In as many times as we have been on the internet or in a discussion or a chat group, we almost always run into someone who feels offended that we use the word “God” when we talk about the One and Only God (Allah in Arabic).
It is surprising to notice that most of these Muslim brothers and/or sisters do not know that the word “Allah” is the Arabic word for the word “God”. Many of them believe that “Allah” is the name of the Muslim God. They do not realize that the word “Allah” does not belong exclusively
to the Muslims and that it has always been used before (and after) Islam by the Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians when they speak about God.
Talking to English speaking people about God using the word “Allah” is very much the same like speaking to Arabic speaking people about “Allah” using the word God. It makes all the sense to show respect to the people and their language by speaking to them in the language they use.
Insisting on the use of the word “Allah” which is the Arabic word for God immediately creates the illusion that “Allah” is a whole different deity than God of the whole world. It creates a god that belongs ONLY to the Muslims, and takes the universality of Islam out of it. We found
the comment sent by Abu Iman Robert Squires to be very informative and we re-produced it here.
The word “ALLAH”
A Comment by : Abu Iman Robert Squires
I would like to strongly concur with your observations about the use of the word “Allah” in English and any other language. Both from my conversion experience in America and my experience doing da’wah here in Kuwait, it is definitely 100% – without a shadow of a doubt – better to use the word “God” when making da’wah to English speaking people.
This alone is enough to open many hearts and minds since many people think that Muslims worship a different God. I’ve come across some Arab brothers who insist in using only the word “Allah”. They somehow think that it implies Tawhid while the word “God” implies the Trinity, etc., etc.
You know, the problem with such people is not their knowledge of Arabic, but their ignorance of English. The mushriks (disbelievers) at the time of the Prophet (saws) used the word Allah, and so do Arabic-speaking Christians. The word itself in no way implies tawhid. The reason it implies
tawhid to Muslims is that they’re Muslims. Others use this word in ways that are nothing but shirk.
The word God implies tawhid to me because I have the Islamic concept of Him. It’s all in the concept, but has nothing to do with the word itself. Also, there are statements in some da’wah pamphlets that say “all prophets since Adam used the word Allah” and that “the word Allah is
exactly the same as the Aramaic word Jesus used for God”.
The first statement is baseless and can be proved to be logically incorrect from the Quran. The second statement is incorrect, but the words are only similar, but NOT exactly alike. This whole trend of using “Allah” in English seems to come about rather recently.
Most of the translations and writings done back in the 1940’s and 1950’s used the word “God”, which is a perfectly good translation of the word Allah in Arabic. M.M. Pickthall being the main exception, since he seemed to have used “Allah” in all of the translations that I’ve seen.
The change came, I believe, as a result of Nasserite Arab Nationalism. Many Arabs I know over here still don’t know the difference between Islam and Arab Nationalism! They seem more interesting in defending their pride heritage than really spreading the message. But this is in no way limited to Arabs, I’ve dealt with Pakistanis, Malaysians, Turks and Afghanis that have the same hang-up.
The mentality of some of these brothers almost approaches that of the Bani Isra’il – the “our God vs. your God” mentality! By the way, I’ve never met an English-speaking convert to Islam (or Spanish-speaking, or French-speaking) who disagreed with me on this point. Most them went
through a stage wondering why (some) Muslims insist on using Allah.
I should also add that I know a lot of Muslims that use “God” when speaking English. I find this rather common among most Egyptians that I know. In Morocco, where I visit quite frequently, the also use Dieu when they parlez francais.
Insh’allah, more Muslims will realize this and our da’wah will become more effective. This is a BIG barrier, but many Muslims don’t realize it. Many come up with baseless reasons to justify it (for whatever reason). What do we converts know anyway!!! Ha! Another point before I go…some people like to try to draw exact parallels between English and Arabic words which just don’t fit.
The word “ilah” in Arabic can be used for a false god or for Allah. (Like when God says (paraphrased) the “ilah” of Ibrahim”, and numerous other example.) Anyone who can read the Quran should know this. However, unlike the word “god” in English, which ALWAYS implies a false god. Non- native English speakers sometimes mistakenly believe that “god” and “God” are the same English word, but they are not. They carry completely different meanings. If they doubt this, then they simply don’t know how to speak the English language. And to say that the word “Allah” can only be used for the Supreme Almighty Creator is refuted by the Quran itself.
It clearly says (and I paraphrase here rather liberally) that Christians say that “Allah is Jesus”. There you have it, applying “Allah” to something that isn’t “Allah” right there in the Quran. You see, what people really mean to say is that you SHOULDN’T use “Allah” for anything
except the Almighty Creator, but you still CAN. The same thing goes for the word God.
People can use it in the wrong way, but that doesn’t make it right. The truth is that this word too should only be used for the Almighty Creator. Remember…God has sent prophets to everyone in their OWN LANGUAGE, i.e. a language that they can understand. How many more people
around the world wouldn’t be dying on SHIRK if many Muslims woke up and started making da’wah in a way people can understand? Well, I’ve spoken my peace.
Abu Iman Robert Squires
Here is another comment and response by Steven Thomas;
To: BILL H——–
From: STEVEN THOMAS
Sorry Bill, but your sources are dubious at best. Souroush for instance is a evangelical missionary associated with Jimmy Swaggart – great reliability there!
The fact is that Allah does not refer to the moon god or have associates. The linguistic breakdown of Allah is “The/Al God/Lah”. That is why all Christian Arabs (monophysists, Nestorians, Orthodox, Roman, and Protestant (yes, even Mr. Shouroush) use the term Allah to refer to God the Father when they speak Arabic. Lest you wonder where I am coming from, my degrees are Biblical Arch. and Arabic language.
— The Pitts <c—@centurytel.net> wrote:
The god of the Quran and the God of the bible are completely different. Allah being contrived from AI-Llah the moon god. Please feel free to research it yourself. As your own documentation says,..”don’t mean to offend anyone.”
There is no one offended here.
God of the Arabic Bible is called “Allah”. I do not think you believe that there is a god for the English Bible and another god for the Arabic Bible and a third for the Italian bible…etc. It would be too naive.
There is ONLY one God. His name in English is God, in French: un dieu, in Italian: dio, in German: Gott, in Spanish: Dios, in Portuguese: Deus, in Arabic: Allah, and in Aramaic : alaha.
All these are no more than the names of God in different languages To this day the Christian Arabs pray to Allah and talk about Allah. They called Him Allah even before Islam was born and they know they were not worshipping any moon god. Those who still speak Jesus language
(Aramaic/syriac) call God alaha to this day like Jesus did. Jesus did not pray to a moon god but to alaha (Allah), the One and Only God.
The Arabic Bible, use the word Allah for God. If you want any images of the Arabic Bible with the word Allah in it (for God of the Bible), please let me know.
If you want to verify it, call any Arabic church in the USA or any English speaking country and ask them what they call God in their Arabic Bible and whether they still use the word Allah in their Bible or not.
Jewish Arabs also pray to Allah and talk about Allah just like an English person talks about God.
The Origin of the name “Allah”
It seems unlikely that the name Allah comes from al-ilaah “the God”, but rather from the Aramaic/Syriac alaha, meaning ‘God’ or ‘the God’. The final ‘a’ in the name alaha was originally the definite article ‘the’ and is regularly dropped when Syriac words and names are borrowed into Arabic. Middle-eastern Christianity used ‘alah’ and ‘alaha’ frequently, and it would have often been heard.
But in the Aramaic/Syriac language there are two different ‘a’ vowels, one rather like the ‘a’ in English ‘hat’ and the other more like the vowel in ‘ought’. In the case of ‘alah’, the first vowel was like ‘hat’ and the second like ‘ought’. Arabic does not have a vowel like the one in ‘ought’, but it seems to have BORROWED this vowel along with the word ‘alah’. If you know Arabic, then you know that the second vowel in ‘allah’ is unique; it occurs only in that one word in Arabic.
Scholars believe that Jesus spoke mostly Aramaic, although sometimes he spoke Hebrew and he might have spoken Greek on some occasions. If Jesus spoke Aramaic, then he referred to God using basically the same word that is used in Arabic.
From Christoph.Heger@t-online.de (Dr. Christoph Heger)
Subject: Re: How About That Moon God?
Date: Wed Mar 25 18:59:38 EST 1998
Greetings to all,
The theory that Allah had been the name of an old Arabic moon god (or moon goddess?) is not familiar to me and I am not in a position to accept or falsify it. The following remarks only are thought to serve further elucidation of the matter.
The ancient Greek historian Herodotos in the first volume of his historic work “Histories Apodexis”, line 131-132, refers to the religion of the Persians. He writes:
“They sacrifice to the sun and the moon and the earth and the fire and the water and the winds. Only to those they sacrifice of old. In addition they learnt to sacrifice to Urania [=the Celestial one, i.e. Aphrodite; Ch.H.], too. They learnt it from the Assyrians and the Arabs. The
Assyrians call Aphrodite Mylitta [Assyrian: Bilit; Ch.H.], the Arabs Alilat…”
This “Urania”, indeed, in some connections appears as a moon goddess. “Alilat”, of course, is to be related to the Arabic feminine form “al-ilah”, a nomen unitatis which has the meaning of “the (single) deity”.
The etymological derivation of “Allah” as a contraction of “al-ilah”, which was maintained in numerous contributions to sri, too, is “popular” etymology and surely not historic. It would be rather strange that especially the “i” should have been disappeared due to neglect of the
speakers, since the syllable “il” is the most important in “al-ilah”: “il” or “el” is the semitic word for God since times immemorial.
Instead, the word “Allah”, as a lot of other words, especially words of the religious sphere, was imported from the Syriac (Aramaic) language: “alaha” – with three long a-vowels -, is the Aramaic word for the (Christian) unique God. The last (long) “a” characterizes the status absolutus
in the Aramaic language and was duly omitted by the Arabs like case endings in the Arabic vernacular, whereas the understanding of the first syllable of “alaha” as an article was a common misunderstanding like for instance in “al-Iskandar” from Greek “Alexandros” etc. The doubling of the “l” is irrelevant, since the doubling sign is a very late invention of Arabic orthography, centuries after Muhammad.
Even some of the traditional Scholars agree on this one; see this Question and answer from a traditional scholar
The Origin of the Word ‘Allah’…
What is the derivation of “Allah”? Some scholars say it derives from al+ illah (“the God”), but many Muslim Ulema and translators of the Quran (such as Maulana Muhammad Ali) disagree with this, and say that “Allah” is whole in itself, as a proper name for the Supreme Creator. But is there any philological relationship between Allah and other Semitic terms for “God” such as Eloah (Hebrew) and Alaha (Aramaic/Syriac)?
Peace and blessings of Allah be with you.
Shahid M, USA
Although a lot has been said about the philology of the word ‘Allah’, however, in my opinion, the former of the two opinions noted by you seems to be closer to the correct one. A detailed discussion compiling the opinions of various scholars of the Arabic language regarding the origin of the word can be seen in “Lisaan al-Arab” under the word “Aliha” (a-l-h). In my opinion, ‘Allah’ is an Arabic word meaning ‘the God’. According to the general principle of making proper nouns from common nouns in the Arabic language, the word “ilah” (common noun) has been converted to “al-ilah”, which became “Allah” due to the turgidity and the slight difficulty of pronunciation of the word “al-ilah”.
The Quran, because its prime and first addressees were the Arabs, used the word “Allah” for the Supreme Being, as that had traditionally been the word used for the Supreme Being in that language. The same had been the case in the older scriptures. Those scriptures, like the Quran, used those words for the Supreme Being, which had already in vogue in those languages, to refer to the Supreme Being.
However, there have been scholars of the Arabic language who ascribe to the opinion that “Allah” is the actual name of the Supreme Being. It is indeed important to the evidence that they have provided into account. Nevertheless, I feel that to give God a name is a requirement of us,
humans. God, being the absolute being is in no need for a name.
May the Almighty guide us all to the path of His liking.