Question # 381: Why Allah when referring to itself in the Quran or Hadeeth says HE or HIM and not SHE or HER even though he is beyond the gender?
bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: Basically, the reason for such questions lies in the ignorance of the Arabic language. Not all languages divide the nouns into three categories: masculine, feminine, and neuter (for inanimate objects and concepts) like Arabic and French. Hence, all nouns in these languages are all either masculine or feminine. Hence, in Arabic, the masculine (huwa) form is easier to use than the feminine (hiya), because the masculine form is the original and is more established (in the language), and the feminine form is derived from the masculine. In other words, the Arabic Language has certain principles that dictates how the whole language is organized and one of those guided principles is that the masculine is the ‘default’ noun until there is a reason to consider it feminine. Nevertheless, it is important to point out that Allah (swt) cannot be described as masculine or feminine in any true sense; rather that (use of the masculine pronoun) is necessary for the purpose of communication in human languages and what people need in communicating ideas about Allah. Also Refer Question # 51: Why is “WE” used by Allah in Qur’an for Himself and Question # 250: Pre-Islamic Era: Female Infanticide and Falsely Claiming Angels as Daughters of Allah
Long Answer: Basically, the reason for such questions lies in the ignorance of the Arabic language.
The linguist Abul-Fath ibn Jinni said: Chapter on that in which knowledge of Arabic could ensure sound understanding of religious beliefs. It should be noted that this chapter is one of the most important chapters in this book and that the benefit thereof is very great indeed. That is because for most of the Muslims who went astray from the right path and drifted away from proper understanding, what caused them to go astray and go against what reason dictates is their weak understanding of this noble language through which all of mankind are addressed, and the ultimate fate of a person, whether in Paradise or Hell, is connected to understanding this language…. (al-Khasaa’is)
It should be noted that one of the basic principles of communication is that everything is to be spoken of in such a way that it makes it stand out and distinguishes its gender. This is an ancient phenomenon in human languages, but there are some things that have nothing to do with real gender, as is the case with inanimate objects such as stones and mountains, and concepts such as justice and generosity, and so on. In these cases, masculinity and femininity are not applicable in the true sense of these two words. It seems that this is the reason why some languages divide nouns into three categories: masculine, feminine, and a third category which in Indo-European languages is called neuter; this refers to that which is neither masculine nor feminine.
But not all human languages have this category. Semitic languages, for example, divide nouns of the third category, which is neuter, between the first two categories. So, nouns in these languages are all either masculine or feminine. This is also the case in the French language, in which all nouns can only be either masculine or feminine. English differs from French in this regard.
Now we know that dividing things into masculine and feminine – even in the case of that which cannot really be described as such – is the feature of most languages, especially living languages that are spoken now, and this is not something that is unique to Arabic. So now you know that if it is possible to describe anything as being either masculine or feminine, when it cannot be described as such in any real sense, then a language may prefer to speak of something in the masculine, as that is easier and it is the basic principle; there is no need to add any specific marker [such as an extra letter or syllable to indicate the feminine], as the feminine stems from the masculine.
The imam of the grammarians, Seebawayh (may Allah have mercy on him) said: It should be noted that the masculine form is easier for them to use than the feminine, because the masculine form is the original and is more established (in the language), and the feminine form is derived from the masculine. Do you not see that the word ash-shay’ (thing) is applicable to everything that we know about, regardless of whether it is masculine or feminine, and the word ash-shay’ is a masculine noun. (Kitaab Seebawayh)
[To further simplify, in Arabic Language, the word “He” (huwa) serves two purposes: Male and Masculinity. ‘Huwa’ can be used for things that have gender and things that do not have gender. Masculine is not about a biological gender but it’s a grammatical concept; for example, a boy is a male but a tree, which is an “it” in English becomes “she” in Arabic, that does not mean that the tree is feminine. Similarly, sun is feminine which does not mean that sun is biologically female. Furthermore, as an overview, the Arabic Language has certain principles that dictates how the whole language is organized and one of those guided principles is that the masculine is the ‘default’ noun until there is a reason to consider it feminine. The exceptions are grammatically feminine. There are several rules as to why something should be feminine. Unfortunately, we are still going to be limited in the English language and we have to use the word “He” for Allah for lack of a better word (noun). (Video Lecture by Nouman Ali Khan)]
Hence, you will find that most of those who believe that there is a God above the heavens refer to Him in the masculine, which is more befitting to Him, may He be glorified. This is something natural that does not need any research, examination or evidence. You will not find anyone, knowledgeable or ignorant, monotheist or polytheist, who does not refer to God, may He be exalted, as “He”. If anyone were to refer to Him in the feminine… he would be opposed and accused of ignorance and clear misguidance.
So how about if we add to the above what Allah, may He be exalted, has said of Himself in His holy Book – and indeed in all the revealed Books – using that (masculine) pronoun.
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
- “It is He Who has created the heavens and the earth in truth, and on the Day (i.e. the Day of Resurrection) He will say: “Be!”, – and it shall become. His Word is the truth. His will be the dominion on the Day when the trumpet will be blown. All-Knower of the unseen and the seen. He is the All-Wise, Well-Aware (of all things).” (Soorah al-An‘aam, 6:73)
- “And He it is Who originates the creation, then will repeat it (after it has been perished), and this is easier for Him. His is the highest description (i.e. none has the right to be worshipped but He, and there is nothing comparable unto Him) in the heavens and in the earth. And He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” (Soorah ar-Rum, 30:27)
- “It is He (Allah) Who is the only Ilah (God to be worshipped) in the heaven and the only Ilah (God to be worshipped) on the earth. And He is the All-Wise, the All-Knower.” (Soorah az-Zukhruf, 43:84)
And there are many similar verses, too many to list here.
Moreover, Allah, may He be exalted, criticized the mushrikeen (polytheists) for their claim to worship Allah, the One, the Subduer, yet they worshipped females besides Him, and He criticized them for that and explained how abhorrent their deeds were. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
- “They (all those who worship others than Allah) invoke nothing but female deities besides Him (Allah), and they invoke nothing but Shaitan (Satan), a persistent rebel!” (Soorah an-Nisa’a, 4:117)
However, we would like to point out that Allah (swt) cannot be described as masculine or feminine in any true sense; rather that (use of the masculine pronoun) is necessary for the purpose of communication in human languages and what people need in communicating ideas about Allah. Everything that is either masculine or feminine is something that is created and Allah (swt) is the Creator of the masculine and feminine:
- “And that He (Allah) creates the pairs, male and female” (Soorah al-Najm, 53:45)
- “He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. How can He have children when He has no wife? He created all things and He is the All-Knower of everything.” (Soorah al-An ‘a am, 6:101)
- “And exalted be the Majesty of our Lord, He has taken neither a wife, nor a son (or offspring or children).” (Soorah al-Jinn 72:3)
(The above reply is based on answer provided by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid, unless stated otherwise)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.