By Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
When looking at the names of God used in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, it is important to remember a few things. Firstly, Christianity grew out of the Jewish community. Jesus himself was a practising Jew and initially seen by his followers as a Great Rabbi and a Prophet of God. Jesus lived in a Jewish society, and he spoke Hebrew and Aramaic, the languages of his people.
The Jews and Arabs are Semitic peoples, both they and their languages are related. Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic are in the same subfamily of languages. Neither Jesus or Moses referred to God as ‘God’ but rather as Elah, Elohim, El-Shaddai or another of His many names. Today, there seems to be some doubt in the minds of certain people on whether ‘Allah’ of Islam, is really the same ‘God’ of the Holy Bible. As I shall illustrate, the Lord Almighty has been known by many names even in the Holy Bible. But the names of God, found in the Holy Bible and the Holy Qur’an, are names of the same Almighty God.
Elohim, Eloah and Allah
Eloah (or Elah in Aramaic) is roughly equivalent to Ilah in Arabic, which means a god, any god. In Hebrew when the suffix ‘-im’ is added to Eloah, it donotes plurality, and ‘Elohim’ can refer to either Almighty God, or ‘gods’. Although, in most incidences where Elohim appears in the Holy Bible, Elohim refers to God rather than gods. In Arabic, if you add the prefix ‘Al-‘ meaning ‘The’ to ‘Ilah’ it becomes ‘Al-Ilah’ or ‘The God’. However, due to the nature of Arabic, ‘Al-Ilah’ never appears in this form, as it always is written as ‘Allah’. Allah always refers to Almighty God, whereas Elohim usually refers to Almighty God, but their root in Eloah/Elah/Ilah is the same.
Elohim is the first name of God to appear the Holy Bible, in the first few words of Genesis;
“In the beginning God [Elohim] created the Heavens and the Earth” Genesis (1:1)
Echad / Ahad
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Mark (12:29) NIV
Here Jesus was quoting “Shema Yisrael“, the regularly recited declaration in Jewish tradition of belief in the One True God.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Deuteronomy (6:4) NIV
“Say: He is Allah, The One and Only, Allah the Eternel, Absolute” Holy Qur’an (112:1-2)
Rakhuwm / Rahman
“And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful [Rakhuwm] and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” Exodus (34:6)
“(For the LORD thy God is a merciful [Rakhuwm] God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.” Deuteronomy (4:31)
“BismAllah-ir Rahman-ir Raheem” – “In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful” – Each chapter of the Holy Qur’an begins with this phrase, and this is read by Muslims before undertaking most actions to bless their outcome.
The Hebrew ‘Rachuwm’ and the Arabic ‘Rahman’, share the same Semitic root, R-H-M. Both Rachuwm and Rahman mean Compassionate and Merciful.
YHWH-Shalom / Al-Salaam
“Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.” Judges (6:24)
Jehovah-Shalom ‘YHWH Shalom’ is rendered ‘The Lord is Peace’ in the NASB. In Arabic, God is known as ‘Al-Salaam’, which translates as ‘The Peace’ or ‘The Source Of Peace’.
Shekhinah / Sakina
Shekhinah is the presence or manifestation of God which has descended to “dwell” among humanity. The Arabic form of Shekhinah, ‘Sakina’ also appears in the Holy Qur’an.
Melech / Malik
Melech means King, this name is found in the Holy Qur’an in its Arabic form ‘Al-Malik’, ‘The King’. A more emphasised version of this name ‘Melech ha-Melachim’ means ‘The King of Kings’, and accurately indicates God’s ultimate sovereignty over all His creation. In Arabic, God is also known as ‘Malik Al-Mulk’.
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh
When Moses asked God for His name, as recorded in the book of Exodus. God replies, ‘Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh’ or ‘I Am That I Am’.
“And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” Exodus (3:13-15)
A little later on, God refers to Himself as YHWH.
“And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty [El-Shaddai], but by my name JEHOVAH [YHWH] was I not known to them.” Exodus (6:3)
The pronunciation and translation of YHWH is uncertain. There are currently many theories on the correct pronunciation. YHWH was rarely pronounced by the Jewish priests out of respect for God and His most Holy Name. They would usually read Adonai (Lord) in its place during services, this is where medieval Europeans got the idea of pronouncing YHWH with the vowels of Adonai, and came up with Jehovah. Today, Jehovah is recognised by most serious scholars as being inaccurate. Yahweh is currently the preferred pronunciation, although there are many, and no conclusive proof that any particular one is accurate.
‘Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh’ or ‘I Am That I Am’, indicates a number of divine qualities of God, which are mentioned in the Holy Qur’an;
1.The One “Al-Ahad”
2.The Eternal “As-Samad”
3.The Alive “Al-Hayy”
4.The Self-Subsisting “Al-Qayyum”
5.The Great One “Al-Azim”
6.The Truth “Al-Haqq”
7.The Aware “Al-Khabir”
Hence, the God described by these Arabic Divine Names in the Holy Qur’an, is none other than ‘Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh’ the God of Moses. As YHWH is a derivative of this Divine Name, then YHWH is Allah, Al-Ahad, As-Samad, Al-Hayy, Al-Qayyum, Al-Azim, Al-Haqq, and Al-Khabir. In Islam, Allah is known by 99 Divine Names recorded in the Holy Qur’an, some of these have a linguistic connection with their Hebrew counterparts, and some don’t. But if their meanings are understood, it becomes immediately obvious they are referring to the same Almighty God described in the Holy Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…
“We have sent thee inspiration as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him; We sent inspiration to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon and to David We gave the Psalms.” Holy Qur’an (4:163)
“Say: ‘We believe in Allah and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes and in (Books) given to Moses, Jesus and the Prophets from their Lord; we make no distinction between one and another among them and to Allah do we bow our will (in Islam).’ Holy Qur’an (3:84)
Today, some people are trying to create discord amongst Jews, Christians and Muslims by creating suspicion amongst them. This is to suit their own agenda’s and has nothing to do with reality. Some of their claims are really quite absurd, to suggest for instance, that Muslims worship a false god who used to be one of the Arabian idols, or to suggest Christians worship a false god called ‘Yah’, the Ancient Egyptian moon god. Both of these are ridiculous assertions, which cause unnecessary confusion and misunderstanding amongst people, who otherwise have so much in common. Both Christians and Muslims believe in, and worship their Creator, Almighty God. Even if it were true that the names of their God, were at some point given to idols, would that really change anything? None of the Abrahamic faiths believe in idols!
Allah, Eloah, and YHWH are all names of the same Almighty God. The real differences between Christianity and Islam are theological; as in whether God is a Trinity? Was Jesus God incarnated in human form? Or did God beget a Son? On these points Islam has very similar views to Judaism, or Arian / Unitarian Christianity. These are things which can be discussed in a fair and open way.
Ultimately people will believe what they understand to be true. It is quite wrong for people to tell lies about another faith, or the people of that faith, simply to increase their own congregation. People who believe their religion to be the true, will most likely want to promote the ‘good news’. But surely the best and most ethical way of doing this, is to present their own and other faiths with fairness and honesty, and let people decide for themselves.
“Thou shalt not bear false witness…” Exodus (20:16)
“Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from error” Holy Qur’an (2:256)
All quotes from the Holy Qur’an use Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s English translation. While all the quotes from the Holy Bible are taken from the KJV, except where indicated.