The Christians claim that they worship a monotheist God while many Muslims say that the Christians worship three gods, the Father, the Son and Mary. Two verses in the Quran however say that Muslims and Christians worship the same God (e.g. Surah al-Ankabut 29:46 and al-Shura 42:15). In other verses, the Quran refutes the Christians from worshiping three gods (e.g. al-Nisa 4:171). How can we explain these contradictions?
1. Quran verses saying that the Christians and the Muslims worship the same One God?
وَلَا تُجَادِلُوا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ وَقُولُوا آمَنَّا بِالَّذِي أُنزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَأُنزِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ وَإِلَهُنَا وَإِلَهُكُمْ وَاحِدٌ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ – And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).” (al-Ankabut 29:46)
فَلِذَلِكَ فَادْعُ وَاسْتَقِمْ كَمَا أُمِرْتَ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءهُمْ وَقُلْ آمَنتُ بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ مِن كِتَابٍ وَأُمِرْتُ لِأَعْدِلَ بَيْنَكُمُ اللَّهُ رَبُّنَا وَرَبُّكُمْ لَنَا أَعْمَالُنَا وَلَكُمْ أَعْمَالُكُمْ لَا حُجَّةَ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمُ اللَّهُ يَجْمَعُ بَيْنَنَا وَإِلَيْهِ الْمَصِيرُ– Now then, for that (reason), call (them to the Faith), and stand steadfast as thou art commanded, nor follow thou their vain desires; but say: “I believe in the Book which Allah has sent down; and I am commanded to judge justly between you. Allah is our Lord and your Lord: for us (is the responsibility for) our deeds, and for you for your deeds. There is no contention between us and you. Allah will bring us together, and to Him is (our) Final Goal. (al-Shura 42:15)
2. The Quranic interpretations on “ تَقُولُواْ ثَلاَثَة ” is either “Say not three” or “Say not Trinity?” or “say not three (Trinity).” Which one is correct?
يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لاَ تَغْلُواْ فِي دِينِكُمْ وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ عَلَى اللّهِ إِلاَّ الْحَقِّ إِنَّمَا الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ اللّهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُ أَلْقَاهَا إِلَى مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِّنْهُ فَآمِنُواْ بِاللّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ ثَلاَثَةٌ انتَهُواْ خَيْرًا لَّكُمْ إِنَّمَا اللّهُ إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ سُبْحَانَهُ أَن يَكُونَ لَهُ وَلَدٌ لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَات وَمَا فِي الأَرْضِ وَكَفَى بِاللّهِ وَكِيلاً – O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His apostles. Say not “Trinity“: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah. Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. (Al-Nisa 4:171) (Translation by Yusuf Ali: http://www.mysticletters.com/quran-viewer/arabic-yusuf-ali/)
O followers of the Book! do not exceed the limits in your religion, and do not speak (lies) against Allah, but (speak) the truth; the Messiah, Isa son of Marium is only a messenger of Allah and His Word which He communicated to Marium and a spirit from Him; believe therefore in Allah and His messengers, and say not, Three. Desist, it is better for you; Allah is only one Allah; far be It from His glory that He should have a son, whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His, and Allah is sufficient for a Protector. (Al-Nisa 4:171) (Translation Muhammad Habib Shakir: http://www.searchtruth.com/chapter_display.php?chapter=4&translator=3&mac=)
O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto 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 Allah. Far is it removed from His Transcendent Majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender. (Al-Nisa 4:171) (Translation Muhammad Pickthal:http://www.searchtruth.com/chapter_display.php?chapter=4&translator=4&mac=)
O people of the Scripture (Christians)! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, nor say of Allah aught but the truth. The Messiah ‘Îsa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, (“Be!” – and he was) which He bestowed on Maryam (Mary) and a spirit (Ruh ) created by Him; so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not: “Three (trinity)!” Cease! (it is) better for you. For Allah is (the only) One Ilah (God),glory be to Him (Far Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is All-Sufficient as a Disposer of affairs. (Translation Mohsin Khan: http://www.searchtruth.com/chapter_display.php?chapter=4&translator=5&mac=)
O People of the Book, exceed not the limits in your religion nor speak anything about Allah, but the truth. The Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, is only a messenger of Allah and His word which He communicated to Mary and a mercy from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And say not, Three. Desist, it is better for you. Allah is only one God. Far be it from His glory to have a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. And sufficient is Allah as having charge of affairs. (Maulana Muhammad Ali, The Holy Quran with English Translation and Commentary (Ohio:Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at Lahore Inc., 2002), page 242.
Yusuf Ali and Mohsin Khan translations use ‘Trinity’ while Muhammad Habib Shakir, Maulana Muhammad Ali and Mohsin Khan use ‘Three.’ In Arabic, “ثلثة” is “three” and “ثالوث” is “Trinity.” Maulana Muhammad Ali commentary says that Quran does not rebuke Christians for ‘The Trinity’ but for ‘three gods’ (). If we accept his comment, both the Quran and the Bible do have one important common ground, and that is, both say no to the worship of three gods.
Questions for discussion:
1. What are the possible reasons for the variations in the interpretation of the word ‘three’ and ‘Trinity.’?
2. How have the historical contacts between the Muslims and Christians influence the translation of the sacred Books and religious literature? How can a faith adherent gauge if a scholarly work truly represents the essence of a faith and not a product of historical evolution or political agenda?
3. What are the ways to gauge that the core doctrines and values of a faith that are taught or preached are insulated from the continuously changing environment or human errors? Can faith evolves?