“We-ness”, “He-ness” and “I-ness” of Allâh

Mâhiyyat al-Haqq – Huwiya – Inniya

When you go through the pages of the Holy Qur’ân, you will find verses where the Divine Grace addresses you in We-form, in others in He-form and a few time in I-form. These are, respectively, the “We-ness” (mâhiyyat al-Haqq), the “He-ness” (huwiya), and the “I-ness” (- anniya, or inniya) of Allâh.

The “We-ness” of Allâh (Mâhiyyat al-Haqq): The “We-ness” of Allâh expresses His Might, His Power, His Glory and His Majesty (- Jalâl). Typical verses in this “We-form” you read is as follows:

أَلَمْ يَرَوْا۟ كَمْ أَهْلَكْنَا مِن قَبْلِهِم مِّن قَرْنٍۢ مَّكَّنَّـٰهُمْ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ مَا لَمْ نُمَكِّن لَّكُمْ وَأَرْسَلْنَا ٱلسَّمَآءَ عَلَيْهِم مِّدْرَارًۭا وَجَعَلْنَا ٱلْأَنْهَـٰرَ تَجْرِى مِن تَحْتِهِمْ فَأَهْلَكْنَـٰهُم بِذُنُوبِهِمْ وَأَنشَأْنَا مِنۢ بَعْدِهِمْ قَرْنًا ءَاخَرِينَ

“Have these people not considered how many generation We have destroyed before them to whom We had given them so firm a hold and power on the earth, such a firm hold as We have not given you? And We sent clouds over them pouring down abundant rain, and We caused rivers to flow subject to their command and control. Yet We destroyed them owing to their sins and raised other generations after them” (6:6).

وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَآ إِلَىٰٓ أُمَمٍۢ مِّن قَبْلِكَ فَأَخَذْنَـٰهُم بِٱلْبَأْسَآءِ وَٱلضَّرَّآءِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَضَرَّعُونَ فَلَوْلَآ إِذْ جَآءَهُم بَأْسُنَا تَضَرَّعُوا۟ وَلَـٰكِن قَسَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنُ مَا كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ فَلَمَّا نَسُوا۟ مَا ذُكِّرُوا۟ بِهِۦ فَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ أَبْوَ‌ٰبَ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا فَرِحُوا۟ بِمَآ أُوتُوٓا۟ أَخَذْنَـٰهُم بَغْتَةًۭ فَإِذَا هُم مُّبْلِسُونَ

“We have already sent (Messengers) towards the communities before you, then (on their rejecting the Messengers) We afflicted them with destitution, calamities and adversities so that they might become humble (before Us). Why did they not then, when Our punishment overtook them, grow humble? (It was for the fact that) their hearts had hardened and satan had made their deeds seem fair to them. Then, when they abandoned that whereof they had been reminded, We opened to them the gates of everything. Until when they began to boast over what they were given, We seized them unawares; then behold! They were in sole despair (of all good). In this way the last remnants of these people who had acted wrongfully were completely rooted out” (6:42–45).

The We-form of usage can be called the “Who-is-it-ness” and “How-is-it-ness” of the Absolute Reality (mâhiyyat al-Haqq). The Majesty, the Glory and the Might hidden in the “We-ness” is made known only to those whose conduct remains in obedience to His commands, and those who have a link to Him. You can get lost in the “How-is-it-ness” of these verses while reflecting on them.  

The “He-ness” of Allâh (Huwiya): You will encounter many verses in which the Supreme Being addresses the humankind in “He-Form,” – where the pronoun “Huwa,” translated as “He,” is used. The “He-ness” requires the existence of two – the hidden one and that from which He is absent. “Hiddenness” necessarily occurs in relation to another. For example we read:

وَهُوَ اللَّهُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَفِي الْأَرْضِ

“And He (هُوَ) is Allâh Who is in the heavens and in the earth” (6:3).

The “He-ness,” or the huwiya, of Allâh refers to His Hidden Essential Reality (al-Haqîqat al-Ghaybîyya). With huwiya He describes Himself and refers to His own Reality when He says, قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ   Say! He (هُوَ) is Allâh, the One and Alone in His Being” (112:1), The word Qul قُلْ  (- Say!) is to be understood as Command. Because of His being hidden (al-Bâtiniyah), these verses are accompanied with one or more of His Attributes that describe Him. You will read for example:

هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ ۖ هُوَ الرَّحْمَـٰنُ الرَّحِيمُ هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْمَلِكُ الْقُدُّوسُ السَّلَامُ الْمُؤْمِنُ الْمُهَيْمِنُ الْعَزِيزُ الْجَبَّارُ الْمُتَكَبِّرُ ۚ سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ هُوَ اللَّهُ الْخَالِقُ الْبَارِئُ الْمُصَوِّرُ ۖ لَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ ۚ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

“He is Allâh, beside Whom there is no other, cannot be and will never be one worthy of worship but He. He is the Knower of unseen and seen, He is the Most Gracious and Ever Merciful.  (He is) the Supreme Sovereign, the Holy One, the Most Perfect, Bestower of peaceful security, the Guardian, the All-Mighty, the Compensator of losses, the Possessor of all greatness. Holy is Allâh, far beyond and above the things they associate with Him.  He is Allâh, the Creator (of the matter and the spirit), the Maker, the Bestower of forms (and fashioner of everything suiting to its requirement). All fair Attributes belong to Him. All that lies in the heavens and the earth declares His glory; He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” (59:22–24)

There are many other similar verses such as: “He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing” (6:13); “He is the Possessor of every power to do all that He will. And He is the All-Dominant over His servants. And He is the All-Wise, the All-Aware” (6:17–18); “He has perfect knowledge of everything” (6:101); “He is All-Powerful, All-Mighty” (42:19); “It is He Who accepts penitence of His servants and pardons (them their) evil deeds, and He knows all that you do” (42:25); and “He it is Who sends down rain after the people have lost all hope and unfolds His mercy. He alone is the Patron, the Praiseworthy” (42:28).

When you reflect on creation, you use your reason and reflect on its Creator, and your reflection is based on your experience. There is no way of escaping this kind of limited anthropocentrism, thinking about Allâh in human terms and in terms of your human life. If you try to avoid thinking about Allâh in this fashion, you will be obliged to imagine Him as though He were either a machine or a blind force. However, you do not, in reality, speak of “it” when you talk of Allâh; you speak of Him. That means that Allâh is better understood as being personal rather than impersonal.  Obviously, He is not a person in just the same sense in which you are a person. That would be quite absurd, for it would negate the infinite nature and His inscrutable quality. He is far above that which any human being can perceive or reflect (see chapter on p. 8). The Attributes of Allâh are the most valuable clue you have in order to know Him.

When you ascribe personality to Allâh, you are saying that He is One (hid; 2:163). He is free in His nature and not bound by chains of imposed necessity (2:255).  He has a Will (3:26) and a Purpose (51:56). He is a Being without a physical body (24:35). He is not bound by the limitations of time and space, which beset you with your physical body. He is both immeasurable and eternal, beyond measurement by watches, clocks, or calendars. In spite of all this, the whole of the scriptural record, as well as the experience of Prophets and Saints, testify to the personal relationship, which they had with Him. He can and does enter into communion with that who is not Himself (2:186).  

The “I-ness” of Allâh (Anniya, Inniya): There are not many verses in the Holy Qur’ân in which the All-Merciful addresses a human being while referring to Himself in the “I-form.” This is the “I-ness” (anniya, or inniya) of Allâh. The “I-ness” corresponds to what is expressed in the English first-person pronoun “I.” This use of first person, unlike that of the third person, does not necessitate the existence of anything hidden. The anniya, or inniya (20:14) of Allâh is limited to express the Lords special nearness to His servant in a way that shows His intimacy and close relationship. In the Qur’ân, Moses (Mûsâ) was addressed while he was “on the quest of fire” with the following Words:  يَا مُوسَىٰ إِنَّهُ أَنَا اللَّهُ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ, O Moses! The fact is that I am Allâh, the All-Mighty [al-‘Azîz], the All-Wise [al-Hakîm]” (27:9), and again: إِنِّي أَنَا اللَّهُ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ, “I am, Allâh, the Lord of the worlds (28:30). What an expression of love, beauty, and nearness you read in the verse when Allâh addresses Moses: وَأَلْقَيْتُ عَلَيْكَ مَحَبَّةً مِّنِّي وَلِتُصْنَعَ عَلَىٰ عَيْنِي “And I endowed you with My love (with the result) that you were brought up before My eyes and under My protection” (20:39), and again: وَاصْطَنَعْتُكَ لِنَفْسِي  I, (having made you perfect,) have chosen you for Myself” (20:41). The same I-form is used in Allâh’s response to Jesus when Jesus prayed for his followers for a “sure and lasting food from heaven that it may be to us (a source of) festival ever recurring, to the first of us and the last of us” (5:114). Jesus received the good tidings and a warning for future generation (5:115).  In his I-form, God addresses the soul who has attained His nearness:

يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ ارْجِعِي إِلَىٰ رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي وَادْخُلِي جَنَّتِي

“O you soul at peace! Come back to your Lord well-pleased with Him and He well-pleased with you. Enter the fold of My chosen servants, And enter the Garden made by Me.” (89:27–30)

In some verses you find a change from the “We-ness” to the first-person “I-ness”:

وَلَنُسْكِنَنَّكُمُ الْأَرْضَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ ۚ ذَ‌ٰلِكَ لِمَنْ خَافَ مَقَامِي وَخَافَ وَعِيدِ

“And We will surely make you occupy the country after them. That (promise) shall hold good for everyone of him who fears to stand before My tribunal and fears My threatful warning.” (14:14; see also 31:10-11)

Here is a change from His Majesty and Power into His Mercy and Reward. In some other places, (e.g. see 25:45), you find similar abrupt change from “He-ness” into “We-ness.” These shifts show His Attributes of Power and at the same time His closeness to a human being. Change from “He-ness” to “We-ness” also indicates the employment of several Divine forces in that particular process. Such transitions also show that Allâh is indefinable and it is the inadequacy of human speech that makes it necessary to refer to the Supreme Being by pronouns applicable only to finite, created beings. These shifts are neither haphazardous nor accidental; rather they are deliberate linguistic intentions. Where Allâh’s Self-Sufficiency and Independence are intended to be emphasized, or where a work is to be performed through His divine decree, and His Power and the Majesty is expressed, the “We-form” appears, and when it is to be emphasized that Allâh will bring about a result through the agency of angels in association with one or more of His Attributes, the “He-form” is used. The “I-ness” is always to denote Allâh’s intimacy with His servant, with a message not only of hope and of love for him, but also of awe and fear as He says:

فَاذْكُرُونِي أَذْكُرْكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِي وَلَا تَكْفُرُونِ

“Therefore, Glorify Me and I will grant you eminence and be thankful to Me, and be not ungrateful (for My favours to you)” (2:152)