ALLAH (in Arabic: الله) is the Arabic word referring to GOD in Abrahamic religions. The word is thought to be derived by contraction from al-ilāh, which means “the god”, and is related to El and Elohim, the Hebrew words for GOD.
The word has been also used by Arabs of different religions since pre-Islamic times. It is now mainly used by Muslims and Arab Christians to refer to GOD.
The etymology of the word ALLAH has been discussed extensively by classical Arab philologists. Grammarians of the Basra school regarded is as either formed “spontaneously” (murtajal) or as the definite form of lāh (from the verbal root lyhwith the meaning of “lofty” or “hidden”). Others held that it was borrowed from Syriac or Hebrew, but most considered it to be derived from a contraction of the Arabic definite article al- “the” and ilāh “deity, god” to al-lāh meaning “the deity”, or “the God”.
Cognates of the name “ALLAH” exist in other Semitic languages, old Aramaic and Hebrew. The corresponding Aramaic form is Elah (אלה), but its emphatic state is Elaha (אלהא). It is written as (ʼĔlāhā) in Biblical Aramaic and (ʼAlâhâ) in Syriac as used by the Assyrian Church, both meaning simply “GOD”. Biblical Hebrew mostly uses the plural (but functional singular) form ELOHIM (אלהים), but more rarely it also uses the singular form ELOAH (אלוהּ).
In Islam, ALLAH is the unique, omnipotent and only deity and Creator of the universe and is equivalent to the same GOD in other Abrahamic religions.
According to Islamic belief, ALLAH is the most common word to represent GOD, and humble submission to His will, Divine ordinances and commandments is the pillar of the Muslim faith. “He is the Only GOD, Creator of the universe, and the Judge of humankind.” “He is Unique (wāḥid) and inherently One (aḥad), all-Merciful and Omnipotent.”The Qur’an declares “the reality of ALLAH, His inaccessible mystery, His various names, and His actions on behalf of His creatures.”
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. All these names refer to ALLAH, the Supreme and all-Comprehensive Divine Name. 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).
Most Muslims use the untranslated Arabic phrase in shā’ Allāh (meaning ‘if GOD wills’) after references to future events. Muslim discursive piety encourages beginning things with the invocation of bismillāh (meaning ‘in the name of GOD’).
Phrases in praising of GOD according to Muslim tradiction.
“Subḥān Allāh” (Holiness be to GOD)
“al-ḥamdu lillāh” (Praise be to GOD)
“lā ilāha illā Allāh” (There is no deity but GOD)
“Allāhu akbar” (GOD is greater)
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(spirits). 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..
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 more remote than YHWH, and as a universal deity, unlike ADONAI who closely follows Israelites.
As a loanword
English and other European languages
The history of the name ALLAH in English was probably influenced by the study of comparative religion in the 19th century; for example, Thomas Carlyle (1840) sometimes used the term ALLAH but without any implication that ALLAH was anything different from GOD. However, in his biography of Muḥammad (1934), Tor Andræ always used the term ALLAH, though he allows that this “conception of GOD” seems to wrongly imply that it is different from that of the Jewish and Christian theologies.
Languages which may not commonly use the term ALLAH to denote GOD may still contain popular expressions which use the word. For example, because of the centuries long Muslim presence in the Iberian Peninsula, the word ojalá in the Spanish language and oxalá in the Portuguese language exist today, borrowed from Arabic (Arabic: إن شاء الله). This phrase literally means ‘if GOD wills’ (in the sense of “I hope so”). The German poet Mahlmann used the form “ALLAH” as the title of a poem about the ultimate deity, though it is unclear how much Islamic thought he intended to convey.
Regional variants of the word allah (god) occur in both pagan and Christian pre-Islamic inscriptions. Different theories have been proposed regarding the role of Allah in pre-Islamic polytheistic cults. Some authors have suggested that polytheistic Arabs used the name as a reference to a creator god or a supreme deity of their pantheon. According to one hypothesis, which goes back to Julius Wellhausen, ALLAH (the supreme deity of the tribal federation around Quraysh) was a designation that consecrated the superiority of Hubal (the supreme deity of Quraysh) over the other gods. However, there is also evidence that ALLAH and Hubal were two distinct deities. According to that hypothesis, the Kaaba was first consecrated to a supreme deity named ALLAH and then hosted the pantheon of Quraysh after their conquest of Mecca, about a century before the time of Muhammad. Some inscriptions seem to indicate the use of ALLAH as a name of a polytheist deity centuries earlier, but we know nothing precise about this use. Some scholars have suggested that Allah may have represented a remote creator god who was gradually eclipsed by more particularized local deities. There is disagreement on whether Allah played a major role in the Meccan religious cult. No iconic representation of Allah is known to have existed. Muhammad’s father’s name was ʿAbd-Allāhmeaning “the slave of ALLAH”.
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”. The Christian Arabs of today have no other word for “GOD” than “ALLAH”. (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 ALLAH al-ab (الله الأب) for GOD the FATHER.
Some archaeological excavation quests have led to the discovery of ancient pre-Islamic inscriptions and tombs made by Arab 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”.
A Christian leader named Abd Allah ibn Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad was martyred in Najran in 523, as he had worn a ring that said “ALLAH is my LORD”.
In an inscription of Christian martyrion dated back to 512, 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”.
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.
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.
“ALLAH” was also mentioned in pre-Islamic Christian poems by some Ghassanid and Tanukhid poets in Syria and Northern Arabia.