‘WHAT IS THE NAME OF YOUR GOD?’ By Musings of a Mualaf.


So, how many Muslim Malays actually realized that the Catholic newsletter ‘The Herald’ publication permit will be withheld unless it stops its Malay section?

The Malay section has used “Allah” to refer to God, I mean to be more specific, Christian god and father of Jesus Christ, while the English section still uses the term ‘God’. Two different terms for God in one edition. When the Malaysian government has decided to stop this practice from continuing, with a Minister stating that the term “Allah”, “solat” and “Baitullah” are reserved for Islam religion, so as not to confuse Muslims in this country, the Catholics protest. Hmmm…

I’m really amused. There they are, the Christians, the DAP politicians, and the ‘human rights’ activists all hopping mad about this issue an putting the blame on the government-led politicians, while the rest of us go about our daily lives peacefully. Even the PAS politicians haven’t issued a formal statement about this issue.

And what’s the issue? Christians claim that they have the right to use ‘Allah taala’ in their Malay-language Bible, and in other publications for East Malaysian Christians. They also claim that ‘Allah’ is a Arabic terminology for God in the Arab nations, so all Arabs, whether they’re Muslims, Christians or Jews, call their gods ‘Allah’. And yes, some Malaysians agree with this view; that it’s all right for Christians to use this term ‘Allah’ in their sermon, and in their missionary work among Malaysians. I disagree. The Arabic word for God is NOT Allah; it is ‘Ilah’. Even the writing is different between ‘Ilah’ and ‘Allah’. But then I suppose Malaysian Christian don’t read Arabic.

La ilaha illallah means There is no god but Allah.

Funny really. All my life till recently, I had always believed that Christians, Buddhists and Hindus in Malaysia steer away from using the term “Allah” as a reference to God. Ask any Chinese ‘AhPek’ or Indian ‘Ayahmah’ on the street who “Allah” is and they’d tell you it’s the Malay’s god. Non-Muslims won’t even stop by nor touch anything which has the Arabic writing of ‘Allah’ or ‘Muhammad’ at the stores. If a beer-drinking pork-eating non-Muslim Malaysian man suddenly cries out, “Ya Allah! Masya-Allah! Allah Akbar..!!” his friends will be so horrified they’d probably think he’s possessed by the devil. They won’t calmly sit beside him and say, “Oh, he’s talking about the God of us all, our Creator.”

I went to Christians services in many churches in West Malaysia – Methodists, Baptists, AOG, Catholics – and I had never heard the word “Allah” mentioned by the pastor or priest. ‘Alamak’ doesn’t count, ok. So why do Catholics now insist on the terminology which has been used by Muslim Malays in Malaysia for centuries to refer to the God in Islam? Oh sure, Arab Christians use that term before Islam arrives in our land but heck, we are not in Saudi Arabia. All Arabs use this term to refer to God because it’s their only language. We’re in Malaysia and the documented Malay translation for God is Tuhan, not Allah. That’s why we have our Rukunegara as ‘Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan.’ to refer to all gods. Well, if some people seems to demand for the use of ‘Allah’ to refer to everybody’s gods, then perhaps we should change our Rukunegara into ‘Kepercayaan kepada Allah’ to keep everybody happy. 😛

Why can’t Catholic Christians use the term ‘Tuhan’ in their Malay Bible, etc to refer to their Christian god? I’ve checked but I can’t find the exact Iban word for God. However, I’m very sure that the Iban word for god is not Allah taala. It is just so that ever since the missionaries converted the Ibans (who had believed in animism) to Christianity, the term Allah taala has been used. They can get their message of God across by other terms such as God or Tuhan; why insist on using the term ‘Allah’ which Malaysians know is sacredly used by Muslims in this country to refer to God in Islam? Isn’t that trying to be mischievous and stirring up confusion among the public?

And that makes me wonder why the double standard; in West Malaysia, they use God in English sermons, but in East Malaysia where the majority are Malay speakers, they have chosen to use Allah taala instead to refer to the same god. Christian speakers dare not use the term ‘Allah taala’ before non-Iban congregation in West Malaysia because they know that Mandarin-speaking, Hindu-speaking and English-speaking Christians generally associate that word ‘Allah’ with Islam. Hah, the double standards. They can’t even agree on which term to call their own God, so why so hell-bent on using ‘Allah’ for the Malay-speaking Christians?

So why must Christians now insist on using ‘Allah’ for the Herald Malay section when they know very clearly that it is the name used by Muslims in this region for centuries before the first arrival of the Portuguese Christians in the 14th century? Some say they’re fighting for human rights? Yeah, go ahead and bark. If they are sincere, they’d change the term from ‘Allah’ into ‘Tuhan’ to get their massage and propaganda across. They don’t have to import Bibles from Indonesia with the term ‘Allah’; Christians are mostly literate in Bahasa Malaysia, they can publish their own Bahasa Malaysia Bibles. Unless of course, there is something else in their mind besides giving Bibles to Catholic Ibans.

As far as I know, Christians have no specific name for God. Some Christians think that it is Yahweh but then they are not sure themselves. Ask any Christian, or better still, a Roman Catholic, what the name of his or her god is, and I doubt he or she will say, “Allah”. The word to refer to God in Malaysian churches differs based on the languages of the Christian worshippers. A Chinese-based church may have a different terminology for God compared to an Indian-based church. I bet a Chinese pastor will not tell his Mandarin-speaking congregation to “pray to Allah, father of our Yesoh(Jesus)’ else he might find the church empty the following week.

But go ask any true Muslims the same question. We, Muslims are told that our God has 99 names, and the greatest name is Allah. It is written in the al-Quran itself. So all Muslims, throughout the world use “Allah” to refer to the God in Islam, the God of Prophet Muhammad and all prophets before him. Even in translated versions of al-Quran, in Chinese, English etc, the name “Allah” is intact and not translated. That is the essence of Islam, for there is never a dispute about what the name of the Muslim God is.

I don’t agree with those people who claim that we all pray to one god, therefore we have rights to call our gods in any way we want. Perhaps they can do that to their own gods but not the god I worship. My God “Allah s.w.t” is not the same as the god Christians pray to. Allah s.w.t that I bow to does not have a human son. Allah who created me does not allow drinking of liquor and eating of pork. That is why I support the ban on the Malay section of the Herald for their use of “Allah” in their publications.

Until the day all churches in West and East Malaysia use the term “Allah’ to refer to Christian god, I think that Christians have no base to claim the use of ‘Allah’ in their publications, here in Malaysia. Also the Christians in America and British would most probably freak out if they are told that they have to call their God ‘Allah’ for haven’t they associated all things Islam to terrorism? And today, after all the bombings at Arab nations, the persecutions and mistreatments of Muslims in the West, some ‘enlightened’ Christian priests actually suggest the use of “Allah’ for God in the Western churches in order to bring Christians and Muslims together. How ironic.

Some Muslim Malays even say that since we are all Allah’s creatures, just allow the Christians to use it. We should be proud that Malaysian Christians want to use the word in pblications,Bible and churches. Why all the fuss over one word? True enough, we are all Allah’s creations. However, if they are using His holy name for unIslamic purposes, should we as Muslims just stand by and allow that to happen?

updated 31.12.2007 (from http://www.malaysia-today.net/2008/content/view/508/37/)
MALAYSIA authorities are to allow a Catholic paper to continue to print, after earlier threatening to revoke its licence in a row over the word ‘Allah’, a church leader said on Sunday.
Augustine Julian, secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, told AFP a new licence had been granted to the weekly, which would continue to use the term.
‘The letter to allow The Herald to be printed was hand delivered by internal security officials Sunday,’ he said.
‘They have allowed us to publish the weekly as usual. All four sections – in English, Malay, Tamil and Chinese – will be published. I suppose if they give us the printing permit we can continue to use the word Allah,’ he added.
Mr Julian said no reasons were given for the extension but suggested the government would not want to alienate Malaysia’s two million Christians ahead of general elections.

well folks, that’s Malaysian politics 😛


khany said…
assalamou alaikum sister,

there is little doubt in my mind, as in anybody’s mind, that this is a missionary attempt to woo a muslim audience.

however, i humbly disagree with your conclusion. i believe it is quite clear in the quran that muslims worship the god of the prophets abraham, noah, moses, jesus and mohammad (peace be upon them). if you ask the jews or the christian whether they pray to the god of abraham they will definitely answer in the affirmative.
therefore, i believe it is closer to the truth to say that we disagree with jews and christian about the attributes of god. but in deed we worship the same god.

it is specially ironic since i am part of a muslim minority in a ‘christian’ canada. muslim scholars struggle hard to project this truth that we all worship the same god.

allah is the word for the one true god. i am sure you know that it was not a word ‘invented’ by the prophet and even the pagan arabs acknowledge the presence of the god of abraham whom they referred to as allah.

finally, the quran too uses the word allah for the ‘christian god’ but contradicts their claim that god has a son. i pray we can reconcile this difference. while it is pathetic that the missionaries are resorting to this tactic, i hope that we do not let our disgust for them lead us to injustice.

Nur Aliya Yeoh said…
Dear brother khany,
I agree that Allah is the name of one true god. However, we differs in the concept and attributes of God. We may claim we worship the same God, but doesn’t the Quran itself sys that the Christians and Jews have steered from the true path? I am not an Islamic scholar but I know that Islam Allah and prophet Isa(Jesus) as revealed in the Quran do not die on the cross. That is why I suggest the publcation choose another term.
How would you like if the publication writes that “Allah and His son, Jesus Christ who dies for us on the cross… therefore we should accept Jesus as our Lord…” Will you like it? Won’t it strike you as strange when all dictionaries in the world publicly defines Allah as the Muslim god?
There is no question of injustice here. It is just that the Herald still stubbornly insists on using the term ‘Allah’ for all its publication whereas they could easily use the accepted Malay term ‘Tuhan’ for God. They should also respect that Malaysian Muslims have for centuries connected Allah to the Muslim god and so has the general public in thi multiracial multi-religious country.

khany said…
assalamou alaikum sister nur aliya,

following your suggestion i looked up several online dictionaries for the definition of allah.

in fact, no dictionary defines ‘allah’ as the name of the muslim god. allah is the arabic word for god, the only god.

will i like it? i will like it no worse than if they claim that
‘god and his son, jesus christ who dies for us on the cross….’

because there is only one god. both statements to me are synonymous.

in any event, i can see we disagree on this issue. allahu alim. allah knows best.

Nur Aliya Yeoh said…
waalaikumussalam warahmatullah,
It’s all right. To me, it’s fine to disagree.
Let me quote from 3 renowned dictionaries mainly used by scholars in Malaysia (and I believe, the rest of the world) and you can check them online :

1. The Oxford Advanced dictianory
Allah / l / noun the name of God among Muslims

2. Webster Dictionary
Main Entry:
\ˈä-lə, ˈa-lə, ˈä-ˌlä, ä-ˈlä\
Arabic allāh
: GOD 1a —used in Islam

3. Collins online dictionary
n (Islam) the Muslim name for God; the one Supreme Being
(C16: from Arabic, from al the + Ilah god; compare Hebrew eloah)

ainon mohd said…
Asalamualaikum, Puan Nur Aliya.

Saya setuju dengan pendapat Puan. Tidak ada nas dalam Quran dan Hadith yang melarang orang Kristian menggunakan “Allah”.

fairuz said…
The reason the Malaysian government disallow Christians from using the word Allah to refer to God in bible and their article is to avoid confusion among ill informed Muslims especially teenagers. They fear such article will mislead young Muslims. Islam and Christian have some similarities but are not the same. Though there are no verse in the Quran or hadith that prohibits non-muslim from using the word Allah to refer to God, but in Malaysia, where the understanding of Islam among most muslims are still low, the government is just being careful. After all, why cant Christians stick to Tuhan when referring to God in Malay-bible. I think it is a win-win situation for both sides. InsyaAllah…

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