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Allah

This article is about the Arabic word "Allah". For the Islamic view of God, see God in Islam. For other uses, see Allah (disambiguation).

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Allah (English pronunciation: /ˈælə/ or /ˈɑːlə/;[1] Arabic: اللهAllāh, IPA: [ʔalˤˈlˤɑːh]) is the Arabic word for God (al ilāh, literally "the God").[2][3][4] The word has cognates in other Semitic languages, including Elah in Aramaic, ʾĒl in Canaanite and Elohim in Hebrew.[5][6]

It is used mainly by Muslims to refer to God in Islam,[7] but it has also been used by Arab Christians since pre-Islamic times.[8] It is also often, albeit not exclusively, used by Bábists, Bahá'ís, Indonesian and Maltese Christians, and Mizrahi Jews.[5][9][10] Christians and Sikhs in West Malaysia also use and have used the word to refer to God. This has caused political and legal controversies there as the law in West Malaysia prohibits non-Islamic uses of the word.[11][12][13][14]

Etymology

File:Arabic components (letters) in the word Allah.svg
The Arabic components that build-up the word "Allah":
1. alif
2. hamzat waṣl (همزة وصل)
3. lām
4. lām
5. shadda (شدة)
6. dagger alif (ألف خنجرية)
7. hāʾ

The term Allāh is derived from a contraction of the Arabic definite article al- "the" and ilāh "deity, god" to al-lāh meaning "the [sole] deity, God" (ὁ θεὸς μόνος, ho theos monos).[15] Cognates of the name "Allāh" exist in other Semitic languages, including Hebrew and Aramaic.[16] The corresponding Aramaic form is Elah (אלה), but its emphatic state is Elaha (אלהא). It is written as ܐܠܗܐ (ʼĔlāhā) in Biblical Aramaic and ܐܲܠܵܗܵܐ (ʼAlâhâ) in Syriac as used by the Assyrian Church, both meaning simply "God".[17] Biblical Hebrew mostly uses the plural (but functional singular) form Elohim (אלהים), but more rarely it also uses the singular form Eloah (אלוהּ). In the Sikh scripture of Guru Granth Sahib, the term Allah (Punjabi: ਅਲਹੁ) is used 37 times.[18]

The name was previously used by pagan pre-Islamic Arabs as a reference to a creator deity, possibly the supreme deity in pre-Islamic Arabia.[19][20]

Allah is unique, the only Deity, creator of the universe and omnipotent.[9][10] Arab Christians today use terms such as Allāh al-Ab (الله الأب, 'God the Father') to distinguish their usage from Muslim usage.[21] There are both similarities and differences between the concept of God as portrayed in the Quran and the Hebrew Bible.[22] It has also been applied to certain living human beings as personifications of the term and concept.[23][24]

There is a Unicode character for the word Allāh, = U+FDF2.[25] Many Arabic type fonts feature special ligatures for Allah.[26]

Usage

Pre-Islamic Arabians

In pre-Islamic Arabia, Allah was used by polythiestic Arabs as a reference to possibly a creator god or a supreme deity of their pantheon.[27][15] In pre-Islamic Arabia, Allah was not used to refer to the sole divinity as it is in Islam. The notion of the term may have been vague in the Meccan religion.[15][28] Muhammad's father's name was ʿAbd-Allāh meaning "the slave of Allāh".[28] Pre-Islamic Christians, Jews and the monotheistic Arabs called Hanifs used the name Allah and term 'Bismillah', 'in the name of Allah' to refer to their supreme deity in Arabic stone inscriptions centuries before Islam.[29]

Islam

Main article: God in Islam

According to Islamic belief, Allah is the proper name of God,[30] and humble submission to his will, divine ordinances and commandments is the pivot of the Muslim faith.[9] "He is the only God, creator of the universe, and the judge of humankind."[9][10] "He is unique (wāḥid) and inherently one (aḥad), all-merciful and omnipotent."[9] The Qur'an declares "the reality of Allah, His inaccessible mystery, His various names, and His actions on behalf of His creatures."[9]

File:Dcp7323-Edirne-Eski Camii Allah.jpg
Allah script outside Eski Cami (The Old Mosque) in Edirne, Turkey.

In Islamic tradition, there are 99 Names of God (al-asmā’ al-ḥusná lit. meaning: 'the best names' or 'the most beautiful names'), each of which evoke a distinct characteristic of Allah.[10][31] All these names refer to Allah, the supreme and all-comprehensive divine name.[32] Among the 99 names of God, the most famous and most frequent of these names are "the Merciful" (al-Raḥmān) and "the Compassionate" (al-Raḥīm).[10][31]

Most Muslims use the untranslated Arabic phrase in shā’ Allāh (meaning 'if God wills') after references to future events.[33] Muslim discursive piety encourages beginning things with the invocation of bismillāh (meaning 'in the name of God').[34]

There are certain phrases in praise of God that are favored by Muslims, including "Subḥān Allāh" (Holiness be to God), "al-ḥamdu lillāh" (Praise be to God), "lā ilāha illā Allāh" (There is no deity but God) and "Allāhu akbar" (God is greater) as a devotional exercise of remembering God (dhikr).[35] In a Sufi practice known as dhikr Allah (lit. remembrance of God), the Sufi repeats and contemplates on the name Allah or other divine names while controlling his or her breath.[36]

Some scholars[who?] have suggested that Muḥammad used the term Allah in addressing both pagan Arabs and Jews or Christians in order to establish a common ground for the understanding of the name for God, a claim Gerhard Böwering says is doubtful.[30] According to Böwering, in contrast with pre-Islamic Arabian polytheism, God in Islam does not have associates and companions, nor is there any kinship between God and jinn.[30] Pre-Islamic pagan Arabs believed in a blind, powerful, inexorable and insensible fate over which man had no control. This was replaced with the Islamic notion of a powerful but provident and merciful God.[37]

According to Francis Edwards Peters, "The Qur’ān insists, Muslims believe, and historians affirm that Muhammad and his followers worship the same God as the Jews (29:46). The Qur’an's Allah is the same Creator God who covenanted with Abraham". Peters states that the Qur'an portrays Allah as both more powerful and more remote than Yahweh, and as a universal deity, unlike Yahweh who closely follows Israelites.[22]

Christianity

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".[5] The Christian Arabs of today have no other word for "God" than "Allah".[21] (Even the Arabic-descended Maltese language of Malta, whose population is almost entirely Roman Catholic, uses Alla for "God".) Arab Christians, for example, use the terms Allāh al-ab (الله الأب) for God the Father, Allāh al-ibn (الله الابن) for God the Son, and Allāh al-rūḥ al-quds (الله الروح القدس) for 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 Muslim bismillāh, and also created their own Trinitized bismillāh as early as the 8th century CE.[38] 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 the monotheistic aspect of Trinitian belief and also to make it more palatable to Muslims.[38]

According to Marshall Hodgson, it seems that in the pre-Islamic times, some Arab Christians made pilgrimage to the Kaaba, a pagan temple at that time, honoring Allah there as God the Creator.[39]

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".[40][41][42]

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 and Aksumite kingdoms.[8][43]

A Christian leader named Abd Allah ibn Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad was martyred in Najran in 523 AD, as he had worn a ring that said "Allah is my lord".[8][44]

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".[8][45][46]

In pre-Islamic Gospels, the name used for God was "Allah", as evidenced by some discovered Arabic versions of the New Testament written by Arab Christians during the pre-Islamic era in Northern and Southern Arabia.[47][48][49]

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.[50]

"Allah" was also mentioned in pre-Islamic Christian poems by some Ghassanid and Tanukhid poets in Syria and Northern Arabia.[51][52][53]

Judaism

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 is Eloah, a Hebrew word which is used (e.g. in the Book of Job) to mean '(the) God' and also 'god or gods' as is the case of Elohim. Elohim and Eloah ultimately derive from the root El, 'strong', possibly genericized from El (deity), as in the Ugaritic ’lhm (consonants only), meaning "children of El" (the ancient Near Eastern creator god in pre-Abrahamic tradition).[6]

In Jewish scripture Elohim is used as a descriptive title for the God of the scriptures, whose personal name is YHWH, Elohim is also used for plural pagan gods.[6]

As a loanword

English and other European languages

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Typography

Template:Names of God

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