Plural pronouns in the Qur’an

In the Qur’an, as well as the Torah, the Almighty God uses plural pronouns (Us, We, Our) for Himself. This is common in Semitic language along with a number of other languages as well including those spoken in the Indian subcontinent as well as Far East. However, many westerners find this concept difficult to grasp and feel that the usage of plural pronouns by Allah refers to Trinity or other forms of polytheism. Such allegations are very common by those who know nothing of Semitic languages and find it difficult to appreciate the royalty behind such language.

This write-up not just includes details on the usage of pronouns of majesty but also refutes anti-Islamic claims. The anti-Islamic claims do become very silly and hence, if you feel they are needlessly time consuming or un-interesting, then go straight to the topics of choice from below.

Introduction

Are royal pronouns foreign to the Torah?

Royal pronouns may exist, so what?

Difference of opinion and self-interpretation

Pre-Islamic use of royal pronouns

Why did the Prophet () not state that the plural pronouns for Allah are royal instead of more than one beings?

The Qur’an gets the Trinity wrong?

Did the Christians of Najran refute the Prophet ()?

More evidence to call out their argumentative approach

Does God need pronouns to convey His Majesty?

To Translate or Not to Translate

Does the Royal We include more than one being?

Plural is because of Allah’s Names and Attributes

Why not They and Them if We and Us can be used?

Absurd philosophical attempt

Sometimes plural pronouns are used by Allah and at other times, singular. Why is this so and is there any defined pattern or reasoning behind it?

Conclusion

Introduction

Anthony Rogers has written about the royal pronouns[1] through his lens and this write-up clarifies the misconceptions he raises and educates him on his blunders.

Anthony believes that such occurrences of plural pronouns are only explained by rich Trinitarianism instead of the sterile Unitarianism. One wonders how it is rich; in fact one wonders how it is even Biblical! The word and the concept of Trinity are not even in the New Testament let alone the Torah.[2] Secondly, if monotheism is sterile, then why not adopt Hinduism? It has a lot more than three gods. If We is taken as plural instead of royal, then why stop at Trinity? Why not Quadrinity? In fact, believing in 12 or 13 or 14 gods would be very much in line with Christian thought and interpretation of the New Testament.[3]

Anthony states:

To date, no Muslim has refuted the kind of positive evidence I (and others) have provided, apparently going with the motto that silence on this score is the best policy.

This is not true at all. It’s not an easy job responding to such extremely amateur claims and when you publish them in volumes, it becomes even more difficult to respond to as the patience and energy required for that is not an easy job. With much difficulty, I have decided to address this issue for our western fellows who, due to their understandable cultural and linguistic circumstances, are unable to understand this concept very common in Semitic languages and beyond.[4] I have not shared dozens and hundreds of quotes of Biblical scholars to refute Anthony’s stance but have simply linked them in the footnotes.

Anthony states, based on some of the few isolated writers he admires:

there are no unequivocal examples of the plural of majesty ever being employed in the Ancient Near East in the B.C. period that coincides with the writings of the Old Testament; and 2) even if there were bona fide instances, there is no example that such a figure of speech existed in Jewish culture of the relevant time period(s) or that it was ever employed by the Biblical authors.[5]

After he makes this statement, he says:

even if there…

On one hand there are no examples and on the other he admits to the possibility of being wrong. Perhaps he had been corrected by his reviewers (which he quotes in the end)[6] who should have ordered him to stop writing. Moreover, to say that there are no unequivocal examples of the plural of majesty ever being employed in the Ancient Near East in the B.C. period that coincides with the writings of the Old Testament would not be a wise argument because by far the most varied, extensive and historically significant body of literature written in Ancient Hebrew is the canon of the Hebrew Bible while the earliest known inscription in Hebrew language (Khirbet Qeiyafa Inscription) is poorly preserved and difficult to read. Therefore, to look for Hebrew evidence of plural pronouns before the Torah would be unwise.

Are royal pronouns foreign to the Torah?

Another argument against royal pronouns is as follows:

Consistent with the fact that this convention of speech originated later and is foreign to the writings of the Old Testament, it is evident that this explanation of the passages held no favor among the Jews until sometime after the advent and spread of Christianity. Not only did this explanation appear de novo or from the blue, which shouldn’t have been the case if there was a well-known rule of Hebrew grammar that governed this kind of use of plural pronouns, but it shows that the real motivation for this position was to cut off a particularly powerful line of reasoning that was otherwise open to Christians.

It will be proven all throughout this paper how this convention of speech is not at all foreign to the writings of the Torah. Speaking of lines of reasoning being open, the same is true not just for Christians but also for Hindus, Buddhists, Satanists, and all other polytheists.[7]

Royal pronouns may exist, so what?

Anthony shows some encouraging signs when he says: Even if the above points are ignored or can otherwise be surmounted. These have already been surmounted above and further below. His openness to being wrong is appreciated but he should have researched properly. Since we have proven above (and further below) that royal pronouns exist, a follow-up criticism is levelled:

The fact that plural pronouns could be used in such a way does not by itself prove that any or every particular use of these words is to be taken figuratively.

Actually it does. When the Torah explicitly states that God is ONE, and there is NOTHING in the Torah that makes God into three beings[8][9], then one does not interpret We and Us in a polytheistic manner. Now the argument reverses: The fact that plural pronouns could be used literally for more than one persons does not by itself prove that any or every particular use of these words is to be taken for multiple beings especially given the fact that 1) God is One, and 2) Bible has nothing close to Trinity. Dismissing the predominant and traditional view of scholars in a single line by quoting writers of choice is not a wise move.

Difference of opinion and self-interpretation

Another argument made against the fact that plural pronouns used by God refer to royalty and majesty is the reliance on difference of opinion. The following is argued:

In fact, and closely related to the above, if the mere existence of such a figure of speech is enough to show that these passage are properly interpreted figuratively, then why do we find unbelieving Jews throughout the centuries having such a difficult time coming to an agreed-upon explanation…

The same is true for Jesus, resurrection, body/soul, Unity, Trinity and a whole lot more. If difference of opinion exists, then one cannot simply reach such a rash conclusion. Moreover, it is not necessary that the difference is due to confusion of We and Us but who is being spoken to. For e.g. the statement “Have you not seen how WE” can be discussed as to who the ‘you’ refers to; it may a singular person or two or three or even scattered or combined groups. The difference on this would not change the fact that ‘WE’ is a royal pronoun. Secondly, the royal pronoun is more than just a figure of speech. Calling it figure of speech is not the best choice of words because the concept is so ingrained in Semitic languages that it is literally read as singular for the royal and majestic.

Anthony gives an example:

For example, when the LORD used the word “Us” in Genesis 3:22, He didn’t simply say that man has become “like us”, but that man has become “like one of Us,” a construction that certainly indicates that more than one person is in view.

To start off, this is his self-interpretation which he does when it suits him best. By his definition, would he agree that they have become like one of Us i.e. Jesus. Can anyone become like Jesus? Such arguments against the royal pronouns are purely based on flawed interpretation.

Two verses from Genesis 11 are presented to argue that the royal plural is not supported by the Torah:

  1. “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens”;

to which the divine response is,

  1. “Come, let Us go down and confuse their language”.

This is a yet another silly claim. The context itself states that ‘they’ sought to build the tower and ‘they’ were many people. Why would one shut off their brain and assume the first we is royal? Not every plural pronoun is for one person; it depends on the context and when it is said by God, it is a royal pronoun referring to One Being.

Pre-Islamic use of royal pronouns[10]

Even though the list that can be compiled is very lengthy, a selective passages from pre-Islamic poetry have been shared to convey the message. The plural pronouns were used by Arabs in pre-Islamic times to refer to a single person as a sign of royalty, majesty, and respect.

يقول ابن فارس – رحمه الله – : ” ومن سنن العرب مخاطبة الواحد بلفظ الجمع فيقال للرجل العظيم : انظروا في أمري وكان بعض أصحابنا يقول : إنما يقال هذا لأن الرجل العظيم يقول : نحن فعلنا : فعلى هذه الابتداء خوطبوا في الجواب “

Ibn Faris says: It is the way of the Arabs to refer to one person with plural words so that the great man says: Look at my situation and he was few and our companions said: But he said, this is because the great man says: We did. This is the beginning of addressing in the answer.

يقول امرؤ القيس – حين رأى قبر امرأة في سفح جبل عسيب الذي مات عنده – : “

أجارتنا إن الخطوب تنوب … وإني مقيم ما أقام عسيب

أجارتنا إنا غريبان ههنا … وكل غريب للغريب نسيب

فإن تصلينا فالقرابة بيننا … وإن تصرمينا فالغريب غريب

أجارتنا ما فات ليس يؤوب … وما هو أتٍ في الزمان قريب

Imrul-Qays says:

” ويقول عمرو بن كلثوم متغزلًا :

Amro ibn Kalthoom Mutaghazzilan says:

أَبَا هِنْدٍ فَلاَ تَعْجَلْ عَلَيْنَا *** وَأَنْظِرْنَا نُخَبِّـرْكَ اليَقِينَـا

بِأَنَّا نُوْرِدُ الرَّايَـاتِ بِيضَـاً *** وَنُصْدِرُهُنَّ حُمْرَاً قَدْ رَوِينَا

بِأَنَّا نُوْرِدُ الرَّايَـاتِ بِيضَـاً *** وَنُصْدِرُهُنَّ حُمْرَاً قَدْ رَوِينَا

وَأَيَّـامٍ لَنَـا غُـرٍّ طِـوَالٍ ***عَصَيْنَا المَلْكَ فِيهَا أَنْ نَدِينَا

وَقَدْ عَلِمَ القَبَائِلُ مِنْ مَعَـدٍّ *** إِذَا قُبَبٌ بِأَبْطَحِهَا بُنِينَا

بِأَنَّا المُطْعِمُـونَ إِذَا قَدَرْنَـا *** وَأَنَّا المُهْلِكُونَ إِذَا ابْتُلِينَـا

وَأَنَّـا المَانِعُـونَ لِمَا أَرَدْنَـا *** وَأَنَّا النَّازِلُونَ بِحَيْثُ شِينَـا

وَأَنَّا التَارِكُونَ إِذَا سَخِطْنَـا *** وَأَنَّا الآخِذُونَ إِذَا رَضِينَـا

وَأَنَّا العَاصِمُونَ إِذَا أُطِعْـنَا *** وَأَنَّـا العَازِمُونَ إِذَا عُصِينَا

وَنَشْرَبُ إِنْ وَرَدْنَا المَاءَ صَفْواً *** وَيَشْرَبُ غَيْرُنَا كَدِرَاً وَطِيـنَا

أَلاَ أَبْلِغْ بَنِي الطَّمَّاحِ عَـنَّا *** وَدُعْمِيَّاً فَكَيْفَ وَجَدْتُـمُونَا

إِذَا مَا المَلْكُ سَامَ النَّاسَ *** خَسْفَاً أَبَيْنَا أَنْ نُقِرَّ الذُّلَّ فِينَـا

مَلأْنَا البَرَّ حَتَّى ضَاقَ عَنَّـا *** وَمَاءَ البَحْرِ نَمْلَؤُهُ سَفِيـنَا

إِذَا بَلَغَ الفِطَـامَ لَنَـا *** صَبِيٌّ تَخِرُّ لَـهُ الجَبَابِرُ سَاجِدِينَـا

أَلاَ لاَ يَجْهَلَنْ أَحَـدٌ عَلَيْنَا *** فَنَجْهَلَ فَوْقَ جَهْلِ الجَاهِلِينَا

O Abaa Hind! Don’t hasten upon us!

And wait for us, we will inform you with the facts

That we enter the battle raising high white flags,

Whereafter they become red, stained with blood, famous for it!

And well-known days are ours, recently and long ago

Wherein we rebelled against the authorities, hating to come closer

And no doubt, the tribes know very well from what they encountered

(That) if we plunge into an area that we colonize it!

And that we truly are feeders if we are able to ***

And that we truly are destroyers when we’re challenged

And that we are the preventers whenever and whatever we wish

And that we come and go wherever we like

And that we leave alone when we are enraged

And that we get you when we are pleased!

And that we are the givers of safety when we are obeyed

And that we are determined if we don’t get obeyed

And that we drink clean pure water when we draw it

And those other than us drink it murky and muddy!

Aren’t the children of at-Tammaah informed about us

And allies, (ask them) what they experienced from us

Even if the kingdom poisoned the people

And swallowed it, we’d refuse to give in to the humiliation

We filled the land, until it became too stuffy

And the oceans we filled them with our ships!

When our suckling reaches the age of

a child, the (mighty) oppressors fall in prostration for him!

Don’t for a surety try to challenge us with ignorance

For we’ll react with an ignorance that’s more ignorant than the biggest ignorance!

He further says:

قفي قبل التفرق يا ظعينا … نخبرك اليقين وتخبرينا

قفي نسألك هل أحدثت صرما … لوشك البين أم خنت الأمينا

ويقول زهير بن أبي سلمى مخاطبًا هرم بن سنان والحارث بن عوف :

سألنا فأعطيتم وعُدْنا فعدتمُ … ومن أكثر التَّسْآل يومًا سيحرمِ

Zaheer ibn Abi Salama speaking about Haram ibn Sanaan and Harith ibn Awf:

We asked…

ويقول الحارث بن حلِّزة متغزلًا : –

آذَنتنا ببَيْنِها أسماء … رب ثاوٍ يمل منه الثواء

Harith ibn Halizzah Mutaghazzilan says:

ويقول الجميح: منقذ بن الطماح في زوجته:

أمست أمامة صمتاً ما تكلمنا … مجنونة أم أحست أهل خَرُّوبي

فإن تقري بنا عيناً وتختفضي … فينا وتنتظري كري وتغريبي

Munqadh ibn al-Tamaah said regarding his wife:

Umaamah became silent, did not speak to us… insane or she felt people of Kharroubi.

For surely, the report for kind and takhtafdi… in our wait kari and taghribi[11]

Proofs from the Qur’an that royal plural pronouns refer to one person

The Qur’anic We when used by Allah for Himself, refers only to Himself unless He explicitly states. It does not present any sort of Trinity as seen in the few verses quoted below (out of several):

وَإِن كُنتُمْ فِى رَيْبٍ مِّمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَى عَبْدِنَا

And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad]

Allah and the Messenger (ﷺ) have been explicitly mentioned while We has been used which proves that We does not include the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).[12]

We also does not refer to Allah and the angels as seen below:[13]

وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَـئِكَةِ

And [mention] when We said to the angels [2:34]

We can see that the angels are separate and hence there is no Islamic Trinity of Allah, angels and the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).

Since, We in the Qur’an does not include the angels or humans, the following statement of Khidr (عليه السلام) is conclusive where he refers to himself with the plural pronoun:

فَخَشِينَآ أَن يُرْهِقَهُمَا طُغْيَـناً وَكُفْراً

and we feared that he would overburden them by transgression and disbelief. [18:80]

If Christians start taking We as a deity and then open the Torah to interpret likewise, then they would open up a can of gods[14].

Why did the Prophet () not state that the plural pronouns for Allah are royal instead of more than one beings?

It does not need to be said just like it need not be told that if you stab yourself with a knife, you will bleed. Royal pronouns were a norm as stated earlier. Just like ‘if you drink water, you will quench your thirst’ is not mentioned in such plain words, the concept of royal pronouns has also not been spoken of.

The Qur’an gets the Trinity wrong?

Before we discuss the event stating the response of the Prophet (ﷺ), it is necessary to clarify the allegation that the Qur’an mischaracterized the Trinity by including Mary in it. It is not mischaracterized at all. Firstly, those Christians that had come as part of the delegation from Najran did have this Trinity. Secondly, Christians worship numerous beings. Theoretically, Christians worship God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit but practically, Trinitarian Christians are broadly divided into two groups:

1) God worshippers with occasional worship of Jesus, Mary, Holy Spirit, priests and pastors, statues, and the countless saints

2) Jesus worshippers with occasional worship of God, Mary, Holy Spirit, priests and pastors, statues, and the countless saints

Trinity is a theoretical concept and Christian ground reality is far from Trinity; they worship numerous beings and these are not sectarian categories but individual categories; a father may fall in category 1 while his son may fall under category 2. Furthermore, these categories change from time to time, place to place, and person to person. So theoretical Trinity might have three different beings than the practical one. Furthermore, somewhere between most to all Christians do not give equal worship to the Holy Spirit.[15] The Holy Spirit is somewhat redundant.

Did the Christians of Najran refute the Prophet ()?

Anthony has pulled another fast one on his readers. Perhaps he assumes that they won’t check the sources he quotes and might fall for it. Anthony quotes A Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah (Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 271-274 but works on deceit. He states:

Only later after the Surah of the Family of ‘Imran was sent down (translation: after Muhammad had time to think about it), do we get Muhammad’s actual answer.

He quotes the passage from the book as well; however, the move he played here is that he made it appear that the Christians asked about the plural pronouns and as a direct response, the Qur’anic verses were revealed and that the Prophet (ﷺ) bought time to make up the answer (which he considers no answer at all). However, when one reads the passage in its entirety, the passage and background becomes clear:

When the two divines spoke to him the apostle said to them, ‘Submit yourselves.’ They said, ‘We have submitted.’ He said: ‘You have not submitted, so submit.’ They said, ‘Nay, but we have submitted before you.’ He said, ‘You lie. Your assertion that God has a son, your worship of the cross, and your eating pork hold you back from submission.’ They said, ‘But who is his father, Muhammad?’ The apostle was silent and did not answer them. So God sent down concerning their words and their incoherence the beginning of the sura of the Family of ‘Imran up to more than eighty verses…

This is the preceding passage to the entire event. The Prophet (ﷺ) was silent in response to their question about the father of Eisa (عليه السلام) (Latinized to Jesus). The revelation came instantly. Afterwards, we find that the passage goes as follows:

‘But as to those in whose hearts is a deviation,’ i.e. turning away from true guidance, ‘they follow what is ambiguous[16],’ i.e. what can be otherwise interpreted to substantiate thereby what they have invented and introduced anew that they may have an argument and a plausible reason for their doctrine, ‘desiring fitna,’ i.e. confusion, and ‘desiring an arbitrary interpretation,’ e.g. the error they adopted in explaining ‘We created’ and ‘We decreed’. ‘And none knows its interpretation,’ i.e. what they mean by it, ‘except God; and those grounded in knowledge. They say, We believe in it. Everything comes from our Lord.’ So how can there be any controversy when it is one speech from one Lord?

The passage answers them in clear tone and also provides valuable guidance to the believers.[17] Since the delegation of Najran were Arabs, this line of reasoning coming from them was only a new invention and the basis behind it was/is to create fitna. In other words, their silly line of argument was called out; Allah knows the hearts and their motive was laid out to them.

Reading the whole passage in context, we arrive at the following:

  • Christians of Najran came and argued about God and Trinity
  • Among their arguments was playing around about the royal pronouns
  • They asked about the father of Eisa (عليه السلام)
  • The Prophet (ﷺ) remained silent and revelation was sent to him
  • The revelation was not specifically a response to the royal pronouns
  • When Ibn Ishaq narrates this incident, he also does not put the revealed verses as the direct response to their pronoun trickery and he puts it as an example of ‘desiring fitna,’ i.e. confusion, and ‘desiring an arbitrary interpretation or in modern terms trolling
  • After Ibn Ishaq gives this example, he goes back to narrating the verses[18]
  • Moreover, Ibn Ishaq immediately proceeded the example of the Christian misuse of royal pronouns with these words: And none knows its interpretation,’ i.e. what they mean by it, ‘except God; and those grounded in knowledge. He includes those grounded in knowledge with Allah to know what the royal pronouns mean. In other words, mischief mongers would continue to do what they do best while those who are sincere and knowledgeable know the fact from the twisted interpretation.

Ibn Kathir explains the mutashabihaat (unclear verses) as follows:

Allah said,

﴿فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فى قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ﴾

(So as for those in whose hearts there is a deviation) meaning, those who are misguided and deviate from truth to falsehood,

﴿فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَـبَهَ مِنْهُ﴾

(they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof) meaning, they refer to the Mutashabih, because they are able to alter its meanings to conform with their false interpretation since the wordings of the Mutashabihat encompass such a wide area of meanings. As for the Muhkam Ayat, they cannot be altered because they are clear and, thus, constitute unequivocal proof against the misguided people. This is why Allah said,

﴿ابْتِغَآءَ الْفِتْنَةِ﴾

(seeking Al-Fitnah) meaning, they seek to misguide their following by pretending to prove their innovation by relying on the Qur’an — the Mutashabih of it — but, this is proof against and not for them. For instance, Christians might claim that ﴿`Isa is divine because﴾ the Qur’an states that he is Ruhullah and His Word, which He gave to Mary, all the while ignoring Allah’s statements,

﴿إِنْ هُوَ إِلاَّ عَبْدٌ أَنْعَمْنَا عَلَيْهِ﴾

(He ﴿`Isa﴾ was not more than a servant. We granted Our favor to him.) ﴿43:59﴾, and,

﴿إِنَّ مَثَلَ عِيسَى عِندَ اللَّهِ كَمَثَلِ ءَادَمَ خَلَقَهُ مِن تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ قَالَ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ ﴾

(Verily, the likeness of `Isa before Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then (He) said to him: “Be!” and he was.) ﴿3:59﴾.

There are other Ayat that clearly assert that `Isa is but one of Allah’s creatures and that he is the servant and Messenger of Allah, among other Messengers.

Allah’s statement,

﴿وَابْتِغَآءَ تَأْوِيلِهِ﴾

(And seeking for its Ta’wil,) to alter them as they desire. Imam Ahmad recorded that `A’ishah said, “The Messenger of Allah recited,

﴿هُوَ الَّذِى أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَـبَ مِنْهُ آيَـتٌ مُّحْكَمَـتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَـبِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَـبِهَـتٌ﴾

(It is He Who has sent down to you the Book. In it are verses that are entirely clear, they are the foundations of the Book; and others not entirely clear,), until,

﴿أُوْلُواْ الأَلْبَـبِ﴾

(Men of understanding) and he said,

«فَإِذَا رَأَيْتُمُ الَّذِين يُجَادِلُونَ فِيهِ، فَهُمُ الَّذِينَ عَنَى اللهُ، فَاحْذَرُوهُم»

(When you see those who argue in it (using the Mutashabihat), then they are those whom Allah meant. Therefore, beware of them.)”

Ibn Kathir gave another example than that given by Ibn Ishaq. Ibn Ishaq gave the example of their arguing over royal pronouns as their faulty and misguided interpretation in the context of fitna mongering while Ibn Kathir gave the example of the Christian misuse of the titles ‘Ruhullah’ (Spirit of God) and ‘Kalimatullah’ (Word of God) as their habit of delving into the Mutashabihat.

Furthermore, if the arguers believe that the Prophet (ﷺ) was caught off guard by their question on royal pronouns and the Qur’anic response was a no-response and was intended to brush away the argument, then why did the revealed 80 verses continue to use the royal pronouns?

كَذَّبُواْ بِأَيَـتِنَا

They denied Our signs [3:11]

فَكَيْفَ إِذَا جَمَعْنَـهُمْ

So how will it be when We assemble them [3:25]

ذَلِكَ مِنْ أَنبَآءِ الْغَيْبِ نُوحِيهِ إِلَيْكَ

That is from the news of the unseen which We reveal to you [3:44]

ذَلِكَ نَتْلُوهُ عَلَيْكَ

This is what We recite to you [3:58][19]

More evidence to call out their argumentative approach

We learn from the entire episode of the Christians of Najran that they had reached a point of argument where they did not have further much to say and resorted to silliness and fitna mongering. To end all of this, a challenge had been laid to them:

Then whoever argues with you about it after [this] knowledge has come to you – say, “Come, let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves, then supplicate earnestly [together] and invoke the curse of Allah upon the liars [among us].” [3:61] Read commentary here.

Does God need pronouns to convey His Majesty?

Furthermore, Anthony creates another reason himself as to why royal plurals have been used and then argues against it.

As if that wasn’t enough, the very suggestion that God is referred to in the plural in order to stir up or evoke notions of majesty is more than a little bit like giving up the store. It seems to suggest that a barren oneness doesn’t communicate such a notion, and that verbal expressions that betoken fullness, plentitude, indeed, plurality, are especially appropriate to induce such an idea.

This is a brilliant display of total lack of knowledge of Semitic languages. God does not need to convey His royalty through such words; it is the people who need it. It is not that God’s word or revelation first introduced this royal pronoun concept into languages. The royal pronouns existed before Torah and before the revelation of Qur’an and since He chose to communicate to the people in the language they understand, He chose to convey in those terms as well. For God to be Majestic, He does not have to cry and die; in fact such acts do not befit the Majesty of God and one who experiences crying and death cannot be and is not God.

He goes on to argue…

if Allah’s unity in one sense does not rule out plurality in these other senses, then the principled basis on which many Muslim objections to the doctrine of the Trinity are based – that unity and diversity are contrary or contradictory to one another, that God can’t be one in one sense and more than one in another sense, etc. – falls to the ground.

What is being thrown to the ground is straw man. God cannot be one and more than one in the same sense!

if this is taken as the rationale for God speaking of Himself using plural personal pronouns, or at least if it is taken as the rationale for why there are conventions of speech that associate plurality and majesty in this way

Anthony has again assumed that plural pronouns are purely scriptural. This is not the case. Plural pronouns were common usage in the language and God, in His revelation, chose the words people communicated with, as He was/is communicating to the people through revelation.

To Translate or Not to Translate

Anthony believes that the Muslim admission to not translate Nahnu as We instead of I is something in his favour; however, this stance held by some Muslims makes complete sense. If a certain thing makes sense in one language and not in another[20], how does one go about it? Among the translators there are broadly two views i.e. to keep the translation as it is and explain the concept in footnote and the other view is to change the translation to what makes sense in the translated language. There is nothing to be happy about it as this is not an argument against the plural pronouns used by a single person; the Nahnu is not contradictory to Tawhid (monotheism) in the original language but for an ignoramus English speaker, this may not be the case.

Does the Royal We include more than one being?

The word for a singular We and a plural we in Arabic are one and the same (Nahnu). To say that every instance in the Qur’an where Nahnu has been used is a singular we would be incorrect. Anthony makes the following statement:

In an effort to resolve the problem, some Muslims have alleged that the plural pronouns are used inclusively and refer to Allah and the angel Jibreel or Allah and the angels in general or maybe even Allah, Jibreel and Muhammad.

This is not an entirely accurate understanding of the quotes he shares. What he shares is as follows:

The view of the salaf (early generations) of this ummah and of its imams and later generations is that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) heard the Qur’aan from Jibreel, and Jibreel heard it from Allaah. The use of plural forms in such phrases is the style of Arabic speech used to refer to one who is of high standing and has helpers who obey him. So if his helpers do something by his command, he says, “we did it”. This is like when a king says, “We conquered this land, we defeated this army” and so on. Because he did that through the actions of his helpers. Allaah is the Lord of the angels and they speak not until He has spoken, and they act in accordance with His commands; they do not disobey the commands of Allaah, rather they do what He commands. Moreover He is their Creator and the creator of their deeds and their power. But He has no need of them; He is not like a king whose helpers do things by their own strength. So what He says when He does something through His angels is, “We did it”, this is more appropriate and He is more entitled to say it than some king [Ibn Taymiyyah].

One of the earliest and most authoritative Quranic lexicologists, al-Raghib al-Asfahani (d. 425 A.H.), explained that nahnu (Arabic for we) is normally a pronominal reference that a speaker makes to himself when speaking of himself along with others. When Allah Most High uses nahnu to refer to Himself [sic] the Quran, He may either be using it solely for Himself, or, if the He speaks of an action that He creates at the hands of His angels, for example, He may be referring to the [sic] Himself along with His angels [Hamza Karamali].

No where do we read that the We is always plural. What both of these quotes state is that the We being singular or plural depends on the context. Allah, at times, may be referring to Himself alone and at times, others by His will and due to His command. Anthony goes on in extensive detail to refute the nation that We is always inclusive of the angels which is not what these quotations mean. When the queen says ‘We are not amused’, she may be referring to herself alone or may be including the royalty with her; her statement would not necessarily be taken as the royal pronoun just on its own and the situation, scenario, and the context would need to be considered. Attacking straw man will only lead to such poor arguments and conclusion as done by Anthony. The surprising thing is that he himself acknowledges his straw man attacks when he says that he showed…

some of the problems that exist for saying the plural pronouns used by Allah are, except with certain rare exceptions, used inclusively of Allah and Jibreel and/or Muhammad and/or an angel and/or the angels as a whole.

a handful of “We” passages could be read as a reference to Jibreel (or Michael and/or the other angels)

The conclusion reached at from this lengthy and unnecessary exercise is something Muslims have no problems in agreeing with:

Although there may be a handful of passages that could perhaps be understood to include Muhammad or Jibreel or the angels (in the plural pronoun “We”), this long exercise shows that the explanatory power of the above answers, again, when (and if) they ever apply, which is certainly not that often, is extremely limited; the overwhelming number of instances where Allah says “We”, “Us” or “Our” can refer only to Allah.

Plural is because of Allah’s Names and Attributes

Ibn Taymiyyah states:

“Every time Allaah uses the plural to refer to Himself, it is based on the respect and honour that He deserves, and on the great number of His names and attributes, and on the great number of His troops and angels.”

Anthony reaches a faulty conclusion based on this statement he quotes. He states: ‘it is the only solution offered by Muslims that deals squarely with the fact that the plurals are used literally rather than figuratively and that they refer exclusively to Allah’. He then goes on to refute in detail how this claim is not true and against the Qur’an. This is yet another straw man attack from him. If he had understood the passage he quoted and pondered over it more carefully, he would have saved time and embarrassment.

We have seen above that the royal we was a norm in pre-Islamic times and it is common even now. Who would use such pronouns for himself? People of influence and respect! If a semi-literate person with no special skills, who would otherwise be homeless had he not become a missionary, starts referring himself with us and we, then such a person would not be justified in doing so. God Almighty has respect and honour and He has great number of names and attributes such as The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful, The King of Kings, The Giver of Life and many more and due to the respect He deserves and the honour He has, He refers to Himself with the royal pronouns. One need not look for Allah’s names and attributes in the Ayah (verse) where pronouns are found because the link is not immediate. It is not that such and such an Ayah mentions a Name of Allah, then that Ayah itself should have the royal pronoun rather the reason why Allah uses the royal pronouns is that He is Mighty, Majestic, and worthy of respect. One need not look for these reasons in the Qur’an or Hadith; these reasons are pre-existing from pre-Islamic times as we have seen above.

Why not They and Them if We and Us can be used?

An ill-informed person would have a follow-up query:

if Allah speaks of himself in the plural because of his many names and attributes, then it should also be appropriate for others to refer to Allah with plural pronouns such as “they” and “them”

As mentioned above numerous times, Allah did not introduce the royal pronouns into the Qur’an; they were common usage in pre-Islamic times. If the language of the people involved royal they and them, then it would have probably been used but since Allah chose to communicate to the people in their language, He chose to communicate in their way but in a much higher, eloquent, and perfect manner. Perhaps it is the misconception that the usage of royal pronouns was introduced to Arabic by the Qur’an that has caused such an ill-informed assumption.

Moreover, and more importantly, the lack of usage of they or them is actually an evidence against the plurality of Us and We. If God had been more than one person, then surely third person plural pronouns would have been used for Him. The lack of usage is a refutation to the silly attempts at finding Trinity or Quadrinity or Quintinity and so on in the Torah and the Qur’an.

Absurd philosophical attempt

Anthony comes up with further mental gymnastics to defend the pagan Roman beliefs Trinity. Here is what he says:

Allah is said to be absolutely one, such that he is above all plurality, including a plurality of attributes. His unity is said to be higher than ours; he is said to transcend the kind of unity that applies to creatures. So if Allah is one in the same sense that everything else is one, i.e. one being with many properties or attributes, as this explanation of the pronouns requires, than he is not one and unique in the sense that the Qur’an (in other places) allegedly says that he is.

If one believes that the logical contradiction between saying Allah is absolutely one and that he has many attributes can be resolved, then in principle Muslims cannot object to Trinitarianism for its teaching that God is both one and many, especially since the latter does not assert something so patently irrational. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity does not try to wed the misguided Islamic notion of God as one in every respect with the Biblically revealed truth that God is many in other respects. Christians believe that God is one in certain senses of the term (essence, nature, being, etc.) and many in other respects (attributes, persons, etc.).

It is not even a decent amateur level attempt at philosophy and instead of playing with words, focus should have been on the substance of the argument. Having more than one attribute such as to give life, to be loving, to give death and so on would not be contrary to the Oneness of Allah. A human being may be a friendly person along with being helpful as well; this would not be contrary to the fact that this person is one. The fact that Allah is One with many attributes does not make Him in any way similar to the human beings as the human beings do not have the attribute of infinity. The love of Allah cannot be compared (even though examples can be given to portray the vastness), His blessings and Mercy cannot be compared, and His ability to give life and death cannot be compared in any way to any creature; similarly, all His attributes cannot be compared in any way. These are unique attributes belonging to Allah alone.

The Christian attempt at linking the Oneness of Allah with many attributes to the Trinity is purely absurd. God being one and many in the same sense is a logical contradiction and is irrational. If you believe that God is one in essence but many in persons, then believe it or not, you are a polytheist.[21]

Sometimes plural pronouns are used by Allah and at other times, singular. Why is this so and is there any defined pattern or reasoning behind it?

There are patterns behind the singular and plural usage of pronouns for a single person:

  1. In cases of extreme love or extreme anger, the usage is always I (Ana – أنا)
  1. When slave talks to Allah, he is given the opportunity to say You (Anta – أنت)
  1. When Allah is formal and/or He is distancing Himself from some persons, acts or others, then He uses He (Hua – هو) for Himself
  1. When Allah grants a gift, blessing, or reward such as the Qur’an, rain and so on, He uses We for sending down (Anzalna – أنزلنا)
  1. All other usage of the pronouns that do not fall in any other category are categorized by We. This usage of We may be His Majesty in general or it may be a reminder of the law previously explained under He (Hua – هو)
  1. Whenever Nahnu (We) is used, the Ayah before or after it speaks of Tawhid (monotheism)

We[22] shall discuss these patterns in more detail below:

  1. In cases of extreme love or extreme anger, the usage is always I (Ana – أنا)

All the examples are from Surah Al-Maida (chapter five); Arabic text not quoted.

This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion. But whoever is forced by severe hunger with no inclination to sin – then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

How do we know that these verses speak of love or anger? The context makes it explicit. When Allah states that He has completed His favour, one might wonder whether it is a formal speech or royal; however, Allah eases a condition of eating the unlawful in extreme case as per His Love and Mercy and He ends the statement with mentioning that He is Forgiving and Merciful.

I am with you. If you establish prayer and give zakah and believe in My messengers and support them and loan Allah a goodly loan, I will surely remove from you your misdeeds and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow.

“O Jesus, Son of Mary, remember My favor upon you and upon your mother when I supported you with the Pure Spirit and you spoke to the people in the cradle and in maturity; and [remember] when I taught you writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel; and when you designed from clay [what was] like the form of a bird with My permission, then you breathed into it, and it became a bird with My permission; and you healed the blind and the leper with My permission; and when you brought forth the dead with My permission; and when I restrained the Children of Israel from [killing] you when you came to them with clear proofs and those who disbelieved among them said, “This is not but obvious magic.”

And [remember] when I inspired to the disciples, “Believe in Me and in My messenger Jesus.”

“Indeed, I will sent it down to you, but whoever disbelieves afterwards from among you – then indeed will I punish him with a punishment by which I have not punished anyone among the worlds.”

  1. When slave talks to Allah, he is given the opportunity to say You (Anta – أنت)

All the examples are from Surah Al-i-Imran (chapter three); Arabic text not quoted.

[Who say], “Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower.

Our Lord, surely You will gather the people for a Day about which there is no doubt. Indeed, Allah does not fail in His promise.”

Say, “O Allah, Owner of Sovereignty, You give sovereignty to whom You will and You take sovereignty away from whom You will. You honor whom You will and You humble whom You will. In Your hand is [all] good. Indeed, You are over all things competent.

You cause the night to enter the day, and You cause the day to enter the night; and You bring the living out of the dead, and You bring the dead out of the living. And You give provision to whom You will without account.”

[Mention, O Muhammad], when the wife of ‘Imran said, “My Lord, indeed I have pledged to You what is in my womb, consecrated [for Your service], so accept this from me. Indeed, You are the Hearing, the Knowing.”

But when she delivered her, she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, “And the male is not like the female. And I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of Allah].”

At that, Zechariah called upon his Lord, saying, “My Lord, grant me from Yourself a good offspring. Indeed, You are the Hearer of supplication.”

Our Lord, we have believed in what You revealed and have followed the messenger [Jesus], so register us among the witnesses [to truth].”

Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire.

Our Lord, indeed whoever You admit to the Fire – You have disgraced him, and for the wrongdoers there are no helpers.

Our Lord, and grant us what You promised us through Your messengers and do not disgrace us

These are self-explanatory. When slave talks to Allah, he is given the opportunity to say You.

  1. When Allah is formal and/or He is distancing Himself from some persons, acts or others, then He uses He (Hua – هو) for Himself

All the examples are from Surah al-Baqarah (chapter two); Arabic text not quoted. We observe that in these verses Allah is being formal and as we say ‘straight to the business’. He refers to the matters of guidance, instructions, orders, teachings, actions, and the law and its clarification, and these matters are serious matters for the mankind and in all these instances, the words He or His are used.

The lightning almost snatches away their sight. Every time it lights [the way] for them, they walk therein; but when darkness comes over them, they stand [still]. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken away their hearing and their sight. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.

Indeed, Allah is not timid to present an example – that of a mosquito or what is smaller than it. And those who have believed know that it is the truth from their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, they say, “What did Allah intend by this as an example?” He misleads many thereby and guides many thereby. And He misleads not except the defiantly disobedient,

How can you disbelieve in Allah when you were lifeless and He brought you to life; then He will cause you to die, then He will bring you [back] to life, and then to Him you will be returned.

It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth. Then He directed Himself to the heaven, [His being above all creation], and made them seven heavens, and He is Knowing of all things.

And He taught Adam the names – all of them. Then He showed them to the angels and said, “Inform Me of the names of these, if you are truthful.”

He said, “O Adam, inform them of their names.” And when he had informed them of their names, He said, “Did I not tell you that I know the unseen [aspects] of the heavens and the earth? And I know what you reveal and what you have concealed.”

Then Adam received from his Lord [some] words, and He accepted his repentance. Indeed, it is He who is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.

And [recall] when Moses said to his people, “O my people, indeed you have wronged yourselves by your taking of the calf [for worship]. So repent to your Creator and kill yourselves. That is best for [all of] you in the sight of your Creator.” Then He accepted your repentance; indeed, He is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.

They said, “Call upon your Lord to show us what is her color.” He said, “He says, ‘It is a yellow cow, bright in color – pleasing to the observers.’ “

He said, “He says, ‘It is a cow neither trained to plow the earth nor to irrigate the field, one free from fault with no spot upon her.’ “They said, “Now you have come with the truth.” So they slaughtered her, but they could hardly do it.

So, We said, “Strike the slain man with part of it.” Thus does Allah bring the dead to life, and He shows you His signs that you might reason.

How wretched is that for which they sold themselves – that they would disbelieve in what Allah has revealed through [their] outrage that Allah would send down His favor upon whom He wills from among His servants. So they returned having [earned] wrath upon wrath. And for the disbelievers is a humiliating punishment.

Neither those who disbelieve from the People of the Scripture nor the polytheists wish that any good should be sent down to you from your Lord. But Allah selects for His mercy whom He wills, and Allah is the possessor of great bounty.

Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, “Be,” and it is.

So if they believe in the same as you believe in, then they have been [rightly] guided; but if they turn away, they are only in dissension, and Allah will be sufficient for you against them. And He is the Hearing, the Knowing.

He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

Indeed, they who conceal what Allah has sent down of the Book and exchange it for a small price – those consume not into their bellies except the Fire. And Allah will not speak to them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them. And they will have a painful punishment.

The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.

It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them. Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He accepted your repentance and forgave you. So now, have relations with them and seek that which Allah has decreed for you. And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night]. Then complete the fast until the sunset. And do not have relations with them as long as you are staying for worship in the mosques. These are the limits [set by] Allah, so do not approach them. Thus does Allah make clear His ordinances to the people that they may become righteous.

There is no blame upon you for seeking bounty from your Lord [during hajj]. But when you depart from ‘Arafat, remember Allah at al- Mash‘ar al-Haram. And remember Him, as He has guided you, for indeed, you were before that among those astray.

Beautified for those who disbelieve is the life of this world, and they ridicule those who believe. But those who fear Allah are above them on the Day of Resurrection. And Allah gives provision to whom He wills without account.

Mankind was [of] one religion [before their deviation]; then Allah sent the prophets as bringers of good tidings and warners and sent down with them the Scripture in truth to judge between the people concerning that in which they differed. And none differed over the Scripture except those who were given it – after the clear proofs came to them – out of jealous animosity among themselves. And Allah guided those who believed to the truth concerning that over which they had differed, by His permission. And Allah guides whom He wills to a straight path.

To this world and the Hereafter. And they ask you about orphans. Say, “Improvement for them is best. And if you mix your affairs with theirs – they are your brothers. And Allah knows the corrupter from the amender. And if Allah had willed, He could have put you in difficulty. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.

And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe. And a believing slave woman is better than a polytheist, even though she might please you. And do not marry polytheistic men [to your women] until they believe. And a believing slave is better than a polytheist, even though he might please you. Those invite [you] to the Fire, but Allah invites to Paradise and to forgiveness, by His permission. And He makes clear His verses to the people that perhaps they may remember.

Allah does not impose blame upon you for what is unintentional in your oaths, but He imposes blame upon you for what your hearts have earned. And Allah is Forgiving and Forbearing.

And if he has divorced her [for the third time], then she is not lawful to him afterward until [after] she marries a husband other than him. And if the latter husband divorces her [or dies], there is no blame upon the woman and her former husband for returning to each other if they think that they can keep [within] the limits of Allah. These are the limits of Allah, which He makes clear to a people who know.

And when you divorce women and they have [nearly] fulfilled their term, either retain them according to acceptable terms or release them according to acceptable terms, and do not keep them, intending harm, to transgress [against them]. And whoever does that has certainly wronged himself. And do not take the verses of Allah in jest. And remember the favor of Allah upon you and what has been revealed to you of the Book and wisdom by which He instructs you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is Knowing of all things.

And if you fear [an enemy, then pray] on foot or riding. But when you are secure, then remember Allah [in prayer], as He has taught you that which you did not [previously] know.

Have you not considered those who left their homes in many thousands, fearing death? Allah said to them, “Die”; then He restored them to life. And Allah is full of bounty to the people, but most of the people do not show gratitude.

Who is it that would loan Allah a goodly loan so He may multiply it for him many times over? And it is Allah who withholds and grants abundance, and to Him you will be returned.

So they defeated them by permission of Allah, and David killed Goliath, and Allah gave him the kingship and prophethood and taught him from that which He willed. And if it were not for Allah checking [some] people by means of others, the earth would have been corrupted, but Allah is full of bounty to the worlds.

Those messengers – some of them We caused to exceed others. Among them were those to whom Allah spoke, and He raised some of them in degree. And We gave Jesus, the Son of Mary, clear proofs, and We supported him with the Pure Spirit. If Allah had willed, those [generations] succeeding them would not have fought each other after the clear proofs had come to them. But they differed, and some of them believed and some of them disbelieved. And if Allah had willed, they would not have fought each other, but Allah does what He intends.

Allah – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Kursī extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.

Allah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into the light. And those who disbelieve – their allies are taghūt. They take them out of the light into darknesses. Those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein.

Or [consider such an example] as the one who passed by a township which had fallen into ruin. He said, “How will Allah bring this to life after its death?” So Allah caused him to die for a hundred years; then He revived him. He said, “How long have you remained?” The man said, “I have remained a day or part of a day.” He said, “Rather, you have remained one hundred years. Look at your food and your drink; it has not changed with time. And look at your donkey; and We will make you a sign for the people. And look at the bones [of this donkey] – how We raise them and then We cover them with flesh.” And when it became clear to him, he said, “I know that Allah is over all things competent.”

The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.

He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding.

If you disclose your charitable expenditures, they are good; but if you conceal them and give them to the poor, it is better for you, and He will remove from you some of your misdeeds [thereby]. And Allah, with what you do, is [fully] Acquainted.

Not upon you, [O Muhammad], is [responsibility for] their guidance, but Allah guides whom He wills. And whatever good you [believers] spend is for yourselves, and you do not spend except seeking the countenance of Allah. And whatever you spend of good – it will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged.

To Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. Whether you show what is within yourselves or conceal it, Allah will bring you to account for it. Then He will forgive whom He wills and punish whom He wills, and Allah is over all things competent.

In all these verses, we see that Allah is distancing Himself from those who disbelieve in Him. Now, there may be occasions where some rules may overlap. Allah may be angry and formal at the same time, or He may be distancing Himself from some persons, or acts, and giving a reminder at the same time. In such instances, Allah uses the pronoun as He deems best and according to our observations, these are based on the context of the passage and what has been emphasised in this particular instance.

  1. When Allah grants a gift, blessing, sign, punishment, or reward such as the Qur’an, rain, torment, and so on, He uses We for sending down (Anzalna – أنزلنا)

But those who wronged changed [those words] to a statement other than that which had been said to them, so We sent down upon those who wronged a punishment from the sky because they were defiantly disobeying. 2:59

Indeed, those who conceal what We sent down of clear proofs and guidance after We made it clear for the people in the Scripture – those are cursed by Allah and cursed by those who curse, 2:159

Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was guidance and light. The prophets who submitted [to Allah] judged by it for the Jews, as did the rabbis and scholars by that with which they were entrusted of the Scripture of Allah, and they were witnesses thereto. So do not fear the people but fear Me, and do not exchange My verses for a small price. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the disbelievers. 5:44

And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous. 5:46

Have they not seen how many generations We destroyed before them which We had established upon the earth as We have not established you? And We sent [rain from] the sky upon them in showers and made rivers flow beneath them; then We destroyed them for their sins and brought forth after them a generation of others. 6:6

And We sent to no city a prophet [who was denied] except that We seized its people with poverty and hardship that they might humble themselves [to Allah]. 7:94

Then We sent after them Moses with Our signs to Pharaoh and his establishment, but they were unjust toward them. So see how was the end of the corrupters. 7:103

So We sent upon them the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood as distinct signs, but they were arrogant and were a criminal people. 7:133

But those who wronged among them changed [the words] to a statement other than that which had been said to them. So We sent upon them a punishment from the sky for the wrong that they were doing. 7:162

And know that anything you obtain of war booty – then indeed, for Allah is one fifth of it and for the Messenger and for [his] near relatives and the orphans, the needy, and the [stranded] traveler, if you have believed in Allah and in that which We sent down to Our Servant on the day of criterion – the day when the two armies met. And Allah, over all things, is competent. 8:41

Then We sent after him messengers to their peoples, and they came to them with clear proofs. But they were not to believe in that which they had denied before. Thus We seal over the hearts of the transgressors. 10:74

Then We sent after them Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh and his establishment with Our signs, but they behaved arrogantly and were a criminal people. 10:75

There are several more verses such as 12:109, 13:30, 16:43, 17:5, 17:15, 19:17, 20:80, 21:7, 21:25, 22:16, 23:32, 23:44-45, 29:40, 30:35, 31:10, 33:9, 34:16, 36:14, 37:147, 39:41, 40:70, 41:16, 43:6, 43:45, 44:3, 51:38, 51:41, 54:19, 54:31, 54:34, 57:25, 57:27, 71:1, 73:15, and 97:1.

Is this really a rule? Are there exceptions to it?

This is a rule and there are no exceptions to it. In cases where we find He sent instead of We sent, we notice that the context demands it:

Certainly did Allah confer [great] favor upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom, although they had been before in manifest error. 3:164

Certainly was Allah pleased with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you, [O Muhammad], under the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down tranquility upon them and rewarded them with an imminent conquest 48:18

When Allah refers to the believers in third person instead of second, He refers to Himself in the third person as well. Qur’an 105:3 is normally translated as He sent against them; however, the Arabic does not contain these words He sent and in order to convey clarity of language, such words have been chosen. More appropriate translation should be: Were not birds in flocks sent against them?

Now there may be occasions where He and We may overlap. If He is used for formal business and We is used for sending down, what would occur if it is both formal and sending down? In this case, formal structure takes precedence as we see in this verse:

O you who have believed, believe in Allah and His Messenger and the Book that He sent down upon His Messenger and the Scripture which He sent down before. And whoever disbelieves in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day has certainly gone far astray. 4:136

An interesting pattern here is that when the sentence starts with ‘O you who have believed’ (believers being in second person), Allah uses He (third person). He starts with directly speaking to the people in second person and then changes His pronoun to third person. This pattern is beautifully linked to the following verse in an inverse way:

O you who have believed, remember the favor of Allah upon you when armies came to [attack] you and We sent upon them a wind and armies [of angels] you did not see. And ever is Allah, of what you do, Seeing. 33:9

This sentence also starts with ‘O you who have believed’ (second person) but in this case, a third party enters i.e. the armies that came to attack, Allah uses the first person pronoun for Himself. In other words, when the ones being spoken to i.e. ‘O you who have believed’ are in second person, Allah switches His pronoun to third person and when a third person enters the description, He switches to first person so that no two beings retain the same pronoun. There is none like unto Him (112:4).[23]

  1. All other usage of the pronouns that do not fall in any other category are categorized by We. This usage of We may be His Majesty in general or it may be a reminder of the law previously explained under He (Hua – هو)

We see that there are more than one pattern of the usage of We; one we discussed above regarding sending down and the others we discuss here.

But repentance is not [accepted] of those who [continue to] do evil deeds up until, when death comes to one of them, he says, “Indeed, I have repented now,” or of those who die while they are disbelievers. For them We have prepared a painful punishment. 4:18

This verses does not use He for the punishment because it is not sent down; rather it is prepared. These people kept rejecting the signs and warnings, and continued to disbelieve. Therefore, their repentance is rejected when it is too late and a reminder has been given to them that Allah has prepared a painful punishment and for this reminder, He uses We.

O you who have believed, do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly but only [in lawful] business by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful. 4:29

Here, instruction has been given and now when the reminder would come of the punishment, Allah uses We:

And whoever does that in aggression and injustice – then We will drive him into a Fire. And that, for Allah, is [always] easy. 4:30

  1. Whenever Nahnu (We) is used, the Ayah before or after it speaks of Tawhid (monotheism)

In 4:31 and 4:33, Allah uses We and we see in 4:32 that Allah says: And ask Allah of His bounty. He uses singular pronoun and no one can argue that the We in the previous and following verses is plural and refers to more than one being. 4:37 uses the We pronouns and in 4:36 we see that Allah states: Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him. 4:41 again uses the We pronoun and in 4:40, we see that Allah states: He multiplies it and gives from Himself a great reward. If two continuous verses use the We pronouns for Allah, then preceding or proceeding verse makes it very clear that Allah is One; therefore, understand that occurrence of We in light of monotheism.

These rules only testify to the divinity of the Qur’an; it is not the work of man and is from none other than Almighty Allah.

Conclusion

  • Plural pronouns to refer to a single person were common in Hebrew and other languages as well including Arabic.
  • The Qur’an did not introduce the royal plural concept and it was common among Arabs in pre-Islamic times.
  • Other cultures and languages in the past, and even today, use plural pronouns for singular persons as a language denoting respect and status
  • There is no Trinity either in the Torah or the Qur’an
  • If one finds problems with royal pronouns and finds them polytheistic, then why stop and limit yourself at three gods?
  • Royal pronouns are actually an evidence against Trinity and other forms of polytheism, paganism, and idol worship
  • The heavy influence of Greek and Roman mythology leads of pagan beliefs and with heavy influence of Greek philosophy, the more complicated you make something, the more intelligent you think you appear even though what you may be saying is pure gibberish. Once the surface is scratched below the semantics, the shell is hallow.
  • The rules applied by the Qur’an further assert the monotheism It propagates and points to its divine nature.

Indeed, Allah knows the best.

References and Footnotes:

[1] Plural Majesty [1][2][3][4][5][6]

[2] The Trinity Delusion, Comma Johanneum, Bible interpolation

[3] Jesus says that he and God are One and in another place he says to his disciples that he and all of them are one (John 17:11); so we have thirteenity/fourteenity?

[4] Anthony tries to pull a sneaky fast one on the readers. He states some modern writers can be cited in favour of the existence of a royal figure of speech during the period of Biblical composition but on the other hand states that more careful scholarship can be cited saying otherwise. Notice how he calls the scholars of his opposing views as some (few) and even calls them writers instead of scholars; he does that more than once. Isn’t that clever? Those who propose polytheism i.e. Trinity are ‘more careful scholarship’.

All New Testament scholars agree that the New Testament errs in history and other facts and that it is an unreliable, corrupt book and they look for history in it through critical analysis and piecing puzzles together but you will still find overzealous fanatic Christians (oops, I mean more careful scholarship) trying to claim otherwise.

One careful scholarship cited is the passionate Christian Oswald T. Allis, who… could at once rule out a polytheistic understanding of the Hebrew word Elohim (Heb., God), on the grounds that it is a plural of majesty, and then go on to explain the Lord’s use of plural pronouns thusly: “It is best to regard this as the language of soliloquy, God talking with Himself, and as involving in germ the doctrine of the Trinity. This writer and those who ascribe to his views would land in deep trouble if they remain upon this view. Exodus 7:1 states that Moses had been sent as Elohim to Pharaoh and Aaron his prophet. Since, Aaron has been mentioned as ‘his prophet’, Christians cannot come up with a new Trinity (Mosesinity!) of Father, Moses and the Holy Brother. More here.

[5] What is the meaning of God said: “Let us make man in our image . . .? and Did Someone Find the Doctrine of the Trinity In the First Chapter of the Bible? To Whom Was God Speaking When He Said, “Let Us Make Man in Our Image?

[6] Anthony ends his series with these words:

My thanks to … for reading this series and offering much in the way of constructive criticism (only some of which I followed, leaving me solely responsible for any possible mistakes that may remain).

[7] Have Christians Discovered the Doctrine of the Trinity in the Shema prayer?

[8] Statements with such messages in the Torah are numerous: Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One [Deuteronomy 6:4]. One need not go deep into Torah; even a quick glimpse at the 10 commandments give us the same message.

[9] By the way, why limit to three, why not add a fourth one Melchizedek who would have all the qualities needed to form a part of the Quadrinity?

[10] Abbreviated (and translated) from the book: Fabrications of missionaries regarding the Qur’an, Dr. Ali bin Atiq Al Harbi – original book is in Arabic.

[11] Al-Mufaddil ibn Muhammad al-Dabi: ‘Al-mufaddiliyaat’, research and commentary Ahmad Muhammad Shakir, Abdul Salam Haroon, volume 7, Dar al-Ma’arif Egypt, p. 34, 35

[12] A few others verses one could look at are 2:119, 143-144, 151, 252, 3:44, 4:64, 79-80, 91, 105, 115, 163-164, 5:15, 19, 92, 6:7-9, 42, 107, 112, 7:4-7, 94, 15:9-10, and 45:6 among others.

[13] A few other verses one could look at are 6:7-9, 61, 111, 7:11, 37, 15:8-9, 19:16-21, and 96:17 among others.

[14] Shabbir Ally’s spanking and wiping the floor with Nabeel

[15] I personally have yet to see a Christian that says ‘O Holy Spirit Help’ whereas I have seen Christians calling out God and Jesus directly. So practically, for them, Trinity has narrowed down to Duality. If they narrow further down, they might eventually arrive at Monotheism. May God guide them to that.

[16] It is asked: Since the Qur’an does not tell us which verses are unclear, how do Muslims know certain verses are unclear before they even try to understand them? This link should clarify the misconception.

[17] In today’s terms we may say ‘Don’t feed the troll’. Arguing just for the sake of argument from the opponent should be identified, called out to him/her so he/she may refrain and if he/she persists, then one should avoid further arguments with such persons.

[18] In a daily life example we can put it this way:

I woke up at 5 AM, had breakfast, went out for a long walk. Walking is good for your health and I do that every day. Then I returned home, changed and left for work.

In this example, we see a sequence of events and when a certain event came up i.e. walking, a pause was taken to explain the benefits of walking; the scenario then went back to the sequence of events. Similarly, Ibn Ishaq narrates the verses and as an example of their fitna mongering, he quotes the royal pronoun as an example and then goes back to quote the revealed verses.

[19] Anthony proves again his improper research. He says: in all eighty plus verses only two instances of the use of the plural can be found.

[20] Even though there are cases of royal plurals for a single person in the English language, some English speakers display zero to very little knowledge about it and when explained to them, are still unable to grasp it fully. As the wise saying goes ‘think before you speak’.

[21] The following is argued:

Here we see Allah, who is supposedly the speaker, refer to Allah in the third person – i.e. “thy Lord”, “He” – and Allah even goes on to quote Allah who also refers to Allah in the third person. Allah says: “He will say: ‘The Fire be your dwelling-place: you will dwell therein for ever, except as Allah willeth.’” Since Allah says that Allah will tell some people to dwell in the fire forever, except as Allah wills, how many Allahs are in view here?

It is better to gain some knowledge before coming out with childish questions. Read here for details.

[22] I am one person, by the way 🙂

[23] Have you not considered that Allah knows what is in the heavens and what is on the earth? There is in no private conversation of three but that He is the fourth of them, nor are there five but that He is the sixth of them – and no less than that and no more except that He is with them [in knowledge] wherever they are. Then He will inform them of what they did, on the Day of Resurrection. Indeed Allah is, of all things, Knowing. 58:7

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2 thoughts on “Plural pronouns in the Qur’an

  1. Pingback: ‘The People vs Muhammad – Psychological Analysis’ Refuted | Qur'anic misconceptions addressed

  2. Pingback: ‘The People vs Muhammad – Psychological Analysis’ Refuted | Calling Christians

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