The Trinity as understood in Islam and Christianity (Part 1)

The Quran forbids believers for saying Allah is one of three gods in a Trinity but then why are Christians who also believe in One God not permitted to call God Allah? The first part of this article explores the concept of the Trinity as understood from the Quran.

A page from the Andalus Quran

A page from the Andalus Quran

The “Trinity” in the Quran
An essay on the Muslims’ point of view

The verses dealing with “Trinity” in the Quran are verses 4: 171, 5: 72-75, and 5: 116. The translations below are from the Yusuf Ali Translation.

Surah 4:

171. 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: Allah (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.

What is said here in verse 171 is this: (1) Jesus Christ the son of Mary and a spirit proceeding from Allah was (no more than) an apostle of Allah and His Word, (2) Say not “Trinity” (desist, it will be better for you) for Allah is one Allah, and (3) Allah is above having a son.

This verse tells believers to desist from saying Trinity without explaining what it means; for its meaning it is necessary to read Surah 5 verse 73 below.

In verse 171 the Quran recognises Jesus only as an apostle of Allah and His word. Jesus is not a son of Allah although he was made by Allah (by bestowing on Mary and a spirit proceeding from Him) to be His apostle to spread Allah’s Word to the rest of the world.

That’s it. The real object of Surah 4, verse 171 is that Jesus is not the son of Allah because Allah is above having a son. As for the warning not to say “Trinity” there is no inkling of why it is forbidden apart from saying “for Allah is one Allah”.

Surah 5:

71. They thought there would be no trial (or punishment); so they became blind and deaf; yet Allah (in mercy) turned to them; yet again many of them became blind and deaf. But Allah sees well all that they do.

72. They do blaspheme who say: “(Allah) is Christ the son of Mary.” But said Christ: “O Children of Israel! worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever joins other gods with Allah, – Allah will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help.

Verse 72 merely says: (1) it is blasphemy to say Allah is Christ, because the Quran says Christ never said he is Allah. What Christ really said, according to the Quran, was: “worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.”, and (2) “Whoever joins other gods with Allah – Allah will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode.”

In verse 72 there is also no inkling of what “Trinity” means in the Quran. But there is a slight hint in the verse which prohibits the joining of other gods with Allah.

It is only in verse 73 that the the true meaning of “Trinity” in the Quran is revealed. Thus:

73. They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them.

What is said here is that it is blasphemy to say “Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah.”

The Adoration of the Trinity by Albrect Durer (1471 - 1528) | Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

The Adoration of the Trinity by Albrect Durer (1471 - 1528) | Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

So that Islam forbids believers for saying Allah is one of three gods in a Trinity because there is no god except One Allah. And by joining two other gods with Allah we have the full meaning of the Quranic “Trinity”. But then who are the other gods that make up the Trinity? The answer is disclosed in verse 116 below.

Finally, by reading verse 116 of Surah 5, we have the real meaning of the Quranic Trinity, thus:

116. And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah.?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden.

In this verse Allah asks Jesus, “Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?”

That’s it: the true meaning of “Trinity” in Islam is the worship of Allah together with Jesus and his mother as gods. By that Allah became one of three in a Trinity.

The Quran forbids the worship of a Trinity of three namely, Allah and two other gods who, as we know because of verse 116, are Jesus and his mother Mary.

However, if you must know, mainstream Christians do not worship Jesus and/or his mother Mary as gods.

I hope I have managed to explain the true meaning of “Trinity” from the Muslims’ point of view. I feel it is better to explain it in plain English so that everyone can understand what the Quran means by the word “Trinity” in Islam.

The Quran does not forbid anyone else who are People of the Book like the Christians from believing in their own idea of trinity (see the opening words of Surah 4: 171: “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth“). Deviant Muslims will suffer damnation for defying the Quranic edict.

Therefore, there is no excuse whatsoever for those deviant (because they have departed from the Quran) Muslims to desecrate other people’s Bible or their places of worship just because they are not Muslims and whose idea of trinity – which has three euphemistic names in a nomenclature that make up God – differs from theirs. Don’t they know only God/Allah metes out eternal punishment in hell? It is not for man to mete out damnation no matter how pious!

NH Chan, a much respected former Court of Appeal Judge, is a gavel of justice that has no hesitation in pounding on Federal Court judges with wooden desks for heads. Retired from the Judiciary to become the People’s Judge. Wrote the explosive “Judging The Judges”, now in its 2nd edition as “How To Judge The Judges”. Once famously hinted at a possible “case match” between lawyer and judge by remarking that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (see Ayer Molek Rubber Company Berhad & Ors v Insas Berhad & Anor [1995] 3 CLJ 359).


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Posts by NH Chan

NH Chan, a much respected former Court of Appeal Judge, is a gavel of justice that has no hesitation in pounding on Federal Court judges with wooden desks for heads. Retired from the Judiciary to become the People’s Judge. Wrote the explosive “Judging The Judges”, now in its 2nd edition as “How To Judge The Judges”. Once famously hinted at a possible “case match” between lawyer and judge by remarking that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (see Ayer Molek Rubber Company Berhad & Ors v Insas Berhad & Anor [1995] 3 CLJ 359). We need more people like NH Chan. That is why you should buy PASOC and his book.

Posted on 9 June 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

Read more articles posted by NH Chan.

Read this first: LB Terms of Use

16 Responses to The Trinity as understood in Islam and Christianity (Part 1)

  1. arah

    Part 2

    Qur’an is the Criterion (between right and wrong) that Allah has revealed upon humanity, we must therefore analyse the Qur’an to see what it says .

    “The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the Criterion (of right and wrong).” (2:185)

    “We have put forth for humans, in this Qur’an, every kind of example so that they may remember” (9:27).

    Here, Allah tells us that He has explained every kind of example for our Guidance within the Qur’an. Thus, when Allah Himself tells us that every kind of example is within the Qur’an, does we need to look elsewhere for examples?

    • arah

      “This Book, there is no doubt in it, it is a guide to those who keep their duty”
      (2:2)

      “Blessed is He Who hath revealed unto His slave the Criterion (of right and wrong), that he may be a warner to the peoples.” (25:1)

      "And certainly We have repeated for humankind, in this Qur’an, every kind of example, but the majority of humankind do not consent to anything but denying." (17:89)

      Christians should follow the example shown by Judge Chan to read and understand the Quran and Hadith.

  2. arah

    Part 1
    Judge Chan or any Christian readers, please provide proof that Jesus ever teach Trinity as anderstood by today Christian!!.

    The Quran clearly explain who is Allah, the Almighty Creator, the story of Virgin Mary and Isa (Jesus) which are missing from the bible.

    For God the likeness of Jesus is as that of Adam whom he created out of dust, then said to him “Be”, and he was. (3:59).

  3. UZUMAKI NARUTO

    According to the Koran alone (33:37), Allah made it legitimate for Muhammad to marry his own daughter-in-law, whom he lusted after. A few verses later (33:50), Allah made it legitimate for Muhammad to have sex with any woman who “offered” herself to him—a privilege which was allowed for Muhammad alone. Indeed, these “revelations” which granted Muhammad all his sexual desires were so frequent that his child-wife, Aisha, would often say to Muhammad, “My, your Lord is always quick to fulfill your desires!” And to his faithful followers, Muhammad permitted all the infidel woman that they could capture, as concubines (Koran 4:3). All this is from the Koran alone; it would take several hours just to go over the hadiths and sira accounts dealing with the sexual perversions of Muhammad.

  4. sam1528

    Kakami ,

    To be honest , I am confused with the explanation of Judge Chan. My take is that he didn't do a thorough research on this topic.

    The Quran does not explain nor define the trinity. However Judge Chan claimed that he 'found' the true Quranic definition of 'trinity' from the Quran , it being Allah , Jesus , Mary ; Quran5:116. This is a false claim.

    We can see that he goofed up big time up in the interpretation of Quran5:116. He misunderstood and assumed Jesus / Mary to be part of the 'trinity'.

    Judge Chan is also trying to say Quran5:73 is wrong as it states that Allah is one third of the trinity. To him Allah = Trinity ; as 'the father' , 'the son' , the holy spirit' are '..euphemistic names in a nomenclature that make up God..'

    He is again dead wrong as in the New Testament the father alone is god. Lets refer to and compare the pertinent biblical verses (Bible NIV). For clarity I will insert '(Allah)' after 'god'.

    mat10:29 '..Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care..'

    luk12:6 '..Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God (Allah)..'

    mat12:50 '..For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother..'

    mark3:35 '..Whoever does God’s (Allah) will is my brother and sister and mother..'

    Matthew substituted the title 'father' in place of the title 'god' (Allah) in his gospel. If he is right in doing so , according to the NT , the father alone is god (Allah).

    Therefore Quran5:73 is accurate and true. Quran5:73 '..They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity:..'. According to scripture (the NT) – the father alone is god (Allah). The trinity consist of 'the father' , 'the son' , 'the holy spirit' (ie. one third – one third – one third). God (Allah) is a third in component.

    Most , in fact all of the muslims I know (and I myself) don't mind nor care the christians calling their god Allah. However is it scriptually sound (my original question)? In the NT only the father is god (Allah).

    This raise another question. Is the 'trinity' / doctrine of trinity revelation or evolution??

  5. Kakami

    Hey there people

    I do wonder if some have confused the point of this article.

    I thought it was pretty clear that Judge Chan here is explaining the understanding of Muslims of the Holy Trinity. Why some among us appear so sensitive about the use of the word/name Allah.

    A copy of my Yusuf Ali translated Quran also uses the word Trinity. However as Judge Chan has pointed out, the Quran explains what Trinity is defined as when it is referenced in the Quran namely that one makes a God(s) out of mortals (Mary & Jesus).

    Sam1528 is also right to explain that the verse is basically pointing out that we should desist from deifying Jesus and Mary thus making them like God and so making up the holy Trinity.

    In short this write up is to explain why its such an issue when if it is understood it isnt an issue at all!

  6. Arm_Real

    oh yes, a point to ponder, is there any verse in Bible where the Jesus was quoated as saying 'I am God' or any verse that shows to that effect?

    If the Jesus is truly God, surely it must be stipulated in any of Bible verse, isnt it?

    Have u checked MY LORD!

  7. Arm_Real

    Judge Chan,

    U have to study and flip thru all the verses in the Holy Quran and please master it before u put any comment or writing. Religious deliberation is not like writing judgment of Court (where most of the judges still get confius with laws)

    Alas, there are lots of misconception of facts and thoughts in your writing pertaining to above mentioned Quranic Verse.

    To understand further, u must also master Arabic.

  8. sam1528

    Judge Chan ,

    The problem you have is that you only refer to the Bible and Quran but you did not delve into the history of Christianity (for that matter I too don't know much). However the Quran is correct to only state 'trinity' without explaining it.

    The beliefs of the christians in the first 400 yrs was in the state of flux. The Council of Nicea (325CE) only define the term 'Homoousian' and belief of the 'holy spirit'. This foundation of 'trinity' was ratified in the Council of Constantinople (381CE) and made authoritative in the Council of Chalcedon (451CE).

    However there were so many other beliefs with regards to 'trinity' before and way after 451CE.

    (1) Sabellianism who trinitrians accuse of modalism

    (2) Mariamites who worship mary as part of trinity ; mariamites

    (3) '..gnostic christians , including visionaries such as Stephen Hoeller , see Sophia as fundamental part of the Holy Trinity , as the mother..' (Sophia : Goddess of Wisdom Bride of God , Caitlin Matthews pg357)

    (4) '..In the second and third centuries there were, of course, Christians who believed in only one God; others, however, claimed that there were two Gods; yet others subscribed to 30, or 365, or more. Some Christians accepted the Hebrew Scriptures as a revelation of the one true God, the sacred possession of all believers; others claimed that the scriptures had been inspired by an evil deity..' (B. D. Ehrman, The Orthdox Corruption Of Scripture: The Effect Of Early Christological Controversies On The Text Of The New Testament, 1993, Oxford University Press, London & New York, p. 3)

    Prof Ehrman proposed an explanation to why this is so

    '..Why didn't these other groups simply read their new testaments to see that their views were wrong? It is because there WAS NO NEW TESTAMENT. To be sure , all the books of The New Testament had been written by this time but there were a lot of other books as well also claiming to be by Jesus own apostles – other gospels , acts , epistles and apocalypses having very different perspectives from those found in the books that eventually came to be called the New Testament..' (Misquoting Jesus , Bart D Ehrman , pg153)

    With all those different beliefs of the trinity , the Quran is correct to just mention 'trinity' without defining it.

    By the way , 'trinity' was coined up by Tertullian (220CE). He was a lawyer in Carthage.

  9. sam1528

    Judge Chan ,

    Thank you for taking the trouble to read the Quran. However your interpretation is way off mark.

    Quran5:116 does not even mention 'trinity'. Read carefully again , '..worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah..'. Meaning of derogation (online free dictionary) 'to disparage / belittle';

    online free dictionary meaning of derogation

    The arabic transliteration '..waommiya ilahayni min dooni Allahiqala..'. 'min dooni' comes from the root word 'min dun' meaning 'without or excluding or not included' (translator dictionary , pg 1050 , F Steingass)

    Literally and in context is that Jesus and Mary taken as god(s) besides or not including or to the exclusion of Allah. This certainly is not referring to the 'trinity' nor mary being part of 'trinity'.

    This verse is a direct challenge to those who make graven images of Jesus and Mary and worship them.

    The issue now is the accuracy of mary being taken or revered or worship as to being god. Lets look at the following:

    (1) The Collyridians were a christian sect in the early years of christianity who worshipped Mary being god. They were declared heretics by St. Epiphanius (Bishop of Constantia) round about 400CE.

    (2) Its worth while to note that even to this day , the catholics consider Mary as a mother of god and prayers sent to her. Consider the 'Hail Mary' prayers which catholics pray to Mary for her intercession being the mother of god. Praying to her is already a form of worship. You will notice statues of Jesus and Mary placed in prominent places in the prayer hall of these churches and congregates would kneel, worship, venerate and pray before these images as their reverent rituals and inherited traditions

  10. Muhammad Hanif

    88 . They say: "(Allah) Most Gracious has begotten a son!"

    89 . Indeed ye have put forth a thing most monstrous!

    90 . At it the skies are ready to burst, the earth to split asunder, and the mountains to fall down in utter ruin,

    91 . That they should invoke a son for (Allah) Most Gracious.

    92 . For it is not consonant with the majesty of (Allah) Most Gracious that He should beget a son.

    93 . Not one of the beings in the heavens and the earth but must come to (Allah) Most Gracious as a servant.

    (Source: Holy Quran – Chapter 19 (Mary):88-93)

  11. OneBorneo

    i think muslim perceived the christian understanding of the trinity based on greek mythology – god married human and produced human gods. this misunderstanding is understood given the roman empire's reign during the time of jesus and the birth of islam. the greek education system were of great influnce during that time, strecthing from rome to persia. muslim often mistook christian worship mary as one of the trinity. the christian understanding of trinity is of no such concept. mary was a human vessel which God used. But concerning Isa, the Quran says He is Holy (Surah 3:45), He is righteous (Surah 19:19)- sinless, He is the Kalimatullah and the Ruhullah (Surah 4:171), He is all powerful (Surah 3:49)- healed the sick and raised the dead, He is now with Allah (Surah 3:55), He knows the Straight Path that leads to heaven (Surah 3:51). Who is holy and sinless except Allah-none of the prophets can make such claim or given such title except Isa. Isa is His Word (Kalimatullah) and His Spirit (Ruhullah)-aren't Allah's Word and His Spirit the very essence of Allah Himself? Who ia ALL Powerfull except Allah Himself-the Quran claimed Isa is ALL Powerful. Finally who is able to show us the Straight Path to heaven except Isa who came from Heaven (the very presence of Allah)and He knows exactly what is required to go there because He The Word and the Spirit who was with Allah befor He came to earth born through Maryam.Is it impossible for the All Powerfull Allah to do so? The question is why He need to do so and for what purpose? The Christian belived He did so to save man on Allah's term-not the religous institution's terms and rituals. Who do we chose to believe to lead us to heaven-someone who origines from earth or Isa who originated from heaven? If you have never been to Timbuktu and you want to go to Timbuktu, would you trust a tour guide who came from Timbuktu or you trust a kutu from malaysia who had never been to Timbuktu?

  12. PearTree

    I think Muslims should stop trying to claim that the Trinity is defined as God, Jesus and Mary when for the Christians it has always been Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Time to admit they got the facts wrong when writing this verse.

  13. Muhammad Hanif

    What Allah said in the Quran is Allah is the One and Only God, there is no other God. Mary and Jesus Christ are mere human being.

  14. Dear sir,

    I am somewhat relieved that your article here did not put all us Muslims in the same barrel.

    I understand what's been said in the Quran but as I am also of the opinion that to every person his/her own truth, I believe than even in reading the meaning behind the Trinity as mentioned in the Quran, one must also study the meaning of the word in context to what the believers of the concept ie the Christians say about it.

    It is only fair that we interpret a concept by weighing in the opinions of those who perhaps understand it best.

    Furthermore, I dont think the Quran disallows such an approach for we are encouraged to get to know and learn from each other (see al Hujurat 49:13)

    I think the most important thing about religion that most of us forget is that it is not for us to judge.

    Thank you for such a refreshing article.

  15. Loyar Bagus

    "mainstream Christians do not worship Jesus…as (a god)".

    Mr Chan, I see the point of your article but I seriously doubt that the above statement is correct? It may be correct viz. Mary, but God the Son?