Just before he was arrested and condemned, the prophet Isa al Masih (pbuh) held a long discourse with his disciples which is recorded in the Gospel of John. John was one of his 12 disciples and he was there at this discourse and was guided to include it in his Gospel. As part of his discourse, Isa (pbuh) promised his disciples that the ‘spirit of truth’ will come after he is gone. The question naturally arises – who is or was this ‘Spirit of truth’?
Controversy increased by Ahmed Deedat
This has stirred up some controversy because some high-profile apologists, such as Ahmed Deedat, have written, debated and Youtubed that this is none other than the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). I, like many of you, have heard this from him and from others influenced by him. I think all of us need to come to our own conclusions on this question, but we should do so from an informed perspective, not simply because a well-known imam or Deedat teaches this.
To be informed we need to study how Isa (pbuh) described this ‘Spirit of Truth’ in this discourse recorded by John because that is the only data that all people, Deedat included, have. The complete discourse is available here for you to read, and it is worth doing so you completely understand the context. I will take highlights of the discourse that deal directly with the Spirit of Truth. How does Isa (pbuh) describe this coming ‘Spirit of Truth’?
Isa’s (pbuh) teaching on the Spirit of Truth
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. (John 14:16-19)
Isa al Masih (pbuh) describes the ‘Spirit of Truth’ as:
- an ‘advocate’. The Greek word here is παράκλητον (parakletos), which comes from ‘para’ (close-beside) and ‘kaleo’ (to make a call or judgment). Other words that can be used are: Comforter, Counsellor,
- the world cannot see him or know him.
- he will live ‘in’ the disciples
These descriptions certainly do not sound like they belong to a man with a physical body because anyone can see a physical body, but this Spirit of Truth would not be seen. Also, it would seem impossible for a human prophet with a physical body to live ‘in’ other people, including the disciples. But let us continue the discourse of Isa (pbuh).
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:25-26)
So this Spirit of Truth would teach the disciples and remind them of everything that Isa al Masih (pbuh) had taught.
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27)
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:7-15)
Here we see that the Spirit of Truth would be sent to the disciples and that he would guide the disciples in all the truth, even telling them what is ‘yet to come’ *ie in the future). You will remember from Taurat’s Sign of the Prophet that this ability was the sign that Musa (pbuh) gave so people would know if someone was a true prophet.
Is Deedat correct? Is the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) this promised Spirit of Truth?
With all these descriptions I cannot see this applying to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). After all, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had a physical body and thus was seen – even by those who did not accept him (ex. the Quresh or Quraysh in Mecca). The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) certainly did not live ‘in’ the disciples of Isa (pbuh), nor was the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) sent to the disciples, nor did he instruct them, guide them. In fact, since the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) came 600 years or so after the disciples of Isa (pbuh) he had nothing to do with them. Yet the ‘Spirit of Truth’ was promised to do all these things.
When I read and study carefully all the arguments that Deedat uses to convince us that the ‘Spirit of Truth’ is indeed the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) I find that they are half-truths and do not accurately represent the discourse of Isa (pbuh). As I have continued to study his writings, I have found that though he has great zeal, he often uses half-truth or distortions. You may think otherwise, and this is not the main issue of this article, but I have found him to be unreliable.
And certainly in the case of determining who the Spirit of Truth is, it seems to me from these points that it cannot be referring to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Great religious zeal will not overcome plain obvious facts.
Who is the Spirit of Truth?
But who then is the ‘Spirit of Truth’? If we read in the Book of Acts, which is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke and deals with the events of the companions of Isa (pbuh) immediately after the departure of Isa (pbuh) it becomes very clear. Here we read what Isa (pbuh) did and said just before he was taken up into heaven (The ‘he’ spoken of is Isa – pbuh, and the ‘John’ mentioned is the Prophet Yahya – pbuh).
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:4-9)
Here we see, just before his departure that again he talks about the coming ‘Holy Spirit’. Then in the next chapter, and just a few days after the departure of Isa (pbuh) into heaven we read that (the “they” are the companions of Isa after his departure and Pentecost is a festival that occurred 50 days after the Passover – see sign of Musa for more explanation)
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:1-12)
So here we read that the ‘Spirit of God’ came on each of the disciples and they were able to miraculously speak other languages. As you continue to read Acts you will see that the disciples continued to be guided and led the Holy Spirit who indwelt them.
This explanation fits all the details that Isa (pbuh) described in his discourse for the Spirit of Truth. But it raises further implications and perhaps questions for us. Let us deal first with some implications.
The Spirit of Truth & the Writings of the Disciples of Prophet Isa al Masih (pbuh)
First of all, it says that the companions of Isa (pbuh) were from this point on ‘indwelt’ by the Holy Spirit. And you see this in their later actions and in what they wrote. For example:
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. (1 Timothy 4:1)
by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. (Romans 15:19)
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.” (Revelation 19:9-10)
These passages, taken from the writings of the companions of Isa (pbuh) in the New Testament, clearly show their authority and dependence on the Spirit of Truth. In the first passage above, the Spirit gives a prophecy to the writer about what will happen in the future (worldwide abandonment of good and following evil). In the second passage the writer relies on the miracles that he himself could do, by the Spirit, in his witness to the Gospel (Injil) of Jesus (or Isa – pbuh). In the third passage, the writer sees a mighty angel in a vision, and is tempted to worship the angel, but the angel tells him to only worship God and then says it is by the ‘Spirit of prophecy’ that the vision is taking place and it is about Isa (pbuh).
These were the very same indicators that Isa (pbuh) gave in his discourse about what the Spirit of Truth would do. This Spirit would indwell and guide the disciples of Isa so that they would be prophets, and that the message of the Spirit would point to Isa (pbuh).
This is one important reason why we need to take the writing of the disciples of Isa (pbuh) in the New Testament very seriously. Their writings were inspired by this Spirit of Truth and thus should be taken as seriously as we take the prophecies of Musa in Taurat. The direct promise that Isa (pbuh) gave in his discourse was that this Spirit would ‘remind them of everything I (Isa – pbuh) have said to you’. If this is the case, then the writings of these companions must be listened to.
The Spirit of Truth and all followers of Injil
A second implication of the coming of the Spirit of Truth is that not only did he inspire the companions of Isa (pbuh) but He indwells all who trust in the Injil. And this indwelling will change our lives. Notice what the following verses say about this.
And you also were included in Christ (ie Masih) when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, (Ephesians 1:13)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
The Promise of the Spirit was not only to inspire the Companions of Isa (pbuh) but also that all followers of the Injil would be sealed with the same Spirit of Truth so that our lives will be marked by the fruit of the Spirit as listed, instead of what usually rules our lives: discord, envy, greed, jealousy, rage, lust and lack of control. I can say from my own personal experience that the Spirit of Truth changed me from the inside, so that my outside actions changed as a result of my inside change. Truly, this is one of the great blessings of the Injil and one of the reasons it is ‘good news’.
The Spirit of Truth in the Beginning
And when we look for further insight to the Holy Spirit we find that He plays important roles even from the very beginning of the Taurat. We read in the creation of all things, in the first verses of Taurat that
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)
So the Spirit was there even in creation!
So this raises an important question. How do we understand this Spirit of God or Spirit of Truth? This is a great mystery, but perhaps the common understanding of the Qur’an will help us. Many understand the Qur’an to be the eternal Word of God from eternity past. It was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) but has always existed and was thus never created. Perhaps in some similar way the Spirit of God (which we know from Taurat above was present at the beginning of creation) is an eternal and uncreated essence that proceeds forth from Allah. But the Books do not explain this in detail so it could be one of these mysteries to which ‘God only knows’.
I, and probably you as well, know people who have worked hard to memorize the Qur’an so that this Word can be ‘in’ them. If the Spirit of Truth is as inferred above, and He can also be ‘in’ us to change us so that our lives display the fruit marked by the Word of God – would that not be a great blessing? One that is worth very much? We should perhaps reflect on the significance of the ‘Spirit of Truth’ promised to come ‘in’ us, and what that could mean for us.
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While I would tend to believe that this is referring to the Holy Spirit, it makes no sense based on the “Christian” descriptions of it. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is supposedly inside them and guides them, but what Jesus is talking about is REVELATION. He says he has a lot of things to tell them but the PEOPLE aren’t ready for it yet. It simply wasn’t the time or place for it.
As Muslims we believe the Holy Spirit is the Angel of Revelation, Gabriel. See how much sense that makes? Christians generally confuse the Spirit of the Lord with the Holy Spirit. A simple test to prove my point? What is one thing the “Christian” Holy Spirit has revealed in the last 2000 years that Jesus pbuh did not.
Sorry if i come off as rude
Hi. Thanks for your comment/question. And honestly I did not take you as being rude. You are honestly arguing a point – that is the way we all learn.
I prefer not to position the discussion with a ‘Muslim’ view or a ‘Christian’ view. This is because there are so many variants of these views that it is really hard to categorize them. And at the end of the day, you and I are concerned with ‘truth’ irregardless of what camp or label is attached to it. To your question, here is a simple quote from one of Paul’s epistles where he ascribes revelation directly to the Spirit apart from Jesus (PBUH) and then from John
This is repeated (“what the Spirit says”…) many times followed by some teaching in this book. So it is not hard to find teachings/sayings not coming from Jesus that come from the Spirit.
But to your point that the role of the ‘Spirit’ is only revelation (I think we agree that it included revelation but was it that only?). Here are some passages that teach a wider role.
These passages show that the Spirit is/was involved in (in addition to revelation): giving os spiritual gifts to people – including the gift of doing miracles, cleansing of our conscience, writing the law of God into our hearts (rather than just revealing it), participated in the resurrection of Jesus. So there is ample evidence to show that the role of the Spirit goes beyond revelation.
Some food for thought.
I’m sometimes eh about the writings of Paul. Indeed, when the Prophet pbuh was asked about who corrupted the Bible he responded by saying there were Kings after the time of Isa pbuh who put their hands to it. Also, from my research, the teachings of Paul sometimes vary greatly from the teachings of Christ. While it is possible the Bible has GENERALLY stayed in tact, there are a lot of sketchy translations in the Bible, and the the teachings of Paul create contradictions
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,[g] to be with you forever.
But the Advocate,[i] the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
There are very clear oddities going on here. He says he will ask the Father to send ANOTHER Spirit, not THE Spirit. Yet he calls this other Spirit as the Holy Spirit? So which is it, since we assume there isn’t more than one Holy Spirit. If the words “Holy Spirit” did not exist in the second quote, these passages describe Muhammad pbuh down to a tee. So whats going on? Jesus says he has to go away for the Spirit to come, but the Holy Spirit was present at his Baptism. Im not saying I have the solution, so I was hoping you could comment on this.
Also, this Website is great, very unbiased. I would add that while I’ve read the articles pertaining to the Qurans comments on the Gospels, I disagree. The Quran states that it takes priority of the other books. While the Prophet didn’t mind Jews/Christians reading the Bible, he became annoyed when Muslims did it. Also we know of the John 5:7 Trinity line that was fabricated into the Bible, so someone can clearly change it. Regardless, I think you know the biggest problem with the Bible is how badly the world interprets it, not really the content itself. I think this is what the Prophet felt, and because the Quran is just Allah speaking, it is very clear
Personal question? Do you believe the Prophet Muhammad pbuh is a messenger of God?
Hey, thanks for your thoughtful comments. It makes good dialogue possible. I understand about your reticence of Paul which is why I included quotes from non-Pauline books like Hebrews and Revelation (John is the author of that) and 1 Peter. (I personally do not struggle with Paul but I know that many from Muslim tradition do). Now to understand the John passage that you quote. Actually though you quoted it, you referred to it incorrectly. Jesus says “I will send another Advocate…” You then quoted it with Jesus saying “I will send another Spirit…” (Look carefully and you will see you missed it). When you read it as “another spirit…” as you do then you get the oddities that you describe, wondering how many Spirits there are if there is another one. If you read it (crrectly) as “Another Advocate…” it is quite plain. Jesus is the first advocate and the Spirit is the other. There are two advocates: Jesus and the Spirit, but there is only one Spirit. This plain reading makes sense of the whole passage. In the verses just before your quote starts Jesus says
So the context of the ‘another advocate’ is that Jesus is going away. He is departing and this is making the disciples sad and confused. So he is comforting them by saying that they should not worry about his departure because another advocate will come – the Spirit. Try reading the whole chapter of John 16 with from that viewpoint and you will see that the oddities disappear and it makes perfect sense.
You are absolutely correct about 1 John 5:7. But we know about this verse precisely because we have so many manuscripts and they are very ancient and none of them have this verse in it. Erasmus was the Greek scholar who in the 1500’s made the first modern Greek text of the New Testament. He knew from his sources that it should not be in. But the verse was in traditional Latin texts (not Greek) and since people were used to seeing it there Erasmus was under great pressure to keep it in. But the text is reliable and must surely be treated that way. From my reading, I have come across evidence of similar kinds of editing in the Qu’ran, but I do think that the text of it is still very well preserved.
Re. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). I find that many times in the Qur’an he calls himself a ‘warner’ (ex. I am but a warner, and a bringer of glad tidings to whose who have faith – Surah 7:188). So I see him more on along the lines of a Warner.
Re. interpretation. You are (again) correct though that it is the interpretation that is the biggest difficulty. But I do not see internpretation problems limited to the Bible. Do the Sunnis and the Shi’ites not have the same Qur’an? Is not the (big) differences in their interpretations? The challenge for everyone is to try to come at the text and let it speak for itself without imposing our prior views on it. I know that this is hard because I have seen it in my with the Bible and have had to ask myself at times why I get a certain intrepretation from a certain passage. I think if we recognize our own tendencies to want to ‘cheat’ in this way, and expose our interpretation to others who may not come from our perspective then we can sharpen our own interpretation.
Hey, thanks for your comments but now I have almost written a full article and should sign off until later.
I highly recommend this article
Am a christian who has red Koran and Islamic hadiths especially Sahih bukhari and Abu Dawuud: From the hadiths i can conclude that Mohammed was not a messenger of God but was good teacher and all morals in Islamic world are good(there are many good things he did and i respect him for that) however:
1.sleeping with his slaves then receiving revelations to justify that ?
2.thighing of Aisha before consummation of the the marriage at 9 years,remember he married her at 6yrs, from six 6-9 he used thigh her up to masturbation point and Aisha has narrated removing semen from the prophet clothes so many times?
3.marriage to his adopted son wife then receiving revelations ,something that was immoral even in pre-islamic world?
4.which prophet raided people with arms and club in the name of holy war ?
All these are from the hadiths look at this one about angel Gabriel : and ask yourself which angel of God can do this till his head is covered with dust and holding weapons?
When Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) returned on the day (of the battle) of Al-Khandaq (i.e. Trench), he put down his arms and took a bath. Then Gabriel whose head was covered with dust, came to him saying, “You have put down your arms! By Allah, I have not put down my arms yet.” Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Where (to go now)?” Gabriel said, “This way,” pointing towards the tribe of Bani Quraiza. So Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) went out towards them .
Narrated Ibn `Abbas:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said on the day (of the battle) of Badr, “This is Gabriel holding the head of his horse and equipped with arms for the battle.