CHRIST THE WORD OF GOD
In the fourth place we notice that Jesus the Messiah is called in the Qur’an the ‘Word of God.’ Thus in Sura An-Nisa’ (4:171), we read:—
إِنَّمَا الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ اللّهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُ أَلْقَاهَا إِلَى مَرْيَمَ
“Verily the Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary, is the Apostle of God and His Word which He conveyed into Mary.” Muhammadan commentators are at a loss to explain this significant passage which so clearly places Jesus Christ far above all other prophets; but we have only to compare this title of Christ with the titles which have been given by Muslims to other prophets in order to understand how high He stands above them. Thus Adam is called Safi Ullah, the chosen of God: Noah Nabi Ullah, the Prophet of God: Abraham Khalil Ullah, the Friend of God: Moses Kalim Ullah, the Speaker with God; and Muhammad Rasul Ullah, the Messenger of God. All these titles can be applied to weak erring men like ourselves, but Christ is called in the Qur’an the ‘Word of God,’ a title which clearly hints at some special relationship between Him and the Father.
Muslim writers have tried in various ways to evade the clear inference which these words suggest, namely, that Jesus is divine. Thus Imam Razi, followed by some modern writers, would have us believe that the term ‘Word of God’' means no more than that, ‘Jesus was created by the command or word of God.’But Adam was created by the command of God, yet what Muslim would dare to call Adam the ‘Word of God’? Moreover, in the verse from the Qur’an, which we have quoted above, it is distinctly stated that Jesus was the word of God “which He conveyed into Mary.” This verse alone is sufficient to refute the fanciful and ungrounded interpretation which is suggested by Imam Razi: for it distinctly shows that the ‘Word’ was something which existed previous to its entrance into Mary. The fact is that this title of the Lord Jesus can only be understood by a reference to the Gospel wherein it is clearly stated that Jesus the Word of God is divine, and existed with God before His birth into the world. Thus in John 1:1 it is written, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Muhammadan tradition also furnishes its quota of testimony, for in the Mishkat Al Masabih, Book I, Chap. IV, part 3, we read, “He (Jesus) was amongst the spirits; we sent Him into Mary.” 4 A tradition by Ahmad in the same book even tells us that the spirit of Christ entered Mary by her mouth! We may well afford to dispense with the evidence of such traditions; but they, at least, show us that Muhammadan belief has pictured Christ an existing previous to His incarnation. Both the Bible and the Qur’an speak of Jesus as the ‘Word of God’ and thus clearly differentiate Him from all other prophets, and point to a special relationship which exists between Him and God the Father.
It is further worthy of notice in this connection that the Arabic word used in the Qur’an to denote the ‘Word’ of God as applied to the Bible, is quite a different one from that used of Jesus Christ. Thus in Sura Al-Baqarah (2), verse 75, we read:—
كَانَ فَرِيقٌ مِّنْهُمْ يَسْمَعُونَ كَلاَمَ اللّهِ
“A part of them heard the word (Kalam) of God.” Here the word ‘Kalam’ is used of the scriptures of God; but the Qur’anic word for the ‘Word’ of God as applied to Christ is ‘Kalimat’ never Kalam. Thus, for example, in Ali 'Imran (3), verse 45, we read:—
يَا مَرْيَمُ إِنَّ اللّهَ يُبَشِّرُكِ بِكَلِمَةٍ مِّنْهُ
“O Mary, verily God sendeth thee good tidings of the word (Kalimat) from Himself.” Yet these commentators would ask us to believe that the high title ‘Word of God’ simply means that ‘Christ was created by the command or word of God.’Further, in the verse from the Qur’an which we have quoted, Christ is called ‘His Word,’ that is ‘God’s word.’ The Arabic shows that it means ‘The Word of God’ not merely ‘a Word of God.’ (كلمة الله not كلمة من كلمات الله) Thus we see that Jesus is the word or expression of God, so that by Him alone can we understand the mind and will of God. No other prophet has been given this title, because none other is, in this sense, the special revelation of God’s mind and will. Hence Jesus says in the Injil, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me;” and again, “All things have been delivered unto me of my Father; and no one knoweth who the Son is, save the Father; and who the Father is, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him.” (Luke 10:22).
We do not pretend to fully understand the divinity of Christ, involving, as it does, the great mystery of the trinity; but we can clearly see that the ‘Word’ of God must be of the nature of God, and that that divine nature can alone explain the miracidous birth of Jesus. From the Injil we learn that the eternal Word of God assumed the perfect nature of a man, without, however, giving up His divine nature. These two natures, a human and a divine, thus existed in Him side by side, just as a new scion when grafted on to a tree exists, distinct in itself, side by side, with the branches of the original tree, and yet one tree. Thus the Injil says, “The word became flesh and dwelt among us,” and the Qur’an says, “God put His word into Mary,” so that in the person of Jesus the Messiah He moved amongst men. It is no answer to say, “We cannot understand the incarnation or the divinity of Christ, and therefore will not believe it:” for neither do we understand the resurrection—yet we believe it. He who is wise will be content to accept the clear teaching of the Holy Bible on this solemn subject. No doubt the subject of the trinity is a great mystery, and yet, although it may be above reason, it is certainly not contrary to reason. Our Muslim brethren themselves admit a plurality in the attributes of God, such as His mercy, justice, power, etc., and they rightly call Him “مجموع الصفات الحسنة” “The Union of all good attributes.” If there can be a plurality in the attributes of God, why not in His nature? In neither case is His unity affected.
There is a traditional saying of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib,
"مَنْ عَرَفَ نَفَسهُ فَقَدْ عَرَفَ رَبْهُ"
“Whoso knoweth himself, knoweth his Lord.” The Tourat tells us that God created man in His own image. Now you speak of your spirit ‘روح’ as I; of your mind ‘عقل’ as I; and of your soul ‘نفس’ as I. These are distinct, and yet your personality is one. If you cannot fully understand this, how can you expect to understand the nature of the Infinite God?
Further, in the Qur’an God is called ‘الوَدُودُ’—the Lover. Now this term implies in the divine nature the existence of the attribute of love ‘الوداد’ and, as the nature of God cannot change, this attribute must have existed from eternity. But ‘love’ must have an object. What, we ask, was the object of God’s love before the creation of the world and of the angels? Do not these thoughts suggest that it is necessary that there should exist some kind of plurality of existences within the unity of God—the one loving the other? Does not the Muslim reader see that the very attributes of God, ascribed to Him by the Qur’an itself, suggest some plurality in the Godhead corresponding to the Christian doctrine of the trinity?
The Bible teaches that there is a trinity within the divine unity, and that Jesus, the Word of God, is one of this trinity. Many of our Muhammadan brethren to-day, following the example of the Qur’an, denounce the doctrine of the trinity as being opposed to the unity of God; yet a careful study of the Qur’an will show that what Muhammad denounced so strongly was polytheism: a doctrine of a plurality of gods. Thus, for example, in Sura An-Nisa' (4), verse 171, we read:—
وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ ثَلاَثَةٌ انتَهُواْ خَيْراً لَّكُمْ إِنَّمَا اللّهُ إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ
"Say not (there are) three (gods): forbear this; it will be better for you. God is but one God.” The famous commentators Jalalain understood this verse to refer to polytheism. Their comment is, “O people of the Gospel, follow not heresy in your religion; and speak not of God other than the words of truth, free from polytheism or attributing a son to the Almighty.” 5 Thus we see that what the Qur’an denies is polytheism: a belief in a plurality of gods, which Christians neither hold nor teach. As if to expressly guard against such a misconception, we find Jesus Christ clearly stating the divine unity in the words, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). That Muhammad failed utterly to understand the trinity is evident from Sura Al-Ma’idah (5), verse 116, where it is written:
يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ أَأَنتَ قُلتَ لِلنَّاسِ اتَّخِذُونِي وَأُمِّيَ إِلَهَيْنِ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ
“O Jesus, son of Mary, hast thou said unto men, take me and my mother for two gods beside God?” Whilst in another place (Sura Al-Ma’idah) Muhammad labours to prove that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is not a god, by the argument that she ate food! Yet Baizawi and other candid Muhammadan writers freely admit that the Christian trinity consists of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Muhammad's mistaken idea of the trinity as consisting of three gods is unfortunately shared by many of his followers to-day; and this misapprehension on their part prevents any sympathetic inquiry into the doctrine as held by orthodox Christians. Yet some Muslims have known better, and Dr. Imad-ud-din, in his famous ‘Hidayat al Muslimin,’ tells us that the Muhammadan sect known as Salihaya acknowledge that it is not blasphemy to teach the doctrine of a trinity within the divine essence. Rightly understood, the doctrine of the trinity does not conflict with the unity of God, but, on the other hand, it does serve to explain the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, and throws much light upon the difficult expressions ‘Word of God’ and ‘Spirit of God’ which Muslims apply to Christ. The Word of God is the expression of God, and must he as old as God Himself, i.e., eternal. That Word became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary and took to itself a perfect human nature. Thus, we read that Jesus of Nazareth ate and drank, mourned and was wearied as other men: for as man He was subject to like passions as we are—yet without sin. This is the doctrine of the Word of God, which He caused to enter into Mary, and which every true Muslim ought to believe on the authority of God’s holy word. To disbelieve that testimony, and to pry into the nature of God is as vain as it is impious. Thus Muhammad is reported to have said, “Think of God’s gifts, not of His nature, certainly you have no power for that,” and again, “We did not know the reality of Thee;” whilst in another tradition we find these startling words:—
البحث عن ذات الله كفر
“Argument about the nature of God is blasphemy.” No true doctrine can be contrary to reason, but all that concerns the nature of the Infinite may well he superior to our weak human intellects. Muslims themselves admit that there are certain sentences of the Qur’an also which are ' Mutashabih': the exact meaning of which is hidden from man, and will continue to be so until the day of resnrrection. Such are the letters alif, lam, mim, and the expressions in the Qur’an concerning God’s hands, face, etc. Why, then, should our Muslim brethren deny to Christians the liberty which they themselves claim? We may well call the doctrines of the divinity of Christ and the trinity ‘Mutashabih’; thus it is inconsistent for Muslims to deny those doctrines simply because they cannot fully understand them.
When Christians believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, they do so on the authority of the Holy Bible, and in doing so they are in good company, for the prophets and apostles also believed in it. We have already indicated that several of the prophecies concerning the Messiah point to a majesty not less than divine. We here give one or two more references to the same effect. In Isaiah 9:6, we find, concerning the Messiah, these words, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end.” Again, the prophet David addressing the Messiah in prophecy says, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” That the apostles of Christ, whom the Qur’an honours with the title ‘Helpers of God,’ believed in the divinity of Jesus is clear from many passages of the Injil. Thus we read that one of the apostles of Christ named Thomas did not at first believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead; but later, when brought face to face with the risen Christ, he addressed Him in the joy of a new born faith and devotion, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus replied, “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). How much better then, my Muslim reader, for you also to believe in this divine Son of God, that you may have eternal life through His name, for it is written, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt he saved.”
4. See also, Al-Hadis, An English Translation and Commentary of Mishkat-Ul-Masabih With Arabic Text, Al-Haj Maulana Fazul Karim, Vol 3, Chapter 32, Sec 1542 - Pre-Destination, No 457w, page 120. “Obai-b-Ka’ab reported … Jesus, son of Mary who was among those souls. He sent him to Mary (peace be upon her). It has also been narrated from Obai that he entered by her mouth.” See also, Mishkat-ul-Masabeeh, translated by Capt. A. N. Matthews, Book I, Chapter 4 (Destiny), p. 48 “UBAI BIN K'AB said in exposition of the word of God, … We made a covenant with the prophets, and with thee, and with Noah and Abraham and Moses and Jesus son of Mary. Jesus son of Mary was among those spirits; so God sent him to Mary, peace be on her.” Ubai said, he entered her by her mouth.