Divine Plurals in the Bible and the Qur’ān


In Muslim-Christian dialogue, a frequent refrain one comes across is the argument that a relevant religious text (e.g. the Bible, the Qur’ān) employs singular constructions in reference to God, therefore God must be unipersonal. While one possible response is to offer examples which show that singular constructions (whether verbs, pronouns, or pronomial suffixes) do not necessitate that an entity they relate to must be unipersonal, an alternative option is to note that the same corpus also employs a number of plural constructions in reference to God.

When discussions turn towards the latter option, one popular counter is to declare that the plurals in question are non-literal (e.g. “mere plurals of majesty”). At this point, two thoughts come to mind. The first is that it is curious to insist that singular constructions necessitate a unipersonal ontology, while also insisting that plural constructions do not necessitate a multipersonal ontology. That aside, a second thought is this: how obvious is it that certain divine plurals in the text are in fact non-literal?

This blog entry will not argue that so-called “royal plurals” are impossible; rather, it will merely look at select examples of divine plurals, and explore whether there is evidence for or against claims about how literal they may or may not be.

Is the Divine Plural in Genesis 1:26 Literal?

One of the most well known divine plurals can be found in Genesis 1:26, where the Hebrew verb laᶜasot (לעשות), “to make,” is rendered in the first person plural, imperfect tense, naᶜaseh (נעשה). The text quotes God, before the creation of Adam, declaring “We will make man” (or more popularly translated “let Us make man”).

There are lay Christians who will appeal to that text, and upon doing so, they will often get back an argument that any Jew, anyone who knows Hebrew, will know that the plural in Genesis 1:26 is merely a “plural of majesty,” and thus emphatically not literal. The reality, however, is that, while of course Jews are not monolithic, it is nonetheless the case that a number of Jewish exegetes, from antiquity, to the middle ages, and even on into the modern period, have treated the plural in Genesis 1:26 as quite literal.

Now, as a disclaimer, the argument here is not that any of those exegetes interpreted the verse the way a Trinitarian Christian might. Moreover, it is worth noting that these different exegetes are not even in full agreement with one another regarding the precise details. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that, in their own respective ways, (non-Christian) Jewish writers from very different schools of thought, different centuries, and different continents, treated the relevant plural as literal (and thus it is misleading to simply declare that “Jews know it is merely a majestic plural”). The reader is invited to consider some examples.

For an example from antiquity, there is Philo[1]:

    Moses, when treating in his lessons of wisdom of the Creation of the world, after having said of all other things that they were made by God, described man alone as having been fashioned with the co-operation of others. His words are: “God said, let us make man after our image” (Gen. i. 26), “let us make” indicating more than one.

For a medieval example, there is the commentary of RaSh”Y[2], one of the most authoritative exegetes within the Rabbinic spectrum:

    נעשה אדם: ענותנותו של הקב”ה למדנו מכאן לפי שהאדם בדמות המלאכים ויתקנאו בו לפיכך נמלך בהם

    Translation: “let us make man” – the humility of the Holy One, blessed be He, we learned from this, for as Adam was in the likeness of the angels, and they would be jealous with him, therefore He took council with them.

For yet another (apparently?[3]) medieval example, there is the Zohar[4]:

    למלכא דהוה ליה כמה בניינין למבני והוה ליה אומנא וההוא אומנא לא הוה עבד מדעם אלא מרשו דמלכא […] אלקים אומנא לעילא ודא אימא עלאה אלקים אומנא לתתא ודא שכינתא דלתתא

    Translation: [this is likened] to the King that has many buildings to build, and that has an artisan, and that artisan does not build anything except [he has] permission of the King. […there is] Elohīm the artisan to [the] higher [realm] and that is the exalted Īmā, [and there is] Elohīm the artisan to [the] lower [realm] and that is the Shekhīna below.

For an example from modern times, some (perhaps “liberal”?) Jewish scholars put it thusly:

    The plural construction (Let us…) most likely reflects a setting in the divine council (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-22; Isa. ch 6; Job chs 1-2): God the King announces the propoosed course of action to His cabinet of subordinate deities, though He alone retains the power of decision.[5]

At this point, an important disclaimer may be in order: the author of this blog entry does not intend to endorse of any of the specific (disparate) views above; rather the point was simply to showcase some of the history of (non-Christian) Jewish exegetes treating the plural in Genesis 1:26 as literal (which shows that it is far from obvious that the plural is non-literal). Nor is an argument intended along the lines of “these Jewish scholars thought the plural was literal, therefore it must be literal.”

An Argument for a Literal Plural in Genesis 1:26, from the TaNa”Kh

So, if the plural in Genesis 1:26 may or may not be literal, this raises an important question: might there be any textual indicators which can persuade one to lean in favor of it being literal? The answer is that may depend on how far one expands the corpus of text under exploration. If one is looking at Genesis 1:26 in a vacuum, then it is purely open to speculation. However, if one casts a wider net within the traditional text, a different answer may arise. This section of the blog entry will briefly look at the verse within the context of the TaNa”Kh (i.e. the Hebrew Bible recognized by Rabbinic Judaism, the Masoretic Text), and then the next section will take still wider view.

Note that in Genesis 1:2, the rūaḥ elohīm (רוח אלהים), the Spirit of God, is already present at creation. Later on in the corpus, Job 33:4 quotes Elīhū as declaring “the Spirit of God (rūaḥ el [רוח־אל]) made me”. The verb employed there, ᶜasatnī (עשתני), just so happens to be the same verb which is employed in Genesis 1:26, only rendered in the third person singular, perfect tense (with a first person singular pronomial suffix appended). Elsewhere, Psalm 104:30 refers to the participation of God’s rūaḥ in creation.[6]

In short, it may be inferred from these verses that the Spirit of God was present at the beginning of creation, and participated in creation, even in the creation of man. That seems to provide some reason to interpret the plural in Genesis 1:26 as literal.

An Argument for a Literal Plural in Genesis 1:26, from the Christian Bible

Now, if one is willing to move away from limiting themself to just the TaNa”Kh, and look at the larger Christian canon, they would be asked to consider these four points according to the Bible:

  1. The Father participated in creation (1 Corinthians 8:6).
  2. The Son participated in creation (John 1:3, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:10).
  3. The Holy Spirit participated in creation (Job 33:4, Psalms 104:30).
  4. God acted ALONE in creation (Isaiah 44:24).

The author of this blog entry would propose that those four points, above, provide not only the Biblical scope for understanding Genesis 1:26, but so too the verse which follows, verse 27. Talmūd Bablī, Sanhedrīn 38B, records Rab Yoḥanan arguing that it is significant that the verb create is rendered in the singular in Genesis 1:27 (and much of the Rabbinic literature since has employed that approach when discussing this subject of verse 26).

So Genesis 1:26-27 has God say “let Us make,” in the plural, yet then proceeds to create in the singular, as if alone. For those who are exploring the Christian Bible as a whole, rather than merely speculate about that shift in a vacuum, one can infer from the points above that there are three Persons who participate in create, yet God acts alone in creation. The best reconciliation of those points would be a multipersonal conception of God: the one God ‘comprises’ those three Persons. That provides the best interpretive framework for Genesis 1:26-27, and it entails treating the plural in verse 26 as literal.

A Brief Note on Divine Plurals in the Qur’ān

When the reader turns their attention from the Bible to the Qur’ān, they will find that it seems as though the it is almost universally taken for granted among professed believers in the Qur’ān[7] that the divine plurals therein are non-literal.[8]

However, here is an important question which rarely seems to be asked: what textual indicators, if any, necessitate the conclusion that the divine plurals in the Qur’ān are non-literal? In other words, it is one thing to just dismissively declare those plurals to be non-literal, as if with a wave of the hand, but it is quite another thing to show texts within the Qur’ān itself which might lead one to reach that conclusion. If there are no such indicators within the text, rather one arrives at their position based on extra-Qur’ānic traditions, then, at the very least, one should make that clear.

With that in mind, perhaps the most striking plural in the Qur’ān is found in sūrat al-Waqiᶜa 56:59, where God is quoted as uttering the phrase naḥnu al-khāliqūn (نحن الخالقون), literally “We are the Creators”. At the very least, the verse seems to make room for a fun question: is it permissible, from a Qur’ānic perspective, to refer to God as “the Creators”?

On a more serious note, however, if there are no textual indicators in the Qur’ān necessitating the conclusion that the divine plurals therein are non-literal, and if even noun forms are being rendered in the plural, then perhaps the possibility that said plurals are literal is not so absurd, after all?

If one entertains such a possibility, they are faced with the question of what then to do with the singular constructions the Qur’ān employs in reference to God. In other words, how does one reconcile the singular constructions with literal plurals? One easy answer might be that, from a literalist interpretation, God is singular and yet plural. While that might initially strike the mind as counterintuitive, its reconciliation can be found in a multipersonal conception of God.

NOTES:

(1) Philo, “On Flight and Finding (De Fugo et Inventione),” XIII, 68, in F.H. Colson & G.H. Whitaker (trans.), Philo, Volume V, (Loeb Classic Library, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), p. 45.

(2) RaSh”Y’s commentary on the verse can be found online here.

(3) While much of the Zohar purports to quote the second century sage Shimᶜon bar Yoḥay, the author of this blog entry is sympathetic to the argument that it is likely a largely medieval corpus (though with portions therein predating Mosheh De Leon).

(4) Zohar, vol. I, 22A (corresponding to parshat B’reshīt, para. 160, in the Sūlam, which is properly part of the Tīqūney Zohar).

(5) Adele Berlin & Marc Zvi Brettler, The Jewish Study Bible, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 12.

(6) While it is outside the TaNa”Kh, Judith 16:14 may nonetheless also have relevance here.

(7) Note carefully that reference is made to “professed believers in the Qur’ān,” and not simply “Muslims,” as one can attempt to declare a person or group outside of [orthodox] Islām, but such takfīr would not entail that the accused are also outside the spectrum of those who affirm belief in the Qur’ān.

(8) For a rare exception, when limiting the universe of discourse to the western hemisphere, it might be said that, on the subject of divine plurals in the Qur’ān, members of the NOI are among the only scriptural literalists around.



Categories: Arabic, Bible, Christianity, Hebrew, Islam, Qur'an

123 replies

  1. The quality of your evidence-based paper is self-evidently of the highest level on this website. Moreover, it is obvious that you should consider finding more time and space in your 24 hours schedule for more of this. Maybe a possible negotiation with your family, friends and boss for more time.

    As per the specifics of this article, I was totally shocked to learn that the Qur’an contains numerous proofs of Divine Plurals. As per Genesis 1:26, I think you offered numerous non-Christian proofs that support a literal understanding of the plural.

    A very well constructed, detail oriented paper that is truly of the finest caliber on the market available. God Bless, Denis Giron.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr.Collins I am curious to understand your own theology. Would you describe your beliefs as Christian (Trinitarian) or as something else?

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    • Thank you for your kind words.

      This subject came to mind while reading through the replies to my previous blog entry on sūrat al-Ikhlāṣ. While demonstrating that the sūrah affirms a multipersonal conception of God was beyond the scope of that blog entry, as I saw different responses make requests along those lines I was tempted to make note of the divine plurals in the Qur’ān. However, I knew that would turn into a discussion on whether those plurals were literal or not. So I figured the subject might best have its own blog entry.

      For me, this is a central question: if one asserts that divine plurals in the Qur’ān are non-literal, are there any textual indicators within the Qur’ān which compels us to side with that assertion?

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      • Denis, is it possible to claim that: Trinity Doctrine is compatible with Tawheed?

        And your question: ”For me, this is a central question: if one asserts that divine plurals in the Qur’ān are non-literal, are there any textual indicators within the Qur’ān which compels us to side with that assertion?”

        Is anyone capable of answering both these questions?

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      • Greetings Dr. Collins

        I would say the doctrine of the Trinity is a form of tawḥīd. It may not fit with the artificial limitations some orthodox Muslims place on tawḥīd, but the word itself is expansive enough to include a multipersonal conception of God. I briefly touch on this in the following video:

        God bless

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      • Wow, it really seems you have been thinking about these issues of tawḥīd and the Trinity for a long time. Care to explain why?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Greetings, Dr. Collins.

        It is just that, in my experience, topics like tawḥīd and sūrat al-Ikhlāṣ come up quite a bit in Christian-Muslim dialogue, and so I may have given those subjects a bit more thought, hence why I have a bit more to say when sharing my amateur musings on them.

        God bless.

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      • While many christian apologists argue insanely that Qur’an is Arabic because it’s for Arabs alone, and of course muslims have refuted this idea already, yet my appreciation for the fact that Qur’an insists to its Arabic has increased. Why? Because as we see that christians and jews -although the problem with christians is bigger and more vivid, have a tendency to play with the language. Once you play with language and empty it from its meanings, nothing stands for you in any argument. It leads to sophistry as we see in Denis’ articles. Of course it’s so shameful from his part. If Denis were honest, he would admit that there’s no need to change the language and its normal functions at the expense of nonsensical beliefs christians developed later.

        May Allah have mercy on Imaam Al-Shawkaani who said ” As Qur’an is Arabic so we can understand it, but it’s also Arabic so that no one can alter its meanings by inserting meanings that are not known in Arabic.” And here’s a great advantage for Qur’an as a scripture, which separates it from other scriptures. The language! It functions as a protective wall around it so that no one can play with it.

        “sūrah affirms a multipersonal conception of God ”
        Needless to say this’s a big fat lie.
        Once God says He’s one, no normal person knowing his language would stop to determine whether that God contains in Him many persons or not! Why? Because this insane idea is not a normal language, rather it’s an insane language christians developed later to maintain the doctrine of one God on one hand, and the fact they now want to take Jesus as God on the other hand. Since then no one has bought this absurd language outside the christian communities. In fact, even within christian communities that language is so absurd that some christians have gone with modalism or partialism.
        Also notice that when I asked Denis about the word (only) in John17:3, he appealed to his theology while my question was about the language! What does he understand when he reads that the father is the (only) true God? Not sure why he tried to find a shelter in his theology? My premise is that your theology is so absurd that you have to contrive a new language to capture it, so why do you answer with that same theology!? It’s begging the question fallacy! Moreover, even in that theological answer, Denis failed to provide a solid argument! John1:18 says that the Jesus is the (only) begotten Son. Does that change the meaning of the word (only)? And since Denis has no problem to empty the language from its normal function, why would we understand that (only Son) indicates to one son?
        Can we understand that many identities/persons are found under that (one Son)? Yes according to Denis if he wants to be consistent.

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      • Greetings ᶜAbdullah, and thank you for your reply.

          ᶜAbdullah wrote:
          If Denis were honest, he would admit that there’s no need to change the language

        I would ask that we focus on the arguments themselves, examining them on their own merits, without attempting to cast aspersions on each other personally (i.e. there is no need for us to attempt to impugn each other’s honesty). With that said, I would ask that you clarify what, precisely, in the language you feel I have changed?

          ᶜAbdullah wrote:
          “sūrah affirms a multipersonal conception of God ”
          Needless to say this’s a big fat lie.

        Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding, here, so I will attempt to clarify. My previous blog entry, on sūrat al-Ikhlāṣ, only argued that the relevant sūrah did not contradict a multipersonal conception of God. However, several comments thereupon went beyond the topic, and basically demanded an argument in favor of the Qur’ān affirming a multipersonal conception of God. While it was sufficient for me to remind those commenters that I never claimed sūrat al-Ikhlāṣ (much less the Qur’ān as a whole) affirmed such, I was nonetheless tempted to wonder aloud about the divine plurals in the Qur’ān. However, anticipating where such discussion would lead, I figured it would be more prudent to have a separate blog entry exploring the subject. But to be clear, I will repeat here, it was not my argument that sūrat al-Ikhlāṣ affirms a multipersonal conception of God.

          ᶜAbdullah wrote:
          Once God says He’s one, no normal person knowing his language would stop to determine whether that God contains in Him many persons or not!

        The reality, however, is that the word one does not by itself establish that the entity it refers to must be unipersonal. This is not me changing the language; rather it is a simple fact of the language.

        ***

        That said, I would like to return to the topic of this blog entry, so permit me to ask you: can you think of any textual indicators within the Qur’ān which necessitate that the divine plurals therein are non-literal? If not, can we agree this is an idea brought from outside the text (or at least reached via recourse to extra-Qur’ānic tradition)?

        I look forward to your answer. Until then, have a great day. God bless.

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      • “The reality, however, is that the word one does not by itself establish that the entity it refers to must be unipersonal. This is not me changing the language; rather it is a simple fact of the language”

        The reality, however, is that the word (one) does refer to God as one. Subsequently, no one would ever imagine that God as a container or an entity which contains many persons inside it. Notice that you keep describing God as an “entity” in a sense as if He’s impersonal container to justify the notion of mutli-persons in one container. It is like when many christians play the game “being/persons” while we know that we can describe each person as a (being) as well. I feel the need to question your honesty because you are a knowledgable man, and you know that this language you use is a contrived one to justify  your theology. And it becomes more disturbing when you try to expand this absurd language on Qur’ān whose language got served the most in comparison to other scriptures.
        Sorry Denis, you cannot play this game. And I think it’s wrong to engage with you on the basis that God is an “entity” in a sense that it is a container which could contain singular personal or multipersonal.
        You need to prove this premise first, and I think you cannot because obviously it’s contrived language christians invented later to justify their theology. And it’s needless to say that it’s not used in the NT.
        Also, I can see why you left the the question about what we understand from the word(only begotten son). Not to mention that I can apply your game and flip the table on you by saying that (one person) is an entity which could cnitains many persons. See what happens once you play with the language?

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      • Greetings ᶜAbdullah, and thank you for your reply.

        ᶜAbdullah wrote:
        the word (one) does refer to God as one. Subsequently, no one would ever imagine that God as a container or an entity which contains many persons

        I would certainly never claim the word “one” implies or entails a multipersonal ontology, but I stand by the point that the word “one” likewise does not impy or entail a unipersonal ontology. If all we have to go by is the word “one,” then the question of the ontology of that which it describes is left open.

        ᶜAbdullah wrote:
        Notice that you keep describing God as an “entity” in a sense as if He’s impersonal container

        I use the word “entity” when describing the word “one” in the abstract, as we can use it to refer to all sorts of things, such as a tree, a rock, a planet, a cat, a human being, a deity. So, in that broader discussion, the thing or entity being described as one might be impersonal (like a rock), unipersonal (like a man), or multipersonal (like a team). So I use “entity” like a general variable, but if you’d prefer, we can put it this way: in the phrase “one X,” the word one does not tell us if X is impersonal, unipersonal, or multipersonal.

        ᶜAbdullah wrote:
        this language you use is a contrived one

        Rather than be so general, I would ask that you give a precise example. I would think the points I have made (e.g. the word one does not necessitate unipersonal ontology, singular pronouns or pronomials do not necessitate unipersonal ontology, declarations that plurals are non-literal can be subjected to requests for textual indicators in their favor) are fairly straight forward. With all due respect, you seem to be at risk of trying to get personal with me instead of just dealing with the arguments.

        ᶜAbdullah wrote:
        You need to prove this premise first

        Could you be more explicit as to the precise premise you have in mind?

        ᶜAbdullah wrote:
        I can see why you left the the question about what we understand from the word(only begotten son)

        Various Biblical texts have been discussed on this blog, as well as on Paul Williams’ previous blog, as well all over social media. I am also accutely aware of the way that discussions go on segues which get farther and farther away from the original topic. If you want to discuss what “only begotten son” means, we can do so in the comments section of another blog entry, preferrably one on that topic (or, if you are responding to a video of mine, feel free to copy directly on that video). But the subject of this blog entry is divine plurals, in the Bible and the Qur’ān. I’d be curious about your thoughts on that subject.

        So, with that in mind, permit me to re-ask a question I consider central: can you think of any textual indicators in the Qur’ān which lead to the conclusion that the corpus’ divine plurals are non-literal? If not, can we say that the text itself leaves the question open?

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    • “Could you be more explicit as to the precise premise you have in mind?”
      If I said I am just one man, you would understand necessarily that one man is an entity which could contain many persons because the word (one) can be used to describe one team which contains many persons.

      You need to prove this is not a contrived language.

      Both articles of yours are related and based on this baseless language.

      I think this is a key point, and it is pointless to disccuss with you about the nuanced differences between A7ad and Wa7id in Arabic or why Qur’ān used the plural form for God before this point.

      Have a great day.

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      • Greetings again, ᶜAbdullah

        Yes, if you used the phrase “one man,” I would assume you are referring to something with a unipersonal ontology. However, if you said “one rock,” I would assume you are referring to something impersonal. And if you said “one team,” I would assume you are referring to something multipersonal. Note, however, that it is not the word “one” which is leading me to determine whether a man is unipersonal, a rock is impersonal, or a team is multipersonal.

        We may agree in the assumption that each mere man is unipersonal, and each rock is impersonal, and each team is multipersonal. We may share those assumptions. However, suppose it was something for which we do not agree regarding it’s ontology. The phrase “one X” would not entail that X is unipersonal. So too, with God, we do not agree that God is unipersonal, and merely pointing to the word “one” does not establish that God is unipersonal.

        Now, you can declare it is pointless to discuss the topics of my two most recent blog entries, but in the absence of such discussion, you should not be surprised if some of us are not necessarily sure your position is justified.

        On that note, have a great day. God bless.

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      • First of all, I find it so ammusing that you “assume” that (one man) is unipersonal. 🙃 I hope from others to capture this.

        Notice that you did not answer my question per se. If you assume that one man is unipersonal, then does that mean if I told you I am just one man, you would understand necessarily that one man is an entity which could contain many persons because the word (one) can be used to describe one team which contains many persons? If yes, you need to prove this is not a contrived language.

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      • Greetings again, ᶜAbdullah, and thank you for your reply.

        ᶜAbdullah wrote:
        If you assume that one man is unipersonal, then does that mean if I told you I am just one man, you would understand necessarily that one man is an entity which could contain many persons because the word (one) can be used to describe one team which contains many persons?

        Because I assume a man is unipersonal (i.e. I begin with that premise), if you said “one man,” I would conclude that phrase refers to a unipersonal entity. But note that the word “one” is not the pivotal part of that conclusion. Rather it is the already agreed upon premise that a man is unipersonal.

        With that in mind, if that is analogous to what is going on in our discussion, then you would not be concluding that God is unipersonal simply because God is called “one,” rather you would be concluding such based on the starting assumption that God is unipersonal. In short, you would be simply moving in a circle without providing textual justification for the proposition that you begin and end with.

        On that note, have a great day and God bless! 🙂

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      • No answer so far. Not sure why? I will try again,
        Are you saying if I said I am one man, then necessarily the listener would have to think of me as an entity which might contain many persons becuase the word (one) can be used to describe one team which contains many persons? If yes, you need to prove this is not a contrived language.

        Notice I did not ask about what you would choose to understand (multi or uni) from that phrase.

        Have a great day, and may Allah guide you to the best.

        Like

      • Greetings again, ᶜAbdullah

        I do not claim that if you are one man, someone else must assume you comprise multiple persons. If we already agree that a man is unipersonal, then tautologously we will conclude that a man is unipersonal. What’s at issue is when we are referring to something for which we do not agree regarding its ontology.

        There are things that we agree are impersonal (like a rock), or unipersonal (like a mere man), or multipersonal (like a football team). So…

        — With the phrase “one rock,” we will likely assume it is referring to something impersonal, not because the word “one” requires such, but rather because of how we understand the word “rock”.
        — With the phrase “one man,” we will assume it is referring to something unipersonal, not because of the word “one,” but rather because of how we understand the word “man”.
        — With the phrase “one team,” we will assume it is referring to something multipersonal, not because of the word “one,” but rather because of how we understand the word “team”.

        But when we come to the phrase “one X,” and we do not know or do not agree about the ontology of X, then a mere appeal to the adjective “one” will not settle a question of whether it is impersonal, unipersonal, or multipersonal.

        Hence why I sense a certain potential irony, here: these analogies give me the strong impression that you’re not concluding God is unipersonal based on the use of the word one; rather, you’re concluding God is unipersonal because you already come to the table assuming God is unipersonal. Therefore, rather than showing how the text necessitates such, you merely assume your own conclusion (which is fine, but it does not address my questions).

        On that note, thank you again for your comment. Have a great day and God bless.

        Like

      • Not sure why you avoid to answer the question directly!!

        “I do not claim that if you are one man, someone else must assume you comprise multiple persons”
        And I did not ask if he must/mustn’t understand I am mutliple persons!
        I asked you whether you find it necessarily that the listener (would hav) to understand from the phrase (one man) an entity which (might) contain many persons because the word (one) per se can be used to describe one team which contains many persons? If yes, then the ball is in your court, and you have the burden to prove this is not a contrived language.

        I do not think my English is that bad🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Greetings ᶜAbdullah

        As I have tried to convey in my previous replies, the expansive possibilities for “one” only really come into consideration when “one” is referring to something which has an ontology which is not known or not agreed upon.

        So, I would not insist that the phrase “one man” might refer to something impersonal or multipersonal, precisely because we begin with the assumption that a man is unipersonal.

        However, if we are referring to something for which we do not assume (or do not agree on) a particular ontology, then the questions come into play. So if we have the phrase “one X,” and we either do not know or do not agree if X is impersonal, unipersonal, or multipersonal, it is then appropriate to note that appeals to the word “one” in that phrase do not establish X’s ontology.

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      • As I expected! You still do not want to answer, unfortunately.
        And I think I know why.

        Let me remind you with these words attributed to Jesus in Matthew’s gospel ” For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

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  2. . . . His cabinet of subordinate deities

    estaqfr’Allah !!

    استغفرالله
    !!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The Father participated in creation (1 Corinthians 8:6).
    The Son participated in creation (John 1:3, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:10).
    The Holy Spirit participated in creation (Job 33:4, Psalms 104:30).
    God acted ALONE in creation (Isaiah 44:24).

    Excellent Dennis!

    All of this, with the plural Elohim, and also the “Us” in Genesis 1:26-28, Genesis 11:7-8, and Isaiah 6:8, all together, points to the Doctrine of the Trinity.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ll bring again my previous comment from the previous blog here:

    In the Torah : “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One”
    In surat-Al-Ikhlas : “Say: He is God, One”

    The One God in Torah and surat Al-Ikhlas is The God of Abraham, The God of Adam, and The God of all prophets sent by God.

    Question for all Christian trinitarian:

    Do you think Abraham and Adam worship/believe in trinity?

    Liked by 1 person

    • If the object of worship, lets designate it with the letter ”X” is eternally unchanging (mass/persons) of singularity-plurality, then anyone who authentically worships ”X” is worshipping the true nature of duality. As a point of restriction, this does not mean the worshipper of X is aware of the finer points of theological concepts that apply to ”X”.

      As per your mention of the Torah and the Qur’an-specifically the Shema (Deu 6: 4) and surat-al-Ikhlas (112:1), I agree there is unmistakable congruity of a linguistic and semantic dimension. Finally, as a clarification of this point of congruity, the concision and the inversion of the command in the beginning is another point of intrigue.

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      • Dr.Collins, If that letter “X” tells you that “I am X, I am One, No one is like me, No one beside me, Nothing compares to me, Worship ONLY to me”.

        Are you still thinking that letter X is plural?

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    • Sam, write your claim in explicit terms, as clearly and explicitly as you can, with logically self-consistent argumentation as a support system. What you wrote is incoherent and a rhetorical question-not a positive affirmational claim.

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      • Dr.Collins, from your reply it seems you don’t believe in The God of Abraham, The God of Adam, or maybe you are an agnostic or an atheist. You don’t even understand my question.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Greetings Sam, and thank you for your reply.

      Regard being A7D (אחד=احد), I would note Ken’s appeal to the plural in Genesis 11, above. If you feel the Semitic construction A7D cuts that, by necessitating that the entity in question be unipersonal, then I would direct your attention to verse 6 in that chapter (i.e. Gen 11:6), as in that verseGod describes the group of humans under discussion as ᶜam eḥad (עם אחד), or “one nation/folk/people”.

      Also, see my previous blog entry, Cosmic Tefillin and the Oneness of God where it is shown that in Rabbinic literature, just as the people of Israel envelop themselves with the declaration that God is eḥad (אחד), so too God is depicted as doing similarly with the declaration that Israel is eḥad (אחד).

      In short, the word eḥad (אחד) does not require that an entity so described be unipersonal.

      As for Abraham, I don’t know what he believed during his time on earth. However, I am partial to the idea of the Trinity once being an esoteric doctrine that was later made into an exoteric doctrine (a suggestion seemingly somewhat entertained by one of the editors of The Study Quran, Joseph Lumbard, at the 5:10 mark of the video below). If the Trinity was once an esoteric doctrine, I see nothing absurd about the possibility that Abraham was part of the select few —the inner core— that knew the doctrine.

      On that note, I’ll close here. Have a great day. God bless.

      Like

      • You said: “As for Abraham, I don’t know what he believed during his time on earth”

        I appreciated your honesty that you don’t know what Abraham’s believes that’s why you wrote this article.

        You said: “I see nothing absurd about the possibility that Abraham was part of the select few —the inner core— that knew the doctrine.”

        For Jew and Muslim that absolutely absurd if you think Abraham or Adam believe in trinity. Maybe for Christian trinitarian is okay because they also believe Jesus is God which is also absurd for Jew and Muslim to believe it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Greetings Sam, and thank you for your reply.

        In all fairness, my uncertainty regarding what Abraham believed was not part of the motivation for writing this post.

        Permit me to first note that I believe in progressive revelation, thus as the true faith unfolded, it began by declaring that there is only one God, and then later unveiled the deeper details of God’s ontology. However, I also see allusions to the Trinity before it was fully revealed, and I would think it plausible that some knew what those allusions actually pointed to. Therefore, my uncertainty is rooted in, on the one hand, the possibility that Abraham did not receive the fuller truth regarding the one God’s ontoloy during his (i.e. Abraham’s) lifetime on earth, and, on the other hand, the possibility that, as I previously noted, he was among the select few who knew that deeper (then esoteric) truth.

        As for this blog entry, it was motivated in part by a lot of experiences in which people I dialogue with declaring that everyone knows the plurals in the Hebrew Bible are not literal. More specifically, however, it was motivated by comments to my blog entry on sūrat al-Ikhlāṣ declaring that a multipersonal conception of God is impossible in the Qur’ān. I was tempted to respond by noting the many plurals in the Qur’ān, but (a) I anticipated that such would receive replies declaring those plurals non-literal, and (b) I knew I would be tempted to then ask what textual indicators, if any, necessitate such a position. But I figured that rather than have that sort of segue take us away from the actual topic of that blog entry, I figured it would be better if it had its own entry.

        As for Abraham believing in an esoteric doctrine of the Trinity, I don’t see what is absurd about such, from a Biblical perspective. As for what (disbelieving) Jews might believe, while of course they won’t believe in specifically the Trinity, you’d be surprised what the more esoteric wings of Rabbinic Judaism believe (and many of the proponents of these views entertain the idea that the ancient Patriarchs understood these truths). Consider, for a quick example, this post:

        That said, I was wondering if we might return to the subject of the blog entry. The Qur’ān contains a number of divine plurals. Am I correct to guess that you believe they are non-literal? If so, can you think of any textual indicators within the Qur’ān itself which point toward such a position?

        Have a great day. God bless.

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      • Greeting Denis,

        First and foremost my comments are very relevant with your article, about One God / Plural God.

        You said: “Permit me to first note that I believe in progressive revelation, thus as the true faith unfolded, it began by declaring that there is only one God, and then later unveiled the deeper details of God’s ontology.”

        That makes Christian trinity differs from Jews and Muslim.
        For Jews and Muslim there is only one God and never change, forever. Maybe you already knew that God sent his prophets/messengers to us to remind people to worship only to One God alone, (not trinity nor plural God) that is the core of Abrahamic faith. If you don’t believe that then you are out of Abrahamic faith.

        You said: …the possibility that Abraham did not receive the fuller truth regarding the one God’s ontoloy during his (i.e. Abraham’s) lifetime on earth, and, on the other hand, the possibility that, as I previously noted, he was among the select few who knew that deeper (then esoteric) truth.
        The God of Adam, The God of Abraham and The God of all prophets.

        That makes me sure that you are ignorance of The God of Abraham. The God of Adam is the same God as The God of Abraham as well as The God of all prophets sent by God, nothing changed.

        Adam, Abraham, and all the prophets sent by God worship/believe in The Only One God alone NOT plural God/trinity God.

        You said: “As for Abraham believing in an esoteric doctrine of the Trinity, I don’t see what is absurd about such, from a Biblical perspective”

        Like I said maybe for Christian trinity is okay to say that because they also believe Jesus is God but for Jews and Muslims that is absolutely absurd and ignorance.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Greetings again, Sam, and thank you for your reply.

        You wrote that my position on progressive revelation and the unfolding of details about God makes Christianity different from Judaism. However, I would ask you to take a closer look at the Rabbinic corpora. From Meymra, to the Shekhinah, to the very complex theology of the Zohar, orthodox Judaism tacitly posits that deeper truths about God unfolded over time, revealing truths which are not explicit in the Torah.

        You wrote that God sent prophes and messengers to call people to worship one God, not a “plural God”. But I am left to wonder, why should I agree with thayt somewhat vague negation at the end, as the texts under question do refer to God via plural constructions.

        You declared me ignorant of the God of Abraham, but on what grounds? I derive my sense of the God of Abraham from the Bible. I was merely exploring the question of whether Abraham believed in the conception of God implied by the Christian faith. I have already noted the possibilities, there (i.e. unfamiliarity with what would later be revealed or part of a select few who knew esoteric truths).

        ***

        Now, I feel we are straying farther from the topic of the thread. Regarding divine plurals in the Qur’ān, are you aware of any textual indicators within the Qur’ān itself which point towards the conclusion that said plurals are non-literal?

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      • Greetings Denis,

        I’ll take a look later about Rabbinic corpora, for now as far as I know no Jews believe in a plural God, they believe in only One God alone, that is consistent with the message from all the prophets sent by God to worship only One God alone, that seems you don’t agree with.

        As for Abraham, we Muslims believe that The God of Adam is the same God as the God of Abraham, The Only One God Alone, No one beside Him, No one compares to Him.

        Now I want to know what do you know about The God of Abraham from your Bible?

        ***
        Regarding Allah using plural words “we”, “us”, “our” referring to himself it doesn’t mean Allah is plural, why? Because Allah said so, that He is One, He doesn’t say I am One in three persons nor I am One in multiple persons. If you still have doubts why don’t you ask Allah directly? it’s nothing wrong to ask Allah directly even though you don’t believe in Him, I’m sure He would answer you in such way you never expect it.

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      • Greetings Sam, and thank you for your reply.

        Sam wrote:
        as far as I know no Jews believe in a plural God

        A fun book to begin with on that subject might be Rabbi David Berger’s The Rebbe, The Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference, which, particularly in its second appendix, scatches the surface of the sorts of disagreements and lines of thought which exist within orthodox Judaism. I would submit that what exists among different schools of Jewish thought gets much more complex than that book reveals, but it might be a good start, as you’ll find somewhat of a sympathetic mind in the author (i.e. he is hostile to divine incarnation, God encompassing multiple persons, and has to struggle with serious prominent orthodox Jews who do not).

        Sam wrote:
        what do you know about The God of Abraham from your Bible?

        The Bible seems to have him clearly recognizing the possibility of Incarnation (in Genesis 18). What he believed about God’s ontology remains open to question (nothing in the text necessitates that he held to a unipersonal conception of God, though).

        Sam wrote:
        Regarding Allah using plural words “we”, “us”, “our” referring to himself it doesn’t mean Allah is plural, why? Because Allah said so, that He is One

        First, permit me to note that I never claimed plural constructions have to be literal. But my question was, for those who insist they are non-literal, can one point to any textual indicators leading to that conclusion?

        As for God being one, of course we all agree on that, but one does not necessitate unipersonal ontology.

        Sam wrote:
        He doesn’t say I am One in three persons nor I am One in multiple persons

        But the text does refer to God via plural constructions (at one point having God declare “We are the Creators”). So God is one and God is plural. At this point many wish to declare the plural constructions are not literal, hence that question I have posed, which I think is central.

        Sam wrote:
        ask Allah directly even though you don’t believe in Him

        Just to be clear, am I being accused of atheism, here?

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  5. I’ve read the note about the Qur’an in this article and your other article about Surat Al-ikhlas, and it seems to me, Dennis, that you are not familiar with the subtleties of the Arabic language. I’ll just respond to this one here.

    No, you cannot call Allah the Creators. I don’t feel like “We the Creators” does justice to the Arabic “na’nu alkhaliqun”. It seems to me alkhaliqun functions here more like a gerund (?) that wouldn’t accept the plural form. If I were to attempt to translate the verse I wouldn’t use the plural of creator. Also, many translations of the Qur’an use Creator not Creators, probably for the simple reason that this is a case of jam’ al-ta’dim (plural of greatness, not plural in number).
    Also, saying Allah the Creators would be grammatically incorrect, because the word Allah is grammatically a definite singular proper noun that takes no plural form. The same is true for the verse that says “inna lahu lahafidoon”, etc.

    It’s a bit amusing to see the effort you put in arguing the Qur’an is not incompatible with a multi-personal God, when the matter is clear. The Arabic language accepts the plural of greatness, and Allah speaks both in it and in the singular form.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry, Denis*
      Have a good day.

      Like

    • Greetings FayzH and thank you for your reply.

      In reply to your first paragraph, I would note that while, of course, I am far from any sort of expert in ᶜArabic, at the very least, I am a low level amateur student of Semitic languages, and I would say I’m fairly familiar with the orthodox Muslim positions on these topics. However, I am not always convinced that the orthodox Muslim position is correct (this dawned on me years ago, when I realized the semantic range of the word tawḥīd is more expansive than how orthodox Muslims typically define it in discussions with Christians, which inspired me to have a methodology in which I respectfully explore orthodox Muslim stances rather than accept them without question).

      Getting more specifically the topic of this blog entry, I am aware how orthodox Muslims approach the divine plurals in the Qur’ān, but after giving the subject some thought, I have come to the conclusion that I, personally, cannot think of any textual indicators within the Qur’ān itself necessitating such a position. Now, of course, there could be much in the Qur’ān I am not aware of, hence why I ask others if they can think of any textual indicators in the Qur’ān which lead one to conclude that the corpus’ divine plurals are non-literal. I must confess, a suspicion developing within me is that it is likely based on an external tradition (which would be fine if true, but I think that should be explicitly stated if it is the case).

      Regarding calling God “the Creators,” I can appreciate the immediate reversion many orthodox Muslims will have towards the suggestion, but I don’t see anything in the textof the Qur’ān which might lead one to conclude that calling God such is impermissible. Afterall, one would be referring to God via a Qur’ānic term. Now, of course, I am aware of the possibility that the relevant plural was intended non-literally, but this brings us back to the question of whether any textual indicators cause us to lean in the direction of that position. In the absence of such, I would think it would be fair to say such a plural could be literal.

      I’ll close with this thought: I find it interesting that a literalist approach to the Qur’ānic text seems to move towards a multipersonal conception of God (as one would have to find a way to reconcile God being one and yet being literally plural).

      On that note, I will close there. Thank you again for your polite reply. Have a great day, and God bless.

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      • Hello Denis,

        I just answered your question regarding the translation “the Creators” and gave you the reason why it is not grammatically correct to say Allah al-Khaliquun in Arabic unlike when you recite the part of the verse Na’nu al-Khaliquun. Do you accept Arabic grammar? Do you also accept that in the Arabic language there is plural of greatness?

        Also, what would be a textual indicator that’s acceptable for you?

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      • Greetings again, FayzH, and thank you for your reply.

        I would agree that a statement like Allah huwa al-Khāliqūn is grammatically awkward. But permit an analogy. The proposition al-umah hiya al-mu’minūn seems similarly awkward, but reversing the order, al-mu’minūn hum al-umah seems less so (and if the latter is a bit more acceptible, might al-Khāliqūn hum Allah likewise be less grammatically problematic? [if the answer is no, consider this thought experiment: suppose I pointed to sūrat al-Waqiᶜa 56:59, and asked man hum al-Khāliqūn? Who are the Creators? How should one answer that question?]).

        That aside, even if a proposition like al-umah hiya al-mu’minūn (where the structure is [singular noun][singular pronoun as copula][plural noun]) is problematic, that need not preclude us from using the two nouns interchangeably in separate propositions. In other words, I could refer to the umah in one sentence, and then later refer to that unit by the plural noun, believers, in a different sentence. What precludes alternating between referring to God as Allah in one sentence, and then as al-Khāliqūn in another sentence? Especially since the latter is a title found in the Qur’ān itself.

        Now, as for whether I accept royal or majestic plurals as possibilities, my answer is yes, absolutely. But my question was whether there are textual indicators in the Qur’ān itself necessitating that the corpus’ divine plurals are examples of such. In other words, I acknoweldge that they could be literal plurals or they could be non-literal plurals, and thus I ask if the text has any indicators forcing us to side with the latter option.

        Regarding what a textual indicator might look like, perhaps like that which we might find in extra-Qur’ānic literature, e.g. a declaration that when God uses a self-referential plural, it is like the way certain kings speak, et cetera, not intended to convey many ‘selves’ (nufūs?). My point is there are ways to declare plurals non-literal, as extra-Qur’ānic literature seems to do precisely that in reference to Qur’ānic divine plurals, so I wonder if the Qur’ān itslef makes any such claim in any such way (and if so, if others could point such out to me, as I have thus far missed it [though of course, my familiarity with the Qur’ān is limited]).

        On that note, I’ll close here. Have a great day, and God bless.

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  6. sorry if this is repeat post…i was not sure it got posted.

    Hi Denis,

    I hope you and all those you love are in the best of health and wellbeing.

    Were you able to see the talk by Angelica Neuwrith on Surah Iklhas as a response opposing the Nicene Creed?

    I saw parts of your video on Tawhid.

    I have some questions.

    1. The Qur’an never mentioned the word tawhid….it at least never mention tawhid with respect to God.

    Since the Qur’an does not use the word tawhid with respect to God, then does your video apply to the thrust of Qur’an’s argument for God being One?

    2. Do you agree that the defacto undertanding of one conscious entity is that there is only one person constituting that entity?

    3. Is there any reason we should defacto think you are one person rather than that there are 3 or 5 or 6,395 persons within your one physical body (of course, this is not to imply that God has any body)?

    4. Would you agree that the understanding of people described as righteous in the Bible such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Melchizadec, and others believed that God is only one person and not multiple persons?

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    • Greetings Omer, and thank you for your comment.

        Omer wrote:
        Were you able to see the talk by Angelica Neuwrith on Surah Iklhas as a response opposing the Nicene Creed?

      Yes, I commented on it here.

        Omer wrote:
        The Qur’an never mentioned the word tawhid….it at least never mention tawhid with respect to God.
        Since the Qur’an does not use the word tawhid with respect to God, then does your video apply to the thrust of Qur’an’s argument for God being One?

      I’m not sure I understand your question. Can you elaborate? In the mean time, I have no intention of rejecting the word tawḥīd simply because it is not mentioned in the Qur’ān. Personally, I would see tawḥīd as related to aḥad, and think the expansive semantic range of the former might tell us something about the semantic range of the latter.

      Regarding your second and third questions, I would certainly agree that the conscious individuals we believe we interact with (e.g. other humans we meet in the world, or correspond with online) are assumed to be unipersonal, and that assumption does not strike me as absurd. Whether or not there is a chance the belief might be wrong in certain instances is a different question, however. Nonetheless, yes, I think these are fair assumptions.

      Regarding your final question, I would not say for certain that Noah, Abraham, Moses and Melkitsedeq were all unitarians. I certainly think it is possible that some or all of them were, but I also think (as was touched on elsewhere in this comments section) that some or all of them were Trinitarians. The reason why is because I believe in progressive revelation, and also believe that before the doctrine was fully revealed, it was alluded to. That raises the question, did any of them (e.g. Moses) understand those allusions? It’s possible they didn’t understand hints around them, but it is also possible that they had deeper knowledge permitting them to know precisely what those allusions meant. This opens the door to the idea of the Trinity once being an esoteric doctrine which a select few secretly knew.

      ***

      That said, I would like to return to the subject of this blog entry. I personally believe one of the more important questions here is this: are there any textual indicators in the Qur’ān which lead one to conclude that the divine plurals therein are non-literal?

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  7. I take issue with the conception of God as a “person”— which then creates the labels of uniperson/multiperson.

    God is Unique—therefore notions of person (uni or multi) are superfluous —or as professor Lumbard said in the video—“unnecessary”.

    Neither Judaism nor Islam requires a (Divine) “son” to be sacrificed—therefore neither theology has any need for multiple Gods or multiperson God/s.

    Islam is a guidance to humanity…..(humanity created with Fitra/goodness)
    Islamic ethics/morality is constructed on the basis of Tawheed (One God) —such that (One) God is the creator of all humanity and therefore all humanity are of equivalent value for God—none superior/inferior. This then forms the backbone of ethico-moral Justice systems and other systems such as governance, economics, social/group formations etc….

    Thus, One God (Tawheed) is a necessary concept in the Islamic worldview/paradigm—but uniperson/multiperson…and other conceptions of God are superfluous. They serve no purpose.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For me, this is a central question: if one asserts that divine plurals in the Qur’ān are non-literal, are there any textual indicators within the Qur’ān which compels us to side with that assertion?

      Liked by 1 person

      • The whole Quran is an invitation to the polytheists, the God-conscious, and humanity in general, to the paradigm of One God (Tawheed). If a polytheistic conception was ok…why invite to Tawheed?

        Multiperson God conception has 2 problems—that of God as person and God as multiples.

        The Quran is a Guidance to humanity. The simple paradigm of One God(Tawheed) is the most beautiful and therefore the most appropriate Guidance. With this powerful paradigm—whole systems can be built that benefit humanity.

        Compared to this—Christianity has nothing to offer but 2000 years of debates and fragmentation— trying to figure out the “nature” of God

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    • Good way you have lifted the whole discussion to God’s terms….

      God certainly is no less than a person in that He has the All-Knowlege, All-Awareness, All-Goodness…but to use a human term of “person” does not do justice to God as God.

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      • “99 names” concept does not break Tawheed, yet at the same time expands the conception of God to encompass all….
        Tawheed is beautifully simple and yet powerful.

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    • Greetings Anon

      Anon wrote:
      I take issue with the conception of God as a “person”

      I think that those who use such terminology do so, for example, to contrast God as personal agent with, for example, an impersonal agent. For example, was the Big Bang caused by something impersonal, something mechanical, or something with self-awareness and volition?

      But even if you wish to cast aside the term “person,” the question nonetheless remains: how are we to understand the divine plurals in the Qur’ān? If one wishes to declare those plural non-literal, can one point to textual indicators in the Qur’ān which lead to that conclusion? Or is it a premise imported into the text from external tradition?

      [Disclaimer: I do not believe ‘a premise imported into a text from external tradition’ is necessarily false.]

      Anon wrote:
      Neither Judaism nor Islam requires a (Divine) “son” to be sacrificed

      This blog entry makes no claim about a divine Son being sacrificed. Rather, the topic is divine plurals, and whether they are literal or non-literal. Can we discuss that topic?

      Dr. Collins likewise repeated the central question to you, and although you replied to his post, with all due respect, you did not seem to make any attempt to directly answer that question.

      On that note, have a great day. God bless.

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      • I think it is shocking that most of the various commentators-including an atheist- conclude that Abraham must have been a unitarian monotheist, based on zero evidence and proof.

        I do not understand, why so many individuals assume that Abraham rejected a multi-personal ontology.

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      • I find it more interesting that most of the comments attempted to diverge from (or failed directly engage) the central topic of the blog entry. I have found that to be the case in a few of my blog entries.

        I’d say the questions about your precise beliefs were indicative of that trend. Obviously, what you believe would have no impact on questions about Arabic grammar or the vocabulary of surat al-Ikhlas. But I suspect some preferred to segue into discussing your beliefs rather than stay within the perhaps less comfortable subject of the blog entry.

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      • I completely agree with you Denis. I think another issue is that most Muslims do not understand the Arabic language, nor the basics of logical reasoning. Furthermore, the vast majority of converts are either ex-gang members (so we can not expect must rational discourse there) or the uneducated lower ”middle” class types who think their opinions are worth a dime.

        Ask the average Muslim on the various categories of Tawhid, such as taught in the Gulf region and their accompanying proof-texts, commentaries etc and you get blank stares. Tawhid is the fundamental concept of the religion, and 99.9999999999% do not know anything about it.

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      • Greetings Dr. Collins

        As a bit of a disclaimer, I want to be careful to note that my impression of the Muslim population, intellectually, is basically the same as my impression of the Christian population, insofar that both communities seem to run across a diverse spectrum from not very thoughtful types to impressively brilliant types. While of course there are Muslims (and Christians) who leave much to be desired, there are others whose minds strike me as quite enviable. In any field, there are Muslims who are far more brilliant than I am (for example, a little over a decade and a half ago, it was a Muslim named Imran Aijaz [currently a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan, but back then, if I recall correctly, an adjunct of sorts at the University of Auckland] who got me thinking about certain philosophical arguments for God’s existence, which played a role in my transition from atheism to theism).

        Also, I need to be careful not to speak too disdainfully of the “uneducated” or the lower middle class, as I myself am not particularly well educated (e.g. I never finished grad school [though I still hope to return to my studies one day]), and I myself came from a very poor part of New York City, and have slowly worked my way up (with a bit of pride) to what might be described as lower middle class.

        That said, I get the impression that most who are interested in Christian-Muslim debate wind up following various trends and patterns, insofar that, every so often, a an innovative minority within the spectrum will forge a new path in polemics and/or apologetics, and a bunch of others will just stay within that paradigm for a while, until the next development. As a result, when an argument is somewhat outside the norm, the replies are often more along the lines of attempts to change the subject to something more comfortable (or worse, thinly veiled insults). Having experienced that quite a bit, I am quite wary of the segues which take a discussion off topic.

        Regarding tawḥīd, it’s a rather glaring example for me of the difference between the limitations many orthodox Muslim apologists will place on a concept, and the more expansive range of meaning a concept can have beyond the polemical or apologetics scene.

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      • The Quran is not a treatise about the “nature” of God because human language cannot be used to fathom “God”….it is too limiting. That is why the term “ahad” (Unique) is used.

        The reason why Muslims are against speculation on the “nature” of God is because in the various stories in the Quran, such as the story of the cave (from Christian folklore) or the story of the calf (about the Jews), unnecessary and unhelpful speculation is what led people to miss the real message/mercy/guidance of God.

        The Quran addresses the polytheists to persuade them towards One God/Tawheed….it is not farfetched to see the application of these arguments towards concepts of a multiple “Godhead”……
        (see—the history of Christological debates and filioque disputes)
        …………..
        Or have they taken (for worship) gods from the earth who can raise (the dead)? If there were, in the heavens and the earth, other gods besides God, there would have been confusion in both! But glory to God, the Lord of the Throne: (High is He) above what they attribute to Him! (21:21-22).

        Say: “If there had been (other) gods with Him, as they say, behold, they would certainly have sought out a way to the Lord of the Throne!” (17:42).

        No son did God beget, nor is there any god along with Him: (if there were many gods), behold, each god would have taken away what he had created, and some would have lorded it over others! Glory to God! (He is free) from the (sort of) things they attribute to Him! (23:91)

        …………and many more….

        So how are we (Muslims) to understand the (Quranic) “Divine” ?
        God is One (Ahad)—all else is mere speculation.

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      • I enjoy reading your comments, they possess an intrinsic ”peaceful” vibe, as in cause a psychologically calming effect on the one reading. For a moment I imagined we were at a fireside chat, listening to stories of your adventures in India! The military officer in the
        The Monkey’s Paw!

        By the way, you certainly do not come across as someone who did not finish school! You seem pretty cultured, respectful and educated (certainly on Islam). I meant to say was that, to put it bluntly, that most of the dawah guys and the reverts seem to be ex-gang members or uneducated depressed types with strange home lives…I really am trying not be offensive, they all seem broken men (some young sexually frustrated) , some with homicidal tendencies etc

        How common is it, in your experience, to come across gang-bangers in apologetics?

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  8. Would be helpful if your God could be more specific in any scripture. Aaaaw, no more wasting time with unnecessary mental gymnastics 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • For me, this is a central question: if one asserts that divine plurals in the Qur’ān are non-literal, are there any textual indicators within the Qur’ān which compels us to side with that assertion?

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  9. Good luck with progressive speculation 🍀

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  10. The issue of the specific form of monotheism that Abraham believed is not directly addressed by the above article. However, since the theological belief of the illustrious patriarch is being constantly invoked, I put the following question:

    If we assume that our theological understanding of monotheism, is the most important issue, which Jews, Muslims and Christians agree that it is, then surely the question of whether Abraham was a Unitarian or a Trinitarian is best settled with evidence and proof and not popular speculation. So, here it goes:

    If you assume that Abraham rejected a multi-personal conception of monotheism as ”the worst sin” i.e Shituf or Shirk, then can you follow the Qur’anic injunction of Surah Al-Baqarah [2:111] “Produce your proof, if you should be truthful.”

    The required condition is a demonstration [with proof], not an assertion [of slogans and faith].

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  11. Denis,

    Please see the literature on the rhetorical feature on iltifat in the Qur’an.

    It talks of how the Ist 2nd 3rd person shifts in many verses including in verses dealing with God.

    There is literature on how when intimacy of God is needed, the first person is used often which is rhetorically powerful and when strength is needed, 3rd person is used often which is rhetorically powerful

    One of the article has a section on such changes dealing with God but I don’t remember if it is in one of these articles….

    https://www.islamic-awareness.org/quran/text/grammar/robinson

    https://www.islamic-awareness.org/quran/text/grammar/iltifaat

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  12. Congratulations on a remarkable piece of esiegesis. Let me express my views on this discussion (and the one in surah Ikhlas paper) here. You’ve not presented a single example of ahad/wahid and a singular personal pronoun being applied to a being that is multipersonal. In fact, you’ve not even presented an example of the awareness of such a being among Jews and Muslims. Let me explain:

    Wahid/ahad and a singular personal pronoun can be used for a a country, tribe, group, club and Manchester United. This has never been in dispute. But as I recall you acknowledging elsewhere, the Trinity is not the same as a country, tribe, or club. A group, country and club are NOT beings. They cannot enter into a two way conversation, you cannot have a dinner with them on a table reserved for two, you cannot get a “response” from them, they do not hear, they do not see. As you’re driving you don’t suddenly roll down your window and say “oh I see the Sinola Cartel crossing the road, it has been ages since I last spoke to him, so I’ll have a chat with him over a cup of tea.” Simply put, the organisations, as beings, do not exist. These are linguistic constructs of categorisation which aid us in communication. They’re categories we use to describe a situation where certain commonalities apply upon multiple beings, in this case, humans. Country = a restricted geographical locale, represented by a flag and the people living therein being it’s citizens; club/group/organisation = people engaged in the same interests/tasks defined by a particular label.

    Organisations, groups, clubs, a country, cartel etc don’t have a tangible reality of any sort like that of a being, whether material or spiritual.

    If your conception of the Trinity is that of a club, group, organisation, cartel, then that creates a theological problem for we end up losing God altogether. God is then the name of a club, an organisation. You cannot pray to “God” because there isn’t any being called “God” – there’s a club, it’s called “God” (you might as well call it Tom). I have never come across any trinitarian who thinks of the Trinity in this way.

    Hence, you’re entire enterprise of eisegesis is one that relies upon the application of wahid, ahad and singular pronouns upon cases which are drastically different from a Trinitarian paradigm. Thus, if wahid, ahad and singular pronouns can be used for a country, a tribe or an organisation, that does not magically follow that when the Quran (and the Jewish Bible) use these for God, that it could also mean that God is/could be a being consisting of multiple persons/beings, who can merge into the same “space/body” and seperate by breaking out into seperate spaces/forms/bodies of some sort, being able to engage in a conversation with each other and doing their own seperate things.

    For your position to hold some water, you have to demonstrate that a particular member being in a country, club, tribe or any type of an organisation, is known to be composed of multipersonhoods. It will do no good to point to Simon or Sally, who are US citizens, and who have been diagnosed with multiple personality disorder (unless, of course, you concieve the Trinity as being similar to a multi personality disorder). Trinity is not said to be like the mental condition of multipersonality. This being needs to be known as a multipersonhood being in the sense of: occupying the same space/body/form of some sort, who can engage in communication in a being-to-being manner, with there being 2, 3, 4 or more persons therein, who – besides merging together and forming a presence/body/form of a sort in the same space, can also de-merge as separate beings/entities, occupying different body/form of some sort. Once they merge together into a single body, we can call this combined being “God”, but when they decide to de-merge and become separate for a while, then while the quality, one my argue, of “Godness” may be seen distributed among them, they’d have more distinct roles and functions as separate entities in their seperate workspaces.

    Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and the Hulk come to mind as the closest equivalent to the Trinitarian paradigm. They’re close to the Trinity, but also different – but certainly closer to the trinity than the category of country, group tribe, or an organisation. Another close equivalent would be Sam Winchester (Supernatural) being possessed by Lucifer and, later, by an angel. In both these scenarios, we had two different persons – Sam & Lucifer/angel – occupying the same body, having their distinct personalities. During both these possessions, Lucifer and the angel could leave Sam, existing in a different (gaseous) form – sort of like the holy spirit floating around. (Horror genre can provide more such interesting examples which are more like the Trinitarian paradigm).

    I can also think of a shapeshifting character, or even an angel who can take on different forms. But this is not an apt comparison to the trinity because the former are consistent of a single personhood; simply their shape changes (whereas in the case of the Hulk, Dr Banner and Hulk seem different personhoods, though occupying the same space – the same holds true for Sam Winchester). The Trinity, however, is loser/more flexible than Hulk/Banner and Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde and Sam Winchester examples: in the former, the different persons do not simply become more dominant for a certain time period, causing the other personality to take the back seat or “go to sleep” so to speak. In fact, the different persons can separate, taking another space with a distinct body/form/shape of a sort. The different persons, once they’ve seperated from their single “body”, can communicate with each other and do their own things. Thus, the spirit can float to places doing whatever it does, the son can sit besides the Father, can fulfil a task on earth and is happy to be used for creation “through” him, whereas the father seems like the boss and the ultimate command giver and decision maker, who delegate tasks. Sam Winchester, as possessed by an angel or Lucifer, however, seems closer yet to the Trinitarian paradigm, albeit more conservative/restricted in flexibility.

    Be that as it may, for your wahid/ahad/singular personal pronoun usages to work, you need to show us that a being dwelling within a country, tribe, club, organisation, cartel, one which is composed of a single body, consists of multiple persons, who can break out of this body, each attaining new a body/form, and ahad, wahid and singular pronouns are used for it. Show us a being who is a member of a tribe or a country who is conceived of in such a way and for whom ahad, wahid and singular personal pronouns are used.

    Even if you can show that a being, consisting of multiple persons – who are all different and can break out into particular forms and exist that way, separately, for as long as they desire – is referred to with a singular pronoun and as ahad and wahid, that does not follow that every time we see ahad and wahid and singular pronouns being used, that the referrant is an afore described type of being. We can agree that such a being – one that may fall into or come close to a Trinitarian paradigm – is rather rare, even in the superhero genre (even here not exactly like a Trinitarian paradigm, though nonetheless closer to it than a country, club, group, cartel, partnership, etc etc). Hence, the starting assumption should be to go along with the common usage and understanding – that the being in question, man or otherwise – is one like you and I are one. So, when a singular pronoun is used for you, it would be unnatural and weird to go, “hmmm… may be Denis could consist of multiple persons, who can each assume their own particular shapes when they desire to break out.” This is a weird way of thinking just as it is weird when you make such a case for the understanding of God in the Qur’an, which all seem to have been oblivion to besides you.

    Your examples of some Jewish understandings of the plural pronoun are also problematic as they’re most unlike the Trinity:

    … with the co-operation of others. His words are: “God said, let us make man after our image” (Gen. i. 26), “let us make” indicating more than one. ”
    — “with the co-operation” of others does not mean that these others are somehow “joined” with God, being “persons” in one body/form, who could break out when desired. The natural way of reading this would be that Philo believed that angels, or their created beings, would have assisted God and co-operated with him in the creation of man. “More than one” would mean, 2, 3, 4 or any number greater than 1, all being distinct beings. This is the natural way of reading Philo.

    “Translation: “let us make man” – the humility of the Holy One, blessed be He, we learned from this, for as Adam was in the likeness of the angels, and they would be jealous with him, therefore He took council with them.”
    — no trinitarian type concept here. Next one.

    “Translation: [this is likened] to the King that has many buildings to build, and that has an artisan, and that artisan does not build anything except [he has] permission of the King. […there is] Elohīm the artisan to [the] higher [realm] and that is the exalted Īmā, [and there is] Elohīm the artisan to [the] lower [realm] and that is the Shekhīna below.”
    —- no trinity here either, or any notion even approaching it, or nearing a Hulk or Dr Jekyll/ Mr Hyde or Sam Winchester type of model. God, one person, has subordinates, to whom he delegates a task like a king delegates tasks. No one supposes that a king consists of multiple persons in one body, who can separate into other bodies.

    “The plural construction (Let us…) most likely reflects a setting in the divine council (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-22; Isa. ch 6; Job chs 1-2): God the King announces the propoosed course of action to His cabinet of subordinate deities, though He alone retains the power of decision.[5]”
    — that’s fine too. We see nothing approximating a Trinitarian paradigm here. The subordinates are not said to be joined with God, occupying the same space, in a Trinitarian fashion. They’re seperate from God, they’re seperate distinct beings whom He created and are subordinate dieties, most probably angels.

    Do you really think that if one were to read the Jewish Bible and, particularly, the Quran without the Trinity in mind, they would close the books and go “Oh, Trinity!” You have to be rather delusional to believe this. “Trinitarian” conception of God is not naturally derivative from the Jewish Bible and the Quran. You can only desperately read them into these texts if you start off with a Trinitarian assumption of God.

    Finally, regarding “We are the Creators” – without bothering to get into the details, I just ask which would be the more natural reading: that there are multiple creators (seperate distinct beings/persons, not conjoined in any fashion, who can break free and rejoin when required) or a Trinitarian conception? The former would be more likely than a Trinitarian paradigm! I am not saying that polytheism is being preached here…that is absurd as the Quran is a staunchly monotheistic text. But, just for arguments sake, “We are the Creators” – if we toss in the bin all Muslim scholarly explanations – would be more open to the notion of multiple creators than a creator whose body/form contains multiple beings, who can separate and merge again!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Greetings Nazam, and thank you for your reply.

        Nazam wrote:
        Wahid/ahad and a singular personal pronoun can be used for a a country, tribe, group, club and Manchester United. This has never been in dispute. But as I recall you acknowledging elsewhere, the Trinity is not the same as a country, tribe, or club.

      Yes, in a comment I wrote to you roughly twelve days ago, I stated that “of course there are profound differences between a football team and the Trinity”. But I also stated that I see those differences as a irrelevant to the grammatical questions under discussion in the relevant blog entry.

      Is it your position that such constructions can be employed to refer to a group of persons, but cannot be used to refer to an entity like the Trinity? If so, on what grounds? And if there are no grounds justifying the declaration that such constructions cannot be employed to refer to an entity like the Trinity, then merely pointing to those constructions does not establish a contradiction with a doctrine like the Trinity (quod erat demonstrandum).

        Nazam wrote:
        Even if you can show that a being, consisting of multiple persons – who are all different and can break out into particular forms and exist that way, separately, for as long as they desire – is referred to with a singular pronoun and as ahad and wahid, that does not follow that every time we see ahad and wahid and singular pronouns being used, that the referrant is an afore described type of being.

      With all due respect, I fear you might be at risk of attacking a strawman, here. I never claimed that the relevant constructions must refer to a multipersonal being. I was simply noting that the relevant constructions can be employed to refer to a variety of different things (e.g. impersonal entities, unipersonal entities, multipersonal entities), therefore mere appeals to those constructions do not establish that the thing they refer to is unipersonal.

        Nazam wrote:
        Your examples of some Jewish understandings of the plural pronoun are also problematic as they’re most unlike the Trinity

      I myself noted, in the blog entry, that they are unlike the Trinity. The point was simply that many polemicists out there declare with a wave of their hand that all Jews know the relevant plurals are mere plurals of majesty, but if one actually digs into the Jewish literature, one will find that serious Jewish thinkers, from a variety of schools of thought, on different continents, and in different points in history, saw, for example, the plural in Genesis 1:26 as literal. The point was not to say one of those Jewish views was necessarily correct, but rather only to show that such declarations (that all Jews know that Gen 1:26 uses a majestic plural) are at best misinformed and at worst bluffs.

      As for how Christians might understand the plural in Genesis 1:26 (and the abrupt switch to singular in the next verse), I provided the Biblical scope for interpreting such: three Persons participate in creation yet God acts along in creation. A multipersonal conception of God provides the best reconciliation of those points, which in turn provide the interpretive scope for the shift in Genesis 1:26-27.

      As for the divine plurals in the Qur’ān, like naḥnu al-khāliqūn (نحن الخالقون) in sūrat al-Waqiᶜa 56:59, I have been open to the possibility that they are non-literal. I have only asked for some sort of textual indicator within the Qur’ān itself which leads to that conclusion. In the absence of such textual indicators, I’d say the Qur’ān leaves the question open.

      But I will say this: it is very interesting to me that a literalist approach to the Qur’ān would seem to lean towards a multipersonal conception of God, insofar that such a literalist approach would lead to the conclusion that God is one and yet the one God is somehow literally plural.

      On that note, I’ll close here. Thank you again, for your comments. I look forward to any further comments from you. Have a great day, and God bless.

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      • Your procedure is unnatural and would yield the same result no matter what text and individual it is applied upon. First, we need an absence of a negation of being a Trinitarian being, second, we would need from you examples of the usage of ‘one’ and singular pronouns for a group and a country. When these two conditions are met, we can then deconstruct, supposing that one is not to be taken literally no matter what it is applied upon. Since Denis has never denied being a multiperson being in a Trinitarian sense and since here and there he has used ‘one’ and singular personal pronouns upon a group, a tribe and a country, so the chance of Denis being a being inhabiting multi persons, all distinct, who can join into one form and unjoin, is as good as the possibility that Denis is a single person with no beings inhabiting his physical form. If I talk about a gentleman or a teacher, there is a 50-50 chance that he is 1 person or 1 being consisting of multiple distinct unique persons – as long as the two conditions above are met.

        The insistence of seeing ‘one’ and singular pronouns as kinda metaphorical, no matter what they’re being applied upon, suddenly transforms into stringent literalism when it comes to the plural pronouns:

        If the plural pronoun nahnu is to be taken literally, and absolutely no consideration is to be given to the fact that plurals can indeed be used for majesty and are used this way across so many languages (Hindi and Urdu, even English when it comes to Her Majesty the Queen), we get a mess: literally, nahnu would be naturally understood as multiple independent beings. Thus, “we are the Creators” literally = creator 1, creator 2, creator 3, creator 4 and so on. You cannot just say “no, it means creator = multiple beings within.” The latter is not the natural understanding of “we.” The Jewish citations are a wonderful example of this, where not one literal interpretation came even remotely close to approaching the trinitarian model. So then, a literal reading, where a text is not to be treated in a charitable manner and absolutely no consideration besides literal grammar is allowable, leads to this mess: in the great majority of the places in the Qur’an singular pronoun is used for God and in some places we have the plural pronoun. In the latter, we will have multiple gods – independent beings (not a Hulk type or Trinitarian being). How many multiple beings? No idea, may be 2 or more. So when we read in the Qur’an la ilaha ilallah (there is no god but God), that stands in tension with all sections where the multiple pronouns are used, which literally acknowledge the existence of an unknown quantity of gods.

        This is the outcome of a grammar approach that is berift of commonsense and has no anchoring in reality.

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      • Nazam, in your syntactic and semantic analysis, what evidence convinces you that the numerical value in the Shema אֶחָד {Echad} does not a accommodate a plurality of persons within a singularity of nature? This question becomes even more important, given the inherent complexity of the term אֶחָד {Echad}

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      • Greetings Nazam, and thank you for your reply.

          Nazam wrote:
          First, we need an absence of a negation of being a Trinitarian being

        I’m not sure what this means. Could you elaborate? While I await your elaboration, permit me to say that I don’t see the doctrine of the Trinity as terribly relevant to this blog entry. While, yes, I (the author of the blog entry) happen to be a Trinitarian, my arguments would be unchanged if I was not so. I could be an atheist, and ask the same questions. So a discussion on whether the plurals in the Qur’ān need not be turned into a referendum on the doctrine of the Trinity.

          Nazam wrote:
          we would need from you examples of the usage of ‘one’ and singular pronouns for a group and a country.

        Wasn’t that already provided? You yourself wrote the following in response to the previously provided examples: «Wahid/ahad and a singular personal pronoun can be used for a country, tribe, group, club and Manchester United. This has never been in dispute.»

        Just to be clear, is it your position, now, that such constructions cannot be employed in reference to a group of persons?

          Nazam wrote:
          supposing that one is not to be taken literally

        I have never claimed that “one” is not literal. Even in scenarios where one entity comprises multiple things of another sort, the “one” remains literal. For a soft analogy given elsewhere in this comments section, take the example of a square, which is one shape comprising four sides. Neither the singularity of shape nor the plurality of sides is metaphorical; rather when we refer to a single square, we are referring to literally one square. And when we refer to the sides of a square, we are referring to a literal plurality. So too if we refer to one tribe, one team, one ṣemed, one God, we mean “one” literally, as we are referring to one of that which is being discussed.

          Nazam wrote:
          Since Denis has never denied being a multiperson being in a Trinitarian sense and since here and there he has used ‘one’ and singular personal pronouns upon a group, a tribe and a country, so the chance of Denis being a being inhabiting multi persons, all distinct, who can join into one form and unjoin, is as good as the possibility that Denis is a single person with no beings inhabiting his physical form.

        If you’d like for me to be explicit about my ontology (e.g. state categorically that I am one person), I can do so, but suppose I did not. How precisely would that be relevant? For example, is the argument “Nazam does not know if Denis is unipersonal or multipersonal, therefore the divine plurals in the Qur’а̄n cannot be literal”?

        Moreover, I’m guessing you used that analogy precisely because we agree ordinary humans are unipersonal? If so, as I have explained to others in recent days, yes, we aree that human beings are unipersonal (just as we presumably agree that rocks are impersonal, and tribes are multipersonal). Therefore, if you say “one X,” and we already agree to assume X has a specific ontology, we will tautologously move from that assumption to the conclusion that X has that sort of ontology. For example:

        • — With the phrase “one rock,” as we assume a rock is impersonal, so we will conclude that phrase refers to something impersonal.
        • — With the phrase “one man,” as we assume a man is unipersonal, so we will conclude that phrase refers to something unipersonal.
        • — With the phrase “one tribe,” as we assume a tribe is multipersonal, so we will conclude that phrase refers to something multipersonal.

        But notice that in those examples, it is not the word “one” which is deciding the matter for us; rather it is our understanding of the thing under discussion. With that in mind, if “one X” refers to something for which we are uncertain (or do not agree) regarding its ontology, then appealing to “one” will not settle the question of its ontology. I make this point because when you point to the example of a man, you’re pointing to something we already agree is unipersonal. However, we do not agree that the texts under discussion necessarily intended to describe God as such. Therefore, the argument seems like it might have intended form along the lines of “we know ‘one man’ refers to something unipersonal, therefore the plurals in the Qur’а̄n cannot be literal,” which would strike me as a poor line of argumentation. Though you are invited to clarify your argument.

          Nazam wrote:
          The insistence of seeing ‘one’ and singular pronouns as kinda metaphorical

        Again, I have never claimed these singular constructions are metaphorical. They are literal insofar that they are referring to a literally singular thing.

          Nazam wrote:
          If the plural pronoun nahnu is to be taken literally, and absolutely no consideration is to be given to the fact that plurals can indeed be used for majesty

        I never denied that plurals can be intended in non-literal ways. In my blog entry I noted explicitly I did not deny such. My position is that a plural can be literal or non-literal, so I wish to ask: for those who insist that divine plurals in the Qur’а̄n are non-literal, are there any textual indicators in the Qur’а̄n itself which necessitates such a conclusion. [And mind you, if it turns out to be the case that the Qur’а̄n has no textual indicators necessitating that divine plurals therein are non-literal, that would not mean they are therefore literal; I would just like for people to be clear if the position is derived from extra-Qur’а̄nic sources.]

          Nazam wrote:
          literally, nahnu would be naturally understood as multiple independent beings. Thus, “we are the Creators” literally = creator 1, creator 2, creator 3, creator 4 and so on.

        Sure, if we were looking at multiple creators in a vacuum, one very real possibility is that may refer to a polytheistic system. However, the text is also adamant that God is one, which seems to preclude polytheism. So if we take a literal approach to the Qur’an, we would conclude there is only one God, but the one God is literally plural. That seems to mean a literalist reading of the Qur’an leads to a multipersonal conception of God (or, put another way, a multipersonal conception of God would seem to provide the best reconciliation of a literal reading of those disparate points).

        On that note, I’ll close here. I look forward to your further comments. Have a great day, and God bless.

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      • Two things Dr Colin’s,

        First, I’m not interested to have a discussion with you; secondly, you perhaps didn’t read my comment above. I said ahad/wahid and singular pronouns can be used for: a country, a tribe, a club, an organisation, a cartel etc. Who is denying that? Now if you wish to problematise normal language and see multiplicity in ‘one’ and metaphorise it (but be literal when it comes to plural pronouns), we still don’t naturally get ‘a plurality of persons within a singularity of nature’. Instead, we will get: person 1, person 2, person 3, person 4 and so on…all different independent seperate persons. This is what plurality means. You need to explain why you would prevelige over this a less naturally derived concept of plurality: plurality of persons within a singularity. How is the latter more likely? You could, however, argue for the latter if ‘God’ is like the concept of a country, club, organisation, cartel. This relegates ‘God’ to a label and you basically do away with God…this understanding eliminates God from.tje picture. But this is NOT the trinity, as explained by Denis.

        Plural persons naturally means separate distinct persons. You cannot arbitrarily define and restrict plural in some places as complying with a Trinitarian paradigm (closest, but not identical, equivalents being Sam Winchester, when he is possessed, the Hulk/Dr Banner and Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde).

        And you have to explain what it means when we read that there is no god but God. Does it mean that there are is no god [= plurality of persons within a singularity of nature] but God [= plurality of persons within a singularity of nature]. Really, that’s what first comes to ones mind when they read this statement? Or perhaps: there’s no god [organisation name/ label “god”] = plural beings [citizens, members], but God [organisation name/ label “God”] = plural beings [citizens, members]?

        If the presupposion and the starting point is not a Trinitarian paradigm, and we be charitable to texts, anchoring grammar in commonsense and reality, then there’s nothing complicated in the term echad, ahad, wahid and singular pronouns.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Greetings Nazam

        While I realize your most recent comment was directed at Dr. Collins, as part of it also touched on my blog entry, permit me to reply to some relevant portions.

          Nazam wrote:
          ahad/wahid and singular pronouns can be used for: a country, a tribe, a club, an organisation, a cartel etc. Who is denying that? Now if you wish to problematise normal language and see multiplicity in ‘one’ and metaphorise it (but be literal when it comes to plural pronouns), we still don’t naturally get ‘a plurality of persons within a singularity of nature’. Instead, we will get: person 1, person 2, person 3, person 4 and so on…all different independent seperate persons. This is what plurality means. You need to explain why you would prevelige over this a less naturally derived concept of plurality: plurality of persons within a singularity. How is the latter more likely? You could, however, argue for the latter if ‘God’ is like the concept of a country, club, organisation, cartel. This relegates ‘God’ to a label and you basically do away with God…this understanding eliminates God from.tje picture. But this is NOT the trinity, as explained by Denis.

        As I believe I have noted twice before, even acknowledging the profound differences between the classical concept of the Trinity and, for example, a mere football team, those differences seem to have little effect on the significance of the appeals to the latter. The reason why is because once we acknowledge that such Semitic constructions can refer even to a mere football team, on what grounds does one assert that they cannot refer to a multipersonal conception of God (i.e. a single God comprising multiple persons)? It seems there are no grammatical grounds for precluding such.

          Nazam wrote:
          Plural persons naturally means separate distinct persons.

        Yes, a literal reading of the divine plurals would imply the one God is somehow multiple persons. One God yet multiple persons seems to invite a multipersonal conception of God to reconcile those disparate points.

          Nazam wrote:
          You cannot arbitrarily define and restrict plural in some places as complying with a Trinitarian paradigm

        If we are reading a reference to multiple persons in a vacuum, then indeed, one need not try to unify them in some way. However, when those multiple persons are the one God (the conclusion from reading the divine plurals literally), then we begin to feel a pull towards multipersonal conception of God.

          Nazam wrote:
          you have to explain what it means when we read that there is no god but God.

        That the one God that exists is the only god that exists. There are no other gods. In a vacuum, that tells us nothing about the one God’s ontology. A literal reading of the divine plurals would lead to the conclusion that the one God is somehow multiple persons.

          Nazam wrote:
          Does it mean that there are is no god [= plurality of persons within a singularity of nature] but God [= plurality of persons within a singularity of nature].

        As was noted above, the phrase “no god but God” does not tell us about the ontology of the one God, and thus, by itself, that phrase does not provide us any grounds on which to insist that the one God possesses a multipersonal ontology. It is only when such is read in conjunction with a literal reading of the divine plurals that one can feel a reason to look in that direction.

        On a side note, even if the one God is multipersonal, the declaration that there are no other gods need not entail that those other non-existent gods also be multipersonal (unless you’re taking a somewhat Craigian approach, where it is suggested that perhaps the definition of “god” might include a multipersonal ontology?). As far as I can see, in theory an imagined god could be unipersonal or multipersonal, so among the other gods that don’t actually exist, the text would seem to imply that irrespective of whether one proposes a unipersonal god or a multipersonal god, if they are referring to a god other than the one God, that other god doesn’t actually exist.

          Nazam wrote:
          If the presupposion and the starting point is not a Trinitarian paradigm, and we be charitable to texts, anchoring grammar in commonsense and reality, then there’s nothing complicated in the term echad, ahad, wahid and singular pronouns.

        I certainly have not begun with a Trinitarian presupposition. My argument is that the divine plurals could be interpreted literally or non-literally, though I ask that those who insist that they be read non-literally provide textual indicators supporting that position. In the absence of such textual indicators, I’d say the text leaves the question of the divine plurals open. Beyond that, while we likewise would not be able to insist that the divine plurals be read literally, such a reading would nonetheless remain possible (as would a non-literal reading), and thus IF we read the plurals literally, then that, in conjunction with the insistence of monotheism, would cause one to seriously consider a multipersonal conception of God. [Hence why I make what I concede might initially seem like a controversial statement: a literalist reading of the Qur’ān seems to lean one towards a multipersonal conception of God.

        A mere appeal to singular constructions does not settle the matter, as singular constructions by themselves do not necessitate that what they refer to be unipersonal. This is precisely why the question of whether the divine plurals are literal or not becomes so central.

        On that note, have a great day. God bless! 🙂

        Like

    • Nazam: ‘Congratulations on a remarkable piece of esiegesis’

      My sentiments exactly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Greetings Nazam and Paul

        I’d honestly be curious what, precisely, in the blog entry constitutes eisegesis.

        Here’s how I’m experience this sort of exchange:

        ME: Regarding the divine plurals in the Qur’ān, I realize that orthodox Muslims say they are non-literal, and I do not deny the possibility, but I would like to ask if there are any textual indicators within the Qur’ān itself supporting such a position?

        REPLY: That’s eisegesis!

        ***

        In short, how is merely asking, for textual indicators from the Qur’ān itself to support the claim that the divine plurals therein are non-literal, a form of eisegesis?

        Or do you gentlemen have something else in mind?

        Like

      • Paul and Nazam, do you have anything substantive, like some proof that Denis keeps demanding?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dr.Collins

        before I address your question I would be grateful if you would address mine.

        Like

      • In your syntactic and semantic analysis, what evidence convinces you that the numerical value in the Shema אֶחָד {Echad} does not accommodate a plurality of persons within a singularity of nature? This question becomes even more important, given the inherent complexity of the term אֶחָד {Echad}

        Like

      • As usual you avoid answering the question I posed. I wonder what you are hiding?

        Like

      • I’m pretty sure hes a bell-ringer

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hmm that’s one possibility.

        Like

  13. I actually have a lot to say about this Denis.

    Just one question to start with. What actual textual indicator (the exact words) would you need in the Quran for you to be happy ?

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    • Greetings Unitarian.

      Thank you for your comment. It is honestly good to see your participation in this correspondence.

      Well, for example, in a way that the extra-Qur’anic literature might do so (e.g. by saying this plural is like the plural used by a single monarch when giving a decree, et cetera). Mind you, I’m not saying that the relevant textual indicator has to be that way, but I cite the rough example because extra-Qur’anic literature seems quite capable of declaring divine plurals in the Qur’an to be non-literal. So I am merely wondering if there is any sort of indicator in the Qur’an itself.

      Have a great day. God bless.

      Like

      • Denis, in your syntactic and semantic analysis, what evidence convinces you that the numerical value in the Shema אֶחָד {Echad} does not accommodate a plurality of persons within a singularity of nature? This question becomes even more important, given the inherent complexity of the term אֶחָד {Echad}

        Like

      • Just to be clear, I do not claim that eḥad cannot accommodate a plurality of Persons. While I do not think it is required to do so, I nonetheless believe it is doing so in the case of the Sh’maᶜ.

        Whatever the case, irrespective of how different people interpret specifically the Sh’maᶜ, it is nonetheless undeniable that the word eḥad can be used to refer to multipersonal entities.

        Like

  14. I assume you would want the Quran to deny a specific form of the trinity by claiming there is only one person?

    You will then claim that in such an absence that when the properties (at least one) typical of a “person” are predicated of God they are meant in a metaphorical sense ?

    After all, in a literal sense the “Godhead” isn’t willing or choosing. Since you are a Roman Catholic, I assume you may frown on such a notion of the trinity ? Are you a fan of social trinitarianism ?

    Some of these questions are a slight trajectory I know. It will just help me clarify your position before I engage it.

    Like

    • If we work with the assumption that the commentators on this page, due to being involved in some form of apologetics, possess an above-average level of knowledge regarding issues of Islamic creed and texts, then does that not indicate how lacking is the level of knowledge of the common folk, regarding creed, language of Arabic, logic etc?

      Like

    • Greetings Unitarian

      Just to be clear, I am not requiring the Qur’an to have an explicit denial of specifically the Trinity. I am more interested in something in the text entailing the conclusion that the divine plurals are non-literal. Now, hypothetically speaking, if the divine plurals in the Qur’an were literal, that need not automatically mean the classical doctrine of the Trinity (i.e. in theory, a multipersonal conception of God could alternatively have a different number of people from the Trinity, or include Persons not recognized in the classical doctrine of the Trinity, et cetera).

      For that reason, I would think the doctrine of the Trinity (or variations thereof) is somewhat off topic. As for what conclusions I might draw if there are no textual indicators of the sort I’m requesting, I’m not sure, but I doubt it would go too far (e.g. at most I might say the Qur’an leaves the question of the divine plurals open, without insisting such must be in my favor).

      Like

      • Thank you Denis.

        Courteous as always. Forgive me for not engaging directly but I like to talk in a more dialectic way

        So let me expand on this a bit more. I want to flesh out your theory a bit. So I am going to ask a few other questions.

        How would you read the ayah below on a literal plural reading ?

        إِنَّنِي أَنَا اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدْنِي وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي

        It seems here that we have God using the first person singular obviously. Quite a few more ayahs I am going be to throwing at you. Just seeing how you will try to use a literal reading of the Plural texts and a metaphorical reading here. Perhaps both are literal ?

        Also what does literal exactly mean to you ? What is the possible meaning that you genuinely think would be historically viable ? Here are a few hypothetical possibilities.

        A- We have a theory similar to what has been proposed by Dr Michae Heiser. The plural would refer to a divine council here ( I think you mentioned this before). God and, say, his angels.

        B- We literally have Monolatery. Here we have Allah (sort of similar to the Quraish perhaps ?) as the main deity among a council of other divine beings

        C- A view more aligned with the Orthodox position. Here we have a Monarchial view of the trinity. Nominally we have God (Allah) in perichoresis with other divine persons. A plurality of persons in one Godhead (for now we will leave what “one” means in the trinity )

        Do you think the Quran is actually open to these views on charitable reading of the text ? ( I personally think we should be charitable with any text and try to genuinely see the intent of the author in as a coherent manner as possible)

        Like

      • in effect I am asking what you actually think the Quran could mean by “divine plurals”

        Like

      • Unitarian, in your syntactic and semantic analysis, what evidence convinces you that the numerical value in the Shema אֶחָד {Echad} does not accommodate a plurality of persons within a singularity of nature? This question becomes even more important, given the inherent complexity of the term אֶחָד {Echad}

        Like

      • Greetings Unitarian, and thank you for your reply.

        [Quick (perhaps humorous?) note: in my last reply to you, I was very hasty in typing it, as, at the time, I wanted to post a few replies, but was also anxious to go to sleep (it was circa. 1AM in NYC). The next day, my memory of what precisely I had typed in those last few replies was foggy, and I wondered if, in my haste, my tone might’ve come off as disrespectful. Looking now, I was relieved to see that you found it courteous. 🙂 ]

        Regarding your question about the use of the first personal singular pronoun, I would say that, on its own, I would take that as a very likely sign of a unipersonal ontology. However, in Semitic languages, while it can seem awkward, it is possible for a multipersonal entity to employ a singular first person pronoun in reference to itself, with the example that immediately comes to mind being Joshua 17:14, where one of the tribes declares anī ᶜam rab (אני עם־רב), “I am a great nation!”

        That’s not to say there’s an open question every time we see singular first person pronouns, but in the case of the Qur’а̄n, what trips me up a bit are the plural constructions. In other words, if all we had to go by were the singular first person constructions, I’d think the easiest and most probable conclusion would be that the one speaking is unipersonal. However, when the plural constructions are also factored in, it then begs the question of whether those plurals are literal or not (as if they are literal, that would change how we see the singular constructions).

        As for whether such pronouns are literal or metaphorical, I would say the singular pronouns are definitely literal, insofar that the one speaking is literally one (disclaimer: I do not mean unipersonal, but there is undoubtedly one entity, one deity, speaking). As for whether the plural constructions are literal, it seems to me possible (but I think it is an open question). But yes, as you hypothetically proposed, perhaps both are literal.

        As for what literal would mean here, it would mean a literal plurality of some sort. For a soft analogy, consider the example of a square. We can say it is literally one shape and it comprises a literal plurality of sides (i.e. when we say a square is one shape comprising four sides, that’s not a metaphor of some sort; rather both the singular and the plural are literal). In the case of the texts under question, I’m guessing a literal plural would entail a plurality of personal agents of some sort.

        As for the different scenarios you proposed (e.g. God and the angels, God and a divine council of other divine beings, et cetera), any of those might be possible if all we are thinking about is a literal plurality. However, I find sūrat al-Waqiᶜa 56:59’s reference to Creators interesting, as, if taken literally, such would imply multiple participants in creation. Then there are the texts which seem* to argue against God having partners (if so, I would take such as precluding external partners, without such necessarily constituting a comment on “internal structure”)

        [*Quick side note: I put “seem to argue” because I am also open to the possibility of constructions from the Semitic $RK root referring to a conflation or mixing of things (i.e. a blurring of distinctions between them). However, I am not saying these are mutually exclusive options.]

        As a final disclaimer, I hope it is clear that what I typed above constitute possibilities, but I am not claiming any such reading above is necessary. I do think a unipersonal reading of the text is also possible (provided the relevant plurals are treated as non-literal).

        On that note, I look forward to your forthcoming replies. Have a great day. God bless.

        Like

  15. .”…they are meant in a metaphorical sense ?”

    sorry could be meant

    Like

  16. Is anyone capable of addressing the root cause of this issue?

    Like

    • I’m gonna take a guess and say tree, final answer tree🤞

      Liked by 1 person

      • In your syntactic and semantic analysis, what evidence convinces you that the numerical value in the Shema אֶחָד {Echad} does not a accommodate a plurality of persons within a singularity of nature? This question becomes even more important, given the inherent complexity of the term אֶחָד {Echad}

        Like

  17. Collins, apparently you have no idea what you’re talking about. So far, Denis has failed to prove his premise that he built his articles on. There’s no such a thing called “inherent complexity” of term echad.This is a post hoc interpretation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • For what ever reason it may be, Hopefully denis can realize he contrived a concept. May Allah guide us on the straight path and not on the path that leads us astray

      Liked by 1 person

    • Greetings ᶜAbdullah and Sabit, and thank you both for your replies.

        ᶜAbdullah wrote:
        Denis has failed to prove his premise that he built his articles on.

      I’d be curious what this premise is that you have in mind. Please be clear as to what you think my argument entails and what it is that you feel I am required to prove.

        ᶜAbdullah wrote:
        There’s no such a thing called “inherent complexity” of term echad.This is a post hoc interpretation.

      I am left to wonder if this is the premise you had in mind. I have not made any explicit claim about an “inherent complexity” to the term eḥad. What I have argued, however, is that the Semitic construction A7D (eḥad in Hebrew, aḥadu in Geᶜez, and aḥad in ᶜArabic [with a corresponding construction in Aramaic, which lacks the alif]) can be employed to refer to things which are impersonal, unipersonal, or multipersonal (therefore, a mere appeal to that construction does not tell us about the ontology of that which it describes). This is not a post-hoc interpretation; rather it is a fact of these languages, which can be easily inferred from seeing the various contexts in which the term is employed.

      ***

        Sabit wrote:
        Hopefully denis can realize he contrived a concept.

      I would likewise invite you to elaborate on this contrived concept you have in mind. I’m willing to discuss it with you.

      ***

      On that note, I’ll close here. I hope both of you have a good day. God bless.

      Like

      • Denis, I meant to like all your comments but for some reason my server has not permitted me too, so accept this comment as a like to all your comments, God Bless.

        I agree with you on the Shema and Echad. The Shema is not explicitly unitarian nor is the term echad unrelated to ahad etc

        Like

  18. Thank you again Denis.

    Ok, let me zoom in a bit more. Let’s look at this in particular

    “As for whether such pronouns are literal or metaphorical, I would say the singular pronouns are definitely literal, insofar that the one speaking is literally one (disclaimer: I do not mean unipersonal, but there is undoubtedly one entity, one deity, speaking). As for whether the plural constructions are literal, it seem to me possible (but I think it is an open question). But yes, as you hypothetically proposed, perhaps both are literal.”

    Right. So with a single pronoun we have must a singular entity. There must be a unity of some sort. It must be “tamed” in some way, so to speak to make any real semantic sense. So let’s try to construct the reading in your literal plural way with this ayah.

    إِنَّنِي أَنَا اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدْنِي وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي

    Rough translation

    Verily I am Allah (? group of divine beings?) there is no God (in the singular) but me….

    Would this be an accurate representation of your reading ?

    Now let’s move to the literal plural with the term نحن as an example. That would refer to an unspecified number of Gods

    So if we combine the two it would be like this

    Verily I am “an unspecified number of Gods” and there is no god but this unspecified number of Gods

    Is this an accurate combination of the two ?

    I have to be honest that I find this reading highly unlikely and, to me at least, ahistorical if we are looking at the literal plural in the sense above.

    Of course, I am thinking out loud here. There are many more issues and many more ayahs that we can talk about. For the moment though I want you to try and combine the relevant ayahs that you know of (an obvious one or two at first ) to see how you can get such a reading.

    On a side note a question if I may. Isn’t أحد القبائل different in meaning to الله أحد . It seems the former means “one of”. Also the the trinitarian formulae that you gave after mentioning three persons uses Ahad in the absolute singular way. Yes ? If it could be used in the plural way then the term it is describing ie God could be plural in nature (that is in addition to the notion of three persons). Sort of like three persons in group of Gods. To me that is silly, but I am trying to see asymmetry with your reasoning.

    Like

  19. Read my post again. Maybe not the most eloquent way to put it. Hope you can decipher it ! Quite late here

    A rough analogy of sorts with a single pronoun referring to plural entity

    “I am that great nation”

    Here this phrase isn’t semantically useless because the relevant section (as an example) will tame this unity (specify it ) so that we can make sense of it. In this case, perhaps the nation of Israel.

    This, as opposed, to saying a text saying

    “I am the great “unspecified number of Gods” “

    That would really an empty creedal gesture to me . No ?

    Like

  20. Sorry last thing for now. Promise!

    Of course one may “tame” this unity by using some form of ad hoc (not mentioned by the text in any form) method. But now one isn’t really looking at the intent of the author with the evidence provided by the text itself.

    Like

  21. I really promise this is my last one.

    Denis what about this ayah ?

    إنما الله إله واحد سبحانه أن يكون له ولد

    So taking both together we would have on this interesting reading

    Roughly translating here

    Verily Allah (the unspecified group of Gods) is God that is one.

    Now I have no idea how this can be read this way but let’s go with it

    Verily the unspecified group of Gods is an unspecified group of Gods that is one unspecified group of Gods

    Does that even make sense ? Am
    I being uncharitable? Can you provide a more charitable reading ?

    Like

    • Greetings again, Unitarian, and thank you for your recent replies. I really do appreciate them, as my two recent blog entries have collectively received nearly three hundred comments, but (with all due respect to those commenting) I have felt that very few of those comments attempted to grapple directly with the argumentation and/or questions. For that reason, I appreciate the way in which your replies are actually delving into the main subjects.

      Permit me to quote portions of what you wrote, just to be clear as to what I’m attempting to address.

        Unitarian wrote:
        So let’s try to construct the reading in your literal plural way with this ayah.

        إِنَّنِي أَنَا اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدْنِي وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي

        Rough translation

        Verily I am Allah (? group of divine beings?) there is no God (in the singular) but me….

        Would this be an accurate representation of your reading ?

      I would say there is no need for the text in parentheses. I would simply translate what you quoted thusly, in a fairly uncontroversial way:

      “Verily, I am God; there is no god but I, thus serve Me and raise up the prayer to My remembrance.”

      I’d say the verse by itself leaves open the question of the ontology of God (Allah), though, if we were reading the verse in a vacuum (i.e. without making recourse to the plurals elsewhere) the use of the singular first person pronouns and pronomial suffixes would understandably cause one to lean strongly towards assuming a unipersonal ontology.

      As for any other god (ilah), while I realize you wrote singular, not unipersonal, just in case you meant the latter, permit me to share that I don’t think the ontology of a non-existent deity is of concern (i.e. in theory there could be unipersonal deities and multipersonal deities, but if we are referring to a deity other than the one God, then irrespective of its proposed ontology, it doesn’t exist).

      That said, now we can get into combining the above with the plurals…

        Unitarian wrote:
        Now let’s move to the literal plural with the term نحن as an example. That would refer to an unspecified number of Gods

      I would be careful to word this slightly differently: such a literal plural, when read in a vacuum, could be a reference to an unspecified plurality of gods. However, texts beyond that construction which insist on monotheism seem to clearly mitigate against such a reading.

        Unitarian wrote:
        So if we combine the two it would be like this

        Verily I am “an unspecified number of Gods” and there is no god but this unspecified number of Gods

        Is this an accurate combination of the two ?

      If we combine the two (i.e. the first person singular self reference and then a literal reading of the plurals), we would get “I am God, there is no other deity (of any sort) but I,” with the understanding that the one single God is in some sense plural. Ruling out literal polytheism (because the text elsewhere insists on monotheism), such a literal reading would seem to move us towards the conclusion that the one God has a multipersonal ontology. [I’m not insisting on that; rather I’m saying that’s where I think our reading of the text probably takes us IF we combine the singular references with a literal reading of the plural references and the apparent insistence on monotheism.]

        Unitarian wrote:
        I have to be honest that I find this reading highly unlikely and, to me at least, ahistorical if we are looking at the literal plural in the sense above.

      I’m reluctant to call it ahistorical, as presumably there were multipersonal conceptions of God using similar constructions before the Qur’ān (e.g. in Syria, Ethiopia), unless I am misunderstanding what you mean?

        Unitarian wrote:
        Isn’t أحد القبائل different in meaning to الله أحد . It seems the former means “one of”.

      The two phrases are grammatically different, but I am unconvinced that the difference is significant vis a vis questions of the semantic range of the word aḥad. I take aḥad al-qabā’il to mean that, amongst the spectrum of tribes, this particular tribe is called aḥad because it is conceptually alone or conceptually isolated from the others. It is called aḥad because it is one, and it seems awkward to insist that although it is called aḥad it is not aḥad.

      That said, regarding Allah aḥad, I don’t think it is terribly controversial to see it as using aḥad similar to how the Sh’maᶜ (i.e. Deut. 6:4) employs eḥad, which is to say adjectivally. If we can make recourse to how the Semitic construction A7D (אחד=አሐዱ=احد) is employed in the broader spectrum of Semitic languages, then the Qur’ānic phrase Allah aḥad strikes me as identical in structure to Genesis 11:6’s ᶜam eḥad (עם אחד), insofar that in both cases we have the noun followed by the Semitic construction A7D which modifies it.

      Now, I appreciate that at this point many will object that ᶜArabic typically does not use aḥad in that way; rather it would typically use wāḥid (واحد) in such cases. However, the Qur’ānic construction being grammatically anomalous vis a vis the forms of ᶜArabic which followed does not strike me as precluding reading that Qur’ānic construction in light how how A7D is employed in other Semitic languages.

      Moreover, regarding the attempts to rhetorically distance aḥad from wāḥid, I find it very interesting that the famous ḥadīth, in Bukhārī’s Ṣaḥīḥ, about sūrat al-Ikhlāṣ being a third of the Qur’ān, actually references the text as Allahu al-wāḥidu as-samadu (اللّه الواحد الصمد). In other words, if there was a significant difference in meaning between aḥad from wāḥid, that would seem to entail the relevant ḥadīth is quoting what amounts to a significant textual variant, but it is more likely the case that the ḥadīth was merely paraphrasing the relevant sūrah in a way which tacitly recognizes aḥad and wāḥid as synonymous.

        Unitarian wrote:
        the the trinitarian formulae that you gave after mentioning three persons uses Ahad in the absolute singular way. Yes ?

      Perhaps I am misunderstanding, but if we are referring to the Geᶜez phrase aḥadu Amlak (አሐዱ አምላክ), those more well versed in Geᶜez might correct me, but I assume aḥadu was being used somewhat akin to an adjective, modifying amlak (i.e. “one God”).

        Unitarian wrote:
        A rough analogy of sorts with a single pronoun referring to plural entity

        “I am that great nation”

        Here this phrase isn’t semantically useless because the relevant section (as an example) will tame this unity (specify it ) so that we can make sense of it. In this case, perhaps the nation of Israel.

        This, as opposed, to saying a text saying

        “I am the great “unspecified number of Gods” “

        That would really an empty creedal gesture to me . No ?

      Regarding the phrase anī ᶜam rab (אני עם־רב), the word ᶜam (עם) is itself a singular noun. Now, yes, because we know an ᶜam refers to a nation or a group of people, we know that single entity is multipersonal. But the helpful point of the analogy is this: if we did not know (or did not agree) that an ᶜam is multipersonal, mere recourse to the singular constructions referring to it would not establish it as unipersonal. Hence a helpful rule of thumb: in Semitic languages, singular constructions (including singular self-referential first person constructions) do not force the entity in question to be unipersonal.

      As for the phrase anā Allah I definitely would not render it “I am an unspecified number of gods”. Just ᶜam is singular, so too Allah is singular. Reading it in a vaccum, I would simply translate it “I am God”. As was noted, above, the additional information supplied by a literal reading of the plurals and the texts insisting on monotheism would then have the singular Allah as plural in some sense, but not as a plurality of gods. Collectively, it would seem more along the lines of a plurality of persons who are not distinct individual gods.

        Unitarian wrote:
        Of course one may “tame” this unity by using some form of ad hoc (not mentioned by the text in any form) method. But now one isn’t really looking at the intent of the author with the evidence provided by the text itself.

      The author’s intention is difficult to determine. But I think much of how we approach the text depends on whether we read the divine plurals as literal or not. If one insists they are not literal, that is where questions of textual indicators showing such comes in (and it is precisely in asking about textual indicators that we are asking for evidence for how the author intended said plurals). In the absence of such evidence, it might be best to say the text leaves the question open.

        Unitarian wrote:
        what about this ayah ?

        إنما الله إله واحد سبحانه أن يكون له ولد

        So taking both together we would have on this interesting reading

        Roughly translating here

        Verily Allah (the unspecified group of Gods) is God that is one.

      I immediately recognize Allahu ilah(un) wāḥid(un) from sūrat an-Nisā’ 4:171. I’m not sure if the phrase appears elsewhere in the Qur’ān(?), but assuming for now that you took that text from that verse, I find it interesting that immediately before that, the text reads lā yaqūlū thalātha, “do not say three”. I find that interesting because the phrase immediately begs the question, “three what?” In other words, what sort of unit are we quantifying, here? Then the text immediately follows with the declaration you quoted, that God is one god. That seems to mean the unit being quantified here is gods. Do not say three gods, rather God is one god. That would seem to mean that if we read the divine plurals literally, they cannot be a reference to multiple gods (i.e. this is one of those aforementioned verses insisting on monotheism), so the one God cannot be a plurality of gods, rather a literal reading of the plurals would imply the one God is a plurality of something else (e.g. persons who are not distinct individual gods). Hence why I feel a literalist approach to the text would seem to cause one to lean towards a multipersonal conception of God.

      ***

      On that note, I will close here. I hope my attempts to answer your questions were somewhat adequate, and I look forward to your further elaboration. Have a great day, and God bless.

      Like

      • Thank you Denis for your reply. Please forgive me, if I fail to address all of your points. It seems my response has been a bit longer than expected, so I have tried to concentrate it on the key aspect of this discussion.

        “I would be careful to word this slightly differently: such a literal plural, when read in a vacuum, could be a reference to an unspecified plurality of gods. However, texts beyond that construction which insist on monotheism seem to clearly mitigate against such a reading.”
        I agree. There has to be some form of “mitigation” of the unrestricted literal plural reading. So, in a vacuum, like you said, you read the monotheistic texts as referring to a unity. You also read the “divine plural forms” in an unrestricted sense. Now taken together the Muslims would say that the divine plural forms are metaphorical (one avenue). You on the other hand think there is only one other way to provide a mitigation that is “consistent” with the Quranic paradigm as a whole. Here you have a plurality “in” a unity. Well that is why I am still puzzled. On your latter option why can’t the “unity” be a divine council exemplified by multiple gods? Just like your analogy with nations or teams. We have a plurality “in” a unity here as well. That is why I still think your “plurality “in” a unity card doesn’t mitigate my concerns if you think it refers to multiple divine entities. Which ones does the Quran include or exclude on your reading (I know you think it is possible but let us assume it is likely now)? Maybe the Quran is literally rooting for its own “team” of divine beings (the team being called Allah). Forgive me for being pedantic. I personally think the “divine team” route is highly unlikely but I would be grateful if you could clarify why you think that is the case hermeneutically.
        We could have an unspecified number of multipersonal Gods in one divine council. Yikes!

        “If we combine the two (i.e. the first person singular self reference and then a literal reading of the plurals), we would get “I am God, there is no other deity (of any sort) but I,” with the understanding that the one single God is in some sense plural. Ruling out literal polytheism (because the text elsewhere insists on monotheism), such a literal reading would seem to move us towards the conclusion that the one God has a multipersonal ontology. [I’m not insisting on that; rather I’m saying that’s where I think our reading of the text probably takes us IF we combine the singular references with a literal reading of the plural references and the apparent insistence on monotheism.] ”
        Actually I don’t think the implication is strictly true i.e.” … IF we combine the singular references with a literal reading of the plural references”
        We can think of the option of a hybrid set in which we have God and, say, his angels (one avenue for Muslims). Still, we are addressing this on the assumption that the set refers to divine persons so I will not press on this point really.
        You want to go the route in a way that is analogous to some Trinitarian formulae. I know that. So I will move on. Perhaps you could tell me why this is the only route another time. So let me list my immediate concerns then.

        A- We have no indication at all of any subject other than Allah being predicated of the properties that you typically associate with a person. That would be odd if the plural form presents a potentially infinite number of persons in one “substance” (let say this is the unifying concept). Why does the Quran fail to mention anything about at least another person? Why is Allah the only person that is important among a potentially infinite number of persons in “Quranic infinity (the number of persons aren’t restricted)”? That is an odd way to express yourself for such a creed. Now you may think that it is down to a prerogative. This though becomes an issue. As an analogy, compare this to the supposed case in the NT (I have a whole host of issues with it but that is for another day). Here, one at least claims that this applies to the Son and the Holy Spirit. This may still be a problem though! After all, one can claim, that these are the persons (who happen to be three) that are only exemplified in economic trinity. There, in fact, could be an infinite number of other persons that have not manifested themselves. I would think the latter would be an odd way to reason, but I would like you to clarify the asymmetry in your case (I know of the proofs used. I am not convinced by them with this reasoning. Perhaps you could shed new light?). If a text presents only one divine subject that has personal properties predicated in an explicit sense, I would claim that that it believes it to be the one person being predicated until shown otherwise. It is the unqualified form of the divine plural form that ironically adds to this.
        B- In the immediate context of the texts that use the plural form we have an obvious subject at hand that would be included in this group. I would assume Allah also claims (as is predicated of him) that he is the one speaking to Muhammad. It would be natural then to assume when Allah is speaking using the plural form he would be a member of this set. This means the term “Allah” would refer in a nominal sense to a Person that is Allah (persons speak). If that is the case then then monotheist verses kick in where Allah says he is the only God i.e. the only person who is God. If it Allah is just one person among a potentially infinite united by one substance, why are all the monotheist verses predicated of him as a person?
        C- If we assume that Allah is the name of one person among the other persons in this divine plurality then I would assume you would think that the other persons are divine like him?
        I mean you may want to go down the route of emanations of “lesser” divine persons from the primary source, i.e. Allah. That brings in a whole host of issues related to what it actually means to have the divine nature. Leaving that aside, there are a whole host of ayahs that talk of Allah (at least it is predicated of him) exclusively having attributes that you typically predicate of a divine person. You probably know them but I could bring a good list indeed. Do the other persons not have these attributes? How could they be divine then?

        I have gone on bit. Let me stop there. I am sure I can think of few more things! Thus if one goes with the model where the divine plural form refers to Allah being one person among potentially an infinite number of persons united by one substance, you will have a number of hurdles to consider. But what if Allah as nominative form refers to something else?
        Is Allah a substance that “glues” the persons together? Is Allah a universal nature that individual persons exemplify? Is Allah the “Godhead” (trinity monotheism kind of view of persons united by one substance)? Is Allah the nominal term for the “primary” person (akin to the Father) among the undisclosed number of persons in the Quran (this I have discussed)? Is the term Allah univocal between the terms “person” and “Allah”?
        As there is quite a list here, I will leave it to you to decide which Quranic infinity (no reason to limit the number of persons) model fits it more naturally

        It will not be enough for you to say that the Quran leaves this vague because now you are literally deconstructing the text. Essential creedal statements made all over the Quran using a term “Allah” and we have no idea what that nominative label refers to? What “tames” the unity? Persons don’t. So what is doing the taming here?
        Actually let me go with one example. Let’s assume you like Trinity Monotheism. On this view “Allah” would refer to the Godhead (persons plus substance (as an example)). In this case every single ayah that has properties predicated of Allah would literally be untrue (typically exemplified by persons). Yet, it would seem very natural to me that it is Allah that is included in the divine plurals in the immediate context of such ayahs. Furthermore, again, we have no evidence whatsoever of any distinct person (among the possibly infinitely many) in which we have a literal predication in the Quran! That would be an odd way to read the creed of a text in a charitable way. Why would a text that wants to emphasis (as this is creedal) the fact that properties, predicated of Allah are not literally true have the vast majority of its ayahs literally saying it? These readings wouldn’t even be metaphorical. Metaphors don’t work that way. Are you saying this statistical expression is God’s way of emphasising the notion that there is a Godhead of a possibly infinite number of persons united by one substance? Now let me emphasis I am not saying you hold onto such a model. You probably will not, being a Roman Catholic.

        As a side note, this would also apply in a “mereological” sense. Here “Allah” would be a form of “textual ellipsis” in which properties, typical of a person, predicated of “him” are really referring to the “parts” i.e. the persons and not the Godhead. On this view it would also be literally false for Allah to have the properties directly predicated of him.
        Ok I have gone on too long. I have a lot more to say about your other points but I feel this will take this beyond the bounds of what is a usual comment is on a blog! There might be other ways to continue this. Perhaps another forum or by email?

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  22. Greetings Denis,

    1. Should one question if God is male since “He” is used in the Qur’an?

    2. Do you disagree that the “Royal We” was in use during the time of the Qur’an in Late Antiquity?

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    • ***********************

      “As a side note, this would also apply in a “mereological” sense. Here “Allah” would be a form of “textual ellipsis” in which properties, typical of a person, predicated of “him” are really referring to the “parts” i.e. the persons and not the Godhead. On this view it would also be literally false for Allah to have the properties directly predicated of him”

      **********************

      I just wanted to clarify it with an analogy where this works. Lets say that I ovehear someone, say Tim, speaking on the phone and say “Venga you can’t be serious!”. This is in the context of a whole host of statements where Venga is said to annoy the person, get angry with him, make him laugh, and have a two way conversation with him (i.e Venga). The person at the end of the conversation slams the phone down and say those gypsies really annoys me! (Tim is a bit of bigot)

      Would you naturally think from that statistical expression of comments that Venga refers to a number of gypsies speaking to him because he used that collective phrase once? Here the merelogical sense works. When Tim said “Those gypsies really annoy me” the property is transferred to Venga who happens to be a gypsy. It could also refer to a number of people speaking to him. II also naturally think that, despite this collective phrase, it is natural to assume that one person is speaking to Tim.

      Now let’s move to another scenario.

      Let’s say that I know that Manchester United is playing and I rush down to hear the radio (let’s assume this is in the period where we had no televisions). I quickly tune in to the right channel and I just about make the last part from the sport’s commentator. “Manchester United has scored a goal! It is 2-1.What a great game.Yet again Manchester United has kept it’s record clean”

      Now given the background information here, it would be obvious to me even that I have a collective i.e. Manchester United that is a multi personal entitiy. Manchester United is not the name of a single person going around scoring goals.

      To me the statistical background in the first scenario really reflects the Quran (obviously it has more than one statement with the divine plural form). So are we saying that the a creedal aspect where the Godhead should not be confused with a person ( I mean wouldn’t that be a heresy of sorts? It would collapse the whole Persons in a unity model). is expressed in the text where Allah is spoken in the vast majority of cases in a personal way but yet it refers only to the Godhead? Furthermore we have NO distinct person (as opposed to the Christian model) even mentioned?

      Forgive me wouldn’t it be natural for a believer to think that the Godhead is a person?

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      • Now I have to admit that I haven’t done a statiscal analysis but I strongly suspect the forms where Allah is a single entitiy and has properties predicated of him that typically represent a person will overall far outweigh the the plural forms to a large extent.

        I also suspect the the divine plural forms are used in contexts where there is a rhetorical pattern and in the immediate context of other texts where Allah is clearly predicated of with properties typical of a person.

        Furthermore I forgot to mention the obvious historical context. As a Roman Catholic you will appreciate tradition. Why hasn’t anyone in any major sect (with a reasonable historical tradition), in any school of though, in any tradition (alot of hadith can be traced back to the first century A.H.) upto this present period even remotely contemplated this reading?

        So in addition to this odd statistical expression we have no historical context for this reading.

        That would be an odd context for a book to be revealed in where it would be likely that the Godhead is not literally a person.

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  23. Greetings again Denis and everyone else,

    3. Dear Denis, my brother in humanity, what do you say to the following which is taken from the latter portion of https://qurananswers.me/2016/03/18/plural-pronouns/#sometimes

    My text—Below are amazing rhetorical reasons from the website above to explain why plural is sometimes used for God Almighty and why singular is sometimes used for God Almighty….—

    “Sometimes plural pronouns are used by Allah and at other times, singular. Why is this so and is there any defined pattern or reasoning behind it?

    There are patterns behind the singular and plural usage of pronouns for a single person:

    In cases of extreme love or extreme anger, the usage is always I (Ana – أنا)
    When slave talks to Allah, he is given the opportunity to say You (Anta – أنت)
    When Allah is formal and/or He is distancing Himself from some persons, acts or others, then He uses He (Hua – هو) for Himself
    When Allah grants a gift, blessing, or reward such as the Qur’an, rain and so on, He uses We for sending down (Anzalna – أنزلنا)
    All other usage of the pronouns that do not fall in any other category are categorized by We. This usage of We may be His Majesty in general or it may be a reminder of the law previously explained under He (Hua – هو)
    Whenever Nahnu (We) is used, the Ayah before or after it speaks of Tawhid (monotheism)
    We[22] shall discuss these patterns in more detail below:

    In cases of extreme love or extreme anger, the usage is always I (Ana – أنا)
    All the examples are from Surah Al-Maida (chapter five); Arabic text not quoted.

    This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion. But whoever is forced by severe hunger with no inclination to sin – then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

    How do we know that these verses speak of love or anger? The context makes it explicit. When Allah states that He has completed His favour, one might wonder whether it is a formal speech or royal; however, Allah eases a condition of eating the unlawful in extreme case as per His Love and Mercy and He ends the statement with mentioning that He is Forgiving and Merciful.

    I am with you. If you establish prayer and give zakah and believe in My messengers and support them and loan Allah a goodly loan, I will surely remove from you your misdeeds and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow.

    “O Jesus, Son of Mary, remember My favor upon you and upon your mother when I supported you with the Pure Spirit and you spoke to the people in the cradle and in maturity; and [remember] when I taught you writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel; and when you designed from clay [what was] like the form of a bird with My permission, then you breathed into it, and it became a bird with My permission; and you healed the blind and the leper with My permission; and when you brought forth the dead with My permission; and when I restrained the Children of Israel from [killing] you when you came to them with clear proofs and those who disbelieved among them said, “This is not but obvious magic.”

    And [remember] when I inspired to the disciples, “Believe in Me and in My messenger Jesus.”

    “Indeed, I will sent it down to you, but whoever disbelieves afterwards from among you – then indeed will I punish him with a punishment by which I have not punished anyone among the worlds.”

    When slave talks to Allah, he is given the opportunity to say You (Anta – أنت)

    All the examples are from Surah Al-i-Imran (chapter three); Arabic text not quoted.

    [Who say], “Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower.

    Our Lord, surely You will gather the people for a Day about which there is no doubt. Indeed, Allah does not fail in His promise.”

    Say, “O Allah, Owner of Sovereignty, You give sovereignty to whom You will and You take sovereignty away from whom You will. You honor whom You will and You humble whom You will. In Your hand is [all] good. Indeed, You are over all things competent.

    You cause the night to enter the day, and You cause the day to enter the night; and You bring the living out of the dead, and You bring the dead out of the living. And You give provision to whom You will without account.”

    [Mention, O Muhammad], when the wife of ‘Imran said, “My Lord, indeed I have pledged to You what is in my womb, consecrated [for Your service], so accept this from me. Indeed, You are the Hearing, the Knowing.”

    But when she delivered her, she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, “And the male is not like the female. And I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of Allah].”

    At that, Zechariah called upon his Lord, saying, “My Lord, grant me from Yourself a good offspring. Indeed, You are the Hearer of supplication.”

    Our Lord, we have believed in what You revealed and have followed the messenger [Jesus], so register us among the witnesses [to truth].”

    Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire.

    Our Lord, indeed whoever You admit to the Fire – You have disgraced him, and for the wrongdoers there are no helpers.

    Our Lord, and grant us what You promised us through Your messengers and do not disgrace us

    These are self-explanatory. When slave talks to Allah, he is given the opportunity to say You.

    When Allah is formal and/or He is distancing Himself from some persons, acts or others, then He uses He (Hua – هو) for Himself

    All the examples are from Surah al-Baqarah (chapter two); Arabic text not quoted. We observe that in these verses Allah is being formal and as we say ‘straight to the business’. He refers to the matters of guidance, instructions, orders, teachings, actions, and the law and its clarification, and these matters are serious matters for the mankind and in all these instances, the words He or His are used.

    The lightning almost snatches away their sight. Every time it lights [the way] for them, they walk therein; but when darkness comes over them, they stand [still]. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken away their hearing and their sight. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.

    Indeed, Allah is not timid to present an example – that of a mosquito or what is smaller than it. And those who have believed know that it is the truth from their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, they say, “What did Allah intend by this as an example?” He misleads many thereby and guides many thereby. And He misleads not except the defiantly disobedient,

    How can you disbelieve in Allah when you were lifeless and He brought you to life; then He will cause you to die, then He will bring you [back] to life, and then to Him you will be returned.

    It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth. Then He directed Himself to the heaven, [His being above all creation], and made them seven heavens, and He is Knowing of all things.

    And He taught Adam the names – all of them. Then He showed them to the angels and said, “Inform Me of the names of these, if you are truthful.”

    He said, “O Adam, inform them of their names.” And when he had informed them of their names, He said, “Did I not tell you that I know the unseen [aspects] of the heavens and the earth? And I know what you reveal and what you have concealed.”

    Then Adam received from his Lord [some] words, and He accepted his repentance. Indeed, it is He who is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.

    And [recall] when Moses said to his people, “O my people, indeed you have wronged yourselves by your taking of the calf [for worship]. So repent to your Creator and kill yourselves. That is best for [all of] you in the sight of your Creator.” Then He accepted your repentance; indeed, He is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.

    They said, “Call upon your Lord to show us what is her color.” He said, “He says, ‘It is a yellow cow, bright in color – pleasing to the observers.’ “

    He said, “He says, ‘It is a cow neither trained to plow the earth nor to irrigate the field, one free from fault with no spot upon her.’ “They said, “Now you have come with the truth.” So they slaughtered her, but they could hardly do it.

    So, We said, “Strike the slain man with part of it.” Thus does Allah bring the dead to life, and He shows you His signs that you might reason.

    How wretched is that for which they sold themselves – that they would disbelieve in what Allah has revealed through [their] outrage that Allah would send down His favor upon whom He wills from among His servants. So they returned having [earned] wrath upon wrath. And for the disbelievers is a humiliating punishment.

    Neither those who disbelieve from the People of the Scripture nor the polytheists wish that any good should be sent down to you from your Lord. But Allah selects for His mercy whom He wills, and Allah is the possessor of great bounty.

    Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, “Be,” and it is.

    So if they believe in the same as you believe in, then they have been [rightly] guided; but if they turn away, they are only in dissension, and Allah will be sufficient for you against them. And He is the Hearing, the Knowing.

    He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

    Indeed, they who conceal what Allah has sent down of the Book and exchange it for a small price – those consume not into their bellies except the Fire. And Allah will not speak to them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them. And they will have a painful punishment.

    The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.

    It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them. Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He accepted your repentance and forgave you. So now, have relations with them and seek that which Allah has decreed for you. And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night]. Then complete the fast until the sunset. And do not have relations with them as long as you are staying for worship in the mosques. These are the limits [set by] Allah, so do not approach them. Thus does Allah make clear His ordinances to the people that they may become righteous.

    There is no blame upon you for seeking bounty from your Lord [during hajj]. But when you depart from ‘Arafat, remember Allah at al- Mash‘ar al-Haram. And remember Him, as He has guided you, for indeed, you were before that among those astray.

    Beautified for those who disbelieve is the life of this world, and they ridicule those who believe. But those who fear Allah are above them on the Day of Resurrection. And Allah gives provision to whom He wills without account.

    Mankind was [of] one religion [before their deviation]; then Allah sent the prophets as bringers of good tidings and warners and sent down with them the Scripture in truth to judge between the people concerning that in which they differed. And none differed over the Scripture except those who were given it – after the clear proofs came to them – out of jealous animosity among themselves. And Allah guided those who believed to the truth concerning that over which they had differed, by His permission. And Allah guides whom He wills to a straight path.

    To this world and the Hereafter. And they ask you about orphans. Say, “Improvement for them is best. And if you mix your affairs with theirs – they are your brothers. And Allah knows the corrupter from the amender. And if Allah had willed, He could have put you in difficulty. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.

    And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe. And a believing slave woman is better than a polytheist, even though she might please you. And do not marry polytheistic men [to your women] until they believe. And a believing slave is better than a polytheist, even though he might please you. Those invite [you] to the Fire, but Allah invites to Paradise and to forgiveness, by His permission. And He makes clear His verses to the people that perhaps they may remember.

    Allah does not impose blame upon you for what is unintentional in your oaths, but He imposes blame upon you for what your hearts have earned. And Allah is Forgiving and Forbearing.

    And if he has divorced her [for the third time], then she is not lawful to him afterward until [after] she marries a husband other than him. And if the latter husband divorces her [or dies], there is no blame upon the woman and her former husband for returning to each other if they think that they can keep [within] the limits of Allah. These are the limits of Allah, which He makes clear to a people who know.

    And when you divorce women and they have [nearly] fulfilled their term, either retain them according to acceptable terms or release them according to acceptable terms, and do not keep them, intending harm, to transgress [against them]. And whoever does that has certainly wronged himself. And do not take the verses of Allah in jest. And remember the favor of Allah upon you and what has been revealed to you of the Book and wisdom by which He instructs you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is Knowing of all things.

    And if you fear [an enemy, then pray] on foot or riding. But when you are secure, then remember Allah [in prayer], as He has taught you that which you did not [previously] know.

    Have you not considered those who left their homes in many thousands, fearing death? Allah said to them, “Die”; then He restored them to life. And Allah is full of bounty to the people, but most of the people do not show gratitude.

    Who is it that would loan Allah a goodly loan so He may multiply it for him many times over? And it is Allah who withholds and grants abundance, and to Him you will be returned.

    So they defeated them by permission of Allah, and David killed Goliath, and Allah gave him the kingship and prophethood and taught him from that which He willed. And if it were not for Allah checking [some] people by means of others, the earth would have been corrupted, but Allah is full of bounty to the worlds.

    Those messengers – some of them We caused to exceed others. Among them were those to whom Allah spoke, and He raised some of them in degree. And We gave Jesus, the Son of Mary, clear proofs, and We supported him with the Pure Spirit. If Allah had willed, those [generations] succeeding them would not have fought each other after the clear proofs had come to them. But they differed, and some of them believed and some of them disbelieved. And if Allah had willed, they would not have fought each other, but Allah does what He intends.

    Allah – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Kursī extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.

    Allah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into the light. And those who disbelieve – their allies are taghūt. They take them out of the light into darknesses. Those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein.

    Or [consider such an example] as the one who passed by a township which had fallen into ruin. He said, “How will Allah bring this to life after its death?” So Allah caused him to die for a hundred years; then He revived him. He said, “How long have you remained?” The man said, “I have remained a day or part of a day.” He said, “Rather, you have remained one hundred years. Look at your food and your drink; it has not changed with time. And look at your donkey; and We will make you a sign for the people. And look at the bones [of this donkey] – how We raise them and then We cover them with flesh.” And when it became clear to him, he said, “I know that Allah is over all things competent.”

    The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.

    He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding.

    If you disclose your charitable expenditures, they are good; but if you conceal them and give them to the poor, it is better for you, and He will remove from you some of your misdeeds [thereby]. And Allah, with what you do, is [fully] Acquainted.

    Not upon you, [O Muhammad], is [responsibility for] their guidance, but Allah guides whom He wills. And whatever good you [believers] spend is for yourselves, and you do not spend except seeking the countenance of Allah. And whatever you spend of good – it will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged.

    To Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. Whether you show what is within yourselves or conceal it, Allah will bring you to account for it. Then He will forgive whom He wills and punish whom He wills, and Allah is over all things competent.

    In all these verses, we see that Allah is distancing Himself from those who disbelieve in Him. Now, there may be occasions where some rules may overlap. Allah may be angry and formal at the same time, or He may be distancing Himself from some persons, or acts, and giving a reminder at the same time. In such instances, Allah uses the pronoun as He deems best and according to our observations, these are based on the context of the passage and what has been emphasised in this particular instance.

    When Allah grants a gift, blessing, sign, punishment, or reward such as the Qur’an, rain, torment, and so on, He uses We for sending down (Anzalna – أنزلنا)
    But those who wronged changed [those words] to a statement other than that which had been said to them, so We sent down upon those who wronged a punishment from the sky because they were defiantly disobeying. 2:59

    Indeed, those who conceal what We sent down of clear proofs and guidance after We made it clear for the people in the Scripture – those are cursed by Allah and cursed by those who curse, 2:159

    Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was guidance and light. The prophets who submitted [to Allah] judged by it for the Jews, as did the rabbis and scholars by that with which they were entrusted of the Scripture of Allah, and they were witnesses thereto. So do not fear the people but fear Me, and do not exchange My verses for a small price. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the disbelievers. 5:44

    And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous. 5:46

    Have they not seen how many generations We destroyed before them which We had established upon the earth as We have not established you? And We sent [rain from] the sky upon them in showers and made rivers flow beneath them; then We destroyed them for their sins and brought forth after them a generation of others. 6:6

    And We sent to no city a prophet [who was denied] except that We seized its people with poverty and hardship that they might humble themselves [to Allah]. 7:94

    Then We sent after them Moses with Our signs to Pharaoh and his establishment, but they were unjust toward them. So see how was the end of the corrupters. 7:103

    So We sent upon them the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood as distinct signs, but they were arrogant and were a criminal people. 7:133

    But those who wronged among them changed [the words] to a statement other than that which had been said to them. So We sent upon them a punishment from the sky for the wrong that they were doing. 7:162

    And know that anything you obtain of war booty – then indeed, for Allah is one fifth of it and for the Messenger and for [his] near relatives and the orphans, the needy, and the [stranded] traveler, if you have believed in Allah and in that which We sent down to Our Servant on the day of criterion – the day when the two armies met. And Allah, over all things, is competent. 8:41

    Then We sent after him messengers to their peoples, and they came to them with clear proofs. But they were not to believe in that which they had denied before. Thus We seal over the hearts of the transgressors. 10:74

    Then We sent after them Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh and his establishment with Our signs, but they behaved arrogantly and were a criminal people. 10:75

    There are several more verses such as 12:109, 13:30, 16:43, 17:5, 17:15, 19:17, 20:80, 21:7, 21:25, 22:16, 23:32, 23:44-45, 29:40, 30:35, 31:10, 33:9, 34:16, 36:14, 37:147, 39:41, 40:70, 41:16, 43:6, 43:45, 44:3, 51:38, 51:41, 54:19, 54:31, 54:34, 57:25, 57:27, 71:1, 73:15, and 97:1.

    Is this really a rule? Are there exceptions to it?

    This is a rule and there are no exceptions to it. In cases where we find He sent instead of We sent, we notice that the context demands it:

    Certainly did Allah confer [great] favor upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom, although they had been before in manifest error. 3:164

    Certainly was Allah pleased with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you, [O Muhammad], under the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down tranquility upon them and rewarded them with an imminent conquest 48:18

    When Allah refers to the believers in third person instead of second, He refers to Himself in the third person as well. Qur’an 105:3 is normally translated as He sent against them; however, the Arabic does not contain these words He sent and in order to convey clarity of language, such words have been chosen. More appropriate translation should be: Were not birds in flocks sent against them?

    Now there may be occasions where He and We may overlap. If He is used for formal business and We is used for sending down, what would occur if it is both formal and sending down? In this case, formal structure takes precedence as we see in this verse:

    O you who have believed, believe in Allah and His Messenger and the Book that He sent down upon His Messenger and the Scripture which He sent down before. And whoever disbelieves in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day has certainly gone far astray. 4:136

    An interesting pattern here is that when the sentence starts with ‘O you who have believed’ (believers being in second person), Allah uses He (third person). He starts with directly speaking to the people in second person and then changes His pronoun to third person. This pattern is beautifully linked to the following verse in an inverse way:

    O you who have believed, remember the favor of Allah upon you when armies came to [attack] you and We sent upon them a wind and armies [of angels] you did not see. And ever is Allah, of what you do, Seeing. 33:9

    This sentence also starts with ‘O you who have believed’ (second person) but in this case, a third party enters i.e. the armies that came to attack, Allah uses the first person pronoun for Himself. In other words, when the ones being spoken to i.e. ‘O you who have believed’ are in second person, Allah switches His pronoun to third person and when a third person enters the description, He switches to first person so that no two beings retain the same pronoun. There is none like unto Him (112:4).[23]

    All other usage of the pronouns that do not fall in any other category are categorized by We. This usage of We may be His Majesty in general or it may be a reminder of the law previously explained under He (Hua – هو)
    We see that there are more than one pattern of the usage of We; one we discussed above regarding sending down and the others we discuss here.

    But repentance is not [accepted] of those who [continue to] do evil deeds up until, when death comes to one of them, he says, “Indeed, I have repented now,” or of those who die while they are disbelievers. For them We have prepared a painful punishment. 4:18

    This verses does not use He for the punishment because it is not sent down; rather it is prepared. These people kept rejecting the signs and warnings, and continued to disbelieve. Therefore, their repentance is rejected when it is too late and a reminder has been given to them that Allah has prepared a painful punishment and for this reminder, He uses We.

    O you who have believed, do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly but only [in lawful] business by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful. 4:29

    Here, instruction has been given and now when the reminder would come of the punishment, Allah uses We:

    And whoever does that in aggression and injustice – then We will drive him into a Fire. And that, for Allah, is [always] easy. 4:30

    Whenever Nahnu (We) is used, the Ayah before or after it speaks of Tawhid (monotheism)
    In 4:31 and 4:33, Allah uses We and we see in 4:32 that Allah says: And ask Allah of His bounty. He uses singular pronoun and no one can argue that the We in the previous and following verses is plural and refers to more than one being. 4:37 uses the We pronouns and in 4:36 we see that Allah states: Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him. 4:41 again uses the We pronoun and in 4:40, we see that Allah states: He multiplies it and gives from Himself a great reward. If two continuous verses use the We pronouns for Allah, then preceding or proceeding verse makes it very clear that Allah is One; therefore, understand that occurrence of We in light of monotheism.

    These rules only testify to the divinity of the Qur’an; it is not the work of man and is from none other than Almighty Allah.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Very interesting and informative post omer. When I get more time I’ll read it over again

      Liked by 1 person

    • That pretty much wraps it up Omer. Thanks for the post.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Actually that is a good article jazak Allah. It would be great to have a proper statistical analysis of all the plural forms and see the pattern in their use.

      Provisionally reading the article it does seem we have rhetorical patterns here. That is quite fascinating !

      So let me revise and summarize my claim. We likely have in the good majority of cases indications of predication of personal properties with Allah along with single pronoun forms etc, we have rhetorical patterns when the plural forms are used and they typically include Allah as the subject of this divine plural form (thus at worst one person in this plural group and I have addressed the concerns with this model), we have NO indication of any specific divine person in the entire Quran and Hadith literature, we have no specifications of any number of persons in the plural forms, we have no historical attestation from any reasonable Muslim tradition (with plausible historical backing) that reads these texts this way, We don’t have a reasonable Trinitarian model that can be read into the Quran in this “plural in unity” way.

      Finally I really think on this bizarre (sorry for slight emotional rhetoric) view one will find it hard to claim that we don’t have an unlimited number of person in the Christian belief that are economically expressed by three persons) . Of course united in one “substance” whatever that means.

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      • “…we have NO indication of any specific divine person in the entire Quran and Hadith literature, we have no specifications of any number of persons in the plural forms..”

        Sorry I meant we have NO indication of any other specific divine person in the Quran and Hadith.

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      • Denis is still searching the Quran to find a statement from Allah that say’s :

        “Allah! none has the right to be worshipped but US”? lol…. 🙂

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      • So far everyone contributing has been kind, generous and I really appreciate that.

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      • Just thought of this point which I think is very important actually.

        Why would an author communicate to us that Allah is literally a Godhead and have all the predicates typical of a person be directly predicated of Allah as the subject. All of these would be metaphorical that are predicated of an infinite number of unknown persons. Wouldn’t at least one person be expected to identify himself in a conversation? Imagine I have a conversation with God and being shocked at this voice from heaven ask who are you ? The infinite persons behind the abstract group called “Allah” then all refuse to identify themselves. That is not a natural conversation is about especially as Allah in the Quran is all about ensuring the correct worship of the right God

        But it gets worse….

        To counter this we have hints of the identification in plural forms that metaphorically would be exactly what you would expect an all powerful person like Allah to use for himself.

        So why would the literal descriptions of what God actually is ( the Godhead) be put in a metaphorical form that exactly maps onto the literal reading of all the personal predicates attributed to Allah? There is also no exception. They are all predicated of the only names identified subject, Allah, in the Quran.

        Denis you would have to explain this interconnection. God could have used literal forms that couldn’t map like this . He could have identified other individual persons in the Godhead and predicated personal properties of them. Would identify these persons as being God and having the divine essence. Then that would be mapped on to unity texts.

        Do you actually think that this pattern is actually by chance on your reading if Allah is the “Godhead”?

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      • Sorry about this everyone!

        I am actually enjoying this.

        Here is another analogy related to my comment above. Imagine this scenario

        There is a physical altercation I am
        describing to my friend. You can’t believe what I just saw Alex just do. (I forgot my friend didn’t know who Alex was) He fought quite bravely and nobody could get near him. He knocked three people to the ground and just stared at the rest and they just ran away. What a brave Lion!

        My buddy looks at me bemused and said maybe you should choose better friends

        In turn I tell him that Alex is actually a Lion! Didn’t you hear what I just said ?

        I think my buddy would be right to think I am not expressing myself well.

        We have a personal name “Alex” with pronouns like “he” and “him” and the description of the altercation would naturally refer to a human person. What is also odd is that the only bit of information that identifies Alex as a Lion is a phrase that can exactly metaphorically maps onto the whole incidence

        So either I playing a silly linguistic game with my buddy or I am
        quite naive linguistically.

        The exact analogy applies to the Quran.

        All the predicates that are typical of a person are predicated of the nominative term Allah ( who happens to be a maximally powerful being by these descriptions as well). I also literally say he is the only one who has these properties but actually I want to pass on a message that actually talking about an abstract Godhead that has an infinite number of persons united in one person or I want to say that Allah actually is a person united with another infinitely larger number of persons in one substance.

        The only evidence for this is phraseology that is exactly the terminology that metaphorically would map onto a single Maximally
        powerful being who is one person called Allah

        Now think of this phraseology as analogous to the “brave lion” .

        Either the author is playing a silly
        Linguistic game by choosing literal expressions that would exactly metaphorically map onto all the other literal understandings of a single God who is one person. We could also think that the person is extremely naive and doesn’t even know there is such thing as royal plurals!

        I think that is uncharitable. This criticism interestingly would apply to both understandings of the term Allah.

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  24. Hello Denis, I may have missed your comments about this, you refer to 56:59, but what do you make of the divine plural in this verse?

    They will not there hear any vain discourse, but only salutations of Peace: And they will have therein their sustenance, morning and evening. Such is the Garden which We give as an inheritance to those of Our servants who guard against Evil. “We descend not but by command of thy Lord: to Him belongeth what is before us and what is behind us, and what is between: and thy Lord never doth forget (Q19:62-64)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ibn Taymiyah explains:

      “The view of the early generations of this ummah and of its imams and later generations is that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) heard the Qur’aan from Jibreel, and Jibreel heard it from Allaah. The use of plural forms in such phrases is the style of Arabic speech used to refer to one who is of high standing and has helpers who obey him. So if his helpers do something by his command, he says, “we did it”. This is like when a king says, “We conquered this land, we defeated this army” and so on. Because he did that through the actions of his helpers. Allaah is the Lord of the angels and they speak not until He has spoken, and they act in accordance with His commands; they do not disobey the commands of Allaah, rather they do what He commands. Moreover He is their Creator and the creator of their deeds and their power. But He has no need of them; He is not like a king whose helpers do things by their own strength. So what He says when He does something through His angels is, “We did it”, this is more appropriate and He is more entitled to say it than some king.”

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      • Ibn Taymiyah explains:

        “These words, innaa (“Verily We”) and nahnu (“We”), and other forms of the plural, may be used by one person speaking on behalf of a group, or they may be used by one person for purposes of respect or glorification, as is done by some monarchs when they issue statements or decrees in which they say “We have decided…” etc.. In such cases, only one person is speaking but the plural is used for respect. The One Who is more deserving of respect than any other is Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, so when He says in the Qur’an innaa (“Verily We”) and nahnu (“We”), it is for respect and glorification, not to indicate plurality of numbers. If an aayah of this type is causing confusion, it is essential to refer to the clear, unambiguous aayaat for clarification, and if a Christian, for example, insists on taking ayaat such as “Verily, We: it is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e., the Qur’an)” [al-Hijr 15:9 – interpretation of the meaning] as proof of divine plurality, we may refute this claim by quoting such clear and unambiguous aayaat as (interpretation of the meanings): “And your god is One God, there is none who has the right to be worshipped but He, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful” [al-Baqarah 2:163] and “Say: He is Allaah, the One” [al-Ikhlaas 112:1] – and other aayaat which can only be interpreted in one way. Thus confusion will be dispelled for the one who is seeking the truth. Every time Allaah uses the plural to refer to Himself, it is based on the respect and honour that He deserves, and on the great number of His names and attributes, and on the great number of His troops and angels.”

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  25. In regards to the Quran brought down and recited to Muhammad, Allah proclaims nahnu (“We”):

    “And those who disbelieve say: Why is not the Quran revealed to him all at once? Thus (it is sent down in parts), that We may strengthen your heart thereby. And We have revealed it to you gradually, in stages.” 25:32

    “These are the Ayat signs of Allah, which We recite to you (O Muhammad) with truth. Then in which speech after Allah and His signs will they believe?” 45:6

    Yet, it was Gabriel who revealed Allah’s signs, and recited the Quran gradually to Muhammad in stages by Allah’s permission:

    “Say (O Muhammad ): “Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel, for indeed he has brought it (this Qur’an) down to your heart by Allah’s Permission, confirming what came before it and guidance and glad tidings for the believers” 2:97

    🙂

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    • Lol so, regarding Allah’s expression “nahnu” “We”, now Denis, in your mind, do the plural pronouns denote Allah and Gabriel collectively form Allah’s ahad unique personal divine being? 🙂

      Like

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  1. Divine Plurals in the Bible and the Qur’ān – a response – Blogging Theology

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