The Aramaic word for "God" in the language of Assyrian Christians is ʼĔlāhā, or Alaha. Arabic-speakers of all Abrahamic faiths, including Christians and Jews, use the word "Allah" to mean "God". The Christian Arabs of today have no other word for "God" than "Allah".(Even the Arabic-descended Maltese language of Malta, whose population is almost entirely Roman Catholic, uses Alla for "God".) Arab Christians for example use terms Allāh al-ab (الله الأب) meaning God the Father, Allāh al-ibn (الله الابن) mean God the Son, and Allāh al-rūḥ al-quds (الله الروح القدس) meaning God the Holy Spirit. (See God in Christianity for the Christian concept of God.)
Arab Christians have used two forms of invocations that were affixed to the beginning of their written works. They adopted the Muslimbismillāh, and also created their own Trinitized bismillāh as early as the 8th century CE. The Muslim bismillāh reads: "In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful." The Trinitized bismillāh reads: "In the name of Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God." The Syriac, Latin and Greek invocations do not have the words "One God" at the end. This addition was made to emphasize themonotheistic aspect of Trinitian belief and also to make it more palatable to Muslims.
According to Marshall Hodgson, it seems that in the pre-Islamic times, some Arab Christians made pilgrimage to the Ka‘bah, a pagan temple at that time, honoring Allah there as God the Creator.
Some archaeological excavation quests have led to the discovery of ancient Pre-Islamic inscriptions and tombs made by Arabic-speaking Christians in the ruins of a church at Umm el-Jimal in Northern Jordan, which contained references to Allah as the proper name of God, and some of the graves contained names such as "Abd Allah" which means "the servant/slave of Allah".
The name Allah can be found countless times in the reports and the lists of names of Christian martyrs in South Arabia, as reported by antique Syriac documents of the names of those martyrs from the era of the Himyarite & Aksumite kingdoms.
A Christian leader named Abd Allah ibn Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad was martyred in Najran in 523 AD, and he had worn a ring that said "Allah is my lord".
In an inscription of Christian martyrion dated back to 512 AD, references to Allah can be found in both Arabic and Aramaic, which called him "Allah" and "Alaha", and the inscription starts with the statement "By the Help of Allah".
In Pre-Islamic Gospels, the name used for God was "Allah", as evidenced by some discovered Arabic versions of the New Testamenttwritten by Arab Christians during the Pre-Islamic era in Northern and Southern Arabia.
Pre-Islamic Arab Christians have been reported to have raised the battle cry "Ya La Ibad Allah" (O slaves of Allah) to invoke each other into battle.
"Allah" was also mentioned in pre-Islamic Christian poems by some Ghassanid and Tanukhid poets in Syria and NorthernArabia.
As Hebrew and Arabic are closely related Semitic languages, it is commonly accepted that Allah (root, ilāh) and the Biblical Elohim are cognate derivations of same origin, as in Eloah a Hebrew word which is used (e.g. in the Book of Job) to mean '(the) God' and also 'god or gods' as in the case of Elohim, ultimately deriving from the root El, 'strong', possibly genericized from El (deity), as in the Ugaritic ’lhm"children of El" (the ancient Near Eastern creator god in pre-Abrahamic tradition).
In Jewish scripture Elohim is used as a descriptive title for the God of the scriptures whose name is YHWH, as well as for pagan gods.
As a loanword
English and other European languages
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The history of the name Allāh in English was probably influenced by the study of comparative religion in the 19th century; for example, Thomas Carlyle (1840) sometimes used the term Allah but without any implication that Allah was anything different from God. However, in his biography of Muḥammad (1934), Tor Andræ always used the term Allah, though he allows that this "conception of God" seems to imply that it is different from that of the Jewish and Christian theologies.
Languages which may not commonly use the term Allah to denote God may still contain popular expressions which use the word. For example, because of the centuries long Muslim presence in the Iberian Peninsula, the word ojalá in the Spanish language and oxalá in the Portuguese language exist today, borrowed from Arabic (Arabic: إن شاء الله). This phrase literally means 'if God wills' (in the sense of "I hope so"). The German poet Mahlmann used the form "Allah" as the title of a poem about the ultimate deity, though it is unclear how much Islamic thought he intended to convey.
Some Muslims leave the name "Allāh" untranslated in English.
Malaysian and Indonesian language
Christians in Indonesia and Malaysia also use Allah to refer to God in the Malaysian language andIndonesian language (both languages forms of theMalay language which is referred to as Bahasa Melayu).
Mainstream Bible translations in both languages useAllah as the translation of Hebrew Elohim (translated in English Bibles as "God"). This goes back to early translation work by Francis Xavier in the 16th century. The first dictionary of Dutch-Malay byA.C. Ruyl, Justus Heurnius, and Caspar Wiltens in 1650 (revised edition from 1623 edition and 1631 Latin-edition) recorded "Allah" as the translation of the Dutch word "Godt". Ruyl also translated Matthew in 1612 to Malay language (first Bible translation to non-European language, only a year after King James Version was published), which was printed in the Netherlands in 1629. Then he translated Mark which was published in 1638.
The government of Malaysia in 2007 outlawed usage of the term Allah in any other but Muslim contexts, but the High Court in 2009 revoked the law, ruling that it was unconstitutional. While Allah had been used for the Christian God in Malay for more than four centuries, the contemporary controversy was triggered by usage of Allah by the Roman Catholic newspaper The Herald. The government has in turn appealed the court ruling, and the High Court has suspended implementation of its verdict until the appeal is heard.
In other scripts and languages
Allāh in other languages that use Arabic script is spelled in the same way. This includes Urdu,Persian/Dari, Uyghur among others.
- Assamese, Bengali: আল্লাহ Allah
- Bosnian: Allah
- Chinese: 阿拉 Ālā, 安拉 Ānlā; 真主 Zhēnzhǔ (semantic translation), 胡大 Huda (Khoda, from Persian language)
- Czech, Slovak: Allách
- Greek: Αλλάχ Allách
- Hebrew: אללה Allah
- Hindi: अल्लाह Allāh
- Malayalam: അള്ളാഹ് Aḷḷāh
- Japanese: アラー Arā, アッラー Arrā, アッラーフ Arrāfu
- Maltese: Alla
- Korean: 알라 Alla
- Polish: Allah, also archaic Allach or Ałłach
- Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian: Алла́х Allakh
- Serbian, Belarusian, Macedonian: Алах Alah
- Spanish, Portuguese: Alá
- Thai: อัลลอฮ์ Anláw
- Punjabi (Gurmukhi): ਅੱਲਾਹ Allāh, archaic ਅਲਹੁ Alahu (in Sikh scriptures)
The word Allāh is always written without an alif to spell the ā vowel. This is because the spelling was settled before Arabic spelling started habitually using alif to spell ā. However, in vocalized spelling, a small diacritic alif is added on top of the shaddahto indicate the pronunciation.
One exception may be in the pre-Islamic Zabad inscription, where it ends with an ambiguous sign that may be a lone-standing h with a lengthened start, or may be a non-standard conjoined l-h:-
- الاه : This reading would be Allāh spelled phonetically with alif for the ā.
- الإله : This reading would be al-Ilāh = 'the god' (an older form, without contraction), by older spelling practice without alif for ā.
Unicode has a codepoint reserved for Allāh, ﷲ = U+FDF2, in the Arabic Presentation Forms-A block, which exists solely for “compatability with older, legacy character sets that encoded presentation forms directly”, which is dicouraged for new text. Instead, the word Allāh should be represented by its individual Arabic letters, while modern font technologies will render the desired ligature.
The calligraphic variant of the word used as the Coat of arms of Iran is encoded in Unicode, in the Miscellaneous Symbols range, at codepoint U+262B (☫).
- Islamic eschatology
- Abdullah (name)
- Names of God
- Five Pillars of Islam
- Prophets of Islam
- El (deity)
- "God". Islam: Empire of Faith. PBS. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
- "Islam and Christianity", Encyclopedia of Christianity (2001): Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews also refer to God as Allāh.
- L. Gardet. "Allah". Encyclopaedia of Islam Online.
- Merriam-Webster. "Allah". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
- "Allah." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica
- Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa, Allah
- Columbia Encyclopedia, Allah
- L. Gardet, Allah, Encyclopaedia of Islam
- Columbia Encyclopaedia says: Derived from an old Semitic root referring to the Divine and used in the Canaanite El, the Mesopotamian ilu, and the biblical Elohim and Eloah, the word Allah is used by all Arabic-speaking Muslims, Christians, Jews, and other monotheists.
- The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon – Entry for ʼlh
- Guru Granth Sahib website (Search: ਅਲਹ|ਅਲਾਹ)
- L. Gardet, "Allah", Encyclopedia of Islam
- Smith, Peter (2000). "prayer". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 274–275.ISBN 978-1-85168-184-6.
- Murata, Sachiko (1992). The Tao of Islam : a sourcebook on gender relationships in Islamic thought. Albany NY USA: SUNY.ISBN 978-0-7914-0914-5.
- Lewis, Bernard; Holt, P. M.; Holt, Peter R.; Lambton, Ann Katherine Swynford (1977). The Cambridge history of Islam. Cambridge, Eng: University Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-521-29135-4.
- F.E. Peters, Islam, p.4, Princeton University Press, 2003
- Nation of Islam – personification of Allah as Detroit peddler W D Fard
- "A history of Clarence 13X and the Five Percenters", referring to Clarence Smith as Allah
- Unicode Standard 5.0, p.479,492
- See Qur’an 13:16 ; 29:61–63; 31:25; 39:38)
- See Qur’an 37:158)
- See Qur’an (6:100)
- See Qur’an (53:19–22; 16:57; 37:149)
- See Qur’an (53:26–27)
- Gerhard Böwering, God and his Attributes, Encyclopedia of the Qur’an
- See Qur’an 6:109; 10:22; 16:38; 29:65)
- René Dussaud, Les Arabes en Syrie avant l’Islam (Paris, Ernest Leroux, 1907), Pages: 141
- Philip Hitti, History of the Arabs: From the Earliest Times to the Present, Tenth Edition (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1970), Pages: 100
- F. V. Winnett, A Study of the Lihyanite and Thamudic Inscriptions (Toronto: 1937), Pages: 30
- Kenneth J. Thomas, The Bible Translator: Technical Papers, Vol. 52:3, (July 2001), Pages: 301-305
- Stephanie Dalley (1989), Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, Oxford University Press, Pages: 3-10
- Thorkild Jacobsen, The Harps that Once: Sumerian Poetry in Translation (1997), Yale University Press, Part. 1, Pages: 53-61
- Kees Versteegh, The Arabic Language (1997), Columbia University Press-New York, Page: 30
- Dan Gibson, The Nabataeans: Builders of Petra (2003), Page: 209
- John F. Healey, The Religion of the Nabataeans: A Conspectus (2000), Brill Publishing, Page: 83
- Böwering, Gerhard, God and His Attributes, Encyclopaedia of the Qurʼān, Brill, 2007.
- Bentley, David (September 1999). The 99 Beautiful Names for God for All the People of the Book. William Carey Library.ISBN 978-0-87808-299-5.
- Gary S. Gregg, The Middle East: A Cultural Psychology, Oxford University Press, p.30
- Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, Islamic Society in Practice, University Press of Florida, p. 24
- M. Mukarram Ahmed, Muzaffar Husain Syed, Encyclopaedia of Islam, Anmol Publications PVT. LTD, p. 144
- Carl W. Ernst, Bruce B. Lawrence, Sufi Martyrs of Love: The Chishti Order in South Asia and Beyond, Macmillan, p. 29
- Allah, Encyclopædia Britannica
- Thomas E. Burman, Religious Polemic and the Intellectual History of the Mozarabs, Brill, 1994, p. 103
- Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization, University of Chicago Press, p. 156
- James Bellamy, ‘Two Pre-Islamic Arabic Inscriptions Revised: Jabal Ramm and Umm al-Jimal’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 108/3 (1988)
- Enno Littmann, Arabic Inscriptions (Leiden, 1949)
- Rick Brown, International Journal of Frontier Missions, (23:2 Summer 2006), page 80.
- Ignatius Ya`qub III, The Arab Himyarite Martyrs in the Syriac Documents (1966), Pages: 9-65-66-89
- Rick Brown, Who was ‘Allah’ before Islam? (2007), page 8.
- Alfred Guillaume& Muhammad Ibn Ishaq, (2002 ). The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Isḥāq’s Sīrat Rasūl Allāh with Introduction and Notes. Karachi and New York: Oxford University Press, page 18.
- Adolf Grohmann, Arabische Paläographie II: Das Schriftwesen und die Lapidarschrift (1971), Wien: Hermann Böhlaus Nochfolger, Page: 6-8
- Beatrice Gruendler, The Development of the Arabic Scripts: From the Nabatean Era to the First Islamic Century according to Dated Texts (1993), Atlanta: Scholars Press, Page:
- Frederick Winnett V, Allah before Islam-The Moslem World (1938), Pages: 239–248
- Michael Macdonald, Personal Names in the Nabataean Realm-Journal Of Semitic Studies (1999), Page: 271
- Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Fourth Century, Dumbarton Oaks Trustees for Harvard University-Washington DC, page 418.
- Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Fourth Century, Dumbarton Oaks Trustees for Harvard University-Washington DC, Page: 452
- A. Amin & A. Harun, Sharh Diwan Al-Hamasa (Cairo, 1951), Vol. 1, Pages: 478-480
- Al-Marzubani, Mu'jam Ash-Shu'araa, Page: 302
- William Montgomery Watt, Islam and Christianity today: A Contribution to Dialogue, Routledge, 1983, p.45
- Islam in Luce López Baralt, Spanish Literature: From the Middle Ages to the Present, Brill, 1992, p.25
- F. E. Peters, The Monotheists: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Conflict and Competition, Princeton University Press, p.12
- Example: Usage of the word "Allah" from Matthew 22:32 in Indonesian bible versions (parallel view) as old as 1733
- The Indonesian Language: Its History and Role in Modern Society Sneddon, James M.; University of New South Wales Press; 2004
- The History of Christianity in India from the Commencement of the Christian Era: Hough, James; Adamant Media Corporation; 2001
- Justus Heurnius, Albert Ruyl, Caspar Wiltens. "Vocabularium ofte Woordenboeck nae ordre van den alphabeth, in 't Duytsch en Maleys". 1650:65
- Barton, John (2002–12). The Biblical World, Oxford, UK: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-27574-3.
- North, Eric McCoy; Eugene Albert Nida ((2nd Edition) 1972). The Book of a Thousand Tongues, London: United Bible Societies.
- (Indonesian) Biography of Ruyl
- Encyclopædia Britannica: Albert Cornelius Ruyl
- "Zebed Inscription: A Pre-Islamic Trilingual Inscription In Greek, Syriac & Arabic From 512 CE". Islamic Awareness. 17 March 2005.
- The Unicode Consortium. FAQ - Middle East Scripts
In pre-Islamic Arabia, Allah was used by Meccans as a reference to the creator-god, possibly the supreme deity. Allah was not considered the sole divinity; however, Allah was considered the creator of the world and the giver of rain. The notion of the term may have been vague in the Meccan religion. Allah was associated with companions, whom pre-Islamic Arabs considered as subordinate deities. Meccans held that a kind of kinship existed between Allah and the jinn. Allah was thought to have had sons and that the local deities of al-‘Uzzá, Manāt and al-Lāt were His daughters. The Meccans possibly associated angels with Allah. Allah was invoked in times of distress. Muhammad's father's name was ‘Abd Allāh meaning 'the slave of Allāh'.
Many inscriptions containing the name Allah have been discovered in Northern and Southern Arabia as early as the 5th century B.C., including Lihyanitic, Thamudic and South Arabian inscriptions.
The name Allah or Alla was found in the Epic of Atrahasis engraved on several tablets dating back to around 1700 BC in Babylon, which showed that he was being worshipped as a high deity among other gods who were considered to be his brothers but taking orders from him.
Dumuzid the Shepherd, a king of the 1st Dynasty of Uruk named on the Sumerian King List, was later over-venerated so that people started associating him with "Alla" and the Babylonian god Tammuz.
The name Allah was used by Nabataeans in compound names, such as "Abd Allah" (The Servant/Slave of Allah), "Aush Allah" (The Faith of Allah), "Amat Allah" (The She-Servant of Allah), "Hab Allah" (Beloved of Allah), "Han Allah" (Allah is gracious), "Shalm Allah" (Peace of Allah), while the name "Wahab Allah" (The Gift of Allah) was found throughout the entire region of the Nabataeankingdom.
From Nabataean inscriptions, Allah seems to have been regarded as a "High and Main God", while other deities were considered to be mediators before Allah and of a second status, which was the same case of the worshipers at the Kaaba temple at Mecca.