Christian missionaries often make bold claims that Qur’ān have a misconstrued and erroneous notion of what Christians believed about their theology as though it reject of the fatherhood of God the Father and the sonship of “god” the Son is strictly speaking a rejection of fatherhood and sonship in a biological sense (belief which Christianity would also reject). They accuse God of the Qur’ān, does not know exactly what Christians believed and not be able to communicate it accurately, or does it?
Let us focus on Sūrat al-ikhlāṣ (112) “the pure belief”, one of the core texts of the Qur’ān, and compare it side by side with the Nicene Creed, considered as the official orthodox formulation of the Trinty:
|Nicano-Constantinopolitanum (381 AD)||Qur’ān, Sūrat Al-ikhlāṣ (S 112 )|
|We believe in one God, – Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα Θεὸν||Say: He is God, One – قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ|
|the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible – Πατέρα παντοκράτορα, ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς, ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων.||God the absolute – اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ|
|And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made – Καὶ εἰς ἕνα Κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ, τὸν ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς γεννηθέντα πρὸ πάντων τῶν αἰώνων, φῶς ἐκ φωτός, Θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ, γεννηθέντα οὐ ποιηθέντα,||He did not beget, nor is He begotten – لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ|
|being of one substance with the Father; – ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί||And there is none like Him – وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ|
Verse 1 “Say, God is One”; qul huwa llāhu aḥad — astoundingly echoes the Jewish credo, the Shema: “Hear Israel, the Lord, our God, is One”; שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד Shema’ Yisrā’ēl, adōnay ēlōḥēnū adōnay eḥad. One who is familiar with the Hebrew bible will immediately recognize the Hebrew sounding remains audible in the Qur’ānic version, which—although in a normal sense somewhat unusual (the choice of adopts the Hebrew-sounding noun aḥad instead of the more pertinent adjective wāḥid for the rhyme). Uninformed critics is quick to see it as grammar “mistake” in the Qur’ān but such thinking is absurd to say the least, everyone who has rudimentary knowledge in Arabic know that the Qur’ān dictates the grammar of classical Arabic not the other way around. This striking translingual quotation certainly serves for a purpose. It is part of a divine design to appropriate the Shema into making it universal transitioning from the Israelites to any believer. This is kind of exegetical update the Qur’ān applies to jewish revelations thus making it a universal messages.
Verse 2 — “God the Absolute”. This what monotheism is all about. Roman, greek and meccan pagan polytheists would no problem describe God as the Creator, but they would not say God is Aḥad, because they believe there are other deities cooperating to each other performing purposes. God in a sense is not “Almighty”. Here aṣ-Samad is the emphasis of pantokrátora the absolute power of God who needs none but Himself, freeing the designation from pagan influences.
Verse 3 — ”He did not beget nor is he begotten”; lam yalid wa-lam yūlad—is the reverse echo of the Nicene creed; it unequivocally rejects the emphatic affirmation of Christ’s sonship—begotten, not made; gennêthenta, ou poiêthenta—employing emphatic double negation and establishing an apophatic (negative) theology by the inversion of the Nicene creed. What striking is the Qur’ān seems to be fully aware of the absurdity of such God who could be “begotten” (gennaō – G1080 which is used elsewhere in greek new testament as an act women begetting children cf. John 3:4). Not to mention the text inherent logical contradiction with the attribute not “made” (poieō). As nothing divine could be “begotten” this doctrine compromised monotheism (the Shema), and because whatever is begotten is caused, and whatever is caused is not eternal. After all, the Christians mean the Son is really distinct with the Father (not merely distinct in thought) there is no way Christians can escape this rather problematic God “creates” god implication. Far from misunderstanding it, the Qur’ān fully grasp the Christian credal statement and deliberately negating the idea of sonship and fatherhood alike not necessarily in biological/procreation sense but precisely in the discourse as the creed put it.
Verse 4—“And there is none like Him”; wa-lam yakun lahu kufuwan aḥad. This is the summed up of negative theology in the previous verse, the Qur’ānic formulation, kufuwan, literally means “equal in rank,” is to invert the Nicene formula of Christ’s being of one substance with God—homoousios to patri—forbidding any philosophy of any being as equal in substance with God, let alone a son.
Finally it has been suggested that contrary to Christian missionaries accusation that Qur’ān have misunderstanding of their trinity doctrine, it seems very familiar with the orthodox formulation of trinity doctrine, the Nicene creed. It has been shown in sūrat al-ikhlāṣ, the Qur’ān adopts rhetorical strategy to negate the essential statement of the Nicene creed word by word. The Nicene wording goes on saying that Christ’s was “begotten” and then proclaiming his equality in nature with God, homoousios to patri, “being of one substance with the Father.” In response, the Qur’ān, dismissed this ideas by rejecting the idea of sonship and fatherhood alike — lam yalid wa-lam yūlad, “he did not beget, nor is he begotten” — and then seals it with a universal negation stating that there is no way to think of a being equal with God: wa-lam yakun lahu kufuwan aḥad. Establishing pure universalist monotheistic creed, a composite (affirmation and negation) counter-text to earlier people-of-the-book texts, the Jews (the Shema) and the Christians (the Nicene creed). What for muslims has become the symbol of unsullied monotheism reveal itself as exegetical correction for the trinity doctrine.
Disclaimer: I am indebted to the scholarly work of Professor Angelika Neuwirth who have pointed out the point-by-point refutation of the Nicene Creed in Surat al-ikhlāṣ.