Do “YHWH” and “Allah (SWT)” Refer to the Same Deity?
There are many excuses that Christian missionaries and apologists make up in order to deny Islam, some of them valid and some of them questionable. One of the more questionable ones is that Allah (SWT) could not be the same God as that of the Bible because the supposedly the one and only name of the Judeo-Christian deity is YHWH (Exodus 3:14-15). The Christians also use this name in attempt to prove that Jesus (AS) was in fact God Almighty when he apparently referred to himself as YHWH (John8:58). The idea that Jesus (AS) referred to himself as YHWH furthers the notion that God Almighty always refers to and identifies Himself as YHWH. Therefore, the Christians claim that Allah (SWT) cannot be the True God because apparently nowhere in the Qur’an and ahadith is the name YHWH ever used in reference to Allah (SWT). Before I start to discuss the name of YHWH from an Islamic perspective, I first want to point out why the accusation, regardless of whether the name is found in Islam or not, is rather ridiculous.
The first objection the the Christian accusation would be that the Qur’an, and the language of the last revelation of Islam in general, is in Arabic. Just as the Old Testament is in Hebrew, and the New Testament is in Koine Greek, the Qur’an was revealed in Arabic. Therefore, just as God is referred to in Hebrew in the Old Testament and in Koine Greek in the New Testament, God is referred to in Arabic in Islam, in the language of the revelation, in the language of the immediate audience. The accusation is especially hypocritical on the Christian part because when Jesus (AS) supposedly referred to himself as YHWH in the Bible, he did so in Koine Greek, not Hebrew! That is why in most translations, the exact verse says that Jesus (AS) said, “…before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58), rather then the literal YHWH. Apparently, Jesus (AS) was quoting the Hebrew scripture in Koine Greek. In modern editions of the Old Testament, YHWH is translated as “I AM,” and according to Christians, Jesus (AS) was directly alluding to when YHWH was talking to Moses in the Book of Exodus, as mentioned above. The Jews then, after catching the allusion, attempted to stone Jesus (AS) for the apparent blasphemy (John 8:59). The important thing to note is that the Christians accepted the Koine Greek rendition of YHWH as a legitimate reincarnation of the name – and yet, they demand that the Qur’an produce the actual name of YHWH in Hebrew, not Arabic, not even Koine Greek. This is a clear double standard – why should the Qur’an use the Hebrew name when even the Gospels don’t use the Hebrew name? Also, even if Jesus (AS) had used the original Hebrew, why should the Qur’an use the Hebrew? Isn’t Hebrew just another language? Why must the language of God Almighty be limited to one language?
Another problem with the Christian accusation is that it assuming that in order for a deity to be recognized as the One True God, that deity must be called YHWH. This is a false standard. Nowhere in the biblical scriptures does it say that the standard to see whether a deity people are worshiping somewhere is the same as the Judeo-Christian deity is to see whether name is YHWH or not – that is ludicrous. That implies that the identity of God Almighty lies not is His attributes, but rather the syllables that denote His Name. This is notion is quickly put down. First of all, that standard would mean that anyone called YHWH is indeed YHWH; thus, if I call Gautama Buddha by YHWH, Gautama Buddha would in fact become the Judeo-Christian deity just because I called him by that name. That, of course, makes no sense, nor do I imply that that is what the Christians are trying to say, but it is what they are implying, even if it’s by accident. Another implication is that you cannot identify a deity by its attributes. The fact that Allah (SWT) and YHWH both are One would mean nothing to Christians. The fact that both Allah (SWT) and YHWH depend on no other being or object, and yet all of creation depends on this One God, would mean nothing to Christians. The fact that both these deities apparently sent down the exact same prophets (Adam, Noah, Abraham,David, Solomon, etc.) doesn’t even ring a bell with Christians. So many similarities about these two conceptualizations of God Almighty, YHWH and Allah (SWT), and yet the Christians refuse to connect the dots, probably because they fear the the consequences of such a conclusion. A parallel of the Christian mentality would be as if a Spanish Christian and a Hindustani Christian were arguing on who is the God of the Bible – Dios, or Bhagwan? Both names denote the same God, just in two different languages (Spanish and Hindi, respectively)! It is almost comical to assume that mere syllables keep to people from realizing that they worship the same general being. It is a bit more complicated between Christians and Muslims, since both their scriptures attribute different things to the same God Almighty, but they both worship the same general deity. For a Christian to argue otherwise would mean that he/she would have to concede that Christians and Jews don’t worship the same deities, since the Old and New Testaments differ greatly in theological matters. As a matter of fact, the Old Testament and the Qur’an probably agree 99% on the theology of God Almighty, just not the history of His interaction with His creation. The Christian missionary would vehemently deny this, and try to show a pattern of “hints” toward the Trinity towards the Old Testament, but this attempt is a sad failure. Regardless, the point is that the Christians are so stuck over the actually Hebrew name of YHWH (and hyprocritically so, as I mentioned above), that they forget to study the personhood or attributes of the two deities being compared, and thus they conclude that these two deities are actually NOT the same general being. Some missionaries even go as far as to claim that Allah (SWT) isn’t even the same concept as the One God, but rather is just another manifestation of the pagan Arab moon god (1). However, these conclusions are completely incorrect.
Now, the previous two paragraphs are a summary of why Muslims don’t really even care about the Christian accusation about YHWH. It is so illogical and irrational that we really don’t even see it worth answering or looking into. However, there have been some evidence found that has led to an interesting theory about the presence of YHWH in Islam. It begins with a study of Ayat al-Kursi, the greatest ayah (verse) in the entire Qur’an (Sahih Muslim Bk.4 Ch.135 No.1768). The reason for why this ayah (Qur’an Ch.2 v.255) is the greatest is reportedly due to the fact that it, along with another ayah (Qur’an Ch.3 vv.1-2), contains the Greatest Name of God Almighty (Sunan Abu Dawud Bk.2 No.1491). What name is that? It is contained in the phrase “Al-Hayyu Al-Qayyum,” translated as “the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsisting.” This phrase contains contains the Greatest Name of Allah (SWT), and is found in the greatest verse in the entire Qur’an, a verse of immense significance in Islam. For example, it is highly recommended by the prophet Muhammad (SAW) to invoke on and supplicate to Allah (SWT) as “Al-Hayyu Al-Qayyum” (Sunan Abu Dawud Bk.2 No.1490). So what does this have to do with YHWH? The answer lies in the entry for “YHWH” in the Jewish Encyclodpedia, originally published between 1901-1906, and now belonging to the public domain. The specified entry of this reputable work states that:
In appearance, Yhwh () is the third person singular imperfect “ḳal” of the verb (“to be”), meaning, therefore, “He is,” or “He will be,” or, perhaps, “He lives,” the root idea of the word being,probably, “to blow,” “to breathe,” and hence, “to live.” With this explanation agrees the meaning of the name given in Ex. iii. 14, where God is represented as speaking, and hence as using the first person—”I am” (, from , the later equivalent of the archaic stem ). The meaning would, therefore, be “He who is self-existing, self-sufficient,” or, more concretely, “He who lives,” the abstract conception of pure existence being foreign to Hebrew thought. There is no doubt that the idea of life was intimately connected with the name Yhwh from early times. He is the living God, as contrasted with the lifeless gods of the heathen, and He is the source and author of life (comp. I Kings xviii.; Isa. xli. 26-29, xliv. 6-20; Jer. x. 10, 14; Gen. ii. 7; etc.). So familiar is this conception of God to the Hebrew mind that it appears in the common formula of an oath, “ḥai Yhwh” (= “as Yhwh lives”; Ruth iii. 13; I Sam. xiv. 45; etc.). (2)
As the highlighted sentence indicates, the meaning of YHWH completely matches the meaning of “Al-Hayyu Al-Qayyum,” the Greatest Name of Allah (SWT) found in the greatest verse of the Qur’an, Ayat al-Kursi. Special attention can be drawn to “Al-Hayyu,” which sounds like the common pronounciation of YHWH, Yahweh. Basically, what this means that just as Jesus (AS) is believed by Christians to have referred to the name of YHWH in Koine Greek, the Qur’an has a possible manifestation of YHWH in Arabic as well. Although nowhere in Isam is it taught explicitly that “Al-Hayyu Al-Qayyum” is the Islamic manifestation of YHWH, both Judaism and Islam teach that that their respective manifestions are the most important revealed Names of God Almighty. However, despite the lack of explicit evidence, all other evidence almost spoon-feeds the conclusion that the Greatest Name of Allah (SWT) is at the very least a derivative/sibling of the Hebrew name “YHWH.” Despite the absurdity of the Christian missionaries’ demand for the name of YHWY in the Qur’an or Sunnah, they were still met, by both the Qur’an and the Sunnah, subhan’Allah.
– Farhan R.
P.S. – As I was doing research, I found another website also talking about YHWH in Ayat al-Kursi. Although I didn’t use it at all for my article, it might help anyone who wants more information. Here is the link: