Believe in God

The Name of God in the Abrahamic Religions

The name of God in Islam is ALLAH (الله), the One God (اله) (אלה). This is the name He gave us in the Quran, and these are the names, ELaH (اله), in the Chaldean, ALaHA (الها) (ܐܠܗܐ), in the Aramaic, and ILaH, ILaHA or ALLaH (اله) (אלה), (الها) (ܐܠܗܐ) (אלהא) or (الله) (ܐܠܠܗ) (אללה), in the Arabic non-Muslim scriptures as well. Arabic worshippers also use His name ALLAHUMMA (اللَهمَ) in the invocative form when praying.Even in the Hebrew Scripture the basic letters spelling out His appellation ELoHeY or ELoHYM (אלהים or אלהי) (الهيم or الهي) are nearly the same. I have given the spelling in Hebrew and both the Arabic and English transliteration, for better visual comparison between the corresponding letters in each language, and set these out in tables, below.

Table 1: Letter Values

English A/E/I L H Y M N ht/t
Aramaic ܐ ܠ ܗ ܝ ܡ ܢ ܬ
Hebrew א ל ה י ם נ ת
Arabic ا ﻪ /ﻬ ي /ﻴ م ن ة

Table 2: Transliterations

English ELaH ALaHA ELoHeY ELoHYM
Aramaic (Syriac) ܐܠܗ ܐܠܗܐ ܐܠܗܝ
Hebrew אלה אלהי אלהים
Arabic اله الها الهي الهيم

Table 1 shows the corresponding transliterated letters used above, and Table 2 shows the names of God in Aramaic in Syriac script and Hebrew/Chaldean in the Hebrew/Nabatean alephbet with their corresponding English and Arabic transliterations. Tables 3 & 4 give the Arabic names for God or god(s) in the Classical Arabic Alifbata and their transliterations in Hebrew, in Nabatean and Syriac Chaldean/Aramaic and in the English alphabet. Both tables include words from the sayings of the Prophet as well as from the Quran. Except for ILaHiYya, the words in Table 4 exclusively describe false gods.

Table 3: Transliteration

English ALLAH ILaH ALLaHuMma ILaHA
Arabic الله اله اللّهُـمَّ الها
Aramaic ܐܠܠܗ ܐܠܗ ܐܠܠܗܡ ܐܠܗܐ
Hebrew אללה אלה אללהם אלהא

Table 4: Transliteration

English ILaHiYya ILaHaht ILaHaYN ALiHaht
Arabic  إلهيَ إلهة إلهين ألهة
Aramaic ܐܠܗܝ ܬܐܠܗ ܢܐܠܗܝ ܬܐܠܗ
Hebrew אלהי אלהת אלהינ אלהת

Allahumma, Ilah, and Ilahiyya are not strictly names. The first is the way we address God when we implore or invoke Him, and is often translated as O God’. The last is how we describe the source of inspiration, miracles or other emanations. It is often translated as ‘Divine’. ILaH is used to describe Allah when He says Your God is One God”. In other words, when referring to the One and only God, it is a word for Allah. However, when it is used to describe what is worshipped other than Allah, it means ‘false god’. Please note that ELoH and ELoHeY are exact reproductions of ILaH and ILaHiYya, whilst ELoHYM resembles ALLaHuMma in the way it is said. ELoH is also pronounced similarly to Allah.

Believing in God

When we say we believe in God, we mean we believe in Him as exclusive of other gods, wholly One. This is the same concept of God as in the Torah and the Prophets, and is even articulated in the Gospels of the New Testament too. In each of these Scriptures it is clearly spelled out.

The major commandment in the Bible

From the Torah, in Deuteronomy, Moses says:

“To you it was revealed, so that you might know that The Lord is God, and there is no one else besides Him.” (4:35)

 “You shall fear The Lord your God, and you shall serve Him, and swear by His name. You shall not go after other gods.” (6:13-14).

In the writings of the Major Prophets, Samuel said

“There is none holy as The Lord, for there is none beside You.” (1; 2:2),

and Isaiah said,

“‘You are my witnesses!’ says the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, ‘That you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, neither shall  there be  after Me. I,  even I,  am  The Lord,

and beside Me there is no savior’.”  (43:10-11).

Hosea, one of the Minor Prophets, said that God says,

“I am The Lord your God from the land of Egypt, and you shall know no god but Me, for there is no savior beside Me.”

Finally, in the Gospels, Luke and Matthew record Jesus as saying,

“You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” (4:8 & 4:10),

and Mark records that

“God is One, and there is no other besides Him” (12:32)

The Quran gives the same message: the Prophet Muhammad, may God praise him, was told to say

“It has been revealed to me that your God is One God: whoever expects to meet his Lord, let him work righteousness, and not associate besides Him anyone in the worship of his Lord.” [Quran 18:110]

He was also informed us that

“They (the people of the book) were commanded to worship but the One God.  There is no god but  He. Exalted is He over what they associate with Him.” [Quran 9:31]

Our duty to God

So God in Islam is not some new God. He is the Deity we are all commanded to obey and adore. In the Torah and the Gospel, the same words are used to emphasize this fact. Both Moses and Jesus told the people of Israel,

“The Lord your God is One Lord, so love The Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, {all your mind} and all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 Mark 12:30)

Whilst the Quran informs us,

“Adore your Lord, Who created you and those who came before you, and do good so that you may learn righteousness” [Quran 2:21],

“I created not Jinns and men except to worship Me” [Quran 51:56] and

“Fall down in prostration to God and adore Him”.  [Quran 53:62]

Despite the command that we worship Him, and only Him, and despite our lowly position as His abject worshippers, God is not a distant and fierce dictator. The attribute that is most often used in the Quran is al-Rahman – the Merciful. Once, after watching a female captive searching for her baby whom she had lost in the course of the conquest of her town, the Prophet, may Allah praise him, pointed out her actions. Every time she came across a baby who had lost its mother, she picked it up and rocked it, crooning, then put it down again, seeking her flesh and blood. Then she found him, and immediately began scolding the little tyke while losing no time putting him to her breast. Then he said,

“God is more loving and kind than that mother to her baby”. [Sahih Bukhari]

Let us now take a closer look at some of the significant features of the common qualities that all three religions attribute to Him from the Islamic perspective. 

Mercy and Worldly Life

What does Divine Mercy mean in worldly life? For mankind in general, it means that He gives without stint to believer and unbeliever alike. In fact, the further one is away from Him in belief and worship, the more he gives of worldly things. This is because the one who does not fear and worship God, or frankly disbelieves His existence, or turns in worship to others beside Him, is destitute in the hereafter. The only enjoyment such a one will ever have is in this world – so Allah gives them their enjoyment now. For the believer, Devine Mercy covers him in the hereafter. Often, the closer and more adoring the believer, or the most perfect worshipper, will encounter strong tests of misfortune in this world. In fact, the humbler and more dependent one knows oneself to be before God, the more mercifully will God treat him when he is resurrected.

Everything that happens to us, whether externally impinged on us or within ourselves, is already decreed by God, and we would never have avoided it. Therefore God says,

“Do not grieve for the things you fail to get, or exult over that which  is given you,  for God does not like prideful boasting.” [Quran 57:23]

Rather, we are told that the life of this world is like unto mutual play, amusement, pomp, boasting and rivalry over wealth and heritage to us; goods and chattels that deceive one into assuming that one is from the people who have, whilst thinking the humble people, who disdain the pleasures of the world for the sake of God, are the have-nots. He likens worldly pleasure to the luscious green vegetation that results from plentiful rainfall, to the delight of the farmer who planted the seeds. Yet soon after that, the same vegetation withers and dies and turns into dry yellow remnants. It does not last. But, although God has prepared eternity in a place of punishment for those who heedlessly and greedily wallow in the life of this world, those who disdain it for the sake of God are destined for His Good Pleasure and Forgiveness.

Justice

The Mercy of Allah is balanced by His Justice. For even though God forgives any sin we commit in relation to Him, except the sin of worshipping others beside Him unto our deathbed, our trespasses against fellow human beings have to be paid for. Unless we have recompensed the victims for our trespasses against them in the world, or obtained their pardon, or paid our debt through charity if we cannot find our debtor, we have to pay for them in the only coin we will own when we are resurrected; our good deeds. And if one does worship other base beings (or images) with or instead of God, one removes oneself from the scope of His Mercy in the hereafter. He says,

“The likeness of what they (who reject faith) spend in this world is like a bitterly cold wind that struck and destroyed the harvest of a people who did wrong against themselves. God did not wrong them, but they wronged themselves.” [Quran 3:117]

He also says,

“Whatever good reaches you is from God, but whatever evil befalls you is from your own self.” [Quran 4:79].

Thus God instructs the Muslim to

“Bear patiently with what people say, and glorify the praises of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting, and during some hours of the night and at the ends of the day, that you may become pleased.

And strain not your eyes in longing for the things We have given for enjoyment to various groups of them: the splendors of the life of this world by which We test them.  But the provision of your Lord is better and more lasting”. [Quran 20:130-131]

How does the Muslim, then, conceive of God? Why does he insist on worshipping none other than Him? What is so abhorrent to Him about considering God to have multiple faces and persons?

The concept of God

To a Muslim, Allah is the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of the universe, Who is similar to nothing, and nothing is comparable to Him. When the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah exalt his mention, was asked by his contemporaries about Allah, the answer came directly from Allah Himself in the form of a short chapter of the Quran, which is considered to be the essence of monotheism, or Tawhíyd.

“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent. Say (O Muhammad), He is God, who is one (entity); God, the Everlasting Refuge. He neither begets, nor has been begotten, and there is not one (other) entity comparable to Him”.  [Quran 112]

The verses of this chapter summarize the Islamic notion of Tawhíyd. He is named both Beneficent and Merciful, the major attribute that is repeated throughout the Quran. His Oneness is stressed heavily by the word Ahad, meaning exclusively One, and His independence from needs by the word Somad (everlasting refuge). Ahad signifies a single thing or entity, and often means somebody/thing or anybody/anything when used in sentences about the possible existence (or none existence) of a procured type of object. The Hebrew scripture uses the word Echad for the same concept. Somad signifies that everything depends upon, or stands in need of, Allah in order to exist. If Allah were to suspend His will from creation even for an instant, it would cease to function, or even exist. Conversely, He does not stand in need of anything from His creations. Naturally, if we stand in need of Him, we must request what we need from Him in worship. The word Ahad is used in the first and last of the four verses with the meaning ‘a single entity’.  

The verse disclaiming all kinds of reproduction emphasizes His unique nature, His eternal existence. Nothing that came into existence from Him was due to begetting, but was due to creation, and nothing that was begotten can be God, so must have been created. Finally, the fact mentioned in the last verse that there is no comparison between Allah any created beings emphatically means that the names we call Him, such as ‘The Creator’, have a unique meaning when attached to Him. ‘The Creator’, for example, has a special meaning when applied to Allah. He alone can create something from nothing, as well as create a thing from another, more basic foundation. Human beings are given the ability to do the latter, but the former belongs to Him alone.

Thus Allah is our only Lord and God Whom we must worship exclusively, and in Whose attributes we must believe, and from Whom alone we can solicit help when we are in need.

The Rights of God and man

Muhammad, may Allah praise him, once asked Mu’adh, the envoy he sent to the Christians in Najran,

“Do you know what God’s right on His worshippers is, and their right on Him is?”

He then went on to tell him,

“God’s right is that they should worship Him alone and should not worship any besides Him. And worshiper’s right on Him is that He should not punish those who worship none besides Him.”

Although this would have greatly relieved the general run of people, the Prophet asked Mu’adh not to make this morsel of information general knowledge at the time, lest the people depend on the final clause absolutely and fail to faithfully execute God’s right because of it. However, before Mu’adh died, he felt duty-bound not to hide these words, especially since the general purport of this message was already generally known when he reported them.

This idea is supported by what Allah says in the chapter of the Quran concerning women:

Verily, God does not forgive that partners be ascribed to Him; but He forgives anything else to whom He wills; whoever ascribes partners to God has devised a tremendous sin.[Quran 4:48]

Conclusion

Allah, then, is none other than the same one God Who brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt; Who inscribed the tablets of Moses whereon were written the criterion and commandments; Who forbade that we bow down to images and false gods; and Who created the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary.

To Him we are commanded to call, with good words and fine manners. We should never vilify what others worship to their face, lest they inadvertently react by taking God’s name in vain. Rather, He told us to tell the Jews, Christians and others ‘of the Book’

“Say: ‘We believe in that which has been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender.'” [Quran 29:46]

God is forgiving about anything but worshipping others beside Him, and He will reward those who, without any reservations, believe in Him alone with the one thing everyone yearns for: everlasting felicity in Paradise.

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