12. The Christian idea of God

12. The Christian idea of God

Ahmadiyya and Muslim reaction

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad regarded Christianity as an arch enemy and therefore something which had to be crushed. To incite Muslims and stir up their fury, he said that Christians were defaming and lampooning Muhammad. To convince others that he was the only possible saviour of Islam, he added:

This campaign against Islam and Islam’s holy influence cannot be defeated by ordinary methods and means. ... Only miraculous power can and will smash this campaign and not without it can we save our simple souls from this vicious Western magic. To think of anything else would be sheer folly. No wonder, therefore, God Almighty has chosen from amongst the true Muslims of our time this humble one and blessed him with His revealed word and with other divine favours that this vicious magic may be undone.1

In his vociferous campaign against Christianity, such doctrines as the Christian concept of God, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, his incarnation and redemptive plan all came under attack. To convince people he claimed to have talked to Jesus about these aspects:

I have met Jesus in a state of wakefulness which is called a vision and have talked to him and have ascertained from him his teaching. It is worth attention that Jesus is so horrified at the doctrines like Atonement, Trinity, and Sonship, as if a great imposture had been fastened upon him.2

Mirza based his controversial ideas on the Qur’an and the Bible, but he and his followers stuck also to the traditional Muslim, anti-Christian arguments to support their fight against the Christian faith. His sarcastic way of debate is copied not only by many Ahmadis but also by other Muslims in their discussion with Christians. For example, he asks how it was possible that five children were born to Mary, but only one became the Son of God and the other four did not get any share in the divinity of God?3 In another place he touches the pinnacle of such sarcasm, by expressing his surprise that the God of Christians begot a Son but no daughter: "as though he did not want any to become his Son-in-law".4

In his debate with a Muslim convert to Christianity, he made a mockery of the incident in the Bible where the Holy Spirit is described as descending on Jesus like a dove (Matthew 3:16; John 1:32). Mirza, in his satirical mood, said that if the Holy Spirit had descended in the shape of a huge corporeal figure, like an elephant, or a camel, it would had been something more to wonder at.5 Mirza perhaps forgot that it was because of the ‘small things’, like a dove’s nest and a spider’s web, that Muhammad’s life was spared.6

To express his contempt towards Christians, Mirza preferred to eat the flesh of doves and pigeons. One day seeing a pigeon that had been slaughtered for him, he felt that he was eating the God of the Christians.7 However the same Mirza went to the extreme of killing a cat, though in his dream, to save a pigeon’s life:

I saw in a dream that a cat sought to attack our pigeon. It would not desist despite repeated efforts to turn it away. Then I cut off its nose and though it was bleeding it still persisted in its effort. Then I caught hold of it by its neck and started rubbing its face on the ground but it continued to raise its head, till in the end I said: Let us hang it.8

Mirza claimed to be near to Jesus in his spirituality, but he missed the whole point about the Holy Spirit descending as a dove. He chose not to see that in the Bible it was a sign of peace. It was a dove that brought news to Noah in the ark that the flood waters were receding, by plucking and bringing a leaf from a newly-grown tree. Certainly a picture of deliverance! It was a dove that was offered as a sin-offering in certain Jewish ceremonies. In many countries the white dove is still a symbol of peace and deliverance.

Mirza used biblical quotations totally out of context. For example, referring to the discourse between Jesus and Satan, he alleged that probably Jesus was visited by Satan the second time and that he might have taught Jesus the doctrine of the Trinity.9 However in his debate with the above mentioned Christian, his argument was that according to the Gospel narration, Satan was more powerful than Jesus because he carried him away to the top of a mountain. Jesus, whom Christians claim to be divine, should not have allowed such a thing to be done to him.10

Again, one can see that he missed the whole point and reason for Jesus being there. Taking the whole event in context, we see that Jesus was not driven against his own will, but voluntarily yielded to the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit. It was the Spirit that led him to do the will of God. And what Mirza missed was that, in order to be the Saviour of tempted mankind, it was necessary that he himself should be tempted, "in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).

The Qur’anic standard

The Qur’an acknowledges Jesus as a prophet and the promised Messiah. It affirms that Jesus is God’s Word and ‘the spirit from Him’ (Surah 4:171). Even so, Christians are accused of believing that Allah is ‘the third of three’ and warned: ‘Say not three ... Allah is only one God’ (Surah 4:172). It is claimed that Allah will ask Jesus: "Didst thou say unto mankind: ‘Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah?’ Jesus will reply, ‘I spake unto them only that which Thou commandest me: Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord’" (Surah 5:116,117).

These quotations from the Qur’an clearly reveal that in Muhammad’s view, Christians worshipped three gods - God the Father, Jesus the Son and Mary his mother. In the 6th century some heretic groups aroused to such a belief but were condemned by other Christians. However this mistaken view led Muhammad to reason: "How can God have a son when He has no consort, no wife? He hath taken neither wife nor son" (Surah 6:102, 72:3). This is what the Ahmadiyya commentary on the Qur’an has to say:

One can only have a son when one has a wife. God has no spouse, so He cannot have a son. Moreover, as God is the creator of everything and possesses perfect knowledge, He does not need a son to help Him, or succeed Him.11

According to Mirza Ahmad, Christians believe that when Jesus comes back, he will haul up all those who do not believe in him, or his mother as God, and will throw them into hell.12 It is not until Christian start discussing with Muslims the question of the Trinity and the Sonship of Christ that they realize what the ancient doctrinal controversies with the Arians, the Nestorians, the Apollinarians, the Monophisites, the Jacobites etc. were all about.

The Bible does not say that God had a wife and then he had a son, to be called Jesus. Nor does the Bible present the idea of a Trinity which is made up of the Father, the Mother, and the Son. Jesus never said that his mother is to be taken as God. Many Muslims think that if the Qur’an has said it, then the accusation is appropriate In fact the Qur’an only says that the Trinity is not Father, Son and mother and Jesus was not the result of intercourse between God and Mary. Surely Christians would agree with this, as does the Bible.

New trends

Nowadays, Ahmadiyya missionaries in the West are trying to reinterpret the concept of Sonship rather than deny it. They have found references in the Bible where other people were addressed as son, or sons. They use these examples to show that the expression Son of God when spoken by Jesus about himself, or by others, meant no more in his case, than it means in its application to others in Scripture.13

A similar line has been adopted by more recent Muslim writers. Deedat, for example, quotes several texts from the Bible in his booklet, Christ in Islam, to show that the expression, Son of God "was a metaphorical descriptive term, commonly used among the Jews". To conclude his argument, he adds that in the Bible, "God has sons by the tons."14

In answer to this, our response is that the phrase Son of God is never used in the Bible in a carnal sense, as is taught by the Qur’an. In no sense and at no time does the Bible claim that Almighty God had intercourse with Mary, in order for Jesus to be born.

Secondly, Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God in the same sense in which all true believers are sons of God. One should not overlook many occasions when Jesus’ Sonship is stated as being unique. For example:

All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is, except the Father, or who the Father is, except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Luke 10:22).

Jesus said that everyone should honour him as the Son of God, even as they honour the Father. Why? Because ...

The Father judges no one but has given all judgement to the Son that all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him (John 5: 22 - 23).

No other person has claimed such authority. It is clearly an exclusive statement. In another place Jesus said: "No one comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6). Furthermore, it is not only Jesus who refers to himself as the unique Son of God. God the Father himself bore witness to him: "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17. 17:5).

Like many Muslims, Ahmadis use some verses from the Bible out of context, in their attempt to prove that Jesus is not the SON of God. However they ignore the overwhelming witness of Scripture to Jesus’ unique Sonship. God spoke through Jesus, not only as a prophet but as ‘the Son’, through whom he made all things (Hebrews 1:3).

The Divinity of Jesus

When Christians say: "Jesus is God," they mean that Jesus shares the divine nature with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He took human form and voluntarily chose to subject himself to the limitations and weakness of human nature. This is why the Bible declares about him:

Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8).

The usual trump card in the Muslim argument is to say that ‘Jesus did not claim divinity’. They maintain that ‘nowhere in the Gospels or the Epistles is it said that Jesus referred to himself as God, or implied that he was God’.15

Ahmadiyya and orthodox alike want to see a categorical statement from Jesus saying: "I am God." Unless it can be shown that he said, "I am God," Muslims and Ahmadis will not believe that Jesus is God. Thus, they discount extensive scriptural evidence of his nature and essence, regarding it as insufficient proof of his Divine Sonship.

Muslims and the Ahmadiyya are inconsistent in that they also have several doctrines that are neither mentioned categorically, nor stated specifically and yet they believe in them. For example, nowhere in the Qur’an is there a categorical statement of the doctrine known as the Shahada or ‘Kalima Tayyebah’, "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his apostle." It is derived from two different places and combined to form a doctrine.

The Qur’an says, ‘Establish Prayer,’ but it does not prescribe all the ritual prayers practised by Muslims. Many of these were passed on through the traditions of the earlier disciples of Muhammad. Yet Muslims do not doubt their validity. Why then should they apply double standards when considering a Christian doctrine?

Perhaps through the years a truce between Sufism and Muslim Orthodoxy has worked out, but back in 922 a Sufi saint called Al-Hallaj was executed for his idea because he said of himself: ‘Ana al haqq,’ which means ‘I am the truth,’ a statement which in orthodox ears was equivalent to identifying himself with God. Jesus had long before said, "Ana huwa Sirat wal-haqq, wal-hayat," I am the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6) and many Muslims are still asking: "Show us where did Jesus say, ‘I am God.’".

In any case, had Jesus made the blunt statement: "I am God," then he would have been excluding the Father and the Holy Spirit. For this reason he simply said, "I am", which is a clear reference to God in the Old Testament (Ex 3:14; John 8:58). Other places we see that he allowed to be called "The Son of the Living God" (Matthew 16:16).

Notes on Chapter 12:

  1. Ahmad, Victory of Islam, p.4.
  2. Ahmad, Tohfa Qaisariyah, p.21; Zafrullah, Tazkirah, tr. p. 154).
  3. Ahmad, Baraheen Ahmadiyya, Vol. 4, p. 370.
  4. Ahmad, Noor-ul-Haqq, Vol. I, p.79.
  5. Ahmad, Jang Muqaddas, p. 169.
  6. When those of the Quraysh tribe planned to kill Muhammad, he fled with his friend Abu Bakr to a cave on mount Thaur (Sor) south of Mecca and remained there for two days. A legend widely reported in the biography of Muhammad explains how Allah sent a spider to spin a cobweb around the mouth of the cave and a pair of doves made a nest in front of it. When the enemy made a frantic search for him, they came to the entrance. Seeing the cobweb and the doves, they thought that no one could have entered the cave without disturbing the entrance and so they searched elsewhere. Interestingly enough such a story is also told among the Jewish traditions about David when he fled from Saul into a cave. When David prayed to God (See psalm 57:2), he called a spider to weave a web in the mouth of the cave.
  7. Al-Hakm, 17th August, 1902.
  8. Albadr, 11th September, 1903.
  9. Ahmad, Noor-ul-Haqq, Vol. I, p.106.
  10. Ahmad, ibid., p.106; Jang Muqaddas, p. 169.
  11. Malik G.Farid, The Holy Qur’an, p.304.
  12. Ahmad, Jesus in India, p.13.
  13. Zafrullah Khan, Deliverance from the Cross, p.11.
  14. Deedat, Christ in Islam, p.28.
  15. Zafrullah Khan, Deliverance from the Cross, p.8.