Author Topic: Is "Allah" a Name or It is Merely Arabic for "The God"?  (Read 22962 times)


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Is "Allah" a Name or It is Merely Arabic for "The God"?
« on: April 15, 2008, 01:32:25 AM »
Im having a debate with a group of Sunnists who are bent on thinking that Allah is the name of God. So can someone with Arabic knowledge enlightens me regarding this matter? Or if there is some articles about this?

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Re: Is "Allah" a Name or It is Merely Arabic for "The God"?
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2008, 03:55:41 AM »
Peace Jankren,

My knowledge of arabic is poor, so I'm probably not the guy you're looking for, but still even with a little knowledge I think that this question can be answered. I think the answer lies in the preposition li-, which means to or for. In "Koranic and Classical Arabic" by Wheeler Thackston, pg. 11-12, the grammatical rules of li- are detailed. They say that when a word begins with Alif, the alif is retained orthographically but not pronounced. Thus, Imrat, which means women and is written like:


Becomes with li- attached:



However, if a word begins with the definite article, which is Al- "the" (Alif and Laam), then the Alif is removed completely and the laam from the preposition li- is added to the remaining laam from the definite article. Al-bint, which means "the girl":


Becomes with li- attached:



You can see that the letter ا is missing in Li-lbint. So if a word intrinsically has Alif at the beginning, then that alif is retained in writing but not pronounced. But when a word does not begin with alif, such as bint, but has the definite article (which does have alif at the beginning), then that alif is removed completely.

Now look at what happens when we attach li- to  allah.




The alif is gone! Doesn't that suggest that there is a definite article in the front of "Allah"? That it is indeed "Al-Ilah", which means "The God", and that it is word not a name?

I even have theory as to why the i in ilah is gone when it becomes Al-lah. Again, look the word imrat - woman. When the Al- is added, it is not pronounced al-imraat, but Al-mraat! You see, here to the i is gone not only in pronunciation but in writing too! The same must be the case with ilah.

But as I said, I only know a little arabic, and a little arabic can be dangerous...

I hope someone more knowledgeable can correct or confirm this post.



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Re: Is "Allah" a Name or It is Merely Arabic for "The God"?
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2008, 10:11:40 AM »

For all practical purposes of understanding the simple definition of  Alif-Lam-Ha I believe that "God" sums it up.
But we must keep in mind that Arabic root words are verbs not nouns. So therefore, I conclude that ?God? is a verb: an action word.
And the most primitive definition may be ?The strong one guiding the whole/person/faithful or something similiar.?  This primitive understanding is based on examining the ancient pictographs of the semitic language. 

Here are the references for my understanding of this definition (my comments are in blue):

The word ?El? with the definition of God is used in every semitic language in some form except Ethiopic. ?It is the most frequently occurring name for the deity in proper name throughout the ancient Semitic world .?(Marvin H. Pope, El in the Ugaritic Texts, pg. 1)

Since God is the strongest, the most powerful and the most mighty we can understand the divine meaning of this word.

?It is difficult to detect any discreprancy in use between the forms el, eloah and elohim in Scripture.? (Marvin H. Pope, El in the Ugaritic Texts, pg. 10)

The words El and Eloheem are often followed by descriptive functions of the power of God most relevant to the passage where the word appears.
אלה is many times translated as oath, curse, lament, wail. This is not difficult to understand as there have been many scholars who point out that this word can mean the solemn promise between humans or the solemn promise between human and God. In which case, one would call upon God in for help or as witness in the various states of mind that the words suggest. But all are forms of calling upon God.

From "The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible" (AHLB) by Jeff Benner
(please note that the Ancient Hebrew Font was omitted because I was unable to make the font work with this platform. However, the rest of the quote is intact and unchanged):
"1012) אל AL) ac: Yoke co: Ox ab: Strength: The pictograph א is a picture of an ox head and also represents its strength. The ל is a picture of a shepherd staff and also represents the authority of the shepherd. Combined these two pictographs mean "the strong authority" and can be anyone or thing of strong authority. The yoke is understood as a "staff on the shoulders" (see Isaiah 9:4) in order to harness their power for pulling loads such as a wagon or plow. Hence, the two pictographs can also represent "the ox in the yoke". Often two oxen were yoked together. An older, more experienced ox would be teamed up (yoked) with a younger, less experienced ox. The older ox in the yoke is the "strong authority" who, through the yoke, teaches the younger ox. (eng: all; elk; elephant)
A) אל AL) ac: ? Co: Ox ab: Oath: The power of the oxs muscles to perform work.
Nm) אל AL) - Power: One who holds authority over others such as judges, chiefs and gods. In the sense of being yoked to one another. [freq. 245] |kjv: God, god, power, mighty, goodly, great, idols, strong, unto, with, against, at, into, in, before, to, of, upon, by, toward, hath, for, on, beside, from, where, after, within| {str: 410}
Nf1) אלה A-LH) - I. Oath: A binding agreement including the curse for violating the oath. II. Oak: The strongest of the woods. [freq. 50] |kjv: oak, elm, teil tree, curse, oath, execration, swearing| {str: 423, 424, 427}
H) אלה ALH) ac: Swear co: Yoke ab: ?: The yoking together of two parties. A treaty or covenant binds two parties together through an oath (yoke). The oath included blessings for abiding by the covenant and curses for breaking the covenant (see Deuteronomy 28). The God of the Hebrews was seen as the older ox that is yoked to his people in a covenant relationship.
V) אלה A-LH) - I. Sw (vf: Paal, Hiphil) |kjv: swear, curse, adjure, lament| {str: 421, 422}
Nm) אלה A-LH) - Power: The power or might of one who rules or teaches. One who yokes with another. Often applied to rulers or a god. [Aramaic only] [freq. 95] |kjv: god| {str: 426}
cm) אלוה A-LWH) - Power: The power or might of one who rules or teaches. One who yokes with another. Often applied to rulers or a god. [Hebrew and Aramaic] [df: ] [freq. 2663] |kjv: God, god, heathen deity| {str: 430, 433}"

Paraphrased From "A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament with Chaldee" by Wilhelm Gesenius:
אלה a root not in use Arab. اله to worship God, to adore; med. Kesra: to be astonished, affrighted.
אלה 1. pp. To be round, rotund; hence to be thick, fat, gross; cogn. With r. אול  comp. Espec. אול abdomen, belly.
Arab. الى to have thick buttocks, of a man. To have a fat tail of a sheep. Hence אל'ה
II. Denom. From אל no. 1 where see note; pp. To call on God, invoke God hence (the following definitions are derived):
1. to swear Arab. الا for الو conj. IV, V pp. To call on God as witness, to affirm by God
2. to curse
3. to lament, to wail, pp. To call on God for mercy, like Engl. (Phrase) "God have mercy!"
Note: It may perhaps be worth inquiry, whether this root be not strictly onomatopoetic, like ילל אלל and then the signification which we have here put last (no.3) would be the primary one.
HIPH. To cause to swear, to bind by an oath
אלה f. (Kamets impure, from אלה no. II for אאלה which again is for אלאה אלוה Arab. الوة
1. an oath
2. an oath of covenant, a sworn covenant
3. an imprecation, curse, execration
אלה f. An oak
אלה f. i.q. איל no. 2 (root אול ) a strong hardy tree, spec. A terebinth, Pistacia Terebinthus Linn. A tree common in Patestine, long lived and therefore often employed for landmarks and in designating places. According to Pliny(16. 12) it is an evergreen; but this is contrary to the fact. The ancient versions render it sometimes a terebinth, and sometimes an oak. Hence the word would seem to have been taken in a broader signification, for any large and durable tree.
אלה st. Emphat. אלהא m. Chald. i.q. Heb. אלוה a god, stat. Emphat. Spec. Of Jehovah.
אלה pron. Plur. Comm. These employed in common usage as the plural of וה this. The simple form is אל q.v. Which is more seldom; the ending ה has a demonstrative power, comp. הוה Arab. اولى الى الا الات
אלוה m. A god, God c. Pref. Et. Suff. לאלה Arab. الاه اله c. Art. الله the true God, syr. ܠܗܐ In unison with Aramaean usage, the form of the singular is employed only in the poetic style and later Hebrew; while the pluralis majestaticus v. Excellentiae אלהים  is the common and very frequent form.
Sing. 1. a god, i.e. Any god
2. more comm. God, the true God
A. In a plural sense: 1. gods, dieties, in general, true or false
Note. Many interpreters, both ancient and modern, assign also to אלהים the signif. Angels. For an examination and refutation of this opinion see Thesaur. Ling. Heb. P. 95
B. In the sense of the Sing. Spoken of one God
1. any god, deity
2. an idol-god, god of the heathen
3. the God of any one, is the god whom one worships, his domestic and totelary god.
4. More rarely followed by a genit. Expressing that over which the deity presides, or which has created; in the same manner as Mars is called "the god of war"
5. אלהים  is put for a godlike shape, apparition, spirit
6. the one true God
אלה st. emphat. אלהא m. Chald. i.q. Heb. אלוה a god

Excerpts From The Theological Word Book of the Old Testament:
'lh is the assumed root of 'el, 'eloah, and 'elohim, which mean "god" or "God." The Ugaritic term for "god" or the "chief god" is 'il, plural 'ilm, occasionally plural 'ilhm (cf. UT 19: no. 163). The Phoenician term is 'l "El"; the plural is 'lm which seems to be construed sometimes as a singular (cf. Z. Harris, Grammar of the Phoenician Language, Jewish Publication Society, 1936, p. 77). The Aramaic is 'elah, plural 'elahin. The Akkadian form is ilu.
...'eloah is also a basic Hebrew term for the God of Israel, but is used less frequently (see 'eloah and 'el, a separate though perhaps related generic term for God).

The name "El" is a very ancient Semitic term It is also the most widely distributed name among Semitic-speaking peoples for the deity, occurring in some form in every Semitic language except Ethiopic. Pope, in his study of "El" in the Ugaritic, notes that it is the most frequently occurring name for the deity in proper name throughout the ancient Semitic world (Marvin Pope, El in the Ugaritic Texts, p.1).
From Vines's:
'elah (H426), "god." This Aramaic word is the equivalent of the Hebrew 'eloah. It is a general term for "God" in the Aramaic passages of the Old Testament, and it is a cognate form of the word 'allah, the designation of deity used by the Arabs. The word was used widely in the Book of Ezra, occurring no fewer than 43 times between Ezr_4:24 and Ezr_7:26. On each occasion, the reference is to the "God" of the Jewish people, whether the speaker or writer was himself Jewish or not. Thus the governor of the province "Beyond the River" (i.e., west of the river Euphrates) spoke to king Darius of the "house of the great God" Ezr_5:8. So also Cyrus instructed Sheshbazzar, the governor, that the "house of God be builded" in Jerusalem (Ezr_5:15).

'eloah (H433), "god." This Hebrew name for "God" corresponds to the Aramaic 'elah and the Ugaritic il (or, if denoting a goddess, ilt). The origin of the term is unknown, and it is used rarely in Scripture as a designation of deity. Indeed, its distribution throughout the various books of the Bible is curiously uneven. 'Eloah occurs 40 times in the Book of Job between Job_3:4 and Job_40:2, while in the remainder of the Old Testament it is used no more than 15 times.
Certain scholars regard the word as being a singular version of the common plural form 'elohim, a plural of majesty. 'Eloah is commonly thought to be vocative in nature, meaning "O God." But it is not clear why a special form for the vocative in an address to God should be needed, since the plural 'elohim is frequently translated as a vocative when the worshiper is speaking directly to God, as in Psa_79:1. There is an obvious general linguistic relationship between 'eloah and 'elohim, but determining its precise nature is difficult.
The word 'eloah is predominant in poetry rather than prose literature, and this is especially true of the Book of Job. Some scholars have suggested that the author of Job deliberately chose a description for godhead that avoided the historical associations found in a phrase such as "the God of Bethel" (Gen_31:13) or "God of Israel" (Exo_24:10). But even the Book of Job is by no means historically neutral, since places and peoples are mentioned in introducing the narrative (cf. Job_1:1, Job_1:15, Job_1:17). Perhaps the author considered 'eloah a suitable term for poetry and used it accordingly with consistency. This is also apparently the case in Psa_18:31, where 'eloah is found instead of 'el, as in the parallel passage of 2Sa_22:32. 'Eloah also appears as a term for God in Psa_50:22; Psa_139:19; and Pro_30:5. Although 'eloah as a divine name is rarely used outside Job, its literary history extends from at least the second millennium B.C. (as in Deu_32:15) to the fifth century B.C. (as in Neh_9:17).

Summarized From Lane?s Lexicon: serve, worship, adore
2. the object of service or adoration ie a god diety
3. to become confounded or perplexed and unable to see the right course
4. to seek protetction, ask for aide example by Lane: He betook himself to him by reason of
fright or fear, seehing protection; or sought, or
asked, aid, or succour, of him: he had recourse,
or betook himself, to him for refIuqe, protection,
or preservation.
الله the Being who exists neccessarily, by himself,
compromising all the attributes of perfection

From Hans Wehr?s Arabic ? English Dictionary
اله god, diety, godhead
II. to deofy s.o. make a god of s.o.
الهى الاهى divine, of God; theological
الله Allah, God (as the one and only)
اللهم O God!



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Re: Is "Allah" a Name or It is Merely Arabic for "The God"?
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2008, 08:09:08 PM »
So "Allah" is not really the same as "Al-Ilah"?

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Re: Is "Allah" a Name or It is Merely Arabic for "The God"?
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2008, 08:23:09 PM »
So "Allah" is not really the same as "Al-Ilah"?

Yes, that is my current understanding. I do not believe that it is Al-Ilah but rather Allah.
The Lam being doubled in Arabic but not different from the alif-lam-ha of Aramaic and Hebrew.
For if it were Al-ilah, it is my opinion that it would be written alif-lam-alif-lam-ha.


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Re: Is "Allah" a Name or It is Merely Arabic for "The God"?
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2008, 10:02:52 PM »
Then all this time I have been believing a lie because people told me that "Allah" means "The God".

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Re: Is "Allah" a Name or It is Merely Arabic for "The God"?
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2008, 11:40:58 PM »
Then all this time I have been believing a lie because people told me that "Allah" means "The God".
Salam Jankren,
Well I guess it depends on how you look at it. We, as Muslims, agree that there is only one God so what does it matter if you put "the" in front of "God."
I understand that your concern is over your linguistic understanding of the word Allah. But your concept of the word has not changed.
Masha Allah this is all part of the learning process.


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Re: Is "Allah" a Name or It is Merely Arabic for "The God"?
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2008, 12:00:00 AM »
Peace Arnab,

You wrote:For if it were Al-ilah, it is my opinion that it would be written alif-lam-alif-lam-ha.

I think this is faulty logic. For if you apply it to the word imrat, which I mentioned in my post, you might as well say that imrat with al- should be written alif-lam-alif-miim-raa-alif-taa marbutah - Which is not the case.

Have you any comments on what I wrote? You seem to be a knowledgeable person...



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Re: Is "Allah" a Name or It is Merely Arabic for "The God"?
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2008, 12:59:02 AM »
Salaam all

I do not think, in my opinion, that the answer resides with Arabic linguistics, because Arabic does not have a linguistic rule for this, or that there is a similar rule applied or could be applied to other words. It is a one off rule only in my belief. I find the logic of Nadeem in his first message quite interesting. If the first alif laam of (Allah) was part of a name, it will not go away when we prefix (li). For example the name "Albania" would be "li-albania", or the word "alam: pain" would be "li-alam".
Also, the difference between "al-ilaah" and "Allah" is that the first, though definite, gives the understatnding of one of a speces of (ilah). That's why Arabic does not use this term for God, but a unique way of writing it: Allah and Lillah.

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Re: Is "Allah" a Name or It is Merely Arabic for "The God"?
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2008, 01:13:16 AM »
What for me is so interesting is that even if the term Allah is not Al-Ilah, the outcome is still that the Qur'an explains what Allah is. As in the dictionaries, the term Ilah only has a short definition that does not explain Allah, only how ancient Arabs viewed their Ilah's. From the first sentence on in the Qur'an, we can see that Allah tries to explain Himself, what He is and what he does. What is so interesting about this, is that the 2 first defintions are Rahman and Raheem coming from Rahma, which forms the word Rihum, the female womb.

From my exposition on Al-Fatiha:

Bismi Allahi alrrahmani alrraheemi

By the Definition (Attributes) of Allah, the Universal Force who has complete
Authority, to whom we seek protection, providence and guidance, the Source of all
that is which sustains the whole Universe so intelligent Life could emerge and could
become conscious so it would realize it exists and all that it needs for living and
development without ever asking for this gift. Who embraces the entire Universe in
His fold, nourishing and taking care of all things for what they are meant to be, just
as a mother's womb nourishes the embryo without any returns. The Constant
Provider of those who strive and struggle for the providence of nourishment,
protection and development. The Constant Provider for all stages of Universal
Evolution for those who are most fit for further development.


The ?Bi? (=with) connected to Allah does not only create a simple term as ?In/with the name of
Allah?, in Arabic it creates a plea and confirmation for who to focus on for the providing of
protection and guidance. Ism means name or definition and refers not only to the title ?Allah?, but
to the whole definition of what Allah is. Thus in this verse it refers to all Attributes that are found
in the Quran. The combination of ?Bi-Ism-Allah? thus creates the above given rendition where
we are pointed to the Attributes of Allah, to understand them so we can know how to develop,
protect and nourish ourselves according to His System in the Universe.

Allah comes from Al-Ilah, and literally means 'The God'.
Allah - (Alif-Lam-Ha). Il'ah, by definition, is one: -
to whom someone looks for protection in bewilderment,
from whose grandeur one gets dazed,
whose overall sovereignty or lordship is accepted,
whose laws and directions are obeyed and followed, and
who is at the highest pedestal and remains unseen (Taj).

Keeping in view the above Attributes, the name Allah as it appears in the Quran would mean a
Being Who is Supreme but remains hidden from human eyes; before Whose dignity and grandeur
the human perceptions become dazed; Whose Sovereignty extends over the entire universe;
Whose obedience is must. By accepting Him as IL'AH, one must accept only His Sovereignty and
obey His Laws.

Human mind just cannot perceive Him in any shape or physical form nor can explain Him. He is
beyond human perceptions (6:104). Nothing is like Him (42:11). However, we can explain His
Attributes as mentioned in the Quran. To believe in Allah would, therefore, mean to acknowledge
and accept His Sovereignty with all His Attributes, as mentioned in the Quran, in the most
balanced and proportionate manner (17:110).

Every tribe, nation, religion and people have their own concept of their ?God?, thus the term
Allah, The God, meant and means something different for every different group on Earth. Thus
the Quran tries to teach Mankind the true definition of Allah, for example it addresses the
Christians that the Creator can never be three, or the Jews that Allah is not a tribal god who will
only give Paradise to one specific group based on their ethnicity. That Allah cannot have
offspring as He has no mate or equal, He is Ahad, unique in nature and being (Chapter 112). That
He judges people on their works, not on their sex, race or even the details of their beliefs (5:62).
And so on. Thus, the Quran has a unique stance compared to any scripture or belief as it presents
an All-Embracing Force that looks at all its creations with equal mercy and provides the needs for
all without distinction. No group, no race in the Universe even (Quran acknowledges Life on
other planets), can claim ownership or having a special position in the eyes of Allah. Thus gives
the reason why every chapter in the Quran begins with the term ?In the Definition of Allah?, as
Mankind still must learn and understand what this definition precisely is before it can develop
any further.

Ar-Rahman and Ar-Raheem come from the root Rahma. Ar-Rihum is Arabic for womb, and is
the explaining word for the root.

Rahman in Arabic refers to the Source of Providing the All, the starting point. It is the Source of
the whole Universe and its complete structure so Life could emerge, becomes conscious and
would realize it exists without ever asking for it, just as a person is born out of a womb. Thus the
attribute of Rahman resembles a womb but then on a Universal scale.

Raheem refers to the Provider for those who strive and struggle for this providence of
nourishment, protection and development. Thus it is the attribute that is responsible for rewarding
those that are the strongest in sustaining its species and environment, just as a womb will bring
only those fetuses to their stage of maturity which are the most strongest. Raheem thus envelopes
the concept of providing all stages of Evolution for those who are most fitted for further

Mostly the terms are translated with Merciful, but this a very wrong word for it, as this refers to
the English Christian definition of Forgiveness. In Western and in (Middle-)Eastern religions, the
idea of a merciful deity is one that forgives your sins. These beliefs were mostly focused on the
punishment in the Next Life. This concept was created through the kings ruling the lands who
created the concept of salvation to keep the population subdued with rituals and hierarchy. Arabic
concept of 'mercy' was developed in the hard desert life by a free people who were not ruled by
monarchies. The concept of mercy was connected to one who nourishes you. Since ways of
nourishments were scarce, this became the prime gift to humans from a deity.

This is why ?nourishment given without asking any return' became the prime form of mercy.
With many nomads, it was a rule not to ask the name of a stranger who came for help and food,
as it was a duty in their eyes to always provide their guests with all they needed so they didn?t
want to know the stranger?s name as he could be a member of an enemy tribe. The womb that
feeds the fetus and nourishes it without asking anything, became the example of the word 'rahma'
and determined what all other words derived from it would mean. When we translate 'Rahman'
into 'Merciful', we are translating it into the Christian version of 'mercy' and thus completely miss
the Arabian idea of 'mercy'. We are not translating then, we are twisting the meaning. The 2
languages use completely different definitions.