Doctrines >Dialogue with the people of the Book
Dialogue with the people of the Book
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This style starts with the concept that judges the
doctrine from a standpoint where it ties in with the truth both in heart
and tongue. Thus, there should be no room for going astray and advocating
extremist views in religion.
In this light, it puts the
idea forward, firm in the knowledge that Jesus son of Mary (a.s.) was the
messenger of God. His mission in life was to convey that Message, like
other messengers or prophets who were entrusted with such noble tasks,
thus: “He said: I am indeed a servant of God: He
has given me revelation and made me a prophet; and He has made me blessed
wherever I be, and has enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I
live; (He) has made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or
unblessed” (19: 30–32).
However, Jesus (a.s.) is
unique in one respect to the exclusion of all other prophets and people.
His birth did not follow the normal pattern known to man. As the Quranic
verse puts it, “His Word, which He bestowed on
Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him.” This is so as to manifest His
Omnipotence in bringing a human into being without a father, as He
breathed His Spirit unto Adam before and made him into man with neither a
father nor a mother. Thus: “The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as
that of Adam, He created him from dust, then said to him: ‘Be’: and he
was” (3: 59).
Neither the “Word” nor the
“Spirit” referred to in the Quranic verse are an expression of God in
part or His Essence, because God is not corporeal so that He can be
divided. Although His Essence is simple, it cannot move around. The two
words are intended to manifest God’s Omnipotence and the sublimity of His
creation. His fashioning of Adam’s inanimate body and breathing life into
it is as simple as fashioning Jesus in the womb of his mother and
breathing life into him, albeit through unconventional means. This is how
the Qur’an tells the story of creating Adam (a.s.): “Behold,
thy Lord said to the angels: ‘I am about to create man from clay: When I
have fashioned him (in due proportion) and
breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in
obeisance unto him’.” (38: 71–72). And this is what we read in the
Qur’an of the story of Mary and her son (a.s.): “And
(remember) her who guarded her chastity: We breathed into her of Our
spirit, and We made her and her son a sign for all peoples” (21: 91).
As for describing Jesus
(a.s.) as a “Word”, it is because he came into being as a result of an
order: Be, which represents His Will, without the
interference of conventional means in the reproduction process through
which other humans are born, although all are subject to His Will and
The Qur’an appeals to human nature
Perhaps the disagreement between the commentators of
the Qur’an concerning the two words, “Word” and “Spirit” stems from their
own deduction from the Holy Qur’an, i.e. on the basis of the literal
meaning of the two words. This is done at the expense of the general
climate, which governs the concept, a climate that gave rise to the
Divine Will to rule supreme. In this case, they should have relied on
inferring the meaning metaphorically, which can be understood as
attestation to God’s Spirit or a Breath of His Spirit, of course without
losing sight of the yawning gap between the rhetorical expression and
reality. You may look at it this way: a poet or an artist describing
their poem or piece as part of their being, or something racking one’s
brain. This is a way of saying that one has exhausted one’s energy in
doing/performing/writing something. It is obvious, however, that this
does not apply precisely to God’s works, taking the literal meaning of
the word, because, in His case, there is no meaning for the effort in
creating something. Yet, it is embodied in the greatness of what is
manifested in the created. Thus, the expression of breathing the Spirit
into the body is used as a substitute for the Omnipotence of God, with
which He creates whatever He likes and fashions whatever He fashions.
This is the description of
Jesus (a.s.), which God wants the believers to emulate in their belief
because it embodies true faith that is far removed from fanaticism and is
in harmony with the nature of things. Through this, God calls upon them
to believe in Him and His messengers and give up the doctrine of Trinity
because it is in their interest for He is One, and He should be exalted
above the claim that He has a son. That is, irrespective of how they
understand the relationship, be it between father and son, which entails
the existence of a wife, or what Christian theologians try to interpret
it into, i.e. hypostasis: the one person of Christ in which the divine
and human natures are united. All this is neither fair nor reasonable in
His acclaim, as will be discussed. Thus, the Quranic verses that discuss
Trinity link up with those verses that talk about the claim that God has
a son, as in the previous verse and this one:
They say: “God has begotten a son”: Glory be
to Him. Nay, to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth:
everything renders worship to Him. To Him is due the primal origin of the
heavens and the earth: When He decrees a matter, He says to it: “Be,” and
it is. (2: 116–17)
In its approach to refuting this notion, the Holy
Qur’an has chosen to give greater attention to the Omnipotence of God and
eliminating any anthropomorphic elements from Him; this is clear from the
use of the phrase, “Glory be to Him”. The
verse draws our attention to the fact that He owns everything in the
heavens and on earth and that everything renders worship to Him and
yields to His Will. He does not need any help or support to create
anything, no matter how great it is, only when He wills. This Will is
expressed in the verb “Be”, which is responsible for bringing things into
being. So, if this is the case, will there be a need for making the son
assume any connotation? And is there any meaning left for Trinity?
This reasoned approach is
symptomatic of the Quranic general style of debate and protestation, in
that it does away with complicating the argument. Rather, it advocates
simplicity and clarity, which appeal to the unblemished nature of man.
This is the right approach to attaining true faith; it is the approach
that creates the right conditions for the human natural disposition to
interact with the appeal in order to attain the truth from the shortest
That is why the Qur’an has
chosen not to engage those people in a philosophical debate on the
question of Trinity and Unity, which would have entailed hypothesizing.
It stopped at reiterating the Unity that they recognize and is supported
by clear proofs. It then forbade the belief in Trinity, branding those
who uphold it unbelievers. That is because Trinity goes against the grain
of monotheism, which rejects the divisibility of the one basic element of
things as much as it rejects its taking multiple forms and structures.
Divine monotheism does not have a bearing on any of these connotations.
It has left the judgment to
human nature, without providing it with the criteria for such judgment.
This is indicative of the Quranic approach, of paving the way to the
intellect and leaving it to decide whether to explore that road by
walking it, with a view to achieving what man wants.
Some Quranic commentators have attempted to subject
the verse to philosophical argumentation. One of them goes about
interpreting the verse by making each and every word in the verse as
dealing with independent evidence of rejecting the notion of “the Son”
and, consequently, disproving the doctrine of Trinity, which is based on
The summary of this
interpretation is that there are two trends of belief in “the Son of
God”. One is the strand of opinion that relies on the literal meaning of
the word, i.e. what is common knowledge about begetting children. The
philosophical trend relies on the metaphorical meaning of the word, i.e.
the separation of part of the original entity, with neither physical
disintegration nor time progression. This is what the Christians aim for
in their claim that Christ is the Son of God, after subjecting the notion
to some fine-tuning.
Agreeing with the first
interpretation is not possible for a number of reasons:
It would turn God into a physical being, which He is
not as He is above corporeality. Assuming that others can have absolute
divinity and eternity would necessitate that in order to survive,
everything would be dependent on Him for a start and continuity. So, how
can one imagine a separate entity which is identical to Him, yet
independent and acquiring both His essence and attributes without the
need for Him? Is this not the assumption of the coming together of
absolute divinity and finite one in one?
The attribution of the
ability to beget children would require progressive action by Him, in
which case the laws of matter and motion would govern him. This conflicts
with the norm, as whatever His Will and Desire cause happens with neither
a time limit for a decision, nor a division into phases.
The exegete at-Tabatabaie,
the author of al-Mizan Quranic commentary, has this to say with
regard to the interpretation of the above-mentioned verse:
His words, in the holy verse, “May
glory be to Him” are in reference to the first proof; His words, “to
Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth” are in
reference to the second proof; His words, “To
Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth” are in
reference to the third proof. Going along with the second interpretation
is not ruled by the first argument, i.e. regarding the question of
matter, corporeality, and progression. Rather, it contradicts the second
protestation, i.e. the problem of identicalness, which requires outlining
the absolute divinity for that which is supposed to be the Son of God;
this needs further clarification in the context of the second
interpretation, i.e. proving the Son and Father numerically, all by
itself, which is a proof on abundance, although the qualitative unity
between the Father and the Son is assumed; although son and father are
one in human terms, yet more than one from a numerical viewpoint.
Accordingly, if the Unity of God is presupposed, everyone else, including
the son, are not God only, but dependent on Him. So, the supposed Son of
His cannot be God like Him. On the other hand, if it is argued that He
has a Son who is identical to Him, but not dependent on Him, the unity
of god becomes nonsensical.
This was an outline of the concept.
As for the question of
Jesus Christ, son of Mary (a.s.), it cannot be imagined on the same
lines, even though, in itself, the notion is far-fetched. The concept of
Son of God would tie in with the concept that he is God, as we have
already asserted. So, how can we attest to him who has all the human
qualities, precisely like any other human being?
The Qur’an has paid a lot
of attention to making known the human qualities in Jesus (a.s.) from his
birth to his ascent. It has elaborated on his conception to his birth and
the difficulties he faced in his lifetime, especially as a physical
being, getting affected by all that the human body can be affected by,
which goes contrary to any divine nature.
His birth, which took place
outside the natural laws and the miracles he performed, should not be
deemed a proof of divinity in his person, because bringing Adam (a.s.)
into being before him was unusual. Concerning the performance of
miracles, it had occurred to the prophets before him, as both the Old and
New Testaments tell us. That is, without any conclusion that Adam was god
or the prophets were divine beings.