This seems important if one is to have a meaningful conversation with a Muslim. I have heard that “allah”–like the cognate “el” or “eloh” (singular of “elohim”) in Hebrew–is simply the Arabic word for God, and that this is how “God” is translated by Arab Christians. As one Jewish writer often says, “God” is not God’s name. The most high God spoke His name to Moses. “God” is more like a title or descriptive of His relationship to creation.
Now I’ve also heard mostly Christians, but even some ex-Muslims, describe “Allah” as the name of a rival God–or a demon–and not the God Who historically spoke to Abraham. My gut reaction is that this seems like a “scorched earth” approach to any kind of common ground we have with Muslims as fellow “people of the Book.” To me, it seems like this would be like asserting that Issa is not Jesus because Muslims don’t believe that Jesus was God. But if Issa is the name of Jesus in Arabic, this clouds the issues more than it clarifies. Some Christians preach things about God that seem to make Him sound kind of horrible and demonic, so we need to take care about this. I don’t even think telling a Mormon that the Jesus in the Book of Mormon is a demon is generally going to lead to dialogue about redemption and divinity, regardless of the names being the same.
How do Arab Christians perceive this? How do Muslims perceive this? How should we handle it truthfully and with sensitivity?