Emergence of incarnation [hulūl] in the Church
By: Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn at-Tabataba'i
Even though Islam has greatly endeavored in the promotion of the monotheistic [tawhīd] view of God, His infiniteness, and His encompassment of existence and has accorded no existential independence or legislative or hegemonic rights to the realm of humanity, from the time the Church gained power and became known as the haven of the Christian world, it founded its teachings on incarnation (in the same sense we have used previously).
There is no doubt that this doctrine restricted the Divine, in its entirety, into the limited material existence of the honorable Jesus Christ (‘a).
According to this doctrine, the Divine, whether or not it can separate from humans, has the “capacity” to take on the identity of material man and equip itself with human characteristics. In fact, many parts of the contemporary Torah confirm this belief, as is evident in the account of the creation of Adam (‘a) and the narratives regarding Noah, Abraham, Lot, Jacob (‘a) and others.
This view, i.e. incarnation of divinity in a corporeal human, entails negation of metaphysics. Thus, because in religion the issue of divinity is fundamental and is the fountainhead of all ideological and practical tenets, this view has toppled all other religious issues based upon spirituality and has caused all spiritual issues to be explained in terms of materiality.
This belief spread in the Christian world and became established. Of course, the previous advocates of this belief had a close precedent with idolatry. The issue of triumvirate divinity—which is a type of idolatry—was one of their most deeply rooted religious beliefs and the spiritual and lifestyle effects of this belief could not be so easily forgotten.
At that time, idolatry reigned supreme over a great number of the earth’s inhabitants. Belief in Trinity [tathlīth], incarnation, and all their derivative beliefs—the best testimony of which are the histories of creeds and religions—were of the primary characteristics of this idolatry.
In fact, the belief in Trinity entered Christianity from idolatry after minor adaptations in form. Indeed, it can be stated that the only discord between idolatrous creeds and the Church is the issue of prophethood.
Certainly, we do not intend to start a religious debate with advocates of the Church. In pursuit of our aim we merely intend to evoke various historic truths regarding Islam and Christianity.
In short, the incarnation tenet of the Church, the close relationship of Christians with idolatry and triumvirate divinity, the Torah’s summative verification of personification, and the contact of Christianity and idolatry at the time all gathered together and laid the foundation of a completely anti-spiritual materialist view in the structure of the Christian World.
From that time, a panorama of a dark and evil materialistic thought was imprinted upon the Christian World.
The Church did not content itself with the degree of incarnation which it allowed for Jesus Christ. It applied this same incarnation to itself, put itself in Christ’s place, and introduced itself as a sovereign that must be obeyed without question.
In addition, with rites such as Holy Communion or Lord’s Supper [‘ishā’ rabbānī] they incarnate the flesh and body of Christ (divinity) within everyone!
With the unchallengeable power the Church attained, it limited the gospels, controlled beliefs and thoughts, and banned free debate in religious teachings. The tribunal of belief scrutiny ruled the possessions and lives of people with singular tyranny and the blood of millions was spilt due to the inviolable and obligatory dictates of the church.
The Church sanctified the kings and tyrants of the day, accepted the repentance of and issued absolution for any sinner it wished, and forever deprived whoever it wanted of the benefaction of spiritual bliss and beatific heaven.
In his greatly spiritual utterances, Jesus Christ (‘a) affirmed that his pure faith followed the pure faith of the great prophets (‘a), that it shall always live, and that it shall never fade from the world. And the Church, which juxtaposed that spiritual Christian faith with an incarnational and material regime, drunk with pride from its increasing power, thought that it would retain this power for as long as the world existed.
However, it neglected the matter that immediately after taking on material features any method or regime, even religious ones, shall necessarily enter the worldly cycle and become limited by natural laws. Thus, like other material phenomena, it shall have a limited lifespan and go through the various stages of childhood, youth and old age, and inevitably one day die.
That which is permanent in the world and shall not pass is spirituality unadulterated by materiality and beyond the jurisdiction of nature. It has no death and shall always, to a greater or lesser extent, accompany humanity.
In any event, after a few centuries—which is nothing compared with the entirety of history—of tyrannical rule, control of thoughts, and suppression of contrary opinions and objectionable understandings, it could not in the end resist the conscientious reason of the people. Thus, it was defeated and lost its almost boundless power.
A comprehensive record of these events can be found in the history of Christianity’s penetration into the great Roman Empire and the historic timeline of the influence of the Church until its downfall.
The Church lost its horrific power and imprinted memories upon the minds of the people of the West that: religion is an ambiguous material regime that rules in the interests of the powerful and is prejudicial to the weak! Religion is a set of incomprehensible beliefs that cannot be explained with any type of logic!
Religion is a series of imitative thoughts that no one has the right to debate or inquire about! Religion is tyranny of a type that the conscience cannot accept but to which the tongue must succumb! And finally, religion is a natural tradition that has embodied a stage in humanity’s history after which it will give way to a better and more complete natural tradition!
Naturally, the effect of this development was that some of the Church’s adherents turned their backs upon it and others who remained faithful turned the earlier “unconditional obedience” into “empty sanctification and respect” and the Church became a formality.
The power the people attained by overthrowing the Church and the privation from the benefits of life caused by several centuries of suppression by the Church induced the people to take up a way of life exactly opposite to the path of spirituality.
Thus, for the crime of being a method of exploitation of the Church, wherever they came across spirituality they would turn aside from it and lose themselves in the maelstrom of materiality.
Additionally, the people were not acquainted with true spiritual thought due to the incarnational materialist training of the Church that had become established in the depths of the people’s minds throughout the centuries.
Hence, spirituality, which the people had inherited as traditions, was gradually forgotten. In addition, the pastime of materialist scholars who coined advancement as being parallel to industrial advancement and the occupation of various governments in world conquest and domination by means of the weapon of antireligious propaganda made an effective contribution against religious beliefs and spiritual thought.
Naturally, in such an environment where popular thought defines existence as nothing but materiality and material laws, religion becomes defined as a social phenomenon that emerges in uncivilized and semi-advanced societies.
Additionally, it could be defined as an intellectual phenomenon that occupies a fragment of human history. Also, according to material evolution, everything will progress into something better and more complete. Therefore, the age of religion shall give rise to a better and more complete age.
Responsibility for this unfortunate situation
A person who meticulously considers these historical developments—from the advent of Christianity until present day—or contemplates and analyzes the current situation of the Western World—which is regarded as the cradle of modern civilization—and retrogressively dissects the proximate and distant causes of these historical developments, will have no doubt that the main blame for humanity’s moral degradation, abandonment of human spirituality and establishment of completely material life in the place of spiritual life falls upon the Church and its teachings.
The Noble Qur’an explicitly holds religious authorities responsible for the religious disorder and the discord and chaos in human life.
“And those who were given the Book were not at variance save after knowledge had come to them, being envious of one another…”12
Moreover, it declares that the issue of Trinity and the statement “Christ is the son of God” [al-Masīh ibn Allāh] is a fabrication of the Church, which has incorporated a type of idolatry into the heavenly teachings of Jesus Christ (‘a) and has turned it into a tenet of the Christian call.
“And the Christians say, ‘The Messiah (Christ) is the son of Allah’. That is the utterance of their mouths imitating the utterances of those who disbelieved before…”13
Following this they embodied divinity into the Church and introduced the word of the clergy as unconditionally binding in order to attain their material desires.
“They have taken their rabbis and their monks as lords apart from Allah and Messiah son of Mary; whereas they were not commanded save to serve one God. There is no god but He; He is pure of what they associate (with Him).”14
“Surely many of the rabbis and monks consume the wealth of the people unrighteously and debar (them) from the way of Allah…”15
Furthermore, God, the Exalted, commands His Holy Prophet (S) to encourage followers of other divine books to cooperate with Muslims in two aims: first, that they attribute divinity exclusively to the One God and worship no god but Him.
Second, that they ascribe mastery and lordship solely to God and refrain from choosing one from among themselves, who is generally a peer and has no preference in humanity, as an unconditional sovereign in order to reconcile their livelihoods with the system of creation—the same system that has created all humans with intelligence, freewill, and desire for beatitude and has stamped no person’s forehead with the mark “unduly dear”.
“Say, O People of the Book! Come to a word common among us and among you: That we serve none save Allah and that we associate nothing else with Him and that some of us take not others as lords besides God…”16
Islam’s recommendation to its followers
In its campaign against incarnation [hulūl] and unity [ittihād], which the Church—and before them the Jews and idolaters—had advocated, Islam has made deep and emphatic recommendations to its followers.
In many verses, the Qur’an urges Muslims to be firm in their monotheistic belief [tawhīd], be sincere in their servitude [‘ubūdiyyah], follow the Book [kitāb] and Tradition [sunnah] unanimously and wholeheartedly, solve all intellectual disputes through the Book and Tradition, and refrain from egotistical advice, exploitation, and judgment using religious tenets. These matters have been discussed in “Tafsīr al-Mīzān” under the following verses: “And hold you fast, all together, to the cord of Allah and divide not…”17
“O you who believe, enter absolute peace and submission (to Allah) and follow not the footsteps of Satan; surely he is an obvious foe to you.”18
“Eat of what Allah has provided for you and follow not the footsteps of Satan; surely he is an obvious foe to you.”19
The Holy Qur’an advises Muslims to limit their spiritual commingling to the Islamic society, which is the society of piety and theism, and to shun spiritual commingling and superior-subordinate relationships with non-Islamic societies including polytheists, idolaters, and followers of divine books such as Christians, Jews, and Magi.
“Let not the believers take unbelievers for friends or superiors rather than believers and whosoever does that has no connection with Allah in anything, unless to dissimulate before them for fear. Allah cautions you to beware of (disobeying) Him and unto Allah is the return.”20
The Holy Qur’an has implicitly and explicitly mentioned in several places the consequences of such spiritual commingling and superior-subordinate relationships. For example, it says: until now (at the close of the Prophet’s (S) life) you Muslims have been in danger due to the covetousness of non-Muslim nations.
Every moment you were in peril of downfall, but today the unbelievers have despaired from shattering your organized religious society. So fear outsiders no longer and be at peace for they shall never be able to seize this blessing from you and obliterate your religious establishment, which is the Islamic approach.
Fear the unbelievers no longer but fear God. Because if you deviate from the path that God has set for you (following the Book and Tradition) and take up other paths, God will make the same trade with you that He made with the others—He took away the gift of spiritual bliss and worldly welfare, created division among them, and denied them every kind of material and spiritual supremacy and independence.21
“Today, the disbelievers despaired of (harming) your religion; therefore, fear them not, fear me…”22
Moreover, in its predictions (which must be considered divine reports), the Noble Qur’an implicitly indicates that due to relationships with non-Islamic societies, the Islamic society will successively abandon the precepts of the Qur’an using various excuses: “And (on the Day of Judgment) the Prophet will declare: O my Lord! Surely my people have forsaken this Qur’an.”23
Also, due to spiritual commingling with the Christian World, Islamic methods and traditions shall be reversed. People will change religious laws and turn virtue into evil and evil into virtue. They shall deem religious tenets superstition and consider support of religion folly.
On that day, corruption will expand to the seas and deserts and trouble shall succeed plight. Perhaps through this the people will tire of the evil consequences of their unrestraint and ungodliness and return to the natural religion.
12. Sūrat Āl ‘Imrān 3:19.
13. Sūrat al-Tawbah (or Barā’ah) 9:30.
14. Sūrat al-Tawbah (or Barā’ah) 9:31.
15. Sūrat al-Tawbah (or Barā’ah) 9:34.
16. Sūrat Āl ‘Imrān 3:64.
17. Sūrat Āl ‘Imrān 3:103.
18. Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:208.
19. Sūrat al-An‘ām 6:142.
20. Sūrat Āl ‘Imrān 3:28. There are many such verses in the Holy Qur’an that sternly enjoin Muslims from spiritual mingling with non-Islamic societies. Refer to Mu‘jam al-Mufahris, māddah “a kh dh” [Ç Î Ð].
21. This was extracted from the following Qur’anic verse (5:3) and several others. More information may be found in the “Tafsīr al-Mīzān” under this verse.
22. Sūrat al-Ma’idah 5:3.
23. Sūrat al-Furqān 25:30.