Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Divine Spirit in the Qur'an, and the Problem of Tawhid

Frequently, in debates with Christians on the doctrine of the Trinity vs. the Islamic concept of Tawhid (oneness of Allah), Muslims will try to maintain the focus on the concept of the Trinity. Much fewer time is spent trying to provide a rigorous defence and elaboration of Tawhid. Here, I am going to outline one Quranic problem faced by the Islamic doctrine of Tawhid.

According to various texts in the Qur’an (e.g. Surah 2:28; 22:6), Allah is the creator of life. Surah 15:23 tells us,

“It is indeed We, and only We, who give life and bring death, and We are the ultimate inheritor.”

Surah 2:228 tells us that Allah is the one who creates life in the womb.

We also read that Allah creates life by breathing his spirit.

Surah 21:91:

“And (remember) her who protected her private part. So, We blew in her through Our Spirit, and made her and her son a sign for all the worlds.”

Surah 66:12:

“And Maryam, daughter of ‘Imran who guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her Our Spirit, and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and His books, and she was one of the devout.”

Surah 15:28-29 also tells us about the creation of Adam:

“Recall when your Lord said to the angels, “I am going to create a human being from a ringing clay made of decayed mud. When I form him perfect, and blow in him of My spirit, then you must fall down before him in prostration.”

Surah 19:16-21 narrates the story of Allah’s Spirit appearing before Mary in the form of a perfect human being to announce the birth of Jesus and to tell her that he is going to give her a boy. This indicates that the Spirit is personal. Here is the text:

“And mention in the Book (the story of) Maryam, when she secluded herself from her people to a place towards East. Then she used a barrier to hide herself from them. Then We sent to her Our Spirit, and he took before her the form of a perfect human being. She said, “I seek refuge with the All Merciful (Allah) against you, if you are God-fearing.” He said “I am but a message-bearer of your Lord (sent) to give you a boy, purified.” She said, “How shall I have a boy while no human has ever touched me, nor have I ever been unchaste? He said, “So it is; your Lord said, ‘It is easy for Me, and (We will do this) so that We make it a sign for people and a mercy from Us, and this is a matter already destined.”

The Arabic word for “give” (Wahaba) means to give/grant/bestow/present etc.

Thus, the Holy Spirit also appears to have been the agent that created life in Mary’s womb and also brought life to Adam. In syllogistic form, my argument is as follows:

Premise 1: The Holy Spirit was who created life in Mary’s womb and brought Adam to life.
Premise 2: Allah also created life in Mary’s womb and brought Adam to life.
Premise 3: Therefore, one of three things is true: either the Holy Spirit is identical with Allah, or Allah has a separate co-creator, or one divine God creates life, and the Holy Spirit shares in that divinity.
Premise 4: Now of course, those first two options are not acceptable. The Spirit cannot be identical to Allah, since he describes himself as a message-bearer and also appears to be able to assume human form. Nor can the Spirit be a separate co-creator, since the Qur’an also affirms that God has no partners (Surah 4:116).
Conclusion: Therefore, the only option left is that the Holy Spirit shares in the Divinity, because only God creates.

But the problem gets worse than this. Let’s flip over to Surah 58:22:

“[Believers] are such that Allah has inscribed faith on their hearts, and has strengthened them with a spirit from Him.”

This text uses the same verb “to strengthen” as 2:87 and 5:110, in reference to the Spirit strengthening Jesus. If the Spirit strengthens all believers everywhere, does that not at least suggest that the Spirit is omnipresent and omnipotent – being present everywhere and being all powerful? Those are attributes that are thought to be uniquely associated with the divine.

How might a Muslim attempt to respond to this dilemma? The best attempt is to argue that the Spirit was used as an agent of Allah, and imparted life in those cases by the leave of Allah (which was temporary rather than permanent in nature). After all, didn't Jesus impart life to a clay bird in Surah 5:110? The problem here is that Surah 32 seems to suggest that the Allah's Spirit is involved in the creation of human life in general. Here is Surah 32:4-9:
"Allah is the One who created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in six days, then He positioned Himself on the Throne. Other than Him,there is neither a guardian for you, nor an intercessor. Would you then not observe the advice? He manages (every) matter from the sky to the earth, then it (every matter) will ascend to Him in a day the measure of which is one thousand years according to the way you count. That One is the All-knower of the Unseen, and the seen, the All-Mighty, the Very-Merciful, Who made well whatever He created, and started the creation of man from clay. Then He made his progeny from a drop of semen from despised water. Then He gave him a proportioned shape, and breathed into him of His spirit. And He granted you the (power of) hearing and the eyes and the hearts. Little you give thanks." 
Notice that the Spirit is breathed out by Allah in order to create life. We know that this has to be the same Spirit that we read of in Surah 19 because Surah 66:12 tells us that this Spirit was breathed out by Allah into Mary's womb to bring life to Jesus. Yet we know from Surah 19 that this same Spirit is a personal agent. Thus, a personal agent is breathed out by Allah that shares in one of the divine prerogatives -- namely, the ability to create life -- and also appears to possess the attribute of omnipresence.

While this can be accommodated within a framework such as that offered by the Trinity, it is very difficult to reconcile with the Islamic concept of Tawhid.


Unknown said...

Jonathan this is a very poor and laughable argument and article! Just a basic and simplest understanding of Arabic would help you a great deal. Your zealotry to enter into Islamic belief and comment on it without even a basic knowledge of any of its requisites is causing you to make a fool of yourself!

Listen, there is a construct in Arabic termed Idafa. It is composed of 2 nouns. Mudaf and Mudaf Ilay. Look this up, learn it and understand it. Then apply it to the verses you cited expressing A Spirit of God from Him). Afterwards, please write another article recasting this whole argument before your apologetics career ends early. Nobody will take yusuf serious with articles like this.

Unknown said...

The easiest way to prove the divinity of Holy Spirit in Quran, just look at the Quran's terminology 'Ruh-ul-Qudus' itself that immediately will confirm Holy Spirit was believed as some sort of deity by Muhammad.

Ruh-ul-Qudus literally means the Spirit that is Holy(Al-Quddus), and FYI al-Quddus / The Holy is one of 99 sacred names of Allah, and it's blasphemous to put name such as The Holy/Al-Quddus upon creation.

Ruh-ul-Quddus also doesn't mean the The Spirit is FROM/OF the Al-Quddus because again literally the terminology just simply means Spirit that possesses the attribute of al-Quddus/ The Holy which consequently should have put him as Divine as Allah when we review this based on the fact Al-Quddus is one of 99 names of Allah.

Quran is a mixed&messed up book of blended view of paganism, judaism ,christianity and also Muhammad's own perspective. It appears Muhammad did believe Holy Spirit to be a Deity but somehow not entirely equal with Allah, however since Quran as I've described before is a book with mixed-up view, this view of Muhammad for seeing Holy Spirit as divine being has been blurred by Islam's own extreme emphasis on the Oneness of God.

Again, regarding this matter it seems Muhammad was heavily influenced by Old Testament Judaism as we can observe from his way of describing Allah many times using first person plural and how he highly regarded Gabriel whom he seemingly thought to be the same person with both Holy Spirit and Angel of the Lord in OT .

One of the most compelling evidence of Muhammad's view on seeing Gabriel as some sort of deity yet with lesser divine status than Allah can be clearly noticed in

Surah 19:64,[Gabriel said], "And we [angels] descend not except by the order of your Lord. To Him belongs that before us and that behind us and what is in between. And never is your Lord forgetful [Sahih International]

Without any exception all Islamic translations and tafseers(interpretations) unanimously agree the one who speaks here absolutely not Allah but is Gabriel all based on the authentic narration about the story behind this verse which is about Muhammad's conversation with angel Gabriel. But awkwardly despite the audacious proclamation for Quran being the 100% direct verbatim speech of Allah yet it doesn't bother even one muslim to raise any question when factually Surah 19:64 literally contains absolutely no speech of Allah at all.

The only answer for this deliberate permissiveness is none other because in the earliest original teaching of Muhammad, he himself did believe Gabriel to be both the Holy spirit and the OT Angel of the Lord whom also being deified by Muhammad as the second God or lesser God than Allah. And probably as Muhammad's heretical thinking developed and became more leaning toward extreme concept of Monad-god then this belief on Gabriel/Holy Spirit as lesser God faded but not entirely rejected nor erased by Muhammad since we can see the evidence such as in Surah 19:64.

Jonathan McLatchie said...

@Unknown, I have looked it up, but I am not sure why you think that helps your case. Please elaborate. Thanks.


Erhunse said...

One huge contradictions about the quran, lies in the fact that if the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of allah, that which created human beings, worked miralces etc.

muslims then further contradict themselves claiming it to be angel gabriel or mohammed the paraklatus

How is it, that when Angel gabriel took mohammed to paradise, there was a certain level angel gabriel ( whom is contradictory called the Holy Spirit) was restricted to enter ???

Contradictions upon quran contradictions

Truthseeker said...

I started to read the Koran and was taken aback at how much of it seems to plagiarize the Masoractic text. Nevertheless, it does so in a very loose fashion and then rambled on in tangents. It's like this man, Mohammed took a copy of the text, took some mind-altering substance and started writing his own take on it. Seriously feel that way, whether you think I'm disrespectful or not.