“Say: She is Allah, She is One, She is Eternal
She begets not nor is She begotten
And there is none equal unto Her.”
–The The Holy Quran: Surah Ikhlas (Absoluteness), 112
The above verse defines the Omnipotence of God in Islam.
Emphasizing, as per its title the concept of Absoluteness, the verse lays the framework for “Tawhid” or the Oneness of Allah.
It is that Oneness that gives Allah power. It is that Oneness that connects us as a single humanity. It is that Oneness that serves as a reminder that – before God – every individual is simply a speck in a vast and humbling universe.
It puts the enormity of our problems into perspective. It makes us check our ego at the door.
It serves as a reminder that we humans are not that different from one another, having all originated from One God, who resides inside each of us, while remaining in existence far beyond our wildest imagination.
Traditionally acknowledged by all Islamic schools of thought as being beyond gender, Allah is regarded as encompassing both masculine and feminine characteristics.
Nonetheless, in contradiction of this concept, the vast majority of Muslims now refer to Allah by the masculine pronoun of “He” without reservation and in the Quran the pronoun “She” is never mentioned. Surah Ikhlas is no different.
By altering tradition – and amending the translation from the (now) traditional “He” to “She” – does the collective consciousness of the Ummah shift?
Do we authentically reclaim The Divine Feminine inside Allah that was acknowledged 1400 years ago?
Do we eliminate the neo-patriarchal paradigm that infects the Islam of our “modern” era?
In practice, today calling Allah “She” is considered a subversive and radical act, leaving the most privileged adherents of our faith gasping for breath and madly in search of a patriarchal leg to stand on.
I witnessed the phenomenon unfold for the first time at an interfaith gathering on Feminism and Faith. After I suggested we Muslims may refer to Allah as “She” I heard a frightened, young Muslim man yell, “No!” – interrupting my talk.
It was not a surprise. Before I had begun, he had questioned my legitimacy in speaking at all. Why not? I am a woman and we are normally silenced in patriarchal religious systems most often by the questioning of our credentials, which are only available to men in the first place.
Now he said – “We must not change the words of the Holy Book! You are changing the Arabic. Do you even know Arabic sister?!"
An elderly woman, a Christian, defended me, "if she wants to call Aaa-llah ‘She’ – you let her and keep quiet!"
He turned to the other Arab-speaking Muslim in the room, a young PhD student who, unbeknownst to him, had acted as volunteer imam to lead one of our inclusive, lgbtq-affirming, mixed gender prayers. "Z. – you know Arabic – tell her."
The young female imam turned around to face him. Her white hijab encapsulated every strand of her long wavy hair and she said, "I know Arabic and she can call Allah ‘She’".
Outnumbered by female dissenters, he retreated. We were not at the traditional mosque but at a party space in a pub in downtown Ottawa.
An older man spoke up. “Well in Hinduism there are many goddesses. Everyone knows they are female. And they scare the crap out of everyone equally. This is not a problem.” Everyone laughed.
While the young Muslim man that day was correct when he said that the Quran exclusively contains the pronoun “He” in referring to Allah, it is also held by some Islamic scholars that this was not the case originally.
Fortunately, what the Quran has not lost in HIStory is the key to an all-gendered Allah, which lies in Her/His 99 names. These names, in the original Arabic, vary by gender.
Most significant in this regard is Allah as Al Dhaat, or The Essence. The Essence composes Allah. And The Essence is Feminine.
And this is not a new notion. In fact, it was the great 12th century Islamic philosopher, Ibn al- ‘Arabi, who said, “I sometimes employ the feminine pronoun in addressing Allah, keeping in view The Essence, Al Dhaat.”
Also important are the two most highly prominent names of the 99 names of Allah. They are Al Rahman and Al Raheem and they refer to God as The Merciful and The Compassionate.
They are mentioned often – at the start of virtually each Surah or chapter of the Quran. They are also recited at the commencement of every daily prayer.
Where, when, and the frequency at which they arise shows evidence of the preamble we must follow in interpreting the scripture and perhaps the qualities we must remember when we think of God. The qualities – Mercy and Compassion – form the lens from which the rest of the scripture must be read and our intentions must be formed. They are the conscience of the Quran and inhabit the mosques that reside in all of our hearts.
And the repeated remembrance that Allah is The Merciful and The Compassionate leaves us to self-reflect as an Ummah on the most critical question of our era: Does The Merciful and The Compassionate, Allah, actually order the prescriptions for humanity that the cruel clerics of our day now demand?
Groundbreaking is that Al Rahman and Al Raheem directly emanate from The Divine Feminine.
Because, it is from the root of these words, Al Rahman and Al Rahim, that we discover a direct correlation to The Divine Feminine specifically from the word, "rhm" which means the “womb.”
The connection correlates what is uniquely feminine – the womb – to The Divine Feminine.
It follows that the conscience of the Quran, Mercy and Compassion, illustrate Allah as The Divine Mother.
The imagery is profound considering that returning to the womb is humanity’s most common dream.
It is from inside Allah The Goddess – Al-Dhaat, Al Rahman, Al Raheem – that The Patriarchal Allah of the clerics (who supposedly demand blood atonement and war) are relegated to myth.
Allah, The Divine Mother, bears the universe and all of humanity. Her most profound role reminds us of Her ultimate safety and unconditional, infinite love.
After all, no Muslim forgets the sanctity that embodies the verse of the Quran we turn to traditionally during trials and tribulation: “from Allah we come, to Allah we return.”
What do we need more in our era?
From Her we come. To Her we return. Inshallah.
by Shahla Khan Salter. An excerpt from the upcoming Girl God Anthology, Jesus, Mohammad and the Goddess.
Shahla Khan Salter is Director of the Canadian non profit, Universalist Muslims, www.universalistmuslims.org, an ngo dedicated to spreading harmony through interfaith and intrafaith community service, advocating for universal human rights inside and outside the mosque and spreading awareness of understandings of Islam and Muslims that are inclusive, LGBTQ affirming and uphold the self determination of all genders. She is also a lawyer and mom of three children and resides in Ottawa, Canada.