Christians who try to claim that the word Allah (Arabic: الله) is the name of the moon god are influenced by the writings of Dr. Robert Morey, who wrote as such in his book The Islamic Invasion, alleging that a statue at Hazor represents Allah. Regardless, they (and Dr. Morey included) are playing a silly game. It should be noted right from the start that the writings of Dr. Morey are nothing more than the thoughts of a mid-Western, creationist closet-fascist that were not originally intended for a wide audience.
After Wensinck’s brilliant study1, a fresh examination of the argument for the existence of God in Islam might appear impertinent. Some justification for the present discussion, however, may be found in the fact that some of the material on which this study is based was not available to Wensinck, when his monograph appeared in 1936, and in the slightly different interpretation of certain relevant data here attempted.
The systematic examination of the proofs of the existence of God should be preceded by a legitimate enquiry: Is the demonstration of God’s existence possible at all? In the Latin scholastic treatises of the Middle Ages, as for example in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) this enquiry figures as the prelude to the demonstration of God’s existence proper. Although Wensinck has discussed some aspects of the problem of knowledge (erkenntnislehre) in his celebrated Muslim Creed2, he does not touch upon this particular aspect of the problem in his monograph, except incidentally, as, for example, in connection with Al-Ghazali’s attitude to the question of God’s existence.3 But this question, it would seem, requires a fuller treatment than is accorded it in that parenthesis.
In his two little tracts; Fasl al-Maqal and al-Kashf ‘an Manahij al-Adillah, Ibn Rushd (d. 1198) raises this question in a systematic way. In the former tract, he is concerned with a wider problem: viz. Whether the philosophical method tallies with the teaching of revelation or not –- to which he replies in the affirmative. “For if the aim of philosophy,” he writes, “is nothing other than the consideration of existing things and their examination, in so far as they manifest the Creator — viz. in so far as they created objects…revelation (al-shar’) definitely enjoins the consideration of existing things and commends it”4 -– a thesis which he supports by a wealth of Qur’anic quotations. When he returns to this question at the beginning of Al-Khasf, he distinguishes between three schools of thought on the specific problem of God’s existence:
(2) The Ash‘arites (with whom he includes the Mu‘tazilites) who admit the possibility of a rational demonstration of the existence of God from the concepts of temporality (huduth) or contingency (jawaz), as we will see later and;
(3) finally the Sufis who claim that we apprehend God directly but “whose method,” as Ibn Rushd observes, “is not speculative at all” and which, even if its validity is conceded, is not common to all men.7
The earliest systematic discussion of the problem of knowledge (erkenntnis) as a prelude to theological discussions which has come down to us is found in Al-Baghdadi’s (d. 1037) Usul al-Din.8 It is possible that Al-Baghdadi continues a more ancient tradition, initiated by the Mu‘tazilite doctors of the 9th century, as their preoccupation with such abstract questions as notions (ma‘ani), science (‘ilm), etc. suggests.9 But it is significant that al-Baqilani (d. 1013), who is credited by some ancient authorities with having refined the methods of Kalam, does not dwell on this question at any length in the opening chapter of his Tamhid.
The introductory chapter of Usul, to which Wensinck has drawn attention and discussed in some length in The Muslim Creed, is thus of considerable importance for the understanding of the Islamic approach to the question of knowledge or science.
We cannot dwell at length here on Baghdadi’s analysis of the divisions of knowledge (‘ilm), its presuppositions, the conditions of its validity, etc. which are genuinely reminiscent of Kant and the subsequent schools of modern epistemology. On the particular issue with which we are here concerned, it should be noted that Al-Baghdadi defines demonstrative knowledge “by means of reason” and instances “the knowledge of the temporally of the world, the eternity of its Maker, his unity, his attributes, his justice, his wisdom and the possibility (jawaz) of religious obligations (taklif),”10, etc.
In further expounding the objects of knowledge, as distinct from the objects of revelation (al-shar‘), he states that the Ash‘arites (ashabuna) hold that reason is capable of proving the temporality of the world and the unity of its Maker, etc., as well as the admissibility in reason (jawaz) of what is possible and the inadmissibility of what is impossible, but adds significantly that religious obligations or prohibitions arising therefrom are not known by reason but only by revelation.11
Hence were one to arrive at knowledge of God, the creator of the universe, etc. prior to revelation by means of natural light of reason he would be “a believing monotheist” but he would not thereby deserve any particular reward; so that if God were to reward him in the life-to-come, such reward would be an act of divine grace.12 The Mu‘tazilah, on the other hand, argue that man was capable of discriminating between good and evil, prior to revelation, and was in proportion deserving of punishment and reward in the life to come.13
Now it is patent that despite this distinction between the two aspects of our knowledge of God by means of reason: the one entailing reward and punishment, the other not, both the Mu‘tazilah and the Ash‘arites were in agreement, as Ibn Rushd remarks, on the actual demonstrability of God’s existence. What they differed on was simply the moral or religious implications of such knowledge: the Ash‘arites holding that punishment and reward are conditional upon the “advent of the law,” the Mu‘tazilah making them independent of the explicit dictates of the law.
Prior to the rise of the Mu‘tazilah, who initiated the whole current of scholastic theology (kalam) in Islam, of course, the question of the demonstrability of God’s existence, like the remaining questions of rational theology, could hardly arise. The early jurists and theologians, such as Malik b. Anas (d. 795) and his followers were content with a theological knowledge rooted in Scripture. Like the Sufis, who believed that God could be apprehended directly, these Traditionalist sought the ground of their belief in God in a non-rational sphere: that of revelation or authority.
Thus neither for Traditionalism nor for Sufism was a proof of the existence of God necessary at all, since the existence of God was given directly either in Scripture, according to the former, or in the mystical process of direct apprehension, according to the latter.
If the argument from causality (cosmological or aitiological argument), initiated by Aristotle and developed by his followers throughout the centuries, is rightly regarded as the classical argument for the existence of God in the West, the argument a novitate mundi (dalil al-huduth), of which the argument a contingenti mundi (dalil al-jawaz), is a mere variant, can be safely asserted to represent the classical argument for the existence of God in Islam.
The Aristotelian argument, which rested upon the concept of causality, was never viewed with favor in the Muslim world, not even by the great representatives of Arab Aristotelianism: Avicenna (d. 1037) and Averroes (d. 1198). The former laid special emphasis on the argument from contingency in a manner which definitely influenced the later Mutakallims; the later showed definite predilection for the teleological argument (dalil al-‘inayah) which had a basis in the Qur’an,14 and was of a more compelling nature than the other arguments, according to him.
The main reason why the cosmological argument was thus rejected out of hand by both the philosophers and the theologians was the fact that the concept of causality upon which it rested had been exposed to doubt since the beginning of Kalam. Al-Ghazali (d. 1111) continuing a long tradition of speculation on this theme, repudiates the validity of the causal principle in Question 17 of his famous Tahafut on the ground that the alleged necessity of this principle is a mere illusion; because it is unwarranted inference, based on observation from the correlation of events. Observation, however shows simply that the alleged effect happens alongside the cause rather through it (cum se non per se: ‘indahu la bihi) and accordingly, such a correlation is not logically necessary but is rather the outcome of a correlation is not logically necessary but is rather the outcome of mere psychological disposition or habit.15
It is clear from the foregoing that Wensinck’s statement that the argument a novitate mundi is ‘analogous’ to the Aristotelian-Thomist proof ex parte motus et ex ratione cause efficientis16 is rather surprising, since the very validity of the causal principle is challenged by the Mutakallims. Moreover, the Aristotelian argument presupposes the cardinal metaphysical distinction between potentiality and actuality (which the Mutakallims also rejected, substituting for it the duality of substance and accidents); and is further independent, as Maimonides (d. 1204) and Aquinas (d. 1272) both recognized, from the thesis of the beginning of the world (round which the argument of the Mutakallims centers as we are going to see). Instead, Aristotle’s casual argument for the existence of the Unmoved Mover grew logically and naturally from the Aristotelian thesis of the eternity of motion in an eternal universe.17
The Traditional argument of Kalam presupposes a preliminary thesis upon which the theological treatises place a considerable emphasis: the thesis of the newness or temporality of the universe (al-huduth). This circumstance explains the vehemence with which the opposite thesis of an eternal universe is combated by the advocates of Orthodoxy. Ibn Hazm, the Zahiri jurist and heresiographer, who died in 1064, employs this as the principle on the basis of which he distinguishes between the orthodox or heterodox sects. Muslims or non-Muslim. Al-Ghazali, as is well-known, devoted the first question of his Tahafut to a refutation of the thesis of eternity, which he consider the most pernicious thesis of the philosophers.
The general procedure of the Mutakallims in proving the temporality of the universe considered in showing that the world, which they defined as everything other than God.18 was composed of atoms and accidents. Now the accidents (singular ‘arad) they argued, cannot endure for two instants of time, but are continually created by God who creates or annihilates them at will. Al-Bailani (d. 1013) who appears to follow the lead of Al-Ash‘ari in this respect, actually defines the accident as entities “the duration of which is impossible…and which cease to exist in the second instant of their coming to be.”19
Similarly, the atoms (sing. al-juz’) in which the accidents inhere are continually created by God and endure simply by reason of the accident of duration (baqa’) which God creates in them.20 But insofar as this accident of duration, like the other accidents, is itself perishable, the whole world of atoms and accidents is in a state of continuous generation and corruption. Although the argument for the temporality of the universe form the temporality of its component parts is the favorite argument of the Ash‘arite doctors, it is by no means the only argument of Islamic scholasticism. Unfortunately we are in no position, owing to the scantiness of our sources, to reconstruct the reasoning of the Mu‘tazilite doctors on this question; nevertheless there is good reason to suppose that Al-Ash‘ari and his successors simply inherited the methods of argument, on this and allied subjects, which the Mu‘tazilah had initiated.
As an instance of the interest of the Mutakallims in the thesis of a temporal universe, we might examine here at some length the five arguments for the beginning of the world which Ibn Hazm, the great Zahiri theologian (d. 1064) advances in his Fisal;21 especially since Ibn Hazm appears to be the first Muslim theologian to have attempted a refutation of the eternity of the world, on the one hand, and a proof of its temporality, on the other, with any completeness.22
The biographer of Al-Ash‘ari, Ibn ‘Asakir (d. 571 A.H.), reports that Al-Ash‘ari wrote a treatise called Kitab al-Fusul, in refutation of the Materialists and the ‘philosophers,’ who professed the eternity of the universe,23 which as far as I am aware, is the earliest scholastic treatise dealing with the question of eternity in a systematic way, our sources record. Despite the statement of Al-Shahrastani that Al-Ash‘ari preferred the negative method of refutation (al-ibtal),24 as distinct from the method of positive proof, it is reasonable to assume that like Ibn Hazm, Al-Razi and others, he coupled the former with the latter species of argument. Ibn Hazm’s first proof of the temporality of the universe rests on the premise that the accidents and substances (sing. shakhs) composing the universe are finite and that time, which he conceives as consisting of transient moments, is finite also.
In proving the finitude of these three terms: accident, substance and time, Ibn Hazm does not resort to the traditional method of the Mutakallims already mentioned, but maintains that the finitude of substance is evident from the finitude of its dimensions, that of accidents from the finitude of substances in which they inhere and the finitude of time from the transitoriness of the moments composing it. The second proof involves the Aristotelian dictum that everything in act is finite. The universe exists in act and is numerically determinate, therefore it is finite. In the third argument he resorts to the process of reductio ad absurdum. The thesis of an infinite time, which the eternity of the universe, implies, involves the following absurdities:
(a) Since infinity cannot be increased, all the time that will elapse would add nothing to the time elapsed hitherto.
(b) The revolutions of a planet (e.g. Saturn) which revolves once every thirty years would be equal to the revolutions of the Upper Heaven, which amount to some 11,000 revolutions during the same period since one infinity is not greater than another.25
(c) The time elapsed since the beginning of time till the Hijrah (622 A.D.) and the time elapsed since the beginning till our day would be equal.
In the fourth and fifth arguments, he argues that, were the universe without beginning and without end, it would be impossible to determine it in number or in nature and consequently we could not speak of first, second, or third, in speaking of existing things. But this is contradicted by the fact that we can number things and refer to the first and last things. Hence the universe must have a beginning (awwal).26
We cannot dwell longer on Ibn Hazm’s discussion of this cardinal theme and the manner in which he resolves the many objections to his arguments. But it is worth noting that most of the arguments of the later doctors such as Al-Ghazali and Al-Razi (d. 1209) are found here in an embryonic, though sometimes confused, state. This circumstance would appear to strengthen the view expressed by Maimonides (d. 1204), the great Jewish philosopher, that the Mutakallims were influenced in these arguments by John Philoponus (d. 568), author of De aeternitate mundi, a refutation of Proclus’s argument for the eternity of the universe27 — since it would imply that the Mutakallims from Ibn Hazm downwards were drawing on some common source.
With the temporality of the world as a premise, the Mutakallims proceeded to prove that the world being created (hadith) must necessarily have a Creator (muhdith), by recourse to the so-called “principle of determination”. In its barest form, this principle meant that since prior to the existence of the universe it was equally possible for it to be or not-to-be, a determinant (murajjih) whereby the possibility of a being could prevail over the possibility of not-being was required; and this “determinant” –- they argued -– was God.
Al-Baqilani (d. 1013), who belonged to the second generation of Ash‘arite doctors and who is credited with refining the methods of Kalam, sums up this argument in succinct way. The world being temporal (hadith), he writes, it must of necessity have a Maker and Fashioner (muhdith wa musawwir), “just as writing must have a writer, a picture must have a painter and building a builder.”28
To this argument, however, he adds two others in which the ‘middle term’ differs but which reveal the same dialectical structure. In the first, he maintains that the priority of certain things over others presupposes an “Agent who made them prior” (muqaddiman qaddamahu) since priority does not belong by nature to a pair of equals; and this “determinant of priority” is God. In the second, he introduces a concept of contingency (jawaz) and argues that things in themselves are capable of receiving various ‘forms’ or qualities. The fact that existing things are endowed with certain determined ‘forms’ presupposes a “determinant” who has determined that they should receive these ‘forms’ and no others; and this “determinant” is God.29
The element common to these three arguments, it will be noticed, is the “principle of determination” which they all invoke. Only the first argument, however, resupposes in addition the beginning of the world or its temporality. As to the third, it constitutes the basis of the argument a contingentia mundi (dalil al-jawaz) which was later developed by Al-Juwayni (d. 1086) as Averroes states in Al-Khasf, in a treatise which has not come to us, Al-Risalat al-Nizamiyyah.30 This proof, as Wensinck rightly observes,31 is affiliated to Ibn Sina (d. 1037) who seems to follow the lead of Al-Farabi (d. 950) in his respect, as Madkour has shown in his monograph on al-Farabi.32 In his major treatise, Al-Irshad, Al-Juwayni sets forth the more popular argument from temporality or huduth:
“If the temporality of the world (hadath) is established and if it is established that (the world) has a beginning (muftatah al-wujud), since the temporal can equally exist or not exist …reason requires that (the world) must have a determinant (mukhassis) who determined its actual existence.”33
Al-Baghdadi’s argument, as expounded in Usul ‘al-Din, differs little from that of either Al-Baqilani or Al-Juwayni. All rest, as we have seen, on the thesis that the world consists of atoms and accidents which have no subsistent being in themselves since they cannot endure for two moments of time. What, we might ask, is the extent of their debt to ‘Abul-Hasan al-Ash‘ari?34 The publication recently of Kitab al-Luma‘ enables us to give a provisional answer to this question, pending the discovery of fresh material.
The arguments of Al-Ash‘ari in this treatise has a distinct Qur’anic ring. It has nothing of the dialectical stringency of the later arguments and rests on the observation of the ‘phases’ of man’s growth from “a drop of water, to a leech to an embryo,” which the Qur’an has rendered classical. In so far as it is impossible for man himself to cause this change in his condition (tahawwul), the author argues, it is necessary that an “Agent should have transformed him from one phase to the other and disposed him according to his actual state;” for it impossible that this should happen without an agent of transformation,35 and by analogy the whole universe requires such an “agent of transformation.” This terse argument is of course in keeping with the nature of Al-Luma‘, as an introductory treatise, but confirms nevertheless the view that Ash‘arite Kalam was not fully developed by the beginning of the 10th century so that the authors of this period in general were content with purely rhetorical arguments based on the Qur’an or the Traditions. It is only with Al-Baqilani that a rigorous application of syllogistic methods of proof begins to make its appearance. But even here as we have seen no attempt at an elaborate analysis of the logical concepts involved is made.
The later history of Kalam reflects greater refinement in employing the technique of argument and a greater subtlety in handling logical concepts. Ibn Khaldun distinguishes between modern and the ancient stages in the development of Kalam and assigns the credit for introducing the ‘method of he moderns’ to Al-Ghazali.36 whether the credit for initiating this new ‘philosophical’ stage in the development of Kalam rightly belongs to Al-Ghazali or some earlier theologian, as Al-Juwayni or Al-Baqilani, is a controversial issue. It is certain, however, that this stage, as we have seen, is subsequent to Al-Ash‘ari’s time, and belongs to the latter half of the 10th century.
Al-Ghazali’s major contribution to the discussion of the problem at issue was twofold. In the first place, he brought out in a very forcible way the radical opposition between the teaching of Islam and the Aristotelian conception of a universe developing itself eternally and everlastingly; and in the second place, he gave added point to the arguments already advanced by the Mutakallims, by amplifying and perfecting them. Wensinck’s stress on the bipolarity in the thought of Al-Ghazali, the mystic, and Al-Ghazali, the theologian,37 is perfectly justified. Nevertheless it is only in Al-Ghazali as a Mutakallim and in his version of the argument a novitate mundi the we are interested here. The most succinct statement of this argument is found in Kitab al-Iqtisad fi’l-‘Itiqad, which he invokes, in the traditional manner of the Ash‘arites, the “principle of determination.” The syllogism runs as follows:
- Everything temporal (hadith) must have a cause. The world is temporal. Therefore the world must have a cause.
By hadith, Al-Ghazali tells us, he means “what did not previously exist and then began to exist.” Prior to its existence, this ‘temporal world’ was “possible” (mumkin) i.e. “could equally exist and not exist.” To tilt the balance in favor of existence a “determinant” (murajjih) was necessary — since otherwise this “possible” universe would have always remained in a state of not-being.38
It would seem, considering the devastating attack which Al-Ghazali levels against the concept of causality in Question 17 of Al-Tahafut, flagrant contradiction. Al-Ghazali, however, explains in the same passage that by cause here he simply means a ‘determinant’ (i.e. murajjih) and consequently the apparent contradiction vanishes. Owing to its Aristotelian associations, this term was never in vogue among the Mutakallims.
The earliest systematic refutation of the concept of causality as implicit in the doctrine of Tawallud (or production), of which I am aware, is found in Usul al-Din39 of Al-Baghdadi, who died in 1037, and which bears a striking resemblance to the more elaborate refutation of Al-Tahafut. Nevertheless, theologians of the later period are not entirely averse to the use of the term cause in this special sense of determinant. For instance, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1209) one of the subtlest theologians of Islam, employs this term and its synonym ‘illah repeatedly in his exposition of the scholastic proofs for the existence of God.40
We might examine here Al-Razi’s exposition of the traditional proofs for the existence of God as outlined in Kitab al-Arba‘in, especially since this is one of the fullest expositions which our classical sources record, and one which Wensinck does not seem to have consulted in his important monograph.41 Al- Razi sums up the proofs of the existence of God under four arguments.
- The argument from the possibility (Imkan) of the universe to the existence of a necessary being (wajib al-wujud), Creator thereof. (p. 70f)
- The argument from the possibility of the qualities of the universe to the necessity of a Determinant of the form, characteristics, and locus of bodies composing it, who is not Himself a body. (pp. 84-86)
- The argument form the temporality of substances and bodies to the existence of a Maker thereof (p. 86), and finally;
- The argument from the temporality of qualities of the universe to the existence of an intelligent Designer who disposes things according to His power and will. (p. 91)
It will appear from this brief analysis that these four arguments resolve themselves — as Al-Razi himself points out in the preface to his discussion (p. 67) – into two: the argument from temporality (huduth) and that from possibility (imkan). The root-concept in the former proof is the concept of time; viz. the fact that the world has had a beginning in time or in Al-Razi’s words, the fact that, before its existence, the world was in a state of not-being (al-‘adam). The root-concept in the latter proof is the concept of contingency (jawaz or imkan); viz. the fact that the world, considered singly as in argument (1), or as a whole as in argument (2), could have been otherwise.
Al- Razi, like the rest of the Mutakallims, however, does not distinguish sharply between these two distinct proofs, as Ibn Sina justly remarks,42 and is on that account liable to some confusion. Al-Razi, for instance, defines the “temporal” (al-muhdath) in his third argument as “that whose being in itself is contingent” which he further describes “as that whose essence is equally susceptible of not-being and of being,” which he adds significantly, “is the precise meaning of the possible.”43
We might overlook this point an dwell on the similarities between these two distinct arguments. In the first place, whether we argue from contingency for from temporality, a necessary Being distinct from the series of sensible things (p. 70) must be posited as a Determinant of the being of the universe, on the one hand, and of the particular mode or being proper to it, on the other. This in fact is the point of distinction between the two concepts round which these two arguments center. For the argument a novitate mundi presupposes as we have seen, that prior to its existence the being and the not-being of the universe were equally possible, no account being take of the mode of being proper to this universe as in the argument a contingentia mundi.
In the second place, the positing of a Necessary Being outside the series of temporal beings flows logically from the impossibility of the regress ad infinitum. That is why Al-Razi, more conscious of the importance of this circumstance than the earlier theologians, devotes a lengthy discussion to the refutation of the two concepts of circularity (al-daur) and the regressus ad infinitum (al-tasalsul).44 Although he summarizes what appears to be the traditional argument against circularity, viz. that if two possible things were said to cause each other, each would precede the other an consequently itself, which is absurd,45 Al-Razi proposes a different argument which he states thus:
“The effect (ma‘lul) requires the cause. Now if each of two (possible) agents was the effect of the other, each of them would require the other and accordingly each would require what requires itself. Therefore, each would require itself, which is absurd.” (p.81).
In refuting the regressus ad infinitum, Al-Razi begins by laying down as a postulate that it is necessary that the cause should exist actually at the time of the existence of the effect, or else the latter would be capable of existing by itself — i.e., independently of the agency of the cause — which contradicts our original postulate.
1. If so, then the regression of the series of causes an effects to infinity would entail that the whole series existed simultaneously. Now the whole series is either necessary in itself or possible in itself. The former alternative is absurd because “a whole requires each of its parts and each of these parts is possible in itself and that which requires the possible in itself is a fortiori possible in itself too.” Consequently, the whole series is possible in itself and requires a necessary determinant (mu’aththir) distinct from itself, and this determinant is the Necessary Being.
2. If the whole series is contingent or possible-in-itself as we have seen, and if every possible-in-itself must have a determinant, this determinant is either (a) the whole series itself, (b) something pertaining to it, or (c) something outside it. (a) is absurd since it entails that the series determines itself. (b) is also absurd because it entails the member of the series, which was assumed to determine it, was also its own cause or of the cause of its cause. The former is absurd for the same reason as above (viz.: that a thing cannot be its own cause); the latter because it involves us in the impasse of circularity. Hence the determinant must be something outside the series as in (c). But what lies outside the series of possibles must be necessary-in-itself, which is the Necessary Being.46
3. Let us imagine a portion of the series of effects extending from the last effect (L) to infinity and consisting of five segments. Let us next imagine another portion extending from the fifth segment to infinity.
Now if we compare the first portion (A) with the second (B) then they would either be equal –which implies that the whole is greater than its parts –or that one is greater than the other; so that the shorter portion (B) would be finite, since it is shorter by four units; and the longer would be finite also, since it exceeds the former by four units. Consequently, the ascending (tasa‘ud) series of causes and effects would have an extremity and a starting-point which is contrary to the statement that it is infinite.47 Not if that extremity is possible-in-itself, then it would require another determinant and thus would not be the extremity; if, on the other hand, it is necessary-in-itself, then we would have proved our case.48
With Al-Razi, we might safely state, the “Golden Period” in the history of Kalam comes to an end. The merit of this subtle theologian is that he reintroduced into scholastic discussions certain formal philosophical aspects which the overthrow of Arab Aristotelianism in the 11th century had tended to put aside the pale of orthodoxy. Even the casual perusal of his major works would show the extent of his debt to Ibn Sina. This partial readmission of philosophy into the counsels of scholastic theology in Islam will continue throughout the two subsequent centuries. But the theological treatises of this period, such as the Commentary on Al-Mawaqif of Al-Iji (d. 1355) by Al-Jurjani and Al-Maqasid of Al-Taftazani (d. 1389) — reflect the general cultural decadence of the times. We can hardly expect to find in these treatises any original contribution to the question at issue. At best they are debased imitations of earlier treatises, which make up in length for what they lack in depth or originality.
- Les preuves de l’existence de Dieu dans la Théologie Musulmane, in Mededeelingen der Konink. Akademie van Wetenschappen, Deel 81, Serie A, No. 2, Amsterdam, 1936. [↩]
- Cambridge, 1937, pp. 249f. [↩]
- Ibid., p. 8 and again p. 9 [↩]
- Cf. op. cit., Cairo, 1935, p. 9 [↩]
- Fasl, p. 11 [↩]
- Kashf, p. 42 [↩]
- Ibid., p. 63 [↩]
- Stambul Ed., 1928, pp. 4-32 [↩]
- Cf. Maqalat, Stambul, 1930, pp. 372-3, 391 f., 471f. [↩]
- Cf. op. cit., p. 14 [↩]
- p. 24. In Nihayat al-Iqdam, Shahrastani ascribes this view to Al-Ash‘ari himself “who distinguished between the act of knowing God by means of reason and its certainty through it, stating that all knowledge is arrived at by means of reason but becomes a matter of religious obligation (tajib) by means of revelation.” p. 371 [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Ibid., p. 26 and Al-Shahrastani , Milal, p. 31 [↩]
- Cf. Kashf, p. 45 and Wensinck, op. cit., p. 23 [↩]
- Cf. Tahafut, Ed. Bouyges, 1927, p. 285 Cp. Hume, Treatise, Oxford 1941, p. 165, 93 [↩]
- Op. cit., pp. 26-27 [↩]
- Cf. on this question a discussion by the author on the eternity of the world in Maimonides, Averroes and Aquinas, in Les Museon, 1953, LXVI, pp. 139f [↩]
- Usul, p. 33 [↩]
- Cf. Tamhid, Cairo, 1947, p. 42, Cp. Maqalat, p. 370, where verses 8:67 and 46:24 of the Qur’an are quoted in support of the thesis that accidents are perishable by nature. [↩]
- Cf. Usul, p. 56 and Tahafut, p. 88. For a full discussion on this subject see my article in Al-Mashriq, 47, 1953, pp. 151-172, and Pines, Isalmische Atomanlehere, Berlin, 1936. [↩]
- Bk. I, Cairo, 1317 A. H., pp. 3 f. [↩]
- Some of Ibn Hazm’s arguments figure in a treatise by the philosopher Al-Kindi (d. 870?) entitled: “On the Unity of God and the Finitude of the Body of the Universe”. Cf. Rasa’il al-Kindi al Falsafiyyah, Cairo, 1950, pp. 201 ff. [↩]
- Tabyin Kadhib al-Mufatari, Damascus, 1347 A.H., p. 128 [↩]
- Niyahat, p. 11 [↩]
- Compare Al-Ghazali, Tahafut, p. 32 and Iqtisad, p. 18 [↩]
- It is noteworthy that the Arabic (awwal) corresponds to both “first” and “beginning” or “firstness”, hence the plausibility of this argument. [↩]
- Cf. Guide of the Perplexed, Eng., trans., London 1947, p. 109 and Al-Fihrist, Leipsig, 1871, Vol. I., p. 254. Cf. also De Boer’s statement on Al-Ghazali’s debt to Philoponus, History of Philosophy in Islam, London, 1903, p. 159. [↩]
- Cf. Tamhid Cairo, 1948, p. 45 [↩]
- Op. cit., Thus Al-Baqilani seems to antedate Al-Juwayni (1065) in formulating this last argument, which Wensinck ascribes to Al-Juwayni. [↩]
- Cf., op. cit., p. 54-56. Compare Wensinck. [↩]
- Ibid., p. 55. This statement should be revised in light of the more complete edition of Al-Baqilani’s Tamhid by Fr. R. J. McArthy, Beirut, 1957. [↩]
- Al-Farabi et sa Place dans l’école philosphique Arabe [↩]
- Op. cit., p. 16 [↩]
- I should perhaps note here that the earliest statement of the argument a novitate mundi is found in treatise of the philosopher Al-Kindi (d. 870?) already referred to. This statement is identical, in all essential respects, with the argument of the later Ash‘arite doctors. Al-Kindi, it will be recalled was a Mu‘tazilite in theology. [↩]
- Kitab al-Luma‘, Ed. Macarthy, Beyrouth, 1952, p. 6 This tallies with Shahrastani’s account of this argument in Nihayat, p. 12 and Milal, p. 66. [↩]
- Cf. al-Muqaddimah, ed. De Slane, p. 61 Cp. Gardet, Introduction, 1948, p. 72 [↩]
- Op. cit., p. 8 f. [↩]
- Cf. op. cit., Cairo, N.D., p. 14 [↩]
- Ibid., p. 137 [↩]
- Cf. e.g. Kitab al-Arba‘in, pp. 71, 77, 69, etc. [↩]
- Kitab al-Arba‘in was published in 1934, Wensinck’s article in 1936. Of Al-Razi’s works he only mentions Tawali‘ al-Anwar and Mafatih al-Ghayb. [↩]
- Kitab al-Najat, Cairo, 1331, pp. 347 and 363 [↩]
- Op. cit. p. 86 [↩]
- Op. cit. pp. 80-84 [↩]
- Compare Baidawi’s argument reported in Wensinck, op. cit., p, 13 [↩]
- Compare Ibn Sina, Al-Najat, Cairo, 1331, p. 383 [↩]
- This argument is analogous to one of Ibn Hazm’s arguments for the finitude of time –- cf. Fisal, I, p. 16 [↩]
- Kitab al-Arba‘in, p. 83 [↩]
Often the missionaries try to argue that the name for God is Yahweh, and that since the word (Allah) is not etymologically related to this name, it therefore follows that Muslims worship a different deity. However, what they fail to recognise is that it is etymologically accepted that the root word of (Elohim) which is eloh, is indeed:
[…]a cognate form of the word allah, the designation of deity used by the Arabs.1
This cannot be better exemplified than to see it in a Hebrew translation of the Qur’an.
Some explanation of the history behind the Hebrew translation of the Quran is needed. The first translation of the Qur’an into Hebrew was completed by a German Jew named Hermann Reckendorf in 1857. In 1936, a new translation by Joseph Joel Rivlin (Yosef Yo’el Rivlin) was published. Another translation, this one by Aharon Ben Shemesh, was released in 1971. The most recent was produced by Uri Rubin in 2005 and is published by Tel Aviv University Press.
Examples of Elohim In The Hebrew Quran
The following are some examples from the Hebrew translation of the Qur’an by Joseph Joel Rivlin, whereby the word “elohim” is consistently translated from the Arabic “allah” from the Qur’an in its original Arabic.
This appears in Qur’an 1:1 (Sura’ al-Fatiha) of the Hebrew translation2:
B’shem Elohim, ha-Rachaman, V’ha-Rachum
Compare it with the very same verse in the Arabic Qur’an:
Bismi-Allah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim
Both translate into English as: “In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.”3
Apart from the example given above, we would like to present more examples from the Hebrew translation of the Qur’an, which uses the word Elohim and Eloh. Note that the Hebrew translation always renders Ilah and Allah as Eloh and Elohim, respectively.
The following appears in Qur’an 3:2 of the Hebrew translation:
Elohim, ein eloh mibaladaiv, ha-Chai, ha-Qayam
The original Arabic rendering of Qur’an 3:2 is:
Allahu la ilaha ila huwal hayyul qayyum
which translates into English as: “God! There is no god but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal”.
The next image appears in Qur’an 3:18 of the Hebrew translation:
He’id Elohim ki ein eloh mibaladaiv, V’ha-Malakhim V’Anshei hada’at (ya’idu ken). Po’el tsedeq ein eloh mibaladaiv, ha-gibor, V’ha-chakam
The original Arabic rendering of Qur’an 3:18 would be:
Shaheeda-Allahu innahu la ilaha ila huwa wal malaikatu wa ulul `ilmi qaima bil qisti la ilaha ila huwal `azeezul hakeem
This translates into English as: “There is no god but He: That is the witness of God, His angels, and those endued with knowledge, standing firm on justice. There is no god but He, The Exalted in Power, The Wise”.
This last example is from Qur’an, 6:1 of the Hebrew translation:
HatT’hilah L’Elohim, asher bara et ha-shama’im V’et ha-arets, V’ya’as afelah V’orah…
The Arabic from Qur’an, 6:1 is:
Alhamdu-lillahi lazhee khalaqa’ as-sama waa ti wal-ardha wa-ja ‘alaazhu-lu mati wan-nuur…
The English translation is: “Praise be to God, Who created the heavens and the earth and made the darkness and the light….”
The similarities are so obvious that it can no longer be denied — in the face of this linguistic evidence — that Elohim is indeed related to the word Allah, as both Hebrew and Arabic are sister languages in the Semitic family. Much like how there are examples of Allah in the Arabic Bible, the above examples will demonstrate that there are no differences in meaning when “Allah” in Arabic and “Elohim” in Hebrew are used interchangeably.
Insha’allah, the comparisons above will help quell the doubts of those who have been duped into believing that “Muslims worship a different god” by Christian missionary propaganda, and which some missionaries had even gone so far as to say that “Allah” is the name of a moon god.
And only God knows best.
- W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Exposition Dictionary, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1996. [↩]
- See Yosef Yo’el Rivlin, Alkur’an / tirgem me-`Arvit, Devir, Tel Aviv (1936-1945). More information is available here. [↩]
- We have referred to A. Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an: Text, Translation, and Commentary for the English translation of the Basmalah and the later translations of the Quranic verses involved. [↩]
“He it is who cleaves out the morning, and makes the night a repose, and the sun and the moon two reckonings (of Time). That is the decree of the Mighty, the Wise.” [Qur’an 6:97]
For years the Christian missionaries have been entertaining the idea that “Allah” of the Qur’an was, in fact, Allah the moon god of the Kaaba and a pagan Arab “moon god” of pre-Islamic times. This theory was first popularised by a fanatical, mid-Western closet-fascist polemicist by the name of Dr Robert Morey, of which his deceptive methods have already been exposed in the past.
The following page is found in “Appendix C: The Moon God And Archaelogy” from Morey’s The Islamic Invasion and lies at the heart of the missionary propaganda today1:
Naturally the missionaries get very excited at the idea of anything that has the “potential” of demeaning Islam and lifted (or should we say, plagiarised) this claim of Morey. This “theory” later became widespread and gained notoriety among gullible Christians, so much so that Jack T. Chick, another Christian polemicist, drew a fictionalised racist cartoon story entitled “Allah Has No Son”. More examples of this opportunistic propaganda being repeated at various missionary websites all over the WWW  could also be found.
We have previously discussed the word “Allah” from an etymological perspective, as well as having shown how the word “Allah” is consistently translated as “Elohim” in a Hebrew translation of the Qur’an. It is obvious that these “pseudo-scholars” have no idea about what they are dealing with, much less understand the subject matter.
Therefore, our intention here to expose the ignorance these missionaries have about one of the best-known objects from Israel/Palestine and is now currently on exhibition in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. The findings in this paper has also been incorporated in Islamic Awareness‘ latest publication, Reply to Robert Morey’s Moon-God Allah Myth: A Look At The Archaeological Evidence, of which this author is one of the co-writers.
The Shrine At Hazor (Area C)
It is known among Near Eastern archeological circles that the statue which the missionaries claim to be the “moon-god Allah” (as parroted from Robert Morey) comes from the ruins of Hazor (Area C), a very prominent bronze-age city in Galilee (in present-day Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories) and belongs to a shrine, 4.75 x 3.4 m in size, furnished with an offering table, a lion orthostat, the statue in question, and ten stelae, all made from regional black basalt.2
The shrine is described as follows:
At Hazor, a small shrine in Area C of the Lower City probably served families residing nearby. It comprised a single broad room and was built on the inner slope of the Middle Bronze Age rampart. A row of eleven stelae was erected in this room-the central one of which was carved in relief, depicting two hands in prayer posture below a moon-and-crescent symbol. The shrine included also a miniature relief of a crouching lion, a statue of a sitting male figure (possibly depicting a god or a priest) and an offering table made of one stone slab.3
The central stelae show a pair of hands raised (stipulated to be in adoration) below a crescent plus circle symbol, usually considered to depict the crescent moon plus the full moon. The other stelae are plain. Therefore the whole shrine has been interpreted as referring to the moon-cult.
Description of The Hazor Statue
It is without a shadow of a doubt that Robert Morey has attempted to present the Hazor statue as “the moon god”. Note the following description of Diagram #1 by Morey:
- “The Moon god on all four sides…”
Now let us focus on discussing the object itself4, which is currently being fawned upon by the rabid Christian missionaries and paraded by them as the “moon god idol, Allah.
The statue — 40 cm in height — depicts a male person with an inverted crescent suspended from his necklace and holding a cup in his right hand, certainly as an offering.
The statue was found decapitated, and the head was discovered lying on a floor at a lower level. It depicts a man, possibly a priest, seated on a cubelike stool. He is beardless with a shaven head; his skirt ends below his knees in an accentuated hem; his feet are bare. He holds a cup in his right hand, while his left, clenched into a fist, rests on his left knee. An inverted crescent is suspended from his necklace.5
Pictures and descriptions of the shrine and the statue may be found in virtually every comprehensive publication on the archaeology of Israel/Palestine.6
Is this statue, therefore, the “Allah” of the Muslims? The answer is an obvious no. The statue is not even an “idol” at all — it does not represent any deity, but a human worshipper or priest of a deity which may well have been a Canaanite moon god.7 The statue is also described in a caption as a “Basalt statue of deity or king from the stelae temple”.8
But one is compelled to ask, was the decapitation of the head of the statue intentional or otherwise and if so, what was its significance?
This was addressed by Beth Alpert Nakhai as follows:
A decapitated basalt statue of a seated man, his head lying nearby, was also found in the niche. This statue resembled the decapitated statue from the Orthostat Temple and again the intentional beheading is considered indicative of the individual’s special status….9
It should be noted that there are indeed dissenting opinions among scholars as to the nature of the statue, of which the more popular opinions are (a) a god, (b) a king, or (c) a priest.10
But to the scholars who reject opinion (a), it seems illogical that a god should hold offering vessels in his hand(s); the god is usually the one who receives offerings, therefore the statue should, in all probability depict a worshipper to a god, who himself is in a way considered present, either invisibly or in the upright stones (stelae) of the sanctuary.
Further, how could a god’s statue be arranged anywhere but in the centre of the sanctuary? The statue in question is seated at the left fringes of the shrine, which can hardly be the proper position for a revered god.
Regardless of the differing opinions, however, certainly no serious scholar — including those who considered the possibility that it could be a god — has ever identified the statue with Allah.
It is clear that, contrary to what Robert Morey or the Christian missionaries would like to themselves admit, the figure presented as the “moon-god” is not even remotely connected to Islam, much less related to the pantheon of the pre-Islamic Arab deities in the city of Makkah and their claim is swiftly refuted by solid, overwhelming archaeological evidence.
Moreover, this figure was found in the ancient ruins of Hazor (located in present-day Israel) and is not necessarily believed to have even represented a deity.
In commenting on the issue, the Bible scholar and missionary Rick Brown admit that:
It is sometimes claimed that there is a temple to the moon god at Hazor in Palestine. This is based on a representation thereof a supplicant wearing a crescent-like pendant. It is not clear, however, that the pendant symbolizes a moon god, and in any case this is not an Arab religious site but an ancient Canaanite site, which was destroyed by Joshua in about 1250 BC.11
Thus, the contents of the Morey’s inconsequential polemic of the so-called “cult” of the moon-god, most especially the “Allah Hazor statue” polemic, have got nothing to do with serious ancient Near Eastern scholarship and should, therefore, be utterly dismissed outright by any objective person. Its obvious intention is clearly to defame Muslims and the religion of Islam — and nothing else.
We would also like to add that the findings in this paper has also been incorporated in Islamic Awareness‘ latest publication, Reply to Robert Morey’s Moon-God Allah Myth: A Look At The Archaeological Evidence, of which this author is one of the co-writers.
The paper also looks at various aspects of the propagation of the moon-god myth not covered in the scope of this article, therefore we would implore the interested readers to have a look at the paper by Islamic Awareness in order to understand how the argument that “Allah is the moon-god” is, at best, fallacious.
And only Allah knows best!
The author would like to thank Dr. Stefan J. Wimmer from the University of Munich and the Friends of Abraham Society for the help offered in obtaining information and the relevant material on the statue of Hazor. Dr. Wimmer is not associated with bismikaallahuma.org.
- Robert Morey, The Islamic Invasion: Confronting The World’s Fastest-Growing Religion (Harvest House Publishers, 1992), p. 214 [↩]
- Yigael Yadin, Hazor (Hoffman und Campe, Hamburg, 1976), pp. 44-45 [↩]
- Amihai Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible (Doubleday, 1990), pp. 253-54 [↩]
- Yigael Yadin, op. cit. [↩]
- Treasures of The Holy Land: Ancient Art From The Israel Museum (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY:1986), p. 107 [↩]
- See for example Amnon Ben-Tor (ed.), The Archaeology of Ancient Israel (New Haven, London, 1992) and Ephraim Stern (ed.), The New Encyclopedia of Archeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Vol 2 (The Israel Exploration Society, Carta, Jerusalem), cf. the rest of the cited scholarly works in this article (with the exception of Morey’s polemical work). [↩]
- For the worship of the moon in the Canaanite realm the most recent comprehensive treatment is Gabriele Theuer, Der Mondgott in den Religionen Syrien-Palaestinas, OBO 173, Fribourg (Switzerland), 2000 (in German). [↩]
- Michael Avi-Yonah (ed., English), Encyclopedia of Archeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Vol. II (The Israel Exploration Society and Massada Press, Jerusalem, 1976), p. 476 [↩]
- Beth Alpert Nakhai, Archaelogy and the Religions of Canaan and Israel, (American Schools of Oriental Research, 2001), p. 130 [↩]
- Yigael Yadin in Hazor (Hoffman und Campe, Hamburg, 1976) proposed all three opinions, of which he argues in favour of the first opinion, i.e. that the statue is a deity. However, he certainly neither makes mention of nor does he connect the statue to Allah. [↩]
- Rick Brown, Who Is “Allah”?, International Journal of Frontier Missions 23:2 (Summer 2006), p. 79 [↩]
Apart from the claim that “Allah” is the name of the moon god, the Christian missionaries also tend assert this claim by questioning why the crescent moon in Islam is used as a symbol to represent the religion, or why is the crescent moon or full moon used in Islam to mark a new month in the Islamic lunar calendar.
They engage into the logical fallacy of equivocation to justify their allegation; since Muslims use the crescent symbol to represent Islam, it therefore also follows that Muslims worship some kind of “moon god” and Islam is the religion of the moon god.
However, this is no more truer than claiming that since Judaism adopts the Star of David symbol, it follows that the Jews considers it as an object for worship, or that Christians worship the Crucifix since it is used as its symbol.
Does The Crescent Symbol Represent A Deity?
To begin, let us define the meaning of the Arabic word “Allah”, as used by Muslims to refer to God. Lane’s Lexicon defines the meaning of the word “Allah” as referring to “the only true god”:
However, let us now look at a different approach to the issue, i.e. the purpose of the moon in Islam, and a comparison of this with the other Abrahamic religions, namely Judaism and Christianity.
This paper will attempt to explain the significance of the crescent moon in Islam and repudiate the idea that Islam condones moon worship, insha’Allah.
Islam and the Crescent Moon
Islam never teaches nor does it expound moon worship. It, in fact, repudiates it, as the following verse confirms:
“Among His Signs are the Night and the Day and the Sun and Moon. Prostrate (adore) not to the Sun and the Moon but prostrate to God, Who created them, if it is Him ye wish to serve.” (Qur’an, 41: 37)
So what is the function of the moon in Islam? The only function it plays in Islam is that it determines the Islamic lunar calendar. The Qur’an confirms this when it speaks of the moon being subject to God’s Law.
We read the following verse:
“They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the new moons. Say, “They are measurements of time for the people and for Hajj.” And it is not righteousness to enter houses from the back, but righteousness is [in] one who fears Allah. And enter houses from their doors. And fear Allah that you may succeed.” (Qur’an, 2:189)
We are also informed of the following:
“Seest thou not that God merges Night into Day and He merges Day into Night; that he has subjected the sun and the moon (to His Law), each running its course for a term appointed: and that God is well acquainted with all that ye do?” (Qur’an, 31:29)
If Allah” (God) is indeed the “moon god” as claimed by misguided Christians, why would that very same “moon-god” create the moon for the use of mankind?
In short, the claim that Muslims worship “Allah the moon-god” simply because of the crescent symbol is nothing but a heinous lie which is not based on any concrete evidence.
Judaism and the Moon
It is interesting to note that the Jews also adopt the lunar calendar to mark their holy festivals. The Jewish religious calendar, of Babylonian origin, consists of 12 lunar months, amounting to about 354 days. Six times in a 19-year cycle a 13th month is added to adjust the calendar to the solar year. The day is reckoned from sunset to sunset.2
The moon also plays an important role in a symbolic comparison with the Jewish nation. We reproduce below an article written by Rabbi Avrohom Berger that states as such.
The article above would clearly refute the nonsense that Islam based its calendar on the moon because it was a religion of the moon god, for if Islam was really the religion of the moon god, what is the religion of the Jews who used (and still use) the lunar calendar and constantly analogizes itself to the moon?
In fact, a Jewish site confirmed the above by stating:
The Jewish Nation has been likened to the moon. Our history, cyclical in nature, waxes and wanes like the moon through its cycle hidden at times, but always reemerging to full blossom.3
Condemning the Jewish religion as “moon worship” based on the “logic” (or rather, the lack of it!) of the Christian missionaries would, however, lead to serious implications that could undermine their own faith, as Jesus(P) was a learned Rabbi and faithful Jew himself. However, they have no qualms condemning Islam for using the lunar calendar. Such double standards are not alien to Christian thought, after all the end justifies the means, just as Paul did the same.
Christianity and The Sun
We have seen that both Judaism and Islam, as in the tradition of Semitic culture, use the lunar calendar to mark their months. The question now is why Christianity adopted the solar calendar, instead of the lunar?
As surprising as it may seem to the missionary, the adoption of the sun as the official calendar of ‘Christianity’ occurred as late as 325 C.E. and was due to the prevailing pagan influences of sun worship. Christians chose to celebrate the birth of Jesus on 25th December because this was the date of an already existing festival of the Sol Invictus was expressed in an annotation to a manuscript of a work by 12th-century Syrian bishop Jacob Bar-Salibi. The scribe who added it wrote:
“It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries, the Christians also took part. Accordingly, when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day.”4
The cult of the sun-god was the most popular creed at the advent of Jesus(P) and was prevalent in all the countries into which the religion called “Christianity” was later introduced in. Pagan gods such as Apollo or Dionysus among the Greeks, Hercules among the Romans, Mithra among the Persians, and Osiris, Isis and Horus in Egypt et. al., are all sun-gods5.
In the face of the evidence, one cannot help but conclude that the adoption of the solar calendar is certainly due to the strong Hellenistic influences of the sun-god cult during its adoption.
It is clear that the creation of a calendar is for the purpose of keeping time in perspective. Time is measured in relative terms, from sunrise to sunset; from the time the sun casts the shortest shadow to the same time the next day; from one harvest time to another.
In ancient times, the phases of the moon were an easy means of measuring the passage of time. The first calendars were lunar calendars. Ancient civilizations such as the Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians and the Chinese used the lunar calendar.
Consequently, the Semitic culture also adopted this calendar which includes Judaism and Islam, with the exception of Christianity using the solar calendar due to pagan Hellenistic influences from the Greco-Roman culture. Clearly, the purpose of the crescent moon in Islam is nothing more than to keep track of dates and months as Islam adopts and utilises the lunar calendar. In light of this fact, Islam, therefore, uses the crescent symbol to represent the religion graphically. There is no logical reason to associate the lunar calendar of Islam with moon worship.
And certainly, only God knows best!
- Edward William Lane, An Arabic-English Lexicon (London: Willams & Norgate, 1863), under the entry “Allah” (Ar.) [↩]
- http://www.webear.com/reliengl.htm#*top4 [↩]
- http://www.judaism.com/calendar2000/backgroud.htm [↩]
- Ramsay MacMullen, “Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries” (Yale, 1997), p. 155 [↩]
- See Ahmad Zidan, Christianity: Myth or Message?, A.S. Noordeen (Malaysia), 1995 [↩]
When Muslims confront the Christian missionaries with the etymological evidence that the word Allah is indeed related to the word Elohim, the missionaries are very quick to point out that (YHWH) is the “Divine Name” for The Deity that they worship and that since Muslims are not taught about this “Divine Name” of God, it therefore follows that Muslims are calling upon God wrongly.
This is not a new argument from the missionary.
When the Prophet Muhammad(P) was in Madinah, the Jews of Madinah offered a similar objection, claiming that Muslims should not refer to The Deity by merely calling Him Allah.
Thus, the following Qur’anic verse was revealed to reply to the objection:
“Say: Call upon “Allah or call upon “Rahman”; By whatever name ye call upon Him (it is well): for to Him belong the most beautiful names.” (Qur’an, 17:110)
We should also note the following observations regarding the claim:
1. First of all, the very first word in Genesis 1:1 is “Elohim”, not ‘Yahweh’. The word YHWH only started appearing in Genesis 2:4, and even then, it was almost always accompanied with the word “Elohim”, as in “Yahweh Elohim”.
2. According to The New Strong’s Exhausive Concordance of the Bible, the word Yahweh is “…the Jewish national name of God”. In short, this is the name that only the Jews themselves use. Compare this with the entry for Elohim, in the same reference: “…specially used of the supreme God”
3. The final point is that according to the Christian belief itself, the name Yahweh is only used for the old covenant context, and not valid for Christians, who believe that they are in a new covenant. This is evident when nowhere in the New Testament does the word Yahweh appear.
As John Gilchrist says:
… While the name Yahweh appears throughout the Old Testament in the original Hebrew text, it appears nowhere in the books of the New Testament, not even in the original Greek texts. In 0ld Testament times Yahweh was the name of the covenant God of Israel (Exodus 3.15), but the Lord has never used this name in a new covenant context. The coming of Jesus Christ brought about a major change in God’s relationship with his people. Now he is projected solely as the Father of all true believers, Jew and Gentile alike, without any distinction being made between them (Romans 10.12). The name Yahweh was used solely in an old covenant context and the New Testament plainly states that the old covenant has become “obsolete” (Hebrews 8.13) and that it has been entirely “abolished” (Hebrews 10.9). For this reason one never finds the name Yahweh in the New Testament – it was relevant only to the people of Israel in old covenant times….The New Testament deliberately avoids the use of the name Yahweh and the only possible translation of theos into Arabic is Allah
On a side note, we refer to Mark 15:34 where Jesus(P) is reported to have cried out in Aramaic:
- ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?
Which is translated into English as:
My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?
According to The New Strong’s Exhausive Concordance of the Bible, the defination of eloi is as follows:
eloi [ELWI] of Aramaic origin, 0426 with pronominal stuff.; n m AV – Eloi 2; 2; Eloi = “my-God”; 1) Aramaic for the phrase “my-God”
If the claim is that Yahweh is the so-called “true” name of God, then why instead of calling out:
ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?
Jesus(P) could have instead just cried out:
YAHWEH, YAHWEH, LAMA SABACHTHANI?
This shows that the claim that Yahweh is the “only true name” for God certainly does not hold water. Jesus(P) did refer to God as “Eloi”, or “Eli” (according to Matthew 27:46).
So are we expected to believe that Jesus(P) was ignorant of this “true name” of God when he called upon Him as “Eli” (of which its trilateral root-word is related to the root of the Arabic word Allah) instead of Yahweh, and Christians who only exist 2000 years later are “aware” of the “true name” of God?
We think not!
It seems that the missionaries have created more problems than they think they had solved. And certainly, only God knows best!