Allah in Arabic, Islam, and Other Cultures

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Allah in Arabic Etymology and history
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Allah in Arabic  The term Allah must be very familiar for all of us. It is particularly for Moslems. Yes, if you are a Moslem, you must acknowledge it well that Allah is the only God. Although in general, the meaning of Allah has been known, it is not bad to learn more about this term. Hopefully, it can just increase our knowledge as well as improving the faith and love towards him.

The Literal Meaning of Allah in Arabic

Allah itself is indeed a word of Arabic means God. Although Allah is widely known through Islam tradition based on its Holy Book Al Quran, this term was actually used before that. Allah was used by pra-Islam communities including Christian Arabic, Babism, and Baha’i.

Meanwhile, Mizrahi Jews also has been used it since a very long time ago although not in an exclusive way. if we translate it literally without any religion unsure, Allah or Al-lah means the God. It has some relative words in other Semitic languages including Elah in Aramaic, El in Canaan, and Elohim in Hebrew.

Allah in Arabic: Etymology and History

Allah in Islam's perspective
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Before Islam was coming through Prophet Mohammed in 6th century, people in Arab and other areas around had worshipped invisible creatures who was also known as Allah. Some of the religions being existed at that time has been mentioned above; they are Christian, Babism, Baha’i, and some groups of Jews. Some theories then try to analyze the word of Allah etymologically.

One of the theories stated that the word Allah comes from two words Al, means “the” and ilah, means “God”. Therefore, it becomes “the God”. However, different from the definition of Allah believed by Moslems, Allah before Islam refers to the God, just like other gods known and worshipped in the previous cultures. The God here does not mean “the only one” emphasized in Islam.

Meanwhile, another theory said that this word came from Aram language or Aramaic; Alaha. Although the origin of Allah in this theory is different from the previous one, the meaning is just the same. It is God.

The third theory is that the word Allah was even older than that. The meaning is just the same; Allah is the omniscient creator. However, it came from Mesopotamia where the Semitic clumps were begun. The Mesopotamian had recognized the word El or Ill as the highest level of Gods in Babylonian Pantheon. However, this kind of God seemingly generates from another older culture. It is based on the fact that El or Illiterally meant the only God who created the sky and the earth.

Based on the facts, the term Allah basically has a very long history. However, it can be summarized that this term was originally from Semitic language. Then, it was generated into many other languages with some variations like El, Il, and Illah. When it comes to Arabic, it was then known mostly as Allah. Meanwhile, the meanings are still the same.

Allah is basically the God. However, the term God itself can be different based on the religious that brought it up. Before Islam, Allah is just an “ordinary” God. More than that, it was more about the great creatures that can be divided into some more depending on the beliefs.

A good example is Christian who believes that God is being representated into three; they are Allah, Jesus, and Holy Spirit. Jesus was then being the representative of Allah in the form of human in which he also adapted Allah’s characteristics.

Meanwhile, Allah in Babylon was functioned likely Zeus in ancient Greece. It was the leader of other Gods in lower levels and positions.

Allah in Islam’s Perspective

The Literal Meaning of Allah in Arabic
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The beliefs mentioned above were argued by Islam since this religion only confesses Allah as a single creature without any other representations. There are many sentences in Al Quran that emphasize Allah as a single creature, the beginning and the last, and without parents and child.

Therefore, it becomes a common debate within the Moslem scholars when they must deal with translating Allah. Commonly, Allah is translated as the God since it is indeed the literal meaning. However, God may not properly represent Allah. Why? God in English has a really broad meaning.

It can be plural; Gods – this is in opposite to Islam’s view where Allah is definitely only one. Meanwhile, God also represents something masculine in which it has the feminine form; Goddess – this is again in opposite to Islam’s view where Allah doesn’t has any gender.

Allah is also often associated to Yahweh in Jews. Despite of both have the same functions and may refer to the same creature, it seems that Al Quran describes Allah in broader way. In Al Quran, Allah is the universal God for anybody on the face of the earth. It is different from Yahweh which is only intended for the children of Israel.

Based on those facts, the wiser decision is not to translate Allah into any other languages. The literal meaning is indeed God but Allah is special and different from other gods. It is the only creator and ruler of universe Moslems have.

More than that, this word is also very precious, merciful, and closely related to the faith so that any Moslem must keep it like that. The main consequent of translating Allah being afraid by the scholars is that the translation may change the meaning as well as the entire monotheism concept held tightly by Moslems.

Why is Allah More Related to Islam?

Why is Allah More related to Islam
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The lessons of Islam were delivered through Al Quran and Prophet Mohammed. As we all know, Mohammed was a citizen of Arab. It means that the language he used daily is Arabic. Based on the explanation in the previous point, Allah was indeed a kind of Semitic mother-language while Arabic was also generated for it.

The term Allah is mentioned numerously in Al Quran, the holy book of Moslems. The spreading of Islam throughout centuries was done without changing the holy book even for a little bit. This is the main reason why, the term Allah seems closer to Islam even though other religions and beliefs may use it also.

Sources:

“God”. Islam: Empire of Faith. PBS.

“Islam and Christianity”, Encyclopedia of Christianity (2001): Orang Kristen and yahudi berbahasa Arab juga menyebut Tuhan dengan nama Allah.

Brown, Francis; Driver, S. R.; Briggs, Charles. A. Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendricksen. p. 41, entry 410 1.b.

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