Islamic Perspectives

The Holy Spirit in Islam

By Muhammad Abdus Samad

Muslims and Christians share many common beliefs, morals, principles and injunctions for their behaviour and conduct. But what is basically different between the two faiths is the nature and role of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Trinity of God consists of God the Holy Father, God the Holy Son and God the Holy Spirit and it is taught as the basic Christian creed. Though Trinity is considered to be the basic belief of Christianity, it is not found in the Bible. Only some Christian literature deal with this doctrine. Christians say that Trinity is a mystery; man cannot fully comprehend it; it will remain a mystery for eternity. Though it is a mystery, yet Christian scholars try to describe Trinity as follows: "Trinity of God refers to the trinity in unity. Therefore, the trinity is the unity of God. The three "persons" of Godhead are three Intelligences. These three Intelligences mean one God. Therefore, the nature of God belongs to all the three persons and is identical in each" (Basic Beliefs of Christianity by Leonard W. Thompson,  pp. 39-49).

Pope Shenuda III of the Coptic Church says that the three persons in the Christian Trinity are fully equal; the Father equals the Son, equals the Holy Spirit. There is no difference of separation. They are also co-eternal" (Trinity and Unity by Pope Shenuda III, p. 10).

Thus God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit are identical as equal to each other. But actually it is not so. Because we find that the Father is not the Son; the Son is not the Father; and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. Each person in the Trinity is a different and distinct entity with a different nature and different role.

However, the Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity and Christians assume that the Holy Spirit is one of the three Gods in the Trinity. Christians say that the Holy Spirit is God - God as the Father, God as the Son and now God as the Holly Spirit. God is one; so the Holy Spirit having same attributes is God too. The Holy Spirit being God is Omnipotent and Omnipresent" (Basic Beliefs of Christianity by L.W. Thompson, pp. 162-164).

Thus Godhood and divinity are ascribed to the Holy Spirit by Christians. But the Holy Spirit was never God nor does the Bible call him God. Rather, it is found in the Bible that the Holy Spirit prayed to another God: "The Holy Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groan that the word cannot express" (Roman 8:26). If the Holy Spirit is really God, why did he pray to another God? Or if he is God, to whom did he pray? One who prays to another God cannot be called God.

Again, the Holy Spirit is called "Helper" in the Bible (vide Today’s English Version of Bible): "Jesus said: The Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything" (John 14:26). It is to be noted here that the Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity while the Helper is not. Besides the arrival of the Holy Spirit at a future period as told by Jesus signifies that the Trinity consisting of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit was incomplete before the arrival of the Holy Spirit as "Helper". So the three persons in the Trinity did not co-exist at a single time. Thus the Trinity doctrine is contradictory and unconvincing.

Let us see what Islam has to say about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Qur’an deals with the Holy Spirit calling him a servant of Allah. The Holy Spirit was not God but Archangel Gabriel (Jibril). The Archangel Gabriel is conferred two important epithets in the Holy Qur’an. They are: a. "Ruhul Quds" meaning the Holy Spirit and b. "Al-Ruh al-Amin" meaning the Truthful Spirit. The Holy Qur’an states: "The holy spirit (Ruhul Quds) hath revealed it (Qur’an) from thy Lord with truth" (16:102). Allah also says in the Holy Qur’an: "I supported him (Jesus) with the Holy Spirit (Ruhul Quds) (2:87). Verily, this (Qur’an) is a Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds; with it came down the Spirit of the Truth (Al-Ruh al-Amin) to thy (Muhammad) heart and mind (26:192-194).

Thus it appears that the Archangel Gabriel was a servant of Allah and the basic task assigned to him was to bring down the divine message to Allah’s prophets. The Holy Qur’an announces: "The Gabriel brings down the revelation to thy (Muhammad) heart by Allah’s will" (2:97).

Archangel Gabriel is also conferred another epithet "Ruh" meaning the Spirit as announced in the Holy Qur’an: "On the Day when the Sprit (Ruh) and other angels stand arrayed, they speak not save him whom the Beneficent (Allah) alloweth" (78:38, 97:4). The Holy Qur’an also speaks about the illustrious position conferred to Archangel Gabriel that "he is the most honourable messenger endowed with power and rank before the Lord of the Tremendous Throne. He is with authority there and faithful to his trust" (81:19-21).

The basic task assigned to the Archangel Gabriel is to bring the revelation to the Prophets of Allah who subsequently preach it to the people intended. But an exception is found that the Archangel Gabriel also brought the divine message to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the mother of Moses relating to the birth of Prophet Jesus without a father and Prophet Moses (see Qur’an 19:16-34, 20:38-40). It is to be noted here that the message brought by Gabriel to these two ladies was meant for their individual life only. But the message brought to the prophets by Gabriel is meant for the guidance of whole Mankind.

Thus we find a difference between Christianity and Islam with regard to the nature and role of the Holy Spirit. Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is God, the third person in the Trinity, while Muslims believe him as the most honourable angel responsible to bring down the divine message to the prophets of Allah.
The author teaches in P.B. College, Gauripur, Dhubri (Assam)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 April 2012 on page no. 21

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