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Allah

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The Islamic World: Past and Present What is This? Accessible coverage of Islam from the seventh century to the twenty-first century

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    Allah

    The Arabic word for God is Allah. It is the term used by both Muslims and Arabic Christians to describe their supreme deity. This one all-powerful God, Muslims believe, is the same deity worshipped by Jews and Christians. As the Qur'an describes Allah in the famous “Throne Verse” (surah 2.225 ):

    "God! There is no god but He, the Living, the Self-Subsistent. Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belong all that is in the heavens and upon the earth. Who is there who intercedes with Him except with His permission? He knows what has appeared as past and as yet to come, and there is no share in His knowledge except by His will. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation wearies Him not. He is the All-sublime, the All-glorious."

    The word Allah is a contraction of the Arabic al-ilah, which means simply “the god.” Arab tribes before Muhammad's time already worshipped a god called Allah. Indeed, Muhammad's father was named Abd Allah, or “Servant of Allah.” Allah may have been their highest god, but they also worshipped many other gods, including the goddesses Manat, al-Lat, and al-Uzzah. Muhammad's teachings did not introduce a new deity to the Arab tribes, but simply urged them to reject their pagan belief in many gods and accept Allah as the one and only deity. The meaning of the term Islam is “surrender to Allah,” and the most important Muslim virtue is total trust and reliance on God.

    Though Muhammad's people were already familiar with Allah, the Prophet's teaching reflected a bold new understanding of the deity. No longer the Allah of the pagan tribes, Allah became the all-powerful supreme deity whom Muhammed called “Lord” and “Rahman,” or “Merciful One.”

    The Qur'an emphasizes several basic attributes of Allah: He is creator and judge of all things, He is unique (wahid) and one (ahad), and He is all-powerful and all-merciful. As the Qur'an states: “Say He is Allah the One, Allah the Eternal. He never begot, nor was begotten. There is none comparable to Him.” Similarly, it is written in the Qur'an that “He is the First (al-Awwal) and the Last (al-Akhir); the Outward (as-Zahir) and the Inward (al-Batin); He is the Knower of All Things.” Muslims believe that Allah directs all things in the universe and has guided human history through his prophets—Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Through them, Allah founded his chosen communities, the People of the Book, who accept His revelation as recorded in sacred scripture.

    The Islamic profession of faith requires the believer to acknowledge that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger. Muslims believe that everything that happens is the will of Allah. They often inject the saying “insha' a Allah,” or “if God wills,” into their daily activities. The first verses of the Qur'an present the basic Muslim view of God: “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Sovereign of the Day of Judgment. Truly, it is You we worship and You whose aid we seek.” See also Muhammad ; Qur'an.

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