Is Allah the God of the Bible?
Way back in 1982 my wife, Cindi, and I took our second trip to Israel. One day a Muslim cleaning lady came into the hotel room while we were still in the room. Somehow she detected that we were Christians. (We were attending a Christian conference and maybe there were brochures in the room or something to that affect. I don’t recall and it doesn’t matter.) Anyway, in her broken English she pointed to us and said, “Christian”; she pointed to herself and said “Islam”; and then she waved her hands around the room – either indicating the hotel, or more probably all of Israel – and said “Jew”. Then she looked heavenward and said, “All same God.” Smiling brightly she left the room.
At the time I took her comment at face value – after all, Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship one God. Moreover, in the Islamic faith, Jews and Christians are included with the Muslims as “People of the Book”. So, at the time I concluded we all must worship the same God, yet each in our own way, and in our own understanding. It sounded good at the time.
But is that really true? Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God? Is “Allah”, the god of the Muslims, also the God of the Bible? Let’s look at the facts.
Let’s begin by first looking at the God of the Christians and the God of the Jews. Do these two religions worship the same God? Without belaboring the point, I think it is self-evident that Jews and Christians do worship the same God. For example, the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) liberally quotes from the Tanakh (Old Testament), making abundant references to the God of Israel. Moreover, there is nothing in the Brit Chadashah which contradicts the Tanakh (unlike the Koran, which we shall see later.) And, of course, Yeshua (Jesus) identified Yahweh, the God of Israel, as His Father and ours.
This God of the Tanakh and the Brit Chadashah has a proper Name. His Name, as revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 3) is written in Hebrew with four letters (yod, hey, vav, hey). These four letters are called the Tetragrammaton (Greek = “Four Letters”) and is written יְהוָה. The Name is probably pronounced “Yahweh”, although no Jewish person, would ever attempt to actually pronounce The Name for fear of breaking the Third Commandment. Instead, whenever the Tetragrammaton appears in Scripture, the Jewish person will read “Adonai” (Lord). In our English Bibles, the Tetragrammaton is nearly always translated LORD, and written in all capital letters. (Occasionally the Tetragrammaton is translated GOD, also all in capitals; for example: Ezekiel 11:16.)
This God – the God of Israel, the Living God, the God and Father of Yeshua (Jesus) – also goes by many other Names throughout the Scriptures. He is El Shaddai – God Almightly. He is El-Elyon – God Most High. He is Yahweh Tzava’ot – the LORD of Hosts. And the list goes on and on. Yet despite His many different Names, it is clear from both the Tanakh and the Brit Chadashah that the God and Father of Yeshua is identical to the God who revealed Himself to Moshe (Moses) on Mt. Sinai. After all, Yeshua Himself was born, lived, and died as a Jew; as did all His original Apostles and disciples. They were not worshipping some foreign god; something which would have been utterly inconceivable to them. They were worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the One True God of the people of Israel – Yahweh.
Well, then…what about Allah?
Interestingly, amongst the many Names of God in the Tanakh, there is an Aramaic word, אֱלָהּ (pronounced “‘elahh”; and translated God or god) which does appear some 95 times. In 79 of those cases, the word clearly describes “Yahweh”, the God is Israel. (e.g. Ezra 5:1). In the other 16 instances, the word refers to a pagan god. (e.g.,Daniel 5:4) It’s noteworthy that in three verses of Scripture (all in Daniel), the same word is used both for the God of Israel and for a pagan god, although the distinction is easily made by the context. These are Daniel 2:47, 3:28, and 5:23.
In addition, a similar Hebrew word אָלָה (or “alah”) also appears in the Jewish Scriptures – some 36 times, as a matter of fact. Interestingly, in fully one half of those occurrences in the Tanakh, the word “alah” is translated as “curse”. [See Deut. 29:20 as one example.]
Now, some may argue that the word “allah” is simply the Arabic word for “god”, just as “el” is the Hebrew word for “god”. That is true. But is that the whole truth?
Consider Exodus 34:14: “For you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose Name is Jealous, is a jealous god.” If we put in the Hebrew for three of the key words, the Scripture would read – “For you shall worship no other “el”, for “Yahweh”, whose Name is Jealous, is a jealous “el”.
Likewise, in Arabic it would read – “For you shall worship no other “allah”, for Yahweh, whose Name is Jealous, is a jealous “allah”. However, no Muslim would ever accept that rendition. To a Muslim, Yahweh is not God; Allah is God. According to the Koran, “Allah” is not simply a linguistic Arabic designation for God – such as Deus in Latin or Dios in Spanish. In fact, Islam unequivocally teaches that Allah is his proper name! (Sura 3:2)
This point is made abundantly clear in the reciting of the Shahada, the statement of faith required by every new convert to Islam, and recited at least twice daily by every believing Muslim – “I bear witness that there is no allah but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger (or servant.)”. This is in stark contradiction to the entire Bible. As we have already seen, God’s proper Name in the Bible is the Tetragrammaton – and this Name occurs over 9000 times! In contrast, the two words “alah” and “elahh” occur only 131 times combined, and can mean either “any god”, or even “a curse”. The point I want to make clear is that neither “elahh” nor “alah” can ever be considered to be God’s proper Name. The Scriptures are absolutely explicit -- His proper Name is יְהוָה (Yahweh).
But let’s look even deeper. How does “Allah” of the Koran, compare with “Yahweh” of the Bible? Do they share the same attributes; the same characteristics? Do they interact with history and humanity in the same way? In other words, are they the same Being as the followers of Islam proclaim?
I will take up that discussion in a forthcoming “Ahava Love Newsletter”
Dr. Bill Duerfeldt, Asheville, NC.