Why Does the Quran Refer to Allah as He

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Nouman Ali Khan

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Episode Notes

Ust. Nouman Ali Khan was asked this question during a live lecture on the 2015 Gulf Tour.

Episode Transcript

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Salam Alaikum everyone during my Gulf tour in Kuwait, I was giving a lecture and somebody asked a really cool question. And I thought I should share the answer with everyone. The question was that in reading the Quran, you find that God uses the word he for Himself, He is the creator of the skies in the earth, or he is one and the word he is obviously male. So how can we use a male word for God even though Allah is beyond gender? And so that's that was a pretty cool question I thought, and very well thought out. So I decided to make this video and share with you some thoughts on how to address this problem. First and foremost, we have to understand that the Arabic language works

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differently than the English language. In the English language, you have three options you can use he or you can use she and you can use it. He obviously has a male connotation, she is a female connotation. It is beyond gender. So you would have the choice of it. But the only problem is, the word it is for inanimate objects, we it would be inappropriate for Allah because it necessitates the assumption that it's a non living thing. None of those three options can truly do justice to the word for God. Now Allah chose this kind of gives me yet more confidence, and reminds me even more why Allah chose the Arabic language for His revelation. In the Arabic language, things work very

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differently from English. First and foremost, they don't have the pronoun it, they only have he and she who in here, there is no inanimate object pronoun, that is gender neutral, there's no such thing in Arabic. The second thing to note is that in Arabic, are grammatically speaking the word he who serves two functions. Now, please pay attention to this part, because it gets a little tricky. It serves two functions, it serves the function of male, and it also serves the function of masculine and actually before it even serves the function of male, its primary purpose is to communicate the masculine. So the Arabs make a distinction in their grammar between masculine and male, this is

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actually not that different from Spanish. You know, when you have el libro, and la biblioteca, they take inanimate objects even, and they give them a gender the book is masculine, and the library is feminine, right? So in the Arabic language, the word who can be used for things that have gender and things that don't have gender and to them masculine is not actually about a biological gender. It's a grammatical concept. Okay? So a boy is actually a male, but a tree is actually just it's an it but to the Arabic shujaa is feminine. That doesn't mean a tree is a female, but to them, the tree is feminine. Similarly, the sun to them as feminine, as chumps is feminine to them. Now, because the

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tree The sun is biologically a female. So masculine and feminine are different from male and female. And the question assumes, because the English language, it uses the word he for males, that the Arabic equivalent who must also be used for males, it's just not the case. It's actually used for masculine or for the male. But still, it's, you know, the question remains, why use the masculine Anyway, why not use the feminine? Here's where understanding Arabic linguistics and the overall structure of the Arabic language helps. As an overview, the Arabic language is a construct has certain principles that dictate how the whole language is organized. And one of those guiding

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principles is that the masculine is the default. In other words, unless kind of like the law of inertia, and you know, body will remain stationary until a force moves it, it's kind of like that, where you have like, a word will remain masculine, until there's a reason to consider it feminine. You don't get out of the masculine gender, unless you have some grammatical reasons. So the fact that the masculine is used for Allah who is used for Allah actually indicates that this is the default state, it's how it's supposed to be using the feminine would have actually been a problem that would have been that would have been leaving the natural default state, the truly neutral state

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in Arabic, and going to the unnatural state, which is which is the feminine form in the Arabic language. So the problem does not exist at all in Arabic. And it exists certainly in the English language, which is why for you know, since its inception since the beginning of the Quran, nobody actually attributed masculinity to Allah, even among the pagan Arabs, even among they didn't have this problem because they just they knew of this talking about a divine being, that the word that has to be used for him appropriate to him has to be one that does not limit itself to any connotations and that word in Arabic would certainly be who we're still going to be limited in

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English. We're gonna have to use the word here because we don't have a better word. And that at the end of the day, serves one purpose and one purpose alone to me and that is nothing in the end will be truly the

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equivalent of the word of Allah as he revealed it barakallahu li walakum salaam aleikum wa rahmatullah wa barakato.