Some Translation Reminders |

TBC Staff - EN


[TBC: In view of a growing use of the name “Allah” in translations, it is helpful to reconsider some points as to whether it is a legitimate practice.]

What scholars say about the origin of the name "Allah"

  1. "The verses of the Qur'an make it clear that the very name Allah existed in the Jahiliyya or pre-Islamic Arabia. Certain pagan tribes believed in a god whom they called 'Allah' and whom they believed to be the creator of heaven and earth and holder of the highest rank in the hierarchy of the gods. It is well known that the Quraish as well as other tribes believed in Allah, whom they designated as the 'Lord of the House' (i.e., of the Ka'ba)...It is therefore clear that the Qur'anic conception of Allah is not entirely new." (A Guide to the Contents of the Qur'an, Faruq Sherif, (Reading, 1995), pgs. 21-22., Muslim)
  2. According to al-Masudi (Murudj, iv. 47), certain people have regarded the Ka'ba as a temple devoted to the sun, the moon and the five planets. The 360 idols placed round the Ka'ba also point in this direction. It can therefore hardly be denied that traces exist of an astral symbolism. At the same time one can safely say that there can be no question of any general conception on these lines. The cult at the Ka'ba was in the heathen period syncretic as is usual in heathenism. (First Encyclopedia of Islam, E.J. Brill, 1987, Islam, p. 587-591)
  3. The name Allah, as the Qur'an itself is witness, was well known in pre-Islamic Arabia. Indeed, both it and its feminine form, Allat, are found not infrequently among the theophorous names in inscriptions from North Arabia. The common theory is that it is formed from ilah, the common word for a god, and the article al-; thus al-ilah, the god," becomes Allah, "God." This theory, however, is untenable. In fact, the name is one of the words borrowed into the language in pre-Islamic times from Aramaic. (Islam: Muhammad and His Religion, Arthur Jeffery, 1958, p 85)
  4. "If a Muslim says, "Your God and our God is the same," either he does not understand who Allah and Christ really are, or he intentionally glosses over the deep-rooted differences." (Who Is Allah In Islam?, Abd-Al Masih, Light of Life, 1985, p. 36.)
  5. Now there dwelt in Mecca a god called Allah. He was the provider, the most powerful of all the local deities, the one to whom every Meccan turned in time of need. But, for all his power, Allah was a remote god. At the time of Muhammad, however, he was on the ascendancy. He had replaced the moon god as lord of the Kaaba although still relegated to an inferior position below various tribal idols and three powerful goddesses: al-Manat, goddess of fate, al-Lat, mother of the gods, and al-Uzza, the planet Venus. (Islam and the Arabs, Rom Landau, 1958 p 11-21)
  6. Allah, we can be sure, was neither an unknown nor an unimportant deity to the Quraysh when Muhammad began preaching his worship at Mecca. What is equally certain is that Allah had what the Quran disdainfully calls "associates": other gods and goddesses who shared both his cult and his shrine. The processional chant of the pagans of the Age of Barbarism was, we are told, "Here I am, O Allah, here I am; You have no partner except such a partner as You have; You possess him and all that is his." 103 The last clause may reflect what we have already seen was an emerging tendency toward henotheism, the recognition of Allah as the "high god" of Mecca. But it was not sufficient for Muslims, who put in its place their own manifestly monotheistic hymn: "Here I am, O Allah, here I am; You have no partner; the praise and the grace are Yours, and the empire; You have no partner." (The Hajj, F. E. Peters, p 3-41, 1994)