Is God’s Name “Allah”?

According to a popular pamphlet published by the WhyIslam organization, entitled, the Concept of God in Islam,

Every language has one or more terms that are used in reference to God and sometimes to lesser deities. This is not the case with the word ‘Allah’, which is the personal name of the One True God. Nothing else can be called Allah and the term has no plural or gender. This shows its exclusivity when compared to the word ‘god’ which can be made plural or feminine, i.e., ‘gods’ or ‘goddess’. It is interesting to note that Allah is the personal name of God in Aramaic, the language of Jesus (pbuh1).

Such reasoning is used by many Muslims today to justify the further argument that the Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God. What is unfortunate is that many non-Muslims, whether in the media or elsewhere, have accepted the Muslim explanation without question. But, if we take the time to compare what the pamphlet is stating against reality we soon find out that Allah is not a personal name and that the god of Islam is not the God of Judaism or Christianity either.

Premise #1: Multiple Names for God

While it is true that there are multiple names for God in multiple languages, that does not necessarily mean that all of those names in all of those languages are talking about the same being. Krshna, for example, of Hindu fame, is thought to represent god, as a god of love and compassion. Krshna, though, is also a mythological being that is in company with another 330,000,000 other gods and goddesses, each of whom share similar attributes. The same could be said of “Heavenly Father” of Mormon fame, even though there are more gods and goddesses in Mormonism than there are in Hinduism. But, in neither case, is Krshna, nor Heavenly Father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

From the biblical perspective, Elohim, Yahweh, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, et al, all speak of the one Supreme God, who created all things by his spoken word. That through progressive self-revelation, found only within the inspired words recorded in the Bible, God exists and subsists in a triune relationship: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That those three share the same name (Matt. 28:19) and the same essence (Jn. 1:1; Acts 5:4), even though they are three distinct persons. So, while names were important, what is equally important is what God has revealed about himself. Those who fail to take in account God’s revelation, and yet wish to pin His names on those who are not God, ultimately end up taking God’s name in vain (Ex. 20:7).

Premise #2: Allah is God’s Personal Name

The word Allah is actually not a name at all. Allah is a contraction of the definite Arabic article Al- and the noun ilah. Its meaning is simply “the god.” Muslims often want to make people think that Allah is something unique and wholly unheard of before the days of Muhammad. The reality is, Allah has been around long before Muhammad ever walked the earth. For Allah was a Arabian pagan desert deity. As Muslim scholar and missionary to the Muslims, Samuel Zwemer, wrote long ago:

[H]istory establishes beyond the shadow of a doubt that even the pagan Arabs, before Mohammed’s time, knew their chief god by the name of Allah and even, in a sense, proclaimed His unity. In pre-Islamic literature, Christian or pagan, ilah is used for any god and Al-ilah (contracted to Allah), i.e., ὁ θεος, the god, was the name of the Supreme. Among the pagan Arabs this term denoted the chief god of their pantheon, the Kaaba, with its  three hundred and sixty idols. 1

Today, many Muslims frequently use the argument that Jewish and Christian Arabs use Allah as a name when speaking about God. What those Muslims fail to recognize is just because those Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians may use the designation Allah, when speaking about God, it does not mean they are talking about the same distant character found within Islamic theology. But, that has already been addressed in Premise #1 above.

Premise #3: The Use of Allah is Exclusive

The pamphlet claims that Allah’s name only belongs to him and that there are no partners who share in his name. The name Allah is without gender and is totally singular. Allah is simply one-of-a-kind. Yet, as already seen, Allah, as a name, is actually borrowed. Allah, at least in name, existed long before Muhammad was born and it would not be until after he came to power that Allah went from being a pagan desert deity to a pagan world deity.

What is equally inconsistent is that the Muslims regularly refer to Allah as a “He.” Even in the pamphlet mentioned above, the editors reference Surah 112:1-4, which says, “Say: He is Allah…He begetteth not, nor is He begotten, and there is none like unto Him.” If the Muslims were really consistent about Allah’s gender neutrality, then why do they not refer to Allah as an “it,” rather than a “He” or “Him”?

As for Allah’s singularity, multiple references in the Qur’an show that Allah is not by himself. There is at least one or more persons being spoken of, as Allah addresses the reader.

And if ye are in doubt As to what We have revealed From time to time to Our servant… (2:23)

We said: “O Adam! dwell thou And thy wife in the Garden… (2:35).

And for their Covenant We raised over them (The towering height) Of Mount (Sinai); And (on another occasion) We said: “Enter the gate With humility”; and (once again) We commanded them: “Transgress not in the matter Of the Sabbath.” And We took from them A solemn Covenant (4:154).

If Allah is not plural, then why are there references to We and Our throughout the Qur’an, which are attributed to Allah when it speaks or does any one of a number of things? Could it be that Allah is not exclusive at all, but has retained many of the pagan beliefs that it was originally associated when Muhammad created Islam? Whatever the case, the whole premise regarding Allah’s gender and neutrality is invalidated by Muslim practicality.

Premise #4: Jesus called His Father “Allah”

According to the authors of the pamphlet, when Jesus referred to God, he used the Aramaic term to do so, which is Allah. However, there are a couple of significant problems with such an assertion, one of which was discussed above.

First, Allah is a contracted word: Al plus Ilah means “the god.” When Jesus referred to his father in Aramaic, he used the term of intimacy or Abba, not Ilah. He did this only one time in Mark 14:36.

Second, Allah is not found in the Aramaic for god. Instead, in the East the term is AaLaH and in the West it is AaLoH. Both are singular, both are masculine, but more importantly, it is not a contraction. It is a proper name.

Third, even if Jesus did use the Arabized form of the Aramaic term for God, which he did not, that in no way means that he was thinking of the Muslim deity. In fact, references such as Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4-6, and John 1:23 in comparison with Isaiah 40:3 make it clear that Jesus is Yahweh (יהוה). Yahweh is the covenantal and personal name of God (see Ex. 3:14). It does not mean that Jesus was God the Father, but that Jesus shared the same essence as Yahweh. Jesus, as Yahweh, was God or something vehemently rejected by all Muslims.

So, did Jesus ever call Yahweh Allah? No. Not in Aramaic, not in Greek, not in Hebrew.

Conclusion

Muslims, through publications like the one addressed in this article, constantly make allusions and draw parallels between their god and the one the Jews and Christians worship. In almost Jehovah’s Witness-type fashion, they make great leaps of logic regarding God’s name and actually end up substituting a pagan desert deity’s name for God. However, as demonstrated above, whether citing the multiple names for God in different languages, the lexical or etymological derivation for God’s name, or drawing an inference to Jesus, the Muslim argument for Allah is simply invalid.

The reality is Allah‘s affinity to Yahweh/Jesus only occurs when the self-revelation and teachings are exactly the same. Given Islam’s total rejection of God’s plurality in Trinity, Jesus’ deity and his blood sacrifice to atone for sins, along with a whole host of other fundamental doctrines concerning God’s personality and humanity being created in God’s image, it is clear that Allah is not only something totally different than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Allah is something that ought to be avoided wholesale. Allah amounts to nothing more than one of the idols that Muhammad encountered when he cleaned out the Kaaba, except he chose to retain it, rather than excise it, as well.

Notes:

  1. The Moslem Doctrine of God, pp. 32-33

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