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Allah

is the Arabic word for God. The word has cognates in other Semitic languages, including Elah in Aramaic, ʾĒl in Canaanite and Elohim inHebrew. It is used mainly by Muslims to refer to God in Islam, but it has also been used by Arab Christians since pre-Islamic times. It is also often, albeit not exclusively, used by Bábists, Bahá’ís, Indonesian and Maltese Christians, and Mizrahi Jews. Christians and Sikhs in West Malaysia also use and have used the word to refer to God. This has caused political and legal controversies there as the law in West Malaysia prohibits non-Islamic uses of the word.


 

Islam

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 (wāḥid) and inherently one (aḥad), all-merciful and omnipotent.” The Qur’an declares “the reality of Allah, His inaccessible mystery, His various names, and His actions on behalf of His creatures. 

Allah script outsideEski Cami (The Old Mosque) in Edirne, Turkey.In Islamic tradition, there are 99 Names of God (al-asmā’ al-ḥusná lit. meaning: ‘the best names’ or ‘the most beautiful 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-Raḥmān) and “the Compassionate” (al-Raḥīm).

Most Muslims use the untranslated Arabic phrase in shā’ Allāh (meaning ‘if God wills’) after references to future events.Muslim discursive piety encourages beginning things with the invocation of bismillāh (meaning ‘in the name of God’).

There are certain phrases in praise of God that are favored by Muslims, including “Subḥān Allāh” (Holiness be to God), “al-ḥamdu lillāh” (Praise be to God), “lā ilāha illā Allāh” (There is no deity but God) and “Allāhu akbar” (God is greater) as a devotional exercise of remembering God (dhikr).In a Sufi practice known as dhikr Allah (lit. remembrance of God), the Sufi repeats and contemplates on the name Allah or other divine names while controlling his or her breath.

Some scholars have suggested that Muḥammad 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’ān insists, Muslims believe, and historians affirm that Muhammad and his followers worship the same God as the Jews (29:46). The Qur’an’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.

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