A reader asks – In Islam the name of God is The God or Al Ilah. Does this mean there are many Gods and He is The God?
As Salaam Alaikum and thank you for your question.
This is a common question arising from a lack of knowledge of Arabic. The name of God in Islam is Allah – one word; and not Al Illah – two words. Allah is the Divine Being’s personal name and it is not a combination of the definite article Al (meaning The) and Illah (meaning God). Let me explain;
Arabic alphabet is divided into sun letters and moon letters. This refers to a rule of how to pronounce words that follow the definite article Al or the.
Moon is called qamar in Arabic. So all the letters, which follow the same rule of pronunciation as Al Qamar, are called moon letters. This rule says that if the word that follows Al starts with a ‘moon’ letter then the letter ‘l’ in Al is pronounced in full. So ‘the moon’ will be read out as Al qamar. Thus, Al Qamar is pronounced as it is written here.
The word for the sun is Shams. So all the letters, which follow the same rule of pronunciation as Al Shams, are called sun letters. In this case, the sun is written Al Shams but pronounced Ash shams i.e. the letter l of Al is not pronounced, A of Al joins the s (sheen) of shams but it is pronounced twice – so we have Ash shams.
Let us now apply this rule to the word Allah to decide whether it is Allah or Al illah. If separated into two words, we find illah starts with a moon letter. This means it should be pronounced as Al Illah with Al being pronounced in full and not Allah. This shows that Allah is a word in its own right and not a combination of two words.