Responses to Islamic Awareness

Mary & Tri-unity

The following verses in the Qur'an say about Mary(P) being the part of Trinity.

And behold! Allah will say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, 'Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah'?" He will say: "Glory to Thee! Never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, though I know not what in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden. [Qur'an 5:116]

O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger from Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not "Three": desist: It will be better for you: For Allah is One God: Glory be to Him: (Far Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. [Qur'an 4:171]

Therefore, the Christian missionaries for quite sometime have been saying that Muhammad(P) 'misunderstood' the true concept of Trinity, i.e, which says the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit constitute the Trinitarian godhead.

I agree. These cannot be the words of God since they are incorrect. An all-knowing God would have known the definition of the Trinity. A less than all-knowing Muhammad either did not know the beliefs of Christianity or wanted to create a "straw man" argument (an argument that is so transparently false, that is easy to dismiss) in order to attack the orthodox beliefs of Christianity.

He goes on to cite the writings of Rev. W. St. Clair Tisdall, George Sale, and Edward Gibbon to build an argument that there were a number of heretical Christian groups in Arabia which MAY HAVE believed in the divinity of Mary.

He continues :

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.

There is no group of Christians called the Mariamites. There is a Christian group in Lebanon called the Maronites, but they take their names from Saint Maronis, not Mary!

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.

So what is the point of the Qur'an's incorrect definition?

So, there existed a sect in Arabia which exalted Mary(P) to goddess and included her in the godhead along with the Father and Jesus(P).

Once again, this implies that Muhammad wrote this verse and not an all-knowing God! I live and work in Washington, D.C. and I often encounter members of the "Nation of Islam"(NOI) selling their "Final Call" (newspaper) near my office. "The Nation of Islam" holds the heretical belief that Allah came to earth in the form of a man (Wallace Fard) and Elijah (Poole) Muhammad is Islam's last "Prophet". Suppose, based on my observations, that I claimed that God told me: "The Muslims believe Allah came to earth in the body of Wallace Fard." This is clearly and obviously WRONG since the vast majority of Muslims DO NOT believe this! Therefore, even though a small number of "Muslims" hold this belief, an all-knowing God could NEVER say this, however, a human with imperfect information, or a desire to defame the beliefs of orthodox Islam, could say this!

Recently, it was heard from the Christian missionaries that the Qur'an does not condemn the 'true' Trinity, i.e., which says the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit constitute the godhead. In fact, the Qur'an itself condemns all sorts of shirk, i.e., associating partners with Allah. It would not matter if the Trinity was composed of any permutations and combinations of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit or the Mary or even Martin Luther King or Calvin or Pope. It would still be considered as associating partners with Allah. The above verse of the Qur'an 4:171, For Allah is One God, is enough to refute any such bizarre argument. It is equally clear even in the Old Testament & The New Testament that the God is one God without any partners.

There is no argument that the Qur'an condemns "shirk", however, your argument here does not exonerate the Qur'an from its error of implying that Mary is considered equal to God by Christians!

W M Watt ponders in his book Muhammad At Medina:

One of the remarkable features of the relationship between Muslims and Christians is that neither Muhammad nor any of the Companions seems to have been aware of some of the fundamental Christian doctrines. Apart from the reference to the crucifixion (which is primarily a denial of Jewish claim), and the mention of the twelve apostles as the 'helpers' of Jesus, and of the miracles of healing and raising the dead, there is nothing in the Qur'an about the adult life and teaching of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament. The early Muslims gave Jesus the title Messiah (Masih) but did not appreciate that it involved a claim to be 'God's anointed'. They did not understand the distinctive work of Jesus in redeeming the world and atoning for its sins. They did not realize that the Holy Spirit was regarded by Christians as the third person in the Godhead. It is indeed remarkable that there should have been among the Muslims over such a wide area this absence of knowledge of Christianity. The blame for this state of affairs probably rests on those Christians with whom Muhammad and his Companions were in contact, who may themselves have had little appreciation of the doctrines mentioned. Nevertheless the 'absence of knowledge' remains, and in the thirteen centuries since Muhammad's time few Muslims have done anything to fill the lacuna.

It is amazing that even Orientalists like Watt cannot come out of the 'true' Trinitarian doctrine and even think of the infamous Christian heresies which were in Arabia during the advent of Islam.

The problem here is that the Qur'an clearly misrepresents orthodox Christian beliefs, all of which existed both long before and in the time of Muhammad. These inaccuracies in the Qur'an along with Muhammad's ignorance of orthodox Christian teachings, is overwhelming evidence that the Qur'an is not from an all-knowing God, but is the product of humans with imperfect information and deficient knowledge. The possibility that heretical groups existed, and had influence on Muhammad's thinking, is further evidence of the Qur'an's human origins and does not excuse the Qur'an from this grossly inaccurate statement.

Finally, it is quite clear that the doctrine of Trinity evolved and took its final shape nearly 350 years of CE. But before that:

Christianity in the second and third centuries was in a remarkable state of flux. To be sure, at no point in its history has the religion constituted a monolith. But the diverse manifestations of its first three hundred years - whether in terms of social structures, religious practices, or ideologies - have never been replicated.

There were some heresies in the early Church. However, these heresies have absolutely NOTHING to do with the argument at hand. The Council of Nicea (which Muslims incorrectly claim invented the Trinity) occurred THREE CENTURIES before the birth of Muhammad! Orthodox Christians would have known the definition of the Trinity as would an all-knowing God. The logical conclusion is that Muhammad (not God) gave this verse and he did not know what he was talking about.

So, in conclusion, there is no point calling the modern day Trinitarian Christianity as 'true' Christianity and all others as 'false' since the evolution of this doctrine itself is very late. The early Christianity had bizarre beliefs about their doctrine as well as their Scriptures. Moreover the Jesus(P) and early Church Fathers were utterly unaware of this doctrine and they never practiced it. Would then the modern day 'true' Christianity brand them as heretics?

The doctrine of the Trinity (which is true doctrine) was established early in the history of the Church. Although the Bible does not use the word "Trinity", the Old Testament reveals a Triune God and so did Jesus Christ. The Qur'an is clearly wrong in implying that Mary is considered equal to God. This implies that man wrote this verse since an all-knowing God can not make a mistake. Remember, God knows best!

Andrew Vargo

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