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Is Allah a generic term for God?

by Dr. Louis A. Turk

Is "Allah" a generic term for Jehovah God in the Arabic language? Or is "Allah" always the personal name of the Muslims' God?

Knowing the true meaning of "Allah" matters greatly

There are those who contend that in countries dominated by Islam the word used for God in Bible translations must always be "Allah." Others contend that "Allah" is never the generic term for God in Arabic, but is the proper name of the Muslims' God. What is the truth? Read on and you will find out.

In this article, we will examine the meaning of the term "Allah" in the Quran. This is a short article, but requires clicking on a link, and typing in some search terms. You will easily be able to arrive at the glaring truth this article proves if you are diligent to do the minimum amount of work involved.

What "Allah" means in the Quran

The crucial question is, What does the word "Allah" mean to the vast majority of the population in a country dominated by Muslims? Clearly, its meaning to Muslims is going to be determined by how it is used in the Quran. If a Bible translator has a genuine desire for all of the population in such a country to understand the God and gospel of the Bible, then he must not use the term "Allah" illegitimately in his translation. If a Bible translator uses "Allah" in his translation in a manner and meaning that is different than the manner and meaning in which it is used in the Quran, then (1) Muslims are going to misunderstand the Bible message, and (2) Muslims are going to reject that translation as obviously not accurate.

So how is the term "Allah" used in the Quran? Let's let Arabic-speaking, Muslim scholars show us the answer. Below this paragraph is the link to a web page on a website dedicated to the study of the Quran: The Quranic Arabic Corpus ( is an international collaborative linguistic project initiated at the University of Leeds in London, England, UK. Please open that page in a seperate window so that you can switch back and forth between it and my comments in this article.

Note that there are three words examined on that web page. All three words are from the same triliteral (three letter) root: hamza lām hā (أ ل ه). The three words are:

  1. The common noun: ilāh (إِلَٰه).
  2. The proper noun: Allah (ٱللَّه).
  3. The form of address: Allahumma (ٱللَّهُمَّ).

For the purpose of this artice, Allahumma (ٱللَّهُمَّ), meaning "O Allah," can be logically considered with the proper noun Allah.

Though having the same triliteral root, ilāh (إِلَٰه), and Allah (ٱللَّه) are entirely different words, are used in different ways, and have different meanings.

What is so helpful about the web site in that the Arabic words are transliterated. In other words, the characters of the Arabic alphabet are represented in the characters of our English alphabet, so that English-speaking people can more easily read them. So, إِلَٰه becomes ilāh, and ٱللَّه becomes Allah. Arabic is written right to left, so transliteration into left-to-right English helps a lot.

To fully understand the difference between ilah and Allah, it is necessary to understand the difference between a common noun and a proper noun.

It is important to note that at the very top of this web page we are plainly told that Allah is a proper noun—it is not a generic term for God or god. Instead, we see that ilah is the generic term for God or god in Arabic. So, ilah means god or God, and Allah means Allah. Proper nouns are generally not translated, but merely transliterated.

Scrolling down the web page we see first a list of all the uses of ilah in the Quran. Then we see a list of all the uses of Allah in the Quran. And last we see all the uses of allahumma in the Quran. Note that these lists are composed of four columns. The first column contains numbers specifying the book, chapter, and verse in which the word is found. The second column contains the transliterated word. The third column contains the English translation of the word. And the fourth column contains a portion of the verse in which the word is found—shown in Arabic script—with the word itself in red.

It is also important to note in the second column that Arabic words are are given prefixes and/or suffixes depending on the context in which they are used in sentences. This and the shape of the letters of the Arabic alphabet make Arabic confusing to someone just beginning to study it. But the truth about the meaning of Allah is easy enough to see with the help of this web page.

Scrolling through the first list, please note carefully that, in the Quran, ilah always means god, or gods, or God. It is never used as a proper noun.

Scrolling through the next two lists, please note that, in the Quran, Allah is always used an a proper noun specifying the personal name of the God of Islam. Never—not even one single time— is Allah used in the Quran as a generic term for God. Allah is never a common noun. Allah is always a proper noun.

Advocates of the use of Allah as a generic term for God will often say, "Allah simply means 'The God,' so it is OK for us to pray and sing praises to Allah." For the sake of argument, let's assume that it is true that Allah simply means "The God." The fact is a proper noun remains a proper noun no matter what its meaning. The meaning of a name cannot magically change the name into a common noun. "Allah" is still a proper noun—the personal name to the Muslims' god—no matter what the name Allah might mean. Allah is not a common noun. Allah is not a generic term for God.

Consider this: Baal simply means "lord." Strong's data for Baal: "01168 בַּעַל Ba`al {bah'-al} Meaning: Baal = "lord" n pr m 1) supreme male divinity of the Phoenicians or Canaanites." So, when the Israelites "forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth" (Jdg. 2:13 KJV), were they actually still serving Jehovah—our Lord? Of course not. The name Baal did not magically change from a proper noun into a common noun simply because it means "lord." Baal was still the personal name of a pagan god; the meaning of the name "Baal" did not justify the Israelites using the term "Baal" in reference to the true and living Lord God. Nor does the meaning of Allah (assuming it actually means "The God") justify modern day Christians using "Allah" in reference to the one and only true and living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Just for the record, to say "Jehovah is the God" in Arabic, one does not say "Jehovah is ٱللَّه (Allah)." Rather one says "Jehovah is إِلَٰهِ (ilāhi)" or some other form of ilāh based on the context. But don't take my word for it. At the top of the web page referenced throughout this article, type "the God" in the search window, and then click "Show options" and chose "Search for an exact phrase," to see for yourself. In the third column look for "(the) god" or "(the) God," then in the second column note the transliterated Arabic word, and in the last column note the word in Arabic characters (emphasised in red). Note that not even once does ٱللَّه (Allah) come up in your search.

"How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal" (Jer. 23:26-27 KJV). Those verses from the book of Jeremiah perfectly describe Bible translators who translate God as Allah. They cause millions of professed Christians to forget Jehovah for Allah. They are guilty of causing major heresy and extremely dangerous sin. A Bible translator cannot mistranslate God as Allah, and that magically make Allah actually mean God. What it does do is cause people to worship the divinity of Islam instead of the Jehovah God of Christianity.

Conclusion: any Muslim who can read the Quran in the Arabic language is going to think of Allah as the personal name of the God of Islam. If he reads a Bible in which "Allah" is used as a generic term for God, he is most likely not going to realize that. Instead he is going to think that Allah is used as a proper noun, just like it is in the Quran. Therefore, he will think that whoever translated that Bible has admitted that Allah—the God of Islam—, not Jehovah, is the one and only true God. But as he reads through that Bible translation, and comes to verses (such as John 3:16) which incorrectly say (in that translation) that Allah has a Son, that translation is going to be totally discredited in his eyes. Why? Because Islam does teach one truth about Allah: it is impossible for Allah to have children. So, Allah has no son. Therefore, from that point on there will be virtually no chance of using that translation to explain the truths of Christianity to that Muslim. Allah is not a generic term for God, but is a proper noun—it is the personal name of the Muslim's God. And Allah is not the same God as Jehovah.

Copyright 2023 by Louis A. Turk. Permission granted to reprint provided the content is not altered, and this paragraph is included. Please send questions or comments to