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An important pre-Islamic, Christian trilingual Greek-Syriac-Arabic inscription from Zabad.

Reader comment on item: Is Allah God? - Continued
in response to reader comment: Variant 'concepts' of GOD ....

Submitted by zzazzeefrazzee (United States), Mar 5, 2008 at 19:24

Oliver- once again, I disagree. I am a not a Muslim, but I can tell you that I do support the use of the term "Allah" by my Arab Christian friends, and there is very real pre-Islamic historical precedent for this.


C. Rabin. in his entry "Arabiyya", in "Encyclopedie de l'Islam", 2nd ed.,I (Leiden et Paris, 1960, pp.579a-622b), suggests that Northern Arabic characters used by the Quran were created by the Chistian Missionaries of Hira, centuries before Islam. A tri-lingual Greek, Syriac, and Arabic inscription in Zabad (or "Zebed) dated to 512 in Aleppo states "With the help of God (الاله)! Sergius, son of Amat Manaf, and Tobi, son of Imru'l-qais and Sergius, son of Sa‘d, and Sitr, and Shouraih."

الاله or al-Ilah, become sthe word الله "Allah" when it is elided. Such elision is a common feature of many languages around the world, not just Arabic. So it woudl appear that the use of the name "ilah" together with the definite article "al", does in fact exist among Christians from BEFORE the advent of Islam. The use of the definite article is definitely an expression of monotheism (as mentioned in the Cathlic Encyclopedia Entry that you previously posted), not an expression exclusive to Islam. Why was this done? The answer is simple; the term "the divine" was used to differentiate Christian monotheistic belief to Arab pagan beliefs by CHRISTIAN missionaries. These Christian missionaries directly influenced the development of the Arabic script.

So it would appear that there is a very real historical precedent, and that your argument would in fact DEPRIVE Christians of a usage that they can rightfully claim. So what if the Islamic and Christian (and Jewish) concepts of God are different? That does not mean that these words refer to different gods, but simply different understandings by humans of the nature of God.


If you don't like using "Allah" , well, then fine. More power to you! Yet I will remain adamant that you have no right to claim that Arabic-speaking Christians who use the word are are in doctrinal "error", are being "politically correct", or expressing their "dhimminess", by using this term, when this historical evidence proves that there is historical precedent for this usage. By denying this, you deny the Arabic-speaking Christians their own very real pre-Islamic heritage, and for no other reason than a lack of conformity to your own chosen dogma. Note that if you are prepared to respond and tell me that الاله is not the same as الّله, you would necessarily have to retract your prior arguments about the usage of the definite article.

See:

M. A. Kugener, "Nouvelle Note Sur L'Inscription Trilingue De Zébed", Rivista Degli Studi Orientali, 1907, pp. 577-586. Pl. I facing p. 586.

A. Grohmann, Arabische Paläographie II: Das Schriftwesen. Die Lapidarschrift, 1971, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften Philosophisch - Historische Klasse: Denkschriften 94/2. Hermann Böhlaus Nachf.: Wein, p. 14 and p. 16.

B. Gruendler, The Development Of The Arabic Scripts: From The Nabatean Era To The First Islamic Century According To The Dated Texts, 1993, Harvard Semitic Series No. 43, Scholars Press: Atlanta (GA), pp. 13-14.

For a more nuanced discussion sans bias, dogma, and sectarian prejudice, here is the entry from the 2nd Encyclopedia of Islam:

MacDonald, D.B. "Ilāh." Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2008. Brill Online.

Ilāh

(a.), pl. āliha, "deity", appears in pre-Islamic poetry (see, e.g., F. Bustānī , al-Mad̲j̲ānī al-ḥadīt̲h̲a , i, index) as an impersonal divine name, although preceded by the article; for the Christians and (so far as the poetry ascribed to them is authentic) the monotheists, al- ilāh evidently means God; for the other poets it means merely "the one who is worshipped", so that al-ilāh indicates: "the god already mentioned" (the article being used li 'l-ʿahd) or "the god of whom the poet is thinking", and this use has survived to the present day ( ʿAbd al- Ilāh); but ilāh without the article seems to have been used only in the Islamic period to indicate a specific deity. By frequency of usage, al-ilāh was contracted to Allāh , frequently attested in pre-Islamic poetry (where this name cannot in every case have been substituted for another), and then became a proper name ( ism ʿalam ). But whilst the form al-ilāh is not found in the Ḳurʾān , allāh seems in some cases to have preserved the same meaning: thus (VI, 3) wa-huwa 'l-lāhu fi 'l-samawāti "and he is the deity in the heavens" (cf. Zamak̲h̲s̲h̲arī , Kas̲h̲s̲h̲āf, ed. Lees, 394), and in XXVIII, 70, huwa 'l-lāhu 'l-lad̲h̲ī lā ilāha illā huwa , "he is the deity other than whom there is no deity" (cf. Kas̲h̲s̲h̲āf, 1064), in which the juxtaposition of allāh/ilāh is noteworthy.

Ilāh is certainly identical with and represents an expanded form of an element -l- (il, el) common to the Semitic languages (see Enc. Biblica, iii, col. 3323 ff.; Brown-Driver-Briggs, Hebr. Lex., 42 f.; Genesius-Buhl, Hebr. und aram. Wörterbuch, s.v.; Fleischer, Kleinere Schriften, i, 15 ff.; T. Fahd , Le Panthéon de l'Arabie centrale, Paris 1968, 41, and bibliography there given). The Arab philologists discussed at great length the etymology of the words ilāh and allāh (see al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-g̲h̲ayb , Cairo 1307, i, 83 f.; Sprenger, Das Leben, i, ch. 3, app. c). The Baṣrans established no direct connexion between ilāh and allāh , regarding the latter either as formed spontaneously (murtad̲j̲al) or as lāh (from the root lyh) preceded by the article. Some held that allāh was a loan from Syriac or Hebrew, but most regarded the proper name Allāh as a derivative (mus̲h̲taḳḳ, manḳūl), a contraction of al-ilāh, and endeavoured to attach ilāh to a triliteral root; to explain it (see also al-Bayḍāwī , ed. Fleischer, i, 4), some ten derivations were suggested, from the following "roots": (1) ʾlh "to adore", but as al-Zamak̲h̲s̲h̲arī pointed out (Kas̲h̲s̲h̲āf, 8), the verb alaha is derived from the noun; aliha, "to be perplexed, confounded", for the mind is confounded in the experience of knowing Allāh (waliha has the same meaning); aliha ilā, "to turn to for protection, or to seek peace, or in longing" (waliha has a similar meaning); (2) lyh, whence lāha "to be lofty" and "to be hidden" (opinion of the Baṣrans); (3) lwh, whence lāha, "to create"; (4) ʾwl and ʾyl, roots conveying the idea of "priority"; (5) Abū 'l-Baḳāʾ al-Kaffawī, Kulliyyāt al-ʿulūm, Būlāḳ 1953, 69, regards the word Allāh as formed fromhāʾ , the "noun of majority" and pronoun of the 3rd person, and the lām of possession.

On the other hand, lexicographers have pointed out that the termination -īl in some South Arabian proper names indicates the deity; on this question, see G. Ryckmans, Les noms propres sud-sémitiques, Louvain 1934-5, passim; for ʾil in the South Arabian inscriptions , see A. Jamme, Le Panthéon sud-arabe préislamique d'après les sources épigraphiques, in Le Muséon, lx (1947), 57-147.

Submitting....

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