Three Questions Regarding the Pronouns Used for Allaah in the Quraan

QAssalaamu Alaykum, Why does Allaah use 'We' in the Qur-aan, if He is only one? Also why to use He for Allaah, why not She?

ABismillaahi wal ĥamdulillaahi waŝŝalaatu wassalaamu 'alaa rasoolillaahi.

First of all, we must remember that Allaah SWT is infinite. He is One and Unique. Hence, the concepts of singular/plural or masculine/feminine are irrelevant for Him because He is neither subject to number nor gender. In other words, because He in One and Unique, there is no plural for Him. Similarly there is no gender for Him. The concepts of singular or plural and masculine or feminine are only applicable to His finite creations. However, our finite human languages have pronouns only for the finite things we know, but no appropriate pronoun for our Infinite, One and Unique Creator.

The pronouns used in human languages are designed to indicate gender of the subject of the pronoun as well as its number (singular or plural). However, Allaah being Infinite, the number and gender of the pronouns of human languages become irrelevant and meaningless for Allaah SWT. Hence, it really does not matter what pronoun is used, because none of the pronouns is reflective of the true Oneness and Uniqueness of Allaah SWT.

Having said that we must also remember that we cannot take liberty to use the pronouns we want for Allaah SWT. It is only up to Allaah SWT Himself to select the pronouns to use for Himself from our finite languages.

Based on the usage in the Qur-aan, we discover that the following are Allaah's preferences:
  • When talking about His mercy, kindness and personal relationships and closeness to people, Allaah SWT opts for 'I', 'Me' and 'My'.
  • When talking about His power, authority, sovereignty and magnanimity over the affairs of the universe and over those who rebel from His ways, Allaah SWT prefers to use royal 'We', 'Our' and 'Us'.
  • Although He is neither masculine nor feminine, when referring to Himself in third person, He prefers to use 'He', 'Him' and 'His'.

We must also respect His preference and use Masculine pronouns when referring to Him.

February 9, 2003

QA Brother Muhammad asked the following questions: "Why do we refer to Allah as "He" if "He" is not a man or referring to man?..."

ABismillaahi wal ĥamdulillaahi waŝŝalaatu wassalaamu 'alaa rasoolillaahi.

We are finite human being with very finite power to understand only the things, entities ideas or scenarios that we already have experienced. We are so limited in our understanding that we cannot even fully comprehend the finite things that we have not perceived or matters that we have not experienced in the past.

Allaah Subĥaanahu wa Ta‘aala is our Creator who is not finite, but is Infinite -- He does not have beginning or end or limit of any kind. He has no image, shape or form that we can understand. He is absolutely One and Unique. There is nothing else like Him in the universe. That is why we can know about Him only by what He Himself tells us through His Prophets and His Qur-aan.

Because He is One and Unique, there can be no question about His gender. Gender is an attribute of only finite beings like humans and animals. Allaah Subĥaanahu wa Ta‘aala is beyond any such classification.

Arabic language has only two pronouns: He and She. English language has a third pronoun "it" which is used for inanimate things or animals. Thus, using 'it' will be totally inappropriate for Allaah Subĥaanahu wa Ta‘aala. None of human languages has a unique pronoun for the Uniqueness of Allaah, nor has any language a pronoun fitting with the Majesty and Splendour of Allaah Subĥaanahu wa Ta‘aala. However, it will be interesting to note that in Arabic "He" is an all inclusive pronoun used for situations where both males and females are all to be represented, while "she" is exclusively used for female gender. Given all these limitations of human languages and the usages, a pronoun has to be used for Allaah out of the two: he or she. Allaah Subĥaanahu wa Ta‘aala used "He" for Himself. Not because, He has a gender, but only because of the limitation of human language, out of the two pronouns, He picked "He" for Himself, perhaps because of its all inclusive nature. Whatever were Allaah's reasons, He did not inform us about those reasons. We respectfully abide by His choice and use He, Him, His to mean Allaah.

November 22, 2005

QWhy third person pronoun is used for Allaah in the Qur-aan, if the Qur-aan is Allaah own word?

ABismillaahi wal ĥamdulillaahi waŝŝalaatu wassalaamu 'alaa rasoolillaahi.

Although holy Qur-aan is written and preserved in the form of a book but it is unlike any book that exists in the world and we should not expect it to conform to our mental concept of the book. The style of the Qur-aan is totally speech style. It is called Qur-aan because it is to be recited. Initially it was presented to its audience through oral recitals and its message is kept in people’s focus through recitals in the Salaah and speeches etc. In other words, its most effective use is through recitals and hence a speech style is most suited for it.

One peculiarity of the speech style is that during any discourse, depending on the context, the speech may shift back and forth any time among the first, second or third person. Hence sometimes, Allaah SWT uses first person talking to people directly, sometimes He is addressed in the second person and sometimes He is mentioned in the third person. Although every word of Qur-aan is Allaah’s word, but to educate His servants He uses different speaking styles to give different kind of messages. The major use of the second person is to quote someone else’s talk to Allaah; for example, it quotes how certain prophets of the past or their followers talked to Allaah or prayed to Allaah. Similarly, the major benefit of making certain discourses in third person is that it becomes the voice and representation of the emotions of the preacher or the reciter.

I hope this brief comment helps. If not, please let me know and I will try to explain it further.

December 18, 2005
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