The Concept of God in Islam and Christianity

The Quran says that God is one and only and there are no partners with Him and whosoever adds partners with God is committing ‘shirk’ or ‘Sin’ which cannot be forgiven.

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لَّقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ ثَالِثُ ثَلاَثَةٍ وَمَا مِنْ إِلَهٍ إِلاَّ إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ وَإِن لَّمْ يَنتَهُواْ عَمَّا يَقُولُونَ لَيَمَسَّنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ مِنْهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no God save the One God. If they desist not from so saying, a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve. (Surah 5:73)

وَإِذْ قَالَ اللّهُ يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ أَأَنتَ قُلتَ لِلنَّاسِ اتَّخِذُونِي وَأُمِّيَ إِلَهَيْنِ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ مَا يَكُونُ لِي أَنْ أَقُولَ مَا لَيْسَ لِي بِحَقٍّ إِن كُنتُ قُلْتُهُ فَقَدْ عَلِمْتَهُ تَعْلَمُ مَا فِي نَفْسِي وَلاَ أَعْلَمُ مَا فِي نَفْسِكَ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ عَلاَّمُ الْغُيُوبِ

And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of 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, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden. (Surah 5:116)

Muslims accuse Christians of believing that God is ‘the third of three’ and warn:

يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لاَ تَغْلُواْ فِي دِينِكُمْ وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ عَلَى اللّهِ إِلاَّ الْحَقِّ إِنَّمَا الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ اللّهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُ أَلْقَاهَا إِلَى مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِّنْهُ فَآمِنُواْ بِاللّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ ثَلاَثَةٌ انتَهُواْ خَيْرًا لَّكُمْ إِنَّمَا اللّهُ إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ سُبْحَانَهُ أَن يَكُونَ لَهُ وَلَدٌ لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَات وَمَا فِي الأَرْضِ وَكَفَى بِاللّهِ وَكِيلاً

“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. Cease! (it is) better for you! Allah is only One God. 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.” (Surah 4:171 Pickthall translation)

In Yusuf Ali’s translation he deliberately interprets the word “three” as “Trinity”.

Here we come across a serious difficulty because the Quranic belief of the Trinity is not that which Christians hold to. The Quran says that the Christian Trinity is God, Son and Mother (Maryam). However, Christians are horrified at the suggestion that Jesus was the result of intercourse between God and Mary. Christians have never held this as truth. The Bible does not say that God took a wife and then had a son, Jesus. Nor does it present the idea of a Trinity that is made up of the Father, the Mother and the Son. Jesus never said that His mother was God. This is total blasphemy.

The Quran does not reject Jesus as the “Son of God” in the Biblical sense; but it rejects a false teaching which Christians condemn as well. The phrase “Son of God” is never used in the Bible in the carnal, human sense (we will read more about this in the next topic).

We need to really understand the concept of God as presented in the Bible. Nowhere in the Bible is it said, “God is third of three” or “God is three”. Throughout the Bible we find that God is One. (Deuteronomy 4:35 and 6:4; Mark 12:29; John 17:3; I Corinthians 8:4, 6)

If, throughout the Bible, it has been said that there is only One God, then what is the fuss all about? It has to do with the misunderstanding about the concept of God, even in the Christian circles. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God is three, or one-third of three, or the three people are, God, Mary and Jesus, which is blasphemy.


A) The Biblical Concept of God

What is the concept of God according to the Bible? Here is how a Bible scholar explains it:

The Biblical concept of God is that there is one eternal being – indivisible, infinite. This “one being” of God is shared by three co-equal, co-eternal persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

It is necessary here to distinguish between the terms “being” and “person.” It would be a contradiction, obviously, to say that there are three beings within one being, or three persons within one person. So what is the difference? We clearly recognize the difference between being and person every day. We recognize what something is (substance), yet we also recognize individuals within a classification (being). For example, we speak of the “being” of man—human being. A rock has “substance or being”—the being of a rock, as does a cat, a dog, etc. And we know that there are personal attributes as well. So, we recognize both “what” (substance and being) and “who” (individuality) when we talk about a person.

The Bible tells us there are three classifications of personal beings – God, man, and the angels. What is personality? It is the ability to have emotion, will, to express oneself. Rocks cannot speak. Cats cannot think of themselves over against others, and, say, work for the common good of “cat kind.” Hence, we are saying that there is one eternal, infinite being of God, shared fully and completely by three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One what (Substance or being), three who’s (Individuality or persons).

NOTE: We are not saying that the Father is the Son, or the Son is the Spirit, or the Spirit is the Father. It is very common for people to misunderstand the doctrine as to mean that we are saying, Jesus is the Father. The doctrine of the Trinity does not in any way say this!

The three Biblical doctrines that flow directly into “the river that is the Trinity” are as follows:

  1. There is one and only one God, eternal and immutable.
  2. There are three eternal Persons described in Scripture – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  3. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are identified as being fully Deity – that is, the Bible teaches the Deity of Christ and the Deity of the Holy Spirit.

Dr. James White (http://vintage.aomin.org/trinitydef.html)

In another way, I am a being with one centre of consciousness, and my being or substance is “human being”. God is a Being and His Being or Substance is “God Being” and He exists eternally with three centres of consciousness as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If I say that God is One and also three that will be a contradiction, or if I say God is three and also one then it will be a contradiction but if I say that God is One in substance, essence and nature and exists with three centres of consciousness or persons that is not a contradiction. Yes it is hard to understand, but it is not a logical contradiction.

So when we see the Quranic scriptures we realize that Quran is not talking against the orthodox Christian belief of God, but a different kind of heretical concept about which even Christians do not agree. 

(B) Three Divine and Eternal beings in the Quran

The first is God Himself and the second the Quran speaks of is the Word of God. It is referred to as the Word or Command of creation.

إِنَّمَا قَوْلُنَا لِشَيْءٍ إِذَا أَرَدْنَاهُ أَن نَّقُولَ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ

For anything which We have willed, We but say the Word, “Be”, and it is. (Surah 16:40)

إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُ إِذَا أَرَادَ شَيْئًا أَنْ يَقُولَ لَهُ كُنْ فَيَكُونُ

Verily when He (God) intends a thing, His Command is “Be,” and it is! (Surah 36:82)

In regard to verse 36:82 above, in “The Holy Qur’an / Translation and Commentary” by Yusuf Ali, footnote No. 4028 says this about God’s Word: “The moment He (God) wills a thing, it becomes His Word or Command, and this thing forthwith comes into existence.

The Biblical accounts likewise demonstrate that things are created by means of the Word of God. Now if creation is by the Word of God, then it is obvious that the Word itself could never be created, since it is the agent by which creation comes into being. For this reason most Muslim scholars agree that the Word of God is uncreated. Thus if the Word of God is uncreated and eternal, then it certainly is of divine essence. From this reasoning, we explain to our Muslim friends that Jesus is not only of human nature, but also divine nature, since both the Bible and Quran refer to him as Word of God.

As I have earlier explained, Ibn Ishaq makes mention of the Gospel of John in “Sirat Rasulallah”, translated as “The Life of Muhammad”.  This Gospel of John says:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were created through Him; and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1, 3, 14)

The Word (Kalima) of God became a person and came to this earth as Jesus.

The third one the Quran speaks of is the Spirit of God, or the Spirit from God.

لَا تَجِدُ قَوْمًا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ يُوَادُّونَ مَنْ حَادَّ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلَوْ كَانُوا آبَاءهُمْ أَوْ أَبْنَاءهُمْ أَوْ إِخْوَانَهُمْ أَوْ عَشِيرَتَهُمْ أُوْلَئِكَ كَتَبَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمُ الْإِيمَانَ وَأَيَّدَهُم بِرُوحٍ مِّنْهُ وَيُدْخِلُهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ أُوْلَئِكَ حِزْبُ اللَّهِ أَلَا إِنَّ حِزْبَ اللَّهِ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ

For such He (God) has written faith in their hearts and strengthened them with a Spirit from Himself. (Surah 58:22)

In “The Holy Qur’an / Translation and Commentary” by Yusuf Ali, footnote No. 5365 describes this “Spirit from Himself“, or Spirit from God as “the divine spirit which we can define no more adequately than we can define in human language, the nature and attributes of God.

“The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:16)

And so, in the Quran as well, we find evidence that points to a divine threesome — God, God’s Word, and God’s Spirit — each different, yet of the same divine essence, inseparable from one another.

(C) Philosophical Necessity of a Triune God

By definition, God should be a morally perfect being.  A morally perfect God should love because it is better to love than to be unloving. Therefore, God must be a perfectly loving God. Now if God loves, then love requires two beings, one is an object and the second is a subject. A morally perfect God should also be self-sufficient because if He is not self-sufficient then he will be in need of something. If He is in need of something then He cannot be self-sufficient, and if He is not self-sufficient then He cannot fit to be in the position of God. Therefore God should be a loving God and self-sufficient God.

If God is love, then whom did He love before He created the universe and its creatures? Since love requires one as an object and a second as a subject, if God had to create something to show His love, then He would not be self-sufficient as He had to create something to express His love, thereby revealing His need of creation. The necessity of the creation rules out the position of God being God, because God is supposed to be self-sufficient.

Here the Christian concept of the Triune nature of God makes perfect sense because God is a being with three centres of consciousness and exists eternally as The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. They love each other as they have existed for all eternity. This shows that God is a morally perfect being and self-sufficient.

Dear reader I want you to know that no genuine Christian believes that God is the combination of Allah, Mary and Jesus. The Triune nature of God is God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It is very hard to understand the triune nature of God but it is not a contradiction. Even in Islam the nature of Allah is incomprehensible. The Christians believe whatever is revealed in the scriptures and in the light of the Scriptures, Logic, and Philosophy, the triune nature of God makes perfect sense.

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The Concept of God in Islam and Christianity
The Concept of God in Islam and Christianity