Humans created in the image of God?


Rough Draft

What does the hadith

إن الله خلق الانسان على صورة الرحمن (أو كما قال) [Indeed, Allah has created the human being in the image of the Merciful

(or as he stated)[1]], or as found in Bukhari and Muslim,

إِذَا قَاتَلَ أَحَدُكُمْ فَلْيَجْتَنِبِ الْوَجْهَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ خَلَقَ آدَمَ عَلَى صُورَتِهِ [When any of you fights he must avoid the face, for God created Adam in His own image.]


As mentioned clearly in the verse

 لَيۡسَ كَمِثۡلِهِۦ شَىۡءٌ۬‌ۖ وَهُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلۡبَصِير [There is nothing like Him: He is the All Hearing, the All Seeing.]

there is nothing which resembles God. He is above and beyond His entire creation.

So how is it possible that there is nothing like God (as mentioned by the Qur’an) but at the same time that humans are created in the image of God (as mentioned in the Hadith)?

How should we understand this hadith 🧾 in a way that is compatible with the verse?

When the verse mentions that nothing resembles God, it is talking about the “Person” or “Self” of God known as “Dhat” in Arabic. It is not talking about the attributes or names of God such as “The Merciful”, “The Knowledgeable”, “The Powerful”, “The Forgiving”, and so on.

How so?

It means that there isn’t the slightest shred of similarity between The Dhat (or Person) of God and that of any of His creation 🧑 in any possible way.

That being said, it is possible to observe many names of God in humans or other beings. As tiny and insignificant as they are in comparison to those of God, they still do exist.

  • God, for instance, is merciful towards His creation and a mother 🤶🏼 is merciful towards her children. Though the mercy of a mother is nothing compared to that of God, it still exists in her.
  • God is “The Knowledgeable” and a scholar 👨🏻‍🏫 is knowledgeable on certain subjects and has some knowledge, even if its nothing compared to the knowledge of God.
  • God is “The Powerful” and a wrestler 💪🏻 has some degree of power or strength compared to other people. Again, the power of the wrestler is absolutely nothing compared to that of God. As insignificant and negligible it is when compared to the power of God, it still exists in him.

In fact, we see some hadiths which draw resemblance between some attributes of humans and The Names of God.

وعن عمر بن الخطاب، رضي الله عنه ، قال‏: ‏ قدم رسول الله ، صلى الله عليه وسلم، بسبي، فإذا امرأة من السبي تسعى، إذ وجدت صبياً في السبي أخذته، فألزقته ببطنها، فأرضعته، فقال رسول الله، صلى الله عليه وسلم‏: ‏ “أترون هذه المرأة طارحة ولدها في النار‏؟‏” قلنا لا والله ‏.‏ قال‏: ‏ ‏ “‏لله أرحم بعباده من هذه الأم بولدها‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏متفق عليه‏)‏‏)‏

‘Umar bin Al-Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Some prisoners were brought to Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) amongst whom there was a woman who was running (searching for her child). When she saw a child among the captives, she took hold of it, pressed it against her belly and gave it a suck. Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Do you think this woman would ever throw her child in fire?” We said, “By Allah, she would never throw the child in fire.” Thereupon Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Allah is more kind to his slave than this woman is to her child”. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Here, we see The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) drawing a resemblance between the mercy of a mother towards her child 👶🏾 and the mercy of God towards His creation.

Now, to be clear, the attributes of humans (or other living beings) are infinitely weak and infinitesimal shadows of the names of God. They are in no way the same. Also, they depend on God since God is the one Who gives mercy to a mother or power to a wrestler.

These attributes help us in understanding the names of God.

If nobody had mercy to another, we would not understand what it means for God to be The Merciful. As seen in the hadith, The Prophet Muhammad draws attention to the mercy of a mother (something that we’re familiar with), and from there describes the mercy of God (something we wouldn’t truly understand had we not seen 🕶 samples of it around us).

Similarly, if nobody had knowledge, we wouldn’t understand the concept of being knowledgeable and thus fail to understand what it means for God to be The Knowledgeable. If nobody had power, we would not know what it means for our Creator to be The Powerful, and so on.

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