The Allah dispute is the focus of 3 court hearings this week. Taking the risk of committing the sin of boring repetition – here are 3 short arguments why Allah is not exclusive to Islam.
First, ﷲ Allâh (al-ilah) is historically derived from a common noun (ilah), which is not a proper noun/personal name (Nama Khas). It is just a common reference to a divine being in general or to the Most High God in monotheist culture, along with other related references in the Semitic languages – Hebrew el, eloah, Syriac alaha etc. Sibawayh (the father of Arabic grammar), noted the etymology of the word was disputed but suggested a Syriac connection as al-Ilaah, Allah results when one attaches ‘al’ with aliha and alaha. More importantly, the word ﷲ Allâh was used by Christians and other Semites long before the emergence of Islam.
Second, linguistic analysis confirms Allâh is not a personal name. For example, if Allâh were a personal name then it is unchangeable. One should find the reading: Allâh Ibrahim. But the phrase in common usage is ilah Ibrahim. Why? The rule of grammar says a noun can have only one determinator and that the article al- has to be omitted from Allâh, and then ilah remains. Thus the God of Abraham becomes Ilah Ibrahim. No Muslim would conclude that the ilah Ibrahim is not Allâh, the only One.
Same confirmation following the grammatical rule when Muslims use the expressions 1) “Al-hamdu li-llah” and not “Al-hamdu li- Allâh”, and 2) “bismi-llah” and not “bismi- Allâh”.
Of course, there is no possibility of using Allâh in the plural. It is a word in the singular, just like “man” is also a singular. But at any time one can change it into the plural when using its plural form. The plural form of “man” is “men”. Likewise, when expressing the plural form of “Allâh”, the word “Allâh” goes back to its original form, al-ilah, and the plural is al-âliha.
Finally, what if some Malay Muslims adamantly retort that as far as they are concerned, Allâh for them is a proper noun/personal name (Nama Khas)? Malay readers will understand how the following words which originally were either common nouns or adjectives have been adopted/transformed into proper nouns/names for newborn babies: Ahmad (praise, commendable), Megat (great one), Rayan (gate of heaven), Danish (clever, merciful), Haziq (skillful, intelligent), Ashraff (benevolent or honorable), Iman (honorable).
Some Malay parents may decide to call their sons “Hakim (judge)” since they have high regard for justice. They have a right to use or adopt the common noun “hakim” as a proper noun/name “Hakim”, but by the same token, they cannot deny the right of other people to the customary usage of the word “hakim” as a common noun. Likewise, some Muslims (in this case, only some Malaysian Muslims in contrast to Indonesian Muslims and the Arabic world) may decide that “ﷲ ” for them is a personal name (Nama Khas). Still, by the same token, they cannot deny other people the customary usage of ﷲ as derived from a common noun (whether in reference to god in general or to the One High God).
Conclusion: Muslims who insist that the Allâh word (as a personal name) is exclusive to Islam are either willfully ignorant or unreasonable.