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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   

 
+11 # Joppi Rondonuwu 2012-09-23 00:17
In Indonesian Bible,, the word Allah is used to refer to God. And we have been accustomed to the word Allah, meaning God.
 
 
+5 # Ademir Arruda 2013-03-09 20:47
That's great. I have also believed that Allah was a moon god. But now after your explanation, clearly I see the things on the right way!

God bless you and go on pouring over you the knowledge of the Most High!

Ademir Arruda
Brazil
 
 
-3 # moon godJaon 2015-09-29 14:01
@Ademir, the whole moon God thing is a fabrication by Robert Morey.
 
 
+3 # MuslimUJ Kamar 2015-09-30 01:07
Please do not confuse "ALLAH" with the pagan goddess, al-Lat, worshipped by some of the Pagan Arabs prior to the coming of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم . This makes no sense as (1) They believe Al-Lat was "one of the daughters of ALLAH" (2) al-Lat is spoken of and refuted in the Qur'an when He says:

● “Have you then considered Al-Lât, and Al-'Uzza (two idols of the pagan Arabs). And Manât (another idol of the pagan Arabs), the other third? ... They are but names which you have named, you and your fathers, for which ALLÂH has sent down no authority. They follow but a guess and that which they themselves desire” – 53:19-23.

al-Lat was one of the 360 idols the Prophet Muhammad destroyed in the Ka'ba

"THEY DERIVED Al-LAT'S NAME FROM ALLAH'S NAME, and MADE IT FEMININE. '
 
 
-3 # Al-Lat and AllahSHALOM 2015-09-30 23:08
UJ Kamar said" They believe AL-lat was one of the daughters of allah".
Let see: they=arabs, and when arabs worshiped al-lat as daughter of allah,they also worshiped allah as their deity.That allah of pagan arabs had symbol "cresent". Intresting!.
Muslims still dont accept that allah was a pagan name.
My friends allah is not personal name of true creator of universe.
word "allah" is man made word and it is used by pagan arabs.When they used to refer to their highest deity.They called it "al-illah" . this word contracted to allah.For other deities daughters or what ever relations they called them"illah".If you count them they were 360. with cheif god "allah" and symbol cresent moon.Till today every mosque on earth carry the symbol of cresent.Wow! what a co-incident!
 
 
-2 # Mrs.Lynette Gautier 2016-05-21 21:04
I believe it's impossible to accept Allah as the Arab name for God because God is God. We don't give the one true God a name. Also, further evidence is the one they call Allah/God is evilly cruel, despises and demeans women, commits the cruel FGM, demands that all infidels be vilely murdered by dreadful means, forces women to be dressed in horrible, hot, black clothes, whereas the one true God requires men to 'love their wives' and forbids such cruel practices and murder - e.g. the Israelites weren't even allowed to muzzle the ox treading the corn.
Also, currently, there is plenty of evidencethat the Allah of the Qur'an is in fact a pagan Arab moon god of pre-Islamic times. Allah, was married to the sun goddess, and the stars were his daughters so it;s all bound up with the occult. Everywhere you go in Arab countries you see the crescent moon - many years ago before the troubles started i travelled to quite a few such countries and saw these symbols everywhere i went..
 
 
-1 # Mrs.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.
 
 
+1 # Al-Lat and AllahSHALOM 2015-09-30 23:14
this word allat also proved that word allah can be feminized.and it did happened . On the other hand many muslim claim that word allah can not be feminized.

Also this shows that allah is not the personal and not a devine name for the Creator of the universe.
Many muslim even claim that allah is devine and personal name of the Creator of the universe.
 
 
+4 # AllahJason 2015-10-02 16:42
'Allah' (الله) cannot be feminine according to rules of Arabic:

1- A word is feminine in Arabic if it is so by nature like أم i.e. umm but obviously Allah is not feminine by nature.

2- A word is feminine if it ends with the third of the Arabic alphabets i.e. taa like مروحة (fan). This is not the case with the word الله (Allah).

3- A word is feminine if it ends with آ i.e. Alif Mamduda and indeed this also is not the case with the word الله (Allah).

4- Something can be feminine if it happens to be in pairs like عينين (eyes) or يدين (hands). Certainly this is not the case with the word الله (Allah).
 
 
# al-lat meaningSHALOM 2015-10-12 14:05
Friend share you point of view :
What is meaning of al-lat?
Do you believe different tribes of arab used to worship different Idol?
Do you believe that every tribe had their own chief deity?
Do you think different tribes claimed their idol to be superior?

what is allat?it is minor issue and with lot of difference of opinion.
But main thing is if someone says that I am sent by God ,and you ask what is His name(true or personal name) ?
And that "someone" replies : Allah
What is left of the authenticity of that "someone"?Trust me if you answer this to Jews and Christian ,they easily know that "someone" is unaware of the Holy Bible.
And failure to produce real name of the Holy One leave us with the only option: "Ignore the impostor("someo ne").
 
 
+4 # AllahJason 2015-10-02 16:36
It is entirely wrong to say that Al-Lat was a feminine form of Allah. The different tribes of the Arabs believed in their tribal gods. "Al-Lat" was the tribal god of the Thaqeef tribe who lived in the city of Taif (where there was a shrine with an idol of Lat). The Quraish worshipped Uzza as their tribal god, and similarly with other tribes.
 
 
-4 # Allah is not true nameSHALOM 2015-10-12 13:38
This discussion proved that allah is not real name of good.
My friend Jason , with all due respect i ask you :
Do you believe that allah is true personal name of the Most Holy God?
Does islam preache that this is the name revealed by god of koran?
 
 
# Allah is not true nameSHALOM 2015-10-12 13:45
All the time Muslims keep blaming that Christians changed this and that.
But look how they messed with word allah and made it real or proper name for themselves.
Christians in some parts of world may be using word allah but they clearly know this is not the true name or personal name.
Unfortunately,most Muslims think this is proper name.
 
 
-2 # Allah is not the God of the BibleBrutus Balan 2015-10-13 05:26
Many Christians contend that Allah is a generic name for Elohim but the former is Arabic and the latter Hebrew. In today's context no matter what the etymology of the word, Allah is the word 'god' in Arabic as conceptualised by Islam. To use that in a Bible translation in Arabic would be ambiguous and very confusing. It will lend itself to a one world religion of the end times before the Lord's return. Hence, we should transliterate the word in Arabic as Elohim to distinguish between them.
 
 
-4 # Ms.Deidre 2015-11-25 00:14
While it may be true that "Allah" is the generic word for "God" in Arabic, no one in the Western world thinks of Allah as being anything other than the god of Islam. It has become synonymous with the Muslim politically conquering religion's god. Thus I believe no Christian should use it anywhere in the world. Arab Christians should use one of the names God has given Himself.
 
 
+6 # sillyLes Potter 2015-11-26 04:23
That really is a foolish statement. When you, as an English speaker are telling Arabs how they should change their ancient Semitic name for God. What if Arabs said we should change the name for Jesus because the cults have a false Jesus?
 
 
+4 # Messianic RabbiStanley Chester 2015-12-01 01:45
It comes down to this, in the Koran Allah says he" has no son." Our G-d said of Yeshua (Jesus) at His Mikva (Baptism) "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased." They are obviously 2different entities. Nothing else matters.
 
 
+8 # Thank youShahira 2015-12-09 06:16
Hello,

I'm a Muslim and I have to say I greatly appreciate your article.

Moving onto the main point; while I do believe that you and I worship the same god, I understand why you do not believe so. As a Muslim, I believe that Islam is a continuation of Christianity, but you as a Christian obviously cannot believe that, because you believe Christianity is the true and final religion. Thus you are left to believe that we worship different gods, while I am left to believe we worship the same God.

Regardless of that, I still greatly appreciated your article. You illustrated the points spectacularly well, and I will be sure to point others to this article when the confusion regarding the history and meaning of the word Allah comes up.

Thank you for writing this,
and may God lead you, and I, and all who read this to Heaven.
 
 
-1 # Mr.Joe 2016-02-13 21:07
YHVH is God's name.
 
 
+3 # mrfafana 2016-03-21 11:23
I'm quoting from ur summary
"Arabic-speakin g 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,"
don't u think u re equally confusing them.
if you are saying Allah in Islam does not mean the True God, that means Arab Christians who call God Allah are equally idol worshippers just as u re referring Muslims who use the same word.
 
 
# Allah, Elohim & AlahaAftab Alam 2016-04-17 15:58
Part 1

Divine Name for One True God is Elohim in ancient Hebrew and Alaha in Armic, the mother tongue of magnificent prophet Esa PBUH, whereas in Arabic it's Allah, the genetic name.
Since (perhaps) different nonMuslim peoples in different times have been giving different names to their deities, particularly at the time of revival of that Divine Islam has been as such since the creation, by Final Prophet Mohammad, Rahmat Al Lilalameen, PBUH, Allah therefore added arab article; Al with Ilah to denote as Allah, means The (Real) Allah.
The three names; Elohim, Alaha and Allah denote The One True God.
My submission also gains support from the Names of so many Grand beings and entities viz Israf-el, Azra-el, Mika-el, Jabra-el and Isra-el, the name of Allah assigned great Prophet Yaqub PBUH.
 
 
# MrsSharon 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.
 
 
# Mr.Mark Giambrone 2016-05-05 16:40
Jesus is the God of the old Testament called Jehovah who said He would come down from heaven to be the Lamb to be put to death on the cross for all mankind but He was rejected by his own people the Jews who are still waiting for their Savior . so who do you think they are obeying today. any persons living in Jerusalem during Jesus's ministry looking for the True Lamb of God they should recognize Jesus as such and should have followed His teachings and obeyed the commandments of God for He is the same God who gave us the Law.
 
 
+1 # Mr.Mark Giambrone 2016-05-05 16:41
He said he would give us a helper in the Holy Spirit to help us walk in the Law by His Spirit which he gives to those that believe. Only Satan would of necessity need to confuse mankind to believe in the mixture of Truth and Error..the Gentiles of His day were accepted into His faith and they all gave up their false gods and followed Him and his apostles. so must we all. for there is none other then He who came down from heaven to live a perfect life for us and dies and was Resurrected back up to the throne of heaven but Jesus Christ the Son of God the 2nd person of the trinity so God himself did his purpose and defeated Satan on the cross
 
 
# Mr.Mark Giambrone 2016-05-05 16:42
it all started with Jesus the creator and it will all end with Him on the last day . until He restores the entire universe and recreate the creation and rid the universe of Evil once and for all.
 
 
+1 # StraightpathIric 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.
 
 
-1 # God Allah .com website (answers)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"
 
 
# Name of GodCarol 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.....
 
 
# MrAl-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.
 
 
# WhatTTTTT 2016-08-15 03:17
What does allah mean for kids