Assalamualaikum Dato’ Seri Mufti, I have a question. In the tafsir of al-Quran, there are many ‘we’ used as the pronoun in every verse. Why is it that tafsir of al-Quran uses the pronoun ‘WE’, instead of ‘I’ which signifies more on His Oneness? Thank you.
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
As generally knows, Allah SWT is the One and Only God, neither begets, nor is born. Nothing is equivalent to Him, nor greater. It is as stated in the Quran:
Say, "He is Allah, [who is] One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge, He neither begets nor is born, Nor is there to Him any equivalent."
Surah al-Ikhlas (1-4)
According to Syeikh Muhammad al-Tahir Ibn ‘Asyur, the name of al-Ikhlas is more prominent as it combines all meanings of this surah, where it teaches people to be sincere in having faith in Allah; a faith in which it is pure from any form of shirk in believing in God. (Refer: Al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir, 30/609-610).
While, addressing the meaning of اللَّـهُ أَحَدٌ, he said: “He is alone in the essence of God. While, if it is described as الله واحد, it means that Allah is singular and not plural. Then, other than Him is not the God. The implication of these two statements is, it is a rejection towards the existence of anything equivalent to Him in the essence of God” Refer: Al-Tahrir wal Tanwir, Ibn ‘Asyur (31/613)
Even though it is crystal clear that Allah is One and Only, some people may ask why is it in some places in the Quran, Allah address Himself as ‘We’, and not ‘I’? This is as in the verses of al-Quran:
نَّحْنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ نَبَأَهُم بِالْحَقِّ
It is We who relate to you, [O Muhammad], their story in truth.
Surah al-Kahf (13)
The same goes for:
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ
Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur'an and indeed, We will be its guardian.
Surah al-Hijr (9)
To answer this question, we have to be clear that the Quran is revealed in the Arabic language. This is as stated in the verse of al-Quran:
إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ
Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'an that you might understand.
Surah Yusuf (2)
According to the Arab community, a person when he wants to glorify himself, he will use a pronoun that brings the meaning of plural. Hence, instead of saying, “I have finished writing this book in a month”, he would say, “We have finished writing this book in a month”.
In Mu’jam al-Wasith, the writer states:
نحن: ضمير يعبر به الاثنان، أو الجمع المُخْبِرون عن أنفسهم، وقد يعبِر به الواحد عند إرادة التعظيم
We: A pronoun to indicate more than one or jama’ (more than two) when telling about themselves. Sometimes, it is used by a person to glorify (himself). Refer: Al-Mu’jam al-Wasith (pg. 945).
Hence, there is no misconception when Allah address himself as ‘We’. This is due to His attributes which are the Magnificent and The Greatest. Therefore, we state here that:
كل ضمائر الجمع المنسوبة إلى الله عز وجل المراد بها التعظيم
All plural pronoun forms that Allah SWT used to address Himself is to indicate His Glory and Greatness.
We also include here the opinion of Syeikh al-Sya’rawi which means: “When Allah express His actions, He will use ‘We’. While, when He express His essence, He use ‘I’”
In fact, the phrase ‘We’ refers to actions with many implements. For example, when Allah SWT said, “Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur'an..”. This verse includes many sides of His Greatness in bestowing the Quran which are by His knowledge, His intelligent, His power and etc. Then, that is why the phrase ‘We’ is used instead of ‘I’ there.
As a conclusion, we state here that Allah is the One and Only God. The usage of ‘We’ used in the tafsir of al-Quran is to indicate His Greatness, Glory and Omnipotence.
To end, may Allah give us the correct understanding in practicing our religion. Ameen.