The most important teaching of the Bible is its teaching about God. The Bible not only teaches us to worship one God but also tells us about His character; and it is the character of God which gives meaning to all that the Bible teaches on other subjects. The central doctrine in the Biblical teaching is its emphasis on a unity in God’s moral character.
Do we feel that we can read the Quran in our churches?
Do we think of God and His character as the Muslim thinks of Allah?
Christians believe in One God, and we should always say this to the Muslim for Islam states that Christians believe in three gods and associate others with Allah: “They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them.” (Al-Maidah 5:73)
Allah and the pre-Islamic pagan environment
The god ‘Allah’ was known and worshipped as the supreme deity in Arabia, prior to the birth of Muhammad. Despite falling into idolatry and loosing the faith of Abraham and Isaac, the Arabs never forgot the great God above all gods. At their new moon celebrations the tribes of Bani Qinana and the Quarraish would cry aloud “Labbaeik, Allah Labbaik! Thou hast no companions, but rulest over all.” Despite joining idols into their worship with the Highest, they placed them all under his hand. The worship of Allah then, did not exclude the worship of other gods and his centre of adoration was the Ka’aba.
In order to give the greater force to his teaching Muhammad identified Allah with the God of the Bible and made the Meccan Ka’aba the House of God, declaring that Abraham and others in the Old Testament and New Testament worshipped Allah as the Supreme God. Thus, Allah is not only identified with the God of the Bible, but the Quran and the Bible are declared to have come from the same source, and to have been given by the same God: The Quran thus is based on the premise that Jehovah is Allah: “And dispute ye not with the People of the Book …….. but say, “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).” (Al-Ankabut 29:46)
Allah as redefined by Muhammad
It is proposed that initially Muhammad’s god was addressed as Rabb or Lord, (master of a slave). Al-Lat bore the epithet al-Rabba, especially at Ta’if where she was worshipped in the image of a stone or rock. The term Rabb is used as the generic term for ‘a god’ or ‘the god’ of a certain person or people. “All praise and gratitude is due to Allah, Rabb of all the worlds.” (Al-Fatihah 2:2) One of Muhammad’s aims was to introduce Allah as the “Rabbu al alameen” or “the Lord of the Worlds.” In the earliest revelations, the one whom Muhammad’s hearers are summoned to serve is not called Allah, but is simply referred to as Rabb. While Rabb was the term commonly used by the Jews in Medina, the inhabitants of Mecca were more familiar with the term ‘Allah’ for god, due to the associations of Allah with the Ka’aba.
In his public ministry Muhammad later developed the use of the unfamiliar term ar-rahman. When he called upon the Meccans to prostrate before the Most Gracious (ar-rahman) they said “And what is (ar-rahman) Most Gracious? Shall we prostrate to that which thou commandest us?” (Al-Furqan 25:60) Another indication that the Meccans did not know or believe in ar-rahman appears in Ar-Ra’d 13:30 “yet do they reject (ar-rahamn), the Most Gracious! Say: “He is my Lord! There is no god but He! On Him is my trust, and to Him do I turn!” Muhammad then, turned to the name Allah, which was more familiar to the Meccans and one to which they did not object. Both terms, ar-Rahman and Allah, entered the Quran as proper names, and both are known from inscriptions as having existed as deity-names before the time of Muhammad. While ar-rahman was recognised as a deity, the name Allah soon became the accepted, and preferred, designation for Muhammad’s Lord.
Allah is now made to be the only god, whereas before he was the supreme god but now these deities had no substance they were ‘nothing but names’ (Yusuf 12:39f and An-Najm 53:23). Following the denial of the existence of other deities Muhammad announced during the late Meccan or early Medina period the unity of Allah: “He is Allah, the One” (Az-Zumar 39:4) The growing emphasis on the oneness of Allah leads to the progression of thought that whatever traits the polytheists might have sought in their various gods are now said to be found in Allah alone.
Four views as to whether the God of the Bible is the same as Allah
1) Allah and God are the same
The pre-Islamic evidence suggests that Allah was the creator and supreme deity even though it is clouded by the association of Allah with other deities. Christians and Muslims both refer to and believe in one supreme sovereign Creator-God and although they use different terms they apply to the same being. Although God may not be described as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” in the Quran it does not mean that Allah is other than the God of the Christian faith. The problem centres on different understandings of the same God.
Since Christians and Muslims worship the same God the latter are unaware that they are worshipping one God in Trinity. This God they worship, is known to them as Allah as well as by a total of ‘Ninety Nine beautiful names.’ Likewise, since Christians and Muslims worship the same God, the former are unaware that worshipping God can never be associated with a Trinitarian belief; they worship what is known to them in the names that appear in scripture.
2) Allah and God are the same but Islam poorly represents him
In so far as Muslims are monotheists and in so far as Allah has many attributes of Jehovah we cannot put him alongside the false gods. But neither can there be any doubt that Muhammad’s conception of God is inadequate, incomplete, barren and grievously distorted. It is vastly inferior to the Christian idea of the Godhead and also inferior to the Old Testament idea of God. In the book of Job alone there are more descriptions of God’s personality, unity, power and holiness than all the chapters of the Quran.
Here, there is no denial that Allah is God, in so far as Allah is monotheistic and his attributes have some similarity to the attributes of God as Christians know him. Yet, the Muslim concept is lacking for there is no Fatherhood in Allah; he is conspicuously lacking in the attribute of love; he is not absolutely, unchangeable and eternally just and there is a lack of harmony in Allah’s attributes. Although it is possible to have a mutual understanding concerning the belief systems each may hold there is the question of religious absolutes which will not be compromised even through dialogue.
3) A deceiving spirit is behind the use of Allah
Six hundred years after the supernatural birth of his only Son, God would not have sent the angel Gabriel to Mecca to tell Muhammad that he the living God has no Son! He would have never told Muhammad to dent and contradict the historical facts of the crucifixion since the purpose of his son’s birth was to die on the cross to take away the sins of the world. The spirit who calls himself Allah and claims to have inspired Muhammad is a different spirit who took upon him the old Arabic name of God, ‘Allah,’ wearing it over his face like a mask and claiming to be God: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” (1 John 4:1-3).
The scripture tells us to test the spirits behind all those who claim to be prophets in order to know to which class they belong. If the Allah of Muhammad is a demonic spirit masquerading as God Almighty, then every truth-seeking Muslim must consider the matter very seriously. A comparison between the attributes of Allah and the attributes of God, cast doubts on the claim that they are the same person. Instead of arriving at his theology through the gospels, and developed through the Holy Spirit’s teaching in the epistles, Muhammad went back to natural theology.
4) Allah is the ancient Moon-god
Alfred Guilluame claims the moon god was called by many names one of which was Allah. Allah, the moon god married the sun god and produced three goddesses “the daughters of Allah”- Al-Lat, Al-Uzza and Manat. These five gods were viewed at the top of the pantheon of Arabian deities and were called “high gods”while the three daughters were viewed as intercessors between the people and Allah. In the 1950’s excavations at Hazor in Palestine excavated two idols of the moon-god, on his chest was the crescent moon.
Sumeria, the first literate civilisation, left thousands of clay tablets. These show that the dominant religion through ancient Mesopotamia, the Assyrians, Babylonians and Akkadians was the moon-god. He was known by different names such as Nanna, Suen, and Asimbabber but the symbol of the crescent moon remained. The word Suen was transformed into Sin the favourite name for the Moon-god.
The Sabeans in Arabia held to the astral religion and used a Lunar calendar. Fasting began on the appearance of the moon crescent. as a centre of moon-god worship: they worshipped the moon-god who gave birth to the three goddesses. The popularity of the moon-god waned elsewhere but Arabs continued with him being the chief deity of the 360 gods. Muhammad never had to give an explanation of who Allah was, and under his tutelage ‘the god’ the Supreme Being became bereft of his wife, daughters and other deities thus instituting the statement ‘There is no God but Allah.’
Is the name Allah found in the Bible?
It has been suggested that the Arabic word for God, Allah, is found in the Schofield’s translation of the Bible. Fortunately the evidence, in this case, is set before us to consider. A copy of a page from a Schofield Bible has a footnote which says that the Hebrew word for God, Elohim, is derived from two words El (strength) and Alah (to swear) and this last word is supposed to be proof that the Arabic word Allah is found in the Bible! A more far-fetched and fanciful effort to prove a point can hardly be imagined. The word in Hebrew is alah, a common word meaning “to swear”. How this is supposed to be proof that the word Allah in Arabic, meaning God, is found in the Bible is altogether unclear to us. Further it is stated that the omission of the word Alah in the latest Schofield translation is proof that the word has been blotted out … in the Bible of the orthodox! What is quite clear is that it has been omitted from a footnote in a commentary of the Bible and we cannot possibly see how this can be regarded as a change in the text of the Bible itself!
It will be useful to point out here, however, that there is nothing unique about the word Allah, nor must it be regarded as coming originally from the pages of the Quran. On the contrary it is quite clearly derived from the Syriac word Alaha (meaning “God”) in common use among Christians in pre-Islamic times (cf. the authorities cited by Jeffery in The Foreign Vocabulary of the Quran, p.66). It was also in common use among the Arabs before Islam as appears from the name of Muhammad‘s own father Abdullah (i.e., “servant of God” from abd, meaning “servant”, and Allah, meaning “God”). It is also certain that Allah was the name used for God in pre-Islamic poetry.