the unique name of God
The word Allah, according to several Arabic lexicons, means
the Being Who comprises all the attributes of perfection,
i.e. the Being Who is perfect in every way (in His knowledge, power
etc.), and possesses the best and the noblest qualities imaginable
in the highest degree. This meaning is supported by the Holy Quran
when it says referring to Allah:
Contrary to popular belief, the word Allah is not a contraction
of al-ilah (al meaning the, and ilah
“His are the best (or most beautiful) names.
17:110, 20:8, and 7:180.
And His is the most exalted description in the heavens
and the earth. 30:27
Had it been so, then the expression ya Allah (‘O Allah!’) would
have been ungrammatical, because according to the Arabic language when
you address someone by the vocative form ya followed by a title,
the al (‘the’) must be dropped from the title. For example, you
cannot say ya ar-rabb but must say ya rabb (for ‘O Lord’).
So if the word Allah was al-ilah (‘the God’), we would
not be able to say: ya Allah, which we do.
Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon (which is based on classical Arabic
dictionaries), says under the word Allah, while citing many linguistical
is a proper name applied to the
Being Who exists necessarily, by Himself, comprising all the attributes
of perfection, a proper name denoting the true god
the al being inseparable from it, not derived
Allah is thus a proper name, not derived from anything, and the
Al is inseparable from it. The word al-ilah (the god)
is a different word.
The word Allah is unique among the names of God in all
the languages of mankind, in that it was never applied to any being
other than God. The pre-Islamic Arabs used it to refer to the Supreme
Being, and never applied it to any of the other things they worshipped.
Other names of God used by mankind, such as “lord, “god,
“khuda, etc. have all also been used for beings other
than God. They have meanings which refer to some particular attribute
of God, but “Allah is the name which refers to the Being
Himself as His personal name.
The Holy Quran itself refers to the uniqueness of the name Allah
when it says:
“Do you know anyone who can be named along with
Arabic is the only language, and Islam is the only religion, that
has given the personal name of God (as distinct from attributive
names such as lord, god, the most high, etc.) There are clear prophecies
in previous scriptures (the Bible, the Vedas etc.) about the man
who will arise and disclose the name of God, which in previous religions
was regarded as a secret.
- David prophesied:
“Blessed is he who comes in the name
of the Lord Psalms 118:26.
This is also repeated in the Gospels (Matt. 21:9, etc.), and was
fulfilled by the Holy Prophet Muhammad whose first revelation
was “Read in the name of thy Lord (the Quran, 96:1).
- Zechariah prophesied:
“And the Lord shall be king over all the earth,
in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one.
All Muslims, anywhere on the earth, speaking totally different
languages, recognise the name “Allah, thus fulfilling
this prophecy, “his name one. (All Christians, to
take an example, do not recognise a single name of God, and therefore
do not fulfil this prophecy.)
- Isaiah prophesied:
“And in that day shall you say, Praise the
Lord, call upon His name. Isaiah 12:4
So Muslims say repeatedly exactly this: al-hamdu li-llah,
and call upon His name Allah.
An objection answered
The following objection has been raised regarding the name Allah:
Al -‘The’, lah - ‘God’. It means the God. It
was one of the gods worshipped by the Arabs. His female equivalent was
Allat, al- ‘the’, Lat ‘goddess’. Muhammed’s followers
did not like the concept of worshipping a female diety.
“Allah was not “one of the gods of the
pre-Islamic Arabs, but was recognised by them as the supreme, abstract
God. There was no idol which they called “Allah. The Quran
quotes the idol-worshippers as presenting the argument that:
“We worship them (i.e. the idols) only so that
they may bring us nearer to Allah. 39:3
Obviously then, “Allah was not just one of the gods.
It is also entirely wrong to say that Al-Lat was a feminine
form of Allah. Besides Allah, the different tribes of the
Arabs believed in their tribal gods. “Al-Lat was the
tribal god of the Thaqeef tribe who lived in the city of Taif (where
there was a shrine with an idol of Lat). The Quraish worshipped
Uzza as their tribal god, and similarly with other tribes.
So it is simply incorrect to say that the Arabs regarded Lat as
being a female equivalent of “Allah. “Allah
was, as said above, regarded by them as their supreme God. Lat,
Manat etc. were believed in as tribal gods.
Moreover, Lat, Manat and Uzza were believed by them to be daughters
of Allah, as the Quran says:
“Have you then considered Lat and Uzza, and the
third, Manat? Are the males for you and for Him the females
The Quran is here pointing out the contradiction in their beliefs, that
they ascribed daughters to Allah, but preferred to have sons themselves!
So Lat being believed as a daughter of Allah, could not possibly be
regarded by them as the female equivalent of Allah.
In Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon the words ilah (god) and
Allah occur under the root A-L-H, but the word Al-lat
is given under an entirely different root L-T. Therefore,
“Al-lat is not the feminine form of the word Allah
(for in that case it would occur under the same root as for “Allah”),
but is derived from a completely different root with a totally different
The root from which al-lat comes means (among other things)
“to moisten”. Lane quotes several reports on how the idol
came to be so called. It is named after a man called Al-Lat.
Sometime before Islam, there was a man who used to give pilgrims
a barley meal (known as saweek), moistened with either water
or clarified butter. He thus became known as Al-lat. After
he died, the rock where he was buried came to be worshipped and
was known by his name. And thus there came to be the idol named