Mother God

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.

Islam and the Divine Feminine

God’s Feminine Side Is Plain to See (slightly offensive but makes the point anyway)

Shekhina: The Feminine Aspect of God

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.


13 thoughts on “Mother God

    1. One thing that we can be sure of is that in order to discover the profoundness of this statement, we have to go beyond the realm of modern science which only accepts the complementary role of the male and the female for procreation. I guess its roots lie in ancient mythology. In ancient texts, man is often referred to as a farmer – he sows the seed and reaps the crop. The woman is the Earth. No wonder that across many cultures, the farmer has been commonly referred to as the “son of the soil” because his very livelihood depends upon the Earth just in a manner a newborn depends upon his mother for nourishment. And i feel it’s a beautiful analogy because it perfectly captures the action and aggression of a man (i.e. working in the field is physically very demanding) and the passivity and compassion of a woman. Masculinity is absolute in that the seed sown by the farmer is not altered by the Earth – it stays pure and perfect, and only carried and nurtured by the Earth. Femininity is infinite in that its fertility is limited only by the quantum of seed bestowed on her. In other words, if not limited by the seed, it has a potential to touch infinity.
      Expecting that you’d like to have a more learned and well-referenced answer, i have already sent an email their way requesting them to either elaborate further on this concept or direct me to the author himself. I’ll let you know when i get the reply.
      Thanks for coming and visiting the links!

      1. I understand most of it, but something about the limited ‘infinity’ is confusing, though I cannot exactly put in words what I mean right now. Let me know if you get a response from them wesy and thank you so much for your explanation!

  1. Brilliant post! First of all, let me state that I don’t really care for the whole feminist attempts towards “correcting” the use of personal pronouns. There are far better and important things feminists can take up for making their stand. I must state that I do not support patriarchy either, but that’s beyond the point. The point is if the society as a whole moves towards respecting women’s rights, literature will follow suit, including how we address people or God in the written form. Anyway, this is not my place to argue against who believes in what. So moving on…
    Secondly, thank you so much for sharing that close dissection of those words we utter so many times without paying any attention. This gave me food for thought. The question of the gender of God in any religion is somewhat ambiguous, even though their depiction is often done in one gender or the other (like in Hinduism). As for Islam, I never gave much thought to that, but the arguments and the evidence you presented certainly make a compelling case for taking up the issue with some purpose.

    1. You just reminded me of a joke: Feminists are working towards turning history into herstory.
      Coming to the point, I think feminism has really helped people understand the oppression on women in the guise of liberal values in the modern world. But i don’t think it’s going to take their case very far because its official goal (equality of men & women) is catchy but unnatural and its approach to the dilemma, as I’ve felt it, is more reactionary than reforming. Islam is the only solution for the feminist cause. A lot has been written about it.
      Hinduism is a polytheistic religion and the gender of God has never been a problem in such religions because there are as many feminine gods as there are masculine so this, kind of, balances the effect. The real problem comes in the monotheistic religions where deciding the gender of God in favor of either male or female can result in profoundly distinct conclusions on the entire form of the religion itself.
      Thank you for reading and pondering over it!

      1. Lol That joke made me chuckle.

        You touched upon an important point there. Reactionary vs Reformist. Where do you draw the line when you stop demanding and start imposing? There is a fine distinction, and like you, I don’t think the current version of feminism has been able to find that balance.
        As for Hinduism, it is only an umbrella word for a host of faiths. The word ‘Hindu’ itself is a relatively new one, intended to bring these faiths together. Hindus worship millions of gods, and their faiths, rituals and customs differ from each other. However, if you take the examples of the three most famous deities i.e. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and study their manifestations through literature, especially those from before the Puranas and relating to the Vedas, you’ll find that there is ambiguity regarding their gender too. Their current male depictions are probably the outputs of the prevailing male dominant societies of the time.
        Their solutions to the conundrum of assigning gender to the Supreme being(s) must have stemmed from same issues that monotheistic faiths faced.

        1. I find your comment very enlightening. It amazes me how the societies in almost every part of the world have tried to remould not just the Divine injunctions but the Divine itself in order to assimilate it without needing to change as per the Divine commands. Quran explains legends of several such nations. To them, resisting the change was more important than communion with the Divine.
          In case this interests you, one of the prominent Islamic thinkers i.e Dr. Israr Ahmed, even speculates that Hinduism might just be an offshoot of the Abrahamic faith synthesized by a lost faction of the sons of Israel to be more permissive of their love for the pagan gods. A lot of their rituals, the nature of their gods and the sanctity of certain animals and colors, among a couple of other things indicate that this speculation might not be very far from the reality.

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