Contributed by The Muslim Vibe
The Names of Allah
Perhaps this is why the Prophet Muhammad used two ways of indicating the full number of Allah’s best names when he said: “Allah has ninety-nine names; one-hundred minus one, and whoever knows them will go to Paradise” (Sahih Al-Bukhari – Book 50 Hadith 894).
The 100 includes the one special name that echoes in the heart, mind, and soul, of a pious Muslim; that makes the generic Allah into the extra holy name of the Muslim who loves Allah.
As a neutral outsider, and an American Reform Rabbi, I can understand why some Muslims would object to Christians using the word Allah in the context of saying that Jesus is the son of Allah. Almost eleven centuries ago, the great scholar Rabbi Saadiah Gaon (d. 942 in Iraq) regularly referred to God as Allah in his Arabic commentary to the Torah.
No one at that time, or in any later century, objected to Rabbi Saadiah Gaon’s use of Allah because he referred to a unitarian God and not a trinitarian God. In today’s world it would be better for trinitarians to use another Arabic word for Divinity such as Al-Rakhman ‘the Merciful One’; which is exactly equivalent to the Jewish Aramaic word Rakhmana used by both Jews and Christians in the centuries after Jesus.
Thus, one could say that Allah spoke to Jesus as the Qur’an itself states: “Allah said: Jesus, I will take you back and raise you up to Myself…(3:55)” however, one should not say that Jesus is the son of Allah.
I myself follow the words of the Qur’an that direct Muslims to say: “We have believed in Allah and in what was revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in what was given to Moses and Jesus and to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [submitting] to Him (3:84)”.
So, I believe that Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders should always try to harmonize differences between the Sacred Scriptures of Moses, David, Jesus, and Muhammad, and avoid claiming that only one Holy Book (ours) can be true.
I think of myself as a Muslim Jew i.e. a faithful Jew submitting to the will of God, because as a Rabbi I am faithful to the covenant that God made with Abraham – the first Muslim Jew, and I submit to the covenant and the commandments that God made with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai.
As a Reform Rabbi, I believe that Jewish spiritual leaders should modify Jewish tradition as social and historical circumstances change and develop. I also believe we should not make religion difficult for people to practice. These are lessons prophet Muhammad taught 12 centuries before the rise of Reform Judaism in the early 19th century.
If people of good will use the generic aspect of the word Allah only in a monotheistic context, and use another word for a trinitarian or polytheistic context, we can have more light and less hate in our own religious lives.