Many hear the name Allah without knowing what it means or whom it does refer to. Does it refer to the God of Arabs? Or the God of Muslims? Does it have a meaning? I will elaborate on the name’s root, meaning, whom it refers to and its place in Islam.
Allah, linguistic root and meaning:
The word Allah is an Arabic name that is millenniums old dating way back before Islam, and is known in the Arabic literature and poetry of the era prior to Islam.
Its roots come from the word “ilah”, or to be more precise “Al’-ilah”, as the majority of Arabic linguists say, including Sibawayh, one of the greatest Arabic linguists in history.
The word ‘ilah’ in Arabic means god, where “Al” in Arabic grammar function the same as “The”. So while ‘ilah’ means god, ‘Al’ilah’ means “The God”. As, the word god and ‘ilah’ both may be used to refer to any entity being claimed or worshiped as god. “The God”, however, refers to The One God, The Creator, the one who deserves to be called God, or ‘Al’ilah’ in Arabic.
With time the word got mutated and turned from a noun into a name that holds the same meaning and used as a reference to that entity in Arabic, “Allah”. The name is used by all Arabs now and across history no matter their religion; Paganism, Christianity, Judaism or Islam. In Arabic dictionaries it is defined as the name that refers to the Creator of the heavens and the Earth by His attribute of being The God, the one worthy to be called God.
Allah, the use of the name in Islam:
The Arabic name for God is unique and different than in any other language because in the other languages there is only the word god or its equivalent that may refer to many different things, most of which is wrong. One of those meanings for example in English when you say god many people have an image in their heads of an old man in the sky. Another use may be said as simply having super human strength and capabilities, like superman for example.
Thus, the word god in English and other languages lack the unique reference to the Creator of the heaven and the Earth, the Omnipotent and the one who is nothing like His creation. And so Muslims around the world use the word Allah as the main name to refer to Him and indicate the wanted meaning –it is okay to use the word God or its equivalent, but Allah is unique.
Allah in the Islamic creed:
The belief in Allah and His oneness is the core of the Islamic creed. Pure monotheism is the core of the Islamic theology, and in Arabic it is called “Tawheed”. The oneness of Allah is in all aspects; He is one and uniquely one.
Allah is one in His self with no second, one in His names with no match. Also, one in His attributes with no likes, one in His actions with no partners. Thus, He is one in His deserving for worship with no rival.
The belief in Allah and His oneness is the gateway to Islam, and it is summarized by “The Shahadah”, the testimony of faith that makes one become a Muslim by saying and believing its meaning, and is one of the best ways to remember Him.
“أشهد أن لا إله إلا الله” I bear witness that there is no god but Allah
“و أشهد أن محمد رسول الله” And I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
By simply saying and believing that, one becomes a Muslim. The first part is referring to the belief in Allah and His pure oneness, The second part is referring to the belief that He has sent prophet Muhammad as His last messenger. Precisely, by following prophet Muhammad one can worship Him and follow His commands properly.
Allah’s names and attributes:
In Islam Allah isn’t the only name for referring to The Almighty. We learned many names of Him from Qur’an and through His messenger. Each name is referring to one of His attributes. For example, the name ‘Ar-Rahman’ is the second most common name for referring to Him, just after Allah. And while Allah refers to the attribute of Him being The God. Al-Rahman is a name that refers to His mercy upon all His creation.
It is often paired with Allah and the third name “Ar-Raheem” in the start of the chapters of the Quran. Ar-Raheem is another example of Allah’s names, which also refers to His mercy, but in a specific manner. Moreover, of His names is “Al-Khaliq”, which means “The Creator”, referring to the attribute of creating the creation. “Al-‘Aleem” refers to His knowledge and its vastness.
Those are five of over a hundred names that refer to The Almighty Creator in Islam. Each name is referring to a different attribute of His perfection. In addition to many more attributes that aren’t referenced by a name. Actually, we only know a portion of His names, glory be to Him.
“ And to Allah belong the best names, so invoke Him by them. And leave [the company of] those who practice deviation concerning His names. They will be recompensed for what they have been doing.” [Qur’an (7:180)]