The word Allāh is the Arabic term for "God". It is most commonly used in Islam and refers to the eternal monotheist Deity.
Although the usage of the word Allāh is traditionally attributed to Muslims, it is not exclusive to Islam; Arab Christians and various Arabic-speaking Jews (including the Teimanim, several Mizraḥi communities and some Sephardim) also use it to refer to the monotheist deity. Arabic translations of the Bible also employ it, as do Roman Catholics in Malta (who pronounce it as "Alla"), Christians in Indonesia, who say "Allah Bapa" (Allah the Father) and Christians in the Middle East who use the Aramaic "Allāha".
It was used in pre-Islamic times by Pagans within the Arabian peninsula to signify the supreme creator. Pre-Islamic Christians
and Jews referred to their supreme creator as Yahweh, or El Elyon. The pagan Arabs recognized "Allāh" as the supreme God in their pantheon; along with Allah, however, the pre-Islamic Arabs believed in a host of other gods, such as Hubal and 'daughters of Allāh' [the three daughters associated were al-Lāt, al-`Uzzah, and Manah]" (Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, "The Facts on File", ed. Anthony Mercatante, New York, 1983, I:61). This view of Allah by the pre-Islamic pagans is viewed by Muslims as a latter development having arisen as a result
of moving away from Abrahamic monotheism over time. Some of the names of these pagan gods are said to be derived from the
descendants of Noah, whom latter generations firstly revered as saints, and then transformed into gods (although non-Muslims
often view polytheism as having come before monotheism). The pagan Arabians also used the word "Allāh" in the names of
their children; Muhammad's father, who was born into pagan society, was named "`Abdullāh", which translates "servant of Allāh". The word
was also used in a monotheistic sense by Arab Christians in the pre-Islamic Umm al-Jimal inscription (6th century). The Hebrew word for deity, El (אל) or Elōha (אלוה), was used as an Old Testament synonym for Yahweh (יהוה), which is the proper name for the Jewish God according to the Tanakh. This was used only once in the entire Old Testament. The Aramaic word for God is alôh-ô (Syriac dialect), which comes from the same Proto-Semitic word (*ʾilâh-) as the Arabic and Hebrew terms; Jesus is described in Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46 as having used this word on the cross (in the forms elō-i and ēl-i respectively) when asking
God why God had forsaken him. One of the earliest surviving translations of the word into a foreign language is in a Greek translation of the Shahada, from 86-96 AH (705-715 AD), which translates it as ho theos monos, literally "the one god". Also the cognate Aramaic term appears in the Aramaic version of the New Testament, called
the Pshitta (or Peshitta) as one of the words Jesus used to refer to God, e.g., in the sixth Beatitude, "Blessed are the pure in heart
for they shall see Alāha." And in the Arabic Bible the same words (Mt 5:8): "طُوبَى لأَنْقِيَاءِ
"Allah" as a word
Many linguist believe that the term Allāh is
derived from a contraction of the Arabic words al (the) and ʾilāh (god, masculine form) - al-ilāh
meaning "the god." In addition, one of the main pagan goddesses of pre-Islamic Arabia, Allāt (al + ʾilāh + at, or 'the goddess'), is cited as being etymologically (though not synchronically) the feminine linguistic counterpart to the grammatically masculine Allāh. If so, the word
Allāh is an abbreviated title, meaning 'the deity', rather than a name. For this reason, both Muslim and non-Muslim
scholars often translate Allāh directly into English as 'God'; this also explains why Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians
freely refer to God as Allāh. However, some Muslim scholars feel that "Allāh" should not be translated, because
they perceived the Arabic word to express the uniqueness of "Allāh" more accurately than word "god", which can take a
plural "gods", whereas the word "Allāh" has no plural form. This is a significant issue in translation of the Qur'an.
The word Allāh is always written without an alif to spell the ā vowel. This is because the spelling was settled before Arabic spelling started habitually using
alif to spell ā. However, in vocalized spelling, a diacritic alif is added on top of the shaddah to indicate pronunciation. One exception is in the pre-Islamic Zabad inscription, where it is spelled الاه.
Unicode has glyph reserved for Allah, ﷲ= U+FDF2, which can be combined with an alif to yield the
post-consonantal form, اﷲ, as opposed to the full spelling alif-lām-lām-hā
الله which may be rendered slightly differently, in particular featuring
a diacritic alif on top of the shadda. In this, Unicode imitates traditional Arabic typesetting, which also
frequently featured special llāh types.
Islamic Conception of God
The Islamic concept of mankind's place in the universe hinges on the notion that Allāh, or God, is the only true reality. There is nothing permanent other than Him. God is considered eternal and "uncreated", whereas
everything else in the universe is "created." The Qur'an describes Him in Sura 112: "Say: He is Allāh, Singular. Allāh, the Absolute. He begetteth not nor was begotten. And to Him have never been one equal." (see Tawhid for more). The Qur'an condemns and mocks the pre-Islamic Arabs for attributing daughters to Allāh (sura 53:19.)
God is considered by Muslims to be omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, while at the same time above and outside of all creation. He is said to be "in Heaven" (Qur'an 67:16) and "in the heavens and the earth" (Qur'an 66:3), but also said to be "nearer to him [man] than his jugular vein" (Qur'an 50:16); He constantly watches all that goes on in the world, and knows all things. This suggests that He is present in the
heart as the supreme witness. "And He it is Who takes your souls at night (in sleep), and He knows what you acquire in the
day, then He raises you up therein that an appointed term may be fulfilled; then to Him is your return, then He will inform
you of what you were doing. (sura 6:60)"
Placing God inside his creation, in the literal sense, or suggesting that nature or creation simultaneously co-exist in
God or vice versa, as in other religious traditions, compromises exclusive Islamic monotheism. It is more appropriate to say
that in nature there are signs for the existence of Allah.
Muslims do not try to draw or depict God in any way, according to Islamic belief it could lead to idol worship. Instead, they focus on His 99 "attributes" that are stated in the Qur'an, the holy book of the Muslims. Nearly one third of the book is used describing God's attributes and actions. Also, "hadith qudsi" are special recorded sayings of Muhammad to Muslims where he quotes what God says to him. The ninety-nine "Attributes" are
frequently written in calligraphic Arabic as a permissible decoration, which adorns mosques and homes of Muslims.
Islamic use of "Allāh"
From the point of view of traditional Islamic theology, Allāh is the most precious name of God because it is not a descriptive name like other ninety-nine names of God, but the name of God's own presence. Muslims believe that the name of Allah had existed before the time of Adam. It is the same God worshipped by Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and other prophets of Islam. In Islam, there is only one God and Muhammed is the last messenger.
The emphasis in Islamic culture on reciting the Qur'an in Arabic has resulted in Allāh often being used by Muslims world-wide as the word for God, regardless of their native language. Out of 114 Suras in the Qur'an, 113 begin with the Basmala ("Bismi 'llāh ar-rahmān ar-rahīm" بسم الله الرحمن
الرحيم) which means "In the name of God, the most kind, the most merciful". Muslims, when referring to the name, often add the words "Subhanahu wa Ta`ala" after it, meaning "Glorified and Exalted is He" as
a sign of reverence, or "`Az wa Jal" (عز و جل). The entire religion of Islam is based on the idea of getting closer to God. Although commonly referred to as a "He", God is considered genderless, but
there is no neuter gender to express this in the Arabic language. When Greek or other polytheistic deities are discussed in Arabic, it is customary to use the expression ilāh, a "deity" or lower-case "god."
Uses of "Allāh" in phrases
There are many phrases that contain the word Allāh:
- also the origin of the common Spanish interjection "Ojalá", which shares a similar meaning.
- may be the origin of the Spanish exclamation "¡Olé!".
"Allāh" appears in a stylized form on the flag of Iran, in the phrase "Allāhu Akbar" on the flag of Iraq, and as part of the shahādah on the flag of Saudi Arabia.
The Nation of Islam and The Nation of Gods and Earths (two of the many sects created as the result of black separatist movements in America, and not recognised as part of orthodox
or mainstream Islam), hold that the word "Allāh" is the name of the original black man and stands for "Arm, Leg, Leg,
Arm, Head". This concept is alien to mainstream Islam, which is strictly against the human, (or any other depiction) of God/Allāh.
This inclues attibuting divine qualities, worship and glorification of anything other than G-d.