Did Muhammad Understand Trinity?

“The Trinity “seen” in the Quran is not the Trinity of the Apostles Creed, or of the Nicene Creed” correctly observed Robert A. Morey.

John Paul Stevens, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Stated, captured the habit of his mentor Wiley Rutledge as “of understanding before disagreeing.”(Stevens 1956: 179-198) I am not sure if Muslims’ scholars could say the same to their founder prophet Muhammad (ca. 570 – 632 A.D) when it comes to his understanding of early Church’s doctrine of Triune God viz., One God in three distinct Persons.

I believe Muhammad failed to understand this teaching before he disagreed. Muhammad asserted that Christians, People of the Scripture, believed in three distinct gods, the Father(Allah), Son(Isa) and Mary. [I am very open for correction, if I failed to understand Muhammad’s position.]

In Sura 5.115-6, 5.73-75a and 4.171, Muhammad wrote expounded:

Allah said: Lo! I send it down for you. And whoso disbelieveth of you afterward, him surely will I punish with a punishment wherewith I have not punished any of (My) creatures. And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? he saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then Thou knewest it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy Mind. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Knower of Things Hidden?

They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three[thalithu thalathatin]; when there is no Allah save the One Allah. If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve. Will they not rather turn unto Allah and seek forgiveness of Him? For Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food.

O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three”[ thalathatun] – Cease! (it is) better for you! – Allah is only One Allah. Far is it removed from His Transcendent Majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender.

Philip Schaff observed that Koran’s understanding of Jesus(Isa) the Son of Mary is a mixture of facts and apocryphal fictions. According to Koran, Isa “is not the Son of God; for as God has no wife, he can have no son”. Schaff noted that:

“In rude misconception or willful perversion, Mohammed seems to have understood the Christian doctrine of the trinity to be a trinity of Father, Mary, and Jesus. The Holy Spirit is identified with Gabriel. “God is only one God! Far be it from his glory that he should have a son!” Sura 4, ver. 169; comp. 5, ver. 77. The designation and worship of Mary as “the mother of God” may have occasioned this strange mistake. There was in Arabia in the fourth century a sect of fanatical women called Collyridians, who rendered divine worship to Mary. Epiphanius, Haer. 79.” ( Schaff, History of the Christian Church, CCEL)

If Muhammad received his revelation from angle Gabriel, should not he then have understood what the early Church meant by One God who is of three distinct Persons, namely the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit? I will let my Muslim friends who love thinking and wrestling with hard questions help me understand.

Question to Muslim Scholars: Am I correct to believe that Muhammad failed to understand the early Church concept of Trinity?

N.B: The question is not whether Trinity is true, but Muhammad’s understanding of it.

Bibliography:

Stevens, John Paul. 1956. Mr. Justice Rutledge. In Mr. Justice, ed. Allison Dunham and Philip B. Kurland,. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

The Quran (M. M. Pickthall, Ed.). Medford, MA: Perseus Digital Library.

Pow! There Goes A Skeptic Down

Joseph Martin Kronheim (1810-1896)

Christian: Do you know that, the first Christians died for their belief that Christ Jesus rose again?

Skeptic: Well, Terrorists die everyday for their belief, dying for your belief does not make it true!

Christian: You got that right! But have you noticed that Terrorists die because they believe what they are told to be true, thus if they knew it was false, the would not sacrifice their lives. Liars make poor martyrs.

Skeptic: Yes, what is your point?

Christian: My point is, the first Christian, including Jesus’ own followers were ready to be burnt, tortured and killed(to which many were), not for what they were told to be true as Terrorists, but what they saw and knew to be true.

Pow! There Goes A Skeptic Down 🙂