Imam W. Deen Muhammad
QUESTION: Why is Allah often referred to as "He/* which is a masculine pronoun?
IMAM W. DEEN MUHAMMAD: "He" in English presents a problem simply because things in English grammar are identified as masculine or feminine, especially when we use terms like he or she as being human.
It's a problem for many (American) Muslims, who were taught that God was a man, before my leadership under the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. It's a problem for them to get away from that idea, and they see He written in the Quran for God, and they tend to go back to the old idea that God is a man.
But I'm sure that when they read the Bible, in the Old Testament, where it says He, and read of all the supernatural things that God did in the Old Testament, I'm sure they don't have any problem understanding that that wasn't the man that they are.
I think what we have here is more a problem of the old way of seeing things, and we should just accept that we are people with new religious vision, that we are now believing as we should believe in the teachings of the Quran, that we have graduated from just being Muslims to Muslims who are growing in the knowledge of the Quran, and we should accept that when it says "He," it's just for want of a better word.
The term "Hu-wa" in the Arabic is translated "He" by the translators who give the English translation in the Quran.
But there's a unique thing about the Arabic language when we see it and compare its grammar with English grammar. We don't have any such thing as a neuter in Arabic grammar, only in English or some other languages, but not in Arabic.
Some languages are like Arabic, they don't have any neuter gender, everything is either male or female. So if we can understand electricity being called male or female or the moon being called male or female or energy being called male or female in our language, in Arabic, the language of the Quran, not in English, it should be easy for that person then, for our reader to understand.
I gather he's a Muslim, so I'm sure he perhaps already knows the answer but he wants us to share this information with other readers. I'm sure he will have no difficulty, then, understanding why we say, "Hu-wa" for Allah, and they translate it "He" in English.
Man cannot perceive of anything that is beyond his own concerns, and man's language is an expression of man's concern, and man, I'm sure used He for God. I don't think God revealed or said, "Man, when you refer to Me, say “He”.
I think man used He because man saw himself as a dominant in the world over the female and saw himself with more liberties and with more influence in the environment.
I think he saw God as being the One absolute power and authority, dominant over all and with unlimited influence. So he wouldn't get the female that he had held back and say God is "She."
I'm sure that he, for want of a better term would say, "Oh God, He did this for me. God, He did this. God, He is this."
So I think we should understand that though God communicates higher means to us, God still lets us have our own language.