How do you explain the Trinity to a Muslim?

Hi there!

I have been having a discussion with a Muslim about the differences between Islam and Catholicism. We have established one difference is that Muslims do not believe that man can comprehend God, that Theology is something like worshipping idle/distorted images and concepts of God.

So in the context of what has been established how do I then explain the Trinity and also defend faith and reason which Islam does not seem to uphold?

Thanks for any help.

…one difference is that Muslims do not believe that man can comprehend God, that Theology is something like worshipping idle/distorted images and concepts of God.

Maybe your friend thinks we Catholics think we know everything about God and he kind of resents that. So maybe it is a good idea to clarify that as Catholics we do not believe we can fully comprehend God - we just know what God has revealed to us. Maybe it’s a good idea to lay that foundation with your friend and agree with him that God is infinite and we will never understand Him COMPLETELY, but we can understand Him to some extent, within our limited ability. As i’ve heard on the Catholic Answers radio show, the Trinity is a mystery which we will never fully understand, but that does not mean we cannot understand ANYTHING about it. We can only understand partially, but still it is great to understand as much as possible about God.

As far as the Trinity … I know some people don’t like analogies because they are not really exact, but … I have heard one analogy of the Trinity that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are like the human memory, intellect, and will. It’s a crude and imperfect analogy - obviously God is infinitely greater than we are and there are other differences as well. But it does help give some inkling about the nature of our God as a Trinity.

Years ago I talked to a Muslim who kind of challenged me, saying “You think Jesus is God? - How can a man be God? A man cannot be God!”

I was struck dumb at the time - i couldn’t think of anything to say, but when i went home and thought about it, i figured maybe a man cannot be God but God can become a man, because God can do anything He wants! So if you get that same line from your friend maybe that will be helpful.

Hope that helps. God bless you for talking to your Muslim friend about God! :thumbsup:

I don’t think that Muslims get the distinction between person and nature, and they don’t seem to believe in philosophy. So it’s almost a losing proposition. When you explain that “person” is not a separate distinct entity, they don’t get it. To them, three persons equal three entities. But God is only one entity, one ontological being–with that they would agree. But if you introduce the idea that a single divine nature is expressed in three persons, they simply stop at the door and refuse to enter or even consider.

The same applies to the incarnation, in which one person possesses two natures–fully human, fully God.

Thanks for your responses.

A book that I dip into from time to time is Theology for Beginners by Frank Sheed. It explains in simple and straight to the point terms basic Theology. It is a book that brought bout my reversion when I was 16 and again just recently.

Here are some articles that may help in your discussion of the Most Holy Trinity and other issues relating to Islam:

Great links. Very informative and edifying.

It really is simple:

Genesis 1:26 “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.”

Combined with:
The Shema (שְׁמַע)
Deuteronomy 6:4-9
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד׃ וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶךָ׃ וְהָיוּ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיֹּום עַל־לְבָבֶךָ׃ וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ׃ וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאֹות עַל־יָדֶךָ וְהָיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ׃ וּכְתַבְתָּם עַל־מְזוּזֹת בֵּיתֶךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶיךָ׃

English (ERV)
Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD: * 5 and thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Don’t you see? We are in God’s image; WE are Trinitarian beings. The “greatest commandment” says so. Heart, soul and might. Or heart, soul and mind if you’re looking at Matthew 22:37.

Granted Mark 12:29-30 and Luke 10:27 add say “strength” and mind. It’s easy to say “strength” is more of an endurance thing.

The point is, do Muslims think they have souls? Do Muslims think they have intellect? Do they think we are created in God’s image? Why wouldn’t God have flesh when He wills it?

When talking to Muslims, the first thing that should be understood is the idea of the Incarnation. Without grasping that concept, the Trinity is just too difficult to discuss. The implications of the Incarnation are overwhelming to a Muslim. So that is really their primary difficulty, not the Trinity.

Jesus and Mary are in their Quran. Jesus is one of their lesser prophets. Mary is a highly respected female for Muslim women, they do believe that God interceded and gave her a child.

They do not believe that Jesus is the second person in the Trinity.

Exactly. That is why the Incarnation is their biggest difficulty. To be honest, if we didn’t believe in the Incarnation, we wouldn’t have the Trinity either! Why? Because the Trinity is a direct revelation from the Incarnation, God Himself.

Where angels fear to tread!

I would start by making sure you and your Muslim friend agree on the concept of “holy.” Muslims tend to have a stronger sense of this than many westerners these days, so its a good place to begin. What is the source of all holiness? God.

What is the measure of holiness? Perhaps you can agree that the measure of holiness is the degree to which a thing is “touched” by God.

We can speak of holy ground, like St. Peter’s or Mecca, for your friend. Why are those places holy? Because God has touched them. We can even speak in terms of a holy city, like Jerusalem, knowing that not all of the city is as holy as the Sepulchre, or the Dome of the Rock. So there are degrees of holiness that are related to the closeness of God to the thing in question.

Next, perhaps you could move on to a more personal example. If God can make a church or mosque holy, he can make othere things holy. For example, he can make a book holy. The best example for your friend will be the Koran. It is holy because it is God’s word. God the makes the Koran holy. Your friend may even agree that Mohammed was holy because he heard the word of God. Mohammed was like a “speaking book,” and because he spoke the word of God, he was holy.

With this shared understanding, you may begin to explain how Christians apply these understandings to Christ. Start with the incarnation and move forward, because this may be the easiest part for your friend. Christ is a man whose humanity was “touched” in a totally unique way. Christ’s humanity is so touched and infused by the Father, that his holiness is virtually the same as the father’s. This will be similar to the closeness that your friend believes Mohammed experienced he spoke the word of God: Mohammed speaking, but God’s word. Mohammed became the voice, or book, of God. With Christ, we also perceive his words to be totally holy, the words of the Father, but also believe his whole being, His soul, to share the holiness of the Father.

That is where I would begin, but I would take the thing slowly.

Very good! :thumbsup:

Building on this theme, you might also suggest the idea that God had a plan which unfolded, beginning with Adam and Eve, developing through Noah and Abraham, and all of God’s prophets, who carried a message of hope.

Hope that God’s holiness would once again be possible for his children on earth. That there was not just an endless parade of prophets delivering moral messages, but delivering a message of an unfolding mystery of Hope that wasn’t really fulfilled until the coming of Jesus Christ.

Your welcome, Ambrose!

I think you are right that the continuity of prophecy would be another good place to begin discussions with a Muslim friend. I just don’t know enough about the points of convergence between the Koran and the Old Testament.

I think the time is coming when Catholics will need to start converting Muslims in earnest, at least in Europe. When Muslims do begin to convert, they will give a wonderful infusion of moral fibre to the Church. As a group, they retain a strong sense of family, chastity, and discipline - no griping about Ramadan like some complain about Lent, Fridays and the great fast from 12:00 am to 6:00 am.

The Muslims believe hold Mary in the highest respect among women (even higher than Mohammad’s daughter, Fatima). The best way to witness to a Muslim is by pointing them to Mary - then let Mary point them to Jesus.

See the following article:

God Bless,

Don’t try to persuede Muslims into accepting the Trinity. Just tell them the truth about the Trinity and thats it!!!

If God gives them the graces which enable them to seek out the truth, then that is between God and His people.

Wow what great contributions!

I agree with Warrenton about needing to convert Muslims. Just from my very limited research conducted about Islam/Christianity I got the impression that there are many Muslims out there who have converted to Christianity and it has been through no real theological or philosophical conviction, rather a desire to follow Christ. Now that to me is God’s work alone and is amazing.

The replies to the original post have outlined that there are many different approaches to discussing our Faith to Muslims in the hope of bringing about a conversion.What has really stuck out to me is Mary because Mary leads us to Christ. Will she lead Muslims to Christ?

What I believe to be another important approach is the fact that Islam does not seem to accept the combination of faith and reason which I personally believe to be illogical and an angle that should be taken with more learned Muslims.

Unfortunately this Muslim that I was talking to was not interested in understanding the context of our beliefs which is based around faith and reason guided by God and he refused to consider our understanding of the Trinity from any other perspective than his Muslim perspective; an example of the refusal to consider the combination of faith and reason.

In this discussion with my Muslim friend I have learned that our Church leaders really need to teach the fundamentals of our faith a bit better. In school I learned that Jesus was Jew, He loves everyone, He died for sins and was the Son of God (although I didn’t understand what this really meant until I was 17) which will not hold up in light of challenges made by Muslims about the divinity of Christ.

One good thing is that I am really interested in this topic so am wanting to do significant research on it.

[quote=yiannii]Unfortunately this Muslim that I was talking to was not interested in understanding the context of our beliefs which is based around faith and reason guided by God and he refused to consider our understanding of the Trinity from any other perspective than his Muslim perspective; an example of the refusal to consider the combination of faith and reason.

A lot might depend on how the conversation got started. Was he asking you questions, or did you begin by challenging his beliefs? I have a good Muslim friend too. However, he wouldn’t be ready for challenges from me. Instead, we stress our common belief in the One God. We always pray for each other’s needs and have no worry about discussing our religious observances. For example my friend was very busy last week with Eid. Anyway, we get to understand each other’s Faith this way in a very non-threatening or confrontational way. We both realize we aren’t trying to convert the other.

However, when we have talked about Islam, it has been his belief that much of the extremism that abounds is very cultural in origin, and not intrinsic to Islam. So we can even talk about that, and have shared book titles with one another on such topics. :slight_smile:

Not easy.

If they are really asking…vs. your wanting to tell them, I would start by acknowledging the utter majesty of God and our inability to completely understand God. We can understand enough though to love Him and others. God gave us the ability to know and love.

I might draw a comparison to our family, since I think Muslims have strong feelings toward the family. Describe that God loves us immensely, He gave us a family so that we could learn how to love Him, and to help us develop. God is smart; He uses even the family concept to teach us great things. The family concept can help us not just learn how to love God and others, but that it can also help us LEARN about God. Help us get to know Him.

A family is a set of persons. Many persons sometimes in one family. Ideally love is exchanged among persons in the family.

Nothing God does is ineffectual, impotent; instead everything that God does is supernaturally powerful. God has always existed. God’s thought about Himself is powerful as well, so powerful that His thought “proceeds” from Him in a perfect person. His thought is His Word, his Son. The Love that exists between the Father and the Son is also perfectly powerful; so powerful it proceeds forth as a Person, the Holy Spirit. God thought about the world, and the world was created!

The Trinity is the most perfect and harmonious and loving Family we can imagine.

If the Muslim is not asking specifically, I would just add more love and effort and joy into your own family, building an interior life in your family so strong that the Holy Spirit spills out in all manner of ways. The house is cheerful, the yard is tidy, the children are generous and active and joyful and welcoming. A house is known for being a hospitable place, very welcoming. Lots of fun and joy spilling out into the neighborhood. Generous giving of time. Raking leaves for neighbors who can’t do it themselves. Etc etc.

The family and true charity, done quietly, is the key to apologetics, in my opinion, not debate and points. Those need to be known…so that when you are asked, you have ways to talk about the “hope that is in” you.

Just some thoughts.

Hahaha yeah well the conversation started with his statement “there is no God but Allah!!!” so perhaps I should have known what I was getting myself into. But I did try to confirm that I too agreed with the statement however it was our understanding of God/Allah that was different. Do you think that your friend would be considered a liberal Muslim?

Beautifully put. Your response sounds almost Opus Dei hehe!

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