The Modern Semantic Philosophies and Quranic Studies – VII
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The Modern Semantic Philosophies and Quranic Studies – VII

According to the Qur’an, Allah alone is the ‘ilah’. The declaration that there is no ‘ilah’ except Allah is the article of faith

Post by on Friday, July 29, 2022

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The literal meaning of ‘ilah’ is Divinity.  The connotation of the word ‘ilah’ includes the capacities to fulfill the needs of others, to give them shelter and protection, to relieve their minds of distress and agitation, superiority and the requisite authority and power to do all deeds. Ilah is the being which is beloved, gives peace of mind, which according to the devotee is elevated and exalted which guards and protects when one is in fear and worry.  The being which according to man’s belief provides gains and losses, answers prayers and has power over our existence, is ‘ilah’.  Man in his ignorance selects the ‘ilah’ of his own choice, but there is no ‘ilah’ except Allah.


According to the Qur’an, Allah alone is the ‘ilah’.  The declaration that there is no ‘ilah’ except Allah is the article of faith.  It shows the importance of assigning all the attributes of ‘ilah’ exclusively to Allah.  It is a declaration that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah. The golden calf which was worshipped by Israelites in the absence of Prophet Musa (AS) is referred to as ‘ilah’ in the Qur’an:“Then He (Samiri) produced the image of a calf which mooed like a cow and they said:  ‘this is your Allah (ilah) and the Allah (ilah) of Prophet Musa (whom) he (prophet Musa) has neglected’ ” (Qur’an 20:88). For the non believers who have objects of worship according to their own choice every object so worshipped is ‘ilah’.  They do not differentiate between Allah and ‘ilah’.  When Firaun talks about Allah, the mention in the Qur’an is Musa’s ‘ilah’: “Firaun said ‘O Haman build me a lofty tower that I may perhaps find the means of reaching the tracts of heaven and look at the Allah (ilah) of Musa.’ .............” (Qur’an 40:36&37)


Calls to ‘ilaahs’ are based on hope and fear.  Mushrikeen i.e. those persons who call deities or saints as ‘ilah’ believe that the deities or saints enjoyed some share in the divinity of Allah, that their word carried some weight with Him and that their recommendation (shifa’t) could result in some gains.  Mushrikeen also believe that if the ilaahs (deities or saints) are offended it would result in great harm and calamity. Men at times make their own selfish desire as their ‘ilah’:    “Have you ever considered (the kind of man) who makes his own desires his deity (ilah)” (Qur’an 25:43).


The very existence of deities other than Allah presupposes confusion in the universe: “Never did Allah take into Himself any offspring, nor has there ever been any deity (ilaahin) side by side with Him: (for, had there been any,) lo! each deity (ilaahin) would surely have stood apart (from the others) in whatever it had created, and they would surely have (tried to) overcome one another .......” (Qur’an 23: 91)


The very fact that only one Law prevails in the entire universe is a conclusive proof that there is no deity (ilah) other than Allah. The Qur’an exhorts men to observe for themselves the different phenomenon in nature (Qur’an 27: 60 to 64) and questions: “............. Could there be any Allah (ilah) along with Allah? Say: ‘(If you think so,) produce your evidence  . . . . . if you are truthful’ ”. (Qur’an 27: 64).

There are different interpretations about the term “Allah, which have been made by the scholars of exegesis. To begin with a study of the Semitic group of languages – Hebrew, Syriac, Aramaic, Chaldean, Himyarita and Arabic – discloses that a special style of word formation and of sound had been in vogue among the Semitic people to denote the Supreme Being. The alphabets A, L and H combined in varied forms to constitute the term by which the Supreme Being was to be called. The Chaldean and Syriac term “Illahia” the Hebrew ‘Iloha’ and the Arabic ‘Ilah’ are of this category.


It is the Illah in Arabic that assumed the form of Allah and was applied exclusively to the Creator of the Universe. According to Abul Kalam Azad the most plausible view is that the term Allah has been derived from the root ‘lah’ a term expressive of wonder or helplessness. Some etymologists and lexicographers trace the term to Wallah, which bears the same significance. Hence the term Allah has come to be used as the proper name for the Creator of the Universe in respect of Whom man can express nothing, except his sense of wonder which increases in intensity the more he thinks of Him, only to admit eventually that the road to the knowledge of Allah begins and ends in wonder and humility. He retreats from the enterprise after becoming overwhelmed with awe. The reason is that man is not able to understand His Essence or comprehend His qualities fully. The poet may say: “Thou art beyond my speech and thought. Woe be unto my specifications of you and my comparisons”.


The intellect of intellectuals gets solace not by His rational quest, but by submissive remembrance and subdued utterances about His glorification and soul is satisfied with His gnosis, because He is the Complete and Absolute Being in His own essence and no one else. Allah says: “Who have believed and whose hearts rest in the remembrance of Allah. Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest” (13:28).The people, who neglect Him, He neglects them as they remain in darkness about His grace and Him as the provider of light and guidance. This is implied in the root of the word indicating man’s attention towards Allah when any calamity befalls him. Because Allah is the asylum of all the creatures from all the calamities and difficulties.


The reason and meaning of Allah’s remaining concealed from the people is that He is beyond the comprehension of their senses and the meaning His being elevated is that He is over and above everything and transcends all and evades all the interpretations which are not feasible in regard to Allah, the most exalted.           




(The Author is Director International Center for Spiritual Studies, Islamic University of Science and Technology Awantipora Pulwama. Former Director, Shah-i-Hamadan Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Kashmir Srinagar. He can be reached on

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