The whole “Allah” issue has somewhat been a thorn in our flesh. Just recently, Selangor MB, Azmin Ali exclaimed that the siezed Bibles belongs to the Christians and should thus be returned to them.
Abu Bakar Yahya (Selangor Perkasa chief) then expressed his concern that Azmin’s action of returning the Bibles with the word “Allah” in them would “…threaten the future of Malay Muslim youth. This means Islam is under threat”
Despite the fact that the Christian Federation of Malaysia wrote an article explaining when, why, and how the word “Allah” is used in the Al-Kitabs, there is still a general lack of understanding amongst Malaysians.
Let me now clarify that I’m not a religious scholar or even remotely trained in the field of comparative religions. I am just a Malaysian who is trying to be objective about the use of the word “Allah” by Christians
Let us consider the following propositions:
Proposition 1: “Allah” is an arabic word
Many academics hold the view that the word “Allah” is derived from the arabic words “al” (the) and “ilah” (god/deity).
“Allah is formed by joining the definite article al meaning ‘the’ with Ilah (God). Literally, Allah means ‘The God’.” [Huston Smith, The World’s Religions, p.222]
“Etymologically, Allah is probably a contraction of the Arabic al-ilahh, “the God,” although the Aramaic Alaha has also been proposed. The origin of the name can be traced to the earliest Semitic writings in which the word for god was Il or El, the latter bring in the Old Testament synonym for Yahweh. Known to Arabs even in pre-Islamic times, Allah is standard Arabic for God and is used by Arab Christians as well as Muslims.” [Encyclopedia Britannica Micropedia (Vol. 1; p. 250)]
Renowned Iranian-American scholar of religious studies, Reza Aslan also supports this proposition
[d] (k) r ‘l’-’lh bn’mt Mnfw w-Tlh’ bn Mr’ l-Qys w-Srgw bn S’dw w-Strw w-Syl [.] thw.
The apparent scribblings above is actually a pre-Islamic archaeological inscription (dated ca. 512AD) found in Zabad (60km south-east of Aleppo) that shows the word al-ilah was already used by Christians then
Operating on the assumption that “Allah” was derived from “al” and “ilah,” the only apparent requirement to the use of the Arabic word would be monotheism. As we all know, words must be used according to its meaning, and in the proper context
A huge misconception is that Christians believe and worship three gods, hence their usage of the “Allah” word is erroneous. That could not be further from the truth!
The doctrine of the Trinity refers to ONE God who exists as THREE distinct persons. The fact that Christians believe in and worship only ONE God would render their usage of the word “Allah” according to its meaning and in the proper context
If “Allah” is truly an Arabic word, it’s definition would be based on its meaning and not what the Qur’an says in Surah Al-Ikhlas (112th Sura of the Qur’an) or what other sources say are the prerequisite to the use of the word
Many scholars have also brought forward the idea that the use of “Allah” predates Islam
The word ‘Allah’ was a term used for the supreme God in a pantheon of gods, before the revelation of Islam. (The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam ed., H.A.R. Gibb & J.H.Kramer and The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, ed. John L. Esposito)
“The name Allah is also evident in archaeological and literary remains of pre Islamic Arabia” (Dr Kenneth Cragg, The Call of the Minaret , New York:OUP, 1956, p. 31)
“Allah is found . . . in Arabic inscriptions prior to Islam” ( Encyclopedia Britannica, I:643)
The translation of the Al-Kitab is not from the English translation but based on the Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible. In the Hebrew language, the word ‘God’ has the same root form as the Arabic language. So, when the word ‘God’ was first translated into Bahasa Malaysia, the translators merely followed the Arabic Christian usage and retained the word ‘Allah’
Historically, Malay-speaking Christians in South-East Asia have used ‘Allah’ to refer to God. The proofs are as follows:
• The Kitab salat as-sawai or Christian catechisms in Malay written in 1514 and published around 1545,
• The printed version of the Gospel of Matthew in Malay by A.C. Ruyl in 1629,
• Malay-Latin Dictionary was printed in Rome in 1631 (The Dictionarium Malaicum-Latinum and Latinum – Malaicum)
• The translation of Genesis by D. Brouwerius (1662),
• M. Leijdecker’s translation (1733),
• H.C. Klinkert’s translation (1879),
• W.A. Bode’s translation (1938), and
• The complete Malay Bible of 1731-1733 containing the word ‘Allah’ for God.
There is also a book from the 19th century titled “Porkara Terakhir” (The Final Matter). It is a book of prayers for Catholics in native Malay. A text in the book goes, “Ia, Maha Penebus ku, tiap kali beita sudah buat dosa, sudahlah beita mengalau angkau deri hati ku, sambel choba membunoh Allah sabuleh nha…” It is a day-to-day language of the ancient or olden Malay Language; sentences like that do not exist in the Indonesian language
Furthermore, there is a Catholic prayer book titled “Worship Daily”, published in 1890, which also used ancient Malay. An example of a text in the book is “Sapuloh Penhurohan Allah”, which is the 10 Pillars of Biblical Commandments (Ten Commandments). Note how both of those books use the word “Allah” to mean God
Not many of us are aware by this but even the Sikh holy book mentions “Allah” quite a number of times. Surprisingly we don’t hear the likes of Perkasa and ISMA creating a ruckus over this fact.
Proposition 2: “Allah” is not an Arabic word
“Allah … is a proper name applied to the Being Who exists necessarily, by Himself, comprising all the attributes of perfection, a proper name denoting the true god … the al being inseparable from it, not derived…” (Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon)
If Allah is not an arabic word, is it only exclusive to muslims considering their worldwide usage? In January 2013, PAS’ Syura Council decreed that “Allah” is a specific and holy word used to refer to the Muslims’ god
However, former Perlis mufti, Dato’ Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said that Islam allows for followers of other faiths to call their gods “Allah” if they are referring to the Supreme Being
Swiss-Muslim theologian Dr Tariq Ramadan is also of the opinion that “Allah” is not exclusive to the Muslims
According to Francis Edwards Peters , “The Qur’ān insists, Muslims believe, and historians affirm that Muhammad and his followers worship the same God as the Jews (29:46)
If indeed no one but the muslims are allowed to use “Allah,” wouldn’t Saudi Arabia (where Islam came from) and Indonesia (the country with the largest population of muslims in the world) have said/did something about it a long time ago?
Instead, what we see is that the usage of “Allah” is tolerated and is not even a point of contention in those countries (unlike here in Malaysia)
Now let’s look at some frequently asked questions
FAQ 1: Why must the Christians use BM?
First and foremost, BM is the national language. On top of that, more than 60 per cent of Malaysian Christians only speak Bahasa Malaysia, and the word used for God in the Bahasa Malaysia Bible (Al-Kitab) since its translation in 1731, is ‘Allah’.
The word is used by Bumiputera Christians who only have Bahasa Malaysia as their common language in Sabah, Sarawak and peninsular Malaysia, and by the Baba community in Malacca.
Nowehere in English, Tamil or Mandarin church services would you hear the word “Allah” being mentioned
FAQ 2: Why don’t Christians use “Tuhan” as the BM translation for “God”?
The current position in the Al-Kitab is that “Tuhan” is used as the BM translation for “Lord” while “Allah” is used for “God.” In Isaiah chapter 41 and verse 13; also 43:3 and 51:15. “For I am the LORD, your GOD…” is translated as “Akulah TUHAN, ALLAH kamu…”. (ALKITAB : Berita Baik. 2001. 2nd edition. Published by the Bible Society of Malaysia).
It creates an absurd situation if Christians have to translate the biblical phrase ‘Lord God’ as Tuhan Tuhan. The repeated words Tuhan Tuhan indicates plurality in Bahasa Malaysia, and creates the false impression that Christians believe in many gods, which is fundamentally incorrect theologically
FAQ 3: Why doesn’t the Vatican or Christians in the West use “Allah”?
The answer is pretty simple. If “Allah” is an arabic word for “God”, the Vatican and the Christians in the West wouldn’t need to use it because they have other word(s) in their language(s) to mean “God”
A basic analogy would be the word “makan” which is the BM word for “eat.” How come we never ask why the Vatican or Westerners don’t use the word “makan”? That’s because it’s common sense that in whatever language they speak, there would be a word/words that mean “eat,” hence there is no need for the word “makan”
In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI used “Al-Rab” when giving a blessing in Arabic. Many Malaysians then got the idea that instead of using “Allah,” why not follow the Pope and use “Al-Rab”?
First of all, Al-Rab is arabic for “The Lord” and NOT “The God.” Therefore, even if the Christians in Malaysia were to use “Al-Rab,” it would only be replacing the word “Tuhan” and not the word “Allah” in the Al-Kitab
Besides that, the literal meaning of the word “Rab” is Sustainer , Master and/or “Nourisher” which bears more resemblance with the English word “Lord” than “God”
FAQ 4: Why not use “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” instead?
The answer is similar to that of FAQ 1. Jehovah is a Latinisation of the Hebrew יְהֹוָה , a vocalization of the Tetragrammaton יהוה (YHWH). YHWH is in ancient Hebrew which has no vowels, thus its pronunciation is not agreed on.
However, most academics agree that “Yahweh” is the most accepted way to say it. In some English language Bibles, YHWH is written in all capital letters as “LORD,” as in Jewish tradition
Jehovah and Yahweh are in English. The issue is, how do we convert the original Hebrew word to BM in order that it may be used in the Al-Kitab? And even IF that’s possible, how do you change hundreds of years of using “Allah” to this new word?
– Christian Federation of Malaysia’s article
– Project Dialogue’s interview of Father Andrew
– The Micah Mandate
– Bible Believers
– PLIM Report
– Sikhi Wiki
– The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement
Former Perkasa deputy president Datuk Zulkifli Noordin (henceforth DZN) labelled those who commented against the recent Federal Court ruling on the Allah issue as “rude and insolent” and questioned whether these people wanted another May 13-like riots.
Apparently when the High Court rules in favour of the Catholic church, it is alright to question the decision, and thus appeal to a higher court
In response to the decision of the High Court allowing the Herald to use “Allah” in its publication, DZN stated “I can’t understand how any Muslim can support this judgment”.
When it comes to the Federal Court’s refusal to grant The Herald leave for appeal, it is NOT alright to question the decision (eventhough the Catholic church can legally file for a judicial review)
DZN urged the religious extremists to respect the court decision, the Federal Constitution and the sensitivity of other religions including Islam and Christianity
Respect the sensitivity of other religions? That is rich coming from the guy who gave a religious sermon belittling Hinduism in March 2013!
Anyone smell the hypocrisy here? Basically the principle applied is ‘anything not in my favour is questionable while anything in my favour should not be questioned’
In all his wisdom (or lack of it), DZN labelled those who opposed his principle as “rude,” “insolent” and even went to the extent of questioning whether those people wanted a 13th May 2.0
He is annoyed by the speck of sawdust in his brother’s eye but is oblivious to the plank in his own eye!
DZN went on to say that the religious extremists challenged the Muslim community by threating to continue using the word Allah in churches and in their worship
Apparently DZN was not aware (at the time of blogging) that Putrajaya issued a statement clarifying that the Federal Court’s ruling on the Allah issue applied only to the Catholic weekly, Herald.
The statement added that Malaysian Christians can still use the word Allah in church and that the government remains committed to the 10-point solution
Whoops, looks like DZN jumped the gun when he blamed the “religious extremists.” So who is next in line to be blamed? The government for coming up with the 10-point solution? The courts for not making this decision binding upon all future use of “Allah” by non-muslims?
Although Selangor has the 1988 Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment banning the use of the word “Allah” by non-muslims, it is important to note that Sabah & Sarawak does not have such an enactment, hence the use of the word “Allah” by Christians there is perfectly fine and cannot be construed to be provocation as it is not illegal
*Read it also at The Malay Mail Online
The 23rd of June 2014 will go down as one of the darkest days in Malaysia’s history. On that very day, the Federal Court (Malaysia’s apex court) decided not to grant the Catholic church leave for appeal on the use of the word “Allah” for its weekly newsletter publication called ‘The Herald’
The whole saga began in 2007 when the Home Ministry of Malaysia decided to issue a ban prohibiting The Herald from using the word “Allah” in its newsletter. The Herald had been peacefully doing so since 1995
The Catholic church was in a state of shock as the weekly publication was meant for internal circulation, thus dispelling any fears that it would be used to propagate to Muslims
The High Court in 2009 ruled in favor of the Catholic church and quashed the prohibition. Subsequently the government appealed and the Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the High Court
The Catholic church exercised their legal right to further pursue the matter up the hierarchy of courts but was turned down by the Federal Court. 4 out of the 7-man bench decided against allowing the leave for appeal
The leave for appeal is basically a permission to appeal a previous judgement/ruling. Without the leave for appeal, one is stuck with the decision of the earlier court
So what is the aftermath of the decision? It can’t all be that bad because Putrajaya has assured that the decision is only applicable to The Herald and would have no effect whatsoever on Christians that practice their faith in the national language
Putrajaya’s assurance counts for nothing as even their 10 point solution is not legally binding whereas the Court of Appeal’s decision is binding precedent and has to be followed by courts of equal and lower status
The Federal Court’s refusal to grant The Herald leave for appeal means that the Court of Appeal’s decision is good law. The obiter dicta (persuasive precedent) is that the word “Allah” is not an integral part of the Christian faith
Obiter dicta can crystallize into ratio decidendi (binding precedent). For example, if a court in a future case (e.g. the 321 Bibles seized by JAIS) decides to use that “mere observation” made by the Court of Appeal as the basis for its decision, the mere observation becomes a binding precedent.
Tell me again how that legal principle will only be bound to The Herald? From then onwards, whenever a case appears before the courts regarding the use of “Allah” in any Christian publication, all lower courts will be bound by the decision of the court which based its decision on the Court of Appeal’s obiter dicta
This has major ramifications on the rights of Christians to practice and profess their religion as per Article 11 of the Federal Constitution. Christians that practice their faith in Bahasa Malaysia will be unable to read the Bible in the language they have used all this while
That is only the beginning of the aftermath. Before we know it, the holy book of the Sikhs will also be seized and prohibited because of the use of the word “Allah”
What is most saddening is that the highest court of the land (i.e. the Federal Court) which has the ability to remedy this wrong refused to get involved. May we never forget this dark moment!
*Read it also at The Malay Mail Online
This article is in response to the seminar at UiTM in which Indonesian lecturer Insan L. S. Mokoginta gave 10 reasons why Christians should be Muslims
He said that, “Christians are betraying God unless they convert to Islam” and that “Every Jesus follower should enter Islam, if not it would be a betrayal to Jesus” (hence, the title of the article). He made some pretty bold statements which shall be critiqued
When I Google searched his name, I found out he wrote a book entitled, “101 Bukti Yesus Bukan Tuhan” (101 Proofs Jesus Isnt God). That link leads to the very points he brought up in his book. An interesting read but pointless nonetheless. He uses the Quran as well as cherry picked Bible verses to amplify his point that Jesus is but a mere prophet
In my article “Jesus: The Son of God or God?”, I provided the ultimate rebuttal to his points based on the Bible. What I dont get is, how can one use the Quran and say it is proof Jesus was not God? Of course the Quran will say Jesus is not God because it advocates that Jesus is a prophet sent by Allah
If I were to use the Bible to dispel the claim that Muhammad is a messenger from God, I would succeed as no verse in the Bible talks about Muhammad, his birth, his coming, the revelations, etc. Just because the Quran believes Jesus is a prophet, this doesn’t make the Christian’s belief preposterous. The Muslims can believe what they want, but let the Christians believe what they want as well
Using the Quran and cherry picked Bible verses as proof Jesus that is not God is like using Brunei’s hudud laws to support a claim that a person who committed adultery (a.k.a zina) in Britain is guilty & should be stoned to death/flogged 100 times. This makes absolutely no sense! If I have the time, I so go through the 101 points and rebut them all!
“Citing passages from the Bible, Insan also listed 10 examples to support his argument, including a verse in the Book of Leviticus, from the Old Testament, which allegedly forbids the consumption of pork as pigs are
“unclean.” Again this issue has been addressed by yours truly in my article: “Is It Wrong For Christians To Eat Pork?”
Instead of going around claiming Christians are not true followers of Jesus, perhaps Insan L. S. Mokoginta should start reading my articles and other articles out there that have adequately addressed these recycled allegations.
“Islam is the only “true religion” acknowledged by Allah, he added.” This is quite a ridiculous statement to make. Of course Allah would say Islam is the only true religion. Just like the Bible says Jesus is the only way to heaven and how Buddhists believe in karma and reincarnation
Each religion has its own sets our belief. It is not right to say, “mine is right and yours is wrong because my holy book says I’m right.” It’s time to wake up from your delusional slumber Mr Insan L. S. Mokoginta!
A reply to:
Ganti Tuhan dengan Allah strategik Kristianisasi kata NGO
The Secretary-General of Pertubuhan Muafakat Sejahtera Masyarakat Malaysia, Mr Abdul Karim Omar claims that the use of the word “Allah” to replace God in the Bible was/is part of the Christianisation strategy. The statement cannot be further from the truth.
Firstly, he clearly did not do his research or he would’ve found out that in the Bible, there are many verses using the phrase ‘Lord God’. If the word Allah (currently used as the translation for “God” in the Al-Kitab), is replaced by Tuhan, the verses would translate Lord God as “Tuhan Tuhan”
That is a fundamental doctrinal error as it gives the impression that Christians worship more than one God. Furthermore, the word Lord and the word God carries different meanings. It would be inaccurate to use one word (i.e. Tuhan) to replace both the words “Lord” and “God”
Furthermore, the use of the word “Allah” is an integral part of the Christian faith, especially those in Sabah & Sarawak. Christians there have been praying and worshipping using the word “Allah” for hundreds of years. This is evidenced by “a century old Catholic prayer book” in BM
Article 3(1) allows religions other than Islam to be practiced in peace and harmony. If Christians in Sabah and Sarawak have been using it for more than 100 years in peace and harmony, who are we to say it is not an integral part of their faith? Who are we to infringed their freedom to practice their religion? (Article 11 Federal Constitution). It’s pretty evident that the whole fight is just so that the Christians in Sabah and Sarawak can maintain their current practice and is NOT meant to proselytize to the muslims
What is more epic is that even PAS agrees that non-muslims can use the word “Allah” provided it is not misused
Moreover, the secretary general of Muafakat’s statements that, “komuniti Kristian evangelis yang cuba memurtadkan komuniti Islam mula menggunakan kaedah “Strategi Kontekstualisasi” untuk lebih mendekati komuniti Melayu Islam melalui budaya dan adat resam mereka.” is not supported by any hard evidence. Propagation of any religion to Muslims is an offence. If Muafakat has any evidence at all to corroborate their claim, I suggest you make a police report and let the authorities handle it
Even the Al-Kitab’s which were seized by JAIS were meant to be for the BM speaking Christians, be it in Semenanjung Malaysia or in Sabah or Sarawak. The Bibles are NOT used to confuse Muslims and convert them (as claimed by certain parties)
As to Mr Abdul Karim Omar’s statement, “sekiranya trend memurtadkan umat Islam berkembang, menjelang tahun 2100, penganut Islam
dan Kristian akan berada dalam sekitar 40%, manakala lain-lain kaum berada pada paras 20%,” I answered it quite extensively in one of my earlier articles
Mengambil Korea Selatan sebagai contoh, Karim berkata pada 1905 jumlah Kristian hanya 0.5% daripada populasi negara itu. Tetapi akibat perkembangan pesatnya pada tahun 1970an dan 1980an, ia meningkat kepada 30% pada 2005, katanya.
“Ia berlaku di Korea Selatan dan boleh berlaku di sini,” tambahnya
He clearly did not take into account that it is a crime to proselytize to Muslims in Malaysia. *facepalm* A failure to look into the social setting will lead to such skewed views
In conclusion, please stop spreading all these false anti-christian sentiments. Unless of course you want to tear our nation apart and cause our forefathers to roll in their graves out of disappointment and disgust