What is the meaning of ilaah?
Ibn Abbas (radiyallaahu anhu) stated that ilaah means. '...one whom everything turns to, and whom everyone worships.' [Tafsir at-Tabari, 1/54]
The famous commentator on the words of the Qur'aan, al-Raghib al-Asbahani (d.425) stated: 'Ilaah is a name given to every object that is worshipped.' [Al-Mufradat p.21]
al-Fayruzabadi said: 'Every object that is worshipped is an ilaah for the one that worships it.' [Al-Qamus, p.1603]
Ibn Taymiyaah wrote: "The meaning of ilaah is not 'One who has the capability to create', as many philosophical groups presume. For they believe that godship (ilaahiyyah) is the ability to create, and that whoever affirms that Allaah is the One Who creates, without any other creator, has testified to La ilaaha illa Allaah. But indeed, the Mushrikun used to testify to this as well, and they were still considered Mushrikun. So the true ilaah is the one that is worthy of worship...and tawheed implies worshipping Allaah alone, without any partner. And shirk is to make with Allaah other objects of worship." [Majmu al-Fatawa]
Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab stated: '..the meaning of the word ilaah according to the Arabs is the one that is turned to for all of these matters of supernatural help, whether the object turned to is an angel, a prophet, a pious saint, a tree, a grave, or a jinni. The Arabs of old did not understand by ilaah that it is the Creator, Sustainer, and Controller of the creation, because they fully realised and knew for certain that these matters are only attributed to Allaah." [Kashf al-Shubuhat]
As Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta'aala says in the Glorious Qur'aan: "If you were to ask them: "Who has created the heavens and the earth and subjected the sun and the moon? They will surely reply: "Allaah." How then are they deluded." [Soorah al-Ankabut Ayah 61] and "Say: To Whom belongs the earth and whoever is it it, if you really know? They will respond, 'To Allaah.' Say: Then will you not remember?' Say: 'Who is the Lord of the seven heavens, and Lord of the Great Throne? They will respond, 'Allaah'. Say: 'Then will you not fear him?' Say: In Whose Hand is the realm (or control) of all things, while He protects, and none can protect against Him, if you should know? They will respond, 'Allaah'. So say: Then how are you deluded (away from the truth)?' [Soorah al-Mumineen Ayat 84-89] So the Jahiliyyaah Arabs believed in Allaah Azza wa Jall but yet committed shirk." Allaah states, "And most of them do not believe (yu'min) in Allaah except that they commit shirk." [Soorah Yusuf Ayah 106]
What is the meaning of laa ilaaha illa Allaah?
Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-Uthaymeen wrote: '..the sentence laa ilaaha illa Allaah comprises a denial and an affirmation. As for the denial it is laa ilaaha (None has the right be worshipped), and as for the affirmation, then it is illa Allaah (except Allaah). So in the sentence there is a word understood in meaning but not stated in words, which is necessary to complete the meaning and it is haqq (rightfully), and when this understood it clarifies the answer to the followings question that may be raised: How can it be said that there is no ilaah except Allaah (laa ilaaha illa Allaah) despite the fact that there is false gods worshipped besides Allaah. Furthermore Allaah, the Most High, calls them gods/objects of worship (aalihah) and those who worship them call them gods. Allaah, the Exalted and Most High Says, "So their gods which they invocked besides Allaah could not save them from the punishment of their Lord when it came, nor repel any of it from them." [Soorah Hud Ayah 101]
So how can other deites be confirmed besides Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, when all of the messengers said to their people, "Worship Allaah alone, there is none besides Him deserving and having the right to your worship." [Soorah al-A'raaf Ayah 59]
The answer to this question will become clear when we know what is the unstated word or words necessary to complete the meaning of the saying laa ilaaha illa Allaah. So we say: These gods (aalihah) which are worshipped besides Allaah are gods, but they are false and futile gods, they are not true gods and do not possess anything of divinity, nor deserve any worship, and the proof for this is the Saying of Allaah, the Most High, "That is because Allaah is the true God, deserving all worship, having none like Him no sharer and no rival, and those gods which the mushriks invoke besids Him are futile and false gods and not able to create anything, rather they are themselves created things. It is Allaah who is the Most High, above everything, the Most Great. [Soorah al-Hajj Ayah 62]
This also proven by the Saying of Allaah, the Most High, "Have you seen, O Mushriks, (the idols) al-Laat, al-'Uzzaa, and the other one Manaat, the third of them. You prefer and love the male offspring for yourselves and then falsely attribute daughters, which you hate for yourselves, to Allaah. This is indeed an unjust division. Rather these idols are mere names which you mushriks and your forefathers have invented. Allaah has sent down no proof for that." [Soorah an-Najm Ayah 19-23]
The Saying of Allaah, the Most High, concering Yusuf, 'alayhis-salaam, provides further proof, "You do not worship besides Allaah except idols which you call gods, which you and your forefathers have give names to, for which Allaah has sent down no authority." [Soorah Yusuf Ayah 40]
So the meaning of laa ilaaha illa Allaah is: None has the right to be worshipped except Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic. As for those things which are worshipped besides Him, then the godship which their worshippers claim for them is not a reality, but rather false and futile." [Sharh Thalaathatul-Usool]