Is YHWH referred to in the Quran ?
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
There are Christians who tend to make a point that the Bible mentions in Exodus 3:14 that the name of God is “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” (depends on where one puts the vowels) but this name does not appear in the Qur’an.
Hence they claim that the Qur’an cannot be the Word of God and Prophet Muhammed ﷺ cannot be a Messenger of God, because there is no reference to the personal name of God which appears in the Old Testament 6823 times.
YHWH (Yahweh) in the Bible
Let’s first read the concerned verse in the Bible in context:
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation. – [Exodus 3:13-15]
The Hebrew word that is translated as “I AM” in English, is YHWH (known as the Tetragrammaton) which commonly the Christians read as Yahweh or Jehovah by inserting vowels. The Hebrew form of YHWH is as below:
The objection which Christians raise is that as we see in Exodus 3:15, God says that this is his name forever thus they say if Prophet Muhammed ﷺ was a Messenger of Allah then he should have made some reference to this personal name of God, Yahweh/Jehovah, to prove that he is really a Messenger of God.
Pronunciation of the word YHWH
“Yahweh” and “Jehovah” are two pronunciations formed by humans much later. Although the Jewish Encyclopedia labels the word “Jehovah” to be a philological impossibility, the Christian world tends to use this pronunciation till this day.
Coming back to the pronunciation of this word YHWH, the Catholic Encyclopedia brings it to our attention:
“According to a Rabbinic tradition the real pronunciation of Jehovah ceased to be used at the time of Simeon the Just, who was, according to Maimonides, a contemporary of Alexander the Great. At any rate, it appears that the name was no longer pronounced after the destruction of the Temple.”
Moreover we are also informed by the same encyclopedia that “the modern Jews are as uncertain of the real pronunciation of the Sacred name as their Christian contemporaries” [emphasis added]. Hence one thing has been made apparent that neither the Jews nor the Christians know the true pronunciation of this word. This word was considered to be ineffable by the Jews and thus with time people lost the knowledge of its true pronunciation.
Meaning of YHWH (Yahweh)
As it was made apparent that we do not know how to pronounce the word “YHWH”, we must now look and understand what this word means so as to get an understanding of the word itself. The Jewish Encyclopedia informs us that the meaning of the name “YHWH” is “‘He who is self-existing, self-sufficient’, or, more concretely, ‘He who lives’” [emphasis added]. Hence in simplest of terms “YHWH” means The Living and Self-Subsisting.
Did Biblical Jesus use the name YHWH?
Up till now two things have been made clear; the real pronunciation of the word is not available and that the meaning of this word is “self-existing and self sufficient”, in short “He who lives”. So now it must be established whether Jesus did use this name Yahweh in any place. The only verse which Christendom can quote to try to prove that Jesus used this word is in the Gospel of John which is as below:
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” – [John 8:58]
As we see that the verse consists of the phrase “I am”, the Christians say that Jesus has used the word YHWH. So let us take a look at the Greek version of the verse as we all know that the biblical manuscripts with the Christian world are in the language Greek although there is no concrete evidence that Jesus knew this language.
The words translated as “I am” are: ἐγώ εἰμί
Transliterated as: egō eimi
Pronounced as: eg-o’ i-mee’
So the words used here are “ego eimi” which simply means “I am” – a means of designating oneself. Not only “ego eimi” simply means “I am” as one would use “I am” in their everyday talk in the English language, “ego eimi” is no where near to the meaning of YHWH which is seen above to mean The Living, Self Subsisting. So not only does this not sound anything like the proposed pronunciation of the word YHWH, it does not even carry the meaning of the word.
Was “ego eimi” used Exclusively by Jesus?
The term “ego eimi” which simply means “I am” is used in numerous places in the Bible and there are instances when this term is used by people other than Jesus. Just to give a quick example, the blind man whom Jesus cured uses the same words as well in the Gospel of John:
Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. – [John 9:9]
Do note the deception which the Christian world uses. In the Greek manuscripts there is no “he” in the text. The verse ends at “I am”. The same phrase “ego eimi” is used in the Greek texts.
Due to the absence of “he” in the biblical manuscripts, “Young’s Literal Translation” provides the following translation for the same verse:
Others said — `This is he;’ and others — `He is like to him;’ he himself said, — ‘I am [he].’ – [Young’s Literal Translation of John 9:9]
Notice that the term “he” is placed in parenthesis because this word is not present in the biblical manuscripts. Any form of term that is not in the text being translated should be written in parenthesis to convey the meaning and not cause deception such that people would believe that it is part of the original text.
So by using the phrase “ego eimi” was the blind man suggesting that he was YHWH?
Obviously NOT and NO Christian would dare to claim that he was. So then why did he use the term “ego eimi”?
Simply because this word means nothing but the same as “I am” in the English language.
Similarly there are other examples in the Bible which prove that this phrase “ego eimi” was not used only by Jesus and it certainly does not hold the meaning of YHWH as seen earlier.
If, however Christendom wants to claim that “ego eimi” refers to “YHWH”, the personal name of God, they have to accept that when traveling from Hebrew to Greek, the word was not used as “YHWH” (Yahweh) but an alternate word(s) was used “ego eimi” which was a reference to the actual name YHWH.
Does Qur’an Make Any Reference to YHWH?
So far we have learnt 4 points which I will list so as to refresh all that we have learnt so far:
- Actual pronunciation of YHWH is lost.
- YHWH means “Self-Subsisting”, “The Living”.
- Jesus did not use the term “YHWH”.
- Christians cannot deny that traveling from Hebrew to Greek another term was used to refer to YHWH.
Thus we see that the Qur’an should have a reference to the term YHWH rather than having the term “YHWH” as the Qur’an was revealed in the Arabic and not the Hebrew. The golden question thus would be was any such reference made to the term “YHWH” in the Quran or by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ?
The answer is a definite “YES”.
We have learnt so far that the meaning of the term “YHWH” is The Living, Self Subsisting and although the term “Allah” is used in the Quran, this word simply means “The God”.
However, we know that Islamic teachings inform us of 99 names (attributes) of Allah and the Quran informs us that to Allah belongs the most beautiful names and we can call him by any of these beautiful names:
He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms (or Colours). To Him belong the Most beautiful names: whatever is in the heavens and on earth, doth declare His Praises and Glory: and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. – [Quran 59:24]
Say: “Call upon Allah, or call upon Rahman: by whatever name ye call upon Him, (it is well): for to Him belong the Most beautiful names. Neither speak thy Prayer aloud, nor speak it in a low tone, but seek a middle course between.” – [Quran 17:110]
Thus we see that there are many different names of Allah, some of which I have listed below:
Al-‘Adl – The Just, The Equitable
Al-‘Afuw – The Pardoner
Al-‘Asim – The Protector
Ad-Dafi` – The Remover of Tribulations
Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem – The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Just like these above-mentioned beautiful names of Allah we also learn of two other names which combined are read as Hayyul-Qayyum:
Hayyul-Qayyum – The Living, Self-Subsisting
YHWH – The Living, Self-Subsisting
Here it has been proven that there is clear reference to the name YHWH in the Qur’an which crumbles the Christian stand that Islam has no reference to the name YHWH and thus Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is not the Messenger of Allah.
Stressed Importance of Hayyul-Qayyum
One of the verses which has Allah referred to by the name Hayyul-Qayyum is in Ayat-ul-Qursi (The Verse of the Throne). Ayat-ul-Qursi has multitude benefits but apart from Ayat-ul-Qursi having its benefits, this verse with “Hayyul-Qayyum” mentioned in it was referred to by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as the “greatest”:
Ubayy bin Ka’b said: Allah’s Messenger (May peace be upon him) said: O Abu’ al-Mundhir, do you know the verse from the Book of Allah which, according to you, is the greatest? I said: Allah and His Apostle (May peace be upon him) know best.
He again said: Abu’l-Mundhir, do you know the verse from the Book of Allah which, according to you, is the greatest? I said: “Allahu La ilaha illa Huwal Hayyul Qayyum.” Thereupon he struck me on my breast and said: May knowledge be pleasant for you, O Abu’l-Mundhir! – [Sahih Muslim, Book 4, #1768]
In another narration, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ heard the man use “Hayyul-Qayyum” in his supplication and the Prophet ﷺ said that he has supplicated using Allah’s Greatest Name:
Narrated by Anas Ibn Malik: I was sitting with the Apostle of Allah ﷺ and a man was offering prayer. He then made supplication: O Allah, I ask Thee by virtue of the fact that praise is due to Thee, there is no deity but Thou, Who showest favour and beneficence, the Originator of the Heavens and the earth, O Lord of Majesty and Splendour, O Living One, O Eternal One.
The Prophet ﷺ then said: He has supplicated Allah using His Greatest Name, when supplicated by this name, He answers, and when asked by this name He gives. – [Abu Dawood, Book 2, #1490]
Yet another hadith to show the importance stressed by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ on the Hayyul-Qayyum:
Narrated by Asma’ daughter of Yazid: The Prophet (pbuh) said: Allah’s Greatest Name is in these two verses: “And your deity is one deity; there is no deity but He, the Compassionate the Merciful,” and the beginning of Surah Al ‘Imran, A.L.M. “Allahu La ilaha illa Huwal Hayyul Qayyum.”– [Abu Dawood, Book 2, #1491]
With the grace of Allah it can be seen that there is a clear reference to YHWH in the Quran. This reference is much stronger than what the Christians claim to be a reference to YHWH in the New Testament. The word “ego eimi” is in no way the Greek word for YHWH nor does it hold the meaning of YHWH. However as seen, there is a clear reference to the term YHWH in the Quran as well as the Hadith.
The Quran gives us many beautiful names of Allah, some of which have been mentioned above, and a Muslim can call upon Allah with any of his beautiful names unlike the followers of the Bible who do not even know how to pronounce the ‘personal name’ revealed to them. Indeed much of the truth in those books is lost just like the pronunciation of YHWH is lost and the Quran is sent to restore that which is lost – The Criterion.
Some More Beautiful Names of Allah
Al-Ghani – The Self-Sufficient, The Rich Beyond Need
Al-Awwal – The First
Al-‘Aakhir – The Last
Al-Barr – The Source of All Goodness
Al-Baaqi – The Everlasting One
Al-Haqq – The Truth
Al-Khaliq – The Creator
Al-Kafi – The Sufficient One
Ash-Shahid – The Witness
Credit: Ebrahim Saifuddin
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Allah knows Best.