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The Trinity in the Koran

June 27, 2017 1 comment

I am a Trinitarian monotheist. I worship one God who exists in three hypostases. I have been reading the Koran for the past two or three years and studying it. I see the Trinity all throughout the Koran. There is even a “mathematical miracle” in the Koran which suggests that God is Triune. In this blog post, I want to talk more about the Trinity in the Koran. I have already talked about this subject in previous blogs.

The Mathematical Miracle

I went to corpus.quran.com on the internet and I discovered something fascinating about the number of times the Arabic word for three. It occurs 21 times in the Koran. 21 is 3 times 7. Seven is the number which symbolically represents perfection or completion. Three symbolically represents the Trinity. Each Person of the Trinity is totally and completely God, but is distinct from the other Two.  The mystery of the Trinity is that three wholes make one whole. 1 + 1 + 1 = 1. So, this number, 21 being three sevens, represents symbolically the Trinity.

Here are all of the places in the Koran where the number “three” occurs. Classical Arabic is inflected more than English. So, there are more forms for nouns and adjectives than in English.

nom. masc. thalāthu 24:58
nom. masc. indef. thalāthun (no occurrence)
nom. fem. thalāthatu 65:4
nom. fem. indef. thalāthatun 4:171; 18:22
acc. masc. thalātha 4:3; 18:25; 19:10; 24:58; 35:1
acc. masc. indef. thalāthan (no occurrence)
acc. fem. thalāthata 2:228; 3:41; 11:65
acc. fem. indef. thalāthatan 56:7
gen. masc. thalāthi 77:30
gen. masc. indef. thalāthin 39:6
gen. fem. thalāthati 2:196; 3:124; 5:89; 9:118
gen. fem. indef. thalāthatin 5:73; 58:7

The nominative masculine indefinite and accusative masculine indefinite forms of the Arabic word for “three” do not appear in the Koran.

Faulty Knowledge of Islamic Scholars

The vast majority of Islamic scholars and imams misunderstand the doctrine of the Trinity. (There are Christian preachers who also do not seem to understand the doctrine very well, too.) This misunderstanding is clearly shown by some of the English interpretations of the Koran. Here are some examples of what I am saying. Koran 4:171 has been interpreted (not translated) in these ways.

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 of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: 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. (Koran 4:171, Yusuf Ali)

People of the Book, do not exceed the limits of devotion in your religion or say anything about God which is not the Truth. Jesus, son of Mary, is only a Messenger of God, His Word, and a spirit from Him whom He conveyed to Mary. So have faith in God and His Messengers. Do not say that there are three gods. It is better for you to stop believing in the Trinity. There is only One God. He is too glorious to give birth to a son. To God belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. God alone is a Sufficient Guardian for all. (Koran 4:171, Muhammad Sarwar)

O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians)! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, nor say of Allah aught but the truth. The Messiah ‘Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, (“Be!” – and he was) which He bestowed on Maryam (Mary) and a spirit (Ruh) created by Him; so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not: “Three (trinity)!” Cease! (it is) better for you. For Allah is (the only) One Ilah (God), Glory be to Him (Far Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is All­-Sufficient as a Disposer of affairs. (Koran 4:171, Mohsin Khan)

O People of the Book! Do not go to extremes regarding your faith; say nothing about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was no more than a messenger of Allah and the fulfilment of His Word through Mary and a spirit ˹created by a command˺ from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers and do not say, “Trinity.” Stop! — for your own good. Allah is only One God. Glory be to Him! He is far above having a son! To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And Allah is sufficient as a Trustee of Affairs. (Koran 4:171, Dr. Mustafa Khattab, the Clear Quran)

People of the Book! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, and attribute to Allah nothing except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only a Messenger of Allah, and His command that He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him (which led to Mary’s conception). So believe in Allah and in His Messengers, and do not say: (Allah is a) trinity. Give up this assertion; it would be better for you. Allah is indeed just one God. Far be it from His glory that He should have a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth. Allah is sufficient for a guardian. (Koran 4:171, Abul Ala Maududi)

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 [this], 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. (Koran 4:171, Abdul Haleem)

Any Christian who picks up a copy of one of these English versions of  the Koran and reads this verse would be immediately turned off. All of the translators have mistranslated, or rather misinterpreted, this verse. The Arabic word translated Trinity in this verse is thalāthatun. It is the nominative feminine indefinite form of the Arabic word for “three.” This form of the Arabic word for “three” occurs in one other place in the Koran: Koran 18:22.

Here is Yusuf Ali’s translation of Koran 18:22. Notice that he did not translate thalāthatun as Trinity as he did in Koran 4:171.

(Some) say they were three, the dog being the fourth among them; (others) say they were five, the dog being the sixth, – doubtfully guessing at the unknown; (yet others) say they were seven, the dog being the eighth. Say thou: “My Lord knoweth best their number; It is but few that know their (real case).” Enter not, therefore, into controversies concerning them, except on a matter that is clear, nor consult any of them about (the affair of) the Sleepers. (Koran 18:22, Yusuf Ali)

Koran 4:171 is talking about the heresy of Tritheism. John Philoponus and couple of deposed Orthodox Christian bishops taught this heresy in the sixth century.

Orthodox Christians do not worship three gods. They worship only one God. The first words of the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed are: “We believe in one God.”

Another mistranslation in Koran 4:171 is the words:

Subḥanahu an yakuna lahu waladun.

Subḥanahu means “Glory be to Him.” An yakuna means “that He should be.” Lahu means “for Him.” Waladun means “begotten Child” or “begotten Son.” Yusuf Ali translated these words: “Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son.” Muhammad Sarwar translated the words: “He is too glorious to give birth to a son.” The other translators rendered these words similarly. Arberry, who was not a Muslim, translated these words: “Glory be to Him — that He should have a Son!”

Of course, we Christians do not believe that God sexually begot a Son. The term “being begotten” should not be interpreted literally. It is an expression used in the Bible for the procession of the Son from the Father.

We believe that the Father has no origin and no beginning. We believe that the Son (also called the Word) has an origin but no beginning. Likewise, we believe that the Holy Spirit has an origin but no beginning.

All three Persons of the Trinity share the same essence. In the Divine Liturgy, we sing: “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: the Trinity one in essence and undivided.” By essence, I am talking about the substance of which God consists. There are many different substances in the universe. Plastic, iron, water, oxygen, and wood are examples of substances. The substance of which God consists is unknown and in fact unknowable. Created substances are knowable. The uncreated substance of God is unknowable.

I remember all of the hype about discovering the so-called “God particle” by physicists. Well, any particle of matter that the scientists discover is not the divine essence. It is impossible to design a scientific experiment which will lead to the discovery of the divine essence.

Another example of a mistranslation of the Arabic is in this verse translated by Yusuf Ali.

It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He determines a matter, He only says to it, “Be”, and it is. (Koran 19:35, Yusuf Ali)

The word translated “beget” in this verse is yattakhida. It means “He should take.” This verse is talking about the adoptionist heresy taught by the Paulinianists and the Nestorians. Orthodox Christians do not believe the adoptionist heresy. I have already explained what we mean when we say that the Father begot the Son. It is theological language which should not be interpreted literally.

A Mystery

One thing we cannot do is explain everything. No matter how much we learn there will always be something that we do not know. In the Bible, it says:

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, to do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29, LXX)

God reveals things to us through His prophets, but He does not tell us everything. There are still those “secret things” which belong only to the Lord our God. The Koran teaches the same thing.

To Allah do belong the unseen (secrets) of the heavens and the earth, and to Him goeth back every affair (for decision): then worship Him, and put thy trust in Him: and thy Lord is not unmindful of aught that ye do. (Koran 11:123, Yusuf Ali)

Muhammad did not even claim to know everything.

I tell you not that with me are the treasures of Allah, nor do I know what is hidden, nor claim I to be an angel. Nor yet do I say, of those whom your eyes do despise that Allah will not grant them (all) that is good: Allah knoweth best what is in their souls: I should, if I did, indeed be a wrong-doer. (Koran 11:31, Yusuf Ali)

It also says in the Koran that we cannot comprehend anything out of His knowledge except that which He allows.

Allah is He besides Whom there is no god, the Everliving, the Self-subsisting by Whom all subsist; slumber does not overtake Him nor sleep; whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His; who is he that can intercede with Him but by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they cannot comprehend anything out of His knowledge except what He pleases, His knowledge extends over the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of them both tires Him not, and He is the Most High, the Great. (Koran 2:255, Shakir)

God is incomprehensible. Furthermore, His words are inexhaustible.

If all the trees in the earth were pens and the ocean, with seven more oceans, were ink still these could not suffice to record all the words of God. God is Majestic and All-wise. (Koran 31:27, Muhammad Sarwar)

There will always be something else that we can learn from God. We will never know God completely.

So, whenever we Orthodox Christians speak about the Trinity we are talking about a mystery. How can three wholes be one whole? How can 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 when speaking about the Trinity is a mystery.

The Transcendent Hyperdimensionality of God

God is personal. He is knowable, although His essence is unknowable. God is also transcendent. He transcends time and space. In the Church’s hymns He is said to be pre-eternal as well as eternal

Hyperdimensionality is the quality of have more than three dimensions. We are aware of three dimensions: height, width, and depth. Scientists and mathematicians have hypothesized the existence of more than three dimensions. The tessaract, for example is a four dimensional object.

“God is love.” (I John 4:8) There is a passage in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians which teaches the hyperdimensionality of God’s love.

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19, NKJV)

We should not think that God is three dimensional. He may very well be infinitely dimensional.

Back now to the subject of God’s essence. If it were possible to divide the divine essence into infinitesimal particles, each particle would belong to all three Persons of the Deity. Perhaps, each infinitesimal particle possesses infinite dimensionality. This concept further compounds the mystery of the Deity.

We cannot even begin to understand how a four dimensional object would function. An infinite dimensional being would be far beyond our abilities to comprehend.

Divine Permeation

God “fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:23) The Divine Essence permeates everything, even our souls and bodies. So, we should have no trouble believing that the Divine Essence permeated Jesus’ soul and body. However, the Divine Essence does not only permeate His soul and body, but also belongs to Him, just as it belongs to the Father and the Spirit. The Divine Essence does not belong to me or you, but it does belong to Him. Jesus said:

All things that the Father has are Mine. (John 16:15, NKJV)

He also said:

I and My Father are one. (John 10:30, NKJV)

We do not believe that Jesus is a hybrid of God and man in the same way that a mule is a hybrid of a horse and a donkey. The divine nature of Jesus is uncreated. The human nature of Jesus is created. The divine nature of Jesus permeates His human nature.

In Koran 4:171 it says:

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 [literally, cast] unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. (Koran 4:171, Pickthall)

In this verse, the divine and human natures of Jesus can be seen. As a human, He is the son of Mary and “only a messenger of Allah.” As God, He is Allah’s Word which He cast to Mary.

Actually, the Word of Allah already permeated Mary’s body and soul and He permeates every created thing in the universe and beyond. So, the casting of His Word to Mary is an activity of the Deity — another mystery.

Jesus told His disciples:

He who receives you receives Me, and He who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. (Matthew 10:40, NKJV)

St. John the Theologian was one of Jesus’ twelve apostles. (Matthew 10:2) He was also a Muslim. (Koran 3:52) He wrote:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (John 1:1-3, NKJV)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, NKJV)

The Koran says:

Let the People of the Gospel judge by that which Allah hath revealed therein. Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are evil-livers. (Koran 5:47, Pickthall)

and:

If only they had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course: but many of them follow a course that is evil. (Koran 5:66, Yusuf Ali)

The Koran requires that we believe the words of St. John the Theologian regarding Jesus. Jesus is the incarnate Word of Allah. The Word of Allah is Allah. All three Persons of the Trinity possess the same essence. They are one God, but three distinct Persons.

Jesus is not a partner with Allah. He is Allah. The Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit are Allah, but only the Word is Jesus. The Father and the Holy Spirit are not Jesus. Two heresies are condemned in this passage of the Koran. The first heresy is the Sabellian heresy. The Sabellians taught that the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit are Jesus.

They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah (Himself) said: O Children of Israel, worship Allah, My Lord and your Lord. (Koran 5:72, Pickthall)

Each Person of the Trinity is Allah. Therefore, it is fitting for one Person of the Trinity to call another Person of the Trinity Allah. Each Person is worthy of worship as God. There is only one God. 1 + 1 + 1 = 1. That is the Trinity math equation.

The second heresy is the Tritheist heresy. The Tritheists taught that the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit are three different gods which do not share the same essence.

Lo! whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, for him Allah hath forbidden paradise. His abode is the Fire. For evil-doers there will be no helpers. 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. (Koran 5:72,73, Pickthall)

Jesus, if you remember, said, “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30)

Some Koranic Proofs of the Trinitarian Dogma

In the 90th Surah, there is proof that God is a Trinity. It says:

Nay! I swear by this city. And you shall be made free from obligation in this city — and the begetter and whom He begot. Certainly We have created man to be in distress. (Koran 90:1-4, Shakir)

Muhammad followed the Koran. (Koran 6:50; 7:203; 10:15; 46:9) The Koran prohibits the swearing of oaths.

And they swear by Allah their strongest oaths that if you ordered them, they would go forth [in Allah ‘s cause]. Say, “Do not swear. [Such] obedience is known. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with that which you do.” (Koran 24:53, Sahih International)

He also accepted the Scriptures of the Christians.

And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, “We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.” (Koran 29:46, Sahih International)

Unto this, then, summon (O Muhammad). And be thou upright as thou art commanded, and follow not their lusts, but say: I believe in whatever Scripture Allah hath sent down, and I am commanded to be just among you. Allah is our Lord and your Lord. Unto us our works and unto you your works; no argument between us and you. Allah will bring us together, and unto Him is the journeying. (Koran 42:15, Pickthall)

Jesus told us not to swear oaths.

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’  But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33-37, NKJV)

Therefore, because Muhammad followed the Koran and the Scriptures of the Christians, he did not swear any oaths. The One swearing by the city in the passage from Koran 90 is the Holy Spirit. He swears by the New Jerusalem, the Father (the begetter), and the Son (the One whom the Father begot). The Holy Spirit says, “We [the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit] created man in distress.”

In the Koran, it teaches that Jesus is Allah.

O ye who believe! Be Allah’s helpers, even as Jesus Son of Mary said unto the disciples: Who are My helpers for Allah? They said: We are Allah’s helpers. (Koran 61:14, Pickthall)

Notice that Jesus’ disciples did not say, “We are Your helpers for Allah.” They said, “We are Allah’s helpers.” Jesus’ question was, “Who are My helpers for Allah?” The disciples called Jesus Allah.

In the 19th Surah, it says:

He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of Him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained. (Koran 19:21, Pickthall)

Here, all three Persons of the Trinity are mentioned. In Arabic, there are dual and plural number second person and third person pronouns. There is no dual number first person pronoun. The plural form of the first person pronoun serves also as the dual number form. So, the pronouns we and us can refer to two or more persons. In the above cited text, We and Us refer to the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is a “revelation for mankind.” He is the incarnate Word of Allah. He is a mercy from the Father and the Holy Spirit. Both the Father and the Holy Spirit sent Him. (See Isaiah 48:16; John 3:17; 5:37.)

Of course, as God Jesus was already present in this world. The sending of the Son by the Father and the Holy Spirit is an activity of the Deity — another mystery.

Abraham Petitions Allah

The Torah is a light and guidance for mankind. (Koran 6:91,92) In the Torah, there is a theophany — a manifestation of God. God reveals Himself to Abraham as three men or angels.

And God appeared to him by the oak of Mambre, as he sat by the door of his tent at noon. And he lifted up his eyes and beheld, and lo! three men stood before him; and having seen them he ran to meet them from the door of his tent, and did obeisance to the ground. And he said, Lord, if indeed I have found grace in Thy sight, pass not by Thy servant. Let water now be brought, and let them wash Your feet, and do Ye refresh Yourselves under the tree. And I will bring bread, and Ye shall eat, and after this Ye shall depart on Your journey, on account of which refreshment Ye have turned aside to Your servant. And he said, So do, as thou hast said. (Genesis 18:1-5, LXX)

Notice that Abraham spoke to all three as if they were one.

Although God manifested Himself as those three men or angels, He is omnipresent. After the men departed, Abraham still stood in the presence of the Lord. He petitioned God not to destroy the whole  city if ten righteous were present in the city.

And the men having departed thence, came to Sodom; and Abraam was still standing before the Lord. And Abraam drew nigh and said, Wouldest Thou destroy the righteous with the wicked, and shall the righteous be as the wicked? Should there be fifty righteous in the city, wilt Thou destroy them? Wilt Thou not spare the whole place for the sake of the fifty righteous, if they be in it? By no means shalt Thou do as this thing is so as to destroy the righteous with the wicked, so the righteous shall be as the wicked: by no means. Thou that judgest the whole earth, shalt Thou not do right? And the Lord said, If there should be in Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole city, and the whole place for their sakes. And Abraam answered and said, Now I have begun to speak to my Lord, and I am earth and ashes. But if the fifty righteous should be diminished to forty-five, wilt Thou destroy the whole city because of the five wanting? And He said, I will not destroy it, if I should find there forty-five. And he continued to speak to Him still, and said, But if there should be found there forty? And He said, I will not destroy it for the forty’s sake. And he said, Will there be anything against me, Lord, if I shall speak? But if there be found there thirty? And He said, I will not destroy it for the thirty’s sake. And he said, Since I am able to speak to the Lord, what if there should be found there twenty? And He said, I will not destroy it, if I should find there twenty. And he said, Will there be anything against me, Lord, if I speak yet once? But if there should be found there ten? And He said, I will not destroy it for the ten’s sake. And the Lord departed, when He left off speaking to Abraam, and Abraam returned to his place. (Genesis 18:22-33, LXX)

God spared Lot and his two daughters. Lot’s wife would have been spared if she had not looked back at the city. (See Genesis 19:15-22.)

In the Koran, it says:

And when the awe departed from Abraham, and the glad news reached him, he pleaded with Us on behalf of the folk of Lot. (Koran 11:74, Pickthall)

Here is evidence of the Trinity. It says that Abraham pleaded with Us (that is, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) on behalf of the folk of Lot. Remember the theophany in the Torah — three angels, one for each Person of the Trinity.

So, the Koran teaches the Trinitarian dogma of Orthodox Christians. It does not teach the heresies of the Sabellians and the Tritheists. It does not teach the adoptionist heresy of the Nestorians and Paulinianists.