The word Allah, according to several Arabic lexicons, means “the Being Who comprises all the attributes of perfection”, i.e. the Being Who is perfect in every way (in His knowledge, power etc.), and possesses the best and the noblest qualities imaginable in the highest degree. This meaning is supported by the Holy Quran when it says:
“His are the best (or most beautiful) names.” (17:110; 20:8; and 7:180)
Contrary to popular belief, the word Allah is NOT a contraction of al-ilah (al meaning ‘the’, and ilahmeaning ‘god’).
Had it been so, then the expression ya Allah (‘O Allah!’) would have been ungrammatical, because according to the Arabic language when you address someone by the vocative form ya followed by a title, the al (‘the’) must be dropped from the title. For example, you cannot say ya ar-rabb but must say ya rabb (for ‘O Lord’). So if the word Allah was al-ilah (‘the God’), we would not be able to say: ya Allah, which we do.
Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon (which is based on classical Arabic dictionaries), says under the word Allah, while citing many linguistical authorities:
“Allah … is a proper name applied to the Being Who exists necessarily, by Himself, comprising all the attributes of perfection, a proper name denoting the true god … the al being inseparable from it, not derived…”
Allah is thus a proper name, not derived from anything, and the Al is inseparable from it. The word al-ilah(the god) is a different word.
The word Allah is unique among the names of God in all the languages of mankind, in that it was never applied to any being other than God. The pre-Islamic Arabs used it to refer to the Supreme Being, and never applied it to any of the other things they worshipped. Other names of God used by mankind, such as “lord”, “god”, “khuda”, etc. have all also been used for beings other than God. They have meanings which refer to some particular attribute of God, but “Allah” is the name which refers to the Being Himself as His personal name.
The Holy Quran itself refers to the uniqueness of the name Allah when it says:
“Do you know anyone who can be named along with Him?” (19:65)
Arabic is the only language, and Islam is the only religion, that has given the personal name of God (as distinct from attributive names such as lord, god, the most high, etc.) There are clear prophecies in previous scriptures (the Bible, the Vedas etc.) about the man who will come and give the name of God, which in previous religions was regarded as a secret.
- David prophesied:
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Psalms 118:26).
This is also repeated in the Gospels (Matt. 21:9, etc.), and was fulfilled by the Holy Prophet Muhammad whose first revelation was “Read in the name of thy Lord” (the Quran, 96:1).
- Zechariah prophesied:
“And the Lord shall be king over all the earth, in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one.” (Zech. 14:9)
All Muslims, anywhere on the earth, speaking totally different languages, recognise the name “Allah”, thus fulfilling this prophecy, “his name one”. (All Christians, to take an example, do not recognise a single name of God, and therefore do not fulfil this prophecy.)
- Isaiah prophesied:
“And in that day shall you say, Praise the Lord, call upon His name.” (Isaiah 12:4)
So Muslims say repeatedly exactly this: al-hamdu li-llah, and call upon His name Allah.
An objection answered.
The following objection has been raised regarding the name Allah:
Al -‘The’, lah – ‘God’. It means the God. It was one of the gods worshipped by the Arabs. His female equivalent was Allat, al– ‘the’, Lat ‘goddess’. Muhammed’s followers did not like the concept of worshipping a female diety.
“Allah” was NOT “one of the gods” of the pre-Islamic Arabs, but was recognised by them as the supreme, abstract God. There was no idol which they called “Allah”. The Quran quotes the idol-worshippers as presenting the argument that:
“We worship them (i.e. the idols) only so that they may bring us nearer to Allah.” (39:3)
Obviously then, “Allah” was not just one of the gods.
It is also entirely wrong to say that Al-Lat was a feminine form of Allah. Besides Allah, the different tribes of the Arabs believed in their tribal gods. “Al-Lat” was the tribal god of the Thaqeef tribe who lived in the city of Taif (where there was a shrine with an idol of Lat). The Quraish worshipped Uzza as their tribal god, and similarly with other tribes.
So it is simply incorrect to say that the Arabs regarded Lat as being a female equivalent of “Allah”. “Allah” was, as said above, regarded by them as their supreme God. Lat, Manat etc. were believed in as tribal gods.
Moreover, Lat, Manat and Uzza were believed by them to be daughters of Allah, as the Quran says:
“Have you then considered Lat and Uzza, and the third, Manat? Are the males for you and for Him the females” (53:19-21).
The Quran is here pointing out the contradiction in their beliefs, that they ascribed daughters to Allah, but preferred to have sons themselves! So Lat being believed as a daughter of Allah, could not possibly be regarded by them as the female equivalent of Allah.
In Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon the words ilah (god) and Allah occur under the root A-L-H, but the word Al-lat is given under an entirely different root L-T. Therefore, “Al-lat” is not the feminine form of the word Allah (for in that case it would occur under the same root as for “Allah”), but is derived from a completely different root with a totally different meaning.
The root from which al-lat comes means (among other things) “to moisten”. Lane quotes several reports on how the idol came to be so called. It is named after a man called Al-Lat. Sometime before Islam, there was a man who used to give pilgrims a barley meal (known as saweek), moistened with either water or clarified butter. He thus became known as Al-lat. After he died, the rock where he was buried came to be worshipped and was known by his name. And thus there came to be the idol named Al-lat.
ref: Converting to Islam