Who is Allâh?


هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ 

“He is Allâh, He is the One besides whom there is no other, cannot be and will never be one worthy of worship but He”. (59:22)

Allâh” is the word used for God in Arabic. The word Allâh cognates in many Semitic languages. The corresponding Aramaic form is Alah (אלה), but its emphatic state is Alaha (אלהא). It is written as ܐܠܗܐ – Ĕlāhā in Biblical Aramaic and ܐܲܠܵܗܵܐ (Alâhâ) in Syriac and Ēl in Canaanite. The name Allal (or Ellil) is to be found in the Epic of  Atrahasis (or Atramhasis) engraved on several tablets dating back to around 1700 BC in Babylon. This shows that a Deity Allal was being worshipped since ages (Stephanie Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh and others, Oxford University Press: 1989, Pages: 3-10). Many inscriptions containing the name Allâh have been discovered in Northern and Southern Arabia as early as the 15th century BC., including Lihyanitic, Thamûdic and other South Arabian inscriptions (F. V. Winnett, A Study of the Lihyanite and Thamudic Inscriptions; Toronto: 1937, Page 30). From Nabataean inscriptions, we know that “Allâh” was regarded as the “High and Main God”. 

The concepts associated with the term Allâh (as a deity) differ among religious traditions. The pagan Meccans used the name Allâh for the creator, the supreme deity besides other deities. Arab Christians have been using it since pre-Islamic times. Today’s Arab Christians modified it to Allāh al-Ab (الله الأب – God the Father) to distinguish their usage from Muslim usage. This expression was also used by some Mizrahi (Eastern) Jews. There are similarities as well as differences between the concept of God as portrayed in the Holy Qur’ân and the Hebrew Bible. In the Holy Qur’ân Allâh is the name of the Self-Existing and Self-Sufficient (6:133) veiled Reality (al-Haqîqat al-Ghaybiyya) and Qur’ân is His Holy speech. He says:  

إِنَّنِي أَنَا اللَّهُ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا

“I and I alone am Allâh. There cannot be, is no other and will never be one worthy of worship but I.” (20:14)

Allâh is thus His personal name (ism al-Dhâtإسم الذات ). In the Arabic idiom calling someone who is present, by his personal name shows acknowledgement and respect and denotes his high status.

Allȃh discloses Himself to humankind in many of His beautiful awe-inspiring words:

اللَّهُ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ ۚ لَا تَأْخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلَا نَوْمٌ ۚ لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ مَن ذَا الَّذِي يَشْفَعُ عِندَهُ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِهِ ۚ يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ ۖ وَلَا يُحِيطُونَ بِشَيْءٍ مِّنْ عِلْمِهِ إِلَّا بِمَا شَاءَ ۚ وَسِعَ كُرْسِيُّهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ ۖ وَلَا يَئُودُهُ حِفْظُهُمَا ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْعَظِيمُ

 “Allâh is He, there is no other, cannot be and will never be one worthy of worship but Him, the Ever-Living, Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining (Lord). Neither sleep nor slumber overtakes Him. Whatsoever is in the heaven and whatsoever is on the earth belongs to Him. Who is there that will intercede with Him, save by His leave?  He knows your future and your past, and you encompass nothing of His knowledge of the things except of such things as He Himself please to tell. His knowledge and sovereignty extends over the heavens, the earth, and the care of them both tires Him not. He is the Most Supreme (subordinate to no one), immense in His Greatness.” (2:255)

هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ ۖ هُوَ الرَّحْمَـٰنُ الرَّحِيمُ هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْمَلِكُ الْقُدُّوسُ السَّلَامُ الْمُؤْمِنُ الْمُهَيْمِنُ الْعَزِيزُ الْجَبَّارُ الْمُتَكَبِّرُ ۚ سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ هُوَ اللَّهُ الْخَالِقُ الْبَارِئُ الْمُصَوِّرُ ۖ لَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ ۚ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

“He is Allâh, He is the One besides whom there is no other, cannot be and will never be one worthy of worship but He. He is the knower of the unseen and the seen. He is the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful. He is Allâh besides whom there is no other, cannot be and will never be one worthy of worship but He. (He is) the Supreme Sovereign, the Holy One, the Most Perfect, the Bestower of peaceful security, the Guardian, the All-Mighty, the Compensator of losses, the Possessor of all Greatness. Holy is Allâh, far beyond they associate with Him. He is Allâh, the Creator of matter and the spirit, the Maker, the Bestower of Forms. All perfect and beautiful Attributes belong to Him. All that lies in the heavens and the earth declare His Glory (by affirming: Yes! You are our Lord). He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” (59:22-24)

لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ هُوَ الْأَوَّلُ وَالْآخِرُ وَالظَّاهِرُ وَالْبَاطِنُ وَهُوَ بِكُلِ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ ّ 

 “The kingdom of the heavens and the earth belong to Him. He gives life and causes death and He is the Possessor of power to do all that He wills (and desires). He is the very First (He is as He always was), and (He is) the Last (when nothing remains He will remain), and He is Manifest [for His Servants] and He is Hidden (from the worlds of bodies; He being the Eternal Being), and He has full knowledge of everything.” (57:1-3)

  هُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّام ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ ۚ يَعْلَمُ مَا يَلِجُ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا يَخْرُجُ مِنْهَا وَمَا يَنزِلُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ َ وَمَا يَعْرُجُ فِيهَا وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كُنتُم وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌۚ

“It is He Who has created the heavens and the earth in six periods and He is established on the thrown (of Power). He knows what goes down to the earth and what comes out of it, and what descends (Divine Revelations) from above and what ascends to it (deeds and actions). He is with you wherever you may be. Allâh is watchful of all what you do.” (57:4)

يَعْلَمُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تُسِرُّونَ وَمَا تُعْلِنُونَ ۚ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ

 “He knows whatever lies in the heavens and the earth and He knows what you conceal in your hearts and what you utter openly. Allâh knows the innermost thoughts of the hearts.” (64:4)

The word “Allâh” is not a construction of al-ilâh as some people think, but an independent word. The word Allâh is jâmid that means it is neither derived from any other word nor has it any root. The first letters All  الٌin Allâh are an integral, inseparable part of the word. They do not denote the definite article al  الof Arabic, which is equivalent to the English the. Renowned scholars of the Arabic language including Sibwaih, the famous grammarian, and Khalîl, the respected linguistic, confirm that All الٌ in the beginning of the word Allâh is inseparable from it. If All  الٌin Allâh were an additional prefix, the common exclamation Yâ Allâh, (O Allâh!), would not be permitted according to the rules of Arabic grammar, as the form Yâ al-ilâh or Yâ al-Rahmân, Yâ al-Rahîm would be grammatically incorrect. Moreover, this supposition would mean that there were different gods – âlihah (plural of ilâh), one of which became gradually known as al-Ilâh and was then contracted into Allâh. This supposition is not correct. The word Allâh is a simple substantive, a proper name, not derived from any other word. In contrast, the word deity is applied to any religious object of worship.  The word god was  originally used to refer to pagan deities of the Nordic nations. It has a plural and both a masculine and feminine form, therefore this word cannot strictly and properly satisfy the monotheistic requirements of a deity.

God is another way of saying “Allâh”. Unlike the word God, Allâh has no plural, masculine or feminine form, and is never used for any other object or being (19:65). It is a substantive name, neither attributive nor descriptive. It has no parallel or equivalent in any other language. Jehovah is the latinisation of Tetragrammaton YHWH. Its Aramaic form Yâ Huwâ, literally means O That! or O Thou! or O He! This was the permitted expression used to address the Deity of the Israelites. This Deity’s name was not to be pronounced in fear of profaning the “ineffable name”. In “Jehovah”, the emphasis is on hova (- huwa), stressing “that Existence” or “that He”. Therefore, Jehovah can hardly be a proper name.  The name found in other languages for Supreme Being is either attributive or descriptive. Hindus give their senior Deity the name Par-Mâtma (the Super Soul), Par-Barahman (the Super and the Great), Par-Mishwar (the Great King or Owner). The Parsis give their supreme God the name of Yazdan (the Spirit of goodness). The Sikh call their great Deity that means the Truth.

There are a few verses in the Holy Qur’ân where Allâh calls Himself Al-Rahmânالرَّحْمَـٰنَ  (the Most Gracious). “The Most Gracious gives those who are steeped in error long respite,” (19:75), “The Day when the Most Gracious shall gather those who guard against evil before Him as honoured delegates” (19:85). A closer look at these verses reveals that here the Divine grace and Mercy are emphasized.. Al-Rahmân is in its essence very close to the proper name Allâh in that this name cannot be shared by any. On the other hand, the servants of Allâh can share Allâh’s Attributes of similarity, like He sees, He speaks and He hears. Rahmânîyyat is a kind of mercy beyond the power of the human mind. To this end, He has combined His two names by saying:

ادْعُوا اللَّهَ أَوِ ادْعُوا الرَّحْمَـٰنَ ۖ أَيًّا مَّا تَدْعُوا فَلَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ

“Call upon (Him by the name of) Allâh, or call upon (Him by the name of) al-Rahmân. Call upon Him in whatsoever name you like; all beautiful names belong to Him”. (17:110)

The use of the word Father for the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining Deity does not fall into the category of beautiful names.  When father is taken to mean one who produces his offspring from a female, then how can we call a Deity the Self-Sufficient when He has to depend on the womb of a woman to produce a son. In this context, this name can be rather disrespectful to Him.

وَقُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي لَمْ يَتَّخِذْ وَلَدًا وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ شَرِيكٌ فِي الْمُلْكِ وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ وَلِيٌّ مِّنَ الذُّلِّ ۖ وَكَبِّرْهُ تَكْبِيرًا

“All true and perfect praise belong to Allâh, Who has not taken to Himself a son, and Who has no associate partner in His kingdom, nor has He any helper because of weakness, and extol His glory with repeated glorification.” (17:111)

If one goes through the pages of the Holy Qur’ân, the reader soon realizes that this Book is not introducing a new Deity. It is presenting the same Eternal Being Who has always been present in the illuminated human heart, in human conscience (30:8; 30:30), and in many heavens and many earths (6.12), Who is visible in the mirror of the laws of cosmos and is discernible in the book of nature (30:8; 39:5-6; 41:9-12; 65:12).  He is the same God Who was worshipped by Noah, Abraham, Ismâ‘îl, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Jesus and all other Prophets, be they known or unknown to us (4:163-164; 2:132-133,136: 3:84; 40:78; 42:13).  All divinely revealed paths lead to the same summit, and that is the religion of the Prophets (3:31).

People have an individual concept of their Lord, and they ascribe a name to Him in which they seek Him. So long as a Deity is presented to them that fits into their fancy and concept, they accept it and affirm it, whereas when the Deity is presented in any other form with another name, they deny it, flee from it and often treat it in an improper manner. When a worshipper, no matter to what faith he belongs, engages in worship with his sincere heart, devotion, and attention, he begins to experience Allâh’s embracing Power and Mercy. He hardly escapes from true monotheist belief, even if in his outward appearance he displayed idolatrous behaviour. He becomes overwhelmed by gratefulness, praise and love for Him, temporarily forgetting his traditional beliefs.  God says, صَوَامِعُ وَبِيَعٌ وَصَلَوَاتٌ وَمَسَاجِدُ يُذْكَرُ فِيهَا اسْمُ اللَّهِ كَثِيرًا  – in cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques wherein it is the name Allâh is being mentioned frequently (22:40). Thus, it is He who is being worshipped in the places of worship according to the upbringing and intellect of the worshipper (22:40; 2:114). Whom you think that they are worshipping besides God, for them they are not besides God. They imagine their God in those objects. They see their outward to be Gods outward and their inward to be His inward. They see in these objects His essence without asking how and why?  On the Day of Resurrection, Allâh will present to His worshipper with all His Glories and Lights (50:22), the worshipper will not be able to recognize Him. Then He will present to him in the form He was worshipped by him, the worshipper will recognize Him.  

تَبَارَكَ اسْمُ رَبِّكَ ذِي الْجَلَالِ وَالْإِكْرَامِ

“Blessed is the Name of your [All-Sustaining] Lord, [the Possessor and Master] of all Glory and Honour.”  (55:78)