The answer: Yes! I mean, No. Well, okay, possibly.
The problem with answering difficult questions is that the answers don’t fit on a bumper sticker. So, we have to fully engage our minds and hearts in answering a question like this.
It’s like so many other questions I get – like: Do you think if the Palestinians had their own sovereign state that there would be peace in Israel? Or…Does the Qur’an encourage violence?
You would only think these are all simply yes or no answers if you haven’t thought deeply about the questions. So here I go – giving you my best answer to the question “Is Allah God?”
The Sociological Argument
All of you reading this know me in one way or another. You know my name. You know I have interesting thoughts about Jesus, about the Middle East, about how to interact with culture, etc. How would you answer someone who asked you, “Do you know Carl Medearis who lives in Denver and used to live in Beirut?” You would probably simply say “yes.” But do you really know me? Even my Chris and my three kids find out new things about me fairly often. (Once in a while, those things are even good!)
So at one level, we’re asking this question of Muslims: Do they REALLY know God? And I would ask: Do we? Of all the percentage of God there is to know (presumably 100%), how much do you know of Him? Think about it. Maybe 1%? I think I’m probably up to .000001% of knowing all there is to know about God. We’ve just decided that we know the right .01%. The bit that is “good enough” and the .000001% that Muslims know about God isn’t good enough. (Which may be true, by the way. I’m not arguing against the point of “knowing enough” as it’s a good point.)
So to begin the discussion, we need to jump off our high horse and humble ourselves so we’re not thinking we have one less zero in front of the decimal…We all see through a glass darkly. Is the glass darker for our Muslim friends when they “see” God? Probably.
What clears the glass a bit? Jesus. We see God as clearly as we see Jesus.
The Etymological Argument (Study of Words)
“Allah” is simply the word for “god” in Arabic. Kind of like Dios is his name in Spanish. We would never say that “Dios” is the Catholic or Spanish God. We would say that that is his name in Spanish – big difference. All Arab Christians have used “Allah” in Arabic for God.
Remember when Jesus cried out at the crucifixion “My God my God….” The word in Aramaic (an early version of Arabic) was “illahi.” To say “my God” in Arabic today, you would say “Allahi.” When an Arab simply says “God” he uses the word “illah.” Same root. Same word.
Some have heard that “Allah” was the Moon God in the Arabian desert. Other than the fact that there is no evidence of this, if you were to ask any Muslim from any time in history if they worship the “Moon God”, they would be highly offended. Do we worship a pagan deity called “God?” Of course not. But our English word comes from the Germanic pagan deity of water called “Guut.” Or did Paul encourage us to worship the Roman God Zeus when he Hellenized that word and turned it into Theos? Of course not.
So on the most basic level of how we use words, the only word for “God” in Arabic is “Allah.”
The Theological Argument
Perhaps the deepest of all the issues when we discuss whether the God of the Muslims, called “Allah” in Arabic, is the same as “our God” is this: When they think of “God”, are they thinking of or praying to the “right” God? This, in my opinion, is the real issue. (And my guess is, it’s your real issue as well). Here are several thoughts on that:
A. There is only one God. There aren’t several. In one sense, unless you’d say that Muslims are worshipping an idol or the devil, then there is only one possibility anyway. It’s simply whether or not they are seeing him correctly or not. But it’s not the question of whether he is God or not. This is a huge deal. It’s one thing to say that Muslims don’t see God clearly; it’s quite another to say that it’s not the real God.
B. The 99 names of God that they use would all agree with our definitions of God.
C. Here’s the “God” that Muslims believe in: He is the creator of the heavens and the earth. He created and loves us. He is the All-powerful (omnipotent), the all-knowing (omniscient), and the all-present (omnipresent). He is the eternal judge. He is fully holy and righteous. And he is the God who saves, heals, comforts, offers compassion and mercy – and the God who’s wrath needs atonement (Although Muslims do not believe that is provided through Christ). So is it the same God? Of course it is. Do Muslims have full revelation of who he is and who Jesus is? No. Do they need that understanding? Yes. See, those two questions are easy to answer with one word.
The Missiological Argument
My final point, and the most practical, is this: to reach the heart of our Muslim friends with the good news, we need to meet them where they are. They also see through a glass darkly. They are trying to find access to the One True God. All the Muslims I know who take their faith seriously, want to know God and follow Him. Why would we not give that to them? Maybe it’s because we’re mad at Muslims and we don’t want them to “share” our God (as if he’s “ours” anyway).
When a Muslims says they believe in God or in Jesus (which they would all say), why not start out with a simple “Great, and so do I. So how about we walk together and get to know Him more.” That opens every door!