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  • Simple Fact for Malaysia: “Allah” Means “God”, Regardless of Religious Tradition

    The Malaysian “street” needs an education. The Malaysian High Court’s decision to overturn a three-year ban on the use by Christians of the word Allah was correct – based both on the freedom of Malaysians to practice their faiths, and also based on the facts. Unfortunately, public protests and violence over the decision has led to its suspension pending the hearing of a government appeal.

    This is a political debate in Malaysia, not a religious one. My opinion is probably not going to be of much use in that political debate. And far be it from me to interfere in the Malaysian judicial process. But, please, I hope our sometimes ultra-sensitive Malaysian friends will entertain one simple fact: In Arabic, “Allah” means “God”, for Christians and Muslims alike. Every Sunday, millions of Arabic speaking Christians around the world (including in Muslim majority countries), hear the word “Allah” in their Sunday liturgies. Even in colloquial Arabic, “Allah” is used by Christians in any number of everyday expressions.

    I’m not a religious scholar. But I can attest to having attended many such services, including my marriage and the baptisms of my children – all of which were performed in both English and Arabic. “Allah” is also used routinely by Malaysian Christians (this is not some new innovation), and by Indonesian Christians (to far less controversy).

    Malaysian Prime Minister Najib’s statements that the Malaysian government will do all it can to prevent attacks on Christians over this issue is welcome. But it is the least the government can do. The absence of violence is important; so is the freedom to practice the religion of one’s choice. The government should lead by example and drop its appeal.

    When considering the political trends in Malaysia, all should understand that this debate over the word “Allah” is about limiting Christian practice, not protecting Islam. And at any rate, as Indonesia’s dear departed Gus Dur was known to say, God doesn’t need to be defended anyway.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to Simple Fact for Malaysia: “Allah” Means “God”, Regardless of Religious Tradition

    1. Bobbie Jay says:

      Come on Malaysians people. Don't be silly! Stop hurting yourselves and burdening others. Even the great master Obama himself said, "it's just words!"

    2. Kamal, Penang Malays says:

      Dear Sir,

      I quote:

      .. one simple fact: In Arabic, “Allah” means “God”, for Christians and Muslims alike".

      The above statement speaks for itself. There is nothing wrong for Cristians to use "allah" in any of their Arabic language literatures in Malaysia.

      Cristians use the words "God" which translates to the word "Tuhan" in Bahasa Malaysia. That has been used all the while but the sudden interest of using the word "allah" in Cristian literatures, to be published in Bahasa Malaysia in Malaysia, is deemed as undemining the very basic of Islamic teachings: Tiada Tuhan melainkan Allah.

    3. Walter Lohman Walter Lohman says:

      Mr. Kamal,

      It is an Arabic word. The point is if its okay for Arab speakers that Christians use the word, it should be okay for Malay speakers. And with all due respect, Malaysian and Indonesian Christians disagree with your point about use of Tuhan. Tuhan and Allah are not the same and interchangeable words.

      Bridge builders on both sides of the Christian-Muslim relationship like to say we share the God of Abraham. The theology of that statement is too complex to discuss here. But if true, at least historically, why can’t we use the same word?

      Ultimately, its a matter of conscience and freedom of religion. Christians should be allowed to determine for themselves what language they use in their communications and worship. It is no less offensive for Muslims to dictate to them than the other way around. I hope you can see that.


    4. Jongos says:

      "And at any rate, as Indonesia’s dear departed Gus Dur was known to say, God doesn’t need to be defended anyway."

      Allah need no defense and Allah also no need for us. We are the one who needs him. Make sure we get to the right one.

    5. ethan, kuantan says:

      Dear Kamal, using the word Allah in chiristian community that dont speak english is not a sudden interest. The aboriginal of Malaysia been using it all the while. the phrase tiada tuhan melainkan allah, jus a statement of differential which is which, just like the christian say, there is no other god but the Father, is that means all other people cannot call their dad, father? thus Allah is not the name of God. check the kamus dewan for defination of allah, does it say the God of Islam only?

    6. Ace Tan, Singapore says:

      In 628 C.E. Prophet Muhammad (s) granted a Charter of Privileges to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Mt. Sinai. It consisted of several clauses covering all aspects of human rights including such topics as the protection of Christians, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to appoint their own judges and to own and maintain their property, exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war.

      An English translation of that document is presented below.

      This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.

      Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

      No compulsion is to be on them.

      Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.

      No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses.

      Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

      No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.

      The Muslims are to fight for them.

      If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.

      Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.

      No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).

      This charter of privileges has been honored and faithfully applied by Muslims throughout the centuries in all lands they ruled.

    7. Peacenes, Bosnia (Eu says:

      Selam and Hallo to everyone!

      I am a Muslim from Bosnia, and I just wanna point out, that there is only ONE GOD, who has many names (99+1 unknown), Christian, Muslims or Jews and other monoteistic religions believe in the same GOD, there are only different aproaches to that believe! Judgement day will come and the Judge Almighty will decide and let us all know which aproach is the right one, it's not ours to argue about that! In first muslim countries like many Christians and Jews for ages and still today are praying to GOD by calling him ALLAH, like Muslims do! Even before the Islam the old hebreic prayed to GOD by the name Allah, watch Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ" and listen carefully. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGEadTkAMMA)
      Allah The Almighty says in the Qur'an:

      "Call upon Allah, or call upon The Merciful; which so ever you call upon, to Him belong the most beautiful names".

      Should Muslims now forbid other religions to pray to the Lord by using The Meciful!

      We fight and argue over such stupid things, while innocent and hungry people die every day!

      Esselamu alejkum ve rahmetulah ve berekatuhu!

    8. Peacenes, Bosnia (Eu says:

      by (+1 unkown) I ment that there are more Names of Allah that we don't know

    9. Ucok, Jakarta says:

      I agree with Walter Lohman's reponse to Kamal's comment "Tuhan and Allah are not the same and interchangeable words".

      In Indonesia, Tuhan means Lord, while Allah is God. We also have the word "Tuan Tanah" (Landlord). We Christians in Indonesia use both words in our prayer. By saying Tuhan, we feel like talking to "Someone" who is close to us. By saying Allah, we feel like talking to "Someone" who is so divine, sacred and distant. Both words are thus different in the sense that they denotes different chararteristics of God.

    10. Sime, Kuching says:

      Muslim Malays often have their own interpretation on certain aspects of Islam. Privileges are at times taken for granted as rights in an environment where the concept of 'malay supremacy' is much alive and promoted. It is their self-interest they are protecting, more than the religion itself.

      I sympathize with people like Kamal, who have been indoctrinated in such a way. Their conviction is so strong, to the point of rejecting universal truths. They see such events as threats to the beliefs they hold ever so dearly.

      I could only hope they could widen their horizons rather than listening to their short sighted emotion.

    11. Booya, Ragistan says:

      Is it OK to say Allah the pedophile? Or Allah the terrorist?

    12. Durkadurkistan, Indo says:

      People can argue if it appropriate or not for Malaysian Christians to use the word Allah. The issue is – even IF it is theologically wrong from a Muslim point of view, does that give Muslims the right to force people to stop using "Allah"? The answer is clearly NO. This is laid out explicitly in the Qur'an; I wrote about this, for anyone who's interested in the Islamic perspective on this controversy:

      "Malaysia's "Allah" Fiasco: What does the Qur'an say?"


    13. Zack Frazier, Jayapu says:

      To Kamal, Penang Malaysia

      Tuhan means Lord Allah means God, Jangan bicara kalau tidak tahu bahasa Ingris….

    14. SCL Johann, Singapor says:

      Does the Word of God approve of addressing God as "Allah"?

      We acknowledge that Allah has been used in Bahasa Malaysia/ Indonesia Bible for hundreds of years, but it does not mean that God approve of its use for Him. Does the Word of God tell us not to use Allah for God? Of course you cannot find a single commandment in the Bible that says: "You shall not use Allah to address your God," but there are principles in the Word of God that tell us God does not like to be called Allah.

      Principles in God's precious Word make His Word relevant and applicable today. Let us look at an example of a principle. Where does it say in the Bible one must not be late for worshipping God on the Lord's Day? If a church is gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Himself is present in their midst, though unseen. He says, in Matthew 18.29: "For where two or three are gathered together in (Greek eis, unto) My Name, there am I (or, I AM) in the midst of them." The Lord Himself set an example of punctuality: "And when the hour was come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him." (Luke 22.14) That is a principle on punctuality.

      The Bible says the Lord Jesus Christ is God Who "became flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only Begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John's Gospel 1.14) Those who do not believe that He was God manifest in flesh do not know God at all. The Lord answered those who doubted He was God, "Ye neither know Me, nor My Father: if ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also." (John 8.19) So the God Who is mentioned in the Bible is not the God of other people's religions or beliefs, because they do not believe and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their God and Saviour. This is an important distinction.

      Are there principles in the Word of God that tell us we cannot address God as Allah or any other names that people use to address their gods? For example, the Chinese call their gods or deities "shen," [?] and this shen is also used in the Chinese Bible for God. Is it right? See the article posted on Scribd: "The God of the Bible is a Chinese god." (www.scribd.com/doc/…/The-God-of-the-Bible-is-a-Chinese-god) There are principles in the Word of God that tell us God should not be addressed as Allah.

      The principle of hallowing God's Name

      God does want His people to distinguish and differentiate Him from what other people worship in their religions. In Matthew 6.9 and Luke 11.2, the Lord wants His people to hallow God's Name: "Hallowed be Thy Name."

      The word "hallowed" comes from the Greek hagiazo meaning "to make holy" (from hagios, "holy"), signifies to set apart for God, to sanctify, to make a person or thing the opposite of koinos, 'common;' it is translated "Hallowed," with reference to the Name of God the Father in the Lord's Prayer, Matthew 6.9; Luke11.2." (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words) The Chinese pray to the Chinese gods and call them shen, why should believers of God and the Lord Jesus Christ call Him shen as those who worship Chinese gods? They are not hallowing Him. They are making Him common with the Chinese gods! They are bringing God down to the level of the Chinese gods and making Him god! The Muslims consider Allah as the supreme divine name which they consider as unique for their creator. It does not hallow God's Name to use Allah for Him in Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia Bible. It should use another name, perhaps, the name Tuhan. Those who translated the Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia Bible long ago did not know of this principle in the Word of God. Had they known, they would not have used Allah for God.

      2. The principle of sanctifying God

      God does want us to set Him apart, or distinguish Him from gods. Look at the following scriptures:

      Thus will I magnify Myself, and sanctify Myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD. (Ezekiel 38.23)

      Sanctify the LORD of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. (Isaiah 8:.13)

      The word "sanctify" comes from the Hebrew k?dhash and is equivalent to the New Testament Greek verb hagia?z?. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, k?dhash has the "underlying idea of the separateness of holy nature or holy use," that is, the setting apart for God only. Where is the 'separateness' or setting God apart from Allah when the name is used by Muslims and by those who are God's people?

      3. God is profaned

      Let it be known the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is neither the Allah in Islam nor the shen in Chinese religions. Let this distinction be made in the Bible, in writing, singing, prayer and worship. Without this distinction, God is profaned, common with other gods and religions. In the Hebrew Old Testament, "profane" comes from the Hebrew chalal, and has the sense of "for common use" (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia). We can apply this principle to pronouns for God. Note that we begin the pronouns for God (He, Him, His, Thy, etc) with a capital letter for distinction to show they do not refer to man. And God is not man.

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