Posted by: mystic444 | October 14, 2013

Malaysia and “Allah”

And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).” (The Qur’an, 29:46, original Yusuf Ali version).

 

I had thought that the dispute was finished in Malaysia, over the right of Christians – specifically a Christian (Catholic) newspaper known as The Herald – to use the name “Allah” to refer to the One Creator and Sustainer of all things. Apparently I was mistaken. According to this Yahoo News article an appeals court in Malaysia has now ruled that the Christian newspaper is not allowed to use “Allah” to refer to God!

For those not familiar with the situation: in 2008 the “home minister” in Malaysia ruled that the newspaper could not use the name “Allah” because that name is (supposedly) specific to the religion calling itself “Islam”; that is, “Allah” is “the Muslim God” and ONLY “the Muslim God”. But in a court case in 2009, that decision of the “home minister” was overturned. The court ruled (correctly) that “Allah” is not a name for God which belongs only to Muslims. Now, however, a Malaysian appeals court has overturned the lower court’s ruling and again insists that the Christians of Malaysia must not use the name “Allah” to refer to God. The case will now go to the highest court in Malaysia in a further appeal by The Herald and other Christians.

This argument doesn’t really affect me personally – I’m an English speaker and prefer English language names for ‘God’. In fact, I prefer to use descriptive names such as ‘The One’, ‘The All-in-All’, and even ‘The Force’ of “Star Wars” fame. Nevertheless, I consider the argument that “Allah” is specifically ‘the Muslim God’ to be a very ignorant – and even ‘stupid’ – idea.

The verse of the Qur’an quoted at the beginning of this article ought to irrevocably settle the matter for any true Muslim, it seems to me. The revelation to the prophet Muhammad (peace to him and his family) said unequivocally that “Allah” is the “God” of the “people of the Book” (Jews and Christians, at the minimum) as well as the “God” of the followers of the ‘Muhammadan’ revelation. Our Allah and your Allah is one. This fits in well with the assertion (in several places) in the Qur’an that those who truly follow the revelations of Moses (true God-fearing Jews) and Jesus Christ (peace be with them both) are in fact “muslims” (people who submit to Allah). So I have to ask, where did those Malaysian judges learn their “Islam”? It doesn’t appear that it comes from the Qur’an!

In fact, though, the name “Allah” did not originate with the revelation given to Muhammad (peace to him and his family). It is not the ‘Muslim’ name for God, but the Arabic name for God. It was in use long before Muhammad appeared on the scene – by Arabic speaking Jews, Christians, and yes, polytheists also. The polytheists apparently believed that “Allah” was the “most high” in a pantheon of gods. The Arab Christians maintained that “Allah” was “the Allah and father of our Lord Jesus Christ”; and the Jews used “Allah” as the equivalent of the Hebrew words El/Eloah and the plural name with a frequently singular meaning Elohim. The Qur’an asserted that the “Allah” that the Arab Jews and Christians worshiped was the same as the “Allah” proclaimed by Muhammad. And the message of the prophet did not require the polytheists to cease using the name “Allah”, but rather to cease worshiping any other deity than “Allah”.

The revelation through Muhammad (peace to him and his family) calls on Christians to quit saying that Allah is “three” (the Trinity); but it does not deny that the God Christians mistakenly believe to be a “Trinity” is in fact “Allah”.

The Yahoo News article to which I linked points out that “Christians in Indonesia and much of the Arab world continue to use the word without opposition from Islamic authorities”. Clearly there is good reason for this non-opposition to Christians referring to God as “Allah”. Those Muslims in Malaysia who are objecting to Christians using the name “Allah” are just as clearly misguided. I don’t know where  they get their non-Islamic notion, but I hope their eyes and hearts will be opened to that kindness and open-minded love which is so intrinsic to the Islam taught and lived by Muhammad (peace to him and his family).

Obviously not all Muslims in Malaysia are so ignorant or misguided inasmuch as the lower court ruled in favor of the Christians (and that lower court was presumably composed of Muslims or mostly of Muslims). I don’t know what percentage belong to the misguided crowd, but “thank Allah” they’re not the totality of Malaysian Muslims! 😀

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Responses

  1. Hi Stephen,

    My name is Helmi from Malaysia. I am a Muslim. Firstly, I am enjoyed reading some of your post. Well done.

    I am not a islamic scholar, I am just ordinary muslim who always learning about Allah and Islam. The issue regarding the word ‘Allah’, I am the one who relief when court ruled out for non-muslim (esp Herald) not to use the word ‘Allah’. So it makes me one of the ‘misguided’ crowd. 🙂

    1. I totally agreed with you and all people who said it is only one true Creator who create Heaven and Earth, and everything that we know. Although you are Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jews etc, we is not excluded from the creation of true One God.

    2. The issues is when we comparing with Christian’s god, and Muslim’s god, for this context of discussion, there are different characteristic of both gods. It’s true He is the One, and should be same, but it is different.

    3. In Harald case, they want to translate the word ‘Lord’ into ‘Allah’ in malay version of Bible or in their newspaper. In malay word, we have the word ‘tuhan’ as referring to ‘god’ which they can use it in the malay Bible.

    4. Allah is an exclusive word for Muslim god. No matter you translate in Arabic, English, Malay, etc. We will not find Muslim worship different names in different language. Allah here is One True God. In Allah words, Allah is choosing his name in Al-Quran, Surah Al-Ikhlas (chapter 112, verse 1-4),

    v1: Say, “He is Allah , [who is] One,
    v2: Allah , the Eternal Refuge.
    v3: He neither begets nor is born,
    v4: Nor is there to Him any equivalent.

    5. While in Christian believes in Trinity. The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost. Three-in-one, One-in-Three.

    6. The characteristic is different. The first is, Allah neither begets not is born. So if we speak about Jesus is son of god, literally, there are different with Allah. Secondly, if The Father, Jesus and Holy Ghost is the same, Three-in-One, it’s also different which Allah is nor is there to Him any equivalent.

    7. So I believes that we are not totally misguided, or ignorant Muslim. We have our argument which I believes it’s valid to ruled out the usage of the word ‘Allah’ for translation in Herald.

    I write here is to tell people from another country is to send out the clear message about the issue, and understanding of Islam. Not more than that. Allah with guide whoever person He wants to. 🙂

    • Helmi – Thanks for your polite and informative reply to my article. I believe you show what it means to argue only in the better or best way. 🙂

      Yet I believe that those of you in Malaysia who seek to allow only Muslims to use “Allah” to refer to the Creator and Sustainer are missing the whole point of the Qur’anic verse I quoted (29:46). The “People of the Book” in Arabia had been referring to the One Creator as “Allah” for many centuries before Allah raised up Muhammad (peace to him and his family) to be a prophet. When Allah’s message came through the newly raised prophet, Christians and Jews (and even polytheists) were not suddenly forbidden to use the name “Allah” because they had wrong ideas about the nature of the One. Instead, Allah and His prophet sought to correct the wrong ideas about “Allah”, while insisting that the Christians’ “Allah” and Muslims’ “Allah” were one and the same (not different gods).

      I think that you would do well to use the same method of “argumentation” with the Christians of Malaysia that Muhammad (peace to him and his family) used with the Arabian Christians. Instead of being angry and creating divisions over the use of a name, acknowledge that the Christians do well to worship Allah; and call on them to correct their wrong idea that Allah is a “trinity of persons” – one of whom gave birth to another of them. Argue with them about that concept “only in the best way”, and then leave guidance to Allah.

      Seek a way of finding brotherhood with the Christians, rather than accusing them of worshiping a different god (thus creating anger and division). Call on them as the prophet did (3:64): “Say: “O People of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah.” If then they turn back, say ye: “Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to Allah’s Will).” Doesn’t that make good sense? Isn’t that a much better approach than seeking to legally prevent “the People of the Book” from calling the Creator “Allah”?

      This would prevent you from making the obviously contradictory statements which you made in points (1) and (2). In point (1) you acknowledged that the Creator is One, and He is the same Creator for all religions. Yet in point (2) you immediately fell back into the trap of saying that the Christians’ “god” and the Muslims’ “god’ are different, and are in fact two gods (“both gods”). Rather you should acknowledge with the Qur’an that Christians and Muslims worship the one Allah, but that the Christians have wrong ideas about the nature of Allah.

      What does it matter if the word “tuhan” is available to Malaysians as a word to refer to the Creator and Owner of all things? That word is available to both Muslims and “People of the Book”. Just as English speaking Christians will sometimes use the word “God”, and sometimes will use the Hebrew word Yahweh (or “Jehovah”) – as well as other words to refer to the One – so Malaysian Christians and Muslims should both be able to use both “tuhan” and “Allah”.

      So it seems to me, at any rate; “and Allah knows best”. Thanks again for your very polite and friendly response.

      • Subhanallah. You are quoting Al-Quran is better than me 🙂

        1. It is not my conscious to create anger or division among Christian or to Muslim. It is cause from my lack of experience in discussing with Christians. I don’t want to do any harm.

        2. I totally agree with you about we should seek for similarities among us rather than our differences especially in country that have diverse ethnics and religions.

        3. In my humble point of view about worship The One, in every religions we believes we are worship The Creator and Sustainer, or ‘Allah’. But the characteristic/attributes are different how we recognize our ‘Allah’. That is what I want to say.

        4. In Al-Quran, Allah urged ‘People of The Book’ to unite/join with Prophet Muhammad s.a.w because Prophet Muhammad s.a.w preaching to worship Allah is same with Allah they worship long before him which preached by Prophet Nuh a.s, Ibrahim a.s, Musa a.s and Isa a.s without associate Allah with anything.

        5. I would like to make one situation. You in your country knows Mr. Barack Obama. He is a men, dark-skin, tall, married, have a wife and kids. He is the President of United State of America. While I am also knows a person called Mr. Barack Obama. He is a men, white-skin, short, still single. No wife, no kids. He is the President of United State of America. At one point, we would ask each other, are we referring the same Mr. Barack Obama?

        6. If we go back to original issue, I has my second-thought about make it legally to prevent non-muslim to use the word ‘Allah’. If they are mentioning Allah is the Creator and Sustainer, it should be okay. But if we go into little bit deeper, we can see that there are different understanding.

        Wallahu A’lam.

        • Helmi – peace and blessings to you; and thank you so much for being willing to carry on this conversation.

          I believe you are so very correct in saying that there are different understandings of the One (Allah); and it is certainly quite legitimate for Christians and Muslims to have ‘dialogue’ or ‘argumentation’ concerning their differences of understanding. At the end of the day, though, if one side has failed to convince the other, each must politely and respectfully depart with the conviction that Allah guides whom He will – each leaving the other to continue in his beliefs unless or until Allah corrects them.

          I think your illustration in point (5) was a good one. Hypothetically you and I might have those very radically different conceptions of what President Obama looks like and his family status. But this would not alter the fact that the man who holds the office of President of the USA is named Barack Obama. It would be the height of foolishness for me to try to legally prevent you from referring to the US President as “Barack Obama” despite how different your conceptions are from what I “know” to be true of him. Theoretically you and I could each talk to him on the telephone or by computer, and would in fact be corresponding with the same person. We might have very different ‘pictures’ in our minds while conversing with him, but he would remain the same person with the same name – even though at least one of us has a wrong conception of him.

          So it is with the controversy between Muslims and (orthodox) Christians. They might “pull their hair out” in frustration with each other over their differences concerning the nature of Allah; but in the final analysis Allah is still Allah and each one worships the same Allah despite their (in some respects) widely differing conceptions of “what He looks like”. 🙂

          The argument with Christians over “the Trinity” is complicated, of course, by the fact that Trinitarian Christians become frustrated that Muslims (and other unitarians) can’t understand that they (the Trinitarians) believe in only One God. They claim that the fact that there are 3 “persons” does not mean that there are 3 gods. They say that there is only One God who is at the same time, in some mysterious and incomprehensible way, 3 “persons”. You see, even they can’t understand their Trinity. They affirm that it’s true, but they can’t explain or understand it! 🙄 But they’ll argue until they’re “blue in the face” that they believe in only one God (Allah) just as surely as Muslims do. They’ll say that God “the Father” gave birth to a “Son”, but that is “within” the One, not the birth of another “God”. A “Person” gave birth to another “Person”, but the One did not give birth to another God.

          This idea of one “Person” begetting another “Person” leads to all sorts of questions with further “mysteries” for answers. If “the Father” gave birth to “the Son”, doesn’t that indicate that there was a ‘time’ when “the Son” did not exist, and therefore “the Son” is not eternal – and consequently is not God? The only way the ‘orthodox’ have to answer that is to give forth the equally “mysterious” dogma that “the Son” was eternally begotten. It makes no sense, so of course it is labeled “a great mystery”.

          No, I agree with the message given through Muhammad (peace to him and his family): “Do not say ‘Three'”! 🙂 Acknowledge the one great mystery of “the One”, and cease causing confusion by words without knowledge.

          All of this “Trinitarian” dogma could be dispensed with if Christians could just see that Jesus (peace to him) is “a man sent from God” just as John “the Baptist” was “a man sent from God”. This is all he claimed for himself, as the “New Testament” scriptures themselves testify. When the Jews wanted to stone him because they imagined he was claiming to be God, he emphatically stated that he was “god” only in the sense in which the Psalmist said men “to whom the word of God came” were “gods” and “sons of the Most High”. He was the same as other human souls: “God’s son” in the same way they were “God’s sons”, and “god” in the same way they were “gods”. But he was not “The God” (Allah), nor “the Son of God” in the mysterious Christian sense of “God the Son”. He said that his Father is “the only true God” – which of course means that he was not himself “true God” – and “the only true God” (his “Father”) had sent him into the world (just as John and all other prophets were sent into the world by God).

          As I understand it, the doctrine of “the Trinity” evolved from this controversy about the supposed Deity of Jesus Christ (peace to him). It was formulated to explain how Jesus could at the same time be God and the Son of God; how he could at the same time be God, and yet pray to God and do the works that God his Father taught him to do. Gnostic and mystical understandings of the One were adapted in the formulation of the Trinitarian dogma; but once the idea that Jesus is God is demolished, all need for a “Trinity” will disappear, and so the dogma will disappear.

          But those are the kind of things which Muslims and Christians can discuss, without insisting that one can’t use a particular name to refer to the One. The One is the One, and is beyond our comprehension. We can formulate ideas about Him, but let’s not alienate one another when our ideas differ. Seek to come to a common confession, but if that fails leave each other to live in peace.


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