Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

An Analysis of the Bassam Zawadi versus Thabiti Anyabwile Dialogue pt. 3

Sam Shamoun

We now come to the final part of our discussion.

Evidence that the Islamic sources acknowledge the existence of multiple divine persons

Contrary to Zawadi’s assertion, the Quran does not teach that Allah is uni-personal. The evidence indicates that the Islamic deity is a multi-personal entity and that a plurality of gods exist.

For example, here is a reference where there is clearly more than one god in view:

Surely We shall inherit the earth and all that are upon it, and unto Us they shall be returned. And mention in the Book Abraham; surely he was a true man, a Prophet. And mention in the Book Abraham; surely he was a true man, a Prophet… So, when he went apart from them and that they were serving, apart from God, We gave him Isaac and Jacob, and each We made a Prophet; and We gave them of Our mercy, and We appointed unto them a tongue of truthfulness, sublime. And mention in the Book Moses; he was devoted, and he was a Messenger, a Prophet. We called to him from the right side Of the Mount, and We brought him near in communion. And We gave him his brother Aaron, of Our mercy, a Prophet… And mention in the Book Idris; he was a true man, a Prophet. We raised him up to a high place. These are they whom God has blessed among the Prophets of the seed of Adam, and of those We bore with Noah, and of the seed of Abraham and Israel, and of those We guided and chose. When the signs of the All-merciful were recited to them, they fell down prostrate, weeping. Then there succeeded after them a succession who wasted the prayer, and followed lusts; so they shall encounter error save him who repents, and believes, and does a righteous deed; those -- they shall enter Paradise, and they shall not be wronged anything; Gardens of Eden that the All-merciful promised His servants in the Unseen; His promise is ever performed. There they shall hear no idle talk, but only 'Peace.' There they shall have their provision at dawn and evening. That is Paradise which We shall give as an inheritance to those of Our servants who are godfearing. We come not down, save at the commandment of thy Lord. To Him belongs all that is before US, and all that is behind US, and all between that. Not one of you there is, but he shall go down to it; that for thy Lord is a thing decreed, determined. Then We shall deliver those that were godfearing; and the evildoers We shall leave there, hobbling on their knees. When Our signs are recited to them as clear signs, the unbelievers say to the believers, 'Which of the two parties is better in station, fairer in assembly?' And how many a generation We destroyed before them, who were fairer in furnishing and outward show! S. 19:40-42, 50-53, 56-74 Arberry

In this passage the entity addressed as "God", "the All-merciful", "thy Lord" is distinguished from those speaking of themselves as "We," "Our," "Us." What makes this citation interesting is that the individuals who are speaking say that they only come down by command of Muhammad’s lord, which obviously differentiates them from Allah the lord of Muhammad. Here, again, is that particular section:

And we do not descend but by the command of your Lord; to Him belongs whatever is before us and whatever is behind us and whatever is between these, and your Lord is not forgetful. Shakir

However, these same persons who were sent down by the lord claim to be the ones that commissioned the prophets, grant believers Paradise, and punish evildoers. In other words, these individuals speak as if they are Allah since they use language that only Allah uses!

This shows that Zawadi’s appeal to the royal plural is not an adequate explanation and cannot deal with the problem raised by this specific reference since it is clear from the context of this passage that there are several divine beings, e.g. the gods who are speaking with Muhammad and the lord who sent them!

The Quran also attests that there are multiple creators!

Is it ye who create it, or are We the Creators? S. 56:59

And even though we are told that Allah created mankind from a single person:

It is He Who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love). When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah their Lord, (saying): ‘If Thou givest us a goodly child, we vow we shall (ever) be grateful.’ But when He giveth them a goodly child, they ascribe to others a share in the gift they have received: but Allah is exalted high above the partners they ascribe to Him. Do they indeed ascribe to Him as partners things that can create nothing, but are themselves created? S. 7:189-191

He created you (all) from a single person: then created, of like nature, his mate; and He sent down for you eight head of cattle in pairs: He creates you, in the wombs of your mothers, in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness. Such is Allah, your Lord and Cherisher: to Him belongs (all) dominion. There is no god but He: then how are ye turned away (from your true Lord)? S. 39:6

The Quran at the same time testifies that Allah used his Spirit to create the first man:

And (remember) when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am creating a mortal out of potter's clay of black mud altered, So, when I have made him and have breathed into him of My Spirit (min roohi), do ye fall down, prostrating yourselves unto him. S. 15:28-29

Then He fashioned him and breathed into him of His Spirit (min roohihi); and appointed for you hearing and sight and hearts. Small thanks give ye! S. 32:9

The late Ahmadiyya scholar and Quranic translator Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote the following concerning Q. 15:29:

29a. This shows that man is made complete when the Divine spirit is breathed into him. It should be noted that the Divine spirit (Ar. ruh) does not mean here the animal soul in man, but the Spirit of Allah, that gives him perfection. (*; bold and underline emphasis ours)

He says something similar in regards to Q. 32:9:

9a. This verse shows that the spirit of God is breathed into every man. This points to a mystical relation between human nature and Divine nature. The word ruh does not here mean the animal soul, because the animal soul is common to man and the animal kingdom. It is something that distinguishes man from the animal world. It is due to the spirit Divine that he rules creation and its due to the same Divine spirit in him that he receives a new life after death – a life which he lives in God and with God – the meeting with God or liqa Allah, as it is called in v. 10. (*; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Allah even sent his Spirit to Mary in the appearance of a man with the purpose of impregnating her with Jesus:

And mention in the Book Mary when she withdrew from her people to an eastern place, and she took a veil apart from them; then We sent unto her Our Spirit (Ruhana) that presented himself to her a man without fault. She said, 'I take refuge in the All-merciful from thee If thou fearest Allah! He said, 'I am but a messenger come from thy Lord, to give thee a boy most pure. She said, 'How shall I have a son whom no mortal has touched, neither have I been unchaste?' He said, 'Even so thy Lord has said: “Easy is that for Me; and that We may appoint him a sign unto men and a mercy from Us; it is a thing decreed.’” S. 19:16-21

And Mary, Imran's daughter, who guarded her private part, so We breathed into it of Our Spirit, and she confirmed the Words of her Lord and His Books, and became one of the obedient. S. 66:12

Jesus is also another person who creates and gives life exactly like Allah does:

and he shall be a prophet to the people of Israel (saying), that I have come to you, with a sign from God, namely, that I will CREATE for you out of clay (annee AKHLUQU lakum mina ALTTEENI) as though it were the form of a bird, and I will blow thereon and it shall become a bird by God's permission; and I will heal the blind from birth, and lepers; and I will bring the dead to life by God's permission; and I will tell you what you eat and what ye store up in your houses. Verily, in that is a sign for you if ye be believers. S. 3:49 Palmer

When God shall say, O Jesus son of Mary, remember my favour towards thee, and towards thy mother; when I strengthened thee with the holy spirit, that thou shouldest speak unto men in the cradle, and when thou wast grown up; and when I taught thee the scripture, and wisdom, and the law, and the gospel; and when thou didst create of clay (wa-ith TAKHLUQU mina ALTTEENI) as it were the figure of a bird, by my permission, and didst breathe thereon, and it became a bird by my permission; and thou didst heal one blind from his birth, and the leper, by my permission; and when thou didst bring forth the dead [from their graves], by my permission; and when I with-held the children of Israel from [killing] thee, when thou hadst come unto them with evident [miracles], and such of them as believed not, said, this is nothing but manifest sorcery. S. 5:110 Sale

Contrast this with how Allah created the first man:

HE it is Who created you from clay (Huwa allathee KHALAQAKUM min TEENIN) and then HE decreed a term. And there is another term fixed with HIM. Yet you doubt. S. 6:2 Y. Ali

Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I am about to create man from clay (innee KHALIQUN basharan min TEENIN): When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him.” S. 38:71-72 Y. Ali

And yet the Quran says that Allah is the best of creators:

Then We made the Nutfah into a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood), then We made the clot into a little lump of flesh, then We made out of that little lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, and then We brought it forth as another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators. S. 23:14

Will ye call upon Baal and forsake the Best of Creators, - S. 37:125

Therefore, Zawadi is either faced with a contradiction since Allah cannot be the best of creators if both the Spirit and Jesus create exactly like he does, or he is forced to embrace the position that both the Spirit and Jesus are part of the very nature of Allah himself!

We are further told that Allah strengthens prophets, messengers and believers by his Holy Spirit:

We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of apostles; We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit (wa-ayyadnahu bi-roohi al-qudusi)… S. 2:87

Those apostles We endowed with gifts, some above others: To one of them God spoke; others He raised to degrees (of honour); to Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs), and strengthened him with the holy spirit (wa-ayyadnahu bi-roohi al-qudusi)… S. 2:253

Thou shalt not find any people who believe in God and the Last Day who are loving to anyone who opposes. God and His Messenger, not though they were their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or their clan. Those -- He has written faith upon their hearts, and He has strengthened them with a Spirit from Himself (wa-ayyadahum bi-roohin minhu); and He shall admit them into gardens underneath which rivers flow, therein to dwell forever, God being well-pleased with them, and they well-pleased with Him. Those are God's party; why, surely God's party -- they are the prosperers. S. 58:22

In order for this Spirit to be able to strengthen all the faithful no matter where they are he must be omnipotent and omnipresent, attributes which belong only to Deity. This, perhaps, explains why the late Abdullah Yusuf Ali could say that this Spirit is divine and cannot be defined adequately in human language anymore than the nature of God can be defined!

Cf. ii 87 and 253, where it is said that God strengthened the Prophet Jesus with the holy spirit. Here we learn that all good and righteous men are strengthened by God with the holy spirit. If anything, the phrase used here is stronger, ‘a spirit from Himself'. Whenever any one offers his heart in faith and purity to God, God accepts it, engraves that faith on the seeker's heart, and further fortifies him with the Divine Spirit, which we can no more define adequately than we can define in human language the nature of God. (Ali, The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 1518, f. 5365; bold emphasis ours)

Is the Spirit Gabriel?

Zawadi may argue that the Holy Spirit is Gabriel, even though his own Islamic scripture nowhere says that he is. What the Quran actually says is that the Spirit is a mysterious entity and that only a little knowledge has been revealed concerning him:

They will question thee concerning the Spirit (al-roohi). Say: 'The Spirit is of the bidding of my Lord (al-roohu min amri rabbee). You have been given of knowledge nothing except a little.' S. 17:85

According to the Muslim sources this verse was “revealed” in response to the challenges that the Jews posed to Muhammad:

God said concerning what they asked him about the Spirit, ‘They will ask you about the Spirit, say, the Spirit is a matter for my Lord, and you have only a little knowledge about it.’

I was told on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas that he said, When the apostle came to Medina, the Jewish rabbis said, ‘When you said, “And you have only a little knowledge about it”, did you mean us or your own people?’ He said, ‘Both of you.’ They said, ‘Yet you will read in what you brought that we were given the Taurat in which is an exposition of everything.’ He replied that in reference to God’s knowledge that was little, but in it there was enough for them if they carried it out… (Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, p. 139)

Here was an excellent opportunity for Muhammad to have said that the Spirit was Gabriel but didn’t do so, obviously because he didn’t believe that he was.

The Muslim scripture further distinguishes the Spirit from the angels that come down with him:

He sendeth down the angels with the Spirit of His command (bi al-roohi min amrihi) unto whom He will of His bondmen, (saying): Warn mankind that there is no God save Me, so keep your duty unto Me. S. 16:2

Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by God's permission, on every errand: S. 97:4

And since Gabriel is one of the angels that comes down,

Say: Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel - for he brings down the (revelation) to thy heart by God's will, a confirmation of what went before, and guidance and glad tidings for those who believe, - S. 2:97

This proves that he is not the Spirit but one of those angels who accompany him.

Is Gabriel divine and a creator besides Allah?

Besides, to argue that Gabriel is the Spirit would actually mean that he is divine. It would also indicate that Gabriel is one of those speaking directly in the Quran, thereby proving that the plural pronouns should be seen as evidence for a numerical plurality within the being of Allah and/or for the existence of multiple gods.

For example, the Quran says that Allah breathed his Spirit into Mary:

And Mary the daughter of 'Imran, who guarded her private part; and WE breathed into it of OUR spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants). S. 66:12; cf. 21:91

The Muslim interpreters, however, claim that Allah sent Gabriel to breathe into Mary:

<And Maryam, the daughter of `Imran who guarded her chastity (private part).> meaning, who protected and purified her honor, by being chaste and free of immorality…

<And We breathed into it (private part) through Our Ruh,> meaning, through the angel Jibril. Allah sent the angel Jibril to Maryam, and he came to her in the shape of a man in every respect. Allah commanded HIM TO BLOW into a gap of her garment and that breath went into her womb through her private part; this is how `Isa was conceived. This is why Allah said here…

<And We breathed into it through Our Ruh, and she testified to the truth of her Lords Kalimat, and His Kutub,> meaning His decree and His legislation. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Q. 66:12; capital and underline emphasis ours)


And, mention Mary, the one who guarded her virginity, [the one who] preserved it from being taken, so We breathed into her of Our spirit, namely, Gabriel, when he breathed into the opening of her garment and she conceived Jesus. And We made her and her son a sign for all the worlds, that is, [for] mankind, jinn and angels, because she bore him without [having] a male [partner]. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Q. 21:91; underline emphasis ours)


(And Mary, daughter of Imran, whose body was chaste, therefore We breathed therein something of Our Spirit) and so Gabriel breathed inside her garment and she became pregnant with Jesus. (And she put faith in the words of her Lord) she believed in what Gabriel told her that he was the Messenger of Allah entrusted with giving her a holy son (and His Scriptures) and she also believed in His Scriptures: the Torah, the Gospel and all other Scriptures; it is also said this means: she believed in the words of her Lord that Jesus the son of Mary will come into being by Allah saying “Be!” and he became a human being, and she also believed in His Scripture: the Gospel, (and was of the obedient) in times of hardship and comfort; and it is also said that this means: and she was obedient to He Who is far transcendent and majestic'. (Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas, Q. 66:12; underline emphasis ours)

This means that Gabriel must be God since he can do what Allah does such as create and can even give life because he possesses the breath of life!

Notice the following,

  1. According to Q. 66:12 and 21:91 Allah breathed his Spirit into Mary, obviously because this is how he intended to impregnate her, since the plural pronouns “We” and “Our” refer to Allah.
  2. The Muslim expositors believe that it was Gabriel who actually breathed into Mary.
  3. Therefore, Gabriel is God and a co-creator with Allah.
  4. This also shows that the Quran’s use of plural nouns, pronouns etc. must refer to both Allah and Gabriel together.
  5. However, Muslims deny that Gabriel is God.
  6. Therefore, both the Quran and the Muslim expositors are guilty of attributing divinity to a creature, thereby making him a co-equal partner with Allah, which is the sin of shirk.

How many gods did Muhammad believe in anyway?

To top it off some of the earliest Islamic sources claim that Muhammad actually believed in the existence of certain goddesses such as the daughters of Allah which are mentioned in the Quran:

Have you then considered Al-Lat, and Al-'Uzza (two idols of the pagan Arabs) And Manat (another idol of the pagan Arabs), the other third? Is it for you the males and for Him the females? That indeed is a division most unfair! They are but names which you have named, you and your fathers, for which Allah has sent down no authority. They follow but a guess and that which they themselves desire, whereas there has surely come to them the Guidance from their Lord! S. 53:19-23 Hilali-Khan

Muhammad thought that al-Uzza was a black Ethiopian woman and actually sent Khalid ibn al-Walid to kill her:

In this year, five nights before the end of Ramadan, Khalid b. al-Walid destroyed al-‘Uzza in the lowland of Nakhlah. Al-‘Uzza was an idol of the Banu Shayban, a subdivision of Sulaym, allies of the Banu Hashim. The Banu Asad b. ‘Abd al-‘Uzza used to say it was their idol. Khalid set out for it, and then he said, "I have destroyed it." [The Messenger of God] said, "Did you see anything?" "No," said Khalid. "Then," he said, "go back and destroy it." So Khalid returned to the idol, destroyed its temple, and broke the idol. The keeper began saying, “Rage, O ‘Uzza, with one of thy fits of rage!”– whereupon a naked, wailing Ethiopian woman came out before him. Khalid killed her and took her jewels that were on her. Then he went to the Messenger of God and gave him a report of what happened. “That was al-‘Uzza,” he said, "and al-‘Uzza will never be worshiped [again].”

According to Ibn Humayd – Salamah – Ibn Ishaq, who said: The Messenger of God sent Khalid b. al-Walid to [deal with] al-‘Uzza, who was at Nakhlah. She was a temple venerated by the tribes of Quraysh, Kinanah, and all Mudar. Her keepers were of the Banu Shayban, a division of the Banu Sulaym, allies of the Banu Hashim. When the master of the temple heard that Khalid was coming to deal with al-‘Uzza, he hung his sword on her and climbed the mountain near which al-‘Uzza was located. As he went up he said:

O ‘Uzza, attack with an attack that hits no vital place,
against Khalid! Throw down thy veil, and gird up thy train!
O ‘Uzza, if today thou wilt not slay Khalid,
bear a swift punishment, or become a Christian!

Having reached al-‘Uzza, Khalid destroyed her and returned to the Messenger of God. (The History of al-Tabari: The Victory of Islam, translated by Michael Fishbein [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1997], Volume 8, pp. 187-188; bold emphasis ours)

The foregoing lends credence to the story of the satanic verses (*; *; *; *; *) since it shows that Muhammad believed that these goddesses were real and weren’t simply names of non-existent entities which the pagans made up. And since he thought that these goddesses did exist it is not hard to imagine that he also believed at first that they interceded before Allah much like the prophets and angels do and will. He may have initially felt that they too were servants of Allah like the angels and that the problem wasn’t with their existence, but with the pagans worshiping them.

In light of such traditions how, then, can Zawadi maintain his position that Islam teaches absolute monotheism?

Concluding Remarks

Most of what I have presented here is not new. The bulk of it is found in earlier articles and responses to Zawadi himself, the links of which can be found below. Zawadi is clearly aware of all of these articles and replies since he has often tried (but has miserably failed) to refute what we have written.

In light of this, it has become clear that Zawadi is not interested in presenting the truth. He would rather go around spreading his salafi version of Islam as opposed to honestly dealing with and addressing what his sources actually teach concerning the nature of Allah, the existence of multiple gods and/or divine persons etc.

Zawadi has convinced himself that his religious texts actually teach and promote Unitarianism, when they do nothing of the kind. A fair and accurate reading of the Islamic corpus conclusively proves that the earliest Muslim sources do not teach that Allah is a uni-personal being, nor do they depict Islam as a religion that is free of idolatry.

Islam's very earliest sources actually depict Allah as a complex multi-personal entity, affirm that other divine beings exist, portray Muhammad and his companions as idolators who were guilty of venerating a black stone and of worshiping their prophet by praying to him even after his death.

Since it seems that Zawadi really believes his own propaganda and is convinced that he is speaking the truth we invite him to a public debate where we can challenge him on all of these issues. I personally would be more than willing to debate the topic of Islamic monotheism with Zawadi since this will give him the opportunity to refute my assertions against his claim that Islam teaches Unitarianism. I am also willing to debate him on whether the Holy Bible teaches the doctrine of the holy and blessed Trinity.

We will inform the readers whether Zawadi accepts these challenges.

Lord willing, there will be more replies to Zawadi’s debate statements to follow shortly.

Further Reading