07 Jul Why do we refer to Allah as “He” or “Him?”
Why do we refer to Allah as “He” or “Him?”
Salam alaykum sir, why do we call Allah ‘He’ or ‘Him’ since God has no gender. Please explain in simple way so that i can actually grasp it. Jazak’Allahu khair.
Wa alykum as-salaam,
First of all, please do not refer to me as “sir,“ we are complete and utter equals, and while I appreciate the respect, I have done nothing to deserve it.
Your question has two parts: the first part is why do we refer to God as “He” or “Him,“ the second part is how does God’s lack of gender factor into how we refer to Him.
This may seem slight, but these are two distinct parts of your question which I believe are necessary to explore.
So, first part, why do we refer to God with “He” or “Him,“ the answer is quite simple, because that is how God is referred to in The Qur’an.
“He is your Lord Supreme” [22:78]
“God, who is limitless in His glory” [16:57]
Those are just two examples, and it is important to note that God refers to Himself mostly in the royal tense of “We” in The Qur’an, switching between that tense and the more immediate, personal tense to denote intensity and tone.
That is why I refer to God in this way. However, simply because God refers to Himself as “He” and “Him” does not mean that God has a gender, to assign God a gender would violate The Qur’an, which underlines God’s characteristics specifically:
(1) Say: “He is the One God:
(2) “God the Eternal, the Uncaused Cause of All Being.
(3) “He begets not, and neither is He begotten;
(4) “and there is nothing that could be compared with Him.
-The Holy Qur’an; Surah Al-Ikhlas (112) [Muhammad Asad]
Therefore God has no gender, is infinite, has no origin, has no end, is beyond anything we can ever understand, hope to conceive, or even pretend to know; God is beyond our ability to perceive, which is underlined continuously throughout The Qur’an, such as: “Limitless is He is His glory, and sublimely exalted above anything that men may devise by way of definition.“ [6:100]
Yet, because of this issue we find ourselves in a bit of a problem, because, if God is completely beyond our conception of just, things, then how can God communicate to us via The Qur’an?
Muhammad Asad writes:
Now as soon as we realize that the human mind cannot operate otherwise than on the basis of previous experiences—that is to say, on the basis of apperceptions and cognitions already recorded in that mind—we are faced by a weighty question: Since the metaphysical ideas of religion relate, by virtue of their nature, to a realm beyond the reach of human perception or experience — how can they be successfully conveyed to us?
Therefore, The Qur’an must necessarily utilize metaphors (established in 3:7 and 24:35), or in the words of Muhammad Asad, “by means of loan-images derived from our actual—physical or mental—experiences.”
Affirming Asad’s position, historical scholar Zamakhshari, in his commentary on 13:35 writes that this is done “through a parabolic illustration, by means of something which we know from our experience, of something that is beyond the reach of our perception.”
Thus, in order to understand The Qur’an we must understand that the process in which The Qur’an communicates, even in the most minute element, such as God referring to Himself as “He” or “Him” is simply a methodology intended for human comprehension.
Therefore, to assert that God actually possesses a gender simply because The Qur’an utilizes “He” or “Him” is an affront to the entire conception of God as put forth by The Qur’an.
Finally, and the most important reason why The Qur’an, which is written in the Arabic language and thus is governed by its rules, would refer to God with the words “Him” and “He,” is because in the Arabic language the male tense is the default tense which does not denote gender. If we were to say “her” or “she” this would mean, from a purely linguistic standpoint, that God has a gender within the Arabic language. Thus, to simply use the male tense, in Arabic, is to remove gender from the equation. This is difficult for English speakers to grasp, because, quite simply, this framework does not exist.
Simply put: the only reason why God uses “He” or “Him” is because He has to, because our human language is limited, by tenses, by our perceptions, by our tiny brains, and so in order to communicate to us, via The Qur’an, God utilizes terms like “He” and “Him” simply to communicate and for no other reason, and to extrapolate characteristics of God because of the usage of “He” or “Him” is to violate the command of God in The Qur’an.
I hope this answers your question, insha Allah.
I pray this reaches you and your families in the best of health and Iman, insha Allah.