Answered by Sidi Salman Younas
Question: Can Allah Feel Emotions Like Happiness and Sadness?
Answer: assalamu `alaykum
I pray you are well.
There is an established principle within Sunni Islam that Allah Most High is completely dissimilar to created things. This is affirmed clearly within the Qur’an itself when it says, “there is nothing whatsoever like Him.” [42:11]
As such, Allah Most High is not characterized by emotions as emotions involve physiological changes and alterations in one’s state of consciousness. Since “change”, or moving from one state to another, is an attribute characteristic of created things, as it indicates their ephemeral nature, it is impossible to characterize Allah Most High with it.
However, at the same time, the primary texts have attributed Allah with love, mercy, anger, joy, and so forth. Thus, we affirm these meanings for Allah but we do so in a way that [a] befits Him and [b] is in accordance with the transcendence He affirms for Himself in the primary texts.
Understanding These Attributes in Light of Allah’s Absolute Transcendence
The basic principle when it comes to understanding these attributes is that, “whatever is impossible to attribute to Allah in terms of its beginning is permitted to apply to Allah in terms of its end result.”
For example, the word “mercy” (rahma) is defined as, “the softening of the heart that elicits favor and beneficience.” The beginning here is the softening of the heart. The end is the eliciting of favor and beneficience. It is impossible to attribute Allah with “mercy” in terms of “softening of the heart” but permissible to apply the meaning of “mercy” in terms of what it ultimately results in, namely “eliciting favor and beneficience.”
As such, when it is said that Allah is merficul (rahim/rahman), what is meant is that both favor and beneficience are established for Allah in terms of Him being favorful or beneficent towards creation or intending to do so.
The same methodology of understanding is employed to understand other similar attributes, such as love, joy, and anger.
Such a methodological approach continues to affirm that which Allah affirms for Himself in the primary texts while maintaining Allah’s absolute transcendence, something that a literalist approach fails to achieve. This is the balanced approach that Sunni scholars throughout centuries followed.
And Allah knows best
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani