Who is Allah?
by Abd ar-Rahman Robert Squires -- Source: www.muslim-answers.org
Some of the biggest
misconceptions that many non-Muslims have about Islam is to do with the
word "Allah". For various reasons, many people have come to believe
that Muslims worship a different God than Christians and Jews. This is
totally false, since
"Allah" is simply the Arabic word for "God"
- and there is only One God. Let there be no doubt - Muslims worship
the God of Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus - peace be upon them all.
However, it is certainly true that Jews, Christians and Muslims all have
different concepts of Almighty God. For example, Muslims - like Jews -
reject the Christian beliefs of the Trinity and the Divine Incarnation.
This, however, doesn't mean that each of these three religions worships
a different God - because, as we have already said, there is only
One True God. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all claim to be "Abrahamic
Faiths", and all of them are also classified as "monotheistic".
However, Islam teaches that other religions have, in one way or another,
distorted and nullified a pure and proper belief in Almighty God by neglecting
His true teachings and mixing them with man-made ideas.
First of all, it is important
to note that "Allah" is the same word that Arabic-speaking Christians
and Jews use for God. If you pick up an Arabic Bible, you will see the
word "Allah" being used where
"God" is used in English. (Click
here to see some examples of the word "Allah" in the Arabic
Bible.) This is because "Allah" is the only word in the
Arabic language equivalent to the English word "God" with a capital
Additionally, the word "Allah" cannot be made plural or given gender
(i.e. masculine or feminine), which goes hand-in-hand with the Islamic
concept of God. Because of this, and also because the Qur'an, which is
the holy scripture of Muslims, was revealed in the Arabic language, some
Muslims use the word "Allah" for "God", even when they are
speaking other languages. This is not unique to the word "Allah",
since many Muslims tend to use Arabic words when discussing Islamic issues,
regardless of the language which they speak. This is because the universal
teachings of Islam - even though they have been translated in every major
language - have been preserved in the Arabic language.
It is interesting to note
that the Aramaic word "El", which is the word for God in the language
that Jesus spoke, is certainly more similar in sound to the word "Allah"
than the English word "God". This also holds true for the various
Hebrew words for God, which are "El" and "Elah", and the
plural form "Elohim". The reason for these similarities is that
Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic are all Semitic languages with common origins.
It should also be noted that in translating the Bible into English, the
Hebrew word "El" is translated variously as "God",
and "angel"! This imprecise language allows different translators,
based on their preconceived notions, to translate the word to fit their
own views. The Arabic word "Allah" presents no such difficulty or
ambiguity, since it is only used for Almighty God alone. Additionally,
in English, the only difference between "god", meaning a false god,
and "God", meaning the One True God, is the capital
In the Arabic alphabet, since it does not have capital letters, the word
for God (i.e. Allah) is formed by adding the equivalent to the English
word "the" (Al-) to the Arabic word for "god/God"
(ilah). So the Arabic word "Allah" literally it means "The
God" - the "Al-" in Arabic basically serving the same function
as the capital "G" in English. Due to the above mentioned facts,
a more accurate translation of the word "Allah" into English might
be "The One -and-Only God" or "The One True God".
More importantly, it should
also be noted that the Arabic word "Allah" contains a deep religious
message due to its root meaning and origin. This is because it stems from
the Arabic verb ta'allaha (or alaha), which means "to
be worshipped". Thus in Arabic, the word "Allah" means "The
One who deserves all worship". This, in a nutshell, is the Pure Monotheistic
message of Islam. You see, according to Islam, "monotheism" is much
more than simply believing in the existence of "only One God"
- as seemingly opposed to two, three or more. If one understands the root
meaning of the word "Allah", this point should become clear. One
should understand that Islam's criticism of the other religions that claim
to be "monotheistic" is not because they are "polytheistic"
in the classic sense, but because they direct various forms of worship to other than Almighty God. We will discuss the meaning of worship in Islam
below, however, before moving on it should be noted that many non-Muslims
are unaware of the distinction between simply believing in the existence of only One God and reserving all worship for Him alone.
Many Christians are painfully unaware of this point, and thus you often
find them asking how Muslims can accuse the followers of Jesus, peace be
upon him, of being "polytheists" when they were all "monotheistic
Jews". First of all, it should be clarified that the word "polytheist"
doesn't really sound right in this context, since to many it implies simply
believing in the existence of more than one God. So in an Islamic
context, "associators", "man-worshippers" or "creature
worshippers" might be more accurate and appropriate terms - especially
since Christians believe Jesus to be both "100% God and 100% man",
while still paying lip-service to God's "Oneness". However, as we're
previously touched upon, what is really at the root of this problem is
the fact that Christians - as well as the members of other religions -
don't really know what "monotheism" means - especially in the Islamic
sense. All of the books, articles and papers that I've read which were
written by Christians invariably limit "monotheism" to believing
in the existence of "One Sovereign and Creator God". Islam,
however, teaches much more than this.
Suffice it to say that just
because someone claims to be a "monotheistic" Jew, Christian or
Muslim, that doesn't keep them from falling into corrupt beliefs and idolatrous
practices. Many people, including some Muslims, claim belief in "One
God" even though they've fallen into acts of idolatry. Certainly, many
Protestants accuse Roman Catholics of idolatrous practices in regards to
the saints and the Virgin Mary. Likewise, the Greek Orthodox Church is
considered "idolatrous" by many other Christians because in much
of their worship they use icons. However, if you ask a Roman Catholic or
a Greek Orthodox person if God is "One", they will invariably answer:
"Yes!". This lip-service, however, does not stop them from being
"creature worshipping" idolaters. The same goes for Hindus, who
just consider their gods to be "manifestations" or "incarnations"
of the One Supreme God.
Everyone should be aware
of the fact that throughout the long history of the "Abrahamic Faiths",
there have people who, while believing in "One God", have adopted
beliefs and practices that completely nullify their claim to "monotheism".
This is the Muslim view of Christians. We're well aware of the fact that
they claim belief in "One God" with their lips, but this doesn't
mean that they don't nullify their claim in other ways. This is because
many people simply haven't been taught everything that Pure Monotheism
entails. From an Islamic point of view, "monotheism" can be nullified
in many ways. For example, simply believing that it is permissible to rule
by Western "liberal" and
"democratic" laws in lieu of the
Divinely Revealed Law of Almighty God makes one a "polytheist".
Certainly, a person who does such a thing, whether Jewish, Christian or
Muslim, doesn't ever believe that there is another Almighty Creator and
Sovereign Lord. However, for all practical purposes, such a person has
take another "god", whether they choose to admit it or not. In this
way they are associating partners with Almighty God (Arabic: shirk),
and thus become a "polytheist" in a practical sense, regardless
of their lip-service to "monotheism". This holds true even if the
person doesn't believe what they are doing is "worship". For example,
Roman Catholics who pray to the Virgin Mary will staunchly deny that they
are "worshipping" her. They instead call it "adoration" or
some other watered-down term. However, from an Islamic point of view, what
is worship if not this? Islam teaches that prayer and supplication are
the marrow of worship, so if one directs their prayers to an intermediary
(even if the pray is "ultimately" meant for God), then what is left
of worship? Additionally, how can someone who believes in Almighty God
follow man-made laws instead of God's Law, without admitting that they've
begun worshipping other than God? Do they know better than God?
Additionally, the Old Testament
makes it perfectly clear that making a "graven image" of any created
thing (not to mention ones which are supposed to "represent" Almighty
God) is prohibited. Please see Exodus 20:4-6, Leviticus 26:1 and Deuteronomy
4:16, 23, 25, 5:8 and Nehemiah 9:6 for some statements in regards to this
point. Without addressing the issue that Christians commonly violate the
unambiguous commandment not to even "make" representations of anything
that is in the "heavens above or on the earth beneath", these verses
not only teach that worshipping idols is prohibited, but also that Almighty
God is eternally distinct from His creation and thus nothing in
His creation can represent Him. To believe otherwise is to be a de facto
idol worshipper - even if one claims belief in one, and only one, "True
God". In Exodus 20:4-6 and Deuteronomy 4:16, Almighty God - who is
a "Jealous God" - makes it perfectly clear that He is distinct from
By giving such clear and
merciful guidance to human beings, God is establishing a universal and
eternal Truth for the benefit of mankind. This eternal Truth is the bedrock
of religious guidance, since once people begin to believe that Almighty
God mixes with or can be represented by His creation, they can be duped
into believing almost anything. Once someone accepts that God has become
"incarnate" in His creation, or that someone or something is a "manifestation"
- and thus representation - of Him, the floodgates are open and "Truth"
becomes a matter of subjective guesswork. Once the first and most basic
concept is violated - regardless of how complicated and sophisticated the
rationale for it might be - it is very easy to fall further and further
away from the Eternal Truth of Pure Monotheism. In the final analysis,
it is not a question of whether God is capable of becoming a man, but rather
a question of whether one bases their beliefs about God on clear, unambiguous
and authentic guidance. Once it is left up to the human mind to decide
what Almighty God can and cannot do, the stage is set for misguidance to
take root. Human speculation about God only ends up leading to misguidance
and despair, since no clear conclusions can ever be reached. For example,
is God capable of creating an object so heavy that He is incapable of moving
it? If not, does that mean that He is incapable? It is because of misguided
questions like this that Islam clearly teaches that mankind should only
say about God what He has said about Himself. This means all of our ideas
about God must be based on Revelation - not human speculation. In
short, the final prophet of Islam - Muhammad - was sent by Almighty God
to preach the same Pure Monotheism that was practiced by Noah, Abraham,
Moses, David and Jesus - peace be upon them all. This Pure Monotheism means
not only believing that there is only One God in existence, but realizing
that He is transcedent above His creation and that all worship is due to
Before concluding, we should
probably address the practice of those Muslims who insist on using
the Arabic word "Allah" even when speaking English. Even though
this practice certainly is not to be condemned when it is done around
those who understand the meaning of the Arabic word "Allah", it
is my experience - both during my years as a non-Muslim and my years as
a Muslim - that such a practice can (and usually does) breed misunderstanding.
It seems that often times, many of the Muslims who use the word "Allah"
in lieu of the word "God", even when trying to attract people
to Islam, are unaware of the severe misunderstandings that many non-Muslims
have about Islam (and the distorted way which Islam has been portrayed
in the West). Insisting on using the word "Allah" only fuels the
flames of misunderstanding - so there's no good reason to do it. I've often
wondered what value some Muslims think that using the word "Allah"
adds to the Pure Message that they are trying to convey. ( . . . and I'm
still waiting for an answer!) Unfortunately, those Muslims who insist on
using the word "Allah" even when addressing non-Muslims who are
unfamiliar with Islam and the Arabic language, do both a disservice to
themselves and their religion. Unfortunately, this practice is usually
based on the false assumption - by a non-native speaker of English - that
the word "God" in English is incapable of expressing a pure and
proper belief in Almighty God. This is certainly false. If someone says
that the English word "God" cannot be used to express the Pure Islamic
Belief in Tawhid, they are wrong not because they don't understand
Tawhid, but simply because they don't understand the English language.
Many people who insist on using the Arabic word "Allah" usually
don't realize this, because in reality, they are not so much affirming
the word "Allah" as they are rejecting the word "God" as
unsuitable - based on incorrect assumptions. For someone to assume that
the word "God" presupposes a certain theological point-of-view (such
as the Trinity) is simply Wrong - and that's Wrong with a capital "W".
To say the word "God" should be rejected because it can be changed
into "god", "gods" or "goddess" is illogical because
each of these words has a distinctive meaning and a distinctive
spelling - at least to someone who knows how to speak English correctly.
Using the same logic, I can demonstrate that the root letters "ktb"
can be used to form the Arabic words
"kitab" (book), "maktabah"
(library), "maktab" (office) and "kaatib" (writer), but does
that mean that these words have the same meaning? Do Arabic-speaking people
go through life confusing libraries with writers and offices with books
(both in conversation and in reality)? I think not! This is not to mention
the fact that if the Arabic "Al-" was put in front of these words
in order to make them definite, confusion would be even less likely! So
the logic in both cases is the same, and this is because even though the
same letters are used in "God" and
"god", these two words
have two different meanings in the English language. The capital "G"
implies something different than the small
"g" - and anyone who
denies this simply doesn't know how to speak the English language.
In concluding this point,
it should be mentioned that Arabic-speaking Muslims who believe in Pure
Tawhid, Arabic-speaking Christians, the idol worshippers of Mecca
and (so-called) Muslims who believe in "Wahdat al-Wujud" all use
the word "Allah". However, does this guarantee all of them proper
belief in "Allah"? Certainly not, because if they have a corrupt
concept of "Allah" it doesn't matter what word they use!
This brings us to a more
important point: It should be clearly understood that what Islam is primarily
concerned with is correcting mankind's concept of Almighty God.
What we are ultimately going to be held accountable at the end of our life
is not whether we prefer the word "Allah" over the word "God",
but what our concept of God is. Language is only a side issue. A person
can have an incorrect concept of God while using the word "Allah",
and likewise a person can have a correct concept of God while using the
word "God". This is because both of these words are equally capable
of being misused and being improperly defined. As we've already mentioned,
using the word "Allah" no more insinuates belief in the Unity of
God than the use of the word "God" insinuates belief in the Trinity
- or any other theological opinion. Naturally, when God sends a revelation
to mankind through a prophet, He is going to send it in a language that
the people who receive it can understand and relate to. Almighty God makes
this clear in the Qur'an, when He states:
" Never did We send a Messenger except (to teach) in the language of his (own) people in order to make (things) clear to them." [Qur'an 14:4]
As Muslims, we think that it
is unfortunate that we have to go into details on such seemingly minor
issues, but so many falsehoods have been heaped upon our religion, that
we feel that it is our duty to try to break down the barriers of falsehood.
This isn't always easy, since there is a lot of anti-Islamic literature
in existence which tries to make Islam look like something strange and
foreign to Westerners. There are some people out there, who are obviously
not on the side of truth, that want to get people to believe that "Allah"
is just some Arabian "god", and that Islam is completely "other"
- meaning that it has no common roots with the other Abrahamic religions
(i.e. Christianity and Judaism). To say that Muslims worship a different
"God" because they say "Allah" is just as illogical as saying
that French people worship another God because they use the word "Dieu",
that Spanish-speaking people worship a different God because they say "Dios"
or that the Hebrews worshipped a different God because they sometimes call
Him "Yahweh". Certainly, reasoning like this is quite ridiculous!
It should also be mentioned, that claiming that any one language uses the
only the correct word for God is tantamount to denying the universality
of God's message to mankind, which was to all nations, tribes and people
through various prophets who spoke different languages.
Before closing, we would
like everyone to be aware of the fact that some Christian missionary organizations
print English literature intended to teach Christians about Islam which
say such things as: "Allah is the god of the Muslims" and that "Muhammad
came to get people to believe in the god Allah" - implying that "Allah"
is some sort of false "god". However, when these same organizations
print literature in the Arabic language, hoping to lead Arabic-speaking
Muslims "to Christ", they use the word "Allah" for God. It
seems that if they were on the side of truth, they would not have to resort
to such inconsistencies. And on an even more ridiculous note . . .
there are also missionary organizations that exceed this in ignorance (or
deceit) by writing books that call on Muslims to give up their belief in
"Allah", and instead worship the "Lord" Jesus, "the Son
of God". Besides making it abundantly clear that they are outside the
community of Pure Monotheism, the people who write such material don't
even realize that if they wrote such a pamphlet in Arabic, it would be
self-contradictory. This is because in an Arabic Bible Jesus is the "Son
of Allah"! If an Arabic-speaking person gave up the worship of "Allah",
they would have no God to worship, since "Allah" is simply the Arabic
word for God!
Before we conclude, however,
we would like to ask our readers to ask themselves what they think the
reasons are behind all of these lies? If Islam was just some false religion
that didn't make any sense, would so many people, from Western scholars
to Christian missionaries, have to tell so many lies about it? The reason
is that the Ultimate Truth of Islam stands on solid ground and its unshakable
belief in the Unity of God is above reproach. Due to this, Christians can't
criticize its doctrines directly, but instead make up things about Islam
that aren't true so that people lose the desire to learn more. If Muslims
were able to present Islam in the proper way to people in the West, it
surely might make many people reconsider and re-evaluate their own beliefs.
It is quite likely that Christians, when they find out that there is a
universal religion in the world that teaches people to worship and love
God, while also practicing Pure Monotheism, would at least feel that they
should re-examine the basis for their own beliefs and doctrines.
In case you missed it above, click here to see some examples of the word "Allah" in the Arabic Bible