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Why Does God Refer to Himself as “He” in Third Person?

Questioner

Sharif

Reply Date

Dec 01, 2017

Question

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. I would like to begin by wishing that Allah blesses the people who are doing such good and bless their families. I have a question and was wondering if a scholar can take some time responding to it. My question is that why does Allah refer to Himself in the third-person? Jazakallahu khairun, wa-salaam

Consultant

Answer


third person

Short Answer: God revealed the Quran in Arabic using common Arabic rhetoric, which often included referring to oneself in the 3rd person. Moreover, God is not male, nor is He female. God is above all human gender distinctions. The primary reason God refers to Himself as “He” is because Arabic, the language in which it was revealed, does not have any gender-neutral pronouns. It’s by no means mean to signify male superiority over females.


Salam Sharif, 

Thanks for your interesting question about pronouns used for a divine entity. And thank you for contacting Ask About Islam. 

The third-person pronoun you referred to in your question, as being used by Allah – when addressing Himself – has no indication, whatsoever, of masculinity or femininity in relation to His Divine Entity. 

What renowned scholars say regarding this is that such usage has a lot to do with the rhetoric of Arabic language itself.

This is the language in which the Quran was revealed.

It does not collide with the fact that Allah Almighty is beyond any conceivable picture that may be in mortals’ minds.

Allah is completely beyond mortal descriptions

The prophet, (peace be upon him) has made this clear in his hadith that reads: 

Whatever comes to your mind regarding physical characteristics or mortal attributes, Allah is far Exalted above that and that does not express the real concept of the divine entity of Allah (SWT). 

Allah says in the Quran in Surah 30, verse 27:

[…] To Him belongs the loftiest similitude [we can think of] in the heavens and the earth: for He is Exalted in Might, Full of wisdom.

In the light of the above Quranic verse and hadith, the masculine pronoun “He” used in the Quran, as referring to Almighty Allah, does not ascribe mortal attributes to Allah.

He is far exalted above that.

We Muslims believe that Allah Almighty is neither male nor female. 

This is because maleness or femaleness are aspects of duality, whereas Allah is Unique.

So, we see that Allah sometimes refers to Himself in singular form or in plural form, like in Surah 108, verse 1:

To thee have We granted the fount [of abundance].

All this is just to indicate divine respect and honor He (SWT) most deserves.

This neither denotes masculinity or plurality to His divine entity. 

No Gender-Neutral Pronouns in Arabic

Besides, we have to bear in mind that the Arabic language has no gender-neutral pronoun.

That’s why we notice that the pronoun ‘he’ or ‘she’ can be used for anything, even inanimate objects.

Thereby, the pronouns do not change the belief of Muslims in the Oneness and Uniqueness of Allah, for He transcends all the dualistic or mortal traits. 

Also, I’d like to make it clear that such usage does not imply discrimination against women in Islam, and never does it indicate that women are inferior to men.

These facts are well established in Islam, and the great honor Islam accords women, as reiterated in both the Quran and sunnah, can attest to that. 

I hope this answers your question. Thank you again for contacting us and salam


(From AboutIslam’s archives)

Read more…

Is God Male or Female?

Can We Ask: What Does Allah Look Like?

Are Women Inferior to Men?

Beautiful Names of Allah: Explanation of the Name Allah




About Kamal Badr

Kamal Badr holds a Masters Degree in International Law & Shariah from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, with a thesis written on "Modes of Reparation in Sharia & International Law -- Comparative Studies". He is working on His Ph.D. He has been an editor-in-chief for prominent Islamic websites.

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