Allah (SWT) is the Arabic
word for God
. "Al-Lah" means "The God," but putting "The" before it changes its meaning to The One and only God
, as opposed to any god with a small "g." People refer to Him in english in the masculine form, though He is not a male.(It's disrespectful to call God an 'It'). It is written in Arabic as الله
The Qur'an itself declares that Allah is the same God that spoke to the Jews and Christians. It commands Muslims thus: "Say: 'We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam)'."(2:136)
When Muslims speak about God, they are talking about the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Even the Arab Christians (who speak Arabic, obviously) say "Allah" when talking about God, and the Arabic Bible uses the same word. Just because some people use a different word doesn't mean it's a different God. The spanish word for God is Dios, and nobody claims it's a different God. Interestingly enough, the word for God in Aramaic is also Allah, since it's a sister language of Arabic, which is why Muslims believe Jesus called God "Allah."
Muslims prefer to use the name "Allah" no matter what language is being spoken. The word Allah in Arabic can't be altered in any way. You can't pluralize the name (like gods) or alter gender (like goddess). You can talk to a Muslim about God and use the names Allah and God interchangeably if you wanted (as I do in this writeup). Muslims prefer to use "Allah" since they feel it is His proper name.
Allah, according to Islam is One and Only. Eternal and Absolute. He was not born nor does He have any children. And there is nothing like Him, we cannot compare Him to anything else. He is not divided into parts; The Oneness of God is known as Tawhid, and He has no partners or children. According to the Qur'an, God said He never authorized the worship of anything but Him, and to do so is a major sin known as shirk.
God isn't a 'He,' nor is He a 'she.' Allah is genderless, but it's impolite to refer to God as an "It." God made all life, and split it into two kinds of genders, with no special preference to either one.
One of the most memorized passages in the Qur'an is the Ayatul Kursi, the Verse of the Throne. It gives a good introduction to how Muslims view God:
"Allah! There is no god but He, the Living, Who needs no other but Whom all others need. He is never drowsy nor does He rest. Space and Earth belong to Him; who can intercede without His consent? He knows everything people have done and will do, and no one can grasp the least of His knowledge, without His review. His throne extends over the heavens and the Earth and He doesn't tire in their safekeeping. He alone is the Most High, the Lord Sovereign Supreme." (Qur'an 2:255)
Allah is the Lord of the Universe, the Maker and Creator of everything. He does not to sleep, and though we cannot see Him, He sees us. He knows every little going on in the heavens and the earth. Allah is the most kind and loving; He gives us all that we have and need on this earth. Water, food, and light all come from what He provides. He gave us minds and hearts so we can perceive Him and thank Him.
All of Islam is based on Allah. The five pillars of Islam all exist to bring a person closer to Allah. A person swears that Allah is the only being worthy of worship, they pray five times a day to remember Him and keep Him in one's mind, they fast during Ramadan to learn to ignore the physical needs of the world and get closer to Allah, they make a pilgrimmage to Mecca to pray together and follow the path of Allah's prophets. Since we owe everything that goes well in our lives to God, pleasing God through faith and good behavior should be the main aim of our lives. We can only get to know Him through His words and guidance to us, which Muslims try to follow.
The Islamic concept of our place in the universe hinges on the notion that Allah, or God, is the only true reality. There is nothing permanent other than God. Everything exists due to His will and everything depends on Him whether we recognize it or not. He knows everything you did and will do. He knows what's in your heart and understands you better than you do. He does not need us to pray, He won't die if the world forgets Him. He is all-powerful, so he had no need to rest after making the world. He made the world and will one day end it.
Allah is eternal and uncreated. Everything else in the universe is created. Created things will pass away and return to Allah for His review. Not even the stars will last forever.
According to the method of reasoning used in the Qur'an, the proof for God's existance is found in four areas:
- The natural world with all its complexity and beauty. This is a sign of an intelligence in the universe beacuse only a designing mind could have constructed it. (see also Intelligent Design Theory)
Our human abilities and capacities for thought, belief, innovation, creativity, and moral choices. No animal or plant can do what we do.
The revelation of God's guidance and the existance of religion. They show that there is a right way and a wrong way to live life. Prophets, Holy Books, flashes of insight- all these serve as proof that guidance is real and purposefully directed.
Finally, our inner feelings. These propel us to seek the meaning in things and show that we have a soul that seeks harmony with nature, the universe, and a higher power. Why should we all want to know the answer to the big question "why" if there is no "because"? The fact that a question exists means an answer exists somewhere too.
Once a woman and her son were sitting in a gathering listening to Muhammad as he gave a sermon. The child wandered off and tried to put his hand in the fireplace, and the mother instinctively snatched her child away to safety. She thought for a moment and asked the Prophet how Allah could punish those in Hell when she as a mother only wanted to protect her little one. The prophet bowed his head and cried softly and answered her by saying that Allah does not like to punish. He punishes only those who reject him and committed evil actions. Wouldn't the mother also punish her son when he did wrong, or hurt another sibling?
God loves you. It's said that He loves you 70 times more than your mother loves you. Allah does not like to punish anyone, people don't go to Hell because He's cruel. Hell has a purpose, it purifies warped souls. Most people cast into hell are there temporarily to carry out their sentence, then are removed and escorted to Paradise and given full rewards for any good they might have done. Only God decides a person's fate, and He is never unfair.
Islam says that we don't need to know what will happen tomorrow. God knows, and if we truly trust Him and believe in Him, then we have nothing to worry about. (see Taqwa).
God knows you and can see your future. All things, including people, are dependant on God. Also, since He made and controls existance, nothing happens without His assent. All your successes and failures are attributed to him. He has measured your life's circumstances, and has given a varied and challenging test for each person to pass. This teaches you how to make choices and learn to live by faith and virtue, or descend into a life of nihilism and immorality; your choice. Life is a test, not a series of punishments. "Whatever good happens to you is from Allah; but whatever evil happens to you is from your own self."(Qur'an 4:79)
Praying to Him is a good idea, since only He can change what happens to you. Imagine your entire life is played out on a timeline. God exists outside of the time, in eternity. If you pray, God will hear it and change your timeline, the course of your life, leading you to success.
There are many phrases with Allah's(SWT) name in it:
You may have noticed that some people write (SWT) after using Allah's name. When Muslims use His name, there is extra blessing and reverence if we say Subhana wa ta'ala (High and Exalted is He) after it. It isn't compulsory, but a sign of reverence to Allah (SWT).
There is a beautiful calligraphic picture of the word Allah in Arabic at http://www.ezsoftech.com/ramadan/i/Allah.jpg
If you really want to understand Allah more, I'd suggest reading the Qur'an, as Muslims believe that is what God Himself sent down so people could understand Him and what He wants from us.
I'd also suggest The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Islam by Yahiya Emerick (which I've lifted a paragraph or two from then expanded upon), as well as the "A is for Allah" album by Yusuf Islam.