Answer by Ustadh Mohammed Tayssir Safi
Question: Assalamu alaykum, I read recently that the Ahl Al-Sunnah believe that the Quran is the ‘uncreated’ speech of God. Can you please elaborate on what exactly this means as I find it difficult to understand because the Quran is a physical thing we hold in our hands and recite on our tongues. So how is it uncreated?
Answer: Wa ‘alaykum as-salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh,
May Allah reward you for your courage to ask when you don’t know. To answer your question, yes, the creed of Ahl al-Sunna is that the Qur’an is the “uncreated speech,” of Allah. Similarly, you are right in asserting that the Qur’an is a physical thing that we hold in our hands and recite on our tongues. In fact, in the celebrated creed written by Imam al-Nasafi he says, “The Qur’an is the uncreated Speech of Allah, and it is written in our Masaahif, memorized in our hearts, recited on our tongues, heard with our ears, and He does not dwell within it.” So to rephrase your question for you, how can both of those things be true?
The answer is: The word, “Qur’an,” is used sometimes to refer to God’s Attribute of Speech which is uncreated and other times the word, “Qur’an,” is used to refer to the physical texts we read from, the words we recite on our tongues etc. Therefore, when we use the word, “Qur’an,” to refer to God’s Attribute of Speech, it is uncreated. When we are using the word, “Qur’an,” to refer to the physical text, or what we memorize and recite, those things are all created and they are not the attribute of speech. Therefore, to remove any confusion all one needs to understand is that the physical text as well as the memorized or recited words are not the actual attribute even if we use one word, “Qur’an,” to refer to both. [Sharh al-Aqa’id – Taftazani]
I pray that clarified matters for you.
I leave you in Allah’s care,
[Ustadh] Mohammed Tayssir Safi
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Mohammed Tayssir Safi was born in Dubai and moved to the United States six months after he was born. In 1994, the Safi family settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He graduated from the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor in 2006 as a double major in Political Science and Middle Eastern and North African Studies. He spent the next 3 years of his life traveling the Middle East, completing the Arabic program, CASA, in Egypt and pursuing private studies in Arabic linguistics and introductory Islamic sciences. His brief introduction to Islamic studies continued for another year at the Dar al-Mustafa Institute in Tarim, Yemen. He is currently enrolled in an MA program at the University of Michigan titled, Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. He will be finishing the MA in April of 2013, God willing. Mohammed also teaches Arabic at the University of Michigan. Apart from classes at the University of Michigan, Mohammed studies at the hands of Muslim scholars privately in multiple sciences including linguistics, law, and theology.