The reader has no doubt heard that when Christians are preaching to Muslims,if they repeat the Biblical phrase, “God is a Spirit,” Muslims will regard it as the most terrible blasphemy. Why? Before answering this question let us look at some verse from the Quran.
The Holy Spirit in the Quran
The third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is mentioned by that name three times in the Quran:
- “Say, the Holy Spirit (Ruhu ‘l Qudus) has brought the revelation from thy Lord in Truth, in order to strengthen those who believe, and as a Guide and Glad Tidings to Muslims.” (An-Nahl 16 102)
- “We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of messengers; We gave Jesus the son of Mary clear (signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit. (Ruhu ‘l Qudus)” (Al-Baqarrah 2:87)
- “Those messengers We endowed with gifts, some above others: To one of them Allah spoke; others He raised to degrees (of honour); to Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (signs), and strengthened him with the holy spirit (Ruhu ‘l Qudus).” (Al Baqarrah 2:253)
Examples of the word spirit in the Quran
The Quran speaks of the Arabic word spirit (ruh) a further sixteen times, here are some examples:
- “Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit (Ruhun min-hu) proceeding from Him” (An-Nisa 4:171)
- “For such He has written faith in their hearts, and strengthened them with a spirit (Ruhun min-hu) from Himself.”(Al-Mujadilah 58:22)
- “They ask thee concerning the Spirit (ar Ruh). Say: “The Spirit (ar Ruh) (cometh) by command of my Lord: of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you, (O men!)” (Al-Isra 17:85)
- “Verily this is a revelation from the Lord of the Worlds: With it came down the spirit of faith and truth” (ar Ruhu’l Amin) (Ash-Shu’ara 26:192,193)
- “The angels and the spirit (ar-Ruh) ascend unto
him in a day the measure whereof is (as) fifty thousand years” (al-Ma’arij 70:4)
- “Therein come down the angels and the Spirit (ar Ruh) by Allah’s permission, on every errand” (Al-Qadr 97:4)
- “She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent her our angel (Ruha-na), and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.” (Maryam 19:17)
The Muslim understanding of the word ‘spirit’
When the Muslim thinks of a spirit he thinks of it as a created thing. The word ‘spirit’ is used in nineteen places in the Quran, and in every case the Muslim believes that it is used of a “subtle body” which has the capacity to penetrate coarse bodies. The angels and jinn are such subtle bodies, and to speak of Allah as a Spirit would, according to Muslim thought, imply that He is a created body.
Muslim belief that the Angel Gabriel is the Holy Spirit
All Muslim commentators are agreed that the Holy Spirit in the above passages means the angel Gabriel. Why Muhammad confounded Gabriel with the Holy Spirit is far from clear. The only dis
tinct assertion that Gabriel was the channel of Muhammad’s revelation is found in the following:
- “Say: Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel for he brings down the (revelation) to thy heart by Allah’s will,” (Al-Baqarrah 2:97)
The only other mention of Gabriel in the whole of the Quran is found in At-Tahrim 66:4:
- “If ye two turn in repentance to Him, your hearts are indeed so inclined; But if ye back up each other against him, truly Allah is his Protector, and Gabriel, and (every) righteous one among those who believe and furthermore, the angels will back (him) up.”
When we read in the Quran that Allah strengthened Jesus with the Holy Spirit, it therefore means that He sent an angel, a subtle body, created by Allah. This angelic Holy Spirit, (the angel Gabriel), is believed by Muslims to have announced the birth of Jesus to Mary and brought the Quran to the prophet Muhammad.
There is no place in the Quran for the Holy Spirit who is co-eternal with the Father and the Son; but, on the basis of As-Saff 61: 6, the promised Paraclete of John 16:7 is identified by Muslims with the prophet Muhammad, and Jesus is supposed to have foretold the coming of the Praised one (ahmad).
- “And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: “O Chil
dren of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah (sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving glad tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.”
Extracts from Herbert Spencer’s “Islam and the Gospel of God”; The Muslim Doctrine of God by Dr Samuel Zwemer and the Dictionary of Islam by T.P Hughes