God’s Name In Arabic

Some have objected to the use of "Allah" by Arab Christians as a name for the God of the Bible. They reason, "But isn’t Allah a god of hate and slaughter, one whose Koran is all law, and devoid of grace?" Some also ask, "Is Islam’s Issa the same person as Jesus Christ?"

How can we faithfully bring the gospel to our Muslim friends and neighbors? They don’t understand the meaning of Christian words and actions, yet Muslim terms mean different things.

Lord's Prayer in Arabic
The Lord's prayer in Arabic

Bringing Good News

The problem of cultural assumptions impeding the gospel is not new. In Acts 14:12, pagan Greeks first mistook Paul and Barnabas for Hermes and Zeus! Yet, even that provided an opportunity to demonstrate faithfulness to the truth of the gospel as it continued its advance among all peoples in their own tongues, beginning with Jerusalem (Acts 1:8).

Sin has caused complete enmity between the Creator and His very special creature, man. Only Jesus, fully God and fully man, brings about true reconciliation. It is clear that the Apostles did their best to use terms understandable to their audiences. As vividly illustrated in the Acts 14 incident, more explanation was often needed to bridge the gap. For example, writing in Greek, John was inspired to open his gospel, "In the beginning was the Word (Logos), a term totally foreign to a Jewish audience, but not to a Greek one. In fact, it was totally foreign to Old Testament usage.

Allah

The case with the Arabic word for God, "Allah" is different. The word "Allah" descended from the same ancient Semitic root word as did the Hebrew word "Elohim."

There is one difference. Unlike the Hebrew word "Elohim," which is a plural, "Allah" cannot be pluralized. Another Arabic word means "a god" and it can be made plural, that is "gods." This contrasts to the word "Allah," the One and Only Supreme God.

For hundreds of years before Mohammad founded Islam, and continuing until the present, Arab Christians all over the Arab World have always called the Triune God "Allah." Arab Christians have never had a problem with the word in their language. Arab Jews also used the term "Allah" for their concept of the Hebrew "Elohim" or "Yahweh." Whatever word or language used, however, both Muslims and Jews reject Christ’s true identity and vehemently oppose the doctrine of the Trinity.

In fact, all religions use the English words "God" and "Lord" in reference to their various deities. Scripture teaches that the only true "God" or "Lord" is the One who revealed Himself fully in Christ (John 1:18). Jesus Himself asserted in the clearest terms that only through Him can there be any access to Father (John 14:6).

Issa

Likewise, long before Islam arose, the name "Issa" was used by Arab Christians for the Greek "Yesos." It is the Greek version of the Hebrew name "Joshua." English translations use "Jesus," similar to Greek. Surviving portions of early Arabic translations render the name "Issa." In medieval times Mohammed heard Christians around him use "Issa" when talking of Christ. By the nineteenth century, the Smith/VanDyke Arabic Bible translation favored the Arabized version "Yesua." In multi-lingual communities, variations of the same name is not uncommon.

Good Meanings

A mistake often committed by Arab churches has been to turn away from terms and names widely used by Christians before Mohammed. Arab Christians unjustifiably shied away from using these meaningful Arabic names.

As is the case with all Semitic languages, many Arabic names have positive meanings: Hasan (Good), Mustafa (Chosen One), Ahmad (Most Praised), and Mohammed (Praised One). These were commonly used by Arab Christians before and even after Islam. The unwise shift of Arab Christians to use Greek and other foreign names has made it far more difficult for converts. In order to fit in, they have been pressured to abandon the names given by their families, adding unnecessary difficulties to their relationships.

What really matters is, "Who is the true Issa of the Bible?" The Issa of the Koran is not the Issa of the Bible, and this is what matters. The Issa of the Bible is the one and only Savior. The Issa of the Bible is God Incarnate, Son of God and Son of Man. He is Emmanuel—"God with us."

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S.A. of Yemen says: "...Now I understand why it was Allah’s will to come to us on earth..."

T.B.B. of Algeria says: "...With all Issa did for me, how can I say NO to following him faithfully to the end of my life..."