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Two Part Question Regarding Pronouns and Sexuality


QI have two questions regarding two subjects previously posted by Mr. Ayub Hamid. I apologize in advance if they seem simple-I freely admit my own ignorance.

Firstly, regarding the use of pronouns for Allah. If I understand correctly, the pronouns, for example, "He", are not denoting any sort of masculinity in Allah, for such a description cannot be imputed. Yet they are used because this is what Allah calls Himself. Is the reason for this simply a linguitic one? That is: is it simply a deficiency in our language that causes this? If it is indeed the fault of the language, why exactly is the masculine pronoun used? Why not the feminine, or perhaps another non-gendered pronoun? Is it perhaps that Allah calls Himself this because the masculine pronoun has come in our language to denote strength? I do not intend this to be a controversial claim, I am simply stating that our language is structured in this way (again, a defect). While the masculine has come to denote (among other things) strength, the feminine has come
to denote (among other things) caring. Is it simply that the masculine better describes Allah as we can know Him? Not that He is masculine, but to the best limits of our understanding, this can best name Him. Is there any non-specualtive answer to the question of why exactly Allah calls himself masculine pronouns?

Secondly, regarding sexuality. I understand all that was written in the previous post on this subject, but an anterior question has arisen. What is the Islamic view of sexuality within a marriage? Again, I must plead ignorance, as I do not yet have the in-depth understanding of Islam that I assume most of you do. Yet I am deeply curious. Is the view of sex between married couples considered to be as it is in Catholicism, i.e. that couples should only engage in sex for the purpose of reproduction? From what I have read, I do not think this is the case, but could someone please clairfy? I think that this subject must be central to any religion as it is a basic aspect of humanity, and I am disatisfied with the way that it was
treated in my religious education (that is, elusively).

Thank you for your time.



AAllaah SWT, being infinite, is beyond our knowledge, perception or imagination. Hence, we cannot know about Him except what He tells us or reveals about Himself through His Book and Messenger. Anything we say from ourselves will just be a speculation and fret with human weakness, imperfections and limitations. That is why human beings should not say things about Him from their own nor should they give human examples or descriptions for him. Even if we want to explain anything about Allaah with an example, we should use only the examples that He Himself has used in His Book, the Qur-aan. Thus, the Qur-aan admonishes:
Do not devise examples for Allaah. He knows, while you do not know.

And in listing things that Allaah has disallowed, the Qur-aan concludes,
and to say about Allaah what you do not know.

Among the most important things that Allaah has told us is that He is extremely Merciful, Caring and Kind to His creations. His normal modus operandi in dealing with them is mercy and kindness, unless someone arrogantly rebels against Him and transgresses all limits in persistent disobedience. In that case, He is also severe in punishment. Even to the disobedient, He provides frequent opportunities to repent and reform until one’s death. Those who do repent and seek His forgiveness, He forgives them and graciously and kindly gives them option of starting a new page. In this and many other ways, His mercy is boundless. In fact, the Messenger of Allaah (Muĥammad) told us that His mercy is infinitely greater than the most loving mother. To express limitlessness of Allaah’s Mercy, he used the Arabic proverbial expression ‘70 times’ as much as of the most loving mother’s love for her child.

Along with His mercy and kindness, His power, sovereignty, dominion, authority and command over the universe and everything in it are also infinite, absolute, eternal and limitless.

We should also remember that being male or female is an attributes of only finite creations of Allaah. Being Infinite, He is one and unique, absolutely above and beyond any gender classification.

Now, coming back to the use of pronoun, you might be aware that many languages including Arabic do not have any gender-neutral pronoun. Between the two genders, Allaah chose to use masculine pronouns for Him. And He has not given us any reason why He has chosen it. Perhaps it is as you suggested because Masculine pronouns connotes authority, independence and strength. Perhaps it is so because as per Arabic convention, masculine pronouns are universal (kind of neutral) in the sense that the matters described with masculine pronoun, unless explicitly specified to be for men, are applicable to all people irrespective of gender, while matter described with feminine pronouns are applicable to women only. There are many examples in the Qur-aan where “he” has been used even when both men and women are mentioned. For example:
Whoever does good, whether male or female, and he is a believer, We will grant him a good life and grant them their reward according to the best of what they used to do. An-Nahl 16:97

Perhaps He adopted it for all of these reasons that we can think of and many more that are in the knowledge of Allaah. However, we have no bases for pinpointing a specific reason. Whatever we say is our guess. One thing is for sure: Use of masculine pronouns does not exclude the concept of kindness and caring because Allaah has clearly told us about His boundless caring, kind and merciful attitude towards people.

As for your question about human sexuality:

Islam is a religion of nature and moderation. It is a religion of nature because its teachings are optimally aligned with human nature. It is a religion of moderation because its teachings save people from extremist tendencies and extremist behaviour. For example, in this matter of sex, on one extreme is Western culture of overemphasis on the satisfaction of human desires. This leads to sexual promiscuity, adultery, extra-marital affairs, rape, etc. and all the resulting social problems and consequences. On the other extreme is the notion of considering sex as an inherently anti-spiritual or bad act. This leads to a culture where sex is considered an act unsuitable for religious people and where religious people are expected to take a vow of celibacy.

Avoiding these extremes while addressing natural human needs, Islam teaches a balanced, moderate stance. On one hand, people are required to control their tendencies toward instant gratification of their urges. On the other hand, it does not treat sex as an inherently anti-spiritual act. Rather, it requires its adherents to satisfy their natural desires through a duly established marital commitment and within that relationship they should feel free to enjoy sexual relationship in a natural manner as and when they desire (excluding menstruation period) without any compunction. Enjoying intimate relations with one’s spouse does not negate anyone’s spirituality, closeness to Allaah or religious dedication. Rather, leaving a partner in marriage feeling neglected or unfulfilled is sinful.

My book on marriage explains some other aspects of this topic.

February 14, 2003
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