Though God is an ethereal spirit with no sexual connotations to its gender, the debate over His “actual” gender has passionately raged in the recent decades particularly in the wake of the rise of radical feminism in reaction to the timeless patriarchy that had reigned supreme. The reason i am writing this is that this debate is not distant, irrelevant or academic, it rather dictates how we perceive God in our day to day lives, defines our faith and how we act under its influence.
The most prevailing understanding of the gender of God is that God is predominantly a powerful masculine figure. This understanding possibly originated and strengthened over centuries in attempts to explain the attributes of God being Strong (Qawi), Subduer (Qahhar), Avenger (Muntaqim) and Compeller (Jabbar). Though there are other equally important attributes like Jamal (Beauty) that are the prototype of femininity but since these scholarly attempts were made in patriarchal societies so it is not very surprising for male-chauvinistic interpretations to have made their way into the sacred religious texts passed on to later generations. This partially explains why today, we refer to, and more importantly understand, God as a watchful man-guard over the universe though theological descriptions leave sufficient room for alternative explanations.
The question remains: Is God REALLY a watchful man-guard or is He more of a compassionate mother – the love of whom envelops the universe?
Islam has a distinctive edge over other religions of the world in that its Holy Book i.e. Quran has survived literally intact for centuries under conflicting and sometimes, even battling Muslim governments after the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). Karen Armstrong brings to our notice a commonly recited but strikingly overlooked piece from Quran i.e. the very Bism-illah-irrahman-irrahim.
…Nor was God distinctively male. Each recitation began with the invocation: “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate (al-Rahman) and the Merciful (al-Rahim). Allah was a masculine noun, but the divine names al-Rahman and al-Rahim are not only grammatically feminine but related etymologically to the word for womb(!)
It must be a shocking revelation for anybody who recites Quran on a regular basis. In the very tasmiah, God uses one masculine and two feminine names for Him(?)self, which although does not prove that God is predominantly feminine, in the very least points to the fact that God doesn’t want this side of Him(?) to be taken any lightly.
I was scrolling down a forum when i found this gem posted by MariaS.
Some people may say when huwa means “he” and “it” and hiya means “she” and “it” then why is God using huwa if hiya and huwa both mean “it” as Allah says : Qul huwAllahu ahad [Say he is One and Alone]? Answer: In A’rabic grammar, there are certain rules and criteria for feminine gender: 1) If it is feminine in nature like ummun [mother], ukhtun [sister]. 2) If the word ends with an A’rabic word ‘ta‘ like mirwaahatun [fan]. 3) If the word ends ‘badha Alif‘- an A’rabic letter. 4) Pairs of the body like yadun [hands], a’inun [eyes]. As the above criteria are not getting satisfied, by default Allah uses huwa-it.
I am not concluding this piece because i understand that people have different opinions. I do not intend to “establish” anything here neither do i feel the need of doing it nor do i find myself qualified for that. It’s just that i am going through a spiritual crisis where invoking God is, as i see it, the only way out and invoking a mother God feels much easier and more natural. Besides, I feel it’s really important for us to see God in the universe. The watchful man-guard is hard to see, the compassionate mother is hard not to.
P.S. In case this article interests you, there are some links that i would like you to check out.
God’s Feminine Side Is Plain to See (slightly offensive but makes the point anyway)
Also, in case you are into literature, Paulo Coelho, in his book “By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept”, makes an overwhelmingly beautiful case for the feminine God.