Islamic View of The Trinity

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

Main articles: Islam’s View of Jesus, Jesus In Islam and Islam’s Mary: The Mother of Jesus

An 11th-century North African Quran at the British Museum

An 11th-century North African Quran at the British Museum

In the Qur’an

Three Qur’anic verses may directly refer to this doctrine. Possible Qur’anic references to the doctrine of “Trinity” are verses 4:171, 5:73, and 5:116.

  • People of the Book, do not go to excess in your religion, and do not say anything about God except the truth: the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was nothing more than a messenger of God, His word, directed to Mary, a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers and do not speak of a ‘Trinity’—stop, that is better for you—God is only one God, He is far above having a son, everything in the heavens and earth belongs to Him and He is the best one to trust.

    — Qur’an, sura 4 (An-Nisa), ayat 171
  • Those who say, “God is the Messiah, son of Mary,” have defied God. The Messiah himself said; “Children of Israel, worship God, my Lord and your Lord.” If anyone associates others with God, God will forbid him from the Garden, and Hell will be his home. No one will help such evildoers. Those people who say that God is the third of three are defying [the truth]: there is only One God. If they persist in what they are saying, a painful punishment will afflict those of them who persist. Why do they not turn to God and ask his forgiveness, when God is most forgiving, most merciful? The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a messenger; other messengers had come and gone before him; his mother was a virtuous woman; both ate food. See how clear We make these signs for them; see how deluded they are.

    — Qur’an, sura 5 (Al-Ma’ida), ayat 72-75
  • And 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.

    — Qur’an, sura 5 (Al-Ma’ida), ayat 116

Furthermore, verses 19:88-93, 23:91, and 112:1-4 are relevant to the doctrine of “Trinity”:

  • They say: “(Allah) Most Gracious has begotten a son!” Indeed ye have put forth a thing most monstrous! At it the skies are ready to burst, the earth to split asunder, and the mountains to fall down in utter ruin, that they should invoke a son for (Allah) Most Gracious. For it is not consonant with the majesty of (Allah) Most Gracious that He should beget a son. Not one of the beings in the heavens and the earth but must come to (Allah) Most Gracious as a servant.

    — Qur’an, sura 19 (Maryam (sura)), ayat 88-93
  • No son did Allah beget, nor is there any god along with Him: (if there were many gods), behold, each god would have taken away what he had created, and some would have lorded it over others! Glory to Allah! (He is free) from the (sort of) things they attribute to Him!

    — Qur’an, sura 23 (Al-Mumenoon), ayat 91
  • 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.

    — Qur’an, sura 112 (Al-Ikhlas), ayat 1-4

Discussion

Interpretation of these verses by modern scholars has been varied. Although the latter group of verses have usually been taken to reject the mainstream Christian view of Jesus as son of God, William Montgomery Watt has argued that they refer specifically to an unorthodox notion of “physical sonship”.

Trinity

The Trinity is the belief in Christianity that God is one God in essence but three persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit.

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. Hence, verses 5:72–75 may merely be criticizing the idea that Jesus and God are the same. 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.

Similarly, verse 4:171 can be read as a rejection of Jesus’ divinity. It is worth noting that in explaining these verses, early Muslim Qur’anic commentators noted that “the Christian ‘three’ was an internal characteristic of the godhead… rather than a series of external beings placed together with God.”

Regarding the verse 5:116, some scholars have written that the version of the “Trinity” concept that the Qur’an is criticizing appears to be God, Jesus, and Mary; and that this is not a description of orthodox Christian belief, wherein the third part of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. 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.”

There is also debate about whether this verse should be taken literally. For example, David Thomas states that verse 5:116 need not be seen as describing actually professed beliefs, but rather, giving examples of shirk (claiming divinity for beings other than God) and a “warning against excessive devotion to Jesus and extravagant veneration of Mary, a reminder linked to the central theme of the Qur’an that there is only one God and He alone is to be worshipped.” When read in this light, it can be understood as an admonition, “Against the divinization of Jesus that is given elsewhere in the Qur’an and a warning against the virtual divinization of Mary in the declaration of the fifth-century church councils that she is ‘God-bearer’.”

Collyridianism

Collyridianism (or Kollyridianism) was an alleged Early Christian heretical movement in pre-Islamic Arabia, whose adherents apparently worshipped the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, as a goddess.The existence of the sect is subject to some dispute by scholars, as the only contemporary source which describes them is the Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, published in approximately 376 AD.

According to Epiphanius, certain women in then-largely-pagan Arabia syncretized indigenous beliefs with the worship of Mary, and offered little cakes or bread-rolls. These cakes were called collyris (Greek: κολλυρις), and are the source of the name Collyridians. Epiphanius states that Collyridianism originated in Thrace and Scythia, although it may have first travelled to those regions from Syria or Asia Minor.

Theologian Karl Gerok disputed the existence of the Collyridians, describing it as improbable that a sect composed only of women could have lasted for as long as Epiphanius describes. Protestant writer Samuel Zwemer pointed out that the only source of information about the sect came from Epiphanius.

In his 1976 book The Virgin, historian Geoffrey Ashe puts forward the hypothesis that the Collyridians represented a parallel Marian religion to Christianity, founded by first-generation followers of the Virgin Mary, whose doctrines were later subsumed by the Church at the Council of Ephesus in 431. Historian Averil Cameron has been more skeptical about whether the movement even existed, noting that Epiphanius is the only source for the group, and that later authors simply refer back to his text.

See also

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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