The word Allah and Islam

Written by Michael Abd El-Massih
Director of Arabic Bible Outreach Ministry.

How does the word Allah relate to Islam and its teachings?

This pamphlet examines its root, its use, and its misuse, and makes strong, practical application of that to Arabic and English-speaking Christians in evangelizing Muslims.

Allah and its use in the Arabic language

The term Allah (Arabic: الله, Allāh) is the standard Arabic word for God and is most likely derived from a contraction of the Arabic article al- and ilāh, which means "deity or god" to al-lāh meaning "the [sole] deity, God." There is another theory that traces the etymology of the word to the Aramaic Alāhā.

Today's Arabic speakers from all religious backgrounds (Muslims, Christians, and Jews) use the word Allah to mean God. In pre-Islamic Arabia, pagan Meccans used Allah as a reference to the creator-god, possibly the supreme deity.

The first-known translation of the Bible into Arabic, which took place in the 9th century, uses the word Allah for God (1). In fact, Arab Christians were using the word Allah for God prior to the dawn of Islam, and it is important to note that they were using it in place of Elohim, but not in place of Yahweh. That means Allah is a generic word for God, but not the personal name of God. (Radical Muslims in the West claim that Allah, not Yahweh or any other Bible name, is the name of the one true God.)

As an example closer to home, Christians and non-Christians alike use the word God in English, but that does not make the God of the Bible the same as the god of the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or others. Another example is that when irreverent people use the expression “Oh my God!” in their day-to-day communications, they are not referring to the God of the Bible when they invoke that term.

When the prophet of Islam started his ministry in Mecca, he considered at one point uniting the Arabs under a different name for God. His favorite was Al-Rahman but he chose Allah to name his god. After the spread of Islam in the Middle East, Arab Christians continued to use word Allah since it did not have any negative connotations to them personally. Once again, it is important to understand that both before and after Muhammad, the Allah of the Arabs was not the Allah of the Arab Christians.

Today, Muslims claim they worship the same God as Christians and Jews. In fact, the Islamic propaganda machine in the West is attempting to change our English vocabulary to accommodate Islamic beliefs. Before tackling that topic, however, I’d like to address a controversial subject that is gaining momentum among American Christians, and is greatly harming the propagation of the Gospel among Muslims: the notion that Allah was the name for a pagan moon god of pre-Islamic time. I believe this theory is greatly misunderstood by American Evangelicals, and is being mixed up with the Islamic push to use Allah in our vocabulary as His name or as an alternative to the word God.

Allah and the Moon God theory

Currently, there is an ongoing debate as to whether the Allah of the Qur'an is in fact a pagan Arab moon god of pre-Islamic times. This idea has been mentioned in literature for more than a century, but only recently has it been seriously promoted. The theory is particularly used in one leading Evangelical author’s books and pamphlets, which has set the stage for many Christian Evangelical authors to adopt it and assert it in their writings about Islam.

This theory claims that a pagan deity, a moon god named Allah, was married to the sun goddess, and the stars were his daughters. Proponents of this theory point to the fact that the crescent moon symbol is found on many flags of Islamic countries and on top of mosques. I have encountered many questions during my seminars on Islam about Allah, and have even been challenged that I should not use the word Allah during some of my lectures on Islam because Allah is the moon god. The theory is becoming so controversial that some Christian ministries on the Internet replaced the word Allah with the word ilah (“deity god”) in the most common version of the Arabic Bible (Vandyke version) on their Web sites. One ministry went as far as producing CDs for the Arabic Bible exchanging the word Allah with ilah.

Such chaos is greatly harming the cause of Christ among Muslims and other Arabic speaking individuals. Here is a summary of my objections:

It is an unproven theory, so it may well be false. Even if it turns out to be true, it has little bearing on the Muslim faith since Muslims do not worship a moon god. That would be blasphemy in Islamic teachings.

If we use the moon-god theory to discredit Islam, we discredit the Christian Arabic speaking churches and missions throughout the Middle East. This point should not be discounted lightly because the word Allah is found in millions of Arabic Bibles and other Arabic Christian materials.

The moon-god theory confuses evangelism. When Christians approach Muslims, they do not know whether they need to convince them that they worship the wrong deity, or to present them the simple Gospel message of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The moon-god theory promotes an "us versus them" mentality. Most Christians in the USA seem to be living in fear about their Muslims neighbors, but instead our Lord calls us to be reaching out in love to Muslims and not to alienate them.

As far as the moon symbol on the mosques or on the flags, the simple reason behind it is that Islam depends on the moon for their religious calendar (lunar calendar) specially during the Ramadan (month of fasting). Islam forbids symbols or pictures of God.

Allah as a substitute for the word God

The Islamic propaganda machine in the West is actively pushing for the use of the word Allah instead of God in the Western languages, especially in English. The sole purpose of this push is to promote Islam and render it an acceptable mainstream religion alongside Christianity in the West, not just from man’s perspective but from God’s.

A quick look at Islamic English Web sites and Islamic English literature reveals how widely the word Allah is used instead of God. Christians should be very concerned about the use of the word Allah in the English language since it is not only accommodating Islamic beliefs, but also transforming the word Allah into a NAME for the God of the Bible.

I think that what the church needs is to stand against and not to be entangled with the moon god theory, which has no scholastic proof and hinders evangelism to Muslims in the USA and the West.

I was particularly saddened to see several English Christian Web sites posting the English Bible text with the word Allah substituting for God as an attempt to witness to Muslims. In doing so, they have inadvertently asserted the Muslim claim that Allah is the name of the one true God!

Allah and personal witnessing

I have found that in a personal witnessing situation, it is best to share my faith with a Muslim by assuming that we are both talking about the same God, the One who created the heavens and the earth. The apostle Paul used that approach in Acts 17 when he came to Athens and his spirit was stirred in him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry (Verse 16). He later addressed the pagan Greeks telling them about the one true God who is the Lord of heaven and earth who cannot dwell in temples made with hands (verses 22-24).

I have also found that the issues regarding the term Allah are difficult for many American Christians to sort through when it comes to understanding Islam. We need wisdom and we need to be vigilant. Allah should not be the subject matter of our evangelism with Muslims, and Allah should not be accepted as an alternative word for God in the English language.

As a ministry, we are committed to helping Christians better comprehend the tenets of Islam, and to support Christian workers who are actively reaching Muslims.

Summary

Arabic-speaking Christians should continue to use the word Allah in their language to address God since it is their generic word for the one true God, even though the understanding of His character is horribly messed up in Islam, which happens to share the same Arabic language. The Arab Christians will always be challenged to maintain that distinction and to remain biblical.

The Christians in the West should not be entangled with the moon-god theory, especially when witnessing to Muslims. In addition, English-speaking believers should resist the use of Allah in their own language and refrain from using it in any English Christian media or publications targeting Muslims.

May the Lord fuel our evangelism to Muslims in the USA and abroad with wisdom, passion, and love!

 

(1) See the following article :

http://www.arabicbible.com/arabic-bible/codex.html

Comments   

0 #33 Dawn 2016-11-05 07:36
Hallelujah my friend. At the final judgement, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God (YHVH) the Father.
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0 #32 Dawn 2016-11-05 07:32
Absolutely YHVH is the name of God. Every person has a name and our God is no exception. That is the name He gave to Moses at the burning bush. "I AM THAT I AM" - the God that was, is and evermore shall be.
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+1 #31 Muhammad JM 2016-10-31 18:18
Thank you for this article. As a Muslim living in America i was often asked if we worshiped the moon god.

My answer to my fellow Christians is always that we worship the same God as Moses and Jesus ( Peace be upon them).

The Quran says of the Christians : ( 5: 82)
and you will find the nearest of them in affection to the believers those who say, "We are Christians." That is because among them are priests and monks and because they are not arrogant.
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+1 #30 Sharon 2016-08-20 14:40
Allah meaning God is just a title like mother or father aunty uncle .The personal name of God is what's important to identify him apart from all other false God's.
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0 #29 TTTTT 2016-08-15 03:17
What does allah mean for kids
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+2 #28 Al-Ghazalee 2016-08-13 00:07
The allegation that says muslim worshiping moon is baseless when quran said in surah 122 "Say: He is Allah, the One and Only. God, the Eternal, Absolute. He begetteth not, nor is He begotten. And there is none like unto Him.
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0 #27 Carol 2016-08-11 06:38
I think anyone who calls themselves Christian and believes in the one true God needs to ask themselves...."did my God die on the cross for me as the saviour of the world"..... There is only one God who did that.....
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0 #26 Yusuf Estes 2016-06-10 13:26
Bismi-Lah Salam alaykum (In the Name of Allah, peace unto you all).
I like a lot of this article and most of the comments too.
Fairness and balance are presented quite well here and I would like to encourage more Christians (Muslims too) to check this out to get perspective from the Christian point of view, by someone who is qualified and committed to serious discussiong.
Keep up the good work Michael.
My prayer for us all - "May Allah guide us all, ameen"
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+4 #25 Iric Fahim 2016-05-23 17:43
Shahira, Just want to point out loudly that Quran represent different Commandments than what were given by Prophet Moses and at the end by Jesus the Messiah. One and the same GOD will not differ in HIS Commandments and will not reveal himself with the different name(s). If it is so then we the people of the books should accept ALL Hindu or gods and goddesses of any other religion as the same GOD. It needs a careful and truthful study to find out the true nature of GOD in terms of HIS commandments and promises.
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-5 #24 Lynette Gautier 2016-05-21 21:16
The fact that Allah can be feminized shows that it is totally wrong. God's name is God and He refers to Himself as Him and He in the Holy Bible. Allah relates to the moon god - note the crescent moon prominent in their countries everywhere you go, so it is an idolatrous religion. Idolatry is usually associated with chanting and this is what they do in the mosques and the muezzin call.
They also commit vile cruelty to little girls with FGM and their punishments - amputation and stoning to death are typical of pagan belief. I know it occurred in the Bible but was never condoned and always the result of atheism, not committed by believers in the one true living God.
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