Who is Allah?

Our ilah and your ilah is One and to Him we are submissive (literally, Muslims). 

(Qur’an 29:46)


Allah is the proper name in Arabic for the English word God.  It is a contraction of the two Arabic words al, the definite article “the,” and ilah, god.  Thus, linguistically Allah is The God.[1]  Arabic, the language of Muhammad, is a Semitic language like Hebrew, the language of Moses, and Aramaic, the language of Jesus.  For this very reason, the Arabic word Allah was spelt before as al, uluh, ilahia,[2] el, eloha, elohim by Moses and eloi,[3] alaha by Jesus.[4] 


Of all these derivatives, the word el, God, is both prefixed and suffixed to so many Biblical names familiar to us today.  El-i-jah (my-God is Jehovah.  So, -i is my.), Ishmael (God hears.), Israel (Prince of God.), Bethel (House of God-Genesis 28:19.), Peniel (Face of God-Genesis 32:30.)  Gabriel (Strength of God.) and finally Immanuel (God be with us.) are just some examples of it.[5] 


The very first edition of The New Scofield Reference Bible explains the word elohim to us: “Elohim (sometimes El or Elah), English for “God,” the first of the three primary names of Deity, is a uni-plural noun formed from El-strength, or the Strong One, and Alah, to swear, to bind oneself by an oath, so implying faithfulness.”[6]  Just in the book of Genesis only, elohim is repeated 156 times[7] and 2570 times throughout the whole Old Testament.[8]   The suffix –im that means we or  us in Hebrew is used to pluralize a name as a sign of respect, honor, majesty, grandeur and magnitude, not of numbers.[9] 


In the English translations of the Old Testament, the Hebrew words translated as God are typically El, Elohim and El-Elohim.  In contrasting the Arabic spelling of Al-ilah with the Hebrew spelling of El-Elohim, one would be left with Al-ilh and El-Elhm after the vowel sounds introduced in the English transliteration are deleted.[10]  Al-ilh is represented by Alif-Lam-Alif-Lam-Ha in Arabic letters as El-Elhm by the same combination in the Hebrew Alphabet with the exception of the plural –m of respect.  Thus, the word Allah is merely the Arabic version of these Hebrew words.[11]


In describing the moment of crucifixtion, The New Testament attributes the use of the words el and elo to Jesus (pbuh).  “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani" that is, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46),” and “At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is translated, " My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34)."[12]  Remember the suffix –i both in the words Eli and Eloi means my, then, el and elo do mean god.


As for the Arabic word ilah that is not distinctly different from el and elah, is derived from the Arabic verb aliha-ya’lahu which means seeking refuge, protection, and aid for preservation; to save, rescue, or deliver from evil; or to render one safe and secure[13] to fulfill the needs, thus, to get the needy satisfied and to be worshipped.[14]  Hence ilah is the one who performs all the above-mentioned actions, thus, a protector, a provider.  When the definite article al is prefixed to this word, i.e., al ilah, with the letter “i” being dropped, the word becomes Allah[15] that specifies all these attributes solely to the Creator Himself, meaning, The Only Provider-Protector worthy of worship!  The English word god, on the other hand, literally means any superhuman object exercising power over nature and man, thus, is invoked and worshipped by sacrifice.[16]  Then, the word God is not even an approximate substitute for the word Allah as they drastically differ in meaning even though they both supposedly refer to the same being.[17]  Then, the God is not corresponding to Allah in the theological sense.      


The word Allah that denotes the personal name of God in the language of Arabic is not subject to plurality or gender.  So, it is unique and refers to His oneness and unity, thus, necessarily covers all the most beautiful names that can appropriately be attributed to His Supreme Being only.[18]   Then, the very essence of His existence is to protect and to provide. 


Today, there are still people who recognize the Creator properly; Muslims, with respect to His proper personal name, Allah swt.  One utters when enters Islam the word “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His slave servant and messenger.”  Now it makes more sense, doesn’t it?


And the most beautiful names belong to Allah so call on Him by them.

(Qur’an 7:180)


He is God, the One besides Whom there is no other god; Knower of the worlds insensible and sensible; He is the Most Merciful Provider, the Most Merciful Protector.  He is God, the One besides Whom there is no other god; the Sovereign, the Most Holy, the Author of Peace, The Granter of Security, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Irresistible Compeller, the Justly Proud.  Glory be to God above the partners they attribute to Him.  He is God, the Creator, the Originator, the Fashioner.  To Him belong the most beautiful names.  Whatever is in the heavens and on the earth does glorify Him; He is the Exalted in Might, the Most Wise. (Qur’an 59:22-2)

[1] Baagil, H.M.  1984.  Christian Muslim Dialogue, pg 6.  Islamic Da’wah Committee, Riyad, Saudi Arabia.

[2] Azad, Mawlana Abul Kalam.  1962.  The Opening Chapter of the Qur’an pg 103.  Islamic Book Trust, Kuala Lumpur, Pakistan.

[3] Abdullah, Misha’al Ibn.  2001.  What Did Jesus REALLY Say?  2nd Edition pg 587.  IANA Books.

[4] Encyclopedia Britannica.  1980.  Under Allah and Elohim.

[5] Buttrick, George Arthur, et al.  1994.  The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, E-J. Vol.2.  Abingdon Press.

[6] Deedat, Ahmed.  1990.  What is His name?  5th Edition pg 28.    IPCI, Durban, RSA.

[7] Ibid., pg 24.

[8] Broderick, Robert C. and Broderick, Virginia.  1990.  The Catholic Encyclopedia published by Thomas Nelson.

[9] Deedat, Ahmed.  1993.  The Choice:  Islam and Christianity,  Volume One,  8th Edition pp 6, 170. 

[10] Dirks, Jerald F.  2003.  Understanding Islam: A Guide for the Judaeo-Christian Reader, 1st ed., pp. 5-6  Amana Publications, USA.

[11] Dirks, Jerald F.  2004.  The Abrahamic Faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Similarities and Contrasts.  1st ed. pp. 33-34.  Amana Publications, USA.

[12] From New American Standard Version of the Bible.

[13] Hammad, Ahmad Zaki.  1996.  The Opening to the Qur’an, pp 36- 37.  Quranic Literacy Institute (QLI), Illinois, USA.

[14] Siddiqui, Abdur Rashid.  2002.  Key to al-Fatiha, pp 3-4.  The Islamic Foundation, United Kingdom.

[15] Lane, Edward William.  1997.  An Arabic-English Lexicon in Eight Parts.  pp. 82-83.  Librarie du Liban, Beirut-Lebanon.

[16] Stevenson, A., Bailey, C. and  Siefring, J.  2002.  Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.  5th edition.  Oxford University Press.

[17] Daryabadi, Maulana Abdulmajid.  1991.  Tafsir-ul-Qur’an.  Translation and Commentary of the Holy Qur’an.  Vol. I pg. 2.  1st edition.  Darul-Ishaat Urdu Bazar Karachi-I, Pakistan.

[18] Rizvi, Sayed S. Akhtar.  1994.  God of Islam, p. 46.  Tahrike and Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., Elmhurst, New York, USA.

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