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There are some verses in Qur'an which refer to God as a plural entity, like:

وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ وَنَعْلَمُ مَا تُوَسْوِسُ بِهِ نَفْسُهُ ۖ وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِيدِ

And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein (Surat Qāf 50:16)

What is the reason for using plural instead of singular pronoun here?

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7 Answers 7

It is a feature of literary style in Arabic that a person may refer to himself by the pronoun nahnu (we) for respect or glorification. He may also use the word ana (I), indicating one person, or the third person huwa (he). All three styles are used in the Qur’an, where Allaah addresses the Arabs in their own tongue. (Source: Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 4/143)

Extra Information:

Allah = Has no gender (not male and not female)

  • " He " is used only out of respect and dignity - not for gender

Allah = Always singular - Never plural

  • " We " is used only as the " Royal WE " just as in English for royalty

Allah = Means "The Only One to be Worshipped"

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+1 Good answers, BTW, Some Arabs use the plural form of words when they talk to their parents sometimes. –  user37 Jun 28 '12 at 11:17
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FYI, there's one scholar (I forget who) who says that the usage of "We" always indicates something that Allah almighty does and angels can also help with. –  ashes999 Jun 28 '12 at 16:44
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@ashes999 angels can also help? help with what?! –  Meysam Nov 29 '12 at 6:20

In Arabic and some other languages, sometimes plural is preferred to singular. Normally when the speaker wants to show the magnificence of the act being done or the subject itself, she/he uses plural.

For instance:

Surah Al-Fath: Lo! We have given thee (O Muhammad) a signal victory, (1)

Plural is used referring to a big victory given by God. So it's either:

  • Referring to the magnificence of Allah Himself,
  • Or the act done by Him.

That's what we sometimes do in our daily conversations too, so it's understandable for us.

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It is about Oneness of Being. Oneness of Being doctrine states that there is none, but Haqq (The Truth) itself and all names/attributes/creations are just different manifestations of the same BEING.

"We" is used in Quran mainly to emphasize two things: 1) that although a creation may be perceived, the doer is Allah, 2) that the action contains zawk and thus points both to the creation and The Creator.

"We" is unfolded in the verse below:

And you did not kill them, but it was Allah who killed them. And you threw not, [O Muhammad], when you threw, but it was Allah who threw that.

(8:17)

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Not a bad start, needs proofs. –  ashes999 Jun 28 '12 at 18:46

according to shia Islam God does not always do works himself directly and do them using angels and also prophet and Ahl Bayt as servants and intermediates between God and Nature. but this does not mean they have any independent power or decision. but this will of God that some works be done using "tools".

for example about collecting the soul ( توفي) at death there are 3 different verses:

one verse says angels take the soul at death.

another verse says the angel of death takes the soul at death.

another verse says Allah himself directly takes the soul at death.

فَكَيْفَ إِذَا تَوَفَّتْهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ يَضْرِبُونَ وُجُوهَهُمْ وَأَدْبَارَهُمْ

[47:27] Then how [will it be] when the angels take them in death, striking their faces and their backs?

اللَّـهُ يَتَوَفَّى الْأَنفُسَ حِينَ مَوْتِهَا وَالَّتِي لَمْ تَمُتْ فِي مَنَامِهَا ۖ فَيُمْسِكُ الَّتِي قَضَىٰ عَلَيْهَا الْمَوْتَ وَيُرْسِلُ الْأُخْرَىٰ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

[39:42] Allah takes the souls at the time of their death, and those that do not die [He takes] during their sleep. Then He keeps those for which He has decreed death and releases the others for a specified term. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.

قُلْ يَتَوَفَّاكُم مَّلَكُ الْمَوْتِ الَّذِي وُكِّلَ بِكُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمْ تُرْجَعُونَ

[32:11] Say, "The angel of death will take you who has been entrusted with you. Then to your Lord you will be returned."

but which are true? finally who takes the soul?

to solve the problem it depends on the tank of one who dies. because death is in fact enter in th another universe (Barzakh) it is like when some one enters a new country. if this one is a usual person so the employees check his visa and he enter. if he is an important person may the foreign affairs minister welcome him and if this person is VIP like a president the president of new country directly welcomes him.

similarly if the Muslim is a high rank beliver God himself directly takes his soul and if lowe rank the angel of death who is boss of many other angels take his soul and if it is a normal person normal angels take his soul.

according to shia Islam Ahl Bayt (including prophet) are intermediates for delivering mercy of God to human and Nature and they have also control over the nature by will of God and if they want they can do miracle by controlling Nature.

but consider all of such powers is granted to them by will of God.

for another example Quran says:

ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا حِسَابَهُم

Then indeed, upon Us is their account. [88:26]

this verse is about Judgement at Judgement day. who are "We"?

there is a Ziarat said by Ahl Bayt to Muslims to recite it when ever they want to meet prophet and Ahl Bayt either at their graves or at any place reminding meeting their soul to achieve very high reward by God and acceptance of prayers and asking (dua) from God. becaue this Ziarat is said by Ahl Bayt is considered same as Hadith and is considered to be truth because it is derived from divine knowledge of Ahl Bayt. in this Ziarat some of the works that God has decided to be done by prophet and Ahl Bayt are mentioned and one of them is Judging Muslims at judgement day:

so finally "we" some times means God and angels and some times means God and prophet and

Ziyarat-e-Jamia Kabeer

(This Ziarat* awarded by the tenth holy Imam of the Shi'ites Hadrat Imam Ali an-Naqi (A.S.) to Musa ibne Abdullah Nakhee at his request to teach him a comprehensive way of paying homage to any of the infallible Imams during pilgrimage in their shrines or from far away places is an excellent lesson on Imamat by the Imam himself. Whoever recites this ziarat with love and cognizance of the divinely appointed Imams is purified from diseases of soul and body and all worries if the Imam intercedes for him. A pilgrim, who obeys the Imam, refrains from all sins and all of his good deeds which lack in perfection are accepted by Allah. First recite the 'Kalima', then Takbir 100 times, then recite as follows)

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I was told it was because Allah SWT gives credit to angels. The angels perform bureaucratic tasks for Allah SWT.

Angels were used to send down the Quran to Muhammad SAWS; it wasn't sent down directly. And this seems to apply in every context that We is used in the Quran.

In cases where it is attributed to Allah SWT alone, the singular is used.

[ Allah ] said, "O Iblees, what prevented you from prostrating to that which I created with My hands? Were you arrogant [then], or were you [already] among the haughty?" (Sad 38:75)

In Sura Ta Ha, where Allah speaks to Prophet Musa AS.

Indeed, I am Allah. There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance. (Ta Ha 20:14)

Ibn Taymiyah has supported this view:

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. (Majmoo’ al-Fataawaa (5/233, 234))

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This is very much similar to what is found in the Bible also. Sometime God refers to Himself in Plural forms and it is a mystery that many believers including Christians are trying to explain in human logic. If this plurality depicts respect then reference to God would be in plural in every sentence in all these scripture, which is not so. But we see sometime God refers to Himself in singular sense also. However this does gives credence to the doctrine of Trinity preached by Christians though from Islamic point of view this would be rejected out rightly.

To say that a doctrine “doesn’t make sense, therefore it can’t be true” is to put our reason above God’s word especially when it is giving sparks (Not flames) of evidence in many scriptures. There are so many other attributes, which we as human find it difficult to understand about God. The central issue is, do we believe the Word of God the way God wants us to believe or the way we want to interpret? Despite what many non-Christians believe, Christians – (Mainstreams Christians) – believe that there is only one God. Yes, the Trinity is an odd doctrine, and many don’t like it. But who would make it up? We humans like things to make sense.

That there is one God, and yet, someone, there are three personalities who are deity, and yet there aren’t three gods but one. It sounds weird, crazy even. Does it seem that humans would make something like that up, or that the devil would? Satan knows that we like things to make sense; he wouldn’t create such a puzzling doctrine, neither would humans.

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2 of the 99 names of God are: Al Wahid (الواحد) The One, the All Inclusive, the Indivisible and Al Ahad (الاحد) The One, the Unique –  Songo Dec 10 '12 at 14:49
    
This has the seed of a good answer in it, but the majority of the post is irrelevant. Explaining and/or defending Christian theology isn't really appropriate on this site. –  goldPseudo Dec 12 '12 at 22:18

I do not claim to be an expert of The Qur'an, but a simple student. Maybe the pronoun "We" is used sometimes in reference to the many attributes, characteristics and manifestations of The One God...Allah. Even in English one may ask another, "How are you?" Another will answer,"We're doing just fine." This speaks of the whole person in respects of his many facets of his personality. There is a teaching even among Christians who believe in One God but refer to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These Christians say there is One God manifested as three. And when Moses saw God and God spoke through a Burning Bush, which doesn't make God a Burning Bush...only revealed to Moses as such. I hope I did not offend or insult anyone, The Qur'an or God with my explanation. I am but a simple student of the Qur'an, not an expert.

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I think its a nice answer; I was going to say that it might even be the reasoning as to why 'we' in classical arabic is taken to be a marker of respect; but on further reflection, I think its more likely due to the respect one gives a public gathering; say a gathering of tribal elders to pronounce on an issue; that is the many speaking in one voice. –  Mozibur Ullah Dec 7 '12 at 16:06

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