Are “Allah” and “God” the same?
Are “Allah” and “God” the same? This is one of the questions I receive the most as I travel and speak across the United States. This question is asked by Christians and Muslims. In Malaysia it is presently a hot topic that has even invoked violence. In January, 2009 the government of Malaysia declared that Christians could not use the word “Allah”. On September 11, 2009 over 15,000 Bibles were confiscated for translating “Allah” for “God”. The Catholic Church appealed the decision and on December 31 the court ruled that “Allah” was legal for Christians to use in referring to the “God” of the Bible. Since that decision some fundamental Muslims have burned, ransacked or completely destroyed eleven churches. Fundamental Muslims argue that “Allah” of the Qur’an is not the same “God” of the Bible.
Christians have also divided sides on this issue. There are some who argue for “Allah” being the same and others who say no. The title “Allah” is not found in the Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek texts. The revealed name of God is YHWH and is usually rendered as Yahweh. So what is the answer?
“Allah” was a name for “God” in pre-Islamic days. In fact Muhammad’s father’s name was Abd-‘allah’. There is some evidence that Christians of pre-Islamic Arabia even used the title. Therefore, “Allah” is a legitimate pronoun for a supreme being.
When the Arabic Bible was first translated it used the Hebrew “Elohim” (self existent one) for “Allah” and the Greek “Theos”(supreme being) for “Allah”. In the same way the English word “God” is not found in the original texts of scripture. The word comes from Anglo Saxon and Germanic roots as a generic pronoun to mean Supreme Being. In the scriptures “Elohim and Theos are translated as “God” for English.
When I was in Iraq visiting the Christians and Muslim background believers in Jesus, I heard them use the word “Allah” in their worship and prayers. I worshiped with them as I recognized this Allah as the Son of Righteousness and they quoted scriptures from the Bible.
Historically “allah” and “god” were titles referring to pagan or idol deities. Man has created many “gods” or “allahs” in the world. The translation of these words for Elohim and Theos were actually a redemptive work by connecting the idol names to the God of the Bible. The real issue is which allah is a person referring to? The Allah of the Bible or the Allah of the Qur’an.
While there are many similarities between the Allah of the Bible and the Allah of the Qur’an the ultimate issue is what are the differences and can they be reconciled? The real problem is the difference in their character. Allah of the Qur’an demands that Muslims fight (jihad) on behalf of Islam while Allah of the Bible commands that vengeance is His and that followers of Christ should not seek revenge. Allah of the Qur’an commands Muslims to resist their enemies. Allah of the Bible commands believers to love, bless and pray for their enemies. Allah of the Qur’an cannot be known. Allah of the Bible is known and reveals himself in the form of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Allah of the Qur’an is a war god and his greatest commandment is obedience. The Allah of the Bible is love. The greatest commandment of Allah of the Bible is to love God and love others.
These differences cannot be reconciled. Therefore, the Allah of the Qur’an is a different God of the Allah of the Bible. Next time someone asks you if “Allah” is “God,” ask them which “Allah”? The Allah of the Bible or the Allah of the Qur’an?
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