Muslim: May I ask you something?
Muslim: Do you believe that there are three gods in Christianity namely the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?
Christian: No! Christians believe that there is only one God, like the Jews and the Muslims. However, the concept of God or Allah in Judaism, Islam and also in Christianity is that of a Unity, not a Unit.
Muslim: What do you mean by that?
Christian: In Islam, Allah is a Tawhid [or Unity] and not a Unit [or Wahid]. Surah 112:1: Say, “He is Allah, (who is) One.”. Even though the Arabic text is “ahadun”, it is recited as “Ahad” and translated into English as “one”. This is despite the fact that the same word “ahadun” is recited as “ahadun” and translated into English as “anyone” elsewhere in the Quran.
Muslim: Could you give me examples of how this same Arabic word was recited as “ahadun” and translated as “anyone” elsewhere in the Quran?
Christian: This happens 8 times in the Quran. For example, in Surah 15:65 we read:
So set out with your family during a portion of the night and follow behind them and let not anyone (Arabic “ahadun”) among you look back and continue on to where you are commanded.
Likewise in Surah 72:22: Say, “Indeed, there will never protect me from Allah anyone (Arabic “ahadun”) [if I should disobey], nor will I find in other than Him a refuge.
Muslim: I wasn’t aware that the same Arabic word was translated as “anyone” in other verses of the Quran.
Christian: Even if the word is recited as “ahad” in Surah 112:1, it does not have the unique interpretation of “one”. According to understandquran.com, “ahad” can either have the meaning of “one” or “unite, unify”. Furthermore, according to al-islam.org and Wikipedia, Tawhid means “unity or unification of Allah”. Allah is a Unity, not a Unit!
Muslim: This is shirk (or associating Allah with anything else)! If Allah is a Unity, what are other things that Allah is united with?
Christian: Did you know that Allah has a Spirit [or Ruh]? In Surah 32:9, when Allah created Adam, He breathed into him something of His spirit [i.e. ruhihi]”. This Spirit that is breathed into Adam is distinct from Allah. In Surah 16:102 we have this verse: Say, the Holy Spirit (ruhu al-qudus) has brought the revelation from thy Lord in truth… The Spirit is distinct from Allah (who is referred to in this verse as “thy Lord”).
Muslim: Muslims believe that the Spirit is referring to the Angel Gabriel.
Christian: This cannot be the case. Notice that the Holy Spirit is called “ruhu al-qudus” meaning “the Holy one.”
This title has the definite article “al” (meaning “the”) as a prefix to the characteristic of God “qudus” (meaning “holy”). Tawhid Al-Asma Was-Sifat (which means “Islamic Monotheism of Allah’s Names and Qualities”) teaches that if you prefix the definite article “the” (or “al”) before a characteristic of God, it can only be ascribed to Allah. It cannot be ascribed to a creature. For example, only Allah can be described as THE Holy One (al-qudus). All that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth extols the glory of Allah, the Sovereign, the Holy, the All-Mighty, the All-Wise. (Surah 62:1)
Muslim: Indeed we find this expression “al-qudus” (meaning “the Holy”) being used to describe the Spirit [or Ruh] in the Quran.
Christian: If the Holy Spirit is also described as “al-qudus”, he cannot be a created being like Angel Gabriel. The Holy Spirit has to be divine. Now we have both Allah and the Holy Spirit described as divine in the Quran and both are distinct from one another. Besides this, there is something else that has the characteristic of God.
Muslim: What is that?
Christian: Do Muslims believe that the Quran is the uncreated word of God?
Muslim: Yes, Muslims believe the Quran is uncreated and existed eternally with Allah.
Christian: Is the Quran also distinct and separate from Allah?
Muslim: Yes, because Surah 15:9 says, “Surely We have revealed this reminder (The Qur’an); and We will surely preserve it Ourself.” If Allah protects the Quran, the Quran should be distinct from Allah.
Christian: That is correct. We now have Allah, the Spirit and the Quran all ascribed with divine attributes. That explains why the Islamic understanding of God is one of Tawhid (unity) rather than Wahid (unit).
Muslim: Is this similar to the Trinity that Christians believe in?
Christian: There are similarities. Deuteronomy 6:4 of the Bible reads, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord (i.e. Yahweh) our God (i.e. Elohim) is one (i.e. echad).” God is described by “echad”, which means “unity” and this word is similar to “tawhid”. He is not “yachid”, which means “unit”, a word that is similar to “wahid”. By the way, the word “Elohim” translated “God” is actually in the plural. The singular form of the word is “eloha”.
Muslim: The plural pronoun is used to describe God?
Christian: Yes, moreover in Genesis 1, even though Elohim (in the plural) was used, the action verb that follows is always in the singular. For example, we see in Genesis 1:1: In the beginning, God created (Hebrew “bara”) the heavens and the earth. The verb “bara” is in the singular even though it follows the plural pronoun “Elohim”.
Muslim: Why is God described in a plural sense and yet has a singular verb?
Christian: The Bible describes God in the plural sense because the Trinity is ONE God existing in THREE Persons. Of course, when we use the word “Person”, we are not referring to a human person; we are using the word in the sense that there are three consciousnesses. The Trinity is about God having one “what” (referring to “God”) and three “whos” (referring to the Persons, namely the Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
Muslim: Is that why the Book of Genesis uses the word “us” when referring to God?
Christian: Exactly. In Genesis 1:26, God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…”
Muslim: Muslims do not interpret that to mean that the Bible is teaching that God has a plurality of persons. We understand this to be the “royal we”. Royalties like the Queen of England used the plural pronoun “we” even when she is referring to herself.
Christian: If we look at Genesis 1:26 alone, it is possible to come to that conclusion. However, let’s look at another verse describing what God said after man sinned. Genesis 3:22: And the LORD God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” The phrase “one of us” necessarily implies that there is more than one person. Therefore, the usage of the plural cannot be due to the “royal we”.
Muslim: However, it is a fact that royalties use the plural when they speak.
Christian: The use of plural pronouns in the Bible to refer to God has nothing to do with the “royal we”. This is because there were no kings at the time of Moses. There were no kings until King Saul came on the scene 2000 years later. The language of the “royal we” was therefore totally unknown to the early Hebrews.
Even if somebody wants to use the “royal we” to explain the plural pronouns, he should go behind the purpose of the “royal we”. The online encyclopaedia Wikipedia explains the purpose and function of the “royal we”.
The “majestic plural” is the plural pronoun where it is used to refer to one person alone. This is also known as the “royal we” because it has usually been restricted to personages such as monarchs, Popes, etc. The reason behind the “majestic plural” is the idea that a monarch or other high official ALWAYS SPEAKS FOR HIS OR HER PEOPLE.
Muslim: The Quran also uses the plural pronoun “we” when referring to Allah. Allah says in Surah 15:9: “Surely We have revealed this reminder (The Qur’an); and We will surely preserve it Ourself.” Muslims understand this to be the “royal we”.
Christian: Surah 39:1 says: The revelation of this Book (AL-Qur’an) is from Allah, the Almighty, the Wise. Surah 16:102: Say, the Holy Spirit has brought the revelation from thy Lord in truth. Both Allah and the Holy Spirit are involved in the revelation of the Quran. No wonder Surah 15:9 says that “we” have revealed the Quran. The plural pronoun “we” is used because Allah is speaking on behalf of Himself and the Holy Spirit.
Muslim: You said that the Trinity teaches that while God is one, there are plurality of Persons. Are there other examples in the Bible where “one” and “plurality” coexist?
Christian: Yes, there are. In Genesis 2:24, Adam and Eve became “one [Hebrew word “echad”] flesh”. This “one flesh” consists of more than one person (Adam and Eve). Likewise, in Exodus 24:3 when the Israelites rebelled against Moses, the Bible says that they spoke with “one” (Hebrew word “echad”) voice. In other words, many people spoke, yet their voice is one (or united). They were unanimous in their rebellion against Moses.
Muslim: If Christians believe that all three Persons are God, are there verses in the Bible clearly teaching this?
Christian: Malachi 2:10 teaches that the Father is God when it says, “Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us?” Isaiah 9:6 teaches that the Son is God when it says, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name is called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace.” Acts 5:3-4 calls the Holy Spirit God. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit. You have not lied to men but to God.”
Muslim: Are all these three Persons distinct from one another?
Christian. Yes, during the baptism of Jesus, all three Persons appeared at the same time. We find this in Matthew 3:16-17. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven (i.e. the voice of the Father) said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” All three Persons appeared, and they are distinct.
Muslim: Does the Bible support the teaching that while these are three Persons, yet there is only one God?
Christian: In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commanded his disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” While all three Persons are mentioned, yet they only have one name, the name of God, which is Yahweh.
Muslim: So, the Trinity is actually a harmonization of the Bible’s teaching on God?
Christian: Yes. The Trinity is a harmonization of these three major concepts about God. Firstly, there is only one God, Yahweh. Secondly, all three Persons are God. And thirdly, all three Persons are distinct.
Muslim: I can see that the teachings about the Trinity are found in the Bible. However, isn’t it true that the word “trinity” itself is not even found in the Bible once?
Christian: You are correct. The word “trinity” came up at a later time to name this doctrine. Am I right to say that the word “tawhid” is also not found in the Quran?
Muslim: Yes, the word “tawhid” is not found in the Quran but Muslims derive the understanding of tawhid from the verses in the Quran. Now I understand that we should not look for the word “trinity” in the Bible as proof that trinity is taught in the Bible.