Even in idolatrous pre-Islamic Arabia, Allah was revered as the creator of the heavens and the earth and lord of the worlds. In distinction to the cults of hundreds of lesser pagan gods, pre-Islamic Arabian worship of Allah was never associated with an idol, including Hubal—Pat Robertson’s “moon god of Mecca,” whom he erroneously associates with Allah. Hubal was the chief idol of pagan Mecca but had no historical or theological connection with Allah or, for that matter, even with the moon. Hubal was venerated as a god of divination, and its cult was relatively new, having been introduced to Mecca only a few generations before Mu^ammad’s time, probably originating among the ancient Moabites or Mesopotamians.
Arabic is an ancient and exceptionally rich form of Semitic speech, closely related to Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac. Etymologically, Allah comes from the same root as the Biblical words Elohîm, ha-Elohîm, and ha-Elôh (all meaning “God”) invoked by the Hebrew prophets and the Aramaic and Syriac Alaha (“God”) used by John the Baptist and Jesus. Elo¯hîm derives from elôh (Hebrew for “god”), and Alaha is an emphatic form of alah (Aramaic/Syriac for “god”), while Allah is connected to ilah (Arabic for “god”). All three of these Semitic words for “god”—elôh, alah, and ilah—are etymologically equivalent. The slight modifications between them reflect different pronunciations conforming to the historical pattern of morphological shifts in each tongue. They are akin to the variations we find, for example,
between the Latin, Spanish, and Italian words for God (Deus, Dios, and Dio) or the English and German (God and Gott). Elohîm, Alaha, and Allah are all cognates—sister words—deriving from a common proto-Semitic root, which, according to one standard view, was the root ’LH, conveying the primary sense of “to worship.” The fundamental linguistic meaning of the three Abrahamic cognates for God—Elohîm, Alaha, and Allah—is “the one who is worshipped.”
ONE GOD Many Names. A Nawawi Foundation Paper by Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah