The Holy Spirit - As an Ahmadiyya Muslim and later as a Sunni Muslim, it was a subject I did not know much about. Though the word for Spirit, ruh, is used twenty-one times in the Qur’an, nowhere is it used so clearly as in the Bible and especially in the New Testament. When people asked Muhammad about the definition and the working of the Spirit, the only revelation he claimed to have received from God was: ‘They will question thee concerning the Spirit. Say: The Spirit is by command of my Lord, and of knowledge, ye have been vouchsafed but little’ (Sura 17:85). The Qur’an speaks of the Holy Spirit, Ruh al-Quds also, but Muslims take it to be the title of angel Gabriel. Yet the Holy Spirit, as mentioned as the Comforter and advocate in the New Testament, is interpreted by them to be Muhammad. As a Muslim, I had a problem with such a claim. I wrongly believed that the Bible was corrupted like many other Muslims, so there was nothing to quote in favor of Muhammad.
Muslims refer to some passages in the Gospel according to John and play on the Greek word Paraclete, which is translated as Helper, Comforter, Counselor, and Advocate in English translations of the Bible:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth (John 14:16). But the Counselor, 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 14:26)
As a Muslim, I thought, how could this be true. Here Jesus calls God as Father. Our relation with God is: He is our master, and we are his servant. Thus this passage is corrupted. It was later that I understood in what sense is God our Father.
After I came to believe in Jesus as my Savior – my friend Atif and I used to talk a lot about spiritual issues. He was no different in this case. In line with other Muslims, he thought that these verses indeed referred to the coming of Muhammad. He asked me how I disagreed with the Islamic view on one occasion. He even gave me a booklet printed by the Jamiat Talaba, the Students Union at Karachi University.
A sound explanation of the passages and their context (John Chapters 14 to 16), in which we find that the verses about the Paraclete cannot be a prophecy about Muhammad for the following reasons:
- . The passage of John, which Muslims quote to us is, ‘He will give you another Helper (or as Muslims believe Muhammad) to be with you forever.’ (John 14:17) This passage becomes clear when we read it with another passage in which Jesus tells his disciples, ‘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’ (John 16:12-13). In other words, Jesus says, I have been your Counselor, Comforter, your Paraclete. I have many things to say to you, but I send to you the Spirit of truth, another Counselor, another Helper, another Paraclete. Another passage declares Jesus as our advocate, Paraclete with the Father (1 John 2:1), and it was in this sense that he promised to give his disciples another Paraclete. So one of the major roles of the Holy Spirit is to be a pleader, intercessor, and our advocate. In Arabic, for such, the word Wakil is used. However, in the Qur’an, Muhammad has not been given such title nor the authority by God. Very often, he was asked by God to tell people that he was not their Wakil (Sura 10:108; 17:54; 42:6).
- This advocate, Comforter or Paraclete had to be here forever, ‘to be with you forever.’ Muhammad lived on this earth for about 63 years and then died.
- Jesus also said, ‘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’ (John 14:17). The world could not see this Holy Spirit, the Comforter, or know him as he is an invisible, purely spiritual being. Muhammad was seen both by his followers and opponents at his time. The Qur’an claims that Muhammad came for the whole world to accept him as a messenger of God (Sura 21:107; 25:1; 34:28).
- No Muslims believe that Muhammad was sent in Jesus’ name, yet the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, the advocate, was to be sent by God in Jesus’ name (John 14:26). Jesus said that the Spirit w ould glorify him (John 16:14). Instead of glorifying Jesus, Muhammad made himself the seal of the prophets and the leader of them all, including Jesus. By doing so, he made Jesus an inferior prophet. The prime purpose of sending the Paraclete was to convict and draw people toward Jesus. He was not to speak of himself but of Jesus. Muhammad, however, drew people from Jesus to himself, and thus he cannot be the promised Paraclete, the Comforter.
- Jesus repeated his promise before his ascension. He told them to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes, and, some days later, as the disciples were gathered praying, it happened as he promised (Acts 2:3-4). This promise was fulfilled several centuries before Muhammad was born (Acts 2:1-4, 33,38; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13,14; 5:18; Romans 8:9:11,13-16). The disciples at that moment knew that the promise of the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, and the Comforter, was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit transformed them and gave them the indomitable courage to stand up and be counted on Jesus’ side. From then on, they proclaimed openly what they believed. The Holy Spirit gave them the willpower and dynamism they had previously lacked to go forth to preach the risen Jesus: ‘God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witness of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear’ (Acts 2:32-33).