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Allah (Arabic: الله, Allāh, IPA: [ʔalˤːɑːh] ( listen)) is the standard Arabic word for God. While the term is best known in the West for its use by Muslims as a reference to God, it is used by Arabic-speakers of all Abrahamic faiths, including Christians and Jews, in reference to "God". The term was also used by pagan Meccans as a reference to the creator-god, possibly the supreme deity in pre-Islamic Arabia.
The concepts associated with the term Allah (as a deity) differ among the traditions. In pre-Islamic Arabia amongst pagan Arabs, Allah was not the sole divinity, having associates and companions, sons and daughters, a concept strongly opposed by Islam. In Islam, the name Allah is the supreme and all-comprehensive divine name. All other divine names are believed to refer back to Allah. Allah is unique, the only Deity, creator of the universe and omnipotent. Arab Christians today use terms such as Allāh al-ʼAb ( الله الأب, "God the Father") to distinguish their usage from Muslim usage. There are both similarities and differences between the concept of God as portrayed in the Qur'an and the Hebrew Bible.
The term Allāh is derived from a contraction of the Arabic definite article al- "the" and ʼilāh "deity, god" to al-lāh meaning "the [sole] deity, God" (ho theos monos). Cognates of the name "Allāh" exist in other Semitic languages, including Hebrew and Aramaic. The corresponding Aramaic form is אֱלָהָא ʼĔlāhā in Biblical Aramaic and ܐܰܠܳܗܳܐ ʼAlâhâ or ʼĀlōho in Syriac.
Usage in Arabic
In pre-Islamic Arabia, Allah was used by Meccans as a reference to the creator-god, possibly the supreme deity.
Allah was not considered the sole divinity; however, Allah was considered the creator of the world and the giver of rain. The notion of the term may have been vague in the Meccan religion. Allah was associated with companions, whom pre-Islamic Arabs considered as subordinate deities. Meccans held that a kind of kinship existed between Allah and the jinn. Allah was thought to have had sons and that the local deities of al-ʻUzzá, Manāt and al-Lāt were His daughters. The Meccans possibly associated angels with Allah. Allah was invoked in times of distress. Muhammad's father's name was ‘Abdallāh meaning the “servant of Allāh.” or "the slave of Allāh"
According to Islamic belief, Allah is the proper name of God, and humble submission to His Will, Divine Ordinances and Commandments is the pivot of the Muslim faith. "He is the only God, creator of the universe, and the judge of humankind." "He is unique (wahid) and inherently one (ahad), all-merciful and omnipotent." The Qur'an proves that "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-asma al-husna lit. meaning: "The best 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-rahman) and "the Compassionate" (al-rahim).
Most Muslims use the untranslated Arabic phrase "insha' Allah" (meaning "God willing") after references to future events. Muslim discursive piety encourages beginning things with the invocation of "bismillah"(meaning "In the name of God").
There are certain phrases in praise of God that are favored by Muslims, including "Subhan-Allah" (Holiness be to God), "Alhamdulillah" (Praise be to God), "La-il-la-ha-illa-Allah" (There is no deity but God) and "Allāhu Akbar" (God is great) as a devotional exercise of remembering God (zikr). In a Sufi practice known as zikr Allah (lit. remembrance of God), the Sufi repeats and contemplates on the name Allah or other divine names while controlling his or her breath.
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 terms Allāh al-ʼab (الله الأب) meaning God the father, Allāh al-ibn (الله الابن) mean God the son, and Allāh al-rūḥ al-quds (الله الروح القدس) meaning God the Holy Spirit (See God in Christianity for the Christian concept of God).
Arab Christians have used two forms of invocations that were affixed to the beginning of their written works. They adopted the Muslim basm-allah, and also created their own Trinitized basm-allah as early as the eight century CE. The Muslim basm-allah reads: "In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful." The Trinitized basm-allah reads: "In the name of Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God." The Syriac, Latin and Greek invocations do not have the words "One God" at the end. This addition was made to emphasize the monotheistic aspect of Trinitian belief and also to make it more palatable to Muslims.
English and other European languages
The history of the word "Allāh" in English was probably influenced by the study of comparative religion in 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 Muhammad (1934), Tor Andræ always used the term Allah, though he allows that this 'conception of God' seems to imply that it is different from that of the Jewish and Christian theologies. By this time Christians were also becoming accustomed to retaining the Hebrew term "Yahweh" untranslated (it was previously translated as 'the Lord').
Languages which may not commonly use the term Allah to denote a deity 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 word literally means "God willing" (in the sense of "I hope so").
Some Muslims leave the name "Allāh" untranslated in English. Sometimes this comes from a zeal for the Arabic text of the Qur'an and sometimes with a more or less conscious implication that the Jewish and Christian concept of God is not completely true in its details. Conversely, the usage of the term Allah by English speaking non-Muslims in reference to the God in Islam, Marshall G. S. Hodgson says, can imply that Muslims are worshiping a mythical god named 'Allah' rather than God, the creator. This usage is therefore appropriate, Hodgson says, only for those who are prepared to accept its theological implications.
Allah in other scripts and languages
- Allah in other languages with Arabic script is spelled in the same way. This includes Urdu, Persian/Dari, Uyghur among others.
- Chinese: 阿拉 Ālā, 安拉 Ānlā; 真主 Zhēnzhǔ (semantic translation)
- Greek: Αλλάχ Allách, Θεός Theós (God)
- Hebrew: אללה Allah
- Hindi: अल्लाह Allāh
- Japanese: アラー Arā, アッラー Arrā, アッラーフ Arrāfu
- Maltese: Alla
- Korean: 알라 Alla
- Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian: Алла́х Allakh
- Serbian, Belarusian, Macedonian: Alah, Алах
- Thai: อัลลอฮ์ Anláw
Some scholars[who?] have suggested that Muhammad used the term Allah in addressing both pagan Arabs and Jews or Christians in order to establish a common ground for the understanding of the name for God, a claim Gerhard Böwering says is doubtful. 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. 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'an insists, Muslims believe, and historians affirm that Muhammad and his followers worship the same God as the Jews (29:46). The Quran's Allah is the same Creator God who covenanted with Abraham". Peters states that the Qur'an portrays Allah as both more powerful and more remote than Yahweh, and as a universal deity, unlike Yahweh who closely follows Israelites.
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 small diacritic alif is added on top of the shaddah to indicate the pronunciation.
- الاه : This reading would be Allāh spelled phonetically with alif for the ā.
- الاله : This reading would be Al-ʼilāh = "the god" (an older form, without contraction), by older spelling practice without alif for ā.
Unicode has a codepoint reserved for Allāh, ﷲ = U+FDF2. This character according to the official Unicode specification is a ligature of alif-lām-lām-shadda-(superscript alif)-hā (اللّٰه U+0627 U+0644 U+0644 U+0651 U+0670 U+0647). There is, however some confusion arising from the fact that Arabic typography usually features a llāh glyph without the preceding alif, which only occurs phrase-initially (or with hamzatu l-waṣl آ in Qur'anic orthography). Consequently, the majority of Arabic Unicode fonts do not conform with the specification and have a glyph without the alif at this position (e.g. those provided by Linotype, the great majority of those licensed to or developed by Microsoft, those of Arabeyes.org, SIL's Lateef and the fonts of CRULP developed in Pakistan), while others have the prescribed form with alif (e.g. SIL's Scheherazade, Adobe Arabic distributed with the Middle-Eastern version of the Adobe Reader 7, Arial Unicode MS, and Arabic Typesetting, distributed with VOLT and with Microsoft Office Proofing Tools 2003).
Abjad is an ancient numerical system in the Arabic-speaking world. In this system each of the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet represent the units, tens, and hundreds up to and including 1000. The numerical value of the letters of Allah (الله ) according to the traditional Arabic abjad system adds up to 66.
- ^ a b c d e f g "Allah." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica
- ^ a b c d e Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa, Allah
- ^ a b c Columbia Encyclopedia, Allah
- ^ a b c L. Gardet, "Allah", Encyclopedia of Islam
- ^ a b Murata, Sachiko (1992), The Tao of Islam : a sourcebook on gender relationships in Islamic thought, Albany NY USA: SUNY, ISBN 0791409147
- ^ a b Lewis, Bernard; Holt, P. M.; Holt, Peter R.; Lambton, Ann Katherine Swynford (1977). The Cambridge history of Islam. Cambridge, Eng: University Press. p. 32. ISBN 0-521-29135-6.
- ^ a b F.E. Peters, Islam, p.4, Princeton University Press, 2003
- ^ Unicode Standard 5.0, p.479,492 
- ^ The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon - Entry for ʼlh
- ^ a b c d Böwering, Gerhard, God and His Attributes, Encyclopaedia of the Qurʼān, Brill, 2007.
- ^ See Qur'an 13:16 ; 29:61-63; 31:25; 39:38)
- ^ See Qur'an 37:158)
- ^ See Qur'an (6:100)
- ^ See Qur'an (53:19-22 ; 16:57 ; 37:149)
- ^ See Qur'an (53:26-27)
- ^ a b c Gerhard Böwering, God and his Attributes, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
- ^ See Qur'an 6:109; 10:22; 16:38; 29:65)
- ^ a b Bentley, David (September 1999). The 99 Beautiful Names for God for All the People of the Book. William Carey Library. ISBN 0-87808-299-9.
- ^ Gary S. Gregg, The Middle East: A Cultural Psychology, Oxford University Press, p.30
- ^ Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, Islamic Society in Practice, University Press of Florida, p.24
- ^ M. Mukarram Ahmed, Muzaffar Husain Syed, Encyclopaedia of Islam,Anmol Publications PVT. LTD, p.144
- ^ Carl W. Ernst, Bruce B. Lawrence, Sufi Martyrs of Love: The Chishti Order in South Asia and Beyond, Macmillan, p.29
- ^ a b Thomas E. Burman, Religious Polemic and the Intellectual History of the Mozarabs, Brill, 1994, p.103
- ^ Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization, University of Chicago Press, p.156
- ^ William Montgomery Watt, Islam and Christianity today: A Contribution to Dialogue, Routledge, 1983, p.45
- ^ Islam in Luce López Baralt, Spanish Literature: From the Middle Ages to the Present, Brill, 1992, p.25
- ^ F. E. Peters, The Monotheists: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Conflict and Competition, Princeton University Press, p.12
- ^ a b Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization, University of Chicago Press, p.63
- ^ Allah, Encyclopedia Britannica
- ^ "Zebed Inscription: A Pre-Islamic Trilingual Inscription In Greek, Syriac & Arabic From 512 CE". Islamic Awareness. March 17, 2005. http://www.islamic-awareness.org/History/Islam/Inscriptions/zebed.html.
- ^ M J L Young, J D Latham, R B Serjeant, Religion, Learning and Science in the 'Abbasid Period,Cambridge University Press, p.254
- ^ The Journal of the Numismatic Society of India, 1939, p.86
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