Question: Who is Allah and is He different from God?
The word "Allah" is an Arabic word that means "The God". It originally consisted of two words: "Al Ilah". The word "Al" in Arabic means "the". The word "Ilah" means God. Saying the combination of the two words "Al Ilah" is somewhat awkward, so with time the Arabs combined the two words and dropped the middle vowel "i", resuling in "Allah". Since Allah means "The God" and not simply "God", it actually incorporates the concept of monothiesm (belief in one God). Monothiesm is the central and most important message of Islam. Everything else comes secondary to that.
Interestingly, the word Allah is not only used by Muslims. It is used by people of all religions who speak the Arabic language. Not all Arabs are Muslims. In fact, there are significant minorities of Arabs who are Christian (including Coptic, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and many others) and Jewish. Some of these minorities do not consider themselves ethnically Arab, while others do. Regardless of ethnic origin, they are citizens of the Arab countries they live in, and their first (and sometimes only) language is the Arabic language. These minorities refer to God as Allah. In fact, Bibles translated into Arabic refer to God as Allah. Even non-Arabs who have learned to speak Arabic would use the word Allah to refer to God.
However, the word Allah does have some special attributes that differentiate it from the word God as used in the English language. The most important, as mentioned earlier, is that Allah translates into "The God" and not simply God. Allah refers to the one true God, the creator and sustainer of mankind, and of the heavens and earth and everything else in the universe. People have taken many false dieties as Gods through the centuries. Some people have taken fire as a God. Others have taken a specific human being as a God. Others may regard an animal as a God. Some people worship many different Gods. The word Allah cannot be used to refer to any of these false Gods. It can only be used to refer to the concept of "The God", the one, the creator, the eternal, the all powerful, the most merciful God.
Another interesting difference between the concept of Allah and the general concept of God is that Muslims believe that Allah, The God, has special attributes. The following are some of these attributes:
- Allah is one, He has no equals and no partners, and He is the only one worthy of worship.
- There is nothing that is like Allah. He does not resemble humans, nor were we created in His image.
- Allah is not ruled by the laws of this world, such as space and time, because he is the one who created space, time and everything else that we know and many other things that we don't know
- Allah is the most merciful. We believe that all the mercy that exists between all people on earth equals (literally) 1 percent of the mercy of Allah. Muslims believe that Allah divided mercy into 100 parts, and he gave humanity only 1 part and kept 99 parts to Himself.
- Allah is the most just, and He will judge every human based on their actions. Every action a person does, whether good or bad, even if it is as tiny as the weight of a single atom, they will be judged on it and will receive an appropriate reward or punishment.
- Allah does not need us. If all humans believed in Allah, that would not benefit Him one bit, and if all humans disbelieved in Allah, that would not harm Him one bit either.
- Allah is the most powerful. He does not require sleep, nor does He get tired. He can grant all the wishes of every single human being on earth, and that would not decrease His power at all, not even as much as a single drop of water compared to the oceans.
This is just a quick sample, but there are many more attributes of Allah that are quite amazing and awe inspiring. These special attributes that Muslims believe God possesses make their understanding of the concept of God quite unique. What is interesting is that these beliefs actually make sense. If a person spends time to think logically and ponder the world around them, they will come to many of the same conclusions that Muslims believe in.
For example, if there was more than one God, wouldn't they have fought or disagreed or divided the world between them? How come everything in the world is so uniform and beautiful, and there are no disagreements? Everything follows the same laws of nature. Nothing is out of line. There must be one God who created all of these things according to one plan. At the same time, the amazing power required to create the universe means that this one God is all powerful. He is nothing like humans. He does not tire or require sleep.
Also, even with all the hardships we see around us, we all see amazing examples of mercy between humans, and even between animals. The one God who created the mercy of the mother to her child. The mother is usually willing to put her own life at risk to save even her unborn child, a child she has not yet even seen. Yet she is willing to die to save this helpless creature. This one God, the creator of the universe and everything in it, is the one who created this feeling of mercy, and His mercy to us is many times greater than the mercy of a mother to her child. The one God must also be the most merciful.
This is a quick outline of the meaning of the word Allah, and an introduction of the Islamic belief about Allah, the one God.