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Friday, March 30, 2007

Explaining the Arabic word for God - Allah

Allah is the generic Arabic word for God, even Arab Christians use it, ask them yourselves!

Say: "Call upon God, or call upon The All-Compassionate: by whatever name ye call upon Him, (it is well): for to Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. Neither speak thy Prayer aloud, nor speak it in a low tone, but seek a middle course between". (Quran 17:110)

A few months ago, while doing some contract work, the issue of religion came up. I don't remember why it came up but a colleague told me the following joke:

"These two guys go parachuting. When they're getting ready to jump out of the plane, one guy asks the other, 'What do I do if my parachute doesn't open?' The second guy says, 'Pray to Allah.' The first guy's puzzled: 'To Allah?' The second guy says, 'Just do it.' The first guy shrugs, they both jump, and sure enough, the first guy's parachute doesn't open. At first he doesn't remember the advice and begins madly praying to God for help. No help comes. He suddenly remembers and prays to Allah for help. Suddenly a giant hand swoops down from the sky, catching and cradling him. The guy heaves a huge sigh of relief and says, 'Thank God!' So the hand drops him."

I kind of chuckled to be polite, but inwardly I just felt weary, because this is one of the most common misconceptions about Islam: that Allah is something different from the God Jews and Christians worship.

I hope to be clearing up some of the primary misconceptions and fallacies about Islam, in the hope of promoting better understanding of this religion, especially given the growing number of Muslims living in Western nations. Historically, the Western media have been guilty of spreading half-truths, half-baked conjecture, and often, outright lies about Islam. Most of us get precious little accurate information about it in our education. With recent events surrounding the attacks on the United States, and the numerous subsequent attacks on Muslims and Arabs, I can hardly think of a better time to sort out some of these things.
I've even heard people refer contemptuously to the God of Islam as a "desert god," as if Judaism and Christianity originated in "Yankee Stadium" or something! The fact is that Allah is simply a compound word made from the Arabic words al (the) and lah (god): Allah (The God). In Spanish we have el (the) and in French La, le or les (again: the). Monotheism - the belief in a single, supreme, divine creator - is the central and most important aspect of Islam.

Among His Signs are the Night and the Day, and the Sun and the Moon. Do not prostrate to the sun and the moon, but prostrate to Allah, Who created them, if it is Him ye wish to serve. (Quran 41:37)

The generic word for God in Arabic is therefore “Allah”. All Arab and even Christians from the Indian subcontinent use the word “Allah” when referring to God. These Christians also say "Allah-u-akbar" (God is the greatest), "Insha-allah" (God willing) and "Alham-dul-lilah" (All praise be to God). Hallelujah also literally means “praises to God”.

All of the above rules out some of the common Western stereotypes that Allah is a Sun god, a Moon god, a Desert god, a Pagan deity, or someone made up by the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). Allah is the Creator, and our Supreme being. The word Allah is preferred by most Muslims and Arab Christians even when speaking a foreign language, because it implies no gender and absolute authority. In the English language, the word god is often given the plural treatment, and you can have a female as well as a male version! Even humans are given the title of gods and goddesses based upon their superiority in a particular field, e.g. a love god or goddess.

It is also interesting to note that in the mother tongue of Jesus Christ (pbuh), which is a dialect having links with Hebrew and Aramaic, the word for God is “Alla-ha”. You've all heard variants of Eloh, Elah and Eli - well, Allah and Alla-ha are just two more. Aramaic and Arabic are sister languages. Sadly many lay-Christian scholars from the West choose to lie in the face of historical and present day fact concerning the word “Allah” and stubbornly deny that it is just a generic word for God in Arabic. We ask you to get in touch with some Arab Christians to verify for yourselves the exact origins of the Arabic name for God.

Christians who acknowledge Allah is the generic Arabic word for God:



EL: God ("mighty, strong, prominent") used 250 times in the OT See Gen. 7:1, 28:3, 35:11; Nu. 23:22; Josh. 3:10; 2 Sam. 22:31, 32; Neh. 1:5, 9:32; Isa. 9:6; Ezek. 10:5. El is linguistically equivalent to the Arabic "Allah," but the attributes of Allah in Islam are entirely different from those of the God of the Hebrews as we know. Elah is Aramaic, "god." Elah appears in the Hebrew Bible in Jer. 10:11 (which is in Aramaic, and is plural, "gods"). In Daniel (the Aramaic sections) Elah is used both of pagan gods, and of the true God, also plural. Elah is equivalent to the Hebrew Eloah which some think is dual; Elohim is three or more. The gods of the nations are called "elohim." The origin of Eloah is obscure. Elohim is the more common plural form of El. Eloah is used 41 times in Job between 3:4 and 40:2, but fewer than 15 times elsewhere in the OT.

"Elah is used both of pagan gods, and of the true God"

The above statement makes the claim that "Elah" was used for the True God and also the Pagan gods. The exact same was true for the word "Allah", it was used in a variety of ways too. To make it clear for us lets look at the way we use the word "God" in the modern age. We give the title of god to anyone we feel deserves the praise for whatever reason. Is this 'lending the title of god' a new phenomenon though? I doubt it very much. Elah and Allah are both simply generic names for God.


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