God’s Name in the Qur’an Between the Third Person, Masculine and Plural Pronoun

Someone asked me: Why is the Creator referred to in the Qur’an in the form of masculine and not feminine? Is this not evidence of the superiority of men over women?

I said: God Almighty is not described as a male or female. Every male is created and every female is created, for God Almighty is the Creator of male and female.

And that He creates the two mates – the male and female. (Sura AlNajm:45)

Exalted be God to have a partner or similar, wife or child.

[He is] Originator of the heavens and the earth. How could He have a son when He does not have a companion and He created all things? And He is, of all things, Knowing.(Sura Al-Ana’am:101)

One of the necessities of speech and understanding is that each person should be referred to in what specialises him, and distinguishes his gender.

This is an ancient phenomenon in human languages. However, there are things that have nothing to do with real sex, including inanimate objects like stones and mountains, meanings such as justice and generosity.

In such matters, neither masculine nor feminine is observed with the true, natural meaning of these two genders. This was apparently the reason why some languages ​​divide the nouns found in them into three categories: masculine and feminine. A third category, which is known in the Indo-European languages as ​​the “neutral”, is neither masculine nor feminine.

However, not all human languages ​​followed a single pattern. Semitic languages, for example, distributed the nouns of the third category, which is the neutral, to the other two categories. Hence, the nouns in these languages became either masculine or feminine.

The same happened in the French language, as there is nothing in its nouns except masculine and feminine, and the English language in that is deeper than French.

Dividing things into masculine and feminine, even what is not actually described as such, is a characteristic of most languages, especially current ones today. It is not a characteristic of the Arabic language alone.

Everything – anything – is described in language as masculine or feminine. If it was not described in reality as masculine or feminine, then the language is more likely to report it as masculine. Because it is lighter for them, and it is the origin, it does not need a sign, and feminine is subdivided from masculine.

Grammar and morphology scientist Sibawayh, said:

“And know that the masculine is lighter for them than the feminine, because the masculine is first, and it is more powerful. Do you not see that the “thing” applies to everything that was told about it, before it was known whether it was male or female, and the “thing” is male?!”

Then the questioner asked: Well, then why did God reprove the polytheists that they abandoned His worship, and worshiped idols instead, that had female names such as “Al-Uzza” and “Manat”? He blamed them for it. Does that not mean that females are inferior to males in your religion?

They call upon instead of Him none but female [deities], and they [actually] call upon none but a rebellious Satan.(Saura Al-Nisa:117)

I answered: God Almighty forbids any worship of others, whether this deity is masculine or feminine, for God is the Creator, the Provider, who is worthy of worship alone.

The infidels of Quraish were the ones who considered females inferior to males.

Arabs at that time hated females, and they practiced female infanticide. While in return, they consented to give God a female attribute that they hated for themselves. That is, they took for themselves idols with female names such as “Al-Uzza” and “Manat”

God, in the above verse, gives us a description of what they were doing.

Say, He is One:

Someone asked one day about the use of the third person pronoun by God to intoduce Himself in the Holy Qur’an. While He introduced Himself using the first person pronoun to Moses, peace be upon him in the Old Testement.

He asked: Is this not proof that the Qur’an is not from God?

And he mentioned this verse:

Allah – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of existence. (2) He has sent down upon you, [O Muhammad], the Book with truth, confirming what was before it. And He revealed the Torah and the Gospel. (Al-Emran:2-3)

The speech here is addressed to Muhammad, peace be upon him.

And the questioner mentioned this biblical verse as well:

God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord.” (Exodus 2:2)

The answer simply boils down to the following:

There is a difference between the story of Muhammad, peace be upon him, and the Prophet of God, Moses, peace be upon him.

God addressed Moses directly without an intermediary when He said, “I am God.”

As for the Holy Qur’an, it is a revelation from God through Angel Gabriel, peace be upon him. It was not a direct speech.

The Qur’an was revealed in a clear Arabic tongue. One of the Arabs’ methods of eloquence is for the speaker to refer to himself using the first person pronoun, sometimes using the third person pronoun, and other times with the singular or plural pronoun.

This a familiarity with the methods of speech.

For example:

The reference of God to Himself as WE or US in many verses of the Qur’an denotes Grandeur and Power in Arabic. In the English language this is known as the royal WE, where a plural pronoun is used to refer to a single person holding a high office, such as a monarch. For the avoidance of doubt, the Qur’an has consistently reminded us of the SINGULAR pronoun in reference to God, when called upon by His servants.

And We sent not before you any messenger except that We revealed to him that, “There is no deity except Me, so worship Me.”(Sura Al-ANbia’a:25)

God, the Most High, defined Himself in the Qur’an from the first verses descending, which are:

Recite in the name of your Lord who created – (1) Created man from a clinging substance. (2) Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous – (3) Who taught by the pen – (4) Taught man that which he knew not.(Sura:Al-Alaq)

Which means, O Muhammad, read in the name of your Lord who created.

There are many verses in which God speaks in the first person.

For example:

And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. (Saura AlZariat:56)

Indeed this, your religion, is one religion, and I am your Lord, so worship Me. (Saura Al-Anbia’a:92)

So, the Qur’an was not revealed in one style, but rather in a variety of styles; this is one of the perfect miracles and eloquence.

Dr. Abdul Mohsen Al-Mutairi – an islamic scholar- wrote in his book “The Claims of the Qur’an doubters” (page 304):

“Among the methods of the Arabs in eloquence is that the speaker speaks about himself sometimes with the first person and sometimes with the third person, as if the speaker says: I did such-and-such,I went, and I command you to do such-and-such. The speaker also sometimes says about himself “So-and-so” meaning himself, commands you to do this, and he forbids you to do such-and-such, and he likes you to do such-and-such, as if a prince or king says to his people while speaking: “The prince asks you such-and-such.” He indicates that his order for them comes from the fact that he is a prince or king. This is In fact more eloquent and complete than telling them: I am the king and I command you to do so”.

The Qur’an came with this kind of statement. So the one who does not know Arabic thought that God could not speak of Himself in the third person form. He had to say: (I have revealed to you, O Muhammad,.. ) and so on. This is in fact an ignorance of the Arabic language methods.

It is known from the style of Arabs in rhetoric, that Arabs don’t follow a single style in speech, but rather moves from one style to another, even in the same context. This is an art of linguistic rhetoric known as “ Paying Attention”.

Al zarkashi- an Islamic scholar – says:

“Paying attention”: is a style of speaking by transfering from method to another method, to attract the listener, a refreshment of his attention, and a maintenance of his mind from boredom by speaking in the same way for a long time.

For example:

God said in Sura Yunis-22:

It is He who enables you to travel on land and sea until, when you are in ships and they sail with them by a good wind and they rejoice therein, there comes a storm wind and the waves come upon them from everywhere and they assume that they are surrounded, supplicating Allah, sincere to Him in religion, “If You should save us from this, we will surely be among the thankful.” 

Al Suyuti- Islamic historian – said: As an example of the style of speaking which God used in the ubove verses by shifting from the first person pronoun to the second person:

“When God said: When you were in the ships and the ships sail with them”, here suppose to be: “with you.” The point of turning away from speaking to them to telling others about their condition, is the astonishment at their disbelief and their actions, because if He continued on speaking in the same form, that benefit would have been missed”.

And it was said: “The speech was first with the believers and the disbelievers together, as evidenced by “He is the one who enable you to walk on land and sea.” If God had continued the speech by saying: “the waves come upon you” it would be necessary to censure everyone. So the verse turned away from the first style of speech to indicate its specialization with those who are concerned by what God mentioned about them at the end of the verse. Therefore, it was a shifting from the general speech to the specific”.

An example of shifting from the first person pronoun to the second person is:

And why should I not worship He who created me and to whom you will be returned? (Sura Yasin:22)

And from the first person pronoun to the third:

Indeed, We have granted you, [O Muhammad], al-Kawthar. (1) So pray to your Lord and sacrifice [to Him alone]. (Sura Alkawther:1-2)

And from the third person pronoun to the second:

And it is Allah who sends the winds, and they stir the clouds, and We drive them to a dead land and give life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness. Thus is the resurrection. (Sura Fatir:9)

And from the third person pronoun to the second:

Sovereign of the Day of Recompense. It is You we worship and You we ask for help. (Sura AlFatiha:4-5)

The speaker in our normal life often uses the third person pronoun referring to himself, saying, for example:”your humble servant”. Or the present writer.

These days, it is common that students state “The researcher believes that” instead of “I believe that” in their masters and doctorates thesis.


مقدمة د. رمضان عبد التواب ـ رحمه الله ـ لكتاب البلاغةفي المذكر والمؤنث

. كتاب سيبويه (1/22) وانظر (3/241) منه

. روان أحمد لا عقلانية للالحاد

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