Jesus the avatar ? – a short Muslim critique of the idea of God incarnate

Another old article by Eric bin Kisam that deserves to be republished:


Jesus Christ as the shaktyavesha avatara an empowered god incarnate in modern hinduism

The Trinitarian belief system which holds that Jesus was the real God Almighty who incarnated into a human body and thus taking on 100% human nature while retaining 100% divine substance, was and always is the most notorious point at issue between Christianity and Islam.

Amazing it may seem, as Christians love to tell us that God incarnated into a man in order to show God’s love to humans and to save them us hell (1), but this, to Muslim ears, sounds out of touch with the true Semitic concept of deity and does sounds intuitively wrong. God, the ultimate reality of all being, surely must be always be singular, unseen and undivided deity without any imagery (2).

From the Muslim viewpoint who see themselves as the true heirs of semitic monotheism, this desemiticising of God into a concept more like Sanskrit Avatara resulted in dire consequences.

The Qur’an states:

مَّا الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ إِلَّا رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ

‘The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers the like of whom had passed away before him… (Surat al-Ma’ida, 75)

قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لَا تَغْلُوا فِي دِينِكُمْ غَيْرَ الْحَقِّ وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا أَهْوَاءَ قَوْمٍ قَدْ ضَلُّوا مِن قَبْلُ

O people of the Book – Do not exaggerate in your religion other than the truth, and follow not the vain desires of a people who went astray before you.’ (Surat al-Ma’ida, 77)

The Qur’anic term for ‘exaggeration’ used here, ghuluw غلو, became a standard term in Muslim heresiography for any tendency, Muslim or otherwise, which attributed divinity to a revered and charismatic figure (3).

On the Question about God who incarnated into a man

According to Christian belief :

God, as creator, to whom all things are possible, can, if He wishes, join a human nature to himself.  The resulting person would be fully human and also fully divine.(4)

This is the crux where Islam (and also Judaism) disagree. Islamic scholars provide a clear demarkation that although God posses absolute power (Al Qudraatu القدرة) to do all things (5), but he cannot do things that are logically impossible (Maa yastahiilu haqillahu ta’ala ما يستحيل في حق الله تعالى).  In other words the fact that God possesses ultimate power does not mean that God will perform something which does not have the possibility of actualization (6):

  • God cannot create a two dimensional shape that is both square and round.
  • God cannot create a man who is both married and a bachelor.
  • God cannot add a human nature on to his divine nature, and the resulting person be both human and divine which is logically impossible.

Of course God could enter into a human body. He could even share consciousness with a human person inside a human body. But these beings would never be ‘fully’ divine and ‘fully’ human, but some kind of mixture. Because if God become a man and God became 100% it means God becomes an equal with man (and share human weakness such as wrongful, dependence on others which is impossible for God (7).

Trinitarians normally say that Muslims try to keep God in a very small box, and limits Him to abilities that only the finite mind can comprehend. However this argument puts the idea of God outside the realm of the logicality and deviates into unintelligible, meaningless philosophical speculation – if not a logical fallacy.

Using Jewish scriptures, Trinitarians are keen to point to the burning bush which Moses encountered at Horeb (Exodus 3:1-4) and how the cloud covers the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34) show that God can manifested in many forms, and surely God can also incarnate into man. But the Jews believe those manifestations were the works of God’s agent: the angels (throughout Jewish scripture, visions of God are accompanied by the sighting of angels).  The Jewish interpretation is more in line with semitic monotheism namely that the Angel(s) of the Lord was commissioned to speak God’s words throughout the Scriptures. Sometime He is called “Lord” on behalf of conveying God’s message to Prophets of God Nabī Āllah نبي الله, but the Angel of the Lord is not God incarnate as Trinitarians insist.

But even if for argument sake, it was really God who manifested in various incarnation forms in the Jewish Bible, why do not Trinitarians maintain the same relationship between Jesus and God as the relationship between God and the burning bush or between God and the tabernacle cloud etc. Why do Trinitarian theologians limit themselves to only three members of godhead instead of five (- add the bush and the cloud)?

If anything, the Trinitarian concept of God becoming a man mixes semitic monotheism and paganism. To worship YHWH through “human nature” breaks away from the biblical principles that God is not a man (8) and we should not put trust in “son of man” in which there is no salvation (9).

Allah knows best.

  1. Catechism: The Son of God Became Man
  2. The essence of Judaism: Unity of God 
  3. Shayhk Abdal Hakim Murad’s The Trinity: a Muslim Perspective 
  4. I note the stance taken by Calvinists who defend “classical” orthodoxy like the apologist James White in his debate with brother Abdullah Kunde on the topic “Can God become man
  5. إِنَّ اللّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ “Allah has the perfect Power over all things” [Q 2:109]
  6. Medieval Sunni theologian Abu Ishaq al-Isfara’ini recorded this narration in his Islamic jurisprudence: (my own translation)

    رُوي أن سيدنا إدريس عليه الصلاة والسلام جاءه مرة إبليس في صورة إنسان وكان سيدنا إدريس يخيط وفي كل دخلة وخرجة يقول سبحان الله والحمد لله، فجاءه إبليس اللعين بقشرة وقال له: الله تعالى يقدر أن يجعل الدنيا في هذه القشرة؟

    فقال له سيدنا إدريس: الله تعالى قادر أن يجعل الدنيا في سَمّ هذه الإبرة أي ثقبها، ونخس بالإبرة في إحدى عينيه وجعله أعور

    “Narrated that  prophet Idris peace be upon him received Satan as visitor in the form of man at that time when prophet Idris is sewing (his clothes) while he is praising Allah. Satan ask whether God with His power is able to put the world in the (egg) shell.  Prophet Idris replied: ” God is able to put the world into this needle hole” while at the same time he punctured one of the man’s eye so he became one-eyed.

    (The moral of the story is that Satan likes to mock God’s power by making inappropriate and illogical aspersions of His ability).

  7. Islamic theologians call this impossibility of God’s attribute as Mumatsalatu Lil Hawadits (مماثلة للحوادث) means “Equals with God Creations”.
  8. Lo eesh El“– לֹ֣א אִ֥ישׁ אֵל֙ “God is not a man” that He should be deceitful, not a “son of man” that He should relent » Numbers 23:19 .  It is argued that the verse can not be used as an argument against the Incarnation (Richard Zetter one the contributor of this blog has written about this ), I would argue this is still the case. If anything, it is the acquired human nature after the incarnation that oddly makes god-man a 100% human. To be a human in fulness he has to have the shortcomings of changing his mind or lying.  Worshipping a hybrid but unseparated god-man constitutes worshipping a human and that is certainly something guilty of idolatry.
  9. אַל־תִּבְטְח֥וּ בִנְדִיבִ֑ים בְּבֶן־אָדָ֓ם ׀ שֶׁ֤אֵֽין ל֥וֹ תְשׁוּעָֽה

    Put not your trust in the great, in son of man who cannot save. [Ps 146:3]

    Interestingly the very root of Hebrew word teshuah תְּשׁוּעָה  used in that verse means salvation. It does seem to me that this verse prophesies a danger of worshipping the “son of man” ben Adam בֶן־אָדָ֓ם  a man mistakenly thought as god incarnate thus a warning for believing in false salvation.

Categories: Christianity, Eric bin Kisam, Islam, Jesus

1 reply

  1. Let’s see what God has to say about this.

    God is NOT a Man

    Hosea 11:9

    I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and NOT a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.

    Numbers 23:19
    God is NOT man, that he should lie,
    or a SON of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

    Key words: NOT a Man or Son Of Man.
    Who’s called a Son of Man in NT ??? Jesus therefore Jesus is NOT God and never claimed to be one.

    Key words: God doesn’t change His mind.
    So if God became a Man after saying that he is NOT, that’s called Changing His mind.

    Then God emphasizes that, “Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

    Malachi 3:6

    For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

    How clear does it have to be?

    God is Uncontainable

    1 Kings 8:27

    But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!

    If heavens and highest heaven cannot contain God what makes them think that a Human Body can?

    2 Chronicles 6:18

    “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built!

    2 Chronicles 2:6

    But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him?

    Psalm 115:16

    The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man.

    Bible is quite simple when it talks about the nature of God Almighty. One doesn’t need theological acrobatics to understand that.

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