Allah, One in the Same with the Triune God?

St. Francis of Assisi preaching Jesus Christ to the Sultan al-Khamil by Bennozo Gozzoli – 15th c. (Image: Public Domain)

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said in a recent interview that Christians. “cannot pray like or with Muslims [since] their faith in God and his self-revelation is not only different from the Christian faith in God, but even denies its formula, claiming that God does not have a Son, who, as the eternal Word of the Father, is a divine person, and, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is the One and Trinitarian God.” In other words, they outright refute the divinity of Jesus and, consequently, the Christian profession on the fullness of who God is: the Holy Trinity (Father, Son [Jesus], and Holy Spirit): 

They [Christians] have certainly blasphemed who say, “Allah [God] is the Messiah, the son of Mary,” while the Messiah has said, “O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord:” for there is no God except one God Allah. They have certainly blasphemed who say, ‘Allah is the third of three’.” (Sura 5, 72)

Muslims do hold that Jesus is the Messiah, but not in the Christian understanding that He is the Redeemer of the human race: “Verily the Messiah [al-Masīḥ], Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah” (Sura 4, 171). He is a human messenger like Muhammad, though not as important. The term al-Masīḥ, while related to the Hebrew notion of being “anointed,” as al-Tabari explains, is an honorific title understood to refer to his having been purified by Allah of sin. Consequently, the merciful god of Islam is one who has mercy for whom he wants and not on those who displease him: “Allah might bring mercy on whom He will[ed]” (Sura 48, 25). This is similar to the Old Testament when God speaks to Moses, saying, “I who show favors to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will” (Exodus 33,19). In the Hebrew scriptures, however, God always cherished and stayed faithful to His people even when they had committed wickedness: “The Lord [Yahweh] gives his love to the sons of Israel even though they turn to other gods.” (Hosea 3, 1)

Mercy or love in Islam is equated with the rich man who is obliged to stoop over the poor and offer him something. He bestows not necessarily because he is rich or because he pities the status of the destitute person. Instead, he gives solely so that the latter can acknowledge and publicly exalt his richness, as expressed in the daily Islamic prayer of the tasbih, which means to exalt, as manifested in the ninety-nine attributes of Allah. 

Müller also explained that even if “Islam has faith in the one God, [it] is understood as a natural faith in the existence of God and not as faith as a virtue infused with hope and love, which makes us sharers in the life of God, ensuring that we remain in him and he in us.” This is because, Allah also stands alone, transcendent and majestic: “He is Allah, other than whom there is no god, the Sovereign, the Pure, the Perfection, the Keeper of Faith, the Guardian, the Majestic in Might [the Transcendent], the Superb” (Sura 59, 23). Unlike in Christianity which teaches that God is humble, Allah “is far above humbleness, that is to say He has nothing which may disgrace or discredit Him or impel Him to show lowliness or humbleness.” The medieval scholar Abu al-Qasim, also known as Zamaksharia (1070–1143), explained that we were created by Allah solely to worship him and therefore can only acknowledge to our human imperfection and earthly deficiency. As a result, creation is left to subsist for itself, since Allah begets an inferiority complex in us, who are the sole rational creatures capable of understanding this isolation.

The Christian teaching of the interpersonal relation among the three divine Persons, the Holy Trinity, which serves as the basis for our friendship with God and with other people in society, shows that God acts according to reason (i.e., for our ultimate good). Muslims, instead, hold that He is pure will, which connotes arbitrariness; submitting to Allah’s will, which is necessary, does not have to be reasonable, since he is above such attributes of goodness and reason; Allah exults in exercising his will. This is why the ability for Muslims to exercise their rights is constrained to observance of statutes in which they cannot discern otherwise.

One can then conclude why Cardinal Müller said that Muslims “can only pray to a distant God, submitting to his will as an unknown destiny. Their prayer expresses the blind subordination to the dominant will of God. The Christian instead prays that the will of God be done, a will that we do in liberty and that does not make us slaves, but free children of God.”

N.B. Sources not cited and further explanation between the concept of the Triune God and Allah can be found in author’s book  Islam: Religion of Peace? The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.