thy soul; Thou knowest the things unseen. S. 5:116 Arberry
It is therefore obvious that the Quran is attacking a belief in three gods consisting of Allah, Christ and his blessed mother. As the late Islamic scholar E. M. Wherry noted in his commentary on the Quran:
Say not... three, "Namely, God, Jesus, 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 (Elmacin, p. 227). The passage, however, is equally levelled against the Holy Trinity, according to the doctrine of the orthodox Christians, who, as Al Baidhawi 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." - Sale.
See also Prelim. Disc., p. 64.
The commentators Baidhawi, Jalaluddin, and Yahya agree in interpreting the three to mean "God, Jesus, and Mary," in the relation of Father, Mother, and Son. This misrepresentation of the Scripture doctrine again stamps the Qur'an as a fabrication, and furnishes the evidence of its being such on the ground of its own claims. The history of the Church, as well as the Bible, proves the statement of the text, as interpreted by authoritative commentators, to be false; for even granting that some obscure Christian sect did hold such a doctrine of the Trinity (of which statement we have yet to learn the truth), yet the spirit of Muhammad's inspiration represents it as the faith of the Christians generally. In almost every case where the Qur'an refers to the Christian faith, it is to inveigh against the idea that God has a son. See chap. ix. 31, xix. 31, xliii. 59. (Wherry, A comprehensive commentary on the Qurán: comprising Sale's translation and preliminary discourse, with additional notes and emendations; together with a complete index to the text, preliminary discourse and notes, Volume 2, pp. 116-117; bold emphasis ours)
Wherry wasn’t the only scholar to note Muhammad’s blunders concerning core essential Christian doctrines:
Mistakes About the Trinity
The Quran contains many errors about what Christians believe and practice. One of the most significant is that the Quran misrepresents the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
Muhammad mistakenly thought that Christians worshiped three gods: the Father, the Mother (Mary), and the Son (Jesus), (Sura 5:73–75, 116).25
As Richard Bell pointed out:
[Muhammad] never understood the doctrine of the Trinity.26
Encyclopedia Britannica states:
[There are] mistaken concepts of the Trinity in the Quran.27
Yusuf Ali’s translation of the Quran tries to avoid this error by deliberately mistranslating Sura 5:73.
The Arabic text condemns those who say that “Allah is the third of three,” that is to say Allah is only one of three gods! Both Arberry and Pickthall translate this correctly.
Ali mistranslates Sura 5:73 to read:
They do blaspheme who say: God is one of three in a Trinity.
The words “in a Trinity” are not in the Arabic text. Ali puts it in his translation in an attempt to avoid the rather obvious error that Christians believe in three gods.
In reality, Christians believe only in one God who is in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They do not believe that Mary is a part of the Trinity.
Even the Concise Dictionary of Islam admits:
In some cases the “material” which forms the substance of Quranic narrative, details of the creeds of Christianity and Judaism for example, does not correspond to those religion’s own understanding of their beliefs. This could be said, for example, of the notion of the Trinity found in the Quran, the story of Satan’s refusal to bow down to Adam, the Docetist view of the crucifixion, all of which can be traced to the dogmas of Gnostic sects, which are heretical in relationship to orthodox Christianity and Judaism. The Trinity “seen” in the Quran is not the Trinity of the Apostles Creed, or of the Nicene Creed.28
The Quran is so clearly erroneous at this point that Muslims such as Yusuf Ali must mistranslate the Quran to get away from it!
Mistakes About the “Son” Of God
The Quran also makes the mistake of saying that Christians believe Jesus is the “Son” of God in the sense that God the “Father” has a male body and had sexual intercourse with Mary.
In Muhammad’s mind, to say that God had a son was to blaspheme because it meant that God had sex with a woman (Suras 2:116; 6:100, 101; 10:68; 16:57; 19:35; 23:91; 37:149, 157; 43:16-19).
Christians believe that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived in her by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35).
Thus Jesus is the “Son” of God, but not in the sexual sense that Muhammad understood. God the “Father” is not a man and hence does not have a male body and has not had sex with anyone. The Quran is 100 percent wrong on this issue.
25 Concise Dictionary of Islam, pp. 229ff.; H Becker, Christianity and Islam, pp. 21ff.
26 Richard Bell, Introduction to the Quran, p. 141.
27 Encyclopedia Britannica, 12:708.
28 Concise Dictionary of Islam, pp. 229–230. (Dr. Robert A. Morey, The Islamic Invasion: Confronting the World’s Fastest Religion [Published by Christian Scholars Press, Revised 1992], Part Five: The Sacred Book of Islam, Ten: A Scientific Examination of the Quran, pp. 175-177; underline emphasis ours)
This is even acknowledged by those who seek to defend the Muslim scripture’s gross misrepresentation of orthodox Christian beliefs. Take, for instance, the following comments by Sydney Griffith as he attempts to defend the Quran’s erroneous description of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ:
“Rhetorically speaking, the two identical phrases at the beginning of the two successive verses, ‘They have disbelieved who say,’ are clearly critical of the following quotations attributed to those who say, ‘God is the Messiah, Mary’s son,’ (vs. 72) and those who say, ‘’God is one of three’ (). But the quotations, while clearly meaning to censure Christian belief, do not in fact quote actual Christian usage of the era. Rather, the Christians in the Qur’an’s milieu would have said, ‘the Messiah is God, the Son of God’, and they would also have said, ‘the Treble One, the One of Three, is God’. But for reasons of orthodoxy they would NEVER HAVE SAID that God is Jesus; rather, they would have said Jesus is God. It seems clear, therefore, that here the Qur’an, aware of actual Christian usage, has for its own rhetorical polemical reasons, reversed the customary Christian order of words in these formulaic phrases in order the more effectively to highlight what it considers wrong about Christian faith in Jesus, and to criticize what it regards as the objectionable Christian doctrine that God has a Son and that He is the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. The Quran consistently and persistently teaches in varying phrases that God has no offspring; e.g., ‘How would He have offspring, not having a female consort’ (VI al-An‘am 101). ‘It is not for God to take a child; Glory be to Him, when He determines a matter He but says to it, ‘Be’, and it comes to be’ (XIX Maryam 35). ‘God is one.… He has not begotten, nor is He begotten’ (CXII al-Ikhlas 1-3).
“The historically troublesome term for commentators both ancient and modern in the passage quoted above from surat al-Ma'idah 73 is the phrase thalith thalathatin, 'one of three', sometimes translated as 'third of three'. Scholars have not heretofore recognized it as reflecting an epithet of Jesus the Messiah, common in mainstream Christian Syriac homiletic texts in the adjectival form tlithaya, meaning, 'one of three', 'treble', 'trine', and referring to Jesus the Son of God as 'one of three' in the Trinity, and as typologically characterized by 'three' on account of having spent three hours on the cross and three days in the tomb, just as Jonah spent three days in the belly of the whale. Once the phrase is recognized as an Arabic rendering of the not uncommon Syriac epithet for Jesus the Messiah, the two verses quoted above (surat al-Ma'idah 72 and 73) can be seen to be affirming the same judgment about the infidelity of those who say, in the Qur'an's polemically inspired rendering, 'God is the Messiah, Mary's son,' or 'God is one of three.' At the same time it is clear once again that in the Quran's view it is the objectionable doctrine that Christians affirm as true about Jesus, namely that he is God and the Son of God, that leads them into the further objectionable affirmation that the one God is also spoken of in terms of three.” (The Bible in Arabic: The Scriptures of the ‘People of the Book’ in the Language of Islam [Princeton University Press, 2013], 33-34; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Had the author(s) and/or editor(s) of the Quran wanted to make sure that s/he/they was/were attacking the historic understanding of the Trinity, then all s/he/they needed to simply do was to employ words such as jawhar wahid (“one substance”) or thalatha aqanim (“three hypostases”). S/he/they could have used the expression, Al-Aqanim Al-Thalatha (lit. “the Hypostases the Three”), since this is what Christians during that time used in reference to the Trinity.
Hence, all the Quran needed to do was to say any of the following things if it really intended to condemn the orthodox view of the Blessed and most Holy Trinity:
“They are unbelievers who say that Allah is one substance (jawhar wahid) in three hypostases (thalatha aqanim).”
“They are unbelievers who say that Allah is three hypostases (thalatha aqanim).”
“They are unbelievers who believe in the three hypostases (Al-Aqanim Al-Thalatha).”
“Say not Three Hypostases (Al-Aqanim Al-Thalatha/thalatha aqanim).”
Better yet, the Islamic scripture could have simply put it in the following manner:
“They are unbelievers who say that Allah is the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.”
“They are unbelievers who say that the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit are one God.”
Unfortunately for Muslims, we do not find such statements in the Quran. As such, Muslims must accept the fact that their respective scripture nowhere condemns belief in the actual Christian doctrine of the Trinity or the essential Deity of Christ.
With that said we are now ready to proceed to part 2.