WHAT IS JAH?
Jah is the word for God in the Rastafarian culture. It is derived from the Hebrew word "Yah," but it is also believed to be a shortened version of the Biblical name "Jehovah." The word "Jah" appears approximately 50 times in both the Hebrew and emphasized Christian Bibles. Jah can also be found within the term "Hallelujah" which translates to "Praise God" in Judaism and Christianity.
The Rastafarian culture began using the term Jah to refer to the man they believed to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. This man's name was Haile Selassie and he was the emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. He was born Tafari Makonnen which later became the origin of the term Rastafari. Rastas often refer to Selassie as "HIM," "King of Kings," and "His Imperial Madjesty," but most commonly they refer to him as "Jah Rastafari."
A number of names, mainly Hebrew, also have a connection to Jah in that they include Jah in their translations. The name Tobiah translates to "Jah is Good," and Elijah is a combination of "el" meaning God and "Jah," meaning Jehovah. Jah as a name also means "dignity" in Africa. The connection of Jah to the Hebrew and African cultures helps illustrate the interconnectedness of Rastafari with both Africa and Judaism.
In Jamaica and other parts of the West Indies, there has been a recent rise in Christian Reggae that has led to more common use of the word Jah. In songs, the word is used as a term to refer to elements of the Bible. But it is still mainly connected with Rastafari and their belief that Jah is God.