Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Quran Confirms the Trinity! Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We continue with our analysis of the Quran.

It may surprise the readers to learn that, instead of opposing the historical Christian understanding of the Trinity, the Quran actually confirms it (at least a counterfeit form of it)! This is because it ascribes certain divine functions and qualities to both Jesus and the Holy Spirit, which invariably end up supporting the doctrine of the Trinity.

The Holy Spirit: The Divine Creator and Giver of life

To begin with, the Muslim scripture describes the Holy Spirit as possessing the ability to empower all true believers to fulfill the will of Allah. 

For instance, we are told on three separate occasions that the Holy Spirit strengthened Jesus for the ministry that Allah sent him to accomplish:

We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of apostles; We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit (wa’ayyadnahu bi’roohi al-qudusi). Is it that whenever there comes to you an apostle with what ye yourselves desire not, ye are puffed up with pride? - Some ye called impostors, and others ye slay! S. 2:87 Abdullah Yusuf Ali

Those apostles We endowed with gifts, some above others: To one of them God spoke; others He raised to degrees (of honour); to Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs), and strengthened him with the holy spirit (wa’ayyadnahu bi’roohi al-qudusi). If God had so willed, succeeding generations would not have fought among each other, after clear (Signs) had come to them, but they (chose) to wrangle, some believing and others rejecting. If God had so willed, they would not have fought each other; but God Fulfilleth His plan. S. 2:253 Y. Ali

Then will God say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favour to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the holy spirit (ith ayyadtuka bi’roohi al-qudusi), so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! thou makest out of clay (wa-ith TAKHLUQU mina al-teeni), as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave, and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! thou bringest forth the dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from (violence to) thee when thou didst show them the clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: 'This is nothing but evident magic.' S. 5:110 Y. Ali

We will be discussing the Quran’s recognition of Jesus’ ability to create and give life a little later.

At this point the Muslim scripture is simply parroting the teaching of God’s Word, the Holy Bible, that the Holy Spirit filled Christ with power to do good and to destroy the works of the Devil:

“Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness… Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee. And His fame went throughout the surrounding region. He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by everyone. He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. And He stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. When He had unrolled the scroll, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’ Then He rolled up the scroll, and He gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all those who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” Luke 4:1, 14-21

“But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great crowds followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them that they should not make Him known, to fulfill what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘Here is My Servant, whom I have chosen, My Beloved, in whom My soul is well pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will render judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not struggle nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench, until He renders judgment unto victory; and in His name will the Gentiles trust.’… But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Matthew 12:15-21, 28

“The word which He sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, the word, which you know, that was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Acts 10:36-38

The Quran also intimates that it is this same Holy Spirit who strengthens all the Muslims to remain faithful:

Thou wilt not find any people who believe in God and the Last Day, loving those who resist God and His Apostle, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred. For such He has written Faith in their hearts, and strengthened them with a spirit from Himself (wa’ayyadahum bi’roohin minhu). And He will admit them to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow, to dwell therein (for ever). God will be well pleased with them, and they with Him. They are the Party of God. Truly it is the Party of God that will achieve Felicity. S. 58:22 Y. Ali

Now in order for the Holy Spirit to be able to simultaneously preserve all believers wherever they may be, he must possess all of God’s omni-attributes.

In other words, this ability presupposes that the Spirit is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent, and therefore fully divine, facts that even Muslim scholars recognize. Note, for instance, what the late Abdullah Yusuf Ali wrote in his commentary to this passage:

“… Cf. ii 87 and 253, where it is said that God strengthened the Prophet Jesus with the holy spirit. Here we learn that all good and righteous men are strengthened by God with the holy spirit. If anything, the phrase used here is stronger, ‘a spirit from Himself’. Whenever any one offers his heart in faith and purity to God, God accepts it, engraves that faith on the seeker's heart, and further fortifies him with the Divine Spirit, which we can no more define adequately than we can define in human language the nature of God.” (Ali, The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 1518, fn. 5365; bold emphasis ours)

Ali wasn’t the only Muslim scholar to refer to the Spirit as an incomprehensible divine being. The late Ahmadiyya scholar and Quranic translator Maulana Muhammad Ali used the same description in his note to Q. 15:29:

29a. This shows that man is made complete when the Divine spirit is breathed into him. It should be noted that the Divine spirit (Ar. ruh) does not mean here the animal soul in man, but the Spirit of Allah, that gives him perfection. (Bold and underline emphasis ours)

And here is what he wrote concerning Q. 32:9:

9a. This verse shows that the spirit of God is breathed into every man. This points to a mystical relation between human nature and Divine nature. The word ruh does not here mean the animal soul, because the animal soul is common to man and the animal kingdom. It is something that distinguishes man from the animal world. It is due to the spirit Divine that he rules creation and its due to the same Divine spirit in him that he receives a new life after death – a life which he lives in God and with God – the meeting with God or liqa Allah, as it is called in v. 10. (Bold and underline emphasis ours)

An examination of these texts will demonstrate why the maulana chose to identify the Spirit as being divine. According to these texts, Allah breathed his Spirit into Adam after having fashioned him from clay:

And when thy Lord said to the angels, 'See, I am creating a mortal of a clay of mud moulded. When I have shaped him, and breathed My spirit in him, fall you down, bowing before him!' S. 15:28-29 Arberry

It is obvious why Allah breathed his Spirit into Adam. It was the Spirit that animated Adam’s body, thereby causing him to become a living being, and therefore shows that the Holy Spirit is both creator and life-giver. The following text brings out these points even more clearly:

And mention in the Book Mary when she withdrew from her people to an eastern place, and she took a veil apart from them; then We sent unto her Our Spirit that presented himself to her a man without fault. She said, 'I take refuge in the All-merciful from thee! If thou fearest God … He said, 'I am but a messenger come from thy Lord, to give thee a boy most pure. She said, 'How shall I have a son whom no mortal has touched, neither have I been unchaste?' He said, 'Even so thy Lord has said: "Easy is that for Me; and that We may appoint him a sign unto men and a mercy from Us; it is a thing decreed."' S. 19:16-21 Arberry

Here we see Allah’s Spirit manifesting as a perfect looking man, and claiming to be a messenger sent from Mary’s Lord who was sent to the give her a pure child. This not only shows that the Spirit creates and gives life, but it also reveals that he is a distinct divine Person from Allah who speaks and interacts with others. This next verse gives us an idea of how the Spirit gave Mary a holy offspring:

And Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her private parts, so We breathed into it of Our Spirit and she established as true the Words of her Lord and His Books and she had been among the ones who are morally obligated. S. 66:12 Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar 

Allah breathed his Spirit into Mary’s private parts for the obvious purpose of causing her to conceive the human nature and physical body of Jesus. As we just noted, in order for the Spirit to be able to miraculously impregnate a virgin he must necessarily be both creator and life-giver.

In light of the foregoing, could the Quran be any more explicit regarding the divine identify of the Holy Spirit?

This brings us to the third part of our discussion.