Arguments of the Qur'an against the belief of Trinity
Sayyed Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i.
Arguments of the Qur’an against the belief of Trinity.
“It is not meet for a man that Allah should give him the Book and the Judgment and Prophethood, then he should say to men: “Be my servants rather than Allah’s;” but rather (he would say): “Be worshippers of the Lord because of your teaching the Book and your reading (it yourselves)”. Or that he should enjoin you that you should take the angels and the prophets for lords; what! Would he enjoin you with unbelief after you are Muslims (Submitting Ones)?” (3:79-80)
Coming to the belief of trinity, the Qur’an refutes it in two ways:
- First: The general method, i.e. showing that it is impossible for Allah to take a son for Himself, no matter whether the presumed son be ‘Isa (a.s.) or someone else.
- Second: The particular method, i.e. describing that ‘Isa (a.s.) son of Maryam was neither a son of God nor God; that he was but a servant created by Allah.
First Method: What is the quiddity of sonship and birth? What do these words really mean? A living material thing (like man, animal or vegetable) separates from itself a portion of its own matter, and then gradually develops it until it becomes another individual of the same species similar to its parent; the offspring has the same characteristics and traits as the parent body had. An animal separates semen from its body, or a plant removes a seed from from itself, then it preserves and grows the semen or seed gradually until it becomes another animal or plant similar to its parent. This is what sonship and birth mean. It is no secret that such a thing is impossible for Allah:
- First: Because it needs a physical material body; and Allah is far above matter and its concomitants without which matter cannot exist like motion, time, space and other such things.
- Second: To Allah belongs absolute Divinity and Lordship; consequently, He has absolute authority over, and total management of, all things in His hand. Everything is in need of Him to bring it into existence, and depends on Him for its continuity. It is just impossible to imagine a thing similar to Allah in “species” – a thing having the identity, attributes and characteristics similar to those of Allah and independent of Him.
- Third: If Allah could beget or give birth to a son, it would entail graduality of action for Allah. In other words, He would be governed by the laws of matter and movement; and it is contradiction in term, because whatever takes place by His Will comes into being at once without delay, without graduality.
The above explanations are inferred from the words of Allah:
“And they say: ”Allah has taken to Himself a son.” Glory be to Him; rather, whatever is in the heavens and the earth is His; all are obedient to Him. The Originator of the heavens and the earth; and when He decrees an affair, He only says to it, “Be”, and it is.” (2:116-117)
As we have explained above, the words, Glory be to Him, are a complete proof; the clause, whatever is in the heavens and the earth is His; all are obedient to Him, is another proof; and the verse, The Originator of the heavens and the earth; and when He decrees an affair, He only says to it “Be”, and it is, is a third proof.
It is also possible to take the clause, The Originator of the heavens and the earth, as a allegorical expression in which the attribute of the object has been transferred to the subject. In other words, the clause may denote that the heavens and the earth are original in their creation and design; Allah has created them without any previous model. Therefore, He cannot beget anyone; otherwise it would be a creation on His own model. (After all the Christians believe that the Son is one with the Father). In that case this clause would be an independent proof by itself.
The Christians generally use the sentence, ‘the Messiah is the Son of God’, in a somewhat allegorical sense, and not in its literal meaning. They expand the meaning of sonship. Probably, it means separation of a thing from another of similar quiddity without physical and material division and without graduality. This interpretation may remove the problems of body, materiality and graduality. Yet, the problem of similarity will remain unsolved.
The problem of similarity may be described thus: Evidently, to believe in God the Father and God the Son is to believe in number, in real plurality, even if we suppose that the Father and the Son are one in “species” or quiddity, both belong to the homosapien species; but they are in fact more than one because they are two individual human beings. Now, if we suppose that God is one, then all other things (including the Son) would be “no-God”; they would be owned by God and dependent on Him; consequently the putative son would not be a God like Him. On the other hand, if we suppose a son similar to God, free of, not dependent on, Him, then it would invalidate and negate the Oneness of God.
This exposition is found in the following words of Allah:
“and say not, “Three”. Desist, it is better for you; Allah is only one God; far be it from His glory that He should have a son; whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His; and Allah is sufficient for a Protector.” (4:171)
Second Method: ‘Isa (a.s.) son of Maryam could not be a son of God sharing Godhead with Him, because he was a human being having all the concomitants of humanity.
The Messiah (a.s.) was conceived by Maryam and grew up in her womb; then she brought him forth as women give birth to their children, and brought him up, as a child is brought up by his mother. He grew up proceeding through normal stages: from infancy to childhood, from youth to middle age. All this time, his condition was like any other normal human being in march of life. He was governed by all normal accidents and conditions undergone by other men. He was hungry and satiated; felt joy and sorrow; was pleased and displeased; affected by delight and pain, comfort and discomfort; he ate and drank, slept and woke up, was tired and rested etc.
This was the condition of ‘Isa (a.s.) when he was among the people. Doubtlessly a person having such characteristics is just like a mortal man like any other member of his species. As such he, like all other human beings, was a creature made by Allah.
Now, let us look at the miracles and supernatural things that happened on his hand, like giving life to dead bodies, creating the birds and healing the blind and leper. Also, there are extraordinary signs related to his birth, that is, his conception without father. All these things are supernatural, against the normal custom which people are familiar with; yet they are unfamiliar because of their rarity, not because they are impossible. There was Adam who by evidence of the heavenly Books was created from dust and had no father. And here are the prophets, for example: Salih, Ibrahim and Musa (peace be upon them) on whose hand so many miraculous signs had appeared (which are mentioned in revealed scriptures). But nobody thinks that those miracles negated their humanity or proved their divinity.
This method has been used in the verses:
“Certainly they disbelieve who say: “Surely Allah is the third (Person) of the three”; and there is no god but One God,. The Messiah, son of Maryam is but an apostle; apostles before him have indeed passed away; and his mother was a truthful woman, they both used to eat food. See how We make the signs clear to them, then behold how they are turned away.” (5:73 – 75)
Eating food has been specially selected for mention in preference to other activities, because it rather more forcefully proves his materiality and shows his neediness and wants, which cannot be combined with Godhead. Obviously a person who by his nature feels hunger and thirst and satisfies it with a morsel of food and a cup of water, is nothing but an embodiment of poverty and need – a need that cannot be removed without help of some extraneous agent. How can such a man be God? What is the meaning of such divinity? A man surrounded by needs, depending for their fulfillment on something outside his own being, is deficient in himself, and managed by some other than himself. He cannot be self-sufficient god; rather he shall be a creature who is looked after by the Lord – the Lord Who has His creatures’ affairs in His Own Hand. The verse 5:17 may possibly be explained in this light:
“Certainly they disbelieve who say: “Surely Allah – He is the Messiah, son of Maryam”. Say: “Who then could control anything as against Allah when He wished to destroy the Messiah, son of Maryam and his mother and all those on the earth?” And Allah’s is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and what is between them; He creates what He pleases; and Allah has power over all things.” (5:17)
The same is the case with the verse (coming after 5:75 quoted above) addressing the Christians:
“Say: “Do you worship besides Allah that which does not control for you any harm, or any profit?” And Allah – He is the Hearing, the Knowing.” (5:76)
The basis and theme of such arguments is this: ‘Isa (a.s.), as is seen from his condition and affairs, lived according to, and was governed by, the natural law which permeates a man’s life. He had all the attributes, did all the deeds, and underwent all the conditions which a human being does; like eating, drinking, fulfilling all other human needs, showing all the characteristics of the human race. Also this material involvement, these physical attributes were real; not an illusion or imagination. ‘Isa (a.s.), was a real man who had those natural attributes, conditions and actions. The Gospels contain many verses in which he calls himself man and son of man; are full of the stories of his eating, drinking, sleeping, walking, travelling, tiring, speaking and many such things, which cannot be explained away, nor can they be interpreted otherwise. This being the case, the position of the Messiah would be the same as that of other human beings; he did not own or control any affair of the others, and he could be destroyed like others.
The same is the implication of his prayers and invocations; no doubt that he worshipped Allah, his intention being to reach nearer to Allah; with humbleness and humility to the sublimity and majesty of Allah; certainly it was not for the purpose of teaching others how to pray or for any other such aim.
The verse 4:172 arguing against ‘Isa’s supposed divinity points to his prayer: Allah says:
“The Messiah by no means disdain that he should be a servant of Allah, nor do the angels who are near to Him, and whoever disdains His worship and is proud, He will gather them all together to Himself.” (4:172)
‘Isa’s service and worship is the first and foremost proof that he was not God and that he no share in Godhead which is reserved for the One other than him. How can a man put himself in the position of servitude to himself? How can he be the slave of himself? How can a thing be self-sufficient in the same framework in which it is dependent on someone else? The answer is clear: In no way.
Likewise, the worship of the angels clearly shows that they are not Allah’s daughters. Nor is the Holy Ghost a God, because they are all worshippers of Allah and obedient to Him. Allah says:
“And they say: “The Beneficent God has taken to Himself a son.” Glory be to Him. Nay! They are honored servants; they do not precede Him in speech and (only) according to His commandment do they act. He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they do not intercede except for him whom He approves, and for fear of Him they tremble.” (21:26 – 28)
Moreover, the Gospels contain verses showing that the Spirit or Ghost is obedient to Allah and His messengers, following their commands, acting on their orders. There is no sense in saying that a thing orders itself or obeys itself, or that it accepts and acts on the orders of its own creatures (i.e., messengers).
In the same way as ‘Isa’s worship of Allah proves that ‘Isa was not Allah, his call to the people to worship Allah proves it; as the verse points to it:
“Certainly they disbelieve who say: “Surely Allah, He is the Messiah, son of Maryam”. And the Messiah said: “O Children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord, surely whoever associates (others) with Allah, then Allah has forbidden to him the garden, and his abode is the fire; and there shall be no helpers for the unjust.” (5:72)
The method of argument used in this verse is self-evident.
Although the Gospels do not contain such comprehensive sentence as, “worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord”, they are full of sayings calling people to Allah and to His worship; he repeatedly declares that Allah is his Lord in Whose Hand is the management of his affairs; he openly says that Allah is the Lord of the people; and never invites them to his own worship – in spite of his reported saying: “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). If we accept that it is a correct reporting, then, all things taken together, it must mean: my obedience is Allah’s obedience; thus, it shall have the same connotation as the verse of the Qur’an:
“Whoever obeys the Messenger, he indeed obeys Allah.” (4:80)