A. PREFATORY REMARKS
I propose through this article and the ones which will follow to show that the doctrine of Islam concerning the Deity and the last great messenger of Allah is perfectly true and conforms to the teachings of the Bible.
I shall devote the present article to discussing the first point, and in a few other papers I shall attempt to show that Prophet Muhammad is the real object of the Covenant and in him, and him alone, are actually and literally fulfilled all the prophecies in the Old Testament.
I wish to make it quite clear that the views set out in this article and those which will follow it are quite personal, and that I am alone responsible for my personal and un-borrowed researches in the Hebrew Sacred Scriptures. I do not, however, assume an authoritative attitude in expounding the teachings of Islam, meaning submission to God.
I have not the slightest intention nor desire to hurt the religious feelings of Christian friends. I love Christ, Moses and Abraham, as I do Prophet Muhammad and all other holy prophets of God.
My writings are not intended to raise a bitter and therefore useless dispute with the Churches, but only invite them to a pleasant and friendly investigation of this all-important question with a spirit of love and impartiality. If the Christians desist from their vain attempt of defining the essence of the Supreme Being, and confess His absolute Oneness, then a union between them and the Muslims is not only probable but extremely possible. For once the Oneness of God is accepted and acknowledged, the other points of difference between the two faiths can more easily be settled.
B. ALLAH AND HIS ATTRIBUTES
There are two fundamental points between Islam and Christianity which, for the sake of the truth and the peace of the world, deserved a very serious and deep investigation. As these two religions claim their origin from one and the same source, it would follow that no important point of controversy between them should be allowed to exist. Both these great religions believe in the existence of the Deity and in the covenant made between God and the Prophet Abraham. On these two principal points a thoroughly conscientious and final agreement must be arrived at between the intelligent adherents of the two faiths. Are we poor and ignorant mortals to believe in and worship one God, or are we to believe in and fear a plurality of Gods? Which of the two, Christ or Prophet Muhammad, is the object of the Divine Covenant? These two questions must be answered once for all.
It would be a mere waste of time here to refute those who ignorantly or maliciously suppose the God as mentioned in Islam to be different from the true God and only a fictitious deity of Prophet Muhammad’s own creation. If the Christian priests and theologians knew their Scriptures in the original Hebrew instead of in translations as the Muslims read their Quran in its Arabic text, they would clearly see that Allah is the same ancient Semitic name of the Supreme Being who revealed and spoke to Adam and all the prophets.
Allah is the only Self-Existing, Knowing, Powerful Being. He encompasses, fills every space, being and thing; and is the source of all life, knowledge and force. Allah is the Unique Creator, Regulator and Ruler of the universe. He is absolutely One. The essence, the person and nature of Allah are absolutely beyond human comprehension, and therefore any attempt to define His essence is not only futile but even dangerous to our spiritual welfare and faith; for it will certainly lead us into error.
The Trinitarian branch of the Christian Church, for about seventeen centuries, has exhausted all the brains of her saints and philosophers to define the Essence and the Person of the Deity; and what have they invented? All that which Athanasiuses, Augustines and Aquinases have imposed upon the Christians "under the pain of eternal damnation" to believe in a God who is "the third of three"! Allah, in His Holy Quran, condemns this belief in these solemn words:-
"Because the unbelievers are those who say: “Allah is one of three.” There is but One God. If they do not desist in what they say, a painful punishment will afflict those of them that disbelieve." (Quran Ch.5 v73).
The reason why the orthodox Muslim scholars have always refrained from defining God’s Essence is because His Essence transcends all attributes in which it could only be defined. Allah has many Names which in reality are only adjectives derived from His essence through its various manifestations in the universe which He alone has formed. We call Allah by the appellations Almighty, Eternal, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Merciful, and so forth, because we conceived the eternity, omnipresence, universal knowledge, mercifulness, as emanating from His essence and belonging to Him alone and absolutely. He is alone the infinitely Knowing, Powerful, Living, Holy, Beautiful, Good, Loving, Glorious, Terrible, Avenger, because it is from Him alone that emanate and flow the qualities of knowledge, power, life, holiness, beauty and the rest. God has no attributes in the sense we understand them. With us an attribute or a property is common to many individuals of a species, but what is God’s is His alone, and there is none other to share it with Him. When we say, "Solomon is wise, powerful, just and beautiful," we do not ascribe exclusively to him all wisdom, power, justice and beauty. We only mean to say that he is relatively wise as compared with others of his species, and that wisdom too is relatively his attribute in common with the individuals belonging to his class.
To make it more clear, a divine attribute is an emanation of God, and therefore an activity. Now every divine action is nothing more or less than a creation.
It is also to be admitted that the divine attributes, in as much as they are emanations, posit time and a beginning; consequently when Allah said: "Be, and it was" - or He uttered, His word in time and in the beginning of the creation. This is what the Sufis term "aql-kull", or universal intelligence, as the emanation of the "aql- awwal", namely, the "first intelligence." Then the "nafs-kull", or the "universal soul" that was the first to hear and obey this divine order, emanated from the "first soul" and transformed the universe.
This reasoning would lead us to conclude that each act of God displays a divine emanation as His manifestation and particular attribute, but it is not His Essence or Being. God is Creator, because He created in the beginning of time, and always creates. God spoke in the beginning of time just as He speaks in His own way always. But as His creation is not eternal or a divine person, so His Word cannot be considered eternal and a divine Person. The Christians proceed further, and make the Creator a divine father and His Word a divine son; and also, because He breathed life into His creatures, He is surnamed a divine Spirit, forgetting that logically He could not be father before creation, nor "son" before He spoke, and neither "Holy Ghost" before He gave life. I can conceive the attributes of God through His works at manifestations a posteriori, but of his eternal and a prior attributes posses no conception whatever, nor do I imagine any human intelligence to be able to comprehend the nature of an eternal attribute and its relationship to the essence of God. In fact, God has not revealed to us the nature of His Being in the Holy Scriptures nor in the human intellect.
The attributes of God are not to be considered as distinct and separate divine entities or personalities, other- wise we shall have, not one trinity of persons in the Godhead, but several dozen of trinities. An attribute until it actually emanates from its subject has no existence. We cannot qualify the subject by a particular attribute before that at- tribute has actually proceeded from it and is seen. Hence we say "God is Good" when we enjoy His good and kind action; but we cannot describe Him - properly speaking - as "God is Goodness," because goodness is not God, but His action and work. It is for this reason that the Quran always attributes to Allah the adjectival appellations, such as the Wise, the Knowing, the Merciful, but never with such descriptions as "God is love, knowledge, word," and so forth; for love is the action of the lover and not the lover himself, just as knowledge or word is the action of the knowing person and not himself.
I particularly insist on this point because of the error into which have fallen those who maintain the eternity and distinct personality of certain attributes of God. The Verb or the Word of God has been held to be a distinct person of the Deity; whereas the word of God can have no other significance than an expression of His Knowledge and Will. The Quran, too, is called "the Word of God," and some early Muslim doctors of law asserted that it was eternal and un-created. The same appellation is also given to Jesus Christ in the Quran - Kalimatun minho, i.e. "a Word from Him" (Ch.3 v45). But it would be very irreligious to assert that the Word or Logos of God is a distinct person, and that it assumed flesh and became incarnate in the shape of a man of Nazareth or in the form of a book, the former called "the Christ" and the latter "the Quran"!
To sum up this subject, I insistently declare that the Word or any other imaginable attribute of God, not only is it not a distinct Divine entity or individuality, but also it could have no actual (in actu) existence prior to the beginning of time and creation.
The first verse with which St. Johns Gospel commences was often refuted by the early Unitarian writers, who rendered its true reading as follows: "In the beginning was the Word; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God’s."
It will be noticed that the Greek form of the genitive case "Theou" i.e. "God’s" (1) was corrupted into "Theos"; that is, "God," in the nominative form of the name! It is also to be observed that the clause "In the beginning was the word" expressly indicates the origin of the word which was not before the beginning! By the "word of God" is not meant a separate and distinct substance, coeval and coexistent with the Almighty, but saying of His Knowledge and Will when He uttered the word “Kun”, namely, "Be." When God said Kun, the worlds became; when He said Kun for His Words to be recorded in the Protected Tablets by the pen, it became again.
(1) Footnote: Concerning the Logos, ever since the "Gospels" and "Commentaries" as well as the controversial writings belonging to the Unitarians, except what has been quoted from them in the writings of their opponents, such as the learned Greek Patriarch Photius and those before him.
Among the "Fathers" of the Eastern Christians, one of the most distinguished is St. Ephraim the Syrian. He is the author of many works, chiefly of a commentary on the Bible which is published both in Syriac and in Latin, which latter edition I had carefully read in Rome. He has also homilies, dissertations called "midrishi" and "contra Haeretici," etc. Then there is a famous Syrian, author Bir Disin (generally written Bardisanes) who flourished in the latter end of the second and the first of the third century A.D. From the writings of Bir Disin nothing in the Syriac is extant except what Ephraim, Jacob of Nesibin and other Nestorians and Jacobites have quoted for refutation, and except what most of the Greek Fathers employed in their own language. Bir Disin maintained that Jesus Christ was the seat of the temple of the Word of God, but both he and the Word were created. St. Ephraim, in combating the "heresy" of Bir Disin, says:
( Syriac ): "Wai lakh O, dovya at Bir Disin Dagreit l’Milta eithrov d’AIIihi. Baram kthabha la kthabh d’akh hikhin Illa d’Miltha eithov Allihi,"
(Arabic) "Wailu ’I-laka yi anta’s-Safil Bir Disin Li-anna fara’aita kina ’I- kalimo li ’I-Lihi Li-kina ’I-Kitibo mi Kataba Kazi Illa ’I-Kalimo Kina ’I-Lih."
(English translation): "Woe unto thee O miserable Bir Disin That thou didst read the "word was God’s"! But the Book [Gospel] did not write likewise, Except that "the Word was God."
Almost in all the controversies on the Logos the Unitarians are "branded" with the heresy of denying the eternality and divine personality of it by having "corrupted" the Gospel of John, etc. These imputations were returned to the Trinitarians by the true Nasira - Unitarians. So one can deduct from the patristic literature that the Trinitarians were always reproached for having corrupted the Scriptures.
By His saying: "Be," Jesus was created in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and so on - whenever He wills to create a thing He but only says "Be," to it and it becomes.
The Christian auspicatory formula: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," does not even mention the name of God! And this is the Christian God! The Christian Nestorian and Jacobite formula, which consists of ten syllables exactly like the Muslim "Bismillahi," is thus to be transliterated: Bshim Abha wo-Bhra ou-Ruha d-Qudsha, which has the same meaning as that contained in all other Christian formulas. The Quranic formula, on the other hand, which expresses the foundation of the Islamic truth is a great contrast to the Trinitarians’ formula: Bismillahi ’r-Rahmani ’r-Rahim; that is: "In the Name of the Most Merciful and Compassionate Allah.
The Christian Trinity - inasmuch as it admits a plurality of persons in the Deity, attributes distinct personal properties to each person; and makes use of family names similar to those in the pagan mythology - cannot be accepted as a true conception of the Deity. Allah is neither the father of a son nor the son of a father. He has no mother, nor is He self- made. The belief in "God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Ghost" is a flagrant denial of the Oneness of God, and an audacious confession in three imperfect beings who, united or separately, cannot be the true God.
Mathematics as a positive science teaches us that a unit is no more nor less than one; that one is never equal to one plus one plus one; in other words, one cannot be equal to three, because one is the third of the three. In the same way, one is not equal to a third. And vice versa, three are not equal to one, nor can a third be equal to a unit. The unit is the basis of all numbers, and a standard for the measurements and weights of all dimensions, distances, quantities and time. In fact, all numbers are aggregates of the unit 1. Ten is an aggregate of so many equal units of the same kind.
Those who maintain the unity of God in the trinity of persons tell us that "each person is omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal and perfect God; yet there are not three omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal and perfect Gods, but one omnipotent . . . God!" If there is no sophistry in the above reasoning then we shall present this "mystery" of the churches by an equation:
God = 1 God + 1 God + 1 God; therefore: 1 God = 3 Gods. In the first place, one god cannot equal three gods, but only one of them. Secondly, since you admit each person to be perfect God like His two associates, your conclusion that 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 is not mathematical, but an absurdity.
You are either too arrogant when you attempt to prove that three units equal one unit; or too cowardly to admit that three ones equal three ones. In the former case, you can never prove a wrong solution of a problem by a false process; and in the second you have not the courage to confess your belief in three gods.
Besides, we all - Muslims and Christians - believe that God is Omnipresent, that He fills and encompasses every space and particle. Is it conceivable that all the three persons of the Deity at the same time and separately encompass the universe, or is it only one of them at the time? To say "the Deity does this" would be no answer at all. For Deity is not God, but the state of being God, and therefore a quality.
Godhead is the quality of one God; it is not susceptible of plurality nor of diminution. There are no godheads, but one Godhead, which is the attribute of one God alone.
Then we are told that each person of the trinity has some particular attributes which are not proper to the other two. And these attributes indicate - according to human reasoning and language - priority and posteriority among them. The Father always holds the first rank, and is prior to the Son. The Holy Ghost is not only posterior as the third in the order of counting but even inferior to those from whom he proceeds. Would it not be considered a sin of heresy if the names of the three persons were conversely repeated? Will not the signing of the cross upon the countenance or over the elements of the Eucharist be considered impious by the Churches if the formula be reversed thus: "In the name of the Holy Ghost, and of the Son, and of the Father"? For if they are absolutely equal and coeval, the order of precedence need not be so scrupulously observed.
The fact is that the Popes and the General Councils have always condemned the Sabelian doctrine which maintained that God is one but that He manifested Himself as the Father or as the Son or as the Holy Spirit, being always one and the same person. Of course, the religion of Islam does not endorse or sanction the Sabelian views. God manifested Jamal or beauty in Christ, “Jelal” or Glory and Majesty in Prophet Muhammad, and Wisdom in Solomon, and so on in many other objects of nature, but none of those prophets are gods neither the beautiful scenery of nature are gods.
The truth is that there is no mathematical exactitude, no absolute equality between the three persons of the Trinity. If the Father were in every respect equal to the Son or the Holy Spirit, as the unit 1 is positively equal to another figure 1, then there would necessarily be only one person of God and not three, because a unit is not a fragment or fraction nor a multiple of itself. The very difference and relationship that is admitted to exist between the persons of the Trinity leaves no shadow of doubt that they are neither equal to each other nor are they to be identified with one another. The Father begets and is not begotten; the Son is begotten and not a father; the Holy Ghost is the issue of the other two persons; the first person is described as creator and destroyer; the second as savior or redeemer, and the third as life-giver. Consequently none of the three is alone the Creator, the Redeemer and the Life-giver. Then we are told that the second person is the Word of the first Person, becomes man and is sacrificed on the cross to satisfy the justice of his father, and that his incarnation and resurrection are operated and accomplished by the third person.
In conclusion, I must remind Christians that unless they believe in the absolute Oneness of God, and renounce the belief in the three persons, they are certainly unbelievers in the true God. Strictly speaking, Christians are polytheists, only with this exception, that the gods of the heathen are false and imaginary, whereas the three gods of the Churches have a distinct character, of whom the Father - as another epithet for Creator - is the One true God, but the son is only a prophet and worshiper of God, and the third person one of the innumerable holy spirits in the service of the Almighty God.
In the Old Testament, God is called Father because of His being a loving Creator and Protector, but as the Churches abused this Name, the Quran has justly refrained from using it.
The Old Testament and the Quran condemn the doctrine of three persons in God; the New Testament does not expressly hold or defend it, but even if it contains hints and traces concerning the Trinity, it is no authority at all, because it was neither seen nor written by Christ himself, nor in the language he spoke, nor did it exist in its present form and contents for - at least - the first two centuries after him.
It might with advantage be added that in the East the Unitarian Christians always combated and protested against the Trinitarians, and that when they beheld the utter destruction of the "Fourth Beast" by the Great Prophet of Allah, they accepted and followed him. The Devil, who spoke through the mouth of the serpent to Eve, uttered blasphemies against the Most High through the mouth of the "Little Horn" which sprang up among the "Ten Horns" upon the head of the "Fourth Beast" (Dan. viii.), was none other than Constantine the Great, who officially and violently proclaimed the Nicene Creed. But, Prophet Muhammad has destroyed the "Iblis" or the Devil from the Promised Land for ever, by establishing Islam there as the religion of the One true God.