The Origin of the name "Allah"

Two contributions, both having been written in response to the debatable "Allah the moon god" theory.

It seems unlikely that the name Allah comes from al-ilaah "the God", 
but rather from the Aramaic/Syriac alaha, meaning 'God' or 'the God'. 
The final 'a' in the name alaha was originally the definite article 
'the' and is regularly dropped when Syriac words and names are 
borrowed into Arabic. Middle-eastern Christianity used 'alah' and 
'alaha' frequently, and it would have often been heard.  

But in the Aramaic/Syriac language there are two different 'a' vowels, 
one rather like the 'a' in English 'hat' and the other more like the 
vowel in 'ought'.  In the case of 'alah', the first vowel was like 
'hat' and the second like 'ought'. Arabic does not have a vowel like 
the one in 'ought', but it seems to have BORROWED this vowel along 
with the word 'alah'.  If you know Arabic, then you know that the 
second vowel in 'allah' is unique; it occurs only in that one word 
in Arabic.

Scholars believe that Jesus spoke mostly Aramaic, although sometimes 
he spoke Hebrew and he might have spoken Greek on some occasions.  
If Jesus spoke Aramaic, then he referred to God using basically the 
same word that is used in Arabic.

From (Dr. Christoph Heger)
Newsgroups: soc.religion.islam
Subject: Re: How About That Moon God?
Date: Wed Mar 25 18:59:38 EST 1998
Message-ID: <6fc5pa$c8l$>

Greetings to all,

The theory that Allah had been the name of an old Arabic moon god 
(or moon goddess?) is not familiar to me and I am not in a position 
to accept or falsify it. The following remarks only are thought to 
serve further elucidation of the matter.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotos in the first volume of his 
historic work "Histories Apodexis", line 131-132, refers to the 
religion of the Persians. He writes:

"They sacrifice to the sun and the moon and the earth and the fire 
and the water and the winds. Only to those they sacrifice of old. 
In addition they learnt to sacrifice to Urania [=the Celestial one, 
i.e. Aphrodite; Ch.H.], too. They learnt it from the Assyrians and 
the Arabs. The Assyrians call Aphrodite Mylitta [Assyrian: Bilit; Ch.H.], 
the Arabs Alilat..."

This "Urania", indeed, in some connections appears as a moon goddess.  
"Alilat", of course, is to be related to the Arabic feminine form 
"al-ilah", a nomen unitatis which has the meaning of "the (single) 

The etymological derivation of "Allah" as a contraction of "al-ilah", 
which was maintained in numerous contributions to sri, too, is 
"popular" etymology and surely not historic. It would be rather 
strange that especially the "i" should have been disappeared due 
to neglect of the speakers, since the syllable "il" is the most 
important in "al-ilah": "il" or "el" is the semitic word for God 
since times immemorial.

Instead, the word "Allah", as a lot of other words, especially words 
of the religious sphere, was imported from the Syriac (Aramaic) 
language: "alaha" - with three long a-vowels -, is the Aramaic word 
for the (Christian) unique God. The last (long) "a" characterizes 
the status absolutus in the Aramaic language and was duly omitted 
by the Arabs like case endings in the Arabic vernacular, whereas 
the understanding of the first syllable of "alaha" as an article 
was a common misunderstanding like for instance in "al-Iskandar" 
from Greek "Alexandros" etc. The doubling of the "l" is irrelevant, 
since the doubling sign is a very late invention of Arabic orthography, 
centuries after Muhammad.

Kind regards,
Christoph Heger

Other Aramaic words in the Qur'an
The name "Allah"
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