The History of "Amen"

Most of us who have had the privilege of attending a Friday congregation would immediately realize the importance of the word "Amen" or "Aameen" in the life of a traditional Muslim. For those of us who are not familiar with its usage, the Muslims are required to say "Amen" after reciting Surah al-Fatihah and after completion of their prayers (Dua). In fact, this is the only word spoken aloud during a Friday congregation by the traditional Muslims after the Imam completes the recitation of Surah al-Fatihah. The purpose of this article is an attempt to find out it's meaning and trace back its origins in ancient history.

Why do Muslims say Amen

It is a known fact (well almost) that this word can be found now where in the Quran. So why do the traditional Muslims hold such importance to a word that is not even mentioned in the final scripture? Yes, you guessed right, this word can be found in Hadith, the second source of religious (dis)information for the traditional Muslims after the Quran. In Sahih-al-Bukhari Vol. 6/Ch. 2 English translation by Dr. M. Muhsin Khan, we find yet another gem from the pen of Abu Huraira

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "When the Imam says: 'Ghair-il-Maghdubi 'Alaihim Walad-Dallin [i.e. not the path of those who earn Your anger, not the path of those who went astray ' (1:7)], then you must say, 'Amin', for if one's utterance of 'Amin' coincides with that of the angels then his past sins will be forgiven."

The obvious conclusion of this Hadith is that the focus must be on "timing" rather than content. I digress ...

So why would the Prophet require from the Muslims to utter a word at the end of the most recited Surah, that is not mentioned even once in the Quran. Moreover, what kind of message was the Prophet sending to the Muslims by asking them to "time" the saying of Amen with that of the angels in order to get their sins forgiven? The Prophet could not have uttered such a blasphemy, for we learn from Surah al-A'raf verse 188 that even he, albeit a messenger of God, was unaware of his own fate.

[7:188] Say: "I have no power over any good or harm to myself except as God willeth. If I had knowledge of the unseen, I should have multiplied all good, and no evil should have touched me: I am but a warner, and a bringer of glad tidings to those who have faith."

Furthermore, from the Quran we also learn that God commanded Muhammad not to say or extrapolate anything by himself. His only duty was to deliver the Quran.

[69:43] It is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds.

[69:44] And if the apostle were to invent any sayings in Our name,

[69:45] We should certainly seize him by his right hand,

[69:46] And We should certainly then cut off the artery of his heart:

[69:47] Nor could any of you withhold him (from Our wrath).

(Translation A. Yusuf Ali)

The only sensible explanation is that this Hadith, like many others, is a lie attributed to Prophet Muhammad.

Origins of Amen

This word must have found its way into traditional Islam from either Christian or Jewish sources almost 200-300 years after the death of the Prophet when the Hadith books came into existence. The fact that "Amen" came from Jewish sources into Christianity is acknowledged in the Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 1 1907

"The word Amen is one of a small number of Hebrew words which have been imported unchanged into the liturgy of the Church ... 'So frequent was this Hebrew word in the mouth of Our Saviour', observes the catechism of the Council of Trent, "that it pleased the Holy Ghost to have it perpetuated in the Church of God."

It is ironical that the Holy Ghost (spiritual form of God) would ask to implement something after hearing it from The Saviour (Jesus Christ)!

The word "Amen" is defined in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary as an interjection as well as a noun meaning 'so be it' and uttered at the end of the prayer or hymn etc. The root letters AMN hold the following connotations in modern Hebrew: educate, train, true, trustworthy, confirm, confidence, faithfulness, treaty. This root word appears to be synonymous with the Arabic root word Alif-Mim-Nun. A look under this root word in Lughat-ul-Quran (Quran Lexicon) by G. A. Parwez 4th Edition 1998 confirmed that there is no explicit mention of "Amen" or "Aameen" in the Quran.

Links to Paganism

A traditional Muslim may argue that although "Amen" is not mentioned in the Quran, the Prophet did ask us to say it in our prayers. Moreover, since there is nothing wrong with it's meaning it should be acceptable. However, this assumption can have serious implications if we trace back this word's origin in history, for we find that the word "Amen" has pagan idol worship connotations. In the Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Edition 2001it is written

"Amon or Amen, Egyptian deity. He was originally the chief god of Thebes; he and his wife Mut and their son Khensu were the divine Theban triad of deities. Amon grew increasingly important in Egypt, and eventually he (identified as Amon Ra; see Ra) became the supreme deity. He was identified with the Greek Zeus (the Roman Jupiter). Amon's most celebrated shrine was at Siwa in the Libyan desert; the oracle of Siwa later rivaled those of Delphi and Dodona. He is frequently represented as a ram or as a human with a ram's head."

The Egypt Travel and Antiquities Guide in their article about "Amen" describes the meaning of the name as follows

"Of the attributes ascribed to Amen in the Ancient Empire nothing is known, but, if we accept the meaning "hidden" which is usually given to his name, we must conclude that he was the personification of the hidden and unknown creative power which was associated with the primeval abyss, gods in the creation of the world, and all that is in it. The word or root amen, certainly means "what is hidden," "what is not seen," "what cannot be seen," and the like, and this fact is proved by scores of examples which may be collected from texts of all periods. In hymns to Amen we often read that he is "hidden to his children, "and "hidden to gods and men," and it has been stated that these expressions only refer to the "hiding," i.e., "setting" of the sun each evening, and that they are only to be understood in a physical sense, and to mean nothing more than the disappearance of the god Amen from the sight of men at the close of day. Now, not only is the god himself said to be "hidden," but his name also is "hidden," and his form, or similitude, is said to be "unknown;" these statements show that "hidden," when applied to Amen, the great god, has reference to something more than the "sun which has disappeared below the horizon," and that it indicates the god who cannot be seen with the mortal eyes, and who is invisible, as well as inscrutable, to gods as well as men."

It may be conjectured that this "hidden god" is no other than Satan who has managed to successfully elude not only the Muslims but also the Jews and Christians as well to this day!

The fact that the worship of "Amen" and "Amen-Ra" had gained popularity not only amongst the Egyptians but the foreigners living in the region as well during that time can be appreciated from the following quote from the article about "Amen."

"The worship of Amen-Ra spread through all the country both of the north and south of Thebes, and the monuments prove that it made its way into all the dominions of Egypt in Syria, and the Nubia, and in the Oases. In the Upper Egypt its centers were Thebes, Herakeopolis Magna ; in Lower Egypt they were Memphis, Sais, Xois, Metelis, Heliopolis, Babylon, Mendes, Thmuis, Diospolis, Butus, and the Island of Khemmis ; in the Libyan desert the Oases of Kenemet, {i.e., Farafra}, and the great Oasis of Jupiter Ammon ; in Nubia, Wadi Sabua, Abu Simbel, Napata, and Meroe ; and in Syria at several places which were called Diospolis."

Amen, his wife, Mut and son Khensu represented the Theban Triad, the sacred family of Thebes. Amen was known to be "King of the gods" during the period of the New Kingdom in Egypt in "1550-1070" B.C. when Thebes was the capital of Egypt, and it was during this period that the Jews were slaves there. During their 400 years of slavery it is obvious that they lost their monotheistic beliefs and fell into Egyptian paganism. If during the 40 year exodus they could build a talking golden calf idol, is it too far fetched to assume that the word "Amen" crept into their religious rituals-- a word named after an Egyptian god which not only have the Jews failed to get rid of to this day but have also passed on to the Christians and Muslims.

To the skeptic, who may argue against the connection between the Egyptian god "Amen" and this word used in its present day meaning, I quote the ending paragraph under the heading "Amen" from the Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol 1 1907, which either intentionally or unintentionally acknowledges this link

"Finally, we may note that the word Amen occurs not infrequently in early Christian inscriptions, and that it was often introduced into anathemas and gnostic spells. Moreover, as the Greek letters which form Amen according to their numerical values total 99 (alpha=1, mu=40, epsilon=8, nu=50), this number often appears in inscriptions, especially of Egyptian origin, and a sort of magical efficacy seems to have been attributed to this symbol. It should be mentioned that the word Amen is still employed in the ritual both of Jews and Mohammedans."

Conclusions

There are number of conclusions that can be drawn from this article. First, There is no mention of the word "Amen" in the Quran and unfortunately this word infiltrated into Islam through Hadith. Although an average Muslim openly acknowledges that "Amen" is a word also used by Christian and Jews in their prayers, he or she makes the implicit assumption that it is a Quranic word that can also be found in the Bible and Torah. It may also be argued that there is nothing wrong with saying "Amen" in our prayers given its present day meaning. However, the intelligent reader must ask him or herself the question whether he or she wants to continue using it now fully knowing the dubious pagan connotations of this word? Can't we find some other word to express our conviction to God Almighty?

Another natural outcome of this article is that it openly questions the self-rewarding philosophy of the traditional Muslims, largely encouraged in Hadith. Now where in the Quran do we find a verse, which suggests that we can redeem ourselves in this world by merely uttering some "magic" words. It is only through sincere study of the Quran that one can hope to find peace and happiness in this world and in the hereafter.

Lastly, a word of caution for those who tread the dangerous "middle ground" and say that we believe in only the "Sahih" (True) Hadith. After reading this article, can one really separate cream from the milk when it comes to distinguishing between the true and false Hadith? It is therefore incumbent upon all of us to verify any information we receive.

[17:36] And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning).

I hope the intelligent reader will reject all secondary sources and uphold the ONE and ONLY source required for guidance -- The Quran.

[6:106] Follow what is revealed to you from your Lord, there is no god except He, and disregard the idol worshipers.

 


Copyright Azfar Samin (e-mail: god1quran1@yahoo.com)

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