Chapter 4: What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an

Everyone was invited to a read along in Let’s Read About the Qur’an Together! The plan is to read together – What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an by James R. White.

Feel free to grab a copy of the book and join in at anytime! So far, we’ve covered:

Chapter 4: “Say Not Three”: The Qur’an and the Trinity

In this chapter, Dr. White examines how the Qur’an attempts to address the doctrine of the Trinity. He challenges Christians and Muslims with the question, “Does the Qur’an’s author show knowledge of the Trinity to where the criticisms offered are accurate and compelling?” (Kindle Locations 949-950). He asks this question in light of the belief that the Qur’an came directly from Allah who would know how to correct prior understandings of him from Christians. The Surahs examined in this chapter are central to the disagreements between Christians and Muslims.

The main issue White fleshes out in the chapter’s subtitles below is that the Qur’an attempts to refute an inaccurate portrayal of the Trinity. Therefore, this post will be brief instead of going into all of the details of White’s clear refutations. Understanding the inaccurate portrayals of the Trinity in the Qur’an are important so you may want to grab your own copy of White’s book.

Surah 4:166–172: “Say Not Three!”

This section is the longest of the chapter. Many of the how and why questions in this chapter on the Qur’an getting the Trinity wrong can be applied to the sections that follow. The question of how Muhammad knew anything about Christian doctrine as it informed his writing the Qur’an is irrelevant to Muslims. For, Muslims believe Muhammad’s encounter with Christians has no relevance on the Qur’an’s words since their holy book came directly from Allah untainted by human thought.

The problem, however, is that Allah should know which doctrines he attempts to refute in his book by accurately representing them. For example, the Qur’an posits Christians worship three gods – the father, son, and mother(Mary).

171. O People of the Book! Commit no excess in your religion,[ 66] nor say anything but the truth about Allah. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a Messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed to 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 transcendence that He should have a son, when His is all that the heavens and all that the earth contain. And Allah is sufficient as [their] Custodian.[ 67] (Kindle Locations 1011-1016).

This is the in accurate theme shown in the Qur’an that runs throughout the rest of the chapter.

Surah 5:12–19: “They . . . Have Disbelieved”

17. They indeed have disbelieved who say: “Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary.” Say: “Who has the least power against Allah, if He had willed to destroy the Messiah son of Mary, and his mother and everyone on earth?” Allah’s is the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. (Kindle Locations 1176-1178).

The first quote translates into alleged Christian doctrine as “God is the Messiah,” which, as White notes, is not a sum total accurate rendering. Rather, it is a simplistic reduction of the Christian doctrine that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and God the Son.

18. The Jews and the Christians say: “We are the sons of Allah, and His loved ones.” Say: “Why then does He chastise you for your sins? Surely, you are but human beings of His creating. He forgives whom He will, and punishes whom He will. Allah’s is the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, and to Him is the journeying.” (Kindle Locations 1195-1197).

I added the bold for emphasis to point out, as White does, that Christians do not believe they have always existed eternally.

Surah 5:68–77: “Allah Is the Third of Three”?

Two things that stood out to me in this section are:

72. They have disbelieved who say: “Allah is the Messiah, the son of Mary.” The Messiah (himself) said: “O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Whoever ascribes partners to Allah, for him Allah has forbidden Paradise. His abode is the Fire. For the unjust there will be no helpers.” (Kindle Locations 1242-1244).

73. They have disbelieved who say: “Allah is the third of three,” when there is no god save One God. If they cease not what they say, a painful torment will fall upon those of them who disbelieve. (Kindle Locations 1261-1262).

There is no indication from where the words in 72 came that are attributed to the Messiah Jesus. And 73 misrepresents the Christian doctrine of the Trinity which does not say Allah – God the Father – is the third of three gods.

Surah 5:116: Worshiping Mary and Jesus as Gods

116. And when Allah said: “O Jesus son of Mary! Did you say to mankind: ‘Take me and my mother for two gods other than Allah?’” He said: “Transcendent are You! It was not mine to say that of which I had no right. In saying it, then You knew it. You know what is in my self, but I know not what is in Your self. It is You, only You, Who know well all hidden things.” 117. I told them only that which You commanded me, [saying]: “Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord!” I was a witness over them while I dwelt among them, and when You took me, You were the Watcher over them. You are Witness over all things. (Kindle Locations 1305-1310).

There is nothing in Christian doctrine at the time of Muhammad that indicates Mary was thought to be a god. I agree with Dr. White that a book directly from Allah with no human influence should not make such glaring errors on Christian theology.

Of course, there is much more to this chapter worth explore, but venue is only meant to be a discussion.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 AndrewLindsey July 24, 2013 at 10:24 am

re: “Allah should know which doctrines he attempts to refute in his book by accurately representing them.”
-I wonder, though, whether this would be an effective line of reasoning with a knowledgeable Muslim. Couldn’t they respond that though we *say* the doctrine of the trinity is different than what the Qur’an presents, that (from their perspective) the logical conclusions to our teachings are presented in the Qur’an. I think, for example, of how idolatry is presented in Isaiah: no idolater would present their activities in the way Isaiah does in Chapters 40-48; all idolaters with any intellect whatsoever would seek to qualify their beliefs and actions. Yet the Bible accurately and realistically portrays the folly of idolatry, including its logical conclusions. I wonder if Muslims wouldn’t *claim* that the Qur’an is doing something similar regarding the Trinity.

2 Ken Temple July 24, 2013 at 11:28 am

One of the clearest things about the Qur’an and Islam is that the author of the Qur’an thought that the Trinity was God the Father, Jesus the Son, and Mary the Mother.  Most Muslims in the world still think this!  Most Muslims I have met still think this and accuse Christianity of this.  Most Muslims automatically think, when we say “God is Our Father” = God came down and had sex with Mary and procreated Jesus.  That is what they are thinking when we say “Father” and “Jesus is the Son of God”.  Surah 112, 6:101; 5:116; 19:88-92; 5:72-75 – Dr. White does an excellent job of covering those verses in relation to the issue of the Trinity and the incarnation.  
In my opinion, in witnessing to Muslims, one should focus on who Jesus is and the Gospels and relevant NT texts and they need to see the incarnation of the Son of God first, and then that naturally leads to explaining the Trinity to them.  They have to see that Jesus is God in the flesh, eternal, the Word from all eternity who became flesh; then we can get into explaining the three persons of the Trinity. (Without totally avoiding it completely; but focusing on the virgin birth and incarnation and sin and salvation issues more.)  Granted, the Spirit of God has to work in the heart.  (John 6:44; Acts 16:14)  I would focus on Jesus’ teachings on sin (Matthew 5, 6, 7; Mark 7:20-23, etc) and issues of heaven and hell and salvation and atonement and who Jesus is; while at the same time when they keep bringing up the Trinity – “What about the Trinity?”  and “Why you worship three gods?” – keep on asserting that you only worship one God (Mark 12:29; 1 Tim. 2:5; Deut. 6:4-6; Isaiah 40-48, etc.) – but wait to explain the three persons aspect of the Trinitas -Unitas until you have time to explain the issues of sin, who Jesus is, the cross, judgment day, etc. – I would have made chapter 4 on the Trinity as chapter 7 and 5-7 would be chapters 4-6, and explain something about the order of emphasis in covering subjects with Muslims.  But, since Dr. White has done so much formal debating – and all the issues are out there all at once with the internet being what it is; covering the Trinity first is fine.  But the average Muslim you will meet in everyday life will be much different than the ones that Dr. has debated.  In witnessing situations with Muslims, IMO, once should focus on the issues in chapters 5-7 first, then chapter 4 on the Trinity, although one will not be able to avoid it, because Muslims usually bring it up at the very beginning of a conversation.  
See here on answering the Son of God issue:


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