Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Revisiting the Quran’s gross errors concerning Christian theology

Sam Shamoun

In some of our previous articles and rebuttals (1, 2, 3, 4), we examined the Quran’s assertion that Christians are infidels for believing that Allah is the Messiah Jesus, the son of Mary (cf. Q. 5:17, 72). We argued that the statement that Allah, or God, is Jesus is an incorrect formulation since it suggests that Christians actually believe that Christ is the only Person of God, that Jesus is all there is to God. We argued that the proper way to formulate the actual Christian position is to say that Jesus is God, since this affirms that Christ possesses God’s essence fully and perfectly without implying that he is the only Divine Person that does so.

In this particular article we are going to provide some additional evidence to prove that the Quran’s statements concerning what Christians believe about Jesus is grossly mistaken.

Here are the specific verses in question along with their immediate contexts:

They indeed have disbelieved who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. Say: Who then can do aught 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 and all that is between them. He createth what He will. And Allah is Able to do all things. The Jews and Christians say: We are sons of Allah and His loved ones. Say: Why then doth He chastise you for your sins? Nay, ye are but mortals of His creating. He forgiveth whom He will, and chastiseth whom He will. Allah's is the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, and unto Him is the journeying. S. 5:17-18

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. 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. The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away! Will they not rather turn unto Allah and seek forgiveness of Him? For Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Say: Serve ye in place of Allah (min dooni Allahi) that which possesseth for you neither hurt nor use? Allah it is Who is the Hearer, the Knower. S. 5:72-76

In the first place, Q. 5:72 seems to contradict Q. 5:76. The passage first says that Allah IS the Messiah (v.72) but then it claims that Christians are serving the Messiah INSTEAD OF (or in addition to) Allah. In either case it means they are not one and the same. So what does the Quran actually want to say concerning the beliefs of Christians? Are these two charges not contradictory?

Second, a careful analysis of these texts suggests that the Quran is accusing Christians of making Jesus identical to the God who sent him, to the One whom Jesus served as his Lord. The immediate contexts also show that Allah is supposed to be the God whom Jews and Christians claim is their Father (albeit in a purely spiritual sense), and the one who could destroy Jesus and Mary if he so wished. Allah is further said to be the one whom the disbelievers claimed is the third of three, e.g. the third of three gods, with the other two gods being Jesus and his blessed mother.

That the Quran is insinuating that Christians worship or serve three gods consisting of Allah, Jesus, and Mary can be easily proven by simply reading the immediate context which refers to Jesus and Mary eating. This point of Mary and her son needing to eat food is supposed to be evidence against either one of them being a god since God doesn’t eat.1

This can be further established from the following verses which appear in the same surah or chapter:

And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for TWO GODS beside Allah (ilahayni min dooni Allahi)? he saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then Thou knewest it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy Mind. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Knower of Things Hidden? I spake unto them only that which Thou commandedst me, (saying): Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. I was a witness of them while I dwelt among them, and when Thou tookest me Thou wast the Watcher over them. Thou art Witness over all things. If Thou punish them, lo! they are Thy slaves, and if Thou forgive them (lo! they are Thy slaves). Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Mighty, the Wise. S. 5:116-118

Compare how these next versions translate the relevant parts of the text:

“Did you say unto men: 'Worship me and my mother as two gods besides Allah?' Hilali-Khan

“Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of God'? Y. Ali

‘didst thou say unto men, "Take me and my mother as gods, apart from God"? Arberry

The Arabic words min dooni can mean “instead of” or “to the “exclusion of,” as in the following passages:

Say: If the future abode with Allah is specially for you to the exclusion of (min dooni) all other people, then wish for death if you are truthful. S. 2:94 Shakir

And surely I will lead them astray, and surely I will arouse desires in them, and surely I will command them and they will cut the cattle' ears, and surely I will command them and they will change Allah's creation. Whoso chooseth Satan for a patron instead of Allah (min dooni Allahi) is verily a loser and his loss is manifest. S. 4:119

Or it can mean “in addition to,” as in these next references:

Knowest thou not that it is Allah unto Whom belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth; and ye have not, beside Allah (min dooni Allahi), any guardian or helper? S. 2:107

And there are some among men who take for themselves objects of worship besides Allah (min dooni Allahi), whom they love as they love Allah, and those who believe are stronger in love for Allah and O, that those who are unjust had seen, when they see the chastisement, that the power is wholly Allah's and that Allah is severe in requiting (evil). S. 2:165 Shakir

These passages imply that Q. 5:116 may be insinuating that Christians are guilty of taking Jesus and Mary as two gods to the exclusion of the one God of all, e.g. Christians supposedly worship(ed) Jesus and Mary as opposed to Allah, or in addition to the true God. However, in light of the reference to Allah being the third of three, it seems reasonably certain that the Quran is accusing Christians of worshiping Jesus and Mary in addition to Allah.

Yet however one chooses to interpret the words min dooni the Quran would still be mistaken regardless. After all, true Christians have never taken Jesus and Mary as two gods in opposition to the one true God. Nor do they view them as two additional gods, e.g., no informed Bible-believing Christian believes that Jesus and Mary are two gods in addition to the supreme God of all.

Moreover, the historic Christian faith as articulated in the teachings of the inspired Scriptures and hammered out within the classical creeds of the Church, e.g. the Nicene Creed etc., has never viewed or upheld Jesus as another god. That is the belief of heretics and cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons etc. Rather, orthodox Christianity affirms that Jesus is Christ is an eternal Person – specifically the second Divine Person – of the one true Godhead.

As such, Christians do not believe that God is three or the third of three, just as the following scholars admit:

“To take a simple example, it is commonly said that the Koran rejects the Christian concept of the Trinity. Inasmuch as the Trinity is understood as negating tawhid, this is true. But not all Christians think that the Trinity negates tawhid. Quite the contrary, most formulations of the Trinitarian doctrine are careful to preserve God’s unity. If ‘threeness’ takes precedence over oneness, then the Koranic criticisms apply. But among Christians, the exact nature between the three and the one is a point of recurring debate. One of the actual Koranic verses that are taken as negating the Trinity says, ‘Those who say, “God is the third of three” have become truth-concealers’ (5:73). Even an elementary knowledge of any Christian catechism tells us that God is not ‘the third of three.’ Rather, God is one and three at the same time. Inasmuch as he is three, he presents himself to his creatures as three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

“Another Koranic verse says something similar, but now we have this first verse to help us understand what is being criticized… (4:171)

“Notice that this passage gives Jesus an extremely exalted position and recognizes that he has qualities possessed by no other prophet. However, it stresses once again that there is but a single God. If faith in Jesus leads to the affirmation of three gods, then the Koran rejects that. But again, the actual Christian position is highly subtle, and few if any Christians would hold that they have faith in other than a single God.” (Sachiko Murata & William C. Chittick, The Vision of Islam [Paragon House Publishers, paperback 1995], The Vision of Islam, Part II: Iman, Chapter 4. Islam and Other religions, p. 170; bold emphasis ours)

Ironically, one of the leading North American Muslim scholars admitted in his lectures on Murata’s and Chittick’s book that Christians absolutely deny that God is three:

“And there are Muslims that think that the Christians, because they believe in the Trinity, that they believe in another God! … Because Christians believe God is one, they don’t believe God is three. They really don’t! They do not believe that God is three; they believe he is one, but he’s tripartite in this mystical, mysterious way. And they’ll never explain it! So they believe in one God. They’re not idolators like that, they believe in one God. (Hamza Yusuf, Vision of Islam, CD Number 5)

It is truly amazing that this scholar doesn’t see how his own position concerning the belief of Christians undermines what his own scripture says concerning the essential Christian doctrine of God. His knowledge of Christian teaching is vastly superior to what even the author of the Quran knew, even though he is supposed to be God!

Returning to the issue at hand, the Quran’s formulation concerning Christians supposedly saying that Allah is Christ implies that Christians actually believe that Jesus is identical to God the Father!

This conclusion flows from the following Quranic statements:

  1. Allah is Jesus’ Lord and the one who sent him (Q. 5:17, 72).
  2. Allah is the one whom Christians claim is the third of three gods, with the other two gods being Jesus and Mary (Q. 5:73-75, 116).
  3. Allah is the one who could actually destroy both Jesus and Mary if he so wished (Q. 5:17).
  4. Allah is also the one whom Jews and Christians claim is their spiritual Father (Q. 5:18).

Now according to the inspired Christian Greek Scriptures Jesus was sent by God the Father, and it is the Father whom Christ served and called his God:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:16-18

“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:37-40

“And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form,” John 5:37

“But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” John 8:16-18

"Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.'” John 8:42

“Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’” John 20:17

“For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, Romans 8:3

The NT writings also testify that true Christians are the children of God the Father, not of Jesus Christ the Lord:

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:14-17

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” Galatians 4:4-7

Therefore, by claiming that Christians supposedly confess that Allah is Jesus the Quran is essentially arguing that Christians believe that Jesus is identical to God the Father. However, this is nothing more than a gross misrepresentation and distortion of the historic Christian position, as anyone with even an elementary knowledge of the Holy Bible and church history can attest.

Now a Muslim may try to get ingenious and argue that the Quran is actually condemning Sabellianism, which was a 2nd – 3rd century heresy that taught that Jesus is the Father. The problem with this assertion is that, besides the fact that the Church had already condemned this view long before Muhammad was born, there is no evidence that this belief continued to flourish during the time when Muhammad began passing himself off as God’s prophet. Therefore, the burden of proof rests upon any Muslim who would argue to the contrary.

Besides, even if a Muslim were able to prove that the Quran is actually condemning Sabellianism this only further confirms that the Islamic scripture is not addressing the historic Christian view of the Lord Jesus Christ. The historic Christian faith has never taught that Jesus is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit or that Christ is the human nature of the Father.

If the author of the Quran is clearly wrong in its statements about Christian doctrine, what does that imply about its claim to be the word of God?

In conclusion, it seems obvious from our examination of the Quran's statements concerning Christian beliefs that Muhammad thought that to say that Christ is God meant that he is either the same God who sent him or that he is a separate deity. Muhammad never fathomed that Jesus could be God without having to be identical in Person to the God he served or a completely different and distinct god altogether. Muhammad failed to realize that God's Being is so majestic and immense that God could actually be multi-Personal in nature without implying that these distinct Persons of the Godhead were (are) different and separate gods. Muhammad seemed to have assumed that believing that the Godhead encompassed more than one divine Person basically meant that Christians were actually worshiping multiple divinities.

This is where he was grossly mistaken, thereby establishing that he was not a true prophet sent by the one true God of all creation.



1 The Quran’s point (by implication) seems to be: Whoever eats must also defecate, and certainly God doesn’t go to the toilet. Thus, anyone who eats cannot be God since otherwise he would make himself unclean.

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