We continue our discussion https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/shabir-ally-proves-that-muhammad-was-unreasonable-pt-1/.
Does the Quran Really Deny the Incarnation?
Even though there are texts in the Quran which argue that Jesus is nothing other than a human servant and apostle,
The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away! S. 5:75 Pickthall
He [‘Iesa (Jesus)] was not more than a slave. We granted Our Favour to him, and We made him an example to the Children of Israel (i.e. his creation without a father). S. 43:59 Hilali-Khan
There are other passages that contradict this assertion by affirming that Christ is actually an eternally preexistent Being who became human.
Take, for instance, the following verse, which identifies Jesus as a Word from Allah,
When the angels said, ‘Mary, God gives thee good tidings of a Word from Him whose name is Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary; high honoured shall he be in this world and the next, near stationed to God. S. 3:45 Arberry
As well as this next one, which ends up affirming the very historic Christian view of the Godhead that it censures Christians for believing in!
O People of the Book! Go not beyond the limits in your way of life and say not about God but The Truth: That the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was a Messenger of God and His Word that He cast to Mary and a Spirit from Him (wakalimatuhu alqaha ila maryama waroohun minhu). So believe in God and His Messengers. And say not: Three. To refrain yourselves from it is better for you. There is only One God. Glory be to Him that He have a son! To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in and on the earth and God sufficed as a Trustee. S. 4:171 Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar http://www.islamawakened.com/quran/4/st46.htm
In identifying Jesus as the Word of Allah that was cast down to Mary and a Spirit that came forth from him, the Quran has essentially confirmed the divine prehuman existence of Christ!
The Islamic scripture has basically described Jesus as en eternal Person who came forth from Allah as a Spirit for the express purpose of becoming a flesh and blood human being!
In the words of the following Christian author:
(1) The Word of God: This honourable name cannot apply to an ordinary creature; it designates Christ alone. He is distinguished by this name among all the angels and men. It occurs twice in the Qur’an, in Suras Al Imran 3:45 and al-Nisa’ 4:171: “Mary, God gives thee good tidings of a Word from Him whose name is Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary; high honoured shall he be in this world and the next, near stationed to God.… The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God and His Word that He committed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him.” This is a biblical name of Christ, since the Bible says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1,2). The word of a man proceeds from him and is a manifestation of his character. It is an audible representation of his mind and thought. It is his means of expressing himself and putting his authority and power into effect. Christ is called the very Word of God. This proves His deity because, just as the word of a man proceeds from him, the Word of God proceeds from God and is in God from eternity. Could it be that God existed for a certain period of time apart from His Word?
(2) The Spirit of God: We read in Sura al-Nisa’ 4:171: “The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God and His Word that He committed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him.” This verse goes beyond the statement of Jesus’ apostleship, testifying that He is the Word of God. And to make sure that we do not misunderstand the expression “the Word of God”, the Qur’an follows it up with “and a Spirit from Him”, which clears all doubt concerning Christ’s extraordinary apostleship. It definitely points to the fact that He is a Son sent from His Father to our world, as the rays of the sun that are emitted from it to the earth. There is no difference between the Christian creed, which maintains that Christ is “light of light, true God of true God, begotten, and not made, of one being with the Father”, and the statement of the Qur’an that He is the Spirit of God, or a Spirit from Him. Do not all these statements indicate that He is of the same essence and substance as God? (‘Abdallah ‘Abd al-Fadi, Is the Qur’an Infallible? [Light of Life, Villach, Austria 1982], Part Four: Theological Objections, 14. Christ Is Like Adam?, pp. 143-144; bold emphasis ours)
It is therefore ironic that this passage warns Christians from going too far in their views about Jesus seeing that it actually confirms Christ’s essential Deity and glorious Incarnation.
Christian apologist John Gilchrist shows why the attempts by Muslims to explain away these unique titles and descriptions of Jesus are rather desperate and disingenuous:
Muslim scholars have done everything in their power to avoid conceding that there is anything unique about the title. As they did with the title ‘Messiah,’ so here too they downplay and minimise the title ‘a Word from Allah’ in every way they can. An example is that all that is being said here is that Jesus was brought into being simply by the creative ‘word from Allah,’ namely kun – ‘Be!’ (so Rida, who thought it was simply the same means by which everything came into existence). But then why would Jesus be specifically called ‘a Word from Allah’ in contrast to every other prophet, human or living creature who is not so described? Another example is that this is no more than a description of a ‘prophetic word’ from Allah by which he came into the world (Muhammad Ali). Many others argue that Adam was also created by the same unique Word from Allah, kun – ‘Be!’ (Surah 3:59), and that this is all the title means. But, once again, Jesus alone is actually called a Word from Allah in the Qur’an. No such title or anything like it is given to Adam…
Jesus was given a unique title, a Word from God, because he himself is unique. He is the Saviour of the world (John 4:42). He – and he alone – is the door that opens the way to the kingdom of heaven (John 10:9). The title in the Qur’an is nothing other than a literal equivalent of John’s logos, the Word who came from God because he is divine and descended from the very throne of God himself whence he later returned. The Qur’an does not use the word kalima to describe a fiat, a unique creative action by which Jesus came into being, it defines the very essence of Jesus himself. He is the Word who came ‘from him’ (min-hu), from Allah himself.
Jesus held a title distinguishing him from any other prophet of God, the Word of God. It is a definition of his own divine subsistence, not of something given to him or of a manner of his creation. The Qur’an merely echoes the glorious meaning of the title in the Christian scriptures. Muslim scholars cannot explain its uniqueness, so they evade and sidestep it, falling back on the usual Islamic dogmatics: ‘Jesus was only a messenger of God, he was created by the word of God, he was not divine, he was not the Son of God.’…
Just as Jesus is described in the Qur’an as a Word from Allah, so here he is also described as ‘a spirit from him.’ But this does not mean that he is a spiritual person given the title ‘spirit of Allah’ in the same way other prophets are called the friend or representative of Allah. Jesus is not only a Word from Allah, he is also a Spirit from Allah. The same Arabic words are used – min-hu – ‘from him’. No other prophet is given this title in the Qur’an or is said to have come from Allah…
One of the ironies of the Qur’an is that it three times makes dogmatic assertions in Surah 4:171 denying the divinity of Jesus. Firstly, ‘the Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah;’ then ‘Do not say “three” – Allah is only one God;’ and finally ‘Glorified be he from having a son.’ But in the very same verse it attributes three titles to Jesus that clearly distinguish him from all the other messengers of God, making him unique in his person, that elevate him to being the very thing the Qur’an denies, the Son of God. The titles are ‘the Messiah,’ God’s anointed Saviour and Deliverer, ‘his Word,’ the logos who was with God and is God and who became flesh and dwelt among us, and ‘a spirit from him,’ one who came as a spirit from the throne of God himself to become a man, and who returned there after his ascension to heaven. There you have the divinity of Jesus in the Qur’an – thrice denied, and thrice confirmed, all in the same verse!…
The Qur’an defines Jesus very simply – he was a prophet of Allah no different to those who went before him. He was an obedient servant, but no more than that. Yet, as we have seen, it attributes titles to him and unique features in his life that leave so much about him unsaid and undefined. He came into the world in a very unique way – he was born of a virgin-woman. He left the world in an equally distinctive way – he ascended to heaven. He was sinless throughout his life. He was the Messiah and was also a Word from Allah and a Spirit from him. The Holy Spirit in the Qur’an is named solely in conjunction with him. (Gilchrist, The Quran and the Historical Jesus, Chapter 9: The Word and the Spirit; bold emphasis ours)
And here is what Gilchrist writes elsewhere:
At this stage we are constrained to say that we Christians do not really see where we are exaggerating in our religion as the Qur’an suggests in the passage under review (Surah 4:171). Because we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we are supposedly exaggerating in our belief in him and yet, in that very same passage, the Qur’an calls Jesus the Messiah which implies fundamentally that he is the Son of God. But now we come across the title Word of God which, to all intents and purposes, is really more emphatic and suggestive of deity than the title Son of God.
The latter title at least implies some limitation and submission on the part of its bearer – a son is subject to his father – but the title Word of God implies no such limitation. By itself it clearly implies that its bearer is the express image of the invisible God and only the latter, title Son of God implies some submission on his part to the Father. The Qur’an denounces Christians for believing that Jesus is the Son of God and yet, in the very same breath, gives him the title Word of God which is as indicative of deity on the title Son of God. There is really no meaningful difference between the titles. Quite where we are exaggerating in our religion is not at all clear to us! So we see that the first two titles in Surah 4:171 that we have considered, i.e. Messiah and Word of God far from supporting the suggestion that Jesus is “only a messenger”, in fact heavily reinforce the Christian belief that Jesus is the Word and Son of God incarnate. But let us press on now to the third title in Surah 4:171…
This third title is very little different from the second one for once again the title belongs to Jesus alone and God again is the source of the Spirit as he was the source of the Word. (It is sometimes said of Adam that God breathed something of his spirit into him but this must be carefully distinguished from the title Spirit of God which is given to Jesus alone.) Jesus is his Word and his Spirit. This title is also not explained in the Qur’an but frankly supports the Christian belief that Jesus was not a creature made out of dust but an eternal spirit who took on human form… Jesus, however, is now called “a Spirit from him” (ruhun-minhu) from which he has received the title in Islamic traditions “Spirit of God” (Ruhullah). The expression in Surah 4:171, ruhun-minhu (“a spirit from him”) is used in exactly the same form in Surah 58:22 where it is said that God strengthens true believers with “a spirit from him”. Very significantly Yusuf Ali, commenting on this latter verse in his translation of the Qur’an states that here the “phrase used is stronger” than that for the Holy Spirit (Ruhul Quds). He implies that the Spirit from God is greater than the Holy Spirit and says that it is “the divine spirit, which we can no more define adequately than we can define in human language the nature and attributes of God” (note 5365).
This is a remarkable comment which is clearly a veiled implication that the ruhun-minhu is the very Spirit of the living God, uncreated and eternal in essence. Yusuf Ali says it is “the divine spirit” and that it is as incomprehensible as God himself. This language is unambiguous – the Spirit from God is clearly believed by him to be from the realm of deity and not from the created order. He is, according to this interpretation, practically synonymous with the Holy Spirit in the Christian Bible.
Now this is the very title that the Qur’an gives to Jesus in Surah 4:171. The exact same words are used – he is the ruhun-minhu, “a Spirit from God”. If we merely apply Yusuf Ali’s interpretation of the expression in Surah 58:22 to the very same expression given as a title to Jesus in Surah 4:171, we can only conclude that Jesus is the “divine spirit, which we can no more define adequately than we can define in human language the nature and attributes of God”. He is, therefore, God in essence and nature. Because of the simultaneous denial in 4:171 that Jesus is the Son of God, Yusuf Ali is constrained to deny that the title ruhun-minhu when applied to Jesus implies deity, but he is hardly consistent in his exposition of the Qur’an when he teaches in another place that ruhun-minhu is indeed a divine spirit possessing the nature and attributes of God and is as incomprehensible as God as well.
For our part we believe that, as with the titles Messiah and Word of God, this title Spirit of God also strongly supports the Christian belief that Jesus is indeed the Son of God and that, not in any metaphorical sense, but in an eternal one which is based on the fact that he is very deity himself. The only way Yusuf Ali could avoid this admission when commenting on Surah 4:171 was to frankly contradict what he said in his commentary on Surah 58:22. (Christianity and Islam Series No. 5. The titles of Jesus in the Qur’an and the Bible http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/titles.html; bold emphasis ours)
Therefore, since the Quran itself affirms the Incarnation (while also denying it at the same time) Ally is left with no other choice but to accept the fact that his own prophet was unreasonable for teaching such a doctrine.
What makes this all the more ironic and rather embarrassing for Ally is that in several of his debates with Christians, he attacks John’s Gospel for describing Jesus as the Word of God that became flesh. For example, notice what he said in his debate with Dr. David Wood:
“Where did John get this from? Did Jesus ever say ‘I am the Word of God’? Did he say these words anywhere in the Bible? Even in John’s Gospel Jesus doesn’t say it; John is saying this about Jesus. So now how does John know this, if Jesus didn’t actually say it?” (Does Muhammad give us the truth about Jesus? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiKKeKmQf9g)
Seeing that Muhammad himself affirmed that Jesus is the Word of God this means that he must have come under the influence of John’s Christology due to his interactions with Christians. As such, the real source and inspiration for Muhammad’s belief in Jesus’ being the Word of God wasn’t God Almighty but John’s Gospel, which Ally believes went through at least five stages of editing!
What this means is that Muhammad derived his info concerning Jesus from a source that Ally claims is anonymous and pseudonymous, and is therefore unreliable. It had nothing to do with God inspiring Muhammad.
Thus, instead of proving that Muhammad was a true prophet Ally basically ended up condemning Muhammad as an irrational false prophet and antichrist (which he certainly was) for teaching the very doctrines that Ally claims are unreasonable.
Talk about a huge embarrassment!