Monday, February 9, 2009

Why the fight to use the word “Allah”?

The term “Allah” as many in many parts of the world knows is a term that is used exclusively by Muslims to denote the concept of “The” “One God” who has no partners, does not beget nor is begotten. The term “Allah” used by the Muslims also encompasses the following belief:

“God! There is no god but He,-the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede in His presence except as He permits? He knows what (appears to His creatures as) is before or after or behind them. Nor shall they compass any of His knowledge except as He wills. His Throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory)”. (Quran: 2.255).

(On the contrary, you can find passages in the Bible that says God is tired and rested).

Sure, some Arab Christians that I know also use the term “Allah” to denote “God”, but in that part of the world, it is understood that the “Christian theological” conception of God and the Quranic teaching of “God” are completely different. After all, they are all Arab speaking and the word “Allah” is from the Arabic “Al-iLah” meaning “The God”. So the word for god is “ilah” in Arabic.

This is also understood when we consider that Muslims say “there is no ilah (god) but Al-Lah (‘The God”)”. Hence I cannot understand the rationale why the particular Catholic quarter is clamoring to use the word “Allah” in its Malay writings. The Malay word for “god” is “tuhan”. SO what is the real motivation here?

Communication wise, the short answer will be use the term “tuhan” in the Malay writings.

The Muslims, irrespective of whether they are Malays, Chinese, Indians, Americans, Spanish, Portuguese, Filipinos, Uzbeks, English, etc all use the term “Allah” when they refer to the Quranic concept of God.

How do the Christians do it? Is there a specific term for “god” in the Christian world? If there is, then use this word. Otherwise, points of references may be confusing and misleading.

The Bible has many references to “god” – Elohim ((Isa. 54:5; Jer. 32:27; Gen. 1:1; Isa. 45:18; Deut. 5:23; 8:15; Ps. 68:7); El Elyon (Gen. 14:19; Ps. 9:2; Dan. 7:18, 22, 25), Yahweh ((Gen. 4:3; Ex. 6:3 ; 3:12), Adonai ((Gen. 18:2; 40:1; 1 Sam. 1:15), Father, etc. There are also many characteristics of god in the Bible like Yahweh shalom, Yahweh Sabbath, etc.

OR since Jesus Christ is central to Christianity, why not follow the xample provide for in the Bible itself – where Jesus is reported to beseech God for help while he was on the cross?

"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"—Matthew 27:46.

He called God “Eli, Eli”.

So why “Allah” in the Malay version? I do not see the word “Allah” in my collection of the KJV Bible version, or the RSV version, or the NIV version or NKJV version or the Jehovah Witness version or the other versions that I have. None.

So why the fight to use “Allah” in the Malay language? How will that assist better communication of biblical ideas?

Personally, I have no qualms about how people want to refer to “god” and whether they believe or not. After all, institutionalized religions have apparently become larger than the Truths. My experience has been religion is preferred to truths even in matters that defy logic and reason.

But when one party is insisting on using a particular term that has been generally understood to be some particular concept in another context, you wonder why.

For example, you have the concept of the “holy trinity” in Christianity – Father, Son and Holy Ghost. In the Quran, it clearly says “do not say three” as follows:

“They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them. Why turn they not to Allah, and seek His forgiveness? For Allah is Oft- forgiving, Most Merciful”. (Quran 5:73-74)

Hence the concept of “Allah, Anak dan Ruhul Kudus” is objectionable to a Muslim. To the Muslim mind, the Bible has varying ideas of God in the Bible. In the Quran, the idea is only one and is consistent – there is only ONE God who has no partners. While Christians believe that Jesus Christ is “God incarnate” or “God in human flesh”, to the Muslims, Allah is Allah and never did “He” send anyone to earth to “die” for “Him”. To the Muslims, Jesus is a prophet. This is just some few examples of the reasons why Muslims may react to concept of “Allah” in a context other than “ONE God”.

Theological differences are normal. Accepted. True guidance is Allah’s domain.

But the point is: why insist on the Arabic word “Allah” which refers to “one God” when a generic Arabic word “ilah” for God is available?

Likewise, why not use the word “Tuhan”, the Malay word in Malay literature?

How then would the “Father” or “Yahweh” or “Elohim” be termed in Tamil or Chinese? Ming Ming Shangti or Andavan?

For the Muslims, in any language it is “Allah”.

Peace !

1 comment:

jon pour do care said...

I believe the ban by the relevant authority the use of the word 'ALLAH' by that certain group is more of a security reason than the 'exclusive' right of the Muslim to use the word 'ALLAH'. The relevant authority fears that if allowed, some parties may react negatively which may result in some 'negative incidents' to some parties, which, this country doesn't need !