"Are the Allah of the Qur'an and the
God of the Bible the same?"
This is one of those questions over which good people disagree. Some
point out that both religions affirm that God is One and reject all other
so-called "gods," and that both Muslims and Christians worship only one
God. They conclude that "Allah" and "God" must be one and the same. The
logic appears inescapable. And yet, when you penetrate beneath the similarities
you wonder. How can you reconcile the Biblical Trinity, for example, with
Qur'anic passages like this: "Far be it from Him [Allah] that He should
have a son" (4:171)? Hence, others (Muslims included) are equally adamant
in affirming that the Allah of Islam is NOT the God of the Bible.
Who is right? Part of the problem lies in the fact that we are dealing
with several separate but related issues, which are quite complex. People
often get them confused. There is, for example, the semantic question:
What does the term Allah in the Qur'an mean? One source of confusion surrounding
this question lies in the fact that there are two sides to the meaning
of "meaning"! There is a sense in which Allah has the same meaning as
God in English; He is the Supreme Being, the Creator, and so on. Hence,
some conclude that we should use this term in witness to Muslims. Others,
however, point to the fact, already noted, that the God-concept associated
with Allah in the Qur'an is very different from that of the Bible; they
conclude that the term has a different meaning, and argue that we cannot
therefore use it without communicating a wrong view of God.
In both cases, there is a failure to recognize the two sides to meaning,
which linguists call signification and value. The fact is that the Arabic
word "Allah" and the English word "God" both have the same signification,
but they take on different values in the different religious contexts.
English-speaking Christians are able to use "God" without communicating
a wrong God-concept, even though Mormons and Muslims, etc., all use it
with very different values. Similarly, Christian and Muslim Arabs both
use the word "Allah"; there is no other term in Arabic. Both terms may
be used effectively to communicate the Christian view of God. As a general
rule, however, when speaking in English we should use God, not because
Allah communicates the wrong view of God, but because it is not English.
So then the real question is not whether the two terms mean the same,
but rather, given the God-concept associated with Allah in the Qur'an,
do Muslims worship and serve God at all? Let me say, first of all, that
in view of Islam's strict monotheism I think we must recognize that Muslims
sincerely intend to worship the One True God. But I immediately add that,
according to Romans 1:18, we must also recognize in the Qur'an a thorough-going
repression and suppression of the Truth about God--and about man. Accordingly,
we must also say that there is a deceptive contradiction at the very heart
of Muslim worship; however well-intentioned it might be, it is in the
last analysis diverted into the service of the enemy of souls. I do not
like to have to say that, but to be honest I must.
Arab World Ministries
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