The Islamic God, One in the same as the Triune God – A Misconception
In today’s Western society many, if not most, believe that Christians and Muslims both “adore the one and merciful God.” In fact, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council Nostra Aetate declares this. It should be noted, however, that a “Declaration” is not a “Definition,” and is not necessarily to be adhered by Catholics. While the former may contain or explain certain aspects of the Catholic faith, it is not a clarification, as in the case of the latter, of what has been revealed in Scripture as an article of faith to be observed by Christ’s faithful. Nostra Aetate is to be read as a pastoral document relative to the socio-historical circumstances of the time, and not as a doctrinal definition — any theological, moral or biblical aspects must be understood in light of what has been infallibly declared by previous Church Councils.
One cannot contest Muslims’ frank and systematic belief in a monotheistic supreme being, however, that does not mean that the concept of their concept of God, i.e., Allah (Arabic term of God) is the same as the Triune God. Catholic interreligious efforts have sought to reach out to the Muslim world by classifying the Islamic deity with the Christian one, paralleling them both to the Judaic Abrahamic religion. Not only does the shahada, i.e., the Muslim profession of faith: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet” — say otherwise, Muslims take great offense and see Christians, Catholics in particular, as ignorant and vulgar for suggesting it. They uphold a literal and strict unity of God (tawhid). In other words, they outright refute the Christian profession on the fullness of who God is: the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit):
They [Christians] have certainly blasphemed who say, “Allah [God] is the Messiah, the son of Mary”, while the Messiah has said, “O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord”: for there is no God except one God Allah. They have certainly blasphemed who say, ‘Allah is the third of three’.” (Sura 5, 72)
For the Muslim, God is exclusively transcendent and cannot interact with his creation as He did, according to Christian doctrine, when He became incarnate and lived among us in the Person of Jesus, to say nothing of His redemptive act on the Cross:
And because of their saying: “We slew the Messiah Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger.” They slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them. (Sura 4, 157)
The Merciful God of Islam is a god who has mercy for whom he wants and not on those who displease him: “Allah might bring mercy whom He will[ed].” (Sura 48, 25) Notwithstanding “The Loving One” (al-Wadud) being among the list of Ninety-nine attributes of Allah, it does not arrive, however, at saying that “God is love.” (1 John 4, 16) This “love” is not only expressed as a conditional affection, but it is extended only to his believing servants for his love to His slaves is His Will to be merciful to them and praise them. “[W]hoever of you should revert from his religion — Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him [who are] humble toward the believers, powerful against the disbelievers.” (Sura 5, 54) Islamic scholars, such as the jurist Muhammad Ibn Hasan al-Tusi (996 – 1057) and the theologian Umar al-Zamakshari (1075 – 1144) both explain Allah’s love for man as a reward for his obedience. Hence, only those who submit to his will and recognize his richness, which is expressed in the observance of the sharia (Islamic law), can benefit from his benevolence.
Mercy or “love” in Islam is equated with the rich man who is obliged to stoop over the poor and offer him something. He bestows not necessarily because he is rich or because he pities the status of the destitute person. Instead, he gives solely so that the latter can acknowledge and publicly exalt his richness, as expressed in the daily Islamic prayer of the tasbih, which means to exalt as manifested in the Ninety-nine Attributes of Allah.
In Christianity, mercy and love reflect the teaching of the Incarnation of the Son of God becoming man, “one who lowers Himself to the level of the poor man in order to raise him up,” much more so if he is a sinner: “I have not come to call the just, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5, 32) This love even extends to the enemy: “But I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you.” (Matthew 5, 44) This is a concept not only alien to Muslims, but inconceivable. Unlike the rich man in Islam who displays his riches when helping the needy, in Christianity “[h]e does not show his wealth to be respected (or feared) by the poor, for he gives [h]imself in order for the poor [to] live.”
The Christian teaching of the interpersonal relation among the three divine Persons, the Holy Trinity, which serves as the basis for man’s friendship with God and his fellow man in society, shows that God acts according to reason, i.e., for our ultimate good. Muslims, instead, hold that Allah is pure will, which connotes arbitrariness; submitting to Allah’s will, which is necessary does not have to be reasonable since he is above such attributes of goodness and reason; Allah exults in exercising his will.
N.B. This article originally appeared in Keep the Faith-Latin Mass Magazine (Fall 2017)
Mario Alexis Portella is author of Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up
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