Jews Using “Allah” Even In Hebrew

On this day (21 December), five years ago, my wife showed me some (then nearly fifty year old) footage[1] she found at the library, of Jews singing in Hebrew. As the relevant song (MashiaH ha-Zaqen)[2] apparently was found among Jews from Syria and ᶜIraq, the song consistently refers to God as Allah (אללה appearing in the closed captioning [or “subtitles”]). For example, in the video below, at roughly the 0:17, 0:50 and 1:23 marks, the men singing declare:

אללה יביא לו מזל טוב
Allah yabi lo mazal tob
God will bring to him good fortune.

At the 0:33 mark the lead singer asks how many dinars the Messiah has saved, and the response, at the 0:35 mark, is:

אללה יודע
Allah yodeᶜa
God knows!

At the 1:07 mark, it is asked how many sons the Messiah will have, and at the 1:09 mark, the reply is:

שבעה אינשאללשה
shebᶜah inshAllah
seven, God willing

Three seconds later, a man praises God by declaring:

שבח לאללה
shebaH[3] le-Allah
praise be to God

[Please pardon the poor quality. I recorded this footage by pointing a mobile device at a screen which was playing a VHS.]
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NOTES

(1) The relevant footage is from a 1964 film, SalaH Shabati (a movie about MizraHi Jews emigrating to Palestine). Though the lead singer is playing a Jew from ᶜIraq, the actor himself is actually of Russian extraction.

(2) The lyrics can be found here, though with some slight differences from what appears in the closed captioning of the video above.

(3) Note that the Hebrew shin-bet-Het (שבח) root corresponds to the Arabic sin-ba-Ha (سبح) root, the latter employed in the phrase subHan Allah.



Categories: Islam

17 replies

  1. Very interesting.

    It is understandable that Jews living in Iraq and Syria would use the Arabic word, Allah, since it is related to the Hebrew word, El and Elohim. (and if they immigrate to Israel, to continue to use that word.)

    I have no problem with using the word Allah for the one true Creator God, for Arabic speakers and others (Turks or Indonesians or Malays or Chechneyans or Kazakhs, etc.) who use it; and Coptic and other Arab Christians in the Middle east, who use the word Allah for Elohim in the OT and Theos in the NT.

    The Arab Christians – EO, OO, RC, Copts use it for the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and understand the Trinity as the one true God.

    What is the song saying about the Messiah ? (more than what you mentioned)

    What doctrinal theology of the Messiah is the song affirming?

    Like

    • Turkish Muslims debate with each other over which word is better to use for God.
      The Arabic word Allah, or the Turkish word, “Tanri” (the one true God, creator)

      Most Iranians prefer their own word for God, “Khoda” خدا (many Pakistani and Indian Muslims also prefer this word, in their own language).

      Only the very religious in Iran and the government of Iran, the Mulllahs and Ayatollohs use “Allah” regularly, though they also use “Khoda”, since that is their own Persian / Farsi language.

      But many Iranians resent the Arab Jihads and conquering of Persia by Umar and subsequent 300 years of conquering and subjugating them and forcing the Arabic language on them, etc. (Farsi today is about 40 % Arabic, as is Turkish, although Turkish is now written in Latin script since Mustapha Kemal Ataturk changed it after the Ottoman Empire fell after World War 1 and they abolished the Caliphate. (1918-1924)

      Like

    • Indeed, it makes perfect sense for Jews who speak Arabic to use the word, and historically it has been quite common (I interpret the Qur’an’s use of Allah in its apparent polemicizing against what certain Jews and Christians said about God as being indicative of the Qur’an entering into an environment in which Jews and Christians were already regularly referring to God as Allah). I found the footage above particularly interesting, though, because it is used in a language other than Arabic (though no doubt the song was developed in a predominantly Arabic speaking environment). However, even that is not out of the ordinary, as I have personally seen Sephardic Jews pepper their speach (whether Spanish, English or Hebrew) with various phrases like in sha’llah, et cetera.

      Moreover, while not everyone agrees with the idea of “Allah” being a contraction of al-ilah, if it is, then it would be the exact Arabic equivalent of the Aramaic word for God, alternatively apronounced Elaha in Jewish Aramaic, and Alaha or Aloho in different forms of Syriac (somewhat relevant to this, there is a line in Targum Onqelos which reads like the first half of the shahadatayn).

      ***

      Regarding what the song says about the Messiah, basically that he is an impoverished old man, with neither wife nor children, living in a place called Jumalan (I assume this is a place in Syria), but God is going to bless him with good fortune. Towards the end of the song, they declare he fathers several daughters, the first a beautiful daughter (or a daughter named Jamilah), the second a respectable or dignified daughter (or a daughter named Jalilah [though the closed captioning gets that wrong]), et cetera

      ***

      On a closing note regarding the Farsi Khuda, while most linguists say it descends from an old Persian word for Lord, some have offered an alternative etymology where it comes from the Aramaic Hada (חדא=ܚܕܐ), “the One,” paralleling Arabic al-aHad.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Excellent discussion Denis!

        Moreover, while not everyone agrees with the idea of “Allah” being a contraction of al-ilah, if it is, then it would be the exact Arabic equivalent of the Aramaic word for God, alternatively apronounced Elaha in Jewish Aramaic, and Alaha or Aloho in different forms of Syriac . . .

        Yes, it seems to be related to the Aramaic Elaha or Aloho, but there is lots of scholarly discussion of that issue, vs. Al-ilah.

        From what I have read, Khoda خُدا , in ancient Irani / Arya culture, has the same roots as the German Gutt and English God. Some say it means “the self-existing one” from خود (Khod = self) Khoda – Khod -a the large o و was contracted into a small o ُ. waw, و – ُ

        Liked by 1 person

      • Regarding what the song says about the Messiah, basically that he is an impoverished old man, with neither wife nor children, living in a place called Jumalan (I assume this is a place in Syria), but God is going to bless him with good fortune. Towards the end of the song, they declare he fathers several daughters, the first a beautiful daughter (or a daughter named Jamilah), the second a respectable or dignified daughter (or a daughter named Jalilah [though the closed captioning gets that wrong]), et cetera…

        So, it is not really an orthodox doctrinally sound song, according to Jewish understanding of the Messiah, right?

        ie, nothing about being a descendent of David, bringing in justice and peace, etc. ?

        Like

        • Ken asked:
          «So, it is not really an orthodox doctrinally sound song, according to Jewish understanding of the Messiah, right? ie, nothing about being a descendent of David, bringing in justice and peace, etc. ?»

        Correct. It seems to just be a light-hearted folk song.

        [Forgive the short answer; this is a very busy time of year for me.]

        Like

    • //I have no problem with using the word Allah for the one true Creator God//
      And who are you exactly? 🙂
      Do you really think that christians and jews who had been using this(name) before the founder of your sect was even born are awaiting for your opinion? Allah(sw) is the proper name for the God of our father Abraham regardless whether the western christians like that or not.

      //conquering of Persia by Umar and subsequent 300 years of conquering and subjugating them and forcing the Arabic language on them//
      This’s a mere lie. The Arabic language is the only option because Allah sw had chosen this language to bear the meanings He wants for humanity. The Arabic language drives itself to the hearts of those who embraced Islam by choice, and that’s why many Persians served this language with love and devotion.
      Moreover, in Islam you can use the word خوداي or God if you want to refer to Allah(sw), the God of Abraham, as a meaning/translation not as the actual name, especially for those who just embraced Islam or those who want to learn about Islam.

      On the other hand, the pagan Romans, who were the “servants of God” for you, failed to invade Persia although the early church fathers used to pray for its emperors. Are you sad because those pagans failed, but the true believers, the sons of Abraham, succeeded? Are you sad because Islam fulfilled perfectly the prophecy in Dan 2? Are you sad because Omar (ra) and the other companions of the prophet succeeded when they got Almasjid Al-Aqsa back from those pagans, and they returned it back to the legacy of their father? Are you sad because that holy place is no longer a dump for the christians’ garbage?

      We are proud that Islam established the justice and spread the light in that dark period.
      Salam Oh Omar!

      ((Say, “O People of the Scripture, do you resent us except [for the fact] that we have believed in Allah and what was revealed to us and what was revealed before and because most of you are defiantly disobedient?” )) QT.

      Like

    • “Turkish Muslims debate with each other over which word is better to use for God.”

      Turkish Muslims are not debating about this. There are some Turks who want to return to the old Turkic pagan religion and use this word.

      “But many Iranians resent the Arab Jihads and conquering of Persia by Umar and subsequent 300 years of conquering and subjugating them and forcing the Arabic language on them”

      Like many Irish resent the English Jihads and forcing the English language on them or the thousands of other people who have changed their language with time. But it seems that the Arabs were not that successful with their “forcing” since shortly after these “forcings” Persian became the lingua franca in the lands from Iran to India.

      “Farsi today is about 40 % Arabic, as is Turkish”

      English is if I recall correctly about 50% Latin. What does that mean?

      “although Turkish is now written in Latin script since Mustapha Kemal Ataturk changed it after the Ottoman Empire fell after World War 1 and they abolished the Caliphate”

      First of all, what does the script have to do with a language having many loanwords?
      The first Turkic script was that of the Gokturks. If you want to have the “real” Turkish script it should have been this one and not the Latin one. And did you know that the Mongolic script is based on the Syriac script? Did you know that the Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese script are based on the Chinese one? It seems like people often use scripts from other people instead of creating their own ones.

      And that “Caliphate” Atatürk abolished was just created some decades before. It was not “the Caliphate”. The Sultan declared the Ottoman Empire to be a Caliphate in order to legitimise his rule over Arabs.

      “Yes, it seems to be related to the Aramaic Elaha or Aloho, but there is lots of scholarly discussion of that issue, vs. Al-ilah.”

      Actually there is not much scholarly discussion about the word “Allah” not being “Al-Ilah”. Both Muslim as well non-Muslim scholars on Arabic language and history agree. All other opinions are marginal.

      Liked by 1 person

      • @ Rider
        Salamualakum wa rahma tu lahi wa barakatu.

        Just one quick correction there actually is a difference of opinion about the meaning of Allah. I personally favor it is not “al-ilah” due to grammatical reasons

        (start @ 4:50)

        (start @ 1:00)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Alaykum Salam Brother

        Nearly all Islamic scholars consider “Allah” to be “Al-Ilah”. The difference of opinion is regarding the etymology of “ilah”. So the different opinions Yasir Qadhi cited are not about “Allah” but “ilah”. I think that Yasir Qadhi knows this but simply did not mention because he considered it to be clear.
        At the end he mentions the opinion of Sibawayh. Sibawayh considered “Allah” to “Al-Ilah” too. This etymology given by him is based on this. “Ilah” has the meaning of “ma’bud” -‘worshipped’.

        But I am quite shocked at the ignorance of Ali Khan. His grammatical argument is that if the “al-” was a definite article it would not be used with the vocative particle “ya”. But who told him that “Allah” is used with “ya”? “Ya Allah” is a formula used by non Arabic-speaking and Arabic-dialect-speaking people.. Nowhere will you find this in the Qur’an and the Hadith. The vocative formula for Allah is “Allahumma”. “Ya Allah” IS INDEED incorrect according classical Arabic grammar.

        Please note all of this disagreement many Muslims have and Ken heard of is a modern one. No classical scholar would ever deny “Allah” being “Al-Ilah”. All other opinions are a product of blatant ignorance of the Arabic language or/and the wish to give Allah the human-like attribute of having a personal name. That is the wish of some Salafis.

        Liked by 1 person

      • @ Rider Walakum salam wa rahma tu lahi wa barakatu

        I’m going to break your post up for easier reading and comprehension. Allah hu alim you could be right. I just want to throw some curveballs in there just for everones learning purposes.

        1. Allahuma vs. Ya Allah
        From my understanding they’re interchangeable but what made me think Nouman had a point was this hadith. I don’t know the hadith’s authenticity and my teacher didn’t answer his phone so i couldn’t ask but I wanted to just throw it out there:
        https://sunnah.com/nasai/13/123

        It’s a modified tashahudd:
        “Allahumma inni as’aluka ya Allah…”

        2. Classical/ Non Muslim scholars did differ on the etymology of Allah

        Let me first start with non Muslim grammarians because they quote some classical scholars and sum up a lot of the points (emphasis mine):

        ” الله {Alllah}, [written with the disjunctive alif الله, meaning God, i.e. the only true god,] accord. to the most correct of the opinions respecting it, which are twenty in number, (K,) or more than thirty, (MF) is a proper name, (Msb,K,) applied to the Being who exists necessarily, by Himself, comprising all the attributes of perfection; (TA;) a proper name denoting the true god, comprising all the excellent divine names; a unity comprising all the essences of existing things; (Ibn-El-Arabee, TA;) the ال {AL} being inseparable from it; (Msb:) not derived:… (Edward William Lane’s Lexicon entry on Allah)

        “The Arab philologists discussed at great length the etymology of the words Ilah and Allah (see al-RazI, Mafatih al-ghayb, Cairo 1307, i, 83 f.; Sprenger, Das Leben, i, ch. 3, app. c). The Basrans established no direct connexion between ilah and Allah, regarding the latter either as formed spontaneously (murtadial) or as Idh (from the root lyh) preceded by the article. Some held that allah was a loan from Syriac or Hebrew, but most regarded the proper name Allah as a derivative (mushtakk, mankul), a contraction of al-ilah, and endeavoured to attach ilah to a triliteral root; to explain it (see also al-Baydawi ed. Fleischer, i, 4), some ten derivations
        were suggested, from the following “roots”: (i) *lh “to adore”, but as al-Zamakhshari pointed out
        (Kashshaf, 8), the verb aloha is derived from the noun; aliha, “to be perplexed, confounded”, for the mind is confounded in the experience of knowing Allah (waliha has the same meaning); aliha ila, “to turn to for protection, or to seek peace, or in longing” (waliha has a similar meaning); (2) lyh, whence Idha “to be lofty” and “to be hidden” (opinion of the Basrans); (3) Iwh, whence Idha, “to create”; (4) wl and yl, roots conveying the idea of “priority”; (5) Abu ‘l-Baka° al-Kaffawi, Kulliyat al-ulum, Bulak I953, 69, regards the word Allah as formed from ha, the “noun of majority” and pronoun of the 3rd person, and the lam of possession. On the other hand, lexicographers have pointed out that the termination -iI in some South Arabian proper names indicates the deity (D.B. Macdonald. Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd ed, Brill. “Ilah”, Vol. 3, p. 1093-194)

        Edward Lane said up to 20 to 30 opinions and I believe he was quoting Imam Zamakhshari however the only ones I found personally can be roughly broken down into the following:

        The overwhelming majority position , (which your currently in) this also includes Sibawayh ( for everyone reading who doesn’t know who he is, he’s known as the “father” of Arabic grammar). The name is derived from اَلَهَ (alaha) – which means to worship or to show servitude. The name الله then, is a grammatical shortening of الإلاه (Al-Ilah) – the deity who is worshipped.

        A loan word from another semitic language most believe either to be Syriac or Hebrew (the position I favor and I’ll explain why in a bit however I can be persuaded otherwise)

        The name is not derived from anything at all. It’s simply a proper noun. Many classical scholars hold this opinion.

        There’s nothing to definitively state that “Al-Ilah” is the contracted form. It’s just the most accepted meaning. Allah is such an OLD word, on top of needing to be a linguist and a historian to show how it got introduced into the language,really nothing short of a Rosetta Stone esque finding can confirm that “Al-Ilah” is the uncontracted form.

        I’ll give a few examples of the opposing side’s arguments:

        1. The Shahadatain

        La ilaha illa allah “There is no God except Allah”

        Maa min ilaha illa allah “there is not a single deity(or other God) except Allah”

        Some argue (I’ll give the counters in a sec) if the name meant “the god” it would not have been used like this, because “la ilaha illa al ilah (there is no God except the god”) and “ ma min ilaha illa al ilah – (there is not a single deity(or God) except the god) is improper Arabic, and a contradiction and Allah’s name would not have been possible to be used in the sentence.

        However because the Qur’an does it’s own thing, the opposing side it saying this is used as an emphasis for example: “There is no water in the house left except the water bottle right here.” In this sentence I’ve taken out the possibility of water in the house except what’s in the bottle itself. Same way Allah has excluded other gods in existence alongside Him.

        The opposing side also argues Allah’s name is not used generically in the Qur’an. The Allah of the Christians, The Allah of the Jews, the Allah of the pagans.

        The final argument is certain names that begin with an alif and a lam doesn’t neccesarily mean it’s the definite article (the). For example the prophet Alyasa. So I would like to see your thoughts on those points.

        The reason I favor a loan word is because there’s an Ugaritic inscription (that’s Ancient Mesopotamian (i.e. Ibrahim’s(as) language) which is almost exactly the same as the basmalah it reads “El the kindly and compassionate”. As the saying goes where there’s smoke there’s fire. I’m now going to quote from “Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan By John Day” pg.26:

        “Another possible instance of influence from El comes in the references to Yahweh as ‘el hannun we rahum (Jon. 4.2; Neh. 9.31), ‘el rahum we hannun (Exod. 34.6; Ps. 103.8) or ‘el rahum (Deut. 4.31), that is, ‘a God gracious and merciful’, ‘a God merciful and gracious’, or ‘a
        merciful God’. In Ugaritic El is noted for these qualities and is frequently referred to as Itpn ‘il dp’id, ‘the kindly one, El, the compassionate’, and these precise terms have survived in the epithets used of Allah in Arabic, latif ‘kind’ and dufu’ad, ‘merciful’. One may also recall the frequent introductory allusions to Allah in the Koran: bismillah dhi r-rahmdni r-rahimi, ‘In the name of Allah, the compassionate and merciful’. It is possible that the Old Testament terminology is derived from El as, for example, H. Spieckermann has argued, though R.
        Rendtorff doubts it, as the words in the Old Testament, unlike those used in Arabic, are not identical to those in Ugaritic. Since Hebrew lacks forms corresponding precisely to those in Ugaritic, however, Rendtorff s objection is not a decisive argument.

        So Allah, El, YHWH, Elah and Elaha have to be related somehow. Again Allah hu alim but it could be if we wanted to reconcile this, “the deity” is a loaned word from Ugaritic. Further evidence of this can be supported from the Quran because the prophet Suleiman(as) (aka “Solomon) uses the basmalah when he sends his letter to the queen of Saba so that means the Jews posseed the basmalah and this wasn’t revealed exclusively to our nation:

        “Solomon said: “We shall see whether what you say is true, or if you’re a liar. Take this letter of mine and cast it before them, then fall back and see what answer they return…” The queen said: “Council, a beautiful letter has been cast before me. It’s from Solomon, and it reads: “In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful,” (27:27-30)

        3. A name is not a human like attribute
        I have no idea why you think a name is a human attribute or that Salafies give Allah human attributes. If Allah says He has something He has it, it’s only the same in name. You have to bring direct evidence to state otherwise. The correct position is for example:

        Hands of a clock
        Face of a Mountain

        Are these things called hands and a face? Yes. Is this a literal thing? Yes. Are they like ours? No. But the names of these things are hands and face. Same with Allah. Allah’s Hands, Allah’s Face etc.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Hadith might be authentic and that means that it is allowed to use this as a dhikr. However it is not a proof in grammar. Even if one considers that the “al” of “Allah” is not an article “ya Allah” will still be grammatically false. Because what is agreed upon based on the grammar of the Qur’an is that the initial “a” of “Allah” is a Waslah. So it will not be pronounced if there is a vowel preceding it. So the correct way of saying it would be “yallah”.

        Either “il” or “ilah” is a proto-Semitic word. “ilah” might be a North-Western Central Semitic (Canaanitic/Aramaic) modification of an original “il”. In that case it will be a loanword into the Arabic language. But if “ilah” is the original and “il” is its reduced form it will be a word preserved in Arabic from the proto-Semitic.

        The Shahada can be translated as “there is no deity except the deity”. The problem with using the word “God” when comparing it is that in English “God” became grammatically determined without the definite article just like proper names. In order to understand the Arabic formulations with “Allah” in English as literal as possible one has to avoid the word “God”.
        “la ilaha illa ilahun” would mean “there is no deity except one deity”. So theologically it would not be a problematic and it is in fact how I would formulate the Shahada in English. But the formulation “there is no deity except the deity” adds emphasis to the oneness through grammatical determination as Sibawayh and other explain it.

        “Al-Yasa'” has a definite article according to the grammarians. However most of them consider it to be without etymology. The Arabs just made the definite article out of an initial “al”. Some have suggested that “yasa'” is a verb and in poesy a verb might get an article in order to fit into a harmony in the poem.

        This brings me to the idea that another option regarding the word “Allah” could be that the reason the initial “al” behaves like an article is because the Arabs thought that it was an article while it was originally a complete proper name. But we would then be left without any etymologies for this word.

        Wa-Salam

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  2. A great find Denis. Thanks for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing. I know that jews use the proper name (Allah)عز وجل for the God of Abraham. It’s not something new for me, but the new for me is this word שבח shebaH in Hebrew. I know that Hebrew language has a cognate for هلل Hallal not سبحSabbah. It’s really interesting.
    Some grammarians say سبحS-B-H etymologically(i.e. the word in its origin) means to describe how far something is, which is attested in Arabic language in some old poems. The semantic meaning in the religious context is that Allah sw is far from having a defect, need, partner, and son. It gives the meaning of the transcendence and superiority.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Greeings ᶜAbdullah

      You might find the opening verse of [Masoretic] Psalm 117 interesting, as both verbs you mentioned appear there, when it reads “hallū et-Yah___ kal goyim; shabHūhū kal-ha-umīm” (“praise [hallū] Yah___ all nations; praise Him [shabHūhū] all nations”).

      Also a fun bit of trivia: the second reference to nations, umīm, is etymologically related to the Arabic word umah.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You need to broadcast this to Pakistanis who believe they are being more holy by saying Allah-hafiz than the centuries old Khuda-hafiz.

    Like

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