The Quran, Allah and Plurality Issues

Sam Shamoun

The Quran, much like the Holy Bible, uses plural pronouns for God even more so than what we find in God’s true Word. Here are several examples:

This is part of the tidings of the things unseen, which We reveal unto thee (O Apostle!) by inspiration: Thou wast not with them when they cast lots with arrows, as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary: Nor wast thou with them when they disputed (the point). S. 3:44 Y. Ali

And no soul can die except by ALLAH's leave, - a decree with a fixed term. And whoever desires the reward of the present world, WE will give him thereof; and whoever desires the reward of the Hereafter, WE will give him thereof; and WE will surely reward the grateful. S. 3:145 Shakir

Glory be to Him Who made His servant to go on a night from the Sacred Mosque to the remote mosque of which We have blessed the precincts, so that We may show to HIM some of Our signs; surely He is the Hearing, the Seeing. S. 17:1 Shakir

Note the confusion of this last text. If you take that sentence seriously, then there are at least four persons involved here. Person A to whom glory is given, person B is the servant of person A, and persons C and D (or more) who are the subject and the speakers of this whole sentence. Actually, who is "him"? … so that WE show to HIM some of … surely HE is the … seeing. Doesn’t the structure suggest that the HIM and the HE should be the same?

Whatever the case maybe, this point is clear. The Quran does use plural pronouns for Allah.

Some Muslims claim that the plural pronouns are used in a majestic sense, that these reflect the use of the royal plural denoting the splendor and grandeur of Allah. But as the late, great Christian scholar and evangelist to the Muslims St. Clair W. Tisdall wrote in the following argument which he put in dialogue form between a Muslim (M) and a Christian (C):

139. M. There is nothing in the Qur'an to support the doctrine of the Trinity.

C. We accept it on the authority of the Bible alone. Yet there are two facts in the Qur'an which cannot be properly explained or understood except by accepting the doctrine. The first is, that God is spoken of as One, He is called God (الله Allah), Lord (الرب Ar Rabb) in the singular, and addressed as Thou. The other is, that He is represented as speaking of Himself in the plural as We, Us. Examples are found in almost every Surah: for example, in Surah XCVI., Al 'Alaq, supposed to be the first Surah revealed to Muhammad, God is called "the Lord" (v. 8), and "God" (v. 13) in the singular, and yet in v. 17, He says, "We too will summon the guards of hell," using the plural. Does not this imply the existence of some kind of plurality, other than that of attributes, in the Divine Unity?

140. M. Certainly not. The "We" is used, as kings use the word, to imply majesty.

C. On what authority do you say this so positively? If the Qur'an is from God, nothing in it can be unmeaning. Whatever God says is true: and this expression, so often repeated in the Qur'an, may contain deep teaching. We observe that, in the use of the plural, the Qur'an agrees with the Bible, since we find, for instance, in Gen. i. 26; iii. 22; xi. 7, the very same expression used. Those parts of the Bible which teach the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity may possibly explain the reason of this, as far as the Bible is concerned. If the Qur'an was revealed to confirm the Torah and the Injil, perhaps this is one of the points in which it does so.

141. M. The Jews explain these passages by saying that God was addressing the angels.

C. That is because the Jews reject the Gospel, which the Qur'an "confirms." But whether their explanation be right or wrong, will it explain the use of the plural in the Qur'an?

142. M. No, it will not: but the doctrine of the Trinity is contrary to the Qur'an. (Tisdall, A Manual of the Leading Muhammadan Objections to Christianity [Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, 1904], Chapter V, "Objections Against Certain Leading Christian Doctrines (continued)", pp. 153-154; source)

Besides, the royal plural doesn’t at all help the Muslim cause since it actually implies that Allah was addressing his royal court, his heavenly council. The online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, writes in regard to the purpose and function of the royal plural:

Pluralis majestatis ("majestic plural") is the plural pronoun where it is used to refer to one person alone. This is also known as the "royal we" or the "Victorian we" because it has usually been restricted to august personages such as monarchs, bishops, Popes, and university rectors. The reason behind the pluralis majestatis is the idea that a monarch or other high official ALWAYS SPEAKS FOR HIS OR HER PEOPLE.

Examples of purported instances:

We are not amused. Queen Victoria (in at least one account of this quotation, though, she was not speaking for herself alone, BUT FOR THE LADIES OF THE COURT.)
We are a grandmother. Margaret Thatcher announcing the birth of Mark Thatcher’s son Michael in 1990.

It is to be distinguished from pluralis modestiae, also pluralis auctoris (inclusion of readers or listeners). For instance:

Let's calculate! Leibniz
We are thus led also to a definition of "time" in physics. Albert Einstein

It was said that United States Navy Admiral Hyman G. Rickover told a subordinate that used the royal we: "Three groups are permitted that usage: pregnant women, royalty, and schizophrenics. Which one are you?"

There is no such thing as the "Papal we". The pope may use the "Royal we". (Source; underline and capital emphasis ours)

And regarding the use of "we" this same source states:

The royal we (Pluralis Majestatis) is the first-person plural pronoun when used by an important personage to refer to himself or herself. Its best known usage is by a monarch such as a king, queen, or pope. It is also used in certain formal contexts by bishops and university rectors.

In the public situations in which it is used, the monarch or other dignitary is typically speaking, NOT IN HIS OWN PROPER PERSON, BUT AS LEADER OF A NATION OR INSTITUTION. Nevertheless, the habit of referring to leaders in the plural has influenced the grammar of several languages, in which plural forms tend to be perceived as deferential and more polite than singular forms. This grammatical feature is called a T-V distinction.

Popes used the we as part of their formal speech up until recent times. John Paul I was the first to dispense with this practice, instead using the singular I. John Paul II continued to use the singular.

The editorial we is a similar phenomenon, in which editorial columnists in newspapers and similar commentators in other media refer to themselves as we when giving their opinions. Here, the writer has once more cast himself or herself in the role of spokesman: either FOR THE MEDIA INSTITUTION who employs him, or more generally ON BEHALF OF THE PARTY OR BODY OF CITIZENS who agree with the commentary. (Source; underline and capital emphasis ours)

Thus, appealing to the royal plural in order to account for the Quran’s use of plural pronouns only proves that Allah is speaking on behalf of other divine or heavenly beings. In fact, the Quran itself and early Muslim references provide evidence that the plural pronouns do indeed refer to a group, either because Allah himself is a plural entity or because there are several others associated with Allah in his works. For instance, this Muslim source actually thinks it is refuting Trinitarians when it makes the following assertion:

Some Christians – because of their ignorance – think that the plural pronoun which is used to show respect in verses such as "Verily, We have given you (O Muhammad) a manifest victory" [al-Fath 48:1] and "Verily, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’aan…" [Yoosuf 12:2] is proof of their false belief in trinity. 

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said:

The view of the salaf (early generations) of this ummah and of its imams and later generations is that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) heard the Qur’aan from Jibreel, and Jibreel heard it from Allaah. The use of plural forms in such phrases is the style of Arabic speech used to refer to one who is of high standing AND HAS HELPERS WHO OBEY HIM. So if his helpers do something by his command, he says, "we did it". This is like when a king says, "We conquered this land, we defeated this army" and so on. Because he did that through the actions of his helpers. Allaah is the Lord of the angels and they speak not until He has spoken, and they act in accordance with His commands; they do not disobey the commands of Allaah, rather they do what He commands. Moreover He is their Creator and the creator of their deeds and their power. But He has no need of them; He is not like a king whose helpers do things by their own strength. So what He says when He does something through His angels is, "We did it", this is more appropriate and He is more entitled to say it than some king.

This plural form is ambiguous and the Christians try to use it as evidence against the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), when they find such phrases in the Qur’aan as "Verily, We have given you (O Muhammad) a manifest victory" [al-Fath 48:1], etc. But Allaah condemned them for ignoring the clear verses in the Qur’aan which state that God is One, but they cling to the ambiguous verses which may be interpreted as referring to one who has a peer with him, or to one who has helpers who are his slaves and creation. They follow the ambiguous verses, seeking to stir up confusion in this manner. This is confusion in the heart, by thinking that there are many gods, and seeking to twist the meaning. No one knows the true interpretation except Allaah and those who are well versed in knowledge. (Question No. 12713, Is the trinity that the Christians believe in mentioned in Islam?; source; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Thus, by trying to refute the Trinitarians this Muslim scholar ended up proving our case that the plural does indeed refer to more than one entity, i.e. that it refers to a group working together collectively! We will shortly see why this admission is so damaging to the Muslim position. But what makes this particular article even more interesting is that the writer admits that there are so-called ambiguous Quranic verses which can be understood and even interpreted to mean that Allah does indeed have peers and helpers! In other words, he is not denying that such verses can be found in the Quran but that these texts are merely ambiguous and vague at best!

Another Muslim author makes the same point:

These words, innaa (“Verily We”) and nahnu (“We”), and other forms of the plural, may be used by one person speaking on behalf of a group, or they may be used by one person for the purposes of respect or glorification, as is done by monarchs when they issue statements or decrees in which they say “We have decided” etc. ... If an aayah of this type is causing confusion, it is essential to refer to the clear, unambiguous aayaat for clarification[sic], and if a Christian, for example, insists on taking ayaat such as ... [al-Hijr 15:9 - interpretation of the meaning] as proof of divine plurality, we may refute this claim by quoting such clear and unambiguous aayaat as ... [al-Baqarah 2:163] ... and other aayaat which can only be interpreted in one way... Every time Allah uses the plural to refer to Himself, it is based on the respect and honour He deserves, and on the great number of His names and attributes, and on the great number of His troops and angels. (Yahya Adel Ibrahim, The Meaning of the Pronoun “We” As used in The Qur’aan, source; underline emphasis ours)

Muslim biographer Ibn Ishaq recorded an encounter that allegedly took place between Arabic speaking Christians and Muhammad where the former appealed to the Quran’s use of plurals as proof for Allah being a plurality:

The names of the fourteen principal men among the sixty riders were: ‘Abdu’l-Masih the ‘Aqib, al-Ayham the Sayyid; Abu Haritha b. ‘Alqama brother of B. Bakr b. Wa’il; Aus; al-Harith; Zayd; Qays; Yazid; Nubayh; Khuwaylid; ‘Amr; Khalid; ‘Amr; Khalid; ‘Abdullah; Johannes; of these the first three named above spoke to the apostle. They were Christians according to the Byzantine rite, though they differed among themselves in some points, saying He is God; and He is the son of God; and He is the third person of the Trinity, which is the doctrine of Christianity. They argue that he is God because he used to raise the dead, and heal the sick, and declare the unseen; and make clay birds and then breathe into them, so that they flew away; and all this was by the command of God Almighty, ‘We will make him a sign to men.’ They argue that he is son of God in that they say he had no known father; and he spoke in the cradle and this is something that no child of Adam has ever done. They argue that he is the third of three in that God says: We have done, We have commanded, We have created and We have decreed, and they say, If He were one he would have said I have done, I have created, and so on, but He is He and Jesus and Mary. Concerning all these assertions the Quran came down. (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth impression 1995], pp. 271-272; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Apart from this Muslim source distorting what Christians truly believe, in an obvious attempt of justifying the Quran’s errors regarding essential Christian doctrine (*; *; *; *), do notice that neither the Christians believed nor does this Muslim source respond by saying that the plural pronouns were in reality royal plurals. The Christians believed that the plurals pointed to a real numerical plurality within Allah, that the Quran was actually affirming that there are distinct divine persons. Taking these plurals as a "royal we" that refers to only one person seems not to have been a natural understanding for these people who were native speakers of the language at the time of Muhammad.

An examination of the Quran shows that these Christians were correct:

Shall I seek other than Allah for judge, when He it is Who hath revealed unto you (this) Scripture, fully explained? Those unto whom We gave the Scripture (aforetime) know that it is revealed from thy Lord in truth. So be not thou (O Muhammad) of the waverers. S. 6:114 Pickthall

The speaker here, whom we are supposed to believe is Allah, says that he will not seek a judge other than Allah and also uses singular and plural pronouns interchangeably.

Surely We shall inherit the earth and all that are upon it, and unto Us they shall be returned. And mention in the Book Abraham; surely he was a true man, a Prophet. And mention in the Book Abraham; surely he was a true man, a Prophet… So, when he went apart from them and that they were serving, apart from God, We gave him Isaac and Jacob, and each We made a Prophet; and We gave them of Our mercy, and We appointed unto them a tongue of truthfulness, sublime. And mention in the Book Moses; he was devoted, and he was a Messenger, a Prophet. We called to him from the right side Of the Mount, and We brought him near in communion. And We gave him his brother Aaron, of Our mercy, a Prophet… And mention in the Book Idris; he was a true man, a Prophet. We raised him up to a high place. These are they whom God has blessed among the Prophets of the seed of Adam, and of those We bore with Noah, and of the seed of Abraham and Israel, and of those We guided and chose. When the signs of the All-merciful were recited to them, they fell down prostrate, weeping. Then there succeeded after them a succession who wasted the prayer, and followed lusts; so they shall encounter error save him who repents, and believes, and does a righteous deed; those -- they shall enter Paradise, and they shall not be wronged anything; Gardens of Eden that the All-merciful promised His servants in the Unseen; His promise is ever performed. There they shall hear no idle talk, but only 'Peace.' There they shall have their provision at dawn and evening. That is Paradise which We shall give as an inheritance to those of Our servants who are godfearing.

We come not down, save at the commandment of thy Lord. To Him belongs all that is before US, and all that is behind US, and all between that. Not one of you there is, but he shall go down to it; that for thy Lord is a thing decreed, determined. Then We shall deliver those that were godfearing; and the evildoers We shall leave there, hobbling on their knees. When Our signs are recited to them as clear signs, the unbelievers say to the believers, 'Which of the two parties is better in station, fairer in assembly?' And how many a generation We destroyed before them, who were fairer in furnishing and outward show! S. 19:40-42, 50-53, 56-74 Arberry

Notice once again how the entity addressed as "God", "the All-merciful", "thy Lord" is distinguished from those speaking of themselves as "We," "Our," "Us." These individuals even say that they only come down by the Lord’s command, which obviously means that they are different persons from Allah. Here, again, is that particular section:

And we do not descend but by the command of your Lord; to Him belongs whatever is before us and whatever is behind us and whatever is between these, and your Lord is not forgetful. Shakir

The reader should be able to spot the problem with the above. These same persons claim to have been the ones that commissioned the prophets, who grant believers Paradise, and are those who punish evildoers. In other words, these individuals speak as if they are God since they use language that only God can use.

This isn't the only place where the Quran does this, as these next citations demonstrate:

These are the Signs of God: WE rehearse them to thee in truth: verily Thou art one of the apostles. Those apostles WE endowed with gifts, some above others: To one of them God spoke; others He raised to degrees (of honour); to Jesus the son of Mary WE gave clear (Signs), and strengthened him with the holy spirit. If God had so willed, succeeding generations would not have fought among each other, after clear (Signs) had come to them, but they (chose) to wrangle, some believing and others rejecting. If God had so willed, they would not have fought each other; but God Fulfilleth His plan. S. 2:252-253 Y. Ali

These are the Signs of God: WE rehearse them to thee in Truth: And God means no injustice to any of His creatures. S. 3:108 Y. Ali; cf. S. 45:6

The speakers (who is supposed to be Allah) say that they recited the verses from God to Muhammad, and that they also were responsible for endowing the apostles with the ability to perform miracles!

Here is a final example:

Lo! verily, ye and that which ye worship, Ye cannot excite (anyone) against Him. Save him who is to burn in hell. There is not one of US but hath his known position. Lo! WE, even WE are they who set the ranks, Lo! WE, even WE are they who hymn His praise S. 37:161-166 Pickthall

Allah, the one supposedly speaking at this point, uses plural pronouns to say that he knows his position, sets the ranks, and is the one who hymns the praises of God! In other words, Allah is the "We" and the "Us" here who is praising and worshiping Allah.

He again goes on in this same surah to praise Allah:

But (now that the Qur'an has come), they reject it: But soon will they know! Already has Our Word been passed before (this) to Our servants sent (by Us), That they would certainly be assisted, And that Our forces, - they surely must conquer. So turn thou away from them for a little while, And watch them (how they fare), and they soon shall see (how thou farest)! Do they wish (indeed) to hurry on Our punishment? But when it descends into the open space before them, evil will be the morning for those who were warned (and heeded not)! So turn thou away from them for a little while, And watch (how they fare) and they soon shall see (how thou farest)! Glory to thy Lord, the Lord of Honour and Power! (He is free) from what they ascribe (to Him)! And Peace on the apostles! And Praise to God, the Lord and Cherisher of the Worlds. S. 37:170-182 Y. Ali

These examples of Allah praising, which indicates that there are others who exist as Deity to whom Allah directs these praises, perhaps explain how the Quran could say that Allah prays for both Muhammad and believers:

He it is who prays for you and His angels too, to bring you forth out of the darkness into the light, for He is merciful to the believers. S. 33:43 Palmer

Verily, God and His angels pray for the prophet. O ye who believe! pray for him and salute him with a salutation! S. 33:56 Palmer

Thus, these examples of Allah praising and praying demonstrate that there are other beings who exist as God.

For more on the issue of Allah praying please read the following:

The Quran even testifies that there is more than one Creator:

We created man of an extraction of clay, then We set him, a drop, in a receptacle secure, then We created of the drop a clot then We created of the clot a tissue then We created of the tissue bones then We garmented the bones in flesh; thereafter We produced him as another creature. So blessed be God, the fairest of creators! S. 23:12-14 Arberry

Allah is said to be the best of creators, with the implication being that there are others who can also create. In fact, Allah’s very own Spirit is said to be one of these creators:

And make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, And had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her Our Spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee, if thou art God-fearing. He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I MAY BESTOW ON THEE a faultless son. She said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste? He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained. S. 19:16-21 Pickthall

Notice several things from the above text:

We gather from the foregoing that the Spirit created life in Mary’s womb after Allah breathed him into her body, her private part. Otherwise, why do these verses even bother mentioning that Allah breathed his Spirit inside of Mary if it wasn’t for the purpose of informing the readers that the Spirit was the agent used to create Jesus? How else could that Spirit say in 19:19 "that I may bestow on thee a faultless son"?

There are several other texts which provide further confirmation that the Spirit can and does create:

Verily We created man of potter's clay of black mud altered, And the jinn did We create aforetime of essential fire. And (remember) when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am creating a mortal out of potter's clay of black mud altered, So, when I have made him and have breathed into him of My Spirit, do ye fall down, prostrating yourselves unto him. S. 15:26-29 Pickthall

Allah blows his Spirit into the first man with the obvious purpose of animating Adam’s body. Therefore, these references all prove that the Spirit is a/the C/creator. They further show that the Spirit creates in the same fashion and in the same exact manner that Allah does, i.e. the Spirit creates life in the womb just like Allah does, which suggests that the Spirit is equal to Allah and therefore deserves to be identified as "the best of creators."

Moreover, according to Islamic tradition this Spirit whom Allah sent to create Jesus is the angel Gabriel:

<and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects.> [19:17] This means that he came to her in the form of a perfect and complete man. Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah, Ibn Jurayj, Wahb bin Munabbih and As-Suddi all commented on Allah's statement…

<then We sent to her Our Ruh,> "It means Jibril." …

<She said: "Verily, I seek refuge with the Most Gracious from you, if you do fear Allah."> This means that when the angel (Jibril) appeared to her in the form of a man, while she was in a place secluded by herself with a partition between her and her people, she was afraid of him and thought that he wanted to rape her. Therefore, she said…

<Verily, I seek refuge with the Most Gracious from you, if you do fear Allah.> She meant, "If you fear Allah," as a means of reminding him of Allah. This is what is legislated in defense against (evil), so that it may be repulsed with ease. Therefore, the first thing she did was try to make him fear Allah, the Mighty and Sublime. Ibn Jarir reported from ‘Asim that Abu Wa'il said when mentioning the story of Maryam, "She knew that the pious person would refrain (from committing evil) when she said…

<"Verily, I seek refuge with the Most Gracious from you, if you do fear Allah." He said: "I am only a messenger from your Lord…"> This means that the angel said to her in response, and in order to remove the fear that she felt within herself, "I am not what you think, but I am the messenger of your Lord." By this he meant, "Allah has sent me to you." It is said that when she mentioned the (Name of the) Most Beneficent (Ar-Rahman), Jibril fell apart and returned to his true form (as an angel). He responded … ‘I am only a messenger from your Lord, to provide to you the gift of a righteous son.’ (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Sura 19:16-21; source)


<And We breathed into it (private part) through Our Ruh,> meaning, through the angel Jibril. Allah sent the angel Jibril to Maryam, and he came to her in the shape of a man in every respect. Allah commanded him to blow into a gap of her garment and that breath went into her womb through her private part; this is how `Isa was conceived. This is why Allah said here…

<And We breathed into it through Our Ruh, and she testified to the truth of her Lords Kalimat, and His Kutub,> meaning His decree and His legislation. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Sura 66:12: source)

Apart from the assertion that Gabriel is the Spirit whom Allah sent to create Jesus, these Muslim commentators introduce a major difficulty. Here it says Allah commanded Gabriel to blow into her private part. But both 21:91 and 66:12 say "WE breathed …." which obviously means that Allah himself breathed into Mary. Thus, if Allah is the one who breathed into Mary, and yet these commentators say Gabriel actually breathed into her then the logical conclusion is that Gabriel is Allah, and is one of the persons speaking as the divine "We" in these texts! This also means that Gabriel isn’t the Spirit but is the one who breathed the Spirit into Mary, which means that Allah, Gabriel and this Spirit are all God!

Now we completely disagree with the Muslim expositors’ claim that the Spirit is Gabriel, but regardless of whether these Muslim exegetes are correct on this point, their comments demonstrate that the Quran does present someone other than Allah who is able to create life exactly like God! And yet the Muslim position of the Spirit being Gabriel ends up making an angelic creature identical to God, and is therefore nothing more than an act of idolatry on their part.

Moreover, let the readers recall that earlier we cited verses where the authors of the Quran claimed to be reciting the verses of Allah to Muhammad:

These are the portents of Allah which WE recite unto thee (Muhammad) with truth. Then in what fact, after Allah and His portents, will they believe? S. 45:6 Pickthall

What makes this rather interesting is that another text specifically identifies Gabriel as a conveyor of the Quran, as one of the entities who brought down the Quran to Muhammad!

Say: 'Whosoever is an enemy to Gabriel -- he it was that brought it down upon thy heart by the leave of God, confirming what was before it, and for a guidance and good tidings to the believers. S. 2:97 Arberry

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Gabriel is part of that very group who were responsible for reciting the Quran to Muhammad. In other words, the plural pronouns "We," "Us," and "Our," which the Quran often uses, include Gabriel since he was one of those who addressed Muhammad. Yet this would mean that Gabriel is speaking as God since, as we saw in some of the above examples, these very speakers who revealed the Quran to Muhammad are presented as saying and doing things that only God can say and do!

Putting it simply, the Quran identifies Gabriel as God or at least a being who is equal to Allah!

A Plural Arabic Noun Used for Allah

There are many Muslims who boast that the word Allah is superior to the English word God since the former cannot be feminized, pluralized etc., whereas the latter can. As one Muslim apologist put it:

By what name do we call God?
The Muslims prefer calling the Supreme Creator, Allah, instead of by the English word ‘God’. The Arabic word, ‘Allah’, is pure and unique, unlike the English word ‘God’, which can be played around with.
If you add ‘s’ to the word God, it becomes ‘Gods’, that is the plural of God. Allah is one and singular, there is no plural of Allah. If you add ‘dess’ to the word God, it becomes ‘Goddess’ that is a female God. There is nothing like male Allah or female Allah. Allah has no gender. If you add the word ‘father’ to ‘God’ it becomes ‘God-father’. God-father means someone who is a guardian. There is no word like ‘Allah-Abba’ or ‘Allah-father’. If you add the word ‘mother’ to ‘God’, it becomes ‘God-mother’. There is nothing like ‘Allah-Ammi’, or ‘Allah-mother’ in Islam. Allah is a unique word. If you prefix tin before the word God, it becomes tin-God i.e., fake God. Allah is a unique word, which does not conjure up any mental picture nor can it be played around with. Therefore the Muslims prefer using the Arabic word ‘Allah’ for the Almighty. Sometimes, however, while speaking to the non-Muslims we may have to use the inappropriate word God, for Allah. Since the intended audience of this article is general in nature, consisting of both Muslims as well as non-Muslims, I have used the word God instead of Allah in several places in this article.
(Dr. Zakir Naik, "Concept of God in Islam"; source)

Such arguments may sound convincing to those Muslims who want to believe in the superiority of the Arabic language, but the facts will not allow for such claims to stand uncontested. Naik’s statements are incorrect since Allah can be feminized and even pluralized. For instance, the Arabic word Allat, which appears in Sura 53:19, is actually the feminine form of Allah just as Sunni scholar Ibn Kathir admitted. He says in regard to Sura 53:19 that:

<Have you then considered Al-Lat,> Al-Lat was a white stone with inscriptions on. There was a house built around Al-Lat in At-Ta'if with curtains, servants and a sacred courtyard around it. The people of At-Ta'if, the tribe of Thaqif and their allies, worshipped Al-Lat. They would boast to Arabs, except the Quraysh, that they had Al-Lat. Ibn Jarir said, "They derived Al-Lat’s name from Allah’s Name, and made it feminine. Allah is far removed from what they ascribe to Him. It was reported that Al-Lat is pronounced Al-Lat because, according to `Abdullah bin `Abbas, Mujahid, and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, Al-Lat was a man who used to mix Sawiq (a kind of barley mash) with water for the pilgrims during the time of Jahiliyyah. When he died, they remained next to his grave and worshipped him." Al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn `Abbas said about Allah’s statement, …

<Al-Lat, and Al-`Uzza.> "Al-Lat was a man who used to mix Sawiq for the pilgrims." Ibn Jarir said, "They also derived the name for their idol Al-`Uzza from Allah’s Name Al-`Aziz. Al-`Uzza was a tree on which the idolators placed a monument and curtains, in the area of Nakhlah, between Makkah and At-Ta'if. The Quraysh revered Al-`Uzza.'' During the battle of Uhud, Abu Sufyan said, "We have Al-`Uzza, but you do not have Al-`Uzza." … (Source; bold and underlines emphasis ours)

Furthermore, the Arabic seems to have a plural for Allah and it even appears in the Quran in five places:

Say: O Allah (Quli Allahumma), Master of the Kingdom! Thou givest the kingdom to whomsoever Thou pleasest and takest away the kingdom from whomsoever Thou pleasest, and Thou exaltest whom Thou pleasest and abasest whom Thou pleasest in Thine hand is the good; surety, Thou hast power over all things. S. 3:26 Shakir; cf. 5:114; 8:32; 10:10; 39:46

Many feel that Allahumma, which the above version translated as "O Allah", is actually the Arabicized form of the Hebrew word Elohim. There are sources which feel that Allahumma is intended to be the Arabic equivalent of Elohim:

Elohim in Islam

In the context of Islam, some scholars have speculated that the divine name Allahumma, used in the Qur’an as a variation of Allah, may be related to Elohim. (Source)

The Islamic Party of Britain argues in defense of Muhammad being mentioned by name in Song of Songs that:

The Holy Prophet King Solomon names this bringer of Peace / Shalom, as "Muhammadim" the suffix "im" is used to express absolute respect as with the "im" added to "Eloah" to make "Elohim" (Allahumma) which denotes absolute respect for God. (David Pidcock, "Letter from the Leader"; source)

The following online Islamic fatwa site adds:

Consider the usage in Hebrew of the word "Elohim". Elohim stands for the concept of the Supreme Being, along with His attributes. We Muslims say Allahumma for Allah and His attributes, or names and characteristics. Those who went astray, after they knew the truth from bani Isra’il are known in Arabic as "yahud". They were not content with the limitations of Allah in any fashion, and were always adding or deleting to that which Allah had ordained. Similarly, they do the same behavior today, with genetic engineering, euthanasia and cryonics etc., forever exceeding the limits of Allah, even in regards to life and death! (Ask About Islam, "God… or Allah?", November 8. 2004; source)

Another Muslim source says:

The Qur’an also uses the related name Allahumma, which may be an Arabic rendering of Elohim, a word for ‘God’ or ‘Deity’ used in the text of the Hebrew Bible. It is interesting to note that the Aramaic word "El", which is the word for God in the language that Jesus spoke, is certainly more similar in sound to the word "Allah" than the English word "God". This also holds true for the various Hebrew words for God, which is "El" and "Elah", and the plural form "Elohim". The reason for these similarities is that Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic are all Semitic languages with common origins. It should also be noted that in translating the Bible into English, the Hebrew word "El" is translated variously as "God", "god" and "angel." This imprecise language allows different translators, based on their preconceived notions, to translate the word to fit their own views. The Arabic word "Allah" presents no such difficulty or ambiguity, since it is only used for Almighty God alone. (V.A. Mohamad Ashrof, Can Muslims Use 'God' instead of 'Allah'?; source)

In a Christian-Muslim discussion forum a Muslim poster named H20 writes:

Posted: Sat Sep 11, 2004 01:33 am

Also the semitic linguistical pluralization of the name Allah in its ancient form" Allahumma" expresses the vocative and the greatness of Majesty written through out the Quran…

Webby, to bring to your attention also the word "elohim" made of the Hebrew consonant letters Alef, Lamed, He, Mem (ALHM) can be read and pronounced "Allahumma" where the written consonants letters in Arabic are Alif, Laam, Laam, Ha'a, Meem (ALLHM) to read "Allahumma" in Arabic also.

Posted: Sat Sep 11, 2004 12:51 pm

We produced the semitic pluralization of meem (m) a suffixed ending to nouns which is also the vocative particle of "yaa" in Arabic used as "Allahumma" 5 times in the Quran…

No other word in the Arabic language can take the suffixing of "meem" (m) which is a pluralization ending in Hebrew and other semitic languages.

It would be common sense that this form of the name (Allahumma) clearly makes the name not of Arabic origin, but predates it to another language that used such a grammatical system that was eventually Arabicized due to the development of the Arabic language which in reality does not host such a grammatical function with any other Arabic word. (WE, US. OUR !!!!!!!!!!; source)

According to the Muslim website Bismikaallahuma, the Hebrew phrase B'shemkha Elohim ("In the name of God") is Hebrew for Bismika Allahuma (Bismika Allahuma F.A.Q., What does "Bismika Allahuma" mean?; source).

One of the writers from this site, Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi (M.E.N.J.), states elsewhere that:

Seems like the Bible was trying to talk about "Allah" all along as "aaliha" is the general form from which "Allah" is derived. Franz Delitzch's theory is that "Elohim" is actually an Aramaic attempt at "Allah". Keep in mind that words such as "Eloh" and "Abraham" predate the Hebrew language by hundreds of years. The royal plural of "Eloh", which is "Elohim" very similar to the way Muslims plea to Allah in the form of "Allahuma". (The Origins of "ALLAH"- A Refutation to Quennel Gale’s Article "Allah"; source 1; source 2; bold and underline emphasis ours)

The probability of Allahumma being derived from the Hebrew becomes all the more likely when we take into consideration that one of Muhammad’s relatives, the monk Waraqa bin Naufal, used to read and write in Hebrew:

… Khadija then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa bin Naufal bin Asad bin ‘Abdul ‘Uzza, who, during the Pre-Islamic Period became a Christian and used to write the writing with Hebrew letters. He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as Allah wished him to write… (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 1, Number 3)

Thus, this makes it quite plausible that Allahumma is indeed a plural and literally means "gods."

In fact, the late Rashad Khalifa rendered Allahumma as "Our god" in his version of the Quran:

Say, "Our god: possessor of all sovereignty…" S. 3:26

Khalifa’s rendering presupposes that the suffix umma in Allahumma is a plural possessive pronoun that is attached to the word Allah. This provides indirect evidence that the word is plural, not singular.

Another Muslim claims that Allahumma is a reference to Allah and Muhammad together!

What does Allahumma mean? Most people translate it as O Allah. If Allahumma means O Allah, then what does Ya Allah mean? Again the translation will be O Allah. If both Allahumma and Ya Allah both translate to O Allah, then why do we need two different forms in Arabic to say the same thing? If we look at the Arabic script, Allahumma is written . Allahumma is the Name Allah appended with the letter Meem. Allahumma starts with Alif and ends with Meem

When we tag a Meem after the Name Allah, and ask by saying Allahumma, we recognise Allah as our Creator and we also recognise Muhammad as the Messenger of Allah. When we ask Allah by saying Allahumma what we are really saying is Allah, we love You and follow your Messenger Muhammad . (Khalid M. Malik Ghouri, "MEEM - THE ARABIC LETTER," part 2; source)

This, too, assumes that Allahumma is a kind of plural since it has two referents in view, namely Allah and Muhammad.

One Muslim, a follower of the movement started by Rashid Khalifa, even claims that Allahumma is a unique word that really isn’t from Allah:

[YUKSEL: Years after this internet debate, I noticed that some other people are also raising the question about ALLAHUMMA (translated as 'our Lord'), which occurs 5 times in the Quran. They ask why this word is not included in the count of ALLAH (God), which is 2698 (19x142). Those who know basics of Arabic grammar will know the reason easily. Those who do not have this knowledge can learn the difference by checking the context of the usage of ALLAHUMMA and ALLAH. Here are few clues for those who do not know Arabic: 

1. "UMMA" is not really a suffix. There is no such a suffix in Arabic. ALLAHUMMA is an abbreviated statement usually translated "o my/our Lord." 

2. ALLAHUMMA differs from ALLAH since it cannot be the subject in a statement. Therefore, you cannot replace ALLAHUMMA in the statements where ALLAH is the subject. For instance, "ALLAH created the universe." In Arabic you cannot say "ALLAHUMMA created the universe." Thus, the word ALLAHUMMA is not the same as ALLAH. 

3. ALLAHUMMA is also different than all other attributes of God, and it may not be considered an attribute at all. For instance you can say "ALLAH is Merciful," but you cannot say, "ALLAH is ALLAHUMMA." 

4. ALLAHUMMA, though it contains the word ALLAH, yet it is a different word. For instance, though the attributes HAKAM (Judge) and HAKYM (Wise) contain the root letters HKM, yet they are in different forms and have different meanings. Thus each is counted separately. Another example is RAHMAN (Gracious) and RAHYM (Merciful). Though both contain the root letters RHM, yet they are in different forms and thus they are counted separately.] (Edip Yuksel, "365 Days: Literal Harmony and Astronomical Events "; source)

Both the hadiths and Islamic references claim that Allahumma was even used by pagan Arabs in their worship, specifically in relation to the rites of Hajj which the pagans were observing long before Muhammad’s time:

They say that the beginning of stone worship among the sons of Ishmael was when Mecca became too small for them and they wanted more room in the country. Everyone who left the town took with him a stone from the sacred area to do honour to it. Whenever they settled they set it up and walked round it as they went round the Ka‘ba. This led them to worship what stones they pleased and those which made an impression on them. Thus as generations passed they forgot their primitive faith and adopted another religion for that of Abraham and Ishmael. They worshiped idols and adopted the same errors as the peoples before them. Yet they retained and held fast practices going back to the time of Abraham, such as honouring the temple and going round it, the great and little pilgrimage, and the standing on ‘Arafa and Muzdalifa, sacrificing the victims, and the pilgrim cry at the great and little pilgrimage, while introducing elements which had no place in the religion of Abraham. Thus, Kinana and Quraysh used the pilgrim cry: ‘At Thy service, O God [Allahumma], at Thy service!’ At Thy service, Thou without an associate but the associate that Thou hast. Thou ownest him and what he owns.’ They used to acknowledge his unity in their cry and then include their idols with God, putting the ownership of them in His hand. God said to Muhammad: ‘Most of them do not believe in God without associating others with Him,’ i.e. they do not acknowledge My oneness with knowledge of My reality, but they associate with Me one of My creatures. (Guillaume, pp. 35-36; bold and underline emphasis ours)

[Azr. i. 73. ‘Amr b. Lu’ayy set up Manat on the sea-shore near Qudayd. Azd and Ghassan went on pilgrimage to it and revered it. When they had made the compass of the Ka‘ba and hastened from ‘Arafat and completed the rites at Mina they did not shave their hair until they got to Manat, to whom they would cry Labbayki… (Ibid., p. 39; bold and underline emphasis ours)

The Muslims adapted this practice and tried to justify doing so by repackaging it in a monotheistic context and by asserting that this was initially an Abrahamic ritual which the Arabs later paganized:

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar:
The Talbiya of Allah's Apostle was: 'Labbaika Allahumma labbaik, Labbaika la sharika Laka labbaik, Inna-l-hamda wan-ni'mata Laka walmulk, La sharika Laka' (I respond to Your call O Allah, I respond to Your call, and I am obedient to Your orders, You have no partner, I respond to Your call All the praises and blessings are for You, All the sovereignty is for You, And You have no partners with you. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 26, Number 621)

What the foregoing shows, however, is that Allahumma was being used in reference to the praise and worship that the pagans were giving to their gods. It is therefore quite plausible that the Muslim sources, being embarrassed by this, tried to then soften the impact of this fact by arguing that the pagans used the expression only in connection to Allah, not to the other gods.

If the readers are interested in seeing the relevance and implication that the word Elohim has on the Trinitarian understanding of God we recommend the following articles:

Concluding Remarks

In this paper we saw that the Quran uses both singular and plural pronouns in reference to Allah. We examined the common explanation that these plurals are royal plurals, or the plural of majesty, and found this wanting. For instance, the royal plural theory does very little to deny the fact that this is still used in reference to a group, specifically to a royal court, which obviously includes more than one member. Thus, if Allah were using the plural of majesty then this would only mean that Allah is speaking on behalf of his heavenly council, on behalf of the rest of the divine or spiritual beings that are part of Allah’s heavenly kingdom.

We also saw passages where the plural pronouns do indeed refer to several distinct entities working collectively as Allah’s messengers. And yet these messengers are not creatures since they do and say things that only God can do or say.

We even saw further support for these plural pronouns referring to a true plurality of divine entities or powers from the fact that the Quran mentions more than one creator. According to the Quran, both Allah and his Spirit create in the same exact fashion which points to their co-equality.

Finally, the Quran goes so far as to use a plural noun for Allah, Allahumma, a word which even Muslims believe corresponds to the Hebrew word Elohim. In fact, this word was even used by the pagan Arabs in their idolatrous worship.

The evidence leads us to therefore conclude that the Quran’s author(s) believed that Allah exists as a plurality of persons, or that in the earliest strata of Islamic tradition there was a belief that other divine powers existed alongside Allah. It was only later that either the author(s) himself(themselves) or later editors and scholars sought to deny the existence of these other divine beings by changing the text of the Quran. And yet whoever edited the Quran in its final stage didn’t do a good job since there are still obvious traces that other divine beings exist which suggests that, at the very least, the first Muslim community believed in the existence of other divine powers.

There is even some indirect support for this position among Islamicists and Orientalists. For instance, this is what William Montgomery Watts said regarding Muhammad reciting the "satanic verses":

If we compare the different versions and try to distinguish between external facts in which they agree and the motives which the various historians ascribe in order to explain the facts, we find at least two facts about which we may be certain. Firstly, at one time Muhammad must have publicly recited the satanic verses as part of the Qur’an; it is unthinkable that the story could have been invented by Muslims or foisted upon them by non-Muslims. Secondly, at some later time Muhammad announced that these verses were not really part of the Qur’an and should be replaced by others of a vastly different import. The earliest versions do not specify how long afterwards this happened; the probability is that it was weeks or even months …

The Muslim scholars, not possessing the Modern Western concept of gradual development, considered Muhammad from the very first to have been explicitly aware of the full range of orthodox dogma. Consequently it was difficult for them to explain how he failed to notice the heterodoxy of the satanic verses. The truth rather is that his monotheism was originally, like that of his more enlightened contemporaries, somewhat vague, and in particular was not so strict that the recognition of inferior divine beings was felt to be incompatible with it … (Watt, Muhammad at Mecca [Oxford University Press, Karachi; second impression, 1993], pp. 103-104; bold and underline emphasis ours)

F.E. Peters refers to al-Tabari’s narration of the Satanic verses, and states:

Muhammad had had an experience of God, and his passage from identifying the source of that experience first with his "Lord," then with al-Rahman, and finally with Allah is only one example, and not the most striking, of the modification of his beliefs over a period of time. We have already noted the presence of the goddesses al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat at Mecca. The same three goddesses appear - and then disappear - in an extremely curious and much-discussed passage in Sura 53 of the Quran. The exact context of the sura is unknown, but Muhammad was still at Mecca and was apparently feeling the pressures of the Quraysh resistance to his message …

This is the indubitably authentic story - it is impossible to imagine a Muslim inventing such an inauspicious tale - of the notorious "Satanic verses" … What was first granted and then rescinded was permission to use the three goddesses as intercessors with Allah. It was, as has been suggested, a critical moment in Muhammad’s understanding of the distinction between Allah as simply a "high god," the head of the Meccan or Arabian pantheon where the lesser gods and goddesses might be involved as go-betweens, and the notion that EVENTUALLY prevailed: Allah is uniquely God, without associates, companions, or "daughters." The goddesses were, as the revision put it, "nothing but names," invented by the Quraysh and their ancestors. (Peters, Muhammad and the Origins of Islam [State University of New York Press [SUNY], Albany 1994], pp. 160-161; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Or it may in reality be nothing more than the incompetence of the writer(s) of the Quran in composing his(their) work since he(they) may have intended to say one thing but came out saying something entirely different, thereby leaving many readers of the Quran baffled and perplexed as to its true teaching regarding monotheism.

Further Reading

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