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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