Thursday, April 23, 2015

Is Allah Syriac? Shaka Ahmose and the Sloppy Scholarship of the Afrocentric Jihad

(Black Arabia Strikes Back)

The gasping Afrocentric Jihad against Islam has a new magic bullet: the claim that the Arabic divine name "Allah" derived from Syriac, particularly Syriac Christianity. This is supposed to somehow disauthenticate Islam's Allah. Of course, the most current advocate of this is Shaka Ahmose.

Now, if it was true that the current Arabic "Allah" is anchored in a Syriac "Allaha," that would cause me no discomfort at all. I have demonstrated in my book Black Arabia and the African Origin of Islam (2009) that the Modern Standard Arabic quadraliteral word "Allah" is a very late development from the Proto-Semitic biliteral word ʾḷ (pronounced Alah); both the Modern Standard Arabic Allah and the Syriac Allaha are both quite late branches on the "Alah Tree."

Nevertheless, the Magic Bullet is only a Nerf and does nothing more than demonstrate luminously the shobby, sloppy scholarship of the Afrocentric Jihad which relies on outdated and discredited sources. It routinely fails to engage the most current scholarship on a subject. It is true that neither Shaka Ahmose nor the Afrocentric Jihad originated this claim: it was seriously and soberly entertained in Islamicist scholarship as early as Arthur Jeffery's "The Foreign Vocabulary in the Qur'an" (1938). Today, however, it is mainly discredited "throw-back" or "wannabe" Orientalist Christian scholars like the pseudonynous Christoph Luxenberg who champion this "Allah is Syric" Cause. And it is these outdated and/or academically spurious sources that are the sources for the Afrocentric Jihad. Nothing surprising there.

Nonetheless, the credibility of an idea does not live or die on the credentials (or lack thereof) of its popular advocates. The "Allah is Syriac" claim is discredited though the linguistic data and revealed by the most recent sober research done on the question.

Specifically, David Kiltz in his study“The Relationship between Arabic Allāh and Syriac Allāhā,” Der Islam 88 (2012): 33-50 takes up the question and, after reviewing the data, finds that the grammatical evidence militates against the Syriac being the origin of the Arabic Allah. He concludes:

“Regardless of whether the Arabic word was or was not the source of Syriac allāhā, the Arabic can be plausibly explained as being not a loan word but the result of inner-Arabic developments...There is no reason to assume a loan from Syriac into Arabic, as allāh is perfectly motivated, i.e. phonetically regular, in (some dialects of) Arabic and its development within Arabic is safely accounted for.” (45-46).

Case Closed


  1. Yes, this is a good article (and I'm not generally sympathetic to the thesis of this blog).

    A god consonanted 'lh is recorded all over the Arabian inscriptions, including in Arabic's ancestor-language Safaitic. The name is also indirectly transcribed into Greek in the form of theophorics like "Ουαβαλλας" = Wahb-Allah (inscription WH 1860, Ahmad al-Jallad "Safaitic" ch 23 p 294). This was done independently of pagan Imperial Aramaic influence let alone Syriac-Christian.

    BTW I see that Wahballah was the son of a Ẓannʾel son of another Wahballah. ʾEl is, of course, Canaanite and Hebrew. So these Arabs had kept their word for "primary god" separate from the Jews' word for same - although paying homage to that God with both names.

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