Thursday, January 03, 2008

Christians Pray To Allah?

Just when you think the Cabinet has some sense left in them, the Sun reported that "ruled that restrictions on the use of the word “Allah” are still enforceable and thus Catholic weekly Herald cannot use the word although its printing licence has just been renewed".


We can heave a sigh of relief now that the government has finally backpedalled on the decision to prohibit non-Muslims from using the word ‘Allah’. Although it probably is just a temporary reprieve from a policy that threatens religious freedom in the country, we may take this opportunity to promote mutual understanding and clear up some public misconceptions.

The Reluctant Writer represents many when he/she writes, "Prior to this, Muslim Malaysians truly did not know that Christian Malaysians pray to Allah. They have always thought that Christian Malaysians referred to their God as ‘Our Lord’, ‘Our Lord Jesus’ or ‘Christ’. I dare say that it is only now Muslim Malaysians are aware that Christian Malaysians pray to Allah. If that is indeed the case then just confirm the fact. Muslims can be taught to accept that, if indeed that is the case...Do Christian Malaysians, in all honesty, when they speak about Christianity in Malay call or refer to God as ‘Allah’?"

Although others have clarified that Christians in Sabah and Sarawak have indeed been using the word ‘Allah’ for a very long time, such widespread confusion deserves a more sustained and well-documented response. And who better to do it than Dr Ng Kam Weng of Kairos Research Center?

In his blog, Dr Ng explained "The historical evidence suggests that Quranic Arabic was a subset of Arabic language and literature in the Middle East at that time. It is also beyond dispute that ‘Allah’ was widely used by all monotheists in pre-Islamic Arabia...

It is because of the linguistic affinity between the term ‘Allah’ and other Semitic terms that Christian Arabs called the supreme God ‘Allah’ centuries before the appearance of Islam. Arab Christians continue to use ‘Allah’ today.

It is also true that historically, Christians in South East Asia have used ‘Allah’ to refer to the supreme God they worship. The earliest Christian writing in Malay, Kitab salat as-sawai (Christian prayers) was printed in Arabic type 1514. Christian catechisms in Malay were published around 1545. ‘Allah’ was used in the printed version of the Gospel of Matthew in Malay (1629) and the complete Malay Bible (1731-1733). (photos of 19th century Malay Bibles available here)

‘Allah’ as such has been used in the liturgy, prayers and worship among the Christian native peoples of Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak from the very beginning when these churches were first established generations ago. The fact of the centuries-long usage of ‘Allah’ among native Christians bears importance significance to what is perhaps an unexpressed charge behind the Deputy Minister’s declaration, “We cannot let other religions [the context refers to Christianity] use it because it will confuse people.” That is to suggest that there is a hidden agenda when Christians use ‘Allah’ in their Scriptures, that is, to confuse Muslims.
But Malay-speaking Christians have already been using ‘Allah’ for centuries and there was never any suggestion that in using the term ‘Allah’ Christians were at any time confusing Muslims. Indeed, it may be argued that the existence of a common term ‘Allah’ facilitates communication and promotes mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims.

The Malayan Declaration of Independence (1957) provides an outstanding example of how common usage of ‘Allah’ builds mutual understanding. The Declaration of Independence begins with the phrase “Dengan nama Allah yang Maha Pemurah lagi Mengasihani, segala puji bagi Allah yang Maha Berkuasa.” The Declaration continues to affirm an agreement between the Queen and the Malay Rulers whereby Malaya was granted Independence. Obviously, the Declaration assumes that both the Queen of England (who is the head of Christianity in England) and the Malay Rulers could appeal to the same supreme God (‘Allah’) to ratify their agreement. The Deputy Minister ought to take note that there was no hint of any confusion regarding the Independence granted to Malaya."

On the history of the name "Allah"

...the term ‘Allah’ was the common term used to refer to the supreme God long before Islam existed. The evidence for this is supported by many authoritative reference works including the following:

“That the Arabs, before the time of Muhammad, accepted and worshipped, after a fashion, a supreme god called Allah – “the ilah” or the god, if the form is of genuine Arabic origin; if of Aramaic, from alaha, “the god” – seems absolute certain” (Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, ed., H. A. R. Gibb & J. H. Kramer, p. 33).
“The cult of a deity termed simply “the god” (al-ilah) was known throughout southern Syria and northern Arabia in the days before Islam… It seems equally certain that Allah was not merely a god in Mecca but was widely regarded as the “high god,” the chief and head of the Meccan pantheon,…Thus Allah was neither an unknown nor an unimportant deity to the Quraysh when Muhammad began preaching his worship at Mecca” (The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, ed. John L. Esposito, p 76-77).
The Japanese scholar Toshihiko Izutsu remarks that it is precisely because the name Allah was common to both the pagan Arabs and the Muslims that gave rise to the heated debates that arose between Muhammad and his adversaries. Likewise, Muhammad addressed his adversaries in the name of ‘Allah’ without bothering to explain what this name meant given their common understanding of ‘Allah’ as referring to the supreme God (God and Man in the Quran, Toshihiko Izutsu, pp. 100-117).


sp lim said...

For those of us who have been using English/Chinese in our churches or devotion, it is not a big deal whether the Govt bans the word Allah or not for non-Muslims.

But for those of our brothers and sisters who have been using the Malay language in practising their faith, what the Govt has done is like prohibiting one from calling his/her father by the name which he/she has always been addressing him. If this is not a blatant violation of human rights, I don't know what is.

It seems now, the Sikhs are also affected as they too have been using the word Allah to address their God

Furthermore we have been told there shouldn't be any public debate on this matter anymore.

So from curtailing my freedom of worship, the Govt is now trying to curtail my freedom of expression.

Well, instead of keeping quiet on this, we, the non Muslims with all those right-minded, non confused and 'not easily get sensitive' Muslims should make this an election issue in the coming General Election.

Telawa said...

Firman allah kata, berdoalah dan berjaga-jagalah senantiasa sbb iblis itu umpama singa yang berkeliling utk mencari ruang. Bahkan sewaktu mencuba Yesus, dia (iblis) cuma mengundur diri hanya utk sementara waktu saja.

Maka, kita perlu senantiasa siap dan setia di dlm doa kita...amin!!!!

Penentu kejayaan kita bukanlah pengetahuan, tetapi DOA.
Pakcik yakin bhw ini merupakan satu permulaan yg baik.

Maka, teruskan berdoa utk negara kita, pemerintah kita kerna FA mengatakan hati raja umpama sungai bagi TUHAN.

Anonymous said...

This incident is getting some serious airtime on American conservative blogs.

My personal opinion is, whenever possible Christians of all languages should be encouraged to refer to the Judeo-Christian God as YHWH, or at least Jehovah.

This is to distinguish the God of the Bible, who is loving and personal, from the Koranic idea which is very different.

I also support differentiating between Jesus and Isa, Moses and Musa, Abraham and Ibrahim among others, for the same reason. Each stands for completely different principles, has a completely different history, and therefore is completely different between the Biblical and Koranic versions.

Anak Kadazan said...

if like that, let's differentiate 'Shang Ti' from YHWH, 'Ye Su' from Jesus, 'Mo Si' from Moses also etc.

Michael said...

As I understand it, the word “Allah” is a derivative word of the Sanskrit language. Similes would be Akka and Amba. This should come as no surprise as the original 360 deity statues were of Hindu origin anyway, as was King Vikramadiya’s inscription on the golden dish contained within the Ka’abah itself. The same black stone contained within the Kaabah is called the “Hajra Aswad”. Ironically the Hindu Lingghi or Lingham, is also called the Sanghey Ashweta. Both words have their origins in the Sanskrit language. Please consult your favorite linguist for verification. I stress linguist, and NOT religious advocate, to reduce any possible “unbiasness”. (geseran Bahasa)

Coming back to the name “Allah”, it has been established that the Sanskrit language translates it as “Mother”, or “Goddess”, or “Mother Goddess”. This appellation has been retained by the Muslims, some say as a form of continuity, and for the ease of transition of the people’s religion of the middle-east from Hinduism and Paganism to Islam. Mecca was already the pilgrimage focal-point of the Hindus & Pagan Arabs as their Holy Site for centuries pre-dating the birth of the prophet Muhammad (real name Ahmad). In fact, the grandfather of Prophet Muhammad (saw) was one of the keepers of the then Pagan Ka’abah. One of his duties included the daily cleaning of the 360 golden pagan statues contained within this Holy Place.

The parallel Christian story is, that Dec 25th was really the Birthday of Horus (Son of Isis 4,000bc) and NOT the birthday of Jesus. The Roman Pope “canonized” it to minimize the transitional “shock” from Paganism to Roman Catholism. Thus, certain “traditions” are kept for ease of religious transitional purposes.

To preserve inter-faith religious harmony, I will not get into the discussions of the shaving of heads, or the perambulations as practiced by both the Hindu and Islamic religions when performing pilgrimage at the Kaa’bah. It raises too may doctrinal questions.

I will however, highlight:
Surah 3 verse 48
“And He (Allah) will teach him the Scripture, and Wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel(Bible).”
Surah 3 verse 3
”He (Allah) hath revealed unto thee the Scripture with Truth, confirming that which was before it even as He (Allah) revealed the Torah and the Gospel (Bible).”

You might also want to read about the additional definitions of the name of Allah at for even more alternative views.

So perhaps the Christian Community should NOT be using the term “Allah” in their Alkitab, even though Khadijah’s cousin, Waraqah (Christian Pastor), had been preaching Christianity using the same name of “Allah” from his Arabic Talmud/Torah and his Injil/ Kitab (book of Matthew only). Although the Christian community may be historically correct when using the term “Allah”, they may face some inferred “paganistic conflicts” as the term “Allah” also has female connotations in the Sanskrit origin of its derivative. They should instead be adhering to either Yahweh, Yehovah among the many other names of God so as to be more theologically "accurate". Christianity after all, insist that their God is a He.

Final Word, IMHO, Christians should NOT use the term “Allah” in their Alkitab or any other publication when referring to their God.

“Uncle” Pak Lah, maybe you should have let the “INTER-FAITH” Conference proceed instead of canceling it. Now you have a very confused nation. Each citizen not fully understanding one another’s religions. Leaving everyone in a very confused and sorry state.