Allaah – A Name That Heals
This is an edited version of a very complex and insightful article by Prof. U Muhammad Iqbal published in Radiance. I have taken the liberty to edit simplifying the discussion to the basic idea given in the title: Allah, A Name that Heals. Very interesting and inspiring indeed.
The personal name for God preferred by Islam is Allah. This name predates Islam. However, Islam has given a specific connotation to this name to such an extent that in an ambience of polytheism or Trinity the use of this name will sound odd. Further, Islam has popularised this holy name on a global scale. Non-Muslims think that Allah is either a new Arab God or a God for Muslims alone. Both impressions are wrong. According to Islam, there is only one God for the whole universe and there is no other God beside Him. He alone is God for all human beings, including Muslims.
Allah is an Arabic word to denote the singular and unique Deity of all the worlds. The Hebrew words for God “El” and “Elah” are closer and similar to Allah. One can address God by any beautiful name whose connotation should be in sync with the majesty and glory of the Most High. According to a hadeeth there are ninety-nine names of God. Allah and Ar-Rahman are the foremost among them.
One school of etymology holds the view that Allah is a complete word per se.* Another school thinks that the name Allah was originally a combination of Al, (meaning The Only) and ‘ilaha’ (meaning God) which in course of time collapsed into one word – Allah, meaning The One and Only God without a Second. (He is not assisted in His supremacy by any one, second, third or fourth, nor by any fifth, sixth or seventh, nor even by any eighth, ninth, or tenth. He is the One circumscribing, the One above. This one ought to know. (Atharva Veda, Vol-13, Section-4, Verses 16-18. Quoted by Dr B.N Singh, The Creator, p. 62) From this perspective Allah is a denotative term, specific to one Identity.
In the pronunciation of the word ‘Allah’ certain sensations are aroused.
Frederick T. Wood says, “When one lifts the arm to point upwards, the tongue also rises so that the tip of it points towards the top palate. In this position it readily produces the sound al, and as it happens this syllable is a basic one, in a number of ancient languages in words expressing the idea of up or of height.” (An Outline History of the English Language, Second Edition, pp.7 and 8).
So, when a Muslim proceeds to pronounce the name Allah, the first syllable gives him a sense of elevation, as though his soul soars heavenward for a spiritual experience in the celestial regions. God seems to draw the Muslim towards Himself. The first step is enough for the Muslim; distances are covered in a trice; and the union of the tip of the tongue with the alveolar ridge that takes place during the articulation of the voiced alveolar lateral /l/ is indicative of the union between the seeker and the Object that he seeks.
If a worshipper takes the initiative in remembering his Lord, the Lord draws near His devotee in the twinkling of an eye. The spiritual experience is dramatically enacted in the pronunciation of /l/ is very significant. When the articulation of the lateral consonant is prolonged, it indicates the prolongation of the spiritual union. The prolongation in its turn is indicative of the bliss that the seeker and the Lord experience. The worshipper is pleased with the Lord, and the Lord is pleased with the worshipper. This pleasure is not short-lived but prolonged.
The lateral consonant undergoes a change during the gemination. The first /l/ is after a central vowel and the second /l/ is before a back vowel. In the pronunciation of the first /l/ the blade of the tongue takes up a different shape because /l/ is final here in the first syllable, it is dark or neutral /l/.
The second /l/ is before a back, long and open vowel /a:/ and so is articulation of /l/ from a dark variety to a clear variety is reflective of a mobility from darkness to clarity or light. When the tip of the tongue returns to its resting place, the vowel that is articulated is the back, open and unrounded vowel.
/a:/ produces a sense of largeness. In the word ‘large’, the same vowel is the nucleus, producing a peak of sonority. A feeling of towering largeness, of transcendence is the gift from the prolonged union between the tip of the tongue and the alveolar ridge.
And the last phoneme in the name ‘Allah’ is /h/ which is a glottal fricative mirroring a sense of relief, relaxation, calmness and serenity.
The utterance of the name of Allah has an emotional impact. The name is an example of sound and sense going hand in hand. The phonemes are five – a central vowel (schwa) + dark lateral+ clear lateral+ back/broad/ dark vowel+ glottal. If the back, half-close and rounded vowel /u/ is added, the phonemes will be six in the word ‘Allahu’. As the last phoneme is usually dropped in ordinary conversation, stress is laid upon the sequence of the five phonemes.
In the area in the mouth where all vowels originate, the first phoneme occupies the central position and is a central vowel. The centrality of the name of Allah is thus stressed. In combination with /l/ the central vowel stirs up a sense of sublimation. The lateral phoneme produces a sense of union and harmony between the two articulators – the tip of the tongue and the alveolar ridge. The gemination of /l/ produces a melodious state of bliss. The long back vowel /a:/ produces a sense of triumph and transcendence and the glottal /h/ brings a sense of relief. The sequence of these feelings has a therapeutic effect when the holy name is uttered slowly and repeatedly.
Allah is the most beautiful name for God Who is Most Beautiful. The name has infinite power. In a prayer, a Muslim seeks protection against the accursed Satan through the potency of His name. When the name is applied to the earth, the earth becomes steady, and when applied to the heavens, they are held high without visible pillars, and when applied to the Majestic Throne (Arsh) the Throne becomes static. The holy name has the power to make the day bright and to make the night dark. A Muslim invokes the holy name to allow the holy Qur’an to permeate his physical being and to lead his life in the light of the Quran. (Al Hizbul Azam, p.45)
A Muslim invokes those names in order to make the Qur’an fill his heart with the cheer of the spring and purge it of all grief.
“And to Allah belong the best names, so invoke Him by them. And leave [the company of] those who practice deviation concerning His names.” (Qur’an 7:180)
“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” (Qur’an 2:186)
“Indeed My Lord is near, responsive to prayers.” (Qur’an 11:61)
How the name ‘Allah’ helped Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) narrated by his companion, Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) vide Sahih Bukhari.
While returning from a military expedition, the Prophet and his companions rested in a valley during an afternoon. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) left his sword dangling from a low branch of a Samura tree and lay down for a siesta in the shade of the tree. The companions went to sleep too in the shade of other trees. Their sleep was suddenly disturbed as they heard the Prophet calling them. They rushed to his side and found a bedouin seated.
The Prophet pointed to the bedouin and narrated how when he was asleep, the bedouin had come and seized his sword with the intention of killing him, how fortunately he woke up and how the bedouin asked him who could save him from his imminent attack. The Prophet told them that his reply was “ALLAH!”
The bedouin was awe-struck on hearing this name and let the sword fall. There was a dramatic turn in the situation in favour of the Prophet. Peace and blessings of Allah to the Prophet who did not punish the bedouin after overpowering him. Sahih al Bukhari
To conclude, let me reiterate the fact that it is the same God who gave Moses the Torah, David the Psalms, Jesus the Injeel, and Prophet Muhammad (May Allah bless and greet him) the Qur’an. It is to the same God (Allah) that all, whether believers or non-believers, will return.
Sal-lal-laahu ‘Ala Muhammad, Sal-lal-laahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam.
* Dr. V Abdur Rahim, an authority in Arabic language and linguistics, says, “In the word الله – Allah – the initial letters ال (Al) do not constitute the definite article but they are part of the name”.
Read the full article from the Source