Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

An Analysis of the Bassam Zawadi versus Thabiti Anyabwile Dialogue pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We continue our analysis of Zawadi’s debate points.

The use of the singular pronouns – Evidence of Islamic Unitarianism?

Zawadi went on to make the following assertions in his opening statement,

Now the Christian at this point would say to oneself that he or she agrees with all of the points that I just stated. So where is the point of disagreement between the two faiths? The point of disagreement is this, Islam insists [sic] that Allah is only one person and can only be one person…

Islam states that Allah is one person. The prophet Muhammad is reported to have said in an authentic narration attributed to him,

“There is no person (singular pronoun) more jealous than Allah, and there is no person (singular pronoun again) more fond of accepting an excuse than Allah on account of which he has sent messengers, announcers of glad tidings, and warners, and no person (singular again) is more fond of praise than Allah on account of which Allah has promised paradise.”

The following narration makes this point clearer. It comes in a very long narration discussing the afterlife. After the prophet Muhammad tells his companion that Allah will gather all the Muslims and they will look at him on the day of judgement, the companion says,

“O Messenger of Allah! How will that happen when he” – “he” referring to Allah – “is only one person while we fill the earth?”

Notice that the companion of the prophet said that Allah is one person; and when you continue reading the narration you would see that the prophet didn’t object to that statement, which implies his approval of it.

Furthermore, one just by reading the Quran alone can see that it is obvious [sic] that Allah is only one person. The Quran says in surah 112, ayah 1 – ayah is the equivalent of verse, and surah is the equivalent of chapter – “Say, He (singular pronoun) is the one and only.”

Allah is constantly [sic] referred to himself in the singular pronouns throughout the Quran. You won’t refer to someone in the singular pronoun constantly [sic] unless that someone is a single person [sic].

After mentioning that the Holy Bible, God’s true Word, uses the singular pronoun over 20,000 times, Zawadi admits that there are cases where the plural is used such as in Genesis 1:26, and says that this phenomenon also occurs in the Quran “sometimes”! He then says that,

However, Jews have traditionally understood that this is referring to the plural of majesty, not quantity [sic].

Zawadi’s inconsistent apologetic methodology

Zawadi further claimed that the Biblical passages that use the plural for God are fewer than those that employ the singular. He then claims that a rule of Biblical hermeneutics is to interpret these few examples in light of the majority.

The problem here is that Zawadi is badly misrepresenting the Christian position concerning the method of Biblical exegesis. One doesn’t simply interpret a small set of passages in light of the majority of Biblical verses. The proper method is to first interpret such verses in their immediate, respective contexts in order to understand what these passages mean. Only after this is done should a person proceed to examine how these citations relate and fit in with the rest of the inspired Scriptures.

Moreover, this is truly an ironic statement coming from Zawadi seeing that his assertion presupposes the internal consistency of the Holy Bible, i.e. the individual books of the Holy Scriptures do not contradict or conflict but actually explain and clarify one another. The reason I say this is ironic is because in many of his own writings and articles which he links to Zawadi and the authors which he endorses go out of their way to invest much time and effort attempting to prove that the Holy Bible has contradictions and that the teachings of the various Biblical writers are inconsistent with one another (*; *). And yet here he is seeking to undermine the use of the plural for God on the basis of the Bible’s consistent and repeated usage of the singular!

This shows that Zawadi is willing to adopt an inconsistent polemic against Christianity. When it is convenient to refute Christianity he will single out alleged Bible discrepancies, and yet he will abandon this approach and appeal to the consistency of the Holy Bible to refute specific Christian beliefs such as the Trinity.

Does the use of the singular conflict with the view of God being multi-personal?

With that said, the reason why the Biblical writers, and even Trinitarians, use singular nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, participles etc. when speaking of God is to denote the fact that Yahweh is a singular Being, not that he is a singular Person. This also applies to the Quran and ahadith, i.e. just because Muhammad and his followers used singular pronouns to refer to their deity doesn’t mean that they believed that Allah is only one person. It only shows that they believed that Allah was a singular Being, without this precluding him from existing as a plurality of some kind. After all, even Zawadi agrees that Muhammad and his followers believed that Allah has a host of names and attributes.

Moreover, the Bible writers themselves use the singular in contexts where they have more than one Divine Person in view:

“And he blessed Joseph and said, ‘The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, THE ANGEL who has redeemed me from all evil, BLESS the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.’” Genesis 48:15-16

The verb for bless that Jacob used here is singular even though he is praying to two subjects, specifically God and the Angel!

The Apostles of the risen Lord Jesus do something similar:

“Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear (kateuthunai) the way for us to come to you.” 1 Thessalonians 3:11

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved (ho agapesas) us and by HIS grace gave (dous) us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage (parakalesai) your hearts and strengthen (sterixai) you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Although Paul refers to both the Father and the Son as loving, gracing, encouraging etc., he uses singular verbs all throughout here which is simply his way of describing their actions as essentially being one. And:

“There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 22:5

Compare this with the following:

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty AND THE LAMB are its TEMPLE. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb IS ITS LAMP. The nations will walk by ITS LIGHT, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.” Revelation 21:22-24

John shows here that both the Father and the Son are the one Temple and glorious Light of the new creation. Thus, the Lord God who gives light to the new heavens and earth is actually the Father and the Son together!

John further writes:

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the THRONE of God AND OF the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The THRONE of God AND OF the Lamb will be in the city, and HIS servants will serve HIM. They will see HIS face, and HIS name will be on their foreheads." Revelation 22:1-4

John states that believers will see “HIS” face, have “HIS” name on their foreheads, and will serve “HIM.” Yet John says elsewhere that the faithful will receive the name of both the Father and the Son,

“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze… By her teaching she misleads MY servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” Revelation 2:18, 20b

“Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him MY new name.” Revelation 3:12

“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had HIS name and HIS FATHER'S name written on their foreheads… These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God AND the Lamb.” Revelation 14:1, 4

John also writes that both the Father and the Son have priests and servants who serve them:

"I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be PRIESTS of God AND OF Christ and will reign with HIM for a thousand years." Revelation 20:4-6

"The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent HIS angel to show HIS servants the things that must soon take place.’ …" Revelation 22:6, 16

Finally, John claims that the river of the water of life flows from the one throne that is shared by both God and the Lamb, which is a symbolic way of saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son to sustain the new creation. That the river of the water of life denotes the Holy Spirit is easily demonstrated by consulting John’s Gospel:

“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” John 7:37-39

Here, then, is a depiction of the Triune God together as they manifest their glory in the new heavens and earth!

The evidence for a plural Creator and Maker – Reexamining the context of Genesis 1:26

As we noted earlier, a sound rule of Biblical interpretation is to exegete a verse within its immediate context in order to arrive at a correct understanding and application of a specific text. It becomes clear that by employing this method of exegesis to the use of the plural in Genesis 1:26 that God was actually addressing another Divine Person who assisted him in creating man:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God (we-ruha elohim) was moving over the face of the waters… Then God said, ‘Let US make (na'aseh) man in OUR image, after OUR likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:1-2, 26-27

According to the immediate context the Spirit of God was present at creation, and therefore shows that he was the One whom God was speaking with in creating mankind. The very next chapter provides further corroboration that the Spirit was involved in making man:

“Then Yahweh God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (neshamat chayyim); and man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7

This text helps us understand how the Spirit assisted God in creating the first human, namely, God sent forth his Spirit to animate the body of Adam.

In fact, the following verse helps us to see the connection between Yahweh’s Spirit and his Breath in Genesis 1:26 and 2:7 more clearly,

The Spirit of God has made me (ruha-’el ‘āśātənî), and the Breath (neshamat) of the Almighty gives me life.” Job 33:4

Here, the author equates God’s Spirit with his Breath, e.g. the Spirit is the Breath of God, and is therefore simply two ways of speaking of the same Divine entity through whom God gives life to his creatures.

This brings out the point of Genesis 2:7 clearly. It shows that the inspired writer of Genesis (i.e., Moses) was using a metaphor to describe Yahweh’s act of sending forth his Spirit to animate the body of the first man and to give him a rational spirit or soul of his own. After all, Yahweh is not a physical being and therefore doesn’t physically breathe.

There is a further echo of the Genesis creation story in Job,

By his Spirit (ruho) the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.” Job 26:13

The Psalms also attribute the work of creation to the Spirit of God:

“When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath/spirit (ruham), they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit (ruhaka), they are created (yibare'un); and you renew the face of the ground.” Psalm 104:29-30

These verses are obviously allusions to what the Genesis account of creation says concerning Yahweh creating by his Spirit.

What the evidence furnished by all of these Biblical books establishes is that Yahweh was indeed speaking to the Spirit who was present at creation, inviting the Holy Spirit to assist him in creating man in their own image and likeness.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise since Yahweh often involved his Spirit in carrying out his purpose and/or in accomplishing a specific task, such as the construction of the tabernacle or tent of meeting along with all of its related items:

“See, I have called by name Bez'alel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with the Spirit of God (ruha elohim), with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oho'liab, the son of Ahis'amach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is thereon, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base, and the finely worked garments, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the holy place. According to all that I have commanded you they shall do.” Exodus 31:1-11

“And Moses said to the people of Israel, ‘See, Yahweh has called by name Bez'alel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God (ruha elohim), with ability, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft.’” Exodus 35:30-33

This also explains why the Bible writers could speak of God as a plural Creator and Maker since they knew that God created by his Spirit:

“But none says, ‘Where is God my Makers (‘osaay), who gives songs in the night,’” Job 35:10

The word ‘osaay is the plural participle of asa’ (i.e., to make, fashion, produce, work etc.). And:

"Remember also thy Creators (bōrə’eykā) in days of thy youth, While that the evil days come not, Nor the years have arrived, that thou sayest, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” Ecclesiastes 12:1 Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

Here the author employs the plural of bara (e.g., to create, fashion, form, shape etc.). Finally:

For your Husbands are your Makers (bō‘ălayikə ‘ōśayikə) — Yahweh of hosts is his name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the Gods of all the earth (Elōhêy kāl-hā’ārets).” Isaiah 54:5

The prophet Isaiah uses the plural for ba’al (to marry, rule over, own, possess etc.) and asah.

These examples demonstrate that the inspired writers of the Hebrew Scriptures were aware that the God who created all things is a multi-personal Being. Therefore, they were not Unitarians who believed that their God was a uni-personal monad. Nor was(were) the author(s) of the Quran!

This leads us to our next section.

The Plural of Majesty
and the problems this poses for the unity of Allah.

The other problem which Zawadi faces is that there is no evidence whatsoever to support that the use of plural pronouns in either the Hebrew Bible and Quran are cases of the plural of majesty (*; *). Zawadi cannot produce any evidence that such a linguistic feature was known or in use during the OT period or that this is how the author of the Quran intended to use the plural. As one late Christian scholar and evangelist to the Muslims St. Clair W. Tisdall wrote in the following argument which he put in dialogue form between a Muslim (M) and a Christian (C):

139. M. There is nothing in the Qur'an to support the doctrine of the Trinity.

C. We accept it on the authority of the Bible alone. Yet there are two facts in the Qur'an which cannot be properly explained or understood except by accepting the doctrine. The first is, that God is spoken of as One, He is called God (الله Allah), Lord (الرب Ar Rabb) in the singular, and addressed as Thou. The other is, that He is represented as speaking of Himself in the plural as We, Us. Examples are found in almost every Surah: for example, in Surah XCVI., Al 'Alaq, supposed to be the first Surah revealed to Muhammad, God is called “the Lord" (v. 8), and "God" (v. 13) in the singular, and yet in v. 17, He says, “We too will summon the guards of hell,” using the plural. Does not this imply the existence of some kind of plurality, other than that of attributes, in the Divine Unity?

140. M. Certainly not. The "We" is used, as kings use the word, to imply majesty.

C. On what authority do you say this so positively? If the Qur'an is from God, nothing in it can be unmeaning. Whatever God says is true: and this expression, so often repeated in the Qur'an, may contain deep teaching. We observe that, in the use of the plural, the Qur'an agrees with the Bible, since we find, for instance, in Gen. i. 26; iii. 22; xi. 7, the very same expression used. Those parts of the Bible which teach the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity may possibly explain the reason of this, as far as the Bible is concerned. If the Qur'an was revealed to confirm the Torah and the Injil, perhaps this is one of the points in which it does so.

141. M. The Jews explain these passages by saying that God was addressing the angels.

C. That is because the Jews reject the Gospel, which the Qur'an “confirms.” But whether their explanation be right or wrong, will it explain the use of the plural in the Qur'an?

142. M. No, it will not: but the doctrine of the Trinity is contrary to the Qur'an. (Tisdall, A Manual of the Leading Muhammadan Objections to Christianity [Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, 1904], Chapter V, "Objections Against Certain Leading Christian Doctrines (continued)", pp. 153-154)

And even if these were cases of the royal plural it is obvious that Zawadi hasn’t taken the time to reflect on the significance that such usage has on his Unitarian beliefs. If he had bothered to take the time to do some research concerning this linguistic feature then he would have seen that the royal plural doesn’t help his case at all. He would have discovered that the plural of majesty would mean that Allah was actually addressing his royal court or his heavenly council.

Notice, for example, what the online encyclopedia Wikipedia writes in regards to the purpose and function of the royal plural:

Pluralis majestatis ("majestic plural") is the plural pronoun where it is used to refer to one person alone. This is also known as the "royal we" or the "Victorian we" because it has usually been restricted to august personages such as monarchs, bishops, Popes, and university rectors. The reason behind the pluralis majestatis is the idea that a monarch or other high official ALWAYS SPEAKS FOR HIS OR HER PEOPLE.

Examples of purported instances:

We are not amused. Queen Victoria (in at least one account of this quotation, though, she was not speaking for herself alone, BUT FOR THE LADIES OF THE COURT.)

We are a grandmother. Margaret Thatcher announcing the birth of Mark Thatcher’s son Michael in 1990.

It is to be distinguished from pluralis modestiae, also pluralis auctoris (inclusion of readers or listeners). For instance:

Let's calculate! Leibniz
We are thus led also to a definition of "time" in physics. Albert Einstein

It was said that United States Navy Admiral Hyman G. Rickover told a subordinate that used the royal we: "Three groups are permitted that usage: pregnant women, royalty, and schizophrenics. Which one are you?"

There is no such thing as the "Papal we". The pope may use the "Royal we". (*; capital and underline emphasis ours)

And here is what this same source says concerning the use of "we":

The royal we (Pluralis Majestatis) is the first-person plural pronoun when used by an important personage to refer to himself or herself. Its best known usage is by a monarch such as a king, queen, or pope. It is also used in certain formal contexts by bishops and university rectors.

In the public situations in which it is used, the monarch or other dignitary is typically speaking, NOT IN HIS OWN PROPER PERSON, BUT AS LEADER OF A NATION OR INSTITUTION. Nevertheless, the habit of referring to leaders in the plural has influenced the grammar of several languages, in which plural forms tend to be perceived as deferential and more polite than singular forms. This grammatical feature is called a T-V distinction.

Popes used the we as part of their formal speech up until recent times. John Paul I was the first to dispense with this practice, instead using the singular I. John Paul II continued to use the singular.

The editorial we is a similar phenomenon, in which editorial columnists in newspapers and similar commentators in other media refer to themselves as we when giving their opinions. Here, the writer has once more cast himself or herself in the role of spokesman: either FOR THE MEDIA INSTITUTION who employs him, or more generally ON BEHALF OF THE PARTY OR BODY OF CITIZENS who agree with the commentary. (*; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Thus, by appealing to the royal plural in order to account for the Quran’s use of plural pronouns Zawadi has only proven that Allah is speaking on behalf of other divine or heavenly beings.

Interestingly, there are Muslim sources which readily admit this fact. For instance, this Islamic website actually thinks it is refuting Trinitarians when it makes the following assertion:

Some Christians – because of their ignorance – think that the plural pronoun which is used to show respect in verses such as "Verily, We have given you (O Muhammad) a manifest victory" [al-Fath 48:1] and "Verily, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’aan…" [Yoosuf 12:2] is proof of their false belief in trinity.

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said:

The view of the salaf (early generations) of this ummah and of its imams and later generations is that the Prophet heard the Qur’aan from Jibreel, and Jibreel heard it from Allaah. The use of plural forms in such phrases is the style of Arabic speech used to refer to one who is of high standing AND HAS HELPERS WHO OBEY HIM. So if his helpers do something by his command, he says, "we did it". This is like when a king says, "We conquered this land, we defeated this army" and so on. Because he did that through the actions of his helpers. Allaah is the Lord of the angels and they speak not until He has spoken, and they act in accordance with His commands; they do not disobey the commands of Allaah, rather they do what He commands. Moreover He is their Creator and the creator of their deeds and their power. But He has no need of them; He is not like a king whose helpers do things by their own strength. So what He says when He does something through His angels is, "We did it", this is more appropriate and He is more entitled to say it than some king.

This plural form is ambiguous and the Christians try to use it as evidence against the Prophet, when they find such phrases in the Qur’aan as "Verily, We have given you (O Muhammad) a manifest victory" [al-Fath 48:1], etc. But Allaah condemned them for ignoring the clear verses in the Qur’aan which state that God is One, but they cling to the ambiguous verses which may be interpreted as referring to one who has a peer with him, or to one who has helpers who are his slaves and creation. They follow the ambiguous verses, seeking to stir up confusion in this manner. This is confusion in the heart, by thinking that there are many gods, and seeking to twist the meaning. No one knows the true interpretation except Allaah and those who are well versed in knowledge. (Question No. 12713, Is the trinity that the Christians believe in mentioned in Islam?; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Hence, in seeking to refute Christians this Islamic reference actually ends up proving that the plural does indeed refer to more than one entity, i.e. the use of the plural in reference to deity found throughout the Quran refers to a group working together collectively!

What makes this particular article all the more interesting is that it acknowledges that there are so-called ambiguous Quranic verses which can be understood and even interpreted to mean that Allah does indeed have peers and helpers!

The Muslim response doesn’t deny that there are verses which intimate a plurality within the Godhead, but simply try to explain them away as nothing more than ambiguous and vague texts! This is a rather damaging admission to Zawadi’s argument.

Another Muslim reference makes the same point:

These words, innaa (“Verily We”) and nahnu (“We”), and other forms of the plural, may be used by one person speaking on behalf of a group, or they may be used by one person for the purposes of respect or glorification, as is done by monarchs when they issue statements or decrees in which they say “We have decided” etc. ... If an aayah of this type is causing confusion, it is essential to refer to the clear, unambiguous aayaat for clarification[sic], and if a Christian, for example, insists on taking ayaat such as ... [al-Hijr 15:9 - interpretation of the meaning] as proof of divine plurality, we may refute this claim by quoting such clear and unambiguous aayaat as ... [al-Baqarah 2:163] ... and other aayaat which can only be interpreted in one way... Every time Allah uses the plural to refer to Himself, it is based on the respect and honour He deserves, and on the great number of His names and attributes, and on the great number of His troops and angels. (Yahya Adel Ibrahim, The Meaning of the Pronoun “We” As used in The Qur’aan; underline emphasis ours)

We also have data to show that this is how some of the Arab speakers of Muhammad’s time understood the use of the plural in the Quran. Muslim biographer Ibn Ishaq recorded an encounter that allegedly took place between Arabic speaking Christians and Muhammad where the former appealed to the Quran’s use of plurals as proof for Allah being a plurality:

The names of the fourteen principal men among the sixty riders were: ‘Abdu’l-Masih the ‘Aqib, al-Ayham the Sayyid; Abu Haritha b. ‘Alqama brother of B. Bakr b. Wa’il; Aus; al-Harith; Zayd; Qays; Yazid; Nubayh; Khuwaylid; ‘Amr; Khalid; ‘Amr; Khalid; ‘Abdullah; Johannes; of these the first three named above spoke to the apostle. They were Christians according to the Byzantine rite, though they differed among themselves in some points, saying He is God; and He is the son of God; and He is the third person of the Trinity, which is the doctrine of Christianity. They argue that he is God because he used to raise the dead, and heal the sick, and declare the unseen; and make clay birds and then breathe into them, so that they flew away; and all this was by the command of God Almighty, ‘We will make him a sign to men.’ They argue that he is son of God in that they say he had no known father; and he spoke in the cradle and this is something that no child of Adam has ever done. They argue that he is the third of three in that God says: We have done, We have commanded, We have created and We have decreed, and they say, If He were one he would have said I have done, I have created, and so on, but He is He and Jesus and Mary. Concerning all these assertions the Quran came down. (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth impression 1995], pp. 271-272; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Ignoring for a moment the blatant distortion of Christian beliefs, in an obvious attempt of justifying the Quran’s errors regarding essential Christian doctrines (*; *; *; *; *), it is interesting that neither the Christians nor the Muslim chronicler understood these plural pronouns as examples of the plural of majesty as defined by Zawadi. The Christians viewed such plurals as evidence for an actual numerical plurality within Allah, arguing that these verses demonstrated that the Islamic scripture acknowledges that there are multiple divine persons.

This is strong evidence that even native speakers of the language at the time of Muhammad did not know of a “royal we” where the plural refers to only one person.

More on this point in part three.