Muhammad, May Allah elevate, and strengthen His bond with, him, and grant him Peace. – محمد صلّى الله عليه وسلم

A long time ago, as a new Muslim, I struggled with the phrase we attach to the mention of the Prophet Muhammad (صلّى الله عليه وسلم), or sullâ Llah[u] ‘alayh[i] wa salam, because of the implication that we as Allah to make (صلأة), or saláh (i.e. perform the formal prayer) to, or for, him. Coming recently from Christianity, this seemed a little too extreme. Jesus is regarded as Deity, along with “the Father”, but not a god to God! There had to be another meaning to (صلّى), or sullâ other than performing prayers, or praying.

To research, I consulted Word Reference, (http://www.wordreference.com/enar/), which is an online a general dictionary, and Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon, a work specific to the words found in the Quran, and their roots. The words with the letters (ل ل ص) or (ى ل ص) or (و ل ص) or (صِ ل ة) as root letters bear examining. I put together the following reasoning:

(صِلة), or silah, is a noun which means a relationship, connection, link, bond, tie or contact. Therefore, forming such a contact with God and establishing it regularly is closely related to (صلأة), or saláh, and the action (صلّى), or sullâ. The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وسلم) in an authentic hadeeth,

(إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَرْضَى لَكُمْ ثَلاَثًا … فَيَرْضَى لَكُمْ أَنْ تَعْبُدُوهُ وَلاَ تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا وَأَنْ تَعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلاَ تَفَرَّقُوا ..‏.‏)

“It pleases Allah for you to acquire three qualities …: It pleases Him that you worship Him Alone and not associate anything or anyone with Him in worship, that you hold on to the Rope of Allah altogether and do not divide, and that you advise whoever Allah appoints as your Leader.” [Muslim}

He also said,

(مَنْ قَامَ بِعَشْرِ آيَاتٍ لَمْ يُكْتَبْ مِنَ الْغَافِلِينَ وَمَنْ قَامَ بِمِائَةِ آيَةٍ كُتِبَ مِنَ الْقَانِتِينَ وَمَنْ قَامَ بِأَلْفِ آيَةٍ كُتِبَ مِنَ الْمُقَنْطَرِينَ)

“If anyone prays at night reciting regularly ten verses, he will not be recorded among the negligent if anyone prays at night and recites a hundred verses, he will be recorded among those who are devout to Allah; and if any-one prays at night reciting one thousand verses, he will be receive an immeasurable amount of reward.” [Abu Dawud]

And

(إِنَّ هذَا الْقُرآنَ هُوَ حَبْلُ اللّهِ سببٌ طرفُه بيد الله و طرفُه بأيديكم فتمسَّكوا به فإنكم لن تضِاُّوا ولن تهلِكوا بعده أبدًا)

“Indeed, this Qur’an is a rope – one end of it is in the Hand of Allah and the other end is in your hands. So, hold firmly to it [so] that you would never go astray and never be destroyed.” [Ibn Hibben]

In the Quran, Allah says,

(وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا ۚ وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ…)

And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you… [3:103]

And

(سُنَّةَ مَن قَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا قَبْلَكَ مِن رُّسُلِنَا ۖ وَلَا تَجِدُ لِسُنَّتِنَا تَحْوِيلًا أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِدُلُوكِ الشَّمْسِ إِلَىٰ غَسَقِ اللَّيْلِ وَقُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ ۖ إِنَّ قُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ كَانَ مَشْهُودًا وَمِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَتَهَجَّدْ بِهِ نَافِلَةً لَّكَ عَسَىٰ أَن يَبْعَثَكَ رَبُّكَ مَقَامًا مَّحْمُودًا)

[An] established way for those We had sent before you of Our messengers; and you will not find in Our way any alteration. Establish the prayer at the decline of the sun [from its meridian] until the darkness of the night and [also] the Qur’an of dawn. Indeed, the recitation of dawn is ever witnessed. And from [part of] the night, pray with it as additional [worship] for you; it is expected that your Lord will resurrect you to a praised station. [17:77-79]

This praised station is believed to be the highest station in Paradise and closest to Allah, promised to Muhammad (صلّى الله عليه وسلم), here.

Another Prophet known to be lifted up close to Allah is Jesus, son of Mary. Allah says in the Quran,

 (وَقَوْلِهِمْ إِنَّا قَتَلْنَا الْمَسِيحَ عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَٰكِن شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ ۚ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُوا ( فِيهِ لَفِي شَكٍّ مِّنْهُ ۚ مَا لَهُم بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِلَّا اتِّبَاعَ الظَّنِّ ۚ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِينًا بَل رَّفَعَهُ اللَّهُ إِلَيْهِ ۚ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا

And [they say], “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.” But they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain. Rather, Allah lifted him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise. [4:157-8]

In the first set of verses, a praised status is promised to Muhammad, the closest anyone can be to Him, whilst in the second set of verses, another messenger, the Messiah, has already been lifted up close to Allah – by Allah’s will. In these latter verses, no mention is made of Jesus being on the praised station, however, just that he was lifted to Allah Himself, implying the strongest of bonds. The praised station is promised due to not only reciting the rope of Allah daily on a regular basis, and recited late into the night, but also living the Quran.

A’isha, when asked about her husband’s character, replied:

(فَإِنَّ خُلُقَ نَبِيِّ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَانَ الْقُرْآنَ)

“Verily, the character of the Prophet of Allah was the Quran.” [Muslim]

From this I adduce the Quran being the link to Allah, and Allah conferring Salah upon the Prophet as recognition of the strong and ever strengthening relationship he has with Allah due to the increasing reach of the message and the prayers of his followers reciting the Quran he taught us.

There is another Arabic word that is used to recommend someone to calm down and think positively. The word is most often used in the imperative or subjunctive mood (as a wish or as a command). The same word can also mean to make a noise like that of a bell or a cymbal. Such sounds are often used as preludes to a meditative action, and can also accompany the purification ceremony in a temple or other place of worship when using a censor to perfume the air. The word is (صَلّ), or sull[a].

This idea suggests the attitude people should bring to the link between themselves and their Creator in – (صلأة) or saláh.

Similar in to this word is another, (أَصُلَ), or asoul[a], which means to be of noble origin or be original.

This gives two qualities associated with being a believer. First, Islam is the original religion – original way of life – and is part of the fitrah.  It is also the most noble and most rewarding of ways of doing/being. The true believer lives in this world like a stranger – the mundane is strange to him and brief. He lives for the noble afterlife which is long-lasting.

Putting a (ّ), or shuddâ, on the (ص), or såd (i.e. doubling the letter), gives the word a close, but different, meaning.

 (أَصَّلَ) or assul[a] means to give a firm foundation, and this is the function of (صلأة), or saláh. It also indicates establishing the origin of something. (صلأة), or saláh, establishes that Allah is (الصمد), or us-Samad, the eternal firm foundation of everything. Finally, it means to “document”, or “record something in detail”. (صلأة), or saláh, is documented and recorded and is the first of a Muslim’s actions to be weighed and assessed on the Day of Judgement.

The last of the etymological relative to (صلّى), or sullâ, is (صلي), or salī. This word means to bear or endure something, particularly heat.

Once Aisha asked her husband why he prayed all night every night when he knew his sins had been forgiven, to which he replied,

(أفلا أحب أن أكون عبداً شكوراً‏؟‏‏)

“should I not be grateful slave?” [Bukhari & Muslim]

Enduring the night on your feet is also recommended in the Quran instead of looking with envy at the goods mundane people had. Finally, the Quran admonishes that when we face difficulties, it should be with patience and endurance – that is (صبر), or sabr. This, then, is the attitude we should bring to (صلأة), or saláh.

This brings us back to the word (صلّى), or salī, meaning to “pray” or “convey a wish” to bless or receive blessings. Ordinarily, Muslims use the word to describe the action of formal prayer. Most often, it is used in this way in the phrase, (صلّى الله عليه وسلم). Yet the word is also used in the meaning of (الأدّعاء), or du’aa (prayerful invocation or supplication directed to Allah) asking Allah’s benefits and support for another creature.

(سلّم) or sallam means to “surrender”, “send one’s greeting or/& love” [to], “salute”, and is related to embracing Islam or giving the greeting of peace. As a noun, it means a stairway, or ladder (to heaven?)

(سلم) or salam however, means to give safety, security and peace.

When we say, (صلّى الله), or sullâ Llah[u], we are invoking Allah’s bond, or relationship to something. That is, we are asking Allah to raise something up close to Him – to elevate something or someone in status and blessing. Adding (عليه), or ‘alayhi, is to indicate who or what is the object of the action we are supplicating/invoking. So, when we say (محمد صلّى الله عليه) we are asking Allah to raise Muhammad up close to Him, forge the closest of relationships with him and grant him the highest and noblest status and most blessings a creature can have.

This idea, or meaning, is supported by the use of (صَلُّو) in verse, in which Allah declares:

( إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ ۚ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا اتَسْلِيمً )

This is translated into English in the Sahih International Quran as:

“Indeed, Allah confers blessing upon the Prophet, and His angels. O you who have believed, ask blessing upon him and ask peace.” [33:56]

However, Lane’s dictionary states

[صَلُّواْ] means God conferred blessing upon him: and He had mercy on him. [It also means] He magnified him, or conferred honour upon him: … in the saying in Quran 33:56, [ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ ۚ], the verb does not import two meanings; for it has there only one meaning, which is “ magnification ” [i. e. these words mean Verily God and his angels magnify the Prophet; However, if you (did) render them, bless the Prophet, this rendering implies magnification and also a meaning of the quasi-infinitive, which is “commendation” or “eulogy,”  bestowed by God upon his messenger, while it imports God’s “conferring of blessing” and the angels’ “invoking thereof”].

It is said that اللّٰهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ means O God, magnify Mohammad in the present world by exalting his renown and manifesting his invitation [to Islam] and rendering permanent his law, and in the world to come by accepting his intercession for his people and multiplying his reward. It is disputed whether or not this form of prayer may be used for any but the Prophet [Mohammad].

 Adding (وسلم), or wa salam, means we want Allah to include, with that status and blessing, both security and peace. Occasionally, a Muslim may say (وسلّم), or wa sallam, which requests Allah to convey greetings, submission and love, unfortunately rather vaguely. One would have to say (وسلّم له), or wa sallam lah[u], in order to specify to whom the greetings, submission and love should be sent.

I imagine that what is implied by this honorific prayer used by Muslims whenever we mention our Prophet, (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) is that we ask Allah to ennoble him and to forge the strongest bond with him because we submit to him in love and obedience as commanded by Allah, and this ligature provides him with the Peace and Security we desire to be a part of when we are able to exchange greeting of with him in Paradise. Meanwhile we want Allah to convey those greetings now wishing that this foreshadows what we hope for in the Hereafter.

Ahmed ibn Hanbal

Then I turned to the scholars of the madhab, or school of thought, that taught me Islam: the hanbali school of thought. This more classical explanation of this phrase is given by Islamqa, a website of rulings run by Shaykh Muhammad Sálih al-Munajjid, in Saudi Arabia. The English translations of extracts quoted from (https://islamqa.info/en/69944) have been slightly paraphrased to work better and give a clearer idea of the meaning in English. In addition, I have changed the word translating (صلّى), which was rendered as “blessings” as opposed to “mercy”, to “bonds” or “ligatures” (still contrasted to mercy), so as to more closely reflect the notion of being drawn closer to Allah and the promotion in status it implies, which is at the heart of how I conceive of Allah’s saláh on the Prophet (وصلاة وسلام عليه).

Sallī ‘alâ Muhammad (صلّي على محمّد)

According to Muhammad Sálih al-Munajjid’s website, IslamQ&A, the earlier, later and contemporary hanbali scholars are of the view that the meaning of blessings upon the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) is praise for him among the “higher group” (الْمَلَإِ الْأَعْلَىٰ) or al-mala’ al-‘a’la, mentioned in Quran 37:8, meaning the “angels”. Furthermore, the prayers of the angels and the Muslims for blessings upon him are for him (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) to be praised by Allah among the “higher group”.

The site recommends Ibn al-Qayyim’s discussion of the meaning of blessings upon the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) at length, the rulings thereon, and its benefits in (جلاء الأفهام في فضل الصلاة والسلام على خير الأنام), or Jala’ al-Afham fi Fadl al-Salati wa’l-Salam ‘ala Khayr il-Anam.

It also reports that Shaykh Muhammad ibn Sáleh al-‘Uthaymīn (replacing the translation of “صلّي” with “prayers” or “prayer for blessings” instead of the word “blessings” on its own) said:

The phrase (صلّي على محمّد), or “Sallī ‘ala Muhammad”, was said to mean “mercy” when invoked of Allah, “prayer for forgiveness” when invoked of the angels, and “prayers for blessings” upon him when invoked of humans. In other words, if it is said:

  1. “Allah sent prayers upon him,” it means that “He bestowed mercy upon him”.
  2. “The angels sent prayers upon him,” it means that “they prayed for forgiveness for him”.
  3. “The khateeb (the preacher) sent blessings upon him,” it means that “he prayed for blessing for him”.

Although, according to the Shaykh, the above is well known among the scholars, there is a difference in opinion about the exact meaning, because (الصلاة) is more specific than either “prayers for blessing” or “mercy”. Hence the Muslims are unanimously agreed that it is permissible to pray for “mercy” for every believer, but they differed as to whether we may invoke “blessing” for someone by sending “prayers” upon him using this specific word of (الصلاة) or (… صلّي على) for anyone other than the Prophets. If the word (صلاة) here is taken to mean “mercy”, then there is no difference between them, and just as we pray for “mercy” for a person we may send “prayers for blessing” upon them.

Moreover, Allah says (the explanation “i.e. bonds of” added in):

(أُولَٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ)

“They are those on whom are the Prayers for (i.e. bonds of) blessing from their Lord, and receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided ones” [al-Baqarah 2:157].

The word (رحمة), or Mercy, is mentioned in conjunction with the word (صلوات), or Prayers, which indicates that they are two different things, so the verse clarifies the meaning. The scholars have used the word salah in some places and the word rahmah in others, so salah is the not the same as rahmah. The best that can be said concerning this is what Abu’l-‘Aaliyah said: The salah of Allah upon the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم)  is His praising him among the angels in (الْمَلَإِ الْأَعْلَىٰ الملائكة من), or the “higher group”.

So, what is meant by “Allahumma salli ‘alayhi” (اللهمّ صلّي عليه) is: “O Allah, praise him among the higher group,” i.e., among the angels who are close [to Him] (عند الملائكة المقرَّبين).”

At this point, the Shaykh addresses the issue of concern for many new to Islam from Christianity. He said (replacing the translation of “صِلة” with “bond, ligature or rapprochement” instead of “gift”):

If this seems unlikely from a linguistic point of view, because (الصلاة), or the prayer (salah) in Arabic, means (الدُّعاء) or supplication (du’aa), not praise, then consider that the word (الصلاة) is also connected to the word (صِلة) which means a bond, ligature or rapprochement. So, clearly, praise for the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) among the higher group (angels) is one of the greatest ligatures. Based on this, the sending salah upon him means invoking praise for him along with the higher group (the angels) seems the strongest view.

Al-Sharh al-Mumti’, 3/163, 164

Wa Salam (وسلم)

Sending greetings upon him (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) means praying for (السّلمة), or salamah, which means the soundness of his body and of his religious commitment during his lifetime until death takes him, the soundness of his body and of his religious commitment in the grave, and his safety and well-being on the Day of Resurrection.

Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saleh al-‘Uthaymin said:

The phrase (السلام عليك) or al-salamu ‘alayka.

It was said that the meaning of (السلام) or al-Salaam, is one of the names of Allah, because the messenger of Allah (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) said: (الله السَلام) or “Allah is al-Salaam,” and Allah says in His Book:

(هُوَ اللَّهُ … الْمَلِكُ الْقُدُّوسُ السَّلَامُ)

“the King, the Holy, the Bestower of Peace” [al-Hashr 59:23].

So according to this view, the meaning is:

May Allah protect, keep safe and take care of His Messenger (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم). It is as if we are saying: Allah is watching over you, protecting you, helping you, etc.

He also says that

(السلام), or As-Salam, is a noun that comes from the root (سلّم), or sallama, which means greeting. The meaning of greeting the Messenger (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) is to pray for him and ask that he be kept safe from all harm.

It could be said that this (دُعَاء‎‎), or du’aa’, meaning supplication, is something obvious during his lifetime, but after his death, how can we pray that he be kept safe and sound when he (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) has died?

The answer is that prayer for safety and well-being are not limited to the time when someone is alive. There are the terrors of the Day of Resurrection yet to come. Hence the prayer of the Messengers when the people cross (الصراط), or al-sirat (a bridge over Hell) will be:

(اللهمَّ سلِّم سلِّم)

Allahumma, sallim, sallim (O Allah, grant safety, grant safety).”

A man does not cease to face danger and harm just because he has died.

So, we pray for the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم), that he will be kept safe from the terrors of the standing (on the Day of Resurrection).

We also say that there may be a more general meaning, i.e., that safety and protection for him also includes protection for (الشَّريعة), or His shari’ah, meaning God’s Law, and (السُّنَّة), or Sunnah, meaning the example, or way, of the Prophet, (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم), that they may be kept safe from the hands of those who would tamper with them, as the scholars said concerning the verse:

(فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَالرَّسُوِلِ)

“refer it to Allah and His Messenger” [al-Nisa’ 4:59]

One referred directly to him during his lifetime, but refers to his Sunnah since his death.

Al-Sharh al-Mumti’, 3/149, 150

(al-salamu ‘alayka) السلام عليك

Another uncomfortable phrase we are taught to say at the closing of the prayer is (السلام عليك أيها النبي) or “al-salamu ‘alayk ayuhal- nabī,” meaning, “Peace be upon you, O Prophet.” To me, that seems like direct speech to the Prophet, (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم), which is like speaking to Jesus as if he can her us. The question also nags at others, so the ask the scholars.

Is addressing the Messenger (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) this way like one person addressing another?

In response to this question, Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saleh al-‘Uthaymin replied that it is not. He said:

If it were spoken like that, then the prayer would be invalidated thereby, because no ordinary audible human speech is acceptable during the prayer. If it were the case that it was like the normal speech between people, then the Sahabah would have spoken it out loud so that the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) would hear them in his hearing, and he would have returned the greeting, as happened when they met him, and they would not have said it when praying when he was not present with them. Hence the Sahabah used to say (السلام عليك), or “Al-salamu ‘alayka” although he could not hear them, and they would say “Al-salamu ‘alayka” when they were in one land and he was in another, and we say “al-salamu ‘alayka” although we are in lands other than his, and in a time other than his.

In his book (إقتضاء الصراط المستقيم), Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said

Because you think so much about him (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) when you (إرسال السلام على الرسول) send salams upon the Messenger, it is as if he is in front of you and you are addressing him.

Al-Sharh al-Mumti’, 3/149, 150

For this reason, it is reported that some of the sahaba, or companions of the Prophet, or their followers would say (السلام على النبي) or “Al-salamu ‘alaa an-nabi,” meaning, “Greetings of Peace to the Prophet,” instead of (السلام عليك أيها النبي), or “Al-salamu ‘alayka, ay-you an-nabi,” after he died.

Shaykh said concerning this:

With regard to the report narrated in Sahîh al-Bukhârī from ‘Abd-Allah ibn Mas’oud, which says that after the Messenger (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) passed away, they used to say “(السلام على النبي ورحماةالله وبركاته) meaning, “Peace be upon the Prophet and Allah‘s mercy and His blessings” – this was the interpretation  of Ibn Mas’ood, which differed from that of one who was more knowledgeable than him, namely ‘Umar ibn al-Khattáb, for he addressed the people from the pulpit of the Messenger of Allah (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) and said in the testification of faith: (السلام عليك أيها النبي ورحماةالله) or “al-salámu ‘alayka ayyhu’l-nabiyyu wa rahmatullah,” meaning “Peace be upon you, O Prophet and the mercy of Allah)”, as was narrated by Malik in al-Muwatta’ with the soundest of chains of narrators.

Al-Sharh al-Mumti’, 3/150, 151

However, although the practice of saying “…Alsalam ‘alá an-nabi” is frowned upon as going against the stronger tradition from the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم), I feel more comfortable with saying it.

Nevertheless, even if we accept we should use direst speech here, the true Muslim should not regard this form of greeting the Prophet as an elocutionary address. Rather, it should be treated as a supplication to Allah to pass on our greetings.

Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saleh Al-‘Uthaymīn, addressing this issue, said:

(هو دُعاءٌ تدعو بأنَّ الله يُسلِّمُه ، فهو خَبَرٌ بمعنى الدُّعاء)

It is a supplication, asking Allah to protect him. So, it is a statement that serves as a supplication.

Al-Sharh al-Mumti’, 3/149, 150

الشرح الممتع على زاد المستقنع – ابن عثيمين

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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.

Why This Blog?

Quote

I thought it is about time I expressed myself as a Muslim. Yet this Muslim has roots in one of the sects of the religions that preceded Islam from the Abrahamic foundations of faith – Roman Catholicism. In a way, I want to establish what to me are the fundamentals of my faith – yet my fundamentalist views are not “Wahhabi” or “Salafi” in that sense of extreme and exclusive sectarian division, that “Holier than Thou” fundamentalism that claims “I am of the saved sect” and “if you don’t agree with me, I do not associate myself with you (because you are one of the losers).”

Indeed, my fundamentalism precludes following blindly those that know more just because they know more. Has more knowledge ever made the knower less hidebound in his culture and beliefs? In fact, the one who admits a paucity of knowledge is often the one who sees to the heart of Truth.

What do I know?

Allah is the Unique God, there is no partner God to Him. Everything belongs to Him, and all praise is due to Him, and He decrees everything that exists.

La ilaha ill Allah. There is no God except Allah.

When you believe this so many things ensue.

The Scriptures are True

The first is the Verity of the Quran, since the message it predominately conveys is precisely the above. There is a verse in Surah Qasas speaking of people with “the Book” (the Bible) who on hearing the Quran recited say, “We believe in it. And why should we not believe in it when it is from our Lord. And even before it we had submitted (we were Muslims).” Of course this shows that “The Book” is also from Allah, so the true believer believes that the Bible contains revelation from the Originator, too.

Allah’s Messengers are True

The second thing that ensues from the above is that the Messengers who conveyed the revelations to mankind are also true – the prophets of God from Adam to Muhammad, peace be upon them all.

The Angels and Holy Spirit are True

Third, the Quran tells us that the prophets were supported by the Holy Spirit and visited  by angels – that the angels and Holy Spirit conveyed the Message from Allah to the Prophets. The Old and New Testament tell us the same thing. So, by believing in Allah, His Book and His Messengers, We must also believe in His Angels.

The Afterlife (The Resurrection, Judgment, and Heaven & Hell) is True

Fourthly, as well as the message that there is but One God we are to worship, the main task the prophets had was to warn us that we will be resurrected after our death and judged by our deeds before God. As a result of the Judgment the people will be divided into two main groups: the Paradise-bound and the Hell-bound. If we believe in this warning, then we must believe in the Resurrection, the Judgment and Heaven and Hell.

Allah’s Decree is True

Finally, in order to be judged, there must be transgression. Transgression of what? you might ask: Transgression of fitrah, the innocent and pure natural propensity to worship our Creator. It is Allah that Decrees our existence and self, and what is before us and after us. He Makes the rules and Rules creation; whatever He says goes – and no one has the authority to decree a thing except by His permission. Those who listen carefully, and rule and judge and give guidance in His name by His Decree, include those He chose – His Messengers – and those His Messengers delegated.

So believe in Allah, the One True God, and in His Book, His Angels, His Messengers, The Afterlife, and Allah’s Decree. These are the fundamentals of faith.