Attributes of God

I want to cross myself during the basmalla. Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem. In the name of God, most Gracious, most Merciful.  It is not an attempt to discredit Islam.  But no, no – I think I discovered the trinity there, during the basmalla.  Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem.

The greatest sin in Islam is shirk, which is attributing partners to God.  Shirk can be anything that puts something on the same level as God.  Shirk can be anything from money to the trinity to Jesus Christ as the Only Begotten Son of God.  How can the basmalla be Trinitarian….o.k. it’s not Trinitarian in the traditional Christian sense of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  So put that out of your minds now!  I mean that the Trinity is only One God, too — in the way that Islam is — despite the tricky way that Christianity puts it into pieces.  And I discover the God I grew up with, One God, in the basmalla.

A lot I know about Islam boils down to acting on intention.  It is important to take time to make the intention and not rush through the prayer.  The sign of the cross, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is about intention.

How can you do Islam when Islam and Christianity have differing views on Jesus? And what about the trinity?

My idea of the trinity was instilled in me by priests.  I remember priests telling me that Jesus is close to God like all of us are close to God.  Jesus is God like all of you are God.  In a sense, it means that all humans are divine.  That’s a tricky thing to say, especially in the context of Islam.  The priests didn’t mean that all humans are God, just that all humans have the Divine spark within us.

I didn’t grow up praying directly to Jesus and seeing Jesus as a savior.  If anything, I grew up on Mary.  The priests I knew didn’t talk about Jesus as God’s Only Son, as if it’s like the Rabbi’s son in Fiddler on the Roof – there is only one Rabbi and he has only one son. I didn’t grow up with the trinity being three different Gods.  God doesn’t beget, nor is God begotten.  There isn’t a Mrs. God that God had sex with to make Jesus.  Jesus isn’t God’s only son.  We’re all creatures of God.

Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem.

Many Christians see the trinity they way I heard it summed up by an Eastern Orthodox theologian; Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the left hand and the right hand of God.

To put it in line with Islamic theology, the Trinity are the attributes of God that fold into the Essence.  I don’t mean that Jesus himself is an attribute, but that Jesus’ divinity is like al-wajid (The Finder).  Jesus’ attributes are like something existing before time, something transplanted into Jesus.  Something transplanted into all of us, which we can all aspire to. Jesus’ attributes are kind of like fana (death before death); the kind of closeness to the Essence of God many of us try to procure.  This metaphysical closeness of Jesus to God, the bida (innovation) involved in Jesus’ fana. This energy is involved in that kind of swooning to God; the closeness of the Divine Proximity to Jesus; and the closeness of the Essence of God to us if we open ourselves up.

This idea of trinity was not instilled in me by Muslims, but at Church – by the priest telling us to look around and see God within the hearts of the believers.  “Jesus isn’t in Church, Jesus is in everyone you meet,” he would say.  Jesus is not God any more than any of us are God.  I want to cross myself at the basmalla because Most Gracious, Most Merciful are attributes of God, much like the Christian trinity.  It all blends into one God.  Jesus’ fana and the Holy Spirit are just attributes of God.  Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem.

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4 thoughts on “Attributes of God

  1. No you have it wrong there, there is no trinity in Islam, asataghfirullah (i seek forgiveness of Allah) please do not say so , this is very wrong. Allah is one, Qul huwallahu ahad, say he is Allah the One, Allahusamad, the Ever living, the Self Suffiecient, Lam yalid wa lam yoolad, He begets not nor was He begotten, wa lam yakon lahu kufwan ahad, and there is none comparable or co equal to Him.

    • Salaam Alaikum Fatima,

      Yes, you are correct — there is no Christian trinity in Islam. I didn’t say that. And to make sure I didn’t, I revised the part where it might have looked like I did. I do believe that God is one God, begets not, nor was he begotten. My point was not to say that Islam has many Gods or is Trinitarian (because there is only one God in Islam). My point was to take the oneness of God I felt in Islam and compare it with the oneness of God I felt in Christianity. It is difficult for Christians and Muslims alike to dialogue about these points — shirk, the nature of Jesus, trinity, etc. — and there is a lot of Islamophobia in those discussions on behalf of Christians. I come from a position of not really understanding the trinity myself and not believing that Jesus is divine. I was (hopefully) trying to explain that when I accept the trinity as mystery, and Jesus’ divinity as not him being GOD but more like fana — like the great saints and prophets, something we can all aspire to, it reminds me of the basmalla. It doesn’t mean they’re the same. To me, it’s a way to understand the trinity using what I am learning from Islam to help me. It still opens up a can of worms. But it seems like the opening to a dialogue.

      But as Mahmoud Ayoub said with respect to the trinity and Christian-Muslim relations:
      [The suras against shirk in the Quran are] not directed against Christianity, but against Christians who may mistakenly think of God as three independent dieties. The Qur’an does not offer theological arguments against the trinity, but counters anthropomorphism with absolute divine transcendence. Nor would Christian theologians, then or now, have disagreed with this Qur’anic assertion. Christians clearly do not believe the Trinity to be three Gods. (except, Thr edit — Mormons, maybe?). The appreciation of this point requires much patience, sensitivity, and openness on the part of Christians who would explain the Trinity as a mystery of faith, and of Muslims who would try and appreciate it as an expression of God’s infinite compassion (rahmah) and not a divine exercise in obscurest mathematics.

      I welcome all feedback and comments. Thanks for opening up a dialogue.

  2. It’s so interesting that you should post this — I’ve been thinking about Islam more and more these days at daily Mass, where the first readings have focused on Hagar and Ishmael. Today’s focused on the Angel of the Lord telling Hagar not to despair, because the Lord will make a great nation of Ishmael as well, not just Issac.

    Thank you for posting this – true dialogue and respect between faiths is what, I believe, truly mirrors the love of God.

  3. Really interesting! I definitely have had experiences like this where the beliefs or practices of another faith or culture helps me to understand my own better. And I’m so thankful for it. I’m always afraid of co-opting traditions however. I once heard that in the Muslim faith, some people will pray with arms outstretched and one hand facing up, to receive the grace (?) of God and another palm facing down to bring that grace down to the earth. I dont know if I understand it correctly, but it was terribly meaningful for me, much more than our own prayer stance of both palms up in prayer. I just dont connect with it.

    I once heard the Trinity explained as the flame of a candle-there is a blue color at the wick, red around that and yellow around that. The idea of Namaste really, as far as I understand it, explains the reality that each of us carries a bit of the Divine spark within.

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