This section groups all the discourses appearing in Al-Mizan that provides an intellectual challenge to the Christian doctrines. The aim is not to attack these beliefs but to invite the Christians and other readers in kind exhortation to understand each other better.
Intellectual Challenge to the Christian Beliefs (3)
It is not meet for a man that Allah should give him the Book and the Judgment and Prophethood, then he should say to men: “Be my servants rather than Allah’s;” but rather (he would say): “Be worshippers of the Lord because of your teaching the Book and your reading (it yourselves)”. Or that he should enjoin you that you should take the angels and the prophets for lords; what! would he enjoin you with unbelief after you are Muslims (Submitting Ones)? (Qur’an, 3:79-80)
The Qur’an says that ‘Isa (Jesus) was Allah’s servant and messenger; and that he did not claim for himself what the Christians ascribe to him, nor did he tell them anything other than conveying the Divine Message. Allah says:
And when Allah will say: “O ‘Isa (Jesus) son of Mary! Did you say to men, ‘Take me and my mother for two Allahs besides Allah’ “, he will say: “Glory be to Thee, it did not befit me that I should say what I had no right to (say); if I had said it, Thou wouldst indeed have known it; Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I do not know what is in Thy mind; surely Thou art the great Knower of the unseen things. I did not say to them aught save what Thou didst enjoin me with: That worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord, and I was a witness of them so long as I was among them, but when Thou didst take me completely, Thou wert the watcher over them, and Thou art witness of all things. If Thou shouldst chastise them, then surely they are Thy servants; and if Thou shouldst forgive them, then surely Thou art the Mighty, the Wise.” Allah will say: “This is the day when their truth shall benefit the truthful ones” (5:116-119).
This wonderful reply contains the essence of servitude and shows outstanding manner; it is a mirror of ‘Isa (Jesus)’ attitude and behavior towards his Lord; it shows how he looked at himself in relation to his Creator and what he thought of the people and their deeds. He says that he looked himself just as a servant of his Lord, who had nothing to do other than obeying the Lord; he does not proceed except when directed to, and does not stop unless told to. And he was not ordered except to call people to the worship of Allah and he did not tell them except what he was enjoined with: That worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.
And as far as his relationship with his people is concerned he shall be the witness for their deeds, and that is that; it is none of his business what Allah does with them about them – whether He forgives them or chastises them.
Question: If so, then how would you justify what you had written in the topic of intercession, that ‘Isa (Jesus) shall be among the intercessors on the Day of Resurrection, he shall intercede and his intercession shall be honored and accepted?
Answer: The Qur’an says expressly – or almost expressly – that he is an intercessor. Allah says: And those whom they call upon besides Him have no authority for intercession, but he who bears witness of the truth and they know (43:86); and on the Day of Resurrection he (‘Isa (Jesus)) shall be a witness against them (4:159); and when I taught you the Book and the Wisdom and Torah and the Gospel (5:110).
This intercession is something quite different from the atonement which the Christians believe in. The theory of atonement invalidates the system of reward and punishment, and consequently negates the absolute sovereignty of Allah – as we shall explain later on. It is the idea of atonement which the above mentioned talk of ‘Isa (Jesus) refutes. But this verse has nothing to do with intercession – it neither confirms it nor rejects it. Had it wanted to confirm it – inspite of its inconsistency (because the situation demands self-abasement, not relaxedness) with context – it should have said: If Thou shouldst forgive them, then surely Thou art the Forgiving, the Merciful. And if it wanted to refute it, it should not have mentioned his being a witness for the people.
Looking at what the people have said about ‘Isa (Jesus), we find that they are divided after him into various sects, and disintegrated to perhaps more than seventy denominations. This number looks at fundamental and major divisions only, because minor differences are too numerous to count.
Nevertheless, The Qur’an concerns itself only with what they say about ‘Isa (Jesus) and his mother, because it affects the foundation of monotheism which is the only goal to which the Qur’an calls and the natural straight religion leads. The Book of Allah is not concerned with other relatively minor points, e.g., the problem of alteration of the Book and that of atonement.
The beliefs which the Qur’an ascribes to them (or quotes them) are as follows:
and the Christian say: “The Messiah is the son of Allah” (9:30); And they
say: “The Beneficent Allah has taken to Himself a son” (21:26);
Certainly they disbelieve who say: “Surely Allah, is the Messiah, son of
Certainly they disbelieve who say: “Surely Allah is the third of the three”
and say not, Three (4:171). (4:171).
Apparently, these verses contain different phrases, describe different beliefs. (That is why some people* apply various verses to various sects, for example, the Melkites** who believe in real sonship; the Nestorians*** who explain descendence and sonship as radiance of light on a transparent body like crystal; and the Jacobites**** who explain it in terms of change and transformation, that is, the Allah was transformed into flesh and blood.)
But evidently the Qur’an does not look at the peculiarities of their diverse sects. It is concerned only with one belief which is common between all of them – that ‘Isa (Jesus) is the son of Allah and of one substance with Allah, with the resulting belief of trinity – although they differ very much in its explanation (which has led to extreme conflicts and discords). That this explanation is correct is supported by the fact that the Qur’an brings one and the same argument to refute the views of all of them.
It may be explained as follows:
The present Torah and Gospels all together clearly mention the Oneness of Allah; on the other hand the Gospel clearly mentions the sonship declaring that the Son is the Father and none else.
They do not interpret the postulated sonship in the terms of distinction, honor and excellence, although many verses of the Gospels clearly give this meaning. For example:
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and prosecute you. That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect , even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew, 5:44 – 48)*****
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew, 5:16)
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which art in heaven.” (Matthew, 6:1)
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name.” (Matthew, 6:9)
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew, 6:14)
“Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke, 6:36)
Also, he said to Mary Magdalene: “go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God.” (John, 20:17)
These and other similar sentences of the Gospels refer to Allah as the Father of ‘Isa (Jesus) as well as others, all in the sense of distinction and honor.
There are some sayings in the Gospels which allude to the union of the Son with the Father. For example:
“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” (John, 17:1)
Then he went on praying for his disciples and finally said:
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also, which shall believe on me through their word. That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John, 17:20 – 23)
However, there are other verses which apparently cannot be explained in the terms of distinction and honor. For example:
“Thomas saith unto him (i.e. Jesus), Lord, we know not whither thou goest ; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and ye hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us thy Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me.” (John, 5:11)
“For I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.” (John, 8:42)
“I and my Father are one.” (John, 10:30)
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew, 28:19)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him: and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John, 1:1 – 4)
These and other similar statements of the Gospels have led the Christians to the belief of trinity in unity. The belief of trinity is an attempt to reconcile the belief that the Christ is the Son of God with the belief in one God which the Christ himself had taught. For example, Mark, 12:29 quotes him as saying: “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.”
The believers in the trinity say (although it does not impart any intelligible meaning): God is one substance with three Persons. The word person denotes an attribute with which a thing appears to others; and the attribute is none other than the thing itself. The three Persons are: The Person of existence, the Person of knowledge, i.e. the Word, and the Person of life, i.e. the Spirit.
These three Persons are the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The first is the Person of existence; the second, the Person of knowledge (the Word); and the third, the Person of Life. The Son who is the Word and the Person of Knowledge descended from his Father (i.e. the Person of existence) accompanied by the Holy Ghost (i.e. the Person of Life) that gives light to all things.
Then they differ among themselves in explanation of this vague statement; and ever-occurring conflicts have divided them to more than seventy sects and denominations. We shall mention some of them to the extent that is necessary in the framework of this book.
Think over the above description; then look at what the Qur’an ascribes to the Christians, or quotes them as saying: and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of Allah” (9:30); Certainly they disbelieve who say: “Surely Allah, He is the Messiah, son of Maryam: (5:72): Certainly they disbelieve who say: “Surely Allah is the third (Person) of the three” (5:73); and say not, “three”; Desist (4:171). Then you will realize that all these statements point to a single idea, i.e. the trinity in unity which is the common factor of all the sects which sprang up in the Christianity (as we have said above).
Why did the Qur’an concentrate on this common factor? It was because the same objections apply to all their beliefs regarding ‘Isa (Jesus) – in spite of their diversity and numerousness. The arguments put by the Qur’an are applicable to all their interpretations with equal force, as will be explained later.